§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William Whitelaw)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Paper for Discussion entitled "The Future of Northern IrelandI very much welcome this debate on the Paper for Discussion on "The Future of Northern Ireland", which was published on 30th October. The purpose of that paper was quite simply to provide a basis on which we in this country and the people in Northern Ireland could discuss how to take further and speedy steps forward in shaping the future of Northern Ireland. A good deal has been said in recent months on this matter, not all of it realistic. What Northern Ireland now wants is informed and responsible discussion. It seems to me right that the House should today play a leading part in the discussion because the United Kingdom Government, answerable to Parliament, have the full responsibility for any future constitutional arrangement.
The paper seeks to set out the facts about events in Northern Ireland with complete impartiality. I have been pleased to read in the Press that it is widely recognised to have done so. This is very important because any successful solution for the future of Northern Ireland must be based on the facts as they are, rather than as one section of opinion or another would like them to be.
Perhaps inevitably in an emotional situation so much of the argument put to me is based on allegations and imaginary fears and prejudices. So I ask the House at the start of the debate to consider the situation quite simply as the paper for discussion does on the basis of actual facts. Only if we do that can we hope for an informed and rational discussion of any proposals for the future in Northern Ireland itself.
I believe that it is widely recognised that any solution to the problems of Northern Ireland must be based on a combined political and military approach. There can be no purely military solution. At the same time, any political initiatives will be still-born if we fail to deal with violence. It is important to stress these facts because I would not like it to be 44 thought that when today we are discussing the political aspects, Her Majesty's Government or the House were in any way neglecting the security responsibilities or minimising the tragic loss of life, the damage to property and the suffering endured by the people of Northern Ireland in these last years.
Nor does it mean that we are overlooking the steadfastness and achievements of the security forces, both Army and RUC, under desperately difficult conditions. Nevertheless, in the debate we must try to see beyond the immediate situation since if we are too immersed in the day-to-day incidents, many of them nicely calculated to impose political pressure, we may fail to direct our attention to the long-term reforms which must be made very soon in Northern Ireland. The paper for discussion tries to take the debate off the streets and to set it in a much wider context.
I do not intend to repeat what is said in the paper. It speaks effectively for itself. I hope that it will discourage wild and irresponsible debate, of which there has been too much. I understand that there are those who have grievances and those who feel a very real sense of frustration. But whatever the sense of grievance or frustration, violence can achieve nothing. Northern Ireland has suffered greatly; the United Kingdom has suffered, too, as all those who have lost their sons serving as members of the forces know only too well. We must be responsible in discussing the future of the province.
There are those who say that the answer is quite simply to pull out troops and let the Northern Irish get on with it. That would be an abdication of responsibility. The situation in Northern Ireland is very complex and it would be a counsel of despair to say we should wash our hands of it. The people of Northern Ireland are our people and we must help them to find a solution.
Some would argue that such a solution lies with complete independence. The paper for discussion comments on this. The advocates of this course ignore the fact that Northern Ireland is part of a much wider world, and those who favour independence must show how the province, standing entirely on its own, without financial or military help on a large scale from the United Kingdom, would 45 become a viable State both economically and socially and would be accepted as such by the world at large.
The paper for discussion tries to persuade everyone to face the real facts of the situation. There is also what might be described as the simple and logical view. This says that if the majority of people in Northern Ireland decide that they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom then they should be treated in every way exactly the same as the rest of the United Kingdom. As I understand it, those who believe in that solution would not give any real responsibility for the central conduct of Northern Irish affairs to people in Northern Ireland. All legislative action and all central administration for Northern Ireland would be concentrated here at Westminster with increased Northern Ireland representation.
Personally, I believe that the record of history argues strongly against this proposal. Because Northern Ireland is across the water and is geographically part of the island of Ireland, it has different problems from the rest of the United Kingdom.
I have also found in the last seven months that people in Northern Ireland expect in many aspects of administration a form of personal service which a remote United Kingdom authority in Westminster alone could not hope to provide. Equally, I have seen for myself that in spheres such as industrial development and industrial training, Northern Ireland administration, with its admirable Civil Service, has been able to meet special problems much more successfully by action on the spot than it would have if tied completely to arrangements applicable throughout the United Kingdom. It is also significant that such complete integration has very few advocates in Northern Ireland.
Then there are the men of violence on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland who have attempted to make the province ungovernable. To what end is their behaviour directed? Are they trying to prove that they can bring law and order to the province when they have brought only murder and bloodshed? Do they give any credibility to their own programmes, so far as they are discernible, by trying to destroy law and order? 46 These men have shown only that they are not capable of taking part in the debate which is now taking place.
The paper for discussion attempts to put a reasonable limit on the options open to us all in Northern Ireland, setting a framework within which the debate should now take place. It shows that one cannot ignore the financial support which Northern Ireland receives from the United Kingdom; it shows that for the time being at least the maintenance of law and order depends upon the untiring and unselfish contributions of the armed forces; and that the United Kingdom Government must have an effective and continuing say in Northern Irish affairs to match its financial and military contributions. These are the facts of life. It is also a fact of life that Northern Ireland must be seen in a wider context—as part of Ireland and as a part of Europe. It is no good, on the one hand, denying this or, on the other, building too much on it.
As there has been considerable discussion about those paragraphs in the paper headed "The Irish Dimension", I shall at this point re-emphasise the position of Her Majesty's Government. In accordance with the specific pledges given by successive United Kingdom Governments. Northern Ireland must and will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as that is the wish of a majority of the people. Equally, it is undoubted that the sole and ultimate responsibility for any constitutional proposals must rest with the United Kingdom Government and Parliament.
At the same time, it would clearly be desirable that any new arrangements for Northern Ireland should, while meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be so far as possible acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland. Furthermore, in the context of the European Economic Community, there is a clear opportunity for developing co-operation on economic and social issues which could bring considerable benefits to the people in both the North and the South of Ireland. Indeed, before direct rule the Ulster Unionist Government were themselves anxious to promote such contacts. Nor can anyone deny that co-operation on border security would be of inestimable benefit to all concerned. 47 It is with these thoughts in mind that I welcome very much Mr. Lynch's helpful approach to this paper as outlined in his recent speech.
It is too soon for Her Majesty's Government to express any final view on what constitutional settlement would be suitable for Northern Ireland. We should first like to hear the views of this House and those of the people of Northern Ireland. I should, however, like to say this. Whatever the constitutional settlement may be, it will undoubtedly provide meaningful responsibility in Northern Ireland. The Macrory reforms have already laid down a number of functions which will have to be performed centrally in Northern Ireland; and there are, in addition, likely to be other important tasks which will undoubtedly fall to be done centrally. These are likely to be very worth while, going beyond what any region in the United Kingdom at present does, and it is no service to Northern Ireland to attempt to run down whatever eventual solution might be decided upon.
The solution will have much to offer both the majority and minority communities in Northern Ireland. The minority will know that they will henceforward have a real community of interest and that they will be able to participate in the running of their own country. Equally, if such an opportunity is to be given to the minority, they, and in particular those who seek to lead them, must be prepared to accept responsibility in the full sense of the word.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I would rather not be interrupted, because I wish to hear what the House has to say, and I think it only right that I should be brief.
§ Mr. Orme
I am much obliged. The right hon. Gentleman wants an exchange of views, and, surely, this is the place for it, particularly on the key point in his speech.
The Secretary of State referred to the Government's proposals which will arise after debate on the paper and which will 48 be produced in the form of a White Paper. The key question which many of us wish to pose is: will those proposals be put to the Northern Ireland people before a plebiscite takes place?
§ Mr. Whitelaw
With respect, that is exactly the sort of question which I wish to have raised in the debate. I want to hear the views of the House. That is the purpose of the discussion paper. There is certainly no commitment one way or the other on that particular issue at the present time.
I apologise to the House for not wishing to give way, but I believe that interventions, even such as that just made by the hon. Member for Salford, West, are better made in speeches, and I wish to give the maximum opportunity for as many hon. Members as possible to take part in the debate.
The majority have much to gain, too. There may be those who will say that they can only be the losers in the present situation. This is not so. What the majority community will know is that henceforward Northern Ireland will have a constitution which all people in the country will, we hope, be prepared to operate. This is a very real gain for them.
The paper for discussion is, therefore, the basis on which we can all discuss the future of Northern Ireland and reach firm decisions as soon as possible. There will now be further consultations, and these will be conducted with the utmost urgency. It will be our objective, through the plebiscite and the publication of firm proposals for the governing of Northern Ireland, to end as soon as possible the current uncertainty upon which so many fears have been feeding.
There are some people who have opted out of any constructive debate. But the others, the great majority, now look for leadership. This must come from the political parties in Northern Ireland. Posterity will not readily forgive them if at this time they do not show themselves able to take a broad view.
At the same time, we need a major effort to bring to an end the cycle of violence and counter-violence, of force and counter-force. I, for my part, will do everything I can towards this end. Those who use or threaten violence cannot be allowed to ignore the demands of a whole community for peace if that 49 demand is sustained. Everyone must now know that violence can achieve nothing. The Provisional IRA must know that the effect of their campaign is only to create new and deeper divisions in the community than ever existed before; and militant Protestant organisations must realise that threats by them merely build up support for the IRA and make the ending of conflict more remote. There must now be an overwhelming demand from both communities that violence and threats of violence must stop.
We must move on with our debate on the future of Northern Ireland so that, early in the New Year, Her Majesty's Government may make known their views on the future, building upon the result of our consultation with the parties in Northern Ireland.
It is for this Parliament to enact the necessary legislation. If it is to have any chance of success, it must give effect to what the people of Northern Ireland want, while making no unreasonable demands on the United Kingdom.
It is the people in Northern Ireland who must operate the new constitution, whatever it is, and it is for them to make known what they want. They will be much helped in this if this House remains united in its views. Northern Ireland is not, and should not be, a matter of party division here in the United Kingdom. If it does become so, there are those in Northern Ireland who will not be slow to exploit it.
I assure the House, therefore, that it will be in that spirit that Her Majesty's Government will conduct any discussion with the parties here at Westminster. Furthermore, I know that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their hon. Friends share this same objective with us, while we all recognise that in the final event Her Majesty's Government must take full responsibility for any proposals.
The way ahead is, as ever, beset by many difficulties and dangers. There can be few problems in which criticism is so easy and responsibility more difficult, in which destructive thought is so simple and constructive action so hard to provide.
I believe that the paper for discussion will help us to go ahead towards a genuine settlement which, if backed by moderate 50 opinion, offers a real opportunity for all the people of Northern Ireland.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
The purpose of this debate is to discuss the future of Northern Ireland. In my belief, based on the experience of the last two or three years, it will be done in an informed and responsible way. In the last three or four years, there have been many occasions when we have discussed Northern Ireland, but usually as a reaction to events. The full story of March this year, when the Government took the historic step of instituting direct rule, has not yet been told, but I should not be surprised if that also was a reaction to events, perhaps in the short run.
The paper for discussion, well written and documented, provides the House with an occasion to look at the long-term future, and an opportunity to spell out much more clearly the steps which must now be taken by the Government. There must be a flexibility of approach. Events will not stand still. There must be a firmer course to chart. We are no longer, as perhaps we were in the days of indirect rule, afloat on a completely chartless sea in trying to find a political solution which has eluded statesmen over the centuries.
The Green Paper—it is a measure of the problem that a Green Paper has to be published without a green cover—has the merit of enclosing within its covers much of the information that we all require to come to decisions. There are three major aspects upon which the Government will have to make up their mind. These aspects will form the core of the White Paper which is to follow.
The first aspect is the link with the United Kingdom. The second is the new institution for the Government of Northern Ireland. The third is the all-Ireland institution, which is referred to in the paper for discussion. Those are, to use the jargon, the parameters of the package about which the people of Northern Ireland will have to make up their minds before we can all begin on the way forward, which is part IV of the paper for discussion. The decisions on these three points are what the future is all about.
51 First, the link with the United Kingdom, which matters to the majority of the people in the North. It is on that that they believe they can, in a phrase which is often used, be sold down the river. In paragraph 76 the emphasis is on consent. That is what the Labour Party said overwhelmingly at its party conference. It was said by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in the Downing Street Declaration and it was one of the principles of my right hon. Friend's 15-point speech.
Consent has been the keynote of all the remarks made by the political leaders in the South. They want unity but, to use the words of the Irish Labour Party, "by persuasion, dialogue and communication". All the political parties in the South reject the use of force.
People abroad approach the Irish question in their own terms, as is shown by a glance at their newsreels. In Belgium it is seen in a Walloon-Flemish context. In the United States of America it is seen in terms of Vietnam and it is thought that a pull-out is the answer. It is not realised that a simple pull-out, as a gesture of impatience by all of us in this country, could cause only great bloodshed. Many people see the problem in colonialist terms. The curious but fundamental fact that they fail to see is that the Irish Government and the political parties in the South are not seeking unification on the same terms or in the same way as the IRA.
That raises the matter of the referendum or the plebiscite, about which I will ask some questions. Does paragraph 82 mean that further plebiscites will be held on the link? Does it mean that there will not be a once-and-for-all plebiscite but that there will be a plebiscite at intervals? Are there to be—paragraph 82 is not clear about the matter—further plebiscites on other subjects which interest other parts of the Northern Ireland community? Or is it that, while there is to be a plebiscite about the border, on other subjects there will not be such a prebiscite but—as it has been called—a pragmatic process of consultation?
The Bill is called the Northern Ireland (Border Poll) Bill, but there is no mention of the border in paragraph 82 of the Green Paper or in the questions in the 52 schedule to the Bill. Our main criticism of the referendum or plebiscite on the border is that the question is too narrow. People in the North will be asked to judge only upon part of a package which will eventually emerge in a White Paper and in legislation. The timing of the proposed plebiscite, with the wording which the right hon. Gentleman proposes, is also wrong.
Our message to the Government can best be said in the words of the Northern Ireland Labour Party and those of the New Ulster Movement. I will quote from a Northern Ireland Labour Party communication which perhaps many hon. Members have seen. The communication says:We have consistently pressed that the Whitelaw Administration should have a clear, though flexible, timetable leading to the creation of new institutions which guarantee fair government for all the people of Northern Ireland. Is this timetable we have insisted that the prebiscite must follow the publication of the British Government's White Paper so that the people of Northern Ireland are fully aware of their responsibilities and obligations if continuing to live within the U.K. We believe this course would result in a substantial non-sectarian majority voting to remain within the U.K. on the terms of the White Paper. A vote in these circumstances for the link with Britain would also be a vote in favour of new and fair institutions of government in Northern Ireland and also co-operation with the Irish Republic.The New Ulster Movement says:We are strongly of the opinion that the referendum should be held after the publication of the White Paper setting out Her Majesty's Government's proposals on the future of Northern Ireland.In quoting those two bodies I have attempted, in criticism of the plebiscite, to put the view of moderate opinion. I understand that the Alliance Party has a similar view. When the Bill comes before the House we shall pursue that argument, especially the question of timing. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to allow us to see the White Paper before the people in Northern Ireland are asked to answer the questions.
I hope that the Government will face up to the reality of election timing. It is a problem which would face us all in the United Kingdom if we were considering an election in the New Year. January and February are very bad months in this part of the United Kingdom, with darkness at four or five o'clock. 53 It has been put to me firmly by people who would have to canvass, who would have to go around the streets, that only somebody who does not realise what it is like in Belfast after four o'clock at night would be brave enough to go out canvassing. One political party told me that even in the limited canvassing that it has done during the year, its canvassers have been threatened by gunmen. I was asked, "Have you ever been threatened by gunmen when you are canvassing?"
The date of the plebiscite, purely in practical terms should be taken into account. There should also be taken into account the new register which I presume, will come out on 15th February.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
Who will be canvassing for the plebiscite? Surely it is simply a question and no political party will be standing for it?
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Gentleman will have to face the fact that some people in the North of Ireland will be canvassing. It does not require political parties, in our sense of the term, for that to happen. Would the hon. Gentleman like to be out and about on the streets of Belfast in the dark on a political matter? I would not. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that a suitable date would be 8th March or 9th March, depending upon the day of the week which is normally used for election purposes in the Province.
The second main aspect is the new assembly.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that if the Government's White Paper is issued before the plebiscite there should be specific questions about the implications of the White Paper? It would be totally unfair to ask people to say that they were for the Union plus the White Paper if they were not allowed to state clearly which part of the White Paper they were for or against.
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. I was reserving the details of it for the debate next week. In effect, I was arguing that at the very least the White Paper should be published before the plebiscite, so that people who are voting to remain in the United Kingdom or otherwise may know at least 54 to some degree on what terms and in what sort of United Kingdom or part of the United Kingdom they are voting to stay.
With regard to the new assembly, "The Way Forward" part of the document spells out the criteria for the firm proposals to come. I pick out paragraph 79(b) on page 35 as an important part of the document that we shall all be considering very much in the months to come. It asserts the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament, and accepting its sovereignty is what I understand being a member of the United Kingdom means. Those who want to remain part of the United Kingdom must accept that the United Kingdom Parliament is sovereign on the major issues of the day.
Paragraph 79(h), which talks of security and public order, asserts the need for impartiality. Here again there is the need for Westminster control of security. I know that the Secretary of State has considered this point. He must have done so because of the situation in Belfast in particular. Even with a political settlement, the problem of law and order will loom large. It will not end overnight. Lawlessness has become a way of life. The policing of some parts of the province will require special and peculiar solutions under the same control as the other areas. It is well that those of us who are putting our minds to the kind of document which is before us should face up to the fact that even if we succeed in obtaining a political solution the problem of policing some parts of the North of Ireland will be extremely difficult. In this respect, the sectarian killings, whether of Catholic or Protestant, in recent months, the origins of the UDA and the formation of the Catholic action group of ex-Service men announced this morning are relevant, because whether we like it or not, it is fear in both communities that in the first instance gave rise to such organisations. All of us who have been to Ireland realise straight away, as we must, the part that fear plays when there is no law and order enforcement body such as we have come to expect in this other part of the United Kingdom.
We are confident that new Northern Ireland institutions can be set up that will involve all the people of Northern Ireland constructively, to use the right hon. Gentleman's words. I have learned 55 to admire the work of some of the Government Departments in Northern Ireland, particularly that dealing with industrial development. We on this side of the water have much to learn from the way in which they conduct their activities. But politically the recent book by Lord O'Neill spells out a cabinet/legislature system more appropriate to the 18th century. Lord George Bentinck, before he was spurred into attendance here by what he called the traitorous action of Sir Robert Peel over the corn laws, would, it seems, have been at home in the Stormont that existed in the time of Lord O'Neill.
Such new institutions as we set up will have much to do in industrial and social development, particularly west of the Bann. This work will have to be based on a Bill of Rights, which would mean the ending of the Special Powers Act. We shall be debating this argument further when we debate the new tribunal that the right hon. Gentleman is setting up and the commission that he recently set up, which will report in the New Year. Internment has not ceased to be an important aspect of the Northern Ireland problem.
Economic problems will be a basic concern of any new assembly, but, as is seen from the South of Ireland, independence alone will not necessarily lead to a solution. It is not just a political solution that will deal with the problems of the western side of both parts of Ireland, as indeed of our own country. It is impossible to consider the economic problems of Northern Ireland in isolation from those in the South. In this field alone there is an Irish dimension, to use the phrase that the right hon. Gentleman uses in his discussion paper.
Just a year ago, on 25th November, in his now famous speech, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition put his proposals in the context of an Irish dimension. It is a measure of the progress that this dimension looms large in the discussion paper before us. The pledges on the link with the United Kingdom do not preclude the taking into account of the needs of Ireland as a whole, says the right hon. Gentleman. This will cause much heart-burning in the North among the majority, and perhaps among some of the minority.
56 I have no strong views on the form of an all-Ireland institution, which is something we must all consider, except that it should be capable of discussing economic and social matters which matter to both parts of Ireland, and, of course, security matters. There should be room for growth beyond that, given the needs of the situation. Because of its very reason to be, because of the very use of the term, an all-Ireland institution must be discussed with the Government of the South. The discussions would be practical, related to the council, but they would broaden as stated in paragraph 78. The right hon. Gentleman has deliberately made the statement, which we in the House will have to discuss again and again:It is … clearly desirable that any new arrangements in Northern Ireland should, whilst meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be so far as possible acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland, which from 1 January 1973, will …be in the Economic Community.
The institutions of the North are a matter for the people of the North. At an appropriate time they will have to be discussed with the Government of the South. Why not talk with Mr. Lynch now about all Ireland institutions? The Prime Minister has spoken to the Taoiseach two or three times, but the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should also be involved, and not through the Foreign Office. We should consider having not just a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Affairs, who can take the wider aspects into consideration. Only by talk will it be possible for the Government in the South and their people to accept the reality of Northern Ireland. I find few in the South who believe that unification is round the corner. They talk, like the Moody and Sankey hymns of my youth, of "in the sweet by and by".
The words of the plebiscite as at present formulated might well resurrect strong feelings. Aspirations are one thing. It is time for all in the South to face reality.
People in the North face reality in one basic sense all the time. They must face up also to political reality. It is not enough for us to tell others to face up to reality; the time has come for us in this country and in this House to do the same.
57 The next step is a White Paper. I have argued the case for its timing in relation to the plebiscite. In our view it would be better to put a package to the people, but if that is not done I put the case to the Government for early elections. Next year there must be elections for the new assembly. We do not know what the political representatives to whom we speak in the North of Ireland genuinely represent. They come almost from a bygone age. The Unionist Party, which was more a way of life than a political party, has been broken asunder by the events of last March. The case for finding out what the people in Northern Ireland really want grows every day. Mr. David Bleckley, of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, who was Minister of Community Relations, made an interesting point in a letter to the Guardian recently. He said:While the immediate reconstruction continued a constituent assembly would be elected for the specific purpose of working out the shape of future government".He went on to develop that.
I have no strong view on that aspect, but it is something that we should take into account. We in this House can provide the way forward, but the people of the North must come in to tell us whom they want to work these institutions.
The question arises what happens if they reject the way forward. This would in effect disprove the basis of the approach of the Governments of both parties over the years. If we were rejected, that of itself would mean that there was no moderate majority in both communities, in both camps, which is the basis on which we have been working for four years. If we were proved to be wrong, it would mean needing to face up to a complete reappraisal of policy by any British Government, because the basis on which that Government had been working would have been shown to be false.
I still believe that there is a majority in both communities in the North of Ireland in favour of a political solution. I believe that there is a moderate majority. But political action cannot for long be continued on assumptions.
One of the problems that all of us, whatever our views, have faced over the past year has been that, because the 58 people have not had a chance to deliver their view on the subject of the Common Market, we have all been at sixes and sevens politically.
In the North of Ireland we cannot for long continue on the basis of assumption, an assumption being increasingly questioned in this country. The Government have to find a way, earlier rather than later, of bringing the people of Northern Ireland into the thinking, into working out what is to happen.
That may face us with great problems, but it will work the other way round, too. What we have now is a form of representative government—at least, one assumes so—without responsibility. We learned in the development of colonial power in the 19th century that representative government but with responsibility at Westminster does not work for long.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the need for bipartisanship. The common general outlook that has been maintained in the House is not, as some see it, a sort of House of Commons deal. It results from a common awareness of the nature and seriousness of the problem, stemming not only out of the pre-history in all of us but from the knowledge that political parties for 200 years have failed in Ireland. It would be a brave man who would argue that he knew the answer.
It results from a knowledge that a misunderstanding of parliamentary procedures—and it is easy for a new Member of Parliament who has been here only once or twice to misunderstand procedures, let alone those outside who are living under stresses and strains—could lead to a loss of life, and we all understand that. We choose our words carefully not because of some deal, but because it is important that people outside should understand clearly and unmistakably what we say.
Since direct rule, the Government have been moving in what we would regard as the right direction, and the right hon. Gentleman himself plays a personal part in that evaluation. We support a political solution, and the military aspect must be seen to be working to that end and not just by itself. But we criticise where we see fit, and as the Opposition we know that it is the Government who carry the 59 constitutional responsibility for the North of Ireland. Only the Governnment can have and exercise responsibility, but from this side of the House I can reply to the right hon. Gentleman that I know of no one who would play party politics just for the sake of it on a problem such as this.
The future of Northern Ireland is now ready for discussion in a much more realistic fashion. After six months of direct rule, the time has come for action We look forward to the people of Northern Ireland being given the chance in 1973 to tell us what they want. Responsible Government can come only by and through the people. It is the job of the Government now to provide the means for the moderates in both sides of the community to speak. The moderates in the North of Ireland must be liberated. We must now take the opportunity to find out what they want. In that sense, if the Government and the right hon. Gentleman continue to work in that direction, they will get our support.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
I am happy to follow the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), whose contributions on this awesome problem have always been of the most responsible and most respected. I should like to start by congratulating my right hon. Friend on this discussion paper, which seems clear, concise, and comprehensive and to have been accepted on all sides as a fair statement of the problem.
I also take the opportunity to congratulate him and his colleagues on the steadfast way in which they have borne this responsibility over the past months. I think that I can do that without being obsequious, because for some two years I had to carry part of the responsibility now undertaken by my right hon. Friend.
In all the various tasks that I have performed, I have never known a task more haunting in its personal responsibility, when one single wrong word or wrong phrase could bring death to human beings. Every time there was an outrage and people were murdered, one felt that perhaps one had failed to do something to stop it. Logic was baffled and the policies of the illogical were difficult to discern and ancient hatreds were hard to penetrate and hard to understand. Above all, the brutality that hung over 60 the situation left one appalled. I can think of no task more difficult than that being undertaken by my right hon. Friend, and no task more rewarding than the success which I believe will come his way.
Tragedy is always the conflict not of right and wrong but of right and right, and certainly it is a tragedy of Northern Ireland that the majority is perfectly entitled to feel that it should be allowed to remain in the United Kingdom so long as the majority wills it that way and it it is equally entitled to feel horror and fury at the outrages committed by those who try to impose a minority point of view by force. At the same time, let us be quite clear that those who are members of the minority community have good reason—whatever the causes, and I will not go into those—for inevitably feeling themselves over the years to be treated as second-class citizens in their own country.
These are the realities, and, as I began to appreciate them when I was responsible, it was borne in upon me all the time that no solution was possible unless, first, one assured the majority that it would remain in the United Kingdom so long as the majority agreed to that and, secondly, one assured the minority that there would be no discrimination on grounds of creed in personal matters or in jobs, housing and so on. One must also assure the minority that it will be able to take a proper share in the government of its own country.
It was that second point that was the more difficult, the feeling that somehow if one were a member of the minority community, one could not share responsibility in the running of one's own country. This feeling was stimulated by and allied to ancient fears and it was stimulated by the backlash of IRA terrorism.
It was for that reason probably that the general nature of reform programmes was never fully understood throughout Northern Ireland. I would like to pay a most sincere tribute to Lord O'Neill, Lord Moyola and Mr. Faulkner whose work, one after the other, was a great service to their own people and who were to my personal knowledge fully and totally devoted to the cause of the reform which they were putting through. The reform programme would when complete, I am convinced, have dispensed with any 61 complaint that there was any discrimination, in the legislative structure of Northern Ireland, on grounds of race or religion. The reform programme was right, was comprehensive and was going through.
Alas, I fear it was too late. That was the simple tragic fact, tragic because a non-discriminatory situation in which everyone was given the same chance of a job and a house was no longer acceptable to the minority in Northern Ireland under the permanent domination of a Government adhering only to one religious persuasion. This is a situation brought about by history, by the growing bitterness that has sprung from the IRA compaign, a situation deliberately stimulated by the IRA which set about making the most of it, set about putting one community against another. It was certainly a situation with which we had to reckon.
It was for this reason above all that I became convinced that it was right, in the early months of this year, to transfer responsibility for security to this Parliament. That was, after all, the reality of power in Northern Ireland. The law was being maintained by the gallant men of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, backed up by the equally gallant men of the Army. It was the Army which, ultimately, was the shield for Northern Ireland and responsibility for Army policy must rest here. Therefore it was realistic and constitutionally proper that responsibility for law and order and security should be transferred to this Parliament.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
This is a crucial point which is central to the debate. Surely on the occasion of the Downing Street meeting of 19th August, 1969, it was then agreed that responsibility for security should be transferred, broadly speaking, to the General Officer Commanding? In paragraph 21 of this document it says:The practical results of this meeting included giving the General Officer Commanding (Northern Ireland) overall responsibility for all security operations throughout Northern Ireland, with full command of the Ulster Special Constabulary and with control of the deployment and tasking of the Royal Ulster Constabulary for all matters relating to security operations.In a sense this can be rather a red herring and it is deployed as such by the opposition in Northern Ireland because since 62 1969 to all intents and purposes the responsibility for security has rested through the Army Command here.
§ Mr. Maudling
I do not think that that is quite correct but I was coming on to deal with that point. What matters is where parliamentary responsibility lies. The GOC must be responsible to Parliament and in my submission he must be responsible to this Parliament alone. My right hon. Friend said that we cannot contemplate withdrawing our forces from Northern Ireland, from part of Her Majesty's domain; that is impossible. While our soldiers still face the dangers there of murder and sniping, while these things are going on, we in this Parliament must be responsible for the security policy which the forces are carrying out.
This seemed to be an argument of constitutional force that could not be denied. I did not quite understand the strength of the reaction of some who objected to this transfer and who also believe in union with this country. Some said that they were not prepared to be reduced to the status of a county council. I am not sure whether that was a fair argument. In present conditions what is the right constitutional position of Northern Ireland with a population about the size of Warwickshire or Cheshire? Certainly the people of Northern Ireland have every right to claim to remain in the United Kingdom and to benefit from the help of United Kingdom finances and from the protection of the Army. They have the right to remain in the United Kingdom so long as the majority wishes to do so. But I do not think that they have the right to claim to remain in the United Kingdom on terms which they settle. If they stay in the United Kingdom, which all of us wish to see, it must be on the basis of accepting the supremacy of the Westminster Parliament just as any other part of the United Kingdom does.
I regret for a number of personal reasons the break that took place. But it has surely led to a situation where there is more room for manoeuvre, where we have a greater opportunity than before to hammer out a new solution for the future of Northern Ireland which is the object of this debate and the paper. The basic problems are two. There is, first, the proper degree of devolution of powers from here to Northern Ireland and, 63 second, the proper nature of the institutions to which these powers should be devolved.
Keeping security and law and order here, we should devolve as much as we can in other ways to Northern Ireland, particularly in economic and development matters. The more that can be devolved the better. I find the argument for total integration very strong, certainly in theory and in the long run it may be the answer. At the moment this is not the answer because it is not acceptable to any major part of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Is it not a fact that, apart from the law and order situation, Stormont was in the main an administrative assembly merely rubber-stamping legislation that went through this House?
§ Mr. Maudling
Certainly not. The administration of economics and the development programmes in Northern Ireland were run extremely well by Stormont.
The second point is: What should be the nature of the institutions which carry these devolved powers? They must be elected and executive. The basic problem in either case is how to be both democratic and demonstrably fair. This is a problem in Northern Ireland which does not apply in any other part of the United Kingdom. Democracy in the parliamentary sense in Northern Ireland has produced one-party Government from the start. This was inevitable because that is the way the voting has gone.
§ Mr. Maudling
The minority will not in the present situation believe that a one-party Government, permanently established, will be fair to the minority. But we cannot impose upon such a Government a permanent check from outside to ensure that it is always being fair without taking away from such a Government any real credibility. Whatever committee system there may be in a Stormont Parliament, the majority will always have the final word, as it ought to have in a democratic system.
I am forced to the conclusion, looking to the long term, that there is no lasting 64 solution possible to the problem of democracy in Northern Ireland while party politics there are on a sectarian basis. What we call democracy means a dictatorship of the party in power for the time being, fluctuating from one party to the other. That works so long as there is a change. If there is no change and no prospect of one, democracy becomes a dictatorship of one party. In the long run the only solution is one which provides for the emergence of political parties in Northern Ireland not based wholly on a sectarian system.
This is one of the main reasons why I believe we are right to go in for a system of plebiscites. We can only hope that there will be some development of non-sectarian politics in Northern Ireland in that way. We have to remove the problem of the border from active politics for a period and we can do that only by making it clear that there is no issue in practical terms on the border for a number of years. That is why I believe if we haves a plebiscite as soon as possible, followed by others at long intervals, there will be a time in between for all people in Northern Ireland who are interested in politics to settle down and work together for a country that will remain a single country. The only way in which we can hope to achieve a long-term solution of the dilemma between democracy and demonstrable fairness is by having a different political system from the present system. That may sound idealistic and it is certainly long term, but I do not see any better solution. I do not see any early or easy agreement on the details of the various plans set out in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
For many years the division in Ulster has not been basically religious and sectarian but between those who believe in a republic and those who are loyal to Britain. It is a political difference, and therefore to emphasise the sectarian division is missing the point.
§ Mr. Maudling
"Sectarian" is probably shorthand. It is not purely a religious or nationalistic division but a division which exists in practical terms when people vote. If the problem is to be resolved, there must be a political system in Northern Ireland more akin to that of the rest of the United Kingdom. But it is 65 essential to get on with it as soon as possible. More important than the minute details which cannot be agreed among the conflicting parties is a system decided by the British Government as soon as possible, set out in a White Paper as soon as possible, and the holding of a prebiscite as soon as possible, and then there will be a real chance for all people of good will in Northern Ireland to work together for the common good of a single country.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)
I am not sure that I agree entirely with what the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said about the question of plebiscites. Granted that the Government's intention in introducing a plebiscite this early is to seek to remove the immediate pressure of the border before elections are held, I still think that all that will result from a plebiscite is that it will be shown that about two-thirds of the people are in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom and one-third are not—and we know that already. I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) that before the referendum takes place it is necessary and desirable that we should know the Government's intentions with greater clarity.
However, the Government deserve much congratulation for what they have done. Some people, particularly in the Press, have said that the document we are discussing is a blank paper rather than a Green Paper—in other words, it received overall approval largely because it was non-committal and, therefore, the question was still open. I reject that view. We in the Liberal Party believe that it is an excellent document and that, in fairness, the Government must be congratulated on it.
The important point about the document is that perhaps for the first time a Government have produced a document about Northern Ireland which is sensitive to the realities there and reveals an appreciation of the fierce complexities and emotional overtones in the situation. That is new, and the Government should receive credit for it. The document also gives great cause for hope, even if it is sadly true that the reality is that the Province still teeters not too far from the edge of civil war.
The Green Paper represents an opportunity for everyone, whatever his attitude, 66 to engage, as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said, in discussion and to reject the vicious circle of violence. The right hon. Gentleman referred in particular to people at the extremes—those who say "Not an inch" and those who say "A republic or nothing". Only the sustained force of moderation can overcome those groups, some of whose activities have often been almost malevolent.
In talking about politics to many people in my constituency and in other parts of the country, I find that the horror of people about the killings is coupled with a strong sympathy with moderate opinion in Northern Ireland. I do not think that those who say that we must get out of Northern Ireland are of any significance or carry any political weight. However, there is undoubtedly a weariness that almost makes people come to terms with reading almost every day in the newspaper that another soldier has been killed. What they cannot come to terms with are incidents like that last week concerning a girl of 13 years of age who, perhaps having spoken to a British soldier, had her head shaved and was subjected to torture for some hours. People who do that to a mere child cannot, in my opinion, or in the opinion of any thinking person in this country, be reckoned to be political people with whom one can deal.
What must be emphasised to people in the rest of the United Kingdom is that barbarous happenings of that kind are in no way representative of the people of Northern Ireland. The trouble is that it is those events which obtain publicity. The many individual contacts across the sectarian curtain which repeatedly take place cannot, for obvious reasons, be given equivalent publicity, although they are far more important. We must emphasise to people in Northern Ireland that there must he an aggressive assertion of moderation, if that is not a contradiction in terms.
I appreciate that a number of hon. Members wish to speak and, therefore, I do not propose to refer in detail to the evidence given by the Ulster Liberal Party which is contained in Annex 8 of the discussion paper, save to say this. That evidence has the full support of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. Ulster Liberals are a very small band, but we 67 are proud of the consistent record of moderation and total rejection of sectarianism which they have maintained throughout this sorry time. I refer particularly to Miss Sheelagh Murnaghan. There is reference in paragraph 64 of the discussion document to a proposed Bill of Rights. Miss Murnaghan introduced such a Bill in four successive years in Stormont and has done a great deal of pioneer work in this respect.
I wish to make three short points. First, any formula for government—and that is what we are talking about, a formula for a new Government in Northern Ireland—must permit the minorities to participate by election and not by selection. That is extremely important. It was suggested in certain parts of the evidence that it would be acceptable if minorities were selected for committees by the Prime Minister. That would be totally unacceptable. Minority interests must be assured by direct election. Any solution must embody recognition of the status of all people in the community as full citizens.
Secondly, I agree with both Front Bench spokesmen that responsibility for security must remain in Westminster. There is also agreement across the parties that the existence of the person of a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland must continue, although I listened with interest to what the hon. Member for Leeds, South said about creating a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Affairs in the context of the relationship with the Irish Republic and the entry of the Republic and this country to the European Economic Community.
I think, thirdly, that, while relations between North and South would have been infinitely better now had it not been for the IRA campaign, I agree very much with what the Secretary of State has said about the attitude of Mr. Lynch. He himself has his own difficulties, and he has been extremely helpful in what for himself is a difficult position.
I would put three brief questions in conclusion. First of all, I wonder—the Government must be considering it—whether they are in practical terms talking with the Irish Republic, and talking in terms of conditions in Northern Ireland, about the development of an effective regional policy within the European Economic Community, because 68 clearly, desirably, the argument for this requires the co-ordination of regional policy throughout the whole of the island of Ireland.
Secondly, the hon. Member for Leeds, South referred to internment, although the Secretary of State did not refer to it, if I remember. This will remain an intensely difficult issue. I say very tentatively—and I think that at this stage all one's words ought to be tentative—that I wonder whether there is any possibility of using non-British or even non-Irish judges and tribunals for dealing with those interned without trial. Within the Community we now have Danish judges and other judges. Already, with entry into the Community, one has acceptance of certain common legal institutions. This may be something which both sides in Northern Ireland would recognise more readily and accept more readily in the present situation.
Lastly, I return again to the question of the referendum. I think the Secretary of State ought to give very serious consideration to what the hon. Member for Leeds, South said. It is my personal opinion, but I do not like referenda as a method of government; I do not think they help. In the end some proportional system, towards which the Government are moving, will more effectively ensure representation for minorities. The Government must think carefully about the kind of questions which are asked.
Nevertheless, I repeat that I think the Secretary of State, in an intensely difficult situation, and under great personal pressure, has produced a document which is of immense value.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I should like to start by congratulating, if I may, the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), who led for the Opposition, upon his elevation to the Shadow Cabinet. It is well deserved. I may say I do not agree always with his analyses or conclusions, but there is no doubt that there is no one in the House who has taken more trouble to try to understand our problems in Northern Ireland, or who has devoted more indefatigable energy to them, and he has put his views at least fairly.
69 I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not follow him on the question of the referendum vis-à-vis the White Paper. It is an exceedingly important subject, one which we ought to think about very carefully, because on the one hand one wants a clear-cut desision soon, but, on the other hand, the people of Ulster also want uncertainty about the union to be relieved by a referendum. Therefore, I hope that we shall discuss this very fully when we discuss the Second Reading of the plebiscite Bill.
I was, to say the least of it, not very popular in this House in March when the proposal for direct rule was put before the House and when the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill was going through. I said then that the policy was a recipe for bloodshed. Some thousands of explosions and 334 deaths later I am content to leave history to judge whether my judgment in that case was right. I think it is wrong today that we should go back over the ground. What is happening now is that we are having a discussion how to end this hiatus, this interregnum, which has been imposed upon our people and the best way of bring it to an end.
Fundamental to this, and before we come on to the document itself, there is one underlying problem, which the House must understand is a reality, unless we are to have a purely academic discussion, and the reality is that, whatever may come out of our deliberations today, whatever the Government may produce in the form of a White Paper or of legislation, whatever be the political settlement, it has got to be enforced. Order and law must be enforced in the long run. Therefore, the primary discussion we ought to be having—and the Green Paper does not deal with this—is how in the end the soldiers are to be got off the streets of Belfast and back to their garrisons, how the military commitment is to be reduced. No matter what arrangements we make for the future, no matter what be the outcome in Northern Ireland, or whatever be in the Government White Paper, in the long run someone has got to find a method of substituting unarmed policemen for armed soldiers. There is a gap which has got to be filled.
It was filled in 1920—and it is curious, in a way, that the Green Paper did not 70 include this in the historical analysis—by the then United Kingdom Government, which was a Liberal Coalition Government, by the formation of the Special Constabulary, the A, B and C Specials. They remained under United Kingdom control for three years. At the end of the three years the power over security was transferred to the Northern Ireland Government, as the military commitment was reduced purely to that of a garrison. Whether Ministers or this House or anybody else likes it or not, something like that has got to be done in this case. Whether it is done by increasing the numbers of the police, by increasing the police reserve, by changing the role of the police reserve, or by altering part of the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment, or however, it is a problem which is fundamental to this debate, and that is the problem to which the House ought to address itself during our discussions upon the Green Paper.
The Green Paper has had universal approbation. It is a document which has succeeded in pleasing Mr. Lynch, Mr. Faulkner, Mr. John Hume—
§ Captain Orr
—and Senator Kennedy. It is, therefore, something of an achievement. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not think I am striking a discordant note, but I myself cannot possibly give it any kind of a wholehearted welcome, and for these reasons.
First, it should have been a White Paper, and I have put this view to my right hon. Friend. Northern Ireland having had direct rule, the Darlington conference and an endless series of speeches, the Government are mistaken in not publishing the White Paper. We should now be debating the Government's proposals with a view possibly to modifying them here and there.
My second objection is that it is a pity that the Green Paper includes an historical section, which cannot possibly be accepted by everyone as an objective presentation. It is folly to have included it at this stage because many people have made parts of that historical section their prime objection to the document. Its inclusion has allowed organisations to base their opposition to the document 71 upon the ground that the historical section is biased. Those are two small objections.
My real objection to the Green Paper is that it is so well written. It is written with extraordinary skill, and whoever wrote it deserves the warmest congratulations of his masters. I have always thought that the purpose of the English language was to clarify and not to obscure. There are times when obscurity is valuable; for example, when the language of diplomacy is obscured to enable people who are fundamentally in agreement to find a way of saving face and moving from one position to another. But it is dangerous in the extreme to use language to cover fundamental disagreements.
Paragraph 78 under the heading "The Irish Dimension" illustrates what I have said. My right hon. Friend repeated these words in his speech:any new arrangements for Northern Ireland should, whilst meeting the wishes of Northern Ireland and Great Britain, be so far as possible acceptable to and accepted by the Republic of Ireland".
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It is important to read the whole paragraph from the start. My hon. Friend has left out the words:It is therefore clearly desirable".Those words convey an important part of the sense of the paragraph.
§ Captain Orr
I am much obliged to my right hon. Friend. I did leave out those words, and I intended to refer to them. It is that combination of words:It is therefore clearly desirable … so far as possible".to which I profoundly object. Those words conceal, and they give what may or may not be the true impression. If we want the arrangements for the future of Northern Ireland to be acceptable to and accepted by the Irish Republic, the words are unnecessary. If, on the other hand, it is thought conceivable that any arrangements which included Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom could be acceptable to tike Irish Republic, the words are misleading. The words are "It is desirable"—perhaps I would concede to my right hon. Friend that it is desirable. One can always desire the impossible.
72 It is clearly an impossibility that the Irish Republic, with its long historic claim upon Northern Ireland, will ever accept an arrangement which meaningfully retains Northern Ireland within the Union, and makes it plain that Northern Ireland is to remain within the Union for all foreseeable time, which is what the loyal people of Northern Ireland want. It is impossible that such a situation should be acceptable to or accepted by the Irish Republic.
Therefore, the inclusion of these words has concealed what Ministers may have in mind. Someone is being deceived, either the Irish Republic or the Loyalists of Ulster. I beseech my right hon. Friend either in winding up or in the White Paper to clarify this point. We cannot found a a policy upon this kind of fudging and confusion.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who objects to the inclusion of an historical analysis, willing to accept a situation in which the errors of history are perpetuated for all time?
§ Captain Orr
Before answering that intervention, I shall have to have knowledge of the error of history to which the hon. Gentleman refers. There is a tendency for historical errors to be perpetuated for a long time. If an historical error has been made, I do not consider that it should be perpetuated, but I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's intervention without knowing what he means.
The future must be based upon Northern Ireland within the Union. That is the wish of the vast majority, as will be shown by the plebiscite.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman accept that the future of Northern Ireland depends on the majority wish of the people of Great Britain as well as the majority wish of the people of Northern Ireland?
§ Captain Orr
Yes. For example, if the people of the Isle of Wight were asked by plebiscite whether they wished to become part of the Republic of France, I concede that we should all have a say in that. The plebiscite is merely a way of underlining, presumably for foreign consumption, that the majority of the 73 Ulster people wish to remain British, as they have been for as long as the United Kingdom has existed.
Within that, what are the arrangements to be made? The Green Paper goes into a great many details about this method or that. I am not concerned with those trivia. There are really two broad propositions within the Union. The first is that one should see a Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland with powers which are broadly commensurate to those which the old Parliament and Government had, perhaps reformed as to membership and franchise, but powers broadly equivalent to those of the 1920 Act. The other one is full integration, along the lines advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his party, with more Members here at Westminster from Northern Ireland and a local assembly or what my hon. Friend called a Greater Ulster Council on the lines of the GLC.
Either of those two propositions would be acceptable to the broad majority of the people of Northern Ireland. At present, because their Parliament was removed as a result of a concession to force, the majority of people would wish to see it restored for that very reason. But broadly within the Union either of those propositions would be acceptable. What would not be acceptable is a solution which is neither one nor the other. That would be a denial of democracy. The setting up of a Parliament of Northern Ireland with what amounted to little more than local government powers without at the same time increasing the representation here in order to criticise the Secretary of State and to examine his legislation in a proper parliamentary manner would not be acceptable.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government are not thinking of having it both ways by producing a solution which is neither proper integration within the Kingdom nor proper devolution as provided by the Act of 1920, both of which would be broadly acceptable to the large spectrum of moderate loyalist opinion in Ulster. I hope that they are not thinking of producing a solution that falls between the two. That would not be acceptable to the majority of opinion in Ulster.
We shall move on shortly to the White Paper, and we shall see what the Govern- 74 ment have in mind. I hope that it will be clear and that the Government will show how any suggested settlement will be enforced. I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, South. We want some kind of General Election in Ulster soon in order to see who really represents whom. But we must have it when we know the Government's view, and it must be capable of being tested in a democratic manner, not by referendum but by a General Election.
If these essential precautions are taken, if proper arrangements are made for the means of enforcement and if due account is taken of the necessity for re-enforcing the Union, I believe that we can go forward hopefully to a new future in Northern Ireland based upon fairness and justice to all with everyone of good will having a part to play in central Government. If we succeed in that, we shall be able to get back those people who believe in politics rather than in violence and we shall see good neighbourliness between ourselves and our neighbours in the south. But it must be based upon will and clarity of position. Above all, the position that must be clarified is that which ensures that Northern Ireland remains for the foreseeable future part of this great Kingdom, united by the inclusion of Ulster as it was at the very beginning.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
What we have just heard from the hon. and gallant Gentleman for Down, South (Captain Orr) is tantamount to a total rejection of the proposals contained in the White Paper. During his remarks he said repeatedly that he wanted the return of Stormont. However, the decision taken by this Parliament and Government was that Stormont as we had known it in Northern Ireland for 50 years was totally unacceptable not only to both sides of the House but to a considerable minority of the people of Northern Ireland. I should have thought that the Green Paper spelt out clearly that in no circumstances could there be a return to the old type Stormont which had been such a disaster in Northern Ireland.
It appears to me that the Green Paper rejects totally the idea of complete integration advocated by political spokesmen in Northern Ireland, just as it rejects the 75 idea of UDI proposed by the Vanguard movement. What it set out to do was to create objective discussion on what is the situation in Northern Ireland today and what is to be its future.
I am inclined to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, who says that, while he rejects specifically some of the proposals, again there are no clear attitudes to define in what circumstances Northern Ireland will be allowed to remain part of the United Kingdom. On whose terms will it be? Will it be under the terms laid down by this House or under those dictated by the Vanguard movement, LAW, UDA and all the other extreme Unionist sections in Northern Ireland?
Living in Northern Ireland as I do, I know that the plebiscite that we have been told is about to take place will answer nothing. The borders of Northern Ireland were drawn deliberately to give a permanent majority and a permanent minority. To realise that, one has only to recall that Lord Carson said in the House of Lords in 1934 that before setting up a Parliament in Belfast the Government went into the population figures in the counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan to see whether it would be possible to rule the ancient Province of Ulster from Belfast, but, alas, the Government found that the figures were against them. In other words, in the nine counties of the ancient Province of Ulster there was a majority against partition, and, with the coming into being of the Northern Ireland Unionist Party, it was decided that there must be an enforced solution.
There was an enforced solution in 1920. British military might was able to enforce the setting up of a six-county State with a permanent majority and a permanently frustrated minority. One can see the results of 50 years of a one-party State.
A little earlier, we all listened intently to a former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling). There are many in this House now who know a great deal more about what is happening in Northern Ireland than they did in 1969, 1970 and 1971. At last the light has begun to dawn.
76 The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, took a great deal of offence at the historical background contained in the Green Paper. It is a truthful, objective background. It sets out all the wrongs in the Northern Ireland system and the one-party State that has existed since 1920. I also think that it is a damning indictment of the inactions of successive Governments at Westminster, because they were afraid to deal with the Unionist population, the Unionist majority and the Unionist dictatorship. British Governments have allowed themselves to be blackmailed over the years. That is why today there are armed legions or para-military forces—the UDA, LAW, the Vanguard movement—which are once again intent on blackmailing the Government into accepting their wishes.
I warn the Secretary of State, although I do not believe that he needs any warning, that if he allows himself to be blackmailed by these extremist forces, as successive Governments have allowed themselves to be blackmailed, the present figure of 600 dead in Northern Ireland will seem very small, because the dead will be counted in thousands, if not in hundreds of thousands.
I am the first to recognise that the Secretary of State has a tremendously difficult job. I know that there are many moderate people in Northern Ireland who would wish to assist him in any way they could.
I lodge my most vehement objections against that part of the Green Paper which makes provision for the holding of a plebiscite. Everyone knows what the answer will be. The border was drawn in 1920 to give a permanent majority. We all know that there will be a majority against inclusion in the Irish Republic.
Let us analyse the meaning of the majority. If the plebiscite is held under the present arrangements, there will be two straight questions: "Do you want Northern Ireland to be included in the Republic? Do you want to maintain the links with Great Britain?" How many people will put "Yes, we want to maintain the links with Great Britain"? The Northern Ireland Labour Party is completely opposed. The Vanguard movement—those who espouse UDI—will say, "Yes". The LAW movement, the crowd of Fascists masquerading under the name 77 of trade unionists, will say "Yes". The Alliance Party will say "Yes". Certain sections of the Unionist Party will say "Yes". All those elements will want to remain part of the United Kingdom, but all in different circumstances. The "Yes" vote when it is counted will tell us nothing.
That is why I agree with what many hon. Members have said from this side. Although I oppose the holding of a plebiscite, if a plebiscite is to be held the White Paper spelling out the Government's proposals should be printed first, and there should be a large number of questions: "Do you wish to remain part of the United Kingdom on our terms? Will you accept United Kingdom laws on our terms? Will you accept that you have so abused security for 50 years that never again will it be given into the hands of the powers-that-be at Stormont'? Will you accept that the British forces in Northern Ireland will act in an impartial way and not under the dictates of Unionist extremists?"
All those questions could be asked. Instead, we are told that there will be one or two questions. I have already heard—only time will prove whether it is right—that at this point in time the Government have said that there will be two questions and that they will accept no amendments, however reasonably they may be, to the plebiscite Bill which it to come before the House. It shows the intransigence of the Government that they have once again allowed themselves to be dictated to by Unionist extremists.
The two questions that the Government propose should be asked will not bring us any nearer a solution. When the border was set up in 1920 the fact of life was that there were 65 per cent. Protestants and 35 per cent. Catholics. As a Socialist, I have always abhorred the sectarian politics that have operated in Northern Ireland since then. By holding the plebiscite with these two questions the Government are saying to the Catholics "Do you want inclusion in the Republic?" and to the Protestants "Do you want to maintain the links with Great Britain?" In other words, far from taking the border and sectarianism out of the political atmosphere, the Government are throwing it slap bang into the middle of 78 politics. We know what the outcome will be.
In this situation I believe that the plebiscite is uncalled for. I recognise that when the package was brought before the House in March of this year the plebiscite was a part of it, but people thought that it could be forgotten about, that they would not have to face the issue. The situation in Northern Ireland being what it is, we shall be forced to face it.
On the question of security, I have said that I do not want security to be given back into the hands of any Stormont Parliament. In saying so I am not saying that I am pleased with security as it is at present operated in Northern Ireland. It is clear to me that the security forces in Northern Ireland are leaning heavily on one section of the population. On the day that the Green Paper was issued and the Secretary of State said that we would like all reasonable people to read the document and give their opinions on it, 2,000 members of the security forces carried out a house-to-house search in my constituency—the Dock division. After six or seven hours of entering people's houses and tearing their furniture apart, the security forces left having found absolutely nothing. However, they succeeded in antagonising every household in my constituency. One wonders on what directions the security forces were acting when they took part in that operation.
Last Saturday morning a Belfast local newspaper carried the report of the case of a person who had been brought before the courts and charged with stealing £200. The accused's legal adviser, pleading for leniency for his client, said "If you will go lenient with him, your lordship, he promises to join the UDR next week." The judge—I can give time and date and name of persons involved, if required—said "All right. Provided that you join the UDR I will not send you to prison."
Is that the type of person we want in the UDR? Is that the type of person who will be a member of the security forces operating in Northern Ireland? I thought that before the War, in the early 1930s—the hungry 1930s—people were given the opportunity of joining the Army. It is this same Army that must be patrolling in the Dock constituency and in Ballymurphy. We do not want that type of criminal in the UDR or in any other 79 regiment. We must be very careful about the type of personnel we have in the security forces in Northern Ireland.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South has said repeatedly that we must be able to enforce whatever proposals are put forward. The hon. and gallant Member should by now have lived long enough to realise—if he has not, everyone else in the House has—that no political solution can be enforced on the Northern Ireland situation. There are 21,000 members of the British forces now in the streets of Northern Ireland. Many members of the security forces have unfortunately and tragically lost their lives.
§ Mr. Fitt
I agree; many of them have been murdered. Many members of the security forces now serving in Northern Ireland were forced to join the security forces because of the economic policies carried out by this Government. These men are on the streets of Northern Ireland trying to impose a solution. It is impossible for any military might now to impose a solution in Northern Ireland.
One hon. Member interjected during the speech of the former Home Secretary that security had been transferred from Stormont to the General Officer Commanding in 1969, so that no great change came about in March of this year. In 1969, 1970 and 1971 the Stormont Government were still passing legislation such as the Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Act, which is still in force. It was the Stormont Government which introduced internment and detention. It was the Stormont authorities which brought to the law of the land all the oppressive legislation of those years. If that legislation was brought in with the concurrence or connivance of this Government, all I can say is that it is no credit to them.
The party which I lead in Northern Ireland agrees with the paragraph of the Green Paper which strives to spell out the Irish dimension. The inclusion of this paragraph tells us for the first time that a Conservative Government, with the support of the Labour Opposition, recognise that Ulster is in Ireland, that Ulster people are Irish people, and that sooner or later the Irish people will have 80 to be given the opportunity to determine their own destiny.
I have repeatedly said, and I am sure that most people with any understanding of affairs in Northern Ireland will agree, that Northern Ireland cannot be absorbed into the Republic overnight, that Northern Ireland cannot be coerced into joining the Republic and that people cannot be shot or bombed into joining the Republic. As a Northern Irishman, I take the view that the only way in which Ireland can be united is by consent.
I am not one of those who believe that the present polarisation in Northern Ireland, bad though it is, will be there for all time. The time will come when Ulster men and women, Protestant and Catholic, will recognise that they have a true identity as Irishmen. The world will change, though the Unionist Party will not, and the people of Ulster will recognise that their future lies in a united Ireland.
I say this particularly to my Protestant constituents and to those who have opposed me over the years because of my religion or theirs. I recognise that there are many things in the Republic of Ireland as now constituted which are offensive to the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. I recognise, too, that the standard of welfare benefits in the Republic is inferior to those that which can be obtained in Northern Ireland. As a Socialist, I should be the last person to advocate an overnight change in the situation, with a consequent reduction in welfare benefits, or that the offensive parts of the constitution should not be altered.
The change must be gradual. It will happen not within days or weeks but possibly within years, and it can be helped by the Ulster people and by this Government. If the Government were to listen to the advice given to them by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, they would say "We cannot ever talk about a united Ireland, we cannot ever talk about the time when the border will be abolished, because it will bring a backlash from the Protestant people, and thousands will be killed." We have heard that view expressed in so many different ways, and that is the import of the threat that is being issued sotto voce here.
81 The Green Paper opens up the way for discussion. It spells out the alternatives which face not only the Northern Ireland people but the Irish people and the British people, too. One of my hon. Friends asked the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South whether he thought that the people of the United Kingdom should have a say in whether the troublesome little place known as Northern Ireland should be allowed to continue as part of the United Kingdom. The Green Paper says that the population of Northern Ireland accounts for 2.5 per cent. of of the total population of the United Kingdom. If one considers those members of the community who wish to maintain a United Kingdom link, one realises that they represent only 1.6 per cent. of the total population of the United Kingdom. I cannot see any Government in Great Britain, be it Conservative or Labour, for ever being dictated to by 1.6 per cent. of the population.
Now that the discussion has begun we must continue by all means to bring about a political solution to the problems which beset Northern Ireland, but in seeking that solution we cannot exclude the Government of the Republic. We live on the same island, and, as one paragraph of the Green Paper says, a solution should be acceptable to or accepted by the Government of the Republic. Northern Ireland cannot remain isolated from the 26 other counties in the island of Ireland. It is impossible for it so to remain.
I have said before, and I repeat now, that before the necessary legislation is brought to the Floor of the House discussions should take place between the Government, the interested parties in Northern Ireland and the Government of the Republic. Make no mistake about it: if the Government, after listening to advice, from wherever it comes, decide to introduce proposals which say, in effect, that the Irish people in the 26 counties have no say in the matter, that this is nothing to do with them, that this is what the Government intend to do having taken advice from the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, and that they intend to impose the proposed solution, they will bring in a recipe for serious trouble in Ireland, and we have had too much trouble and too 82 much death and tragedy over the last three or four years to want to see a continuation of it in the island of Ireland.
I suggest that the Government should engage at the earliest possible opportunity in discussions with the many moderates in Northern Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, who want to see an end to violence. A solution can be found only by engaging in a dialogue with those people. We cannot return to the situation which has existed up to now of one party being in complete and absolute control. The ideal of one day living in a united Ireland should not be labelled as a crime, which it has been for 50 years. People in Northern Ireland are entitled to say that they wish to maintain the links with Great Britain, but, them having been given that right, the minority in Northern Ireland should be given the right to say that, although they are now citizens of the United Kingdom, they want to work peacefully towards achieving the unity of their country. That should not be regarded as a crime. That should not be regarded as a reason for bringing people before the courts under the Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Act and detaining or interning them.
The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), who has recently been appointed Minister of State for Northern Ireland, will discover this to be one of his greatest problems. Thousands of people in Northern Ireland completely and absolutely reject the policy of internment. People talk about security under British law; but what does that mean? We are told that overall responsibility for security in Northern Ireland rests with the British Government. I have in my area of Belfast someone who was kept in remand for 51 weeks. He then appeared before the court on numerous charges and was found not guilty of them all. After having been found not guilty, that man was arrested by the Special Branch and is now being detained. He will probably be asked to go before a commission set up under the aegis of the Westminster Government. Will he be asked to face those charges on which he was acquitted by the ordinary processes of the law? This is only one case, and there are many more 83 which are causing great disquiet in Northern Ireland.
Before we can discuss in an objective way the proposals set out in the Green Paper certain urgent steps must be taken. First, the Government must make it clear that justice in Northern Ireland will be available to everyone, whether of the majority community or of the minority. They must make clear that the security forces will pay as much attention to Unionist extremists in uniforms as they pay to extremists in the Catholic minority areas. It must be made clear, too, that searches for arms will take place not only in the Falls Road area but also in the Shankill, Newtownards and other areas, where the security forces are well aware of arsenals of arms being held.
The document is for discussion and I hope that when opinions have been heard from both sides of the House today a White Paper spelling out the Government's proposals will be brought forward before the plebiscite is held in Northern Ireland. The plebiscite itself will create division, rancour, bitterness and hostility in Northern Ireland, and it will achieve nothing.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Listening to the questions which the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) suggested might be submitted to the plebiscite, I found myself doubting whether he was likely to be employed by Dr. Gallup or any other opinion poll for the purpose of drafting neutral questions. But I can make common cause with him in doubting, and in having always doubted, the utility of the plebiscite which was proposed in the March package and, even more, the prospect which that package held out of an indefinite series of plebiscites extending into the future.
Still, that is not something which has to be defended by the small minority of hon. Members who opposed the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. That Act was a means of buying time, in order to think what to do next. The price at which that time was bought was very high. Without falling into any fallacy about the link between cause and effect, the House should always 84 remember that the record of violence and destruction in the last eight or nine months since the measure has been greatly severer than that for any previous period during the last four years.
§ Mr. David James (Dorset, North)
Is not my right hon. Friend posing to himself the wrong question? He has stated what we all admit that the casualty rate at present is worse than it was before the suspension of Stormont. Has he ever asked himself what the casualty rate would have been if Stormont had not been suspended, because I believe that we would have had full-scale civil war at this moment?
§ Mr. Powell
I have asked myself that question; and I have come to the conclusion that there is not the slightest evidence—though one can never compare what was with what was not—that the change which took place last March contributed in any way to pacification—for reasons which will appear in the course of what I have to say.
Whatever may be the price at which that time was bought, it is running out. At any rate, the first instalment of time which was purchased last March is running out. The Government and the House find themselves facing the reckoning; and in the first essay at settling the reckoning, which is presented to the House in the discussion paper, there is ominous evidence that the Government are perpetuating the miscalculations and misunderstandings which have dogged successive Administrations during the last four years.
The fundamental fact about Northern Ireland is that contained within it are irreconcilable objectives. I have chosen that term carefully. I do not say irreconcilable communities—I see no reason to suppose that the communities in Northern Ireland are irreconcilable. I do not say irreconcilable people—with the exception of a tiny minority, who are determined not to be reconciled with anything, I do not believe that the residents of Northern Ireland are less capable of living in amity and co-operation with their neighbours than those in the rest of the United Kingdom.
But there are in Northern Ireland what there are not in the rest of the United Kingdom—irreconcilable objectives. They 85 are irreconcilable objectives for the future of the Province. One is that it should remain part of the United Kingdom. The other is that it should become part of the neighbouring Republic, which already claims by its constitution that Northern Ireland is part of it. Between those two objectives there is in the nature of things no compromise or reconciliation. I believe the people of Northern Ireland are suffering, and may continue to suffer, from the failure of the House and the Government to draw the necessary conclusions from that fundamental fact.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) drew attention to the fact that the discussion paper was welcomed by the Prime Minister of the Republic. He was reminded, too, by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that it was also welcomed by Senator Kennedy, whose opinions and utterances on the subject of a part of this country have not been universally welcome on this side of the Atlantic. It is an ominous indication, when we find that the proposals and alternatives put forward by the Government for discussion, and the form in which they are put forward, are such as to draw commendation from the political head of the Republic, which regards the embodiment of Northern Ireland in the Republic as not merely a legitimate objective but, ultimately, the most important of all political objectives.
In what I shall say, as in everything which I have ever said on Northern Ireland, there is not a trace of ill-will or of depreciation towards the Republic of Ireland. I believe that the Republic has a right to acceptance and respect like any other independent country. I do not believe that I have every been guilty in public, or indeed in private, of any hostile or even uncharitable expression towards the Republic. But it is vitally important that the rôle which the Republic plays in the discussion paper should be seen and understood.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South quoted one passage, and I shall come to that presently. But first I should like to refer to another passage—in paragraph 44(a), where the alternative of total integration is being critically considered by the authors of the Paper. They give a number of reasons against that course of action, of which the last is that 86it would be unacceptable to the Republic of Ireland and would make co-operation with the Republic more difficult".Obviously, we all desire, other things being equal, to take courses of action which will result in friendly rather than unfriendly relations with other countries. But what those words clearly say is that, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, unacceptability to the Republic of Ireland is an argument which weighs heavily in the scale against any course of action, whatever else might be said in favour of it.
That is also the message of the paragraph several times quoted already, paragraph 78, which goes further still in saying not merely that it is desirable that the form of government in a part of this country should be "acceptable to" the neighbouring Republic but also that it should be "accepted by" it. The natural meaning of that phrase is that, before putting forward such proposals as they may think fit, Her Majesty's Government would first ascertain whether they were accepted by the Government of the neighbouring Republic; for it is the natural course for any government, if it says that proposals which it will in due course put forward ought if possible to be accepted by somebody else, to ascertain, before putting them forward, whether that somebody does in fact accept them.
Thus, in that paragraph—and we are told that this is a very careful and admirably drafted paper—the Government have told the country, and they have told the people of Northern Ireland, that the views of the Government of the Republic will be sought upon the proposals to be put before Parliament and that the Republic's view will be regarded as a major factor in forming any proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the administration of Northern Ireland.
I wish most of all to place stress upon a sentence which almost immediately follows that in paragraph 78 which my hon. and gallant Friend quoted, because here the Government are defining in general terms what they would regard as the desirable form of government in Northern Ireland.Such measures",they say,would seek to secure the acceptance, in both Northern Ireland and in the Republic, of the present status of Northern Ireland, and of the 87 Possibility—which would have to be compatible with the principle of consent—of subsequent change in that status".In other words, the Government aim at putting forward a compromise between two opposite poles, a resolution of the irresolvable and a reconciliation of the irreconcilable, proposals which, while giving those who desire maintenance of the union what they want—or apparently giving them what they want—would hold out to those who desire the opposite the prospect, as something also desired by Her Majesty's Government, of eventually securing that opposite objective.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I am trying to follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument. I have read the document, and I did not take those paragraphs as being specific proposals in the way he is treating them. I take them as points for discussion. In fact, they are not prerequisites or prior commitments to any agreement—not as I read them.
§ Mr. Powell
Of course, they are not precise proposals—the hon. Gentleman is quite right—but I am sure he will not disagree when I say that they are intended to define what the Government regard as the desirable characteristics of any proposals. They are the outer limits, the general description, of the sort of proposals which they would think it right to put forward. They reflect the mind of Her Majesty's Government and the attitude of Her Majesty's Government to the problem of Northern Ireland and as such they represent—I say it again—an attempt to present a reconciliation of objectives which are irreconcilable.
There are many circumstances in which compromise is the essential precondition of peace and co-operation. We in this place have been brought up, as Members of it, to look upon an element of compromise as indispensable for the successful conduct of our affairs. But there are also circumstances in which compromise—by which I mean the attempt to offer to each of two parties the appearance of what each desires—is the prescription for disaster.
I believe that Northern Ireland is exactly such a case in point, because from that attempt there spring both hope and fear. There springs the hope on the 88 part of the minority, perhaps the very small minority, that violence, a new phase of agitation, a change of tactics, might push the British Government and propel affairs in the United Kingdom still further in the direction which those elements desire. On the other side, there springs the fear that somehow, in spite of everything that has been said, in spite of everything supposed to be enshrined in Acts of Parliament, their determination, the majority's determination, to cling to union with the rest of the United Kingdom is to be undermined, that ways are to be found to weaken, if only over the course of time, the assurances in which they wish to trust.
It is from the intersection of that hope and that fear that the violence, the destruction and the bloodshed in Northern Ireland over the last years have sprung. It is that hope and that fear, married together, which have made it impossible to detach the law-abiding and, perhaps, in every sense loyal minority from the gunman, the assassin and the criminal. It is that which, to the regret and, indeed, to the horror of the people of Great Britain, has driven the majority into acts ever more difficult to reconcile with loyalty and with respect for the law of what they claim is their own country.
Those are the ingredients of the tragedy of Northern Ireland. The wording—and the purpose behind the wording—of this discussion paper suggests that the Government have not yet learned to identify them. It suggests indeed that the Government propose to embark upon a course of action which will keep those elements alive and make them even more active and destructive.
In the last few weeks an agreement has been come to, after more than a quarter of a century, between the two divided parts of our defeated enemy of the last war. I was struck by a passage in the preamble to that treaty, published only last week:Conscious that"—here follows the statement which I regard as worth quoting in this debate—the inviolability of the borders and the respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states in Europe within their present borders are a basic condition of peace …".I believe that that assertion is no more true of the Continent of Europe than it 89 is true of the relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I believe that it contains within itself the only germ of peace and safety for all the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I hone that the message of the debate to Her Majesty's Government will be a warning against proceeding further in the direction which the discussion paper adumbrates. For so surely as in their future proposals they may appear to be all things to all men, so surely will their proposals be fatal to all men.
§ 6.21 p.m.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), as usual, has put to the House with great clarity his construction of the situation. It will not come as any surprise to the right hon. Gentleman or to the House to know that I do not share in whole his construction of the situation in Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman has concentrated, as have other hon. Members, in putting forward the views, the rights and the aspirations of what they term "the majority" in Northern Ireland. There is, however, more than one majority that has to be considered when we try to deal with the situation which has developed in the historic and tragic tangle of Ireland and Great Britain.
In the debates on Ulster we are always faced with the views of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), but it is Parliament that has to try to find some solution. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in putting before the House the Green Paper and setting the basis of our debate, said that the debate must be based upon the facts as they are. How right he is. His second condition was that we must try to see beyond the present situation.
What are the facts? No one disputes the dangerous situation which exists. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for Belfast, West, bring to us the agony of the people in Northern Ireland—the agony of those who have to live under the threat of the bomb and the gun. We have no right to underestimate their anguish. But they do not constitute the 90 only people who have a right to speak. As much as our sympathy extends to those who have suffered in Northern Ireland, the sympathy of the people of Great Britain also extends to those who have died in the service of the Crown, in the Armed Forces, in Northern Ireland.
What are the facts that the right hon. Gentleman wishes us to take into account? The first factor that I put before the House is the immense burden that Great Britain carries for the continued inclusion of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. The current estimates from Government sources of the cost to the British taxpayer for Great Britain's participation in Northern Ireland now stands at £400 million per annum. The British people, the unheard majority, have the right to know the financial burden as well as the blood that the country has been called upon to carry.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I dislike the hon. Gentleman's grudging approach. Since when have we costed out the social costs of any part of the United Kingdom in such a way? Have we forgotten the sacrifice in blood which was made by Ulstermen to keep our country free?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Indeed, we have not. But when citizens of Ulster proclaim their loyalist sympathies, and when they parade in the streets of Northern Ireland under the flag of the United Kingdom, they must also display—if they want their historic and bloody contribution to the defence of this realm to be taken into account—a willingness to abide by the words of Her Majesty's Ministers and a willingness to renounce the use of force. One of the tragedies of the situation, as it is developing, is that faced with a terror campaign from those who do not bear allegiance to the United Kingdom, and who want to take Ulster out of the United Kingdom, we now have emerging in Ulster those who claim to be loyalists but who follow the same path to disaster.
It is because of that developing situation, and because the people of Great Britain are becoming sick and tired of the affair, that it is right that we should state the facts and make it known, to the people not only of Great Britain but also of Ulster, just what burden is being carried by this country and the price that they would have to pay if they wished to 91 declare some form of unilateral independence. It is necessary for them to understand just what is being contributed not only in blood but in wealth from the people of this country.
§ Mr. W. Churchill (Stretford)
How can the hon. Gentleman describe as loyalists those from any side who are shooting British soldiers?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
As so often happens, the hon. Gentleman does not listen carefully to what is being said. I am not defending as loyalists those who assassinate or murder British soldiers who are carrying out the orders of the Crown in Northern Ireland. I condemn those in the IRA and those in any other section of the community who perpetrate those acts. However, our financial contribution to the maintenance of Ulster means that we pay over £270 million in what is called the residual share of reserved taxation. We are spending over £60 million in social security in Northern Ireland. We are making grants approaching £2 million under the Agriculture Act, 1957. Another £102 million is spent under the Finance Act in regional premiums in Ulster. An additional £30 million is spent by the British taxpayers in this part of the United Kingdom in a range of miscellaneous contributions to the agricultural problems of Ulster, to say nothing of the contribution that they have to make in financing the British Army. An additional £22 million will have to be found, according to a Question which was answered in this House, in the Defence Estimates because of the stationing of troops in Northern Ireland.
That is the burden that the citizens of Great Britain are expected to pay towards the retention of Ulster within the United Kingdom. Yet the people of Great Britain, according to the Green Paper under discussion, will have no say in the future of Northern Ireland. They are not being asked whether they wish to continue this burden. It may well be that the majority of our fellow citizens wish that to happen as a repayment, as the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) may think, for the blood that Ulster contributed in two World Wars to the maintenance of freedom in the United Kingdom. That may be the view of the people of Great Britain, 92 but they are not going to be given the opportunity of expressing their view. I say to those who declare themselves as loyalists in Northern Ireland that they should ponder for a moment about where they are leading their people, because they are so inflaming the opinion of people here that we, in Great Britain, may wish to call an end to their involvement with us.
I would like to see the Poll Bill extended to make provision—perhaps in one or two years' time—for the people of Great Britain to declare their view on the ultimate solution for Ulster. Let the people of Ulster speak now, but let the people of Great Britain speak at least some time in the future on this question, because we will not stay silent for very much longer seeing our sons, our brothers and our fathers murdered on the streets of Ulster.
In every generation the people of Great Britain are called upon to go out and police Ulster. We do not want to carry that burden for ever. If the people of Ulster cannot by reason come to an understanding through which they can live together and accept that the question of the border is a matter for continuing debate and discussion in Ireland itself, then they cannot expect Great Britain for ever to continue to spend its wealth and the blood of its young soldiers in solving their problems and maintaining their peace.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
This debate will be listened to with great interest in Northern Ireland because the whole future of the Province will be reflected by the views expressed.
I preface my remarks by saying that I take no exception whatever to the statement in the Green Paper that as long as Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament must be acknowledged. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland who call themselves loyalists would agree that the sovereignty of this Parliament must be upheld. When this Parliament gave certain powers to Stormont, Stormont was right to execute its jurisdiction within those powers. I was one of those who contended that within the meaning of the 1920 Act Stormont had a right to carry 93 out its obligations. But this House was warned by Members from Northern Ireland that it was taking upon itself a very solemn and serious responsibility when it voted to prorogue Stormont and take supreme authority back into its own hands.
I do not question the right of this Parliament to do so, because I believe that it was clearly spelled out in the 1920 Act. So it should not go out to the world that the people of Northern Ireland who are called loyalists want to rebel against this Parliament or carry on a campaign of violence. I deplore any suggestion that that Protestant community should be set at loggerheads with the forces of the Crown or the forces of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
I can well understand, although I cannot go along with him, the feelings of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). I can appreciate how he feels as a Member of this House from a constituency on this side of the water. But I remind him that it was this House originally which passed the legislative union between Ireland and Great Britain. It was not the people of Ulster who put Ulster into that position. This House having taken that responsibility, it should not now at this late date try to shelve it, or, in words of pragmatism, try to cover up what has to be faced.
In this debate and in further discussion on the Bill this House needs to face some hard and stern facts. The Ulster people do not desire to fight to remain part of the United Kingdom with the blood of British troops. They are prepared to lay down their own lives for the things they believe in. I will spell it out clearly. They do not desire British boys to be murdered in their streets; they do not desire that the sons of Members of this House and their friends and constituents should go to an early grave in the streets of Ulster. They utterly deplore and condemn it. They would like nothing better than that they themselves should be entrusted with the defence of their property. But this House in its wisdom or otherwise decided otherwise.
For years the men of the Ulster Special Constabulary had the responsibility. They were shot and they were murdered, and Ulstermen and Ulsterwomen followed their funeral processions and shed their 94 tears, as no doubt the people of England are doing today. This is not a problem which has just come about. It has been with us since the Province of Northern Ireland was set up.
There will, in Northern Ireland, be resentment of those hon. Members who would say that we are a sort of Cinderella, that we are receiving grants of money. I admit that freely. That is why I for one stand for the Union. I have no desire for the people of Northern Ireland to lose their social benefits and the privileges of British citizenship and of being part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the future of Ulster not only depends upon the wish of the majority of the people of Ulster but must also depend, if Ulster wants to be within the United Kingdom, upon the wish of the majority of the people of the United Kingdom as a whole?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I freely and fully accept that. I have made it clear that, if at any time the people of this country decide that, they should be permitted by plebiscite to decide, they should be given that full privilege. But this I say also—that if they decide to drive us forth they will not drive us forth into the arms of the Irish Republic. Then, we should be allowed to decide our own destiny. I think that the hon. Gentleman would go with me in that.
We appreciate—no one more than hon. Members from Northern Ireland—the financial arrangements which have been made. If we did not have those arrangements, there would be even longer queues than there are now for the dole, and the hardship would be greater for both sections of the community. Protestants and Roman Catholics alike in Northern Ireland share the distress of unemployment; they share the distress of poor housing or no housing at all. These things affect all sections of the community.
I believe that two things will come to the minds of the people of Northern Ireland when they have read this document. First, they say "Do the British Government realise the situation that we are in, that there is a war on in Northern Ireland?" That factor has been brought home by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford because people here are sorrowing over their dead and it is coming more 95 and more home to the people of Great Britain that there is a war on. Until that war is won, until it is brought to a successful conclusion, all the talk about meaningful political dialogue, the setting up of administrations or legislative assemblies, is totally meaningless because one cannot set up structures for peace until authority is established in the streets of Northern Ireland.
The party of which I am a member has emphasised to the Government that they must cope with the security situation, and there is no easy remedy for that situation. It is a hard task and a bitter task, and a task to which this House and the Government need to apply themselves, because we now have the rising of various groups in Northern Ireland who feel that the only way to get anything out of the Government here is by a show of force, and in many senses force is seen to pay good dividends. That policy must cease, and the Government will have to walk an unpopular path.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) illustrated to the House the attitude of the people whom he represents. He showed that he could condemn this Government just as strongly as he could condemn the Government that sat at Stormont. He stated that every household in his constituency had been searched and had had the floors ripped up, and he spoke of pressure on one section of the community only.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that even if every household in his constituency had had such a frightening experience he has many Protestant constituents as well, and it is wrong for him to say that this treatment showed that the British Army was leaning on one section of the community alone. Those of us who have had representations made to us by the Protestant community could also level criticisms—I have levelled criticism myself here at Question Time—but I could not agree with that remark about the British Army. The hon. Member's illustration reveals what the real problem is and what we are up against.
The people of Northern Ireland are asking, "What do the people at Westminster intend to do to give us peace upon our streets?" It is all very well for hon. Members to deplore shootings, to deplore the torture of young women and to de- 96 plore acts of violence—and there is no doubt that there has been violence by both sections of the community—but that situation has come about because of the actions and attacks of the Irish Republican Army and the tortures its members have inflicted. When that happens, people inevitably take the law into their own hands, and then we have counter-violence which, in its turn, creates more violence. It is a terrible situation, and a situation to which this House will have to come to grips.
The soldier boys from Britain were never trained to be a police force, and it is unfair to give them a police role that they are not trained to perform. How can a man from Lancashire or Yorkshire adequately defend an area that he does not know? The answer is a localised force. Let local people deal with a local situation. We must face up to that fact. Sad as it is, and tragic as it is, it is stark reality that stares us in the face, and something must be done about it.
The people of Northern Ireland read in the document statements that have been quoted and requoted today. There is no doubt about the thinking that has gone into this document. It is more than a Green Paper. It is something between a Green Paper and a White Paper, because not only are there proposals for discussion; frontiers are set, and the Government are saying that between these frontiers the settlement must come about.
One very dangerous thing in the document—it has done great harm in Northern Ireland and has not helped the situation at all—is the view that any agreement must be acceptable to and accepted by the Government of the Republic of Ireland. The vast majority of Protestant people in Northern Ireland have nothing at all against the Government of the Republic. The Republic has gone its own way. It did so when Great Britain was fighting for freedom in the Second World War. It has gone its own way on many other occasions, and it is quite entitled to do so. I have never heard any responsible leader calling down the Republic for its actions. It took its actions, and it was entitled to take them.
If I could say that the Republic of Ireland was a friendly neighbour of Northern Ireland—if I could say that a spirit of good will was coming from the 97 Republic, and that it would be possible to have good neighbourliness in Ireland, both North and South—I would be happy. But how in the name of good fortune can we have good neighbourliness when article 2 of the constitution of Ireland states:The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands and the territorial seas.That article causes resentment in the heart of the Ulsterman who wants to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. As the Ulsterman reads that article, the Government of the Republic are saying to him, "You are part of our country, and it is for us to control you and bring you into our domain."
It is all very well for Mr. Lynch to say to his people there, "Let us get rid of article 44": the underlying principle of the whole constitution of the Republic of Ireland is completely repugnant to the Northern Ireland Protestant. I do not talk now about union between the two parts of Ireland—let no one misunderstand me there. I am talking about good neighbourliness, and the possibility of whoever is in charge of Northern Ireland being able to work with whoever is in charge of Southern Ireland for the common good of the whole of Ireland—economically, socially, and the rest. But we cannot possibly have that sort of—
§ Mr. Stallard
Is the hon. Member aware that there exists at present a trade union movement which covers all the 32 countries of Ireland and works for the benefit of the whole of Ireland, North and South?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Yes, I know that one of the hon. Gentleman's friends said that they were Fascists. The people in the LAW were all members of that trade union movement but are labelled Fascist by the hon. Member's friends.
§ Mr. Stallard
No matter who may have said that, the hon. Gentleman put that statement into my mouth.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I clearly dissociate the hon. Gentleman from the statement that members of the LAW are Fascists. I do not think that they are. It is very easy to put labels on people. I should know, because I myself have been labelled a Fascist, but what relationship I ever had 98 with the Pope I will let the hon. Gentleman decide.
I am happy to pay tribute to those in this House who are against the constitution of the South of Ireland. I pay tribute to politicians in the South of Ireland who have gone on record as being against that constitution. I say to them that if they can see to it that a change comes about in the attitude and the constitution of the South of Ireland the time will have come in Ireland when North and South will recognise—in the terms of the statement read to us by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) about the two sides of Germany—that the border cannot be changed, that our relationship cannot be changed, that we want to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom, but that we want to have good neighbourly relations with the people of the South of Ireland. After all, if the person who lives next door to me wants to borrow something from my house, he is welcome to do so, but if he says, "I legally own your house and I will take it over", the neghbourly relationship ceases if I am a man at all. Does the House expect Ulster people not to stand on the principles of honesty and of decency? I am sure that any man in the House would want them to stand for those principles, which are very dear to them.
The future of Northern Ireland is important. It is important to the vast number of people who are unemployed in Northern Ireland at present. It is important to the vast number of people who are looking for better homes and better places to live in. It is important to the children in Northern Ireland. They are the people that I specially grieve about. How are they to face the future as men and women brought up in the turbulence of our present day? It is important, and this House has our destiny in its hands.
I say to the House, "Be careful what you do, because perhaps today you are reaping some of the follies of the House in the past, and tomorrow another generation might even reap the follies that we sow today." There is a way forward, and that is not to try to change the people of Northern Ireland from their desire to stay in the United Kingdom. It is to see that the House takes its full responsibility and that it legislates for 99 Northern Ireland in the way in which it legislates for Wales, Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom. Let this House exercise its full authority, and let the people of Northern Ireland administer the laws that are enacted here.
I believe that the Roman Catholic population in Northern Ireland, who, rightly or wrongly, feel that Stormont was to blame for all the trouble, will be content if Stormont is no longer there and they are legislated for in this Assembly, where their co-religionists are happy with the laws passed.
I am glad that the leader of the Unionist Party here today is beginning to see some of the light of total integration, and I hope that the Unionist Party can see that the best thing for it is to have full union, full legislative union, with this House.
§ Rev, Ian Paisley
The best thing for Britain, I believe, is that every part of the United Kingdom should be happy in obeying the laws of the Crown.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
The clearest indication of the thinking behind the Green Paper, behind the policies of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and of the entire Government, is possibly to be found in the simple questions in the referendum. These also explain why the Government are incapable of solving the Irish problem. In their starkest and simplest form, those questions ask whether the people of Northern Ireland want to be ruled by Ted Heath or by Jack Lynch. They are formed on the basis that the only quarrel that we, the people of Northern Ireland, have is over whether we want to be ruled by a royal blue Tory or a white-flag waving green Tory of the Free State. That is not our problem. We are not two groups of the population arguing only about whether we should belong to the Republic of Ireland as it exists, with its low welfare benefits and its present constitution, or to the United Kingdom as it exists, with its present system of government.
The implications of the struggle in Ireland go much deeper than that. The 100 implications of the struggle in Northern Ireland are much more fundamental, and none of them is dealt with in the Green Paper or in the referendum. We are not asking to exchange one flag for another. We are not asking the working-class of Northern Ireland to take their pick between Long Kesh and the Curragh Camp. We are not asking them to take their pick between the Special Powers Act and the Offences Against the State Act. We are not asking them to exchange the dole queues of British capitalism and Toryism for the dole queues of Free State Toryism.
What the struggle in the North of Ireland is about has been mentioned by no one else in the House today except the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The problems in Northern Ireland are not just those of the flag-wavers; they are not just questions of territory and sovereignty. They are the questions of the slums and the dole queuers, of unemployment, and of the conditions that the working-class in the North of Ireland have lived under for the past 50 years. That struggle has implications right across the 32 counties. We are not asking for an exchange. What we, the people I represent, are struggling for in the North of Ireland is not to swap Ted Heath for Jack Lynch but to overthrow Ted Heath, his mentality, his Government and his system, and to overthrow Jack Lynch and the same system as it is represented by him and his Government in the South of Ireland.
The system as represented on either side of the border has consistently failed to solve the problems of the class that I represent. The Green Paper does not deal with any of those problems. It deals only in structures—in sharing out among the middle classes of Northern Ireland whatever power the people of Northern Ireland will be expected to enjoy. It is a question of not finding the future for Northern Ireland. If the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland were to be honest about it he would admit that it is yet another measure to buy time. It is a stabilising measure. He is trying to find peace in Northern Ireland, which everyone is attempting to do. But it is what one understands by peace that matters.
I throw back in the right hon. Gentleman's teeth without apology some of the 101 words he spoke earlier. He asked of the Provisional IRA, "How can they bring law and order who have brought nothing but murder and bloodshed?". In the name of my dead constituents—in the name of the deaf mute Eamonn McDevitt; the youth Tobias Molloy, shot dead by a rubber bullet which struck his heart when he was returning from a dance; in the name of John Paddy Mullan and Hugh Herron, shot only within the past month—I ask the security forces of Britain, "How will you bring law and order, you have brought murder and bloodshed?"
The Green Paper does not start to solve the problems. But it is an indication of the Whitehall policy, of the British Government's policy. It is not so much the policy of the carrot and the stick as the policy of the Green Paper and the Red Beret. If it is intended to step towards the peace that the Secretary of State is looking for, he is not going the right way about it. It will not be found by re-sharing out the power, by deciding on conferences, committees and commissions and dealing with the question of who, in the middle class, will have what section of what power, because the middle classes in Northern Ireland are not rioting. Mr. William Craig is the last of the big spenders—the last of the middle class to lead the Protestant workers, and he is only hanging on for grim death. The Protestant people of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Defence Association, the Loyalist Association of Workers, the Vanguard movement, may never have moved one solitary inch nearer my position, but if they have learned nothing else in the past three years of struggle they have learned that the Unionist Party never represented their class, that the State set-up was never their State, that it never served their class interest. They have opened their eyes to the slums they lived in and the unemployment and bad wages they endured.
Therefore, if the Secretary of State really wants to bring about peace he will not do it by repression. He will not do it by extending his neighbourliness, as it is called, in the South, or by having the Special Branch in the North of Ireland working in cahoots with the Special Branch of the South, turning over political prisoners from one side of the border to another. If the right hon. 102 Gentleman really wants peace, let him start by releasing all the internees—something for which we have been campaigning from August, 1971.
It is not a question of bringing them before special courts. The most innocent people in Northern Ireland are the people behind the wire in Long Kesh. How can those men, who have been there since August, 1971, be responsible for anything that has happened since 1971? Whatever else they have done, they have not been responsible for the violence that internment brought about; for all that time they have been in Long Kesh.
When hon. Members talk about the responsibility of bipartisanship, let the Labour movement take note that if bipartisanship and responsibility are to mean that the British Parliamentary Labour Party will sit in the House and watch the British Government dredge through the sludge and mire of the legal profession to find three such contemptible hacks as will sit in their special courts and deny a man the right of trial by jury, and deny the precept of British justice that a man is innocent until proven guilty; if it is prepared to see those principles denied in Northern Ireland, it will not be able to fight for them if the day comes in this country when the same principles of justice are denied.
I ask hon. Members to consider the case already mentioned—the case of Mr. McGuigan, who for 51 weeks was interned on remand and who for 51 weeks in succession, was remanded for seven days in custody. He was imprisoned on 36 charges for those 51 weeks until acquitted in open court by a judge. Far from being compensated for wrongful imprisonment, as he went through the door of the court he was immediately picked up by members of the RUC Special Branch, who took him off for questioning—holding him for 12 hours—and then kept him on a 28-day detention order. If he is brought before the special court, will the three hacks of judges reverse the decision of the open court? Will they tell a man who has already served a year's imprisonment and been acquitted of 36 charges, that because he cannot prove himself innocent he is presumed guilty, and is to be further imprisoned?
Policies like that will never work. If the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland really wants peace in Northern 103 Ireland, let him stop leaning on the Catholic population as he has. Let him abolish the Ulster Defence Regiment. From the last Session of Parliament, from a period now extending over about five months, I coaxed and cajoled and pushed and bullied the Secretary of State into answering some pertinent questions about the Ulster Defence Regiment. When he finally got around to answering them, on 20th October—the matter having been raised in June—he did so, I regret to say, by private letter from one of his colleagues. That is not the way in which to answer such important quessions. They were asked for an answer to be recorded in HANSARD, but after months of persistence the answers came in a private letter.
I am informed that the Secretary of State is unaware of collusion between the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Ulster Defence Association. We were informed in an interview on television in Northern Ireland by the head of the Ulster Defence Regiment that he had no objection to members of the regiment being members of the Ulster Defence Association.
Members of the UDA are able to go around shooting up Catholic families in my constituency, and burning down Catholic farms in my constituency, and terrorising people on the roads at night. They have the capability and the authority to set up road blocks—as the Secretary of State admitted—within a quarter of a mile of an Ulster Defence Regiment road block. Yet the Secretary of State tells me that his soldiers did not see them and did not know they were there—not for seven nights in succession, less than a quarter of a mile from a road block on a straight stretch of road. If on no ground other than incompetence, I would send those UDR boys home and save money.
The Secretary of State tells me that he does not know of collusion. I have given him the names, and will again—Howard, Allen, Leacock, Ferguson, Kennedy, Young, Jeffers, all of whom are members of the Ulster Defence Association, all of whom are members of the UDR in my home town. I can produce evidence to show that all these men are members of the UDA. There is evidence that people are prepared to produce in 104 open court, but the Secretary of State does not know about it.
British military intelligence knows about it and I know about it, and the people who have had their homes shot up and burned down know about it, and the Secretary of State must have been informed about it. If he wants people to take him at his word, how are we to believe that he wants even temporary peace when he continually allows things like that to happen?
Another example is that in my constituency the home of Mrs. Nan McLoughlin has been searched by the British Army 15 times in less than three months, which is a raid per week. This woman has six children. Her husband has been interned and released. Why cannot that family be left in peace?
In their own terms, if the British Government want to secure a temporary peace—which is about all they are capable of securing in Northern Ireland—let them realise that it will not be done by repression. Repression may work, as it has in the past, but only for a short time. If the Government continue the internment policy, whether by internment, detention order, remand, or the so-called special courts, they will get nowhere.
Nor is there any point in talking about localised force. We will not have it, and we cannot see how the British Army, the Government and the House are prepared to tolerate it. The men of the localised force are the old B Specials and the new UDA paid for by the British Crown and masquerading as flag-waving loyalists. They are tolerated while the Republicans are consistently interned and remanded. Absolutely nothing happens to those who are part-time Ulster Defence Regiment members and part-time UDA assassin squads. The situation is as simple as that.
In towns like Cookstown and Magherafelt and Dungannon—small rural towns—iron farm gates are thrown across main roads and the people inside the affected areas are incapable of conducting their business, because only pedestrians are allowed through. The only people in the areas known to penetrate are the Provisional IRA men—they can get in every where. Pedestrians cannot get into Dungannon; nor can motorists, but only last 105 week the IRA got in and left three bombs, which blew up what was left of the town.
It is no good continuing the policy of harassment against the population—the policy of attempting to secure peace by servility, peace by bowing the knee, peace out of fear. The only kind of peace brought about in Northern Ireland is the peace of fear, where people are afraid to move.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) mentioned the question of campaigning and canvassing after the hours of darkness in Belfast. My heart bleeds for any British politician who is scared of the dark in Belfast. It is not a matter of canvassing in those areas—it is a matter of living in them. People have to live their daily lives afraid to come out of doors. There is hardly a man or boy over the age of 17 in the area of Andersonstown who has not at some time been picked up and interrogated by the British Army—and not only in the hours of darkness. It is a 24-hour game with the British Army—and I say that in all sincerity. There is not a male incumbent in Andersonstown over the age of 17 who has not seen the inside of an Army barracks.
The question simply comes down to the way in which the Government see the problem. They see it in terms of those who want the Republic and those who want the United Kingdom. We want neither. We want an end to our problems. We do not want to settle for the status quo on either side off the border. We want to see the end of Tories—green Tories, orange Tories, red, white and blue Tories. We are sick of unemployment and dole queues; we are sick of hearing about the wealth that pours into Northern Ireland, and of hearing nothing about the wealth that is taken from the exploited people of Ireland. We do not live on the charity of the national health system; we work and produce the wealth of Northern Ireland, all of which goes into the private pockets of shareholders in Britain.
We are sick of hearing arguments like that. We are sick of the question being resolved in terms of sharing our power among the powerful. The consultation document can come and go, as can the referendum. Someone asked about active canvassing on the referendum. Let me 106 assure the House that I will be canvassing very actively at the referendum, as will my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), who has taken himself away from this establishment. We will be canvassing very actively in the referendum, advising everyone with two ounces of wit to stay away from it. Electoral history may well be made; there may well be areas in the constituencies of Mid-Ulster and Fermanagh and South Tyrone where, from the opening of polling stations at dawn to their closing at dusk, not a single vote will be cast.
The referendum does nothing to solve our problems, just as the consultative document offers nothing. Our problem—and I have repeatedly stated this in the House—is how we in Ireland can build an organisation of our class, and representative of our class, that will overthrow the ruling class of this country and give us freedom in the only terms which we, as a class, can understand. The problem of the Tory Government is to prevent us doing that, and there is therefore no common problem. Ours is to create the workers' republic; theirs is to prevent it ever coming into being.
I return to the question of responsibility and bipartisanship. In all sincerity, I ask the British Labour Party how it can effectively fight Toryism in Britain and refuse to fight it in Ireland. How can it fight unemployment queues and the policies of the Tory Government in this country, yet acquiesce in their policies in my country? It cannot lick the boots and kick the backsides of capitalism at one and the same time.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)
I sometimes think that the real enemy of Ireland is rhetoric. That wretched island suffers from a surfeit of oratory, and perhaps on both sides there should be a period of silence. Having said that, I am under an obligation to be brief and to speak only to various heads. All hon. Members, and as the Member for Aldershot I am no exception, are buttonholed by constituents whose advice is "For goodness' sake, let us get the Army out of Ireland." Soldiers say this to me, let alone the families of soldiers.
There is no doubt that were the British people consulted through a referendum as 107 to what our Irish policy should be the overwhelming majority would vote in favour of the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Northern Ireland—a strong argument indeed for parliamentary Government as opposed to Government by referenda in this country.
The case against withdrawal is obvious and well-known. There is the moral argument that we would immediately bear the responsibility for murder and massacre on a wider scale. The other argument is that no great Power, even in our straitened circumstances, would be wise to abdicate some sort of control, however unsatisfactory, over the way in which the Irish situation might develop were we to leave Ireland to its own devices. It is only 18 miles from Scotland; if Ireland were 400 miles from Scotland the arguments for abdication might be stronger. No responsible Government would ever allow the Protestants of Northern Ireland to be the Israelis of Ireland, which they undoubtedly would become. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), who makes her speeches and then vanishes, ought at least to be grateful that the British Army will stay put for as long as the will of the British Parliament exists to sustain it.
I voted against the initiative in February with some reluctance. It was not an easy decision for the Government to take. We had to wait six weeks for the initiative, and rumour had it that the Cabinet was divided over the wisdom of it. I suspect that is true, the argument being that it is easy to get into the Irish situation but extremely difficult to get out of it. The genius of the Lloyd George solution was that if the Irish were sufficiently irrational to use murder in pursuit of their objectives they should bear the responsibility for it. I voted against the initiative because I feared that it would destroy the Unionist Party in the North and shift the leadership of the Protestants from moderate, middle-class hands into the hands of immoderate working-class extremists. Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened. We shall pay, and go on paying, a very high price indeed for the destruction of the Ulster Unionist Party.
Enough of the past. The initiative is a fact and we must work in the situation 108 as we find it. The responsibility for action in future lies not so much with those who live in Ulster as with the Secretary of State. He must make up his mind on a course of action, he must act swiftly and, most important of all, he must stick to it, because since the initiative we have suffered from vacillation in policy and from errors of judgment. The vaccilation has been in the attitude of the Secretary of State towards a referendum in Ulster. First it was on, then it was off, then it was on again, and finally it was off. At the party conference in Blackpool he gave the impression that there was to be no such thing as a plebiscite in Northern Ireland. Within a few days of that speech he conceded the case. Clearly, the restoration of the morale of the Loyalist community must now be the most important short-term objective of British policy in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Perhaps my hon. Friend should be fair and read what I said in Blackpool, because I said exactly the opposite.
§ Mr. Critchley
The effect of my right hon. Friend's vacillation over the need for the referendum has been very marked in Northern Ireland, and I do not think he can deny that. His error of judgment, if I might remind him of it, was his decision in July to have talks with the Irish Republican Army. I have no objection to having talks with the Irish Republican Army. Sooner or later one talks to everyone. My objection then was that there was nothing to be gained at that time from that manœuvre. It was an ill-timed act of vanity.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
Far be it from me to come to the aid of the Secretary of State, but is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the Secretary of State, as a man of honour and integrity and with knowledge which only he in his position could have, felt that there was an opportunity to stop people being killed or murdered and the economy being mutilated he was wrong to take it?
§ Mr. Critchley
I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would be so optimistic as to suggest that one meeting with the IRA would have 109 achieved the result which the hon. Gentleman has indicated. I am asserting that at that time it was an ill-judged act, and the response both of the Conservative Party and of Ulster rather proves my point.
What should the Secretary of State now do about the future, which is the important matter? He should hold the referendum as swiftly as possible because the short-term need in Northern Ireland is the restoration of the morale of the Protestant community.
Secondly, Stormont should not be resurrected with the powers which it once enjoyed. Clearly, that would be impossible. Security in the military, and in the police, sense, must stay with Westminster.
Thirdly, we should encourage the assembly of Stormont to work with the south over a period in some sort of all-Ireland assembly—because one assumes that the result of the referendum will be to re-establish Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. If that happens, the assembly within Northern Ireland might, over a period, be able to work reasonably with the south in a Council of Ireland. It is important that the Protestants and Catholics, loyalists and nationalists, north and south, should have a forum in which they can talk to each other as opposed to shooting one another.
Fourthly, economic aid to the north should be very generous, and it might even be extended to the south, because if we can give the Irish a future they may not be so obsessed with their past. But the security problem must be overcome because without security no solution or settlement, however fair and ingenious, will endure.
The advantage of the plan I am putting to the Secretary of State is this. It might enable Mr. Lynch to move against the IRA in a way that he has not yet been prepared to do. This would be part of the bargain. It is no good my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) complaining about the Irish dimension. The Irish dimension exists: it is a fact of life which we must acknowledge and accept. Mr. Lynch's attitude to the IRA in the south, whether we like it or not, is the key to the eventual military victory for which the security forces are working in the north. Unless he moves against the IRA 110 in the south, and the border remains relatively open, there will be hostilities across the border all the time.
Mr. Lynch and Mr. O'Malley might accept that sort of settlement and move with vigour against the IRA in the south. If that happens, the security problem will begin to take care of itself. This is a format from which some sort of modus vivendi may emerge. Were Mr. Lynch not to take this step forward, and refuse to move against the IRA, and were violence to continue in the north either from the nationalist or the loyalist section, we should be faced "willy-nilly" with the next step in the tragedy, which is full integration.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State today described full integration as simple and logical. It is both those things. But he also described it as a solution. It would not be the solution. It would be another step in the Irish tragedy illustrating that dictum of politics which we should never forget—that there are many problems but very few solutitons indeed.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
It is inevitable in a debate of this sort that many things will be repeated. Much has been said that I would have said had I spoken earlier.
A number of speakers, particularly on the benches opposite, gave the impression that Mr. Lynch welcomed the Green Paper because he was intent on taking over the north of Ireland. It is not my job to defend Mr. Lynch, but since that impression has been given by two or three speakers and no quotations have been made to back it up I should like to read one sentence from his speech in which he welcomed the Green Paper. He said:The Green Paper on the future of Northern Ireland represents a welcome and constructive contribution to public discussion of the problem. As the toll of senseless killings, savage brutality, violence and destruction continues to mount, it becomes increasingly clear that major changes in attitudes, behaviour and institutions are needed, both North and South, in order to bring stable and lasting peace.I could not find anything wrong with that.
Mr. Lynch went on to quote from the opening words of the Green Paper, saying:'The British Government have a clear objective in Northern Ireland. It is to deliver 111 its people from the violence and fear in which they live today and to set them free to realise their great potential to the full'. We—Government, Opposition and the overwhelming majority of the people in the South—fully share that objective. We also want to see an end to division, hatred and bloodshed among Irishmen. We want to see not only the people of Northern Ireland realising their great potential to the full' but all the people of Ireland within the North, and North and South, working together and realising an even greater potential.I cannot disagree with any of the sentiments expressed in that speech. As Mr. Lynch cannot defend himself in this House, it is perhaps as well that somebody should put the record straight.
Obviously, a tremendous amount of thought has been given to the Green Paper. Like most people who have read it, I welcome it as a constructive document about which we should think seriously. Having read it, I am even more convinced that the ultimate solution will be found by Irishmen. I despair of this House, and certainly of people who live on this side of the water, ever finding a permanent solution. Even though there appear to be wide divisions, I believe that Irishmen from both communities in the north, together with Irishmen in the south, will ultimately find the solution.
It has been said, and it is worth repeating, that the discussions which will have to take place between all the people in the 32 counties will inevitably take place in an atmosphere very different from the atmosphere which existed 50 years ago when Ireland was partitioned. There are a number of differences, and I do not have to spell them out. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) spelled out most of them. Circumstances are different now from what they were then. The Secretary of State rightly said at the beginning of his contribution that we have to deal with what is—not with what might have been or what we would like it to have been, but what is. This document at least opens up that kind of discussion.
I am convinced, and I always have been—I make no apology for repeating it—that the ultimate solution lies in unification by consent of the whole 32 counties. I am convinced, and I always have been, that partition has been a failure. The division of 50 years ago has failed.
112 It has failed to give the majority the security they hoped it would bring. It has brought instability, it has brought fear it has brought hatred, it has brought violence and division even to the majority. For the minority it has brought discrimination, unemployment, bitterness, and, for many, emigration, and sheer desperation. To both communities it has brought death and destruction, and misery and suffering which has to be seen and experienced to be believed. We have been given this afternoon many examples of the kind of atmosphere which has pervaded the Six Counties.
To the Republican the divsion has meant a certain lack of development because of the absence of the industrial and political techniques and know-how of the people in the northern community. To us here in Britain it has meant an ever-increasing financial and military involvement, as outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), and in the past three years an intolerable number of casualties amongst British soldiers attempting to keep down a disaffected minority and placate a hostile majority.
It is no wonder, therefore, that more and more people—I think that what my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford was saying is particularly significant in this respect—on this side of the Irish Sea are beginning to say "Maybe it is time to have another look at this". Again, the Secretary of State used words which many people use—"Why do not we just pull out and let them get on with it and settle it amongst themselves?"
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I hope my hon. Friend is not misconstruing what I said. What I am trying to say to the House and to the country and to Ulster is that the people of Britain must have a say in the future of Ulster. It is not for the people of Ulster alone to decide whether they wish to remain in the United Kingdom. It is for us on this side of the Irish Sea to make this determination as well.
§ Mr. Stallard
Yes, I accept that; I recognise that my hon. Friend said that. What I am saying—this was brought out by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley)—is what most people are beginning to say—"What is in it for us? Why are we becoming so deeply involved 113 in the problem there? "It is an area no bigger in population than Warwickshire or some such big city as Birmingham; it is no bigger in size than Greater London, or many other similar areas. That is what people say, and they ask "Why should we have to pay money and in human life and suffering to retain this piece of territory against the wishes of the minority?"—and recently, it would seem, against the wishes of a fairly large number of the majority as well.
It is a sad thing to have to say that the opinions expressed by both those speakers in different ways shows that people are beginning to urge withdrawal. I am one of those who think that that is completely irresponsible and dangerous, and for obvious reasons, while I would say that there is a good argument for a review and another look at the deployment of the forces there. I am saying that there is a case for moving towards ultimate withdrawal, but at this stage there is certainly a case for withdrawing from those areas of stress which we have heard described so vividly, certainly by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), this afternoon. There is a strong case for a review of the numbers of forces patrolling the streets, certainly in Catholic areas, and I think we ought to look at that.
In spite of the pessimism which is about this afternoon, I still think that we in this House have a duty to try to create an atmosphere in which both those northern communities can come together. We have the responsibility to try to get people together and to restore, however gradually, some sense of community in those counties.
This is why I have disagreed with the priorities of the present Administration. I have said so on a number of occasions. I welcome the Green Paper and I welcome the discussion which will ensue around it, but I am a bit sad that a paper issued for discussion was followed almost immediately by legislation based on paragraph 82 of the paper. Before discussion had begun we were into legislation based on paragraph 82. I was a bit worried about that because I think the Green Paper and the legislation were printed at the same time and that we are going through this discussion simply as an exercise—
§ Mr. Whitelaw
I can give the hon. Member as categorical as possible an assurance that that is not the case. The border poll was promised at the time of direct rule in March. That puts it in a different category from the other points which have been made.
§ Mr. Stallard
I do not take it as being as positive as that. The border poll was on, it was off, it was in, it was out, and so on. It was only when wet got this paragraph 82 that there appeared to be something for real discussion in a discussion document. Then, as I have said, we had the legislation—and with the questions already fixed. I would have thought that they would have been enough for discussion in themselves. We shall be faced next week with a debate on that piece of legislation.
To me, therefore, that was disappointing. There was a second disappointment, on the question of the referendum. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) mentioned it. The Secretary of State may remember, although I shall not be surprised if he does not, that I wrote nearly two years ago to both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State's predecessor in charge of affairs in Northern Ireland, the Home Secretary, about the possibility of a referendum, because I had received from Northern Ireland correspondence which suggested this to me. There were a number of other suggestions and possibilities at that stage. This was at the time when there was perhaps less violence than there is now. I quote from a letter I had:I am an Ulster Protestant who believes that the border between North and South must and should go in due course, but I also think that the time for that is not yet ripe as both the North and South need time to develop secular administrations. In any case, while there is a northern majority in favour of the union with Britain, Westminster is bound to accept this situation. To do otherwise would be to welch on the undertakings given in the Ireland Act, 1949. However, until that time comes it is essential to provide for an administration at Stormont in which the Catholic minority can not only have faith but also play a meaningful part.It goes on to outline the basis of a series of referenda on this question of Northern Ireland.
After having had discussions with my correspondent, I agreed to pursue the matter because it seemed to me at that 115 stage to contain the germs of some solution to the immediate problem which existed then. It seemed right to create the atmosphere which we have to create in which both communities can get together to resolve the problem. I had correspondence with the Prime Minister and the Home Office. I shall not quote the letters as I hope to speak in a later debate on the referendum, but one is typical of those replies:The Government subscribes to the view that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom unless its people decide otherwise. This was set out in the Downing Street Declaration of August 1969. The idea that the views of the people on this issue should be taken by referendum would, however, give rise to difficulties. The referendum is not a device which has secured much favour within the United Kingdom. The view has long been taken that in a parliamentary democracy the people who are elected to represent the population should be entrusted with the major decisions affecting it. More important perhaps in the Northern Ireland context, is the very real possibility that far from reducing tension, the proposed referenda would in fact increase it by rousing fresh fear and uncertainty particularly among the majority about the future of Northern Ireland.That letter was sent by the Home Office on 25th October, 1971. A similar letter from the Prime Minister rejects utterly the idea of a referendum in Northern Ireland.
I was delighted to hear the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), supporting the plebiscite this afternoon. It is a step in the right direction, a move away from the intransigent position of that letter of 25th October, 1971.
I join with other hon. Members who have said that the timing of the plebiscite is particularly important. I therefore join them in asking the Secretary of State to reconsider the timing to take into account what has been said about the need to produce a programme and to consider the questions to be asked, so that the people will know what kind of United Kingdom they are putting their cross against. If I had my way it would be a United Kingdom which is intent on introducing a Bill of Rights. For two years we have been trying to introduce a Bill of Rights, and the idea is gaining support here and in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Secretary of State has not ruled out of consideration the introduction of a Bill of Rights before the hold- 116 ing of the plebiscite to create an atmosphere in which people will be induced to participate in the plebiscite.
It has been said that the questions which are to be asked will be the subject of much discussion and that they will have to be redrafted. Several suggestions have been made. One which I commend to the Secretary of State is from the New Ulster movement which has asked that the questions be reworded as follows:Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom on the terms set out in the White Paper? Do you want eventually to live in a united Ireland brought about by free consent?It is possible to say "Yes" to both those questions and that is an important ingredient in the forthcoming plebiscite. That would ensure that the maximum number of people participated in the plebiscite, and take away the fear of a plebiscite on the other side of the border on the same date. The border divides Ireland into two, and there are, therefore, two majorities to be considered on the question whether the border stays.
I hope the Secretary of State in winding-up will deal with the points I have made about what should be done before the plebiscite is held.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Stretford)
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) has suggested that the British people should take another look at the whole question of Northern Ireland and at the sacrifice of money and blood that is being made to sustain Ulster. I have no objection to that. Every time I go to Northern Ireland any doubts I may have are swept away. How can we say to the people in Northern Ireland, whether Protestant or Catholic, that we in the United Kingdom or indeed in the Parliament of the United Kingdom do not care for their lives or their security and are prepared to surrender them to the terrorism of small sectional interests from whatever quarter they may come? This we can never do.
§ Mr. Stallard
If I gave that impression, it is not what I meant. I said that there are people in this country who suggest that line of action, which I think is completely irresponsible.
§ Mr. Churchill
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, and I am glad that he accepts that that is a totally irresponsible view.
As no one will know better than the Secretary of State, the scene in Ulster changes remarkably rapidly. Many of the best intentions of the Labour and Conservative Governments have been overtaken by events. When my right hon. Friend took over in March this year the principal problem facing the Province was the disaffection of the minority community. By his initiative he has gone a long way to ending that disaffection and reconciling the Catholic community. But this has been bought at high price—the disaffection of a significant proportion of the majority community.
As a supporter of my right hon. Friend's initiative, I have always believed that the concomitant of that policy, which was in essence an olive branch to the Catholic community, was to put an end to the no-go areas. That has indeed been brought about, but the delay was a cardinal error.
No purpose is to be served by going over the past. We are here to discuss the situation today and, above all, the future. The present security situation is relevant to the whole question of the future of the Province. From what I have seen during a recent visit, the situation in regard to the Provisional IRA has changed for the better out of all recognition from what it was nine or twelve months ago, particularly in Londonderry, the Ardoyne and Andersonstown. This has been achieved not only by my right hon. Friend's initiative but by the high calibre of the operations conducted by the Army, by the way in which the men bear themselves and by the intelligent leadership of the officers on the spot. Instead of making great sweeps through Catholic areas, the Army relies increasingly on information received and is able to conduct operations in such a way that it does not give the appearance of being against the Catholic community—which, of course, it is not—but only against those who terrorise the Catholic community and, indeed, the whole community in Northern Ireland.
Today we have a new situation. It is one in which Protestant gunmen are taking to the streets. There is danger that 118 this is becoming the principal threat. One has the feeling that if it were not for this new and sinister development of Protestant terrorism we should be only a matter of months away from dealing with the threat to the security presented by the IRA. There is no doubt that these Protestant extremists are playing into the hands of the IRA. This new development has resulted not only from the concessions that were made in the initiative, as some of my hon. Friends have suggested. The disaffection of this minority has come about above all because they have seen the destruction of their assembly in Northern Ireland. When they saw their Parliament destroyed those elements who were at one time kept within the bounds of reason by the umbrella of the Unionist Party took to the streets.
It is vital to regain the confidence of the moderates who form the great majority of the people of Northern Ireland. It may require a major crackdown on Protestant extremists, as well as on the Provisional IRA. We cannot allow this UDA cancer to grow in the way that the IRA cancer was able to grow over a period of time. We must make it clear to the Protestant community that we will not tolerate terrorism or gunmen, from whatever quarter they come. Equally, we must make it clear to them that democracy, whatever way one may shuffle the cards, at the end of the day means majority rule.
The repercussions of UDA terrorism are already being seen on the Catholic community. Only today members of the Catholic ex-Servicemen's Association have announced that they will form themselves into paramilitary units. This gives greater emphasis to the need for speed in everything that we are discussing today.
Nothing can do more damage than uncertainty and doubt. I warmly welcome the Green Paper. But, although it narrows the margins, there is still a great deal of latitude within those margins, and it is this above all which gives reason for doubt among both communities.
There are those who raise other difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may not be aware of it but there are some in the Catholic community who will vote "Yes" to both propositions in his referendum. I met one 119 prominent Catholic who voiced that intention to me. He told me that he both wanted to remain part of the United Kindom and to see a united Ireland. That is a peculiarly Irish twist to the referendum which has perhaps not been foreseen.
The decisions that we take in the course of the next three or four months in this Parliament will shape not only the future of Ulster but her relations with the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. It must be a turning point, towards either a united Ireland or full integration with the United Kingdom. Few hon. Members on either side of this House have any objection, in principle, to the concept of a united Ireland, if that is what the people of Northern Ireland wish—[Interruption.] Certainly that is the position of the Government. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) finds that amusing. However, I believe that to be the case—
§ Mr. McNamara
The reason for my laughter was not that I objected to the idea of a united Ireland. It was directed to what the hon. Gentleman was saying about no one in this House objecting to a united Ireland if that is what the people of Northern Ireland want. My amusement was intended to indicate that the hon. Gentleman had apparently forgotten the other part in the equation which had to be considered, namely, the Republic of Ireland, and whether that wanted a united Ireland.
§ Mr. Churchill
Certainly Mr. Lynch might be wary of it if it were on the basis of what was proposed by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin).
There can be no doubt that few hon. Members on either side of the House will tolerate a solution which does not meet the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. There are those who argue for a united Ireland on the basis of geographical tidiness, but certainly it could not be argued on the basis of history. Human passion is so much greater a force than any fact or quirk of geography. We must ask ourselves whether the IRA by the folly and viciousness of its terrorism has not set back the possibility of achieving a united Ireland not only a generation but perhaps for ever.
120 We have come to a point where both sides must accept compromise. In the Green Paper, both sides have many options left open to them. Those options are soon to be closed. They must be closed if there is to be any form of stability or solution in Northern Ireland. The Unionists must accept that the restoration of Stormont, even a reformed Stormont, is not easily acceptable to other sections in Northern Ireland or even to many in this country. Equally, the Republicans must recognise that a united Ireland is not an acceptable course to the majority community of Northern Ireland at the moment. Integration with the United Kingdom would appear to be an acceptable solution to both communities, albeit a second choice from the point of view of both sides. However, it is one which does not rule out an Ulster Council with very full powers for running local affairs and the development of the Province. Equally, it does not rule out a Council of All Ireland.
Our objectives must be to achieve an end to discrimination and at the same time to uphold democracy and rid the ordinary people of Northern Ireland of the rule of terror. We have arrogated power to Parliament in Westminster. We have reached the point where we must reach the end of discussion. We must now come to decisions, guided by these objectives. For the sake of all the people of Northern Ireland, I hope that no time will be lost.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
In the past I have been hesitant to take part in debates on Northern Ireland. Today I have the courage to do so because this is a genuine attempt on the Government's part to seek the opinions of the House. The hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) said that his attitude to possible solutions to the Northern Ireland problem was determined by the question: how could there be an independent State only 18 miles from Scotland? There are considerations other than that simple geographical fact that prompt Scottish Members to take an interest in Northern Ireland affairs.
I compliment the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) on trying manfully to come to the Government's support. The Government have not had much 121 encouragement or support from their back benchers.
I have heard many experts speak on this subject. I take part in this debate in the genuine hope that I can appreciate the concern felt by hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituents. I become more and more depressed as I listen to hon. Members from Northern Ireland, irrespective of the side of the House on which they sit. Northern Ireland Members remind me of a piece of doggerel which the previous Member for Fife, West—the late Willie Gallacher—quoted in one of the debates on the Committee stage of the Ireland Bill, 1949, and which is apposite to describe Northern Ireland Members—Carson had a yellow catThat sat upon a fender;And every time it saw a PapeIt yelled out 'No surrender'.It appears from the speeches of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) that some of the prejudices inherent in that piece of doggerel still exist, because those hon. Members give voice to everything save the real sentiments which lie behind their thinking.
Those of us who come from Glasgow and the west of Scotland have some credentials for daring to present one or two ideas on the Green Paper. We in Scotland are familiar with sectarianism, though not in the same form as it exists in Northern Ireland. One hon. Member, having listened to a Northern Ireland Member say something about another Northern Ireland Member, referred to what Carson once said. The hon. Member for Antrim, North made critical comments about the Pope. One would hardly think that these were Christians talking about Christians. I do not profess to be a Christian; I profess to be an agnostic. Therefore, I hope that I shall come in for no sectarian prejudice.
Obviously Stormont will not be reinstated. Whatever the future may hold, there will be constitutional changes of some degree of permanence which might even influence the British Government in the constitutional arrangements to which they are committed for Scotland.
We are not unmindful of all the implications and significance of the Northern 122 Ireland situation. We in Scotland have shown a dignified reluctance to become too involved in Irish affairs, although as we have to live with sectarianism we are perhaps better qualified than hon. Members from other areas to discuss the problem.
I do not see the Green Paper in terms of constitutional changes, or as a shifting of power, or as an attempt to redistribute power within the middle class. Any such view is the typical unrevolutionary approach of those who profess themselves revolutionaries. I see the Green Paper as an opportunity for movement. Movement has already taken place. Five or 10 years ago no Member of the House would have forecast that a Conservative Government, with all their affinity with Unionists, would abolish Stormont; yet it has happened. That is a recognition, at least by some quarters of the Conservative Party, that there must be a political change which they can support if there is to be any possibility of a permanent solution in Northern Ireland. I therefore start by accepting that the abolition of Stormont is the first sign of an opportunity for movement.
One of the dangers is that this has meant increased influence and support going to the more militant Protestant elements. This was perhaps inevitable, but it is not entirely depressing. People must think afresh and face the fundamental problem. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) with his usual impeccable logic, states the problem and then—
§ Mr. Brown
I was giving the right hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. He states the problem with impeccable logic, but never seems to be able to admit that there might be an all-Ireland solution. A case in logic can be made for anything. If the more broadminded of us can recognise that this must ultimately be one of the elements of choice open to all people, there can be an ultimate objective view. I am not sure what the right hon. Gentleman's motives are in many things, except that he does not like the Prime Minister.
It is important to consider the wording of the questions that will be on the 123 ballot paper. The New Ulster movement and the Northern Ireland Labour movement share the opinion that this wording will be objectionable.
I disagree with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) when she says that the way to express an opinion on the issue is not to take part in the ballot. To do that would, in my opinion, play into the hands of the most reactionary elements in that area. All sorts of conclusions would be drawn if, in those circumstances, there were a majority vote in favour of retaining the border. If the issue were presented in that kind of emotive way it would be disastrous if anyone boycotted the opportunity to express an opinion on it. I do not agree with the proposed wording of the questions, but if there is to be a referendum it would be wrong to boycott it.
I shall not argue whether a referendum is a good thing. In certain circumstances it might be, and in this instance it might have a good effect. I do not take the view that this is being done merely to placate Protestant opinion, but I recognise the need to take some of the heat out of the issue and to get people to realise that the immediate issue is not that of the border.
It is better to say that the immediate issue is not that of a united Ireland. If that were done it might give time for thought by people who believe that in the long term that is an almost inevitable result. If there could be a breathing space to enable a constructive approach to be adopted to the problem the holding of a referendum now or in the near future would be justified, but it must be accompanied by a White Paper or a Bill of Rights, because without that it becomes a meaningless gesture.
I hope that my next comment will not be misunderstood. I should like to see the hon. Member for Antrim, North as a Member in an Ireland Parliament. He would bring a bit of colour to it, if nothing else. But he could not express such a hope outside this place, nor would Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies as Members of the Unionist Party dare to do so. They are prisoners of their own prejudices, of this no-surrender mob, or lobby, or whatever one likes to call it.
§ Mr. Wilkinson
Why should any Member of Parliament representing a Northern Ireland constituency be glad to represent an all-Ireland constituency if it meant joining a Republic like the present one, which has lower standards of welfare benefits, a theocratic constitution, a neutralist stance and things like that, which understandably stick in the gullets of the majority of his constituents?
§ Mr. Brown
I do not have time to reply to the most fundamental question that can be asked. It is a bit immature and superficial to suggest that because I am arguing in the long term we have to think along the lines of the level of benefits, and what amount of cooperation is possible. It does not worry me that it is a Republic. If that is what is upsetting the hon. Gentleman, let me tell him that I do not attach any great importance to that kind of constitutional loyalty. I have seen too many so-called loyalists in and around Glasgow proclaiming their loyalty to the Queen. I should not be seen dead with some of them. Loyalty to ideas and ideals is more important, be they for a Republic or for a monarchy. Let us not confuse the issue with trivial questions.
I hesitate to compliment the Government, because that might be the kiss of death for them—not that my words are all that important—but I do congratulate them on putting this into an all-Ireland context. Does the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South wish to intervene?
§ Mr. Brown
In view of the many words that I have heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman utter on this subject I make no apology for spending a few moments on it. His efforts in the past have not been very successful in bringing peace to the community. Within the context of the choices available to us or to the people of Northern Ireland my view is that within the Labour movement, the trade union movement and Government circles there must be a greater attempt to establish a situation in which here can be discussions between the North and South. I am a pro-Marketeer, and the decision 125 of the Republic to join the EEC has brought a new element into the situation. It is this change which, perhaps, presents us with some hope for the future.
We must deal with the situation on the basis of ultimately seeing some kind of united Ireland. Only if we accept that, however long-term, can we apply ourselves to considering some of the immediate solutions. The Government have produced a good discussion document. They have eliminated some of the choices which do not appeal to people, such as complete integration and immediate links with the South. Therefore, although it might appear to some that there is a narrowing down of the freedom of choice, the Government are at least trying to look at the matter realistically, and because of that there is a tremendous opportunity for forward political thinking.
I do not think that it is impossible to say, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West suggested, that if we can get Catholics and Protestants to work together in Northern Ireland we can perhaps go a little further and be a bit more optimistic about the long-term future than some hon. Members seem to be when they discuss the possibility of bringing together the North and the South. We might even go further and bring Ireland and the rest of Great Britain together. As we are all part of Europe, it seems to me that that presents opportunities of which we should all be aware.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Luce (Arundel and Shoreham)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown) said that he was an agnostic. Does he realise that within the context of Ireland there is no such thing as an agnostic, that one is either a Protestant agnostic or a Roman Catholic agnostic?
The hon. Gentleman said that because he came from Scotland he felt that he had some credentials for speaking on the Irish problem. If he feels that, I feel justified in saying that as I come from Sussex I, too, have some credentials for speaking on the problem. But, inevitably, as an Englishman with no Irish blood, one approaches the issue with the greatest diffidence and humility.
It is the duty of us all to speak about and take an interest in this problem, for 126 two main reasons: first, because the British Parliament is sovereign in Northern Ireland and there is direct rule and a direct responsibility for the north; second, because it is in Britain's interest to see a peaceful solution in the north and to have close relationships with the south.
Like almost all other hon. Members I welcome the Green Paper. It sets out the options, the dangers and the opportunities in a realistic and objective manner. All of us understand that the relationship between Britain and Ireland over the centuries has been mercurial and turbulent and based on miscalculations and misunderstandings on all sides. The accumulation of history—and history appears to be important in Ireland—has created conditions of antipathy which we ignore at our cost and which we must endeavour to remove: the old feeling still there amongst some Irishmen that the British wish to continue their empire in Ireland; the Gaelic pride in their own identity; the relationship between the old settlers and the old-established inhabitants; the antipathies between Roman Catholics and Protestants; and, following that, the tribal divisions in the north and the divisions between Republicans and Unionists.
This melting pot of history has now boiled to the surface. This catalyst, as I see it, provides not just its dangers but, oddly enough, its opportunities, and it is within this context that the Green Paper has a vital part to play. There is one overriding common interest that all good Irishmen have with all good Englishmen—to eliminate violence. If we allow violence to dictate events in the north, it is not just the North of Ireland that will suffer; it is democracy in Britain, democracy in the Republic and, in the long term, the democracies in Western Europe. It must be the key, overriding objective of us all to destroy the violence. Nothing can justify the bestialities inflicted upon innocent people.
As I see it, the Green Paper eliminates the worst options, those options which create, or could create, more bloodshed than we have seen in the past. The first would have been to hand the north over to the south. Nothing could have been more disastrous. The second would have been to withdraw British troops and leave it to the north to run its own affairs. Equally, nothing could have been more 127 disastrous. The third, more difficult to argue at the moment, but dangerous, would be total integration. It is right to endeavour to eliminate the most dangerous options which are most likely to lead to greater bloodshed.
I wish now to turn to the problem of the "Irish dimension". If one accepts certain assumptions, the assumption that there will be no change in the north without the consent of the majority, that the minority will have a stake in the affairs of the north, that the political vacuum must be filled speedily, and if we accept that something like a regional assembly will be valuable—in that context I hope that the Crowther Constitutional Commission will be taken into account—we should consider Britain's long-term interests in its relationships with the south.
It is not just a question of enormous British investment but that the south is Britain's third largest trading partner. It is a question of facing up to the fact that it is vital for Britain to have a friendly neighbour on its Western doorstep and it is, therefore, vital for us to build up our common interests. There is the question of interpretation of the two paragraphs about the Irish dimension. The first sentence in paragraph 78 of the Green Paper says:Whatever arrangements are made for the future administration of Northern Ireland must take account of the Province's relationships with the Republic of Ireland; and to the extent that this is done, there is an obligation upon the Republic to reciprocate.The fact that we have common problems implies that we also have common responsibilities, and it is upon the need to persuade the south to face up to its responsibilities that I wish to base my remarks.
The first and most important of our common interests at the moment is security. The south has established special criminal courts. It has withdrawn all licensed weapons of a military nature. In the last few days it has put forward proposals for reforming the law of evidence, which may make some contribution. As I understand it also, the television medium of the Republic has voluntarily decided not to advertise or show terrorists on the screen. If the British Press and television exercised 128 voluntary censorship in this sphere that could make a contribution.
There is a need for a far greater joint effort in matters of security in order to eliminate the training camps for the IRA in the south, to stop the flow of arms from the south, and for a joint effort in a review of the extradition treaty and arrangements where fugitives in the south who are not being detained there could be detained.
The second area for joint interests applies to the constitutional and social laws of the Republic. I believe that we have a duty and a common interest to persuade the Republic that it is in its interests to amend its constitutional and social laws. In that context I welcome that it has indicated that article 44 of its constitution, which gives the Roman Catholic Church a special position, should be reviewed. It should review its social laws on censorship, obscenity, divorce, contraception and so on. It certainly needs to eliminate that part of its constitution which lays claim to the whole of Ireland. That is fundamental.
The third area for joint interest is functional co-operation. I stress "functional co-operation" because within the context of our joint membership of the EEC we could develop a joint regional policy between the north and the south. In the past there has been co-operation in electricity, fisheries and drainage, but we need to see this developed further on a much stronger basis and including tourism, joint industrial projects and ventures like that.
Following from that, if we are to achieve common objectives in the south in everyone's interest it is important to have a Minister in our Government who is responsible on a clear basis for liaison between Great Britain and the Republic. I do not regard the present position as satisfactory. There is no Minister who has full responsibility for relationships with the South.
To summarise, it is my view that joint co-operation in a practical way between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the South will over the years, perhaps over decades—it may take a long time—create conditions in which in the long term greater harmony can prevail between the United Kingdom and the rest of Ireland.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I wish to make a short speech, and I hope that the hon. Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce) will forgive me if I do not take up his general line of argument.
First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) on his translation to the Northern Ireland Office as Minister of State. A word of congratulation ought to go also to the other Ministers who have served in that Office and have recently had a change of responsibility. It has been a difficult job for the Secretary of State and his team, some of whom, I imagine, came new to the sort of situation which we have in Northern Ireland. That they mastered it and showed a determination to seek a solution is manifest in the discussion paper.
I welcome the discussion paper because it illustrates in broad terms the possibilities which are available for a solution to the Northern Ireland problem. I do not pretend to be an expert on Northern Ireland affairs, but over the past 20 years I have visited the Province regularly, and since 1971 I have paid four visits there. My main interest has been in the shipbuilding industry, and I was appalled the other day to hear of the attempt to blow up the 800-ton crane in the Harland and Wolff shipyard. What a pitiable attitude of mind, that anyone would think of endangering the prospects of 8,000 people employed in the shipbuilding industry in Northern Ireland! What could be gained by that type of action is quite beyond me.
I have an association also with the Co-operative Movement. I met the managers and some of the staff of the Belfast Co-operative Society. For a second time, when they had tried to restore viability to their premises, those premises have been destroyed. On the mistaken basis that it was some form of capitalist organisation, the IRA attacked the premises. In fact, the vast majority of the working class in Belfast are members of the Society, so that not some form of capitalist organisation but a co-operative society which distributed its profits to its members in proportion to their purchases was the object of attack. I cannot come to terms with that type of mentality.
I had discussions with a good many people in Belfast. Here I should say 130 that I am grateful to a Mr. John McQuade, a member of the party to which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) belongs, for the facilities which were made available to me. It is an illustration of what has to be done nowadays that if one wishes to see people in the Shankill Road or Falls Road communities of Belfast—especially the Shankill Road—one has to be escorted round. I was accosted, with Mr. McQuade, by members of the UDA. It is very disconcerting, sitting in a man's front room, to see him take out his Smith and Wesson and stuff it under a cushion. But those are facts of everyday life, and they show what the situation is in the Falls Road and Shankill Road. People are arming themselves. People are adopting para-military techniques.
The fact that we have not had local elections is an illustration of the tenacity and strength of the forces now afoot in a city of the United Kingdom. We must take cognisance of them. These are men who, rightly or wrongly, are completely disillusioned with the established order. In particular, the UDA members—certainly the ones I spoke to—are completely disillusioned with the Ulster Unionist Party. That party no longer speaks for them, and can no longer deliver the goods in terms of privileged positions economically or in status socially which it used to deliver, or used to try to persuade my colleagues in Northern Ireland that it was capable of delivering.
I regret what was said today by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). She completely misinterprets the situation as I see it. She talks in class terms, in terms of irreconcilables. I do not know which class she is speaking for, but she certainly does not speak for my class in Northern Ireland. She does not speak for the Protestant workers, and I do not believe that she really speaks for the Catholic workers either, because they do not want a challenge to the established order in the way that she sees it. I dislike Tories as well. There is a saying, if I may be colloquial, that the only good Tory was Tory Gillick and he played for Glasgow Rangers. However, although one may dislike people and their policies, one is not bound to oppose them in the way 131 that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster gave the impression that she opposes them.
There have been some heart-rending circumstances in my constituency in the past few weeks. In one case the mother of a soldier, who was only three weeks commissioned, showed me the recompense which the Army offered. She was given £19 for the life of her son. He was shot near the border at Crossmaglen.
I have supported the Civil Rights Campaign, which demands that the rights that we have on this side of the Irish Sea be extended comprehensively to everyone on the other side. But if the price of getting those rights was the death of my constituent's son, that was a price which was not worth paying in the normal context.
The more of these situations that exist, the more will be the pressure to withdraw the troops. There will be increasing pressure in the United Kingdom. There will develop an attitude of war weariness. The view will be taken, "if they cannot behave themselves, if they cannot get on together, let them go." I do not support that attitude. But the rights on this side of the Irish Sea are not divisible. We cannot ask for law and order and for a certain standard of behaviour on this side and then say "Let these people sort it out amongst themselves."
This is why I disagree profoundly with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who argues in terms that are not dissimilar to those used by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. It is a politician's job to reconcile the irreconcilable. It is our job to look for solutions. The right hon. Gentleman mistakes the problem because he thinks that the pseudo-religious elements in Northern Ireland cannot come together and cannot be reconciled, and that there will always be a division between the Protestants and the Catholics. That is the basis of the border mentality.
§ Mr. Powell
When the hon. Member is good enough to read my speech in HANSARD tomorrow he will see that I said exactly the opposite.
§ Mr. Douglas
I do not want to belabour the point. The right hon. Gentleman is always very careful in his statements about sectarianism. But the 132 border is shorthand for sectarianism. If we talk about the border we talk about maintaining in Northern Ireland the Protestant supremacy. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I am now willing to argue the case, although I dislike plebiscites, that the Protestant majority population in Northern Ireland has to be reassured. I will support that case but I am not going to argue the case for perpetual reassurance. Reassurance is needed now, but it should not apply every time. Neither the UDA nor anyone else should be given perpetual reassurance.
For what reason does the Protestant community want reassurance? I hope that United Kingdom standards are wanted. That does not mean the return of the Status quo. Stormont cannot be resurrected as it was. If we are to embark on that type of discussion there will have to be a devalued Stormont, not a Stormont with a Cabinet and all the other paraphernalia. If bipartisanship were to perpetuate that, then count me out. I am not voting, for that. Let us be clear about it.
If we are to embark on some kind of rehabilitated Stormont—some form of jazzed-up county council, perhaps—it is a form of reassurance to the people of Northern Ireland, who have had a Parliament for 50 years, and one cannot take that away. One cannot deny such local form of devolution, but certainly one cannot give it all the paraphernalia of power which was at Stormont before and was so nauseating. I have never before witnessed a situation of such servility of mind as persisted at Stormont Castle. That has to be wiped out. It is not good for my class in Northern Ireland, nor for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. But I accept that the Protestant community has to have reassurance in terms of the plebiscite.
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. Gentle man's unreality is appalling to any Member from Ulster. If he carries his argument to its logical conclusion, he is saying in effect that there is no such thing as a Catholic loyalist in Northern Ireland. I can tell him from my own experience in East Belfast that many Catholics voted for the Unionist Party and are as good loyalists as anyone else. The division is between those who are republican at 133 heart—and that includes many Protestants—and those who are for Crown and country and against republicanism and nationalism.
§ Mr. Douglas
There is nothing really wrong with what the hon. Gentleman is saying. I am not really contradicting him. I accept that there are Catholic "loyalists" who will want to preserve the border. But I say that what they, the Ulster Defence Association and others would not want to do is to resurrect Stormont as it was, with all its paraphernalia. If Ulster Unionists want the status quo we shall be embarking on a very difficult situation.
I accept the reassurance for the Protestant community contained in the plebiscite, and I also accept the difficulty of trying to discuss the problem of Northern Ireland in an all-Ireland context at the present time. It is dangerous and one has to proceed delicately. But eventually the solution to the Northern Ireland problem has to be achieved on an all-Ireland basis. It has to be done with delicacy and persuasion and in creating a new basis for political alignment in North and South. That will not be done in a few months. The timetable has to be one embodying a White Paper, and then the referendum can come on the basis of the White Paper. New questions have to be drafted, and then, as soon as possible, a rearranged Stormont must be set up with elections for it taking place.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Coombs (Birmingham, Yardley)
Any debate on Northern Ireland is fraught with difficulty. We are all conscious that whatever is said or done in this House will not of itself provide a solution. The solution rests with the two communities and their determination to establish peace, and an acceptance, whatever the rights or wrongs of the past, that extremism, of whatever colour, leading to violence and, in so many cases, death, must be isolated and removed.
God is not orange; neither is He green. People should not reflect their prejudices or even their aspirations by taking His name in vain. But the crime of the men of violence is not against the Almightly—He is, as always, quite capable of taking care of Himself—their crime is against humanity, in that they consider human life to be of very small 134 account provided they achieve their ultimate ends. They stand four-square, though to what and with whom no one knows. They work not for Ireland, not for Britain, nor for social justice. Their preoccupation is anarchy, and their guiding principle is that force is right. The meek truly do not inherit their earth.
What, then, happens to the rights of the displaced majority—the overwhelming number of Catholic and Protestant people who simply want to live in peace and see a fair and just society? They have no rights, because rights belong to the strong and not the weak in this new philosophy.
What have the Government to do in all this? This is a Government problem, certainly—most problems are—but, equally, this is a problem of every individual, of very sane person in the Six Counties and, indeed, in the South as well. It is a challenge for every person to face in his own way. For democracy only truly exists where there are those determined enough and strong enough to defend it.
My own views very much reflect those of Conor Cruse O'Brien, whom I consider to be one of the very few people anywhere in Ireland who has the guts and determination to look at reality and to recognise that the only consideration in the present climate is to save lives and to fully understand that a just society will be guaranteed by the Government at Westminster, and that no other preconditions can or should be laid down.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a mammoth task, and anyone who has been concerned with Irish affairs must wonder how he has managed to preserve his sanity. He has now produced a Green Paper which I think is a very cleverly constructed document. The way in which it has been received seems to offer a glimmer of hope, however small that glimmer may be.
I want now to develop some of my own thoughts in relation to that document. I believe that an assembly which is elected, or a Parliament, should be reestablished in the Six Counties—after the plebiscite and an election—to be responsible for all matters including, in the long term, the police, as it was previous to suspension, with three basic differences. Firstly election to it should be on a PR 135 basis—and obviously the form of that PR must be meaningful—and, secondly, that 75 per cent. consent, or at least a sufficient number to include responsible elements of the minority view, be required to cover all items of legislation, or, if that is impractical, at least those which are likely to reflect community differences. Whatever percentage decided would apply only to members present and voting, so that abstentions could not be used as a blocking device.
The Senate would be abolished, and any so-defined legislation which fails to obtain the required majority would be referred to Westminster. I am sure that appeal, as it were, to Westminster would have the attraction of appeal to a more objective body. Measures failing to obtain the required majority might be delegated for consideration to a Northern Ireland Grand Committee. This House of Commons would therefore function as a kind of Senate to a single-chamber Northern Ireland Parliament.
To my mind this would satisfy Protestant opinion, for Protestants would regard any Parliament without direct control with the police as being a mere charade. I have tried to persuade them on that, but it is their firmly held view. By virtue of a weighted majority, it would force and forge co-operation within Ulster and demonstrate the total impartiality of Government there. The even-handed approach would be visible in every field. I believe that this would be better than the Belgian system, mainly on psychological grounds, in that it is occasionally better to have an insufficient majority than a highlighted minority.
It almost goes without saying that I regard the shared committee plan as unrealistic in isolation, for any system of participation can only evolve from the Parliament or assembly, which itself must adequately provide safeguards for the great number of responsible minority opinions.
My third proposition is that the new Parliament should be for a specific set term of four or five years, instead of the old procedure, which merely reflects our own. Whether or not this would impose insuperable constitutional difficulties I do not know, but it is surely essential to avoid frequent and undesirable elections were Westminster to be called upon to 136 exercise its judgment as a second chamber outside of its normal sovereign authority. It would also help to avoid the power play of party politics and force the kind of middle-road agreement which we seek, and in any case, the Prime Minister of the day could still resign, but without there being any danger of the dissolution of Parliament.
There is a feeling, which should not be underrated, that the title of Prime Minister should be amended, and I agree with this. It is a difficult and delicate balance to demonstrate to Catholic opinion not just the structural change but the change of mood as well, and at the same time to satisfy extreme Protestant opinion for no change at all. "Premier" instead of "Prime Minister" may seem simply a question of semantics, but it is the best suggestion that I have heard so far.
One would like to see this office alternating between a Protestant and a Catholic, but that is obviously impracticable with any democratic forum. Nevertheless I do believe with a Protestant Premier a Catholic Deputy Premier should always be appointed, and vice-versa. That may seem outrageous to some, but whatever emerges from the political maelstrom at the next Northern Ireland General Election it is inevitable that the old orders will be changed. The Unionist Party will no longer be monolithic, not only with regard to Catholic representation but also in regard to the Protestant vote. One could well then be dealing with a coalition, and with a Parliament electing its Premier, it would be bound to elect a person whose Cabinet, as well as himself, commands a broad support from both communities, given the weighted voting system to which I have referred.
Some may well say that by insisting that the Deputy Leader should be a Catholic, thereby emanating from a minority party, this would only further highlight community differences. I do not accept that; I believe that failure in the past to recognise that Northern Ireland is a sectarian society, where religion is used as a means of identification, has been a failure to recognise reality, which has led to many of our present problems. When sectarianism disappears, then no doubt system can be changed, but that will take many years to evolve.
137 Let me say straightaway that I have no knowledge of the detailed legislative implications of what I have suggested, but I took the precaution of inquiring from the House of Commons Library, which told me that there should be little difficulty in framing the necessary legislation for such a system.
As to the Irish dimension, I think that that is covered by the British Government's firm commitment that there will be periodic plebiscites in the North to determine the wishes of the people living there, and by the proposal of a parliamentary all-Ireland council, meeting to discuss matters of common interest on economic and social problems and questions of security on both sides of the border. This should be purely consultative. It should have no legislative teeth, for otherwise we should confirm fears and revert to the old quicksands from which we are trying to escape.
I believe this to be a substantial concession to the Irish dimension which should greatly encourage all Republicans to have an active interest in helping the two communities to try to work more closely together. They well know that Protestant opinion must be wooed for any plebisicte to stand a real chance of success.
The incentive for the Republicans in the South as well as in the North is that ultimately a non-sectarian society will develop out of which a future united Ireland may possibly emerge—but peacefully. The South will always claim title to the North, but let it still find a form of words to underwrite with the British Government their joint determination that the decision will always rest with those living in the Six Counties alone, and not elsewhere. To suggest otherwise is to write it in blood, and no one has that right. Certainly I know that only the smallest fraction of people in the South would wish it that way. The Irish Government, I am sure, privately accept that, but politics and nationalism often play havoc with the lives of men. Democracy has its traps, which we must all endure.
On the question of the immediate future, I believe that it would be wholly wrong for the Government to bring out a White Paper until after the first plebiscite is taken, 138 otherwise we should be making a mockery of that choice. It would encourage massive Catholic abstention—there will be a great deal of that, anyway—as well as frustrate Protestant feeling, for the result would be seen to be prejudged.
We all feel that the decision will be a foregone conclusion, but Catholics must be encouraged to vote. The extent to which they want a united Ireland is not really known yet, and it could influence the final plan. Otherwise, we would be needlessly handing a propaganda weapon to the Provisionals. Time is imperative, but above all else we must make sure that we get this one right—the quicker we have the plebiscite the better, followed within days, one hopes, by the White Paper, local elections and general elections soon thereafter.
Finally, I hope that the proposals that I have put forward will be at least considered, for I believe that they offer something to everyone, and that unless one tries to strike a middle road in dealing with Ireland one does not have a cat in hell's chance. A concession would be given by every political party, but equally, an advantage will be achieved.
This seems to be the only sensible way forward, for all parties must share one common denominator—a clear responsibility to bring peace to the Province and an obligation to all their fellow citizens, whatever their shade of opinion. Our responsibility today is to try and help provide the framework of that just administration, one that is seen to be fair We can do no more.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
The very few Ulster Unionists who have been fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker—and to date they number only two out of the eight—have a responsibility to ensure that a sense of reality prevails even at this late stage of the debate. I think that the whole House will accept our credentials. They are simply that our past forecasts and judgments are seen to have been vindicated by events and the fact that we have had the experience and honour of being shot at in our own constituencies. We are not adopting the negative attitude of "We told you so". but simply 139 putting forward the proposition that when people have been correct in the past it is just possible that there may be a chance that they are correct on other occasions.
It is hardly surprising that the Green Paper should have some appeal to various interested parties, for it contains elements of practically all their suggestions, a kind of collection out of which all corners may take a lucky dip. It succeeds in being all things to all men, but one might usefully begin the exercise in reality by considering what it is not.
It is not a recipe for ending violence. If it were, it would have stopped at the first paragraph of the foreword. If the Government's true objective were to defeat terrorism, which has been allowed to destroy the constitution of Northern Ireland, and led to the writing of the Green Paper, nothing more need have been said and it could have stopped at the first paragraph of five lines.
In the rest of the Green Paper there is not one suggestion for eradicating for all time—because they will be back—the terrorists who blackmailed Her Majesty's Government into destroying the legal constitution of Northern Ireland and thereby brought about the present situation. Not one of the suggested solutions will have the slightest influence on the men of violence now or in the future.
§ Mr. David James
My hon. Friend is doing the IRA a great service. The IRA is of the opinion that it has brought about the abolition of Stormont and that all it has to do now is to give one more heave and it will abolish direct rule, too. My own view is that what abolished Stormont was the Cameron Report, commissioned by Lord O'Neill, and the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House took the trouble to see for themselves the extent to which there was discrimination. There has never been a Stormont on the Westminster model, because the Westminster model presupposes the possibility of change, which Stormont never had.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I am grateful to my hon. Friend but there is no getting away from the fact that the demand that Stormont should be abolished was made by the IRA terrorists over and over again. 140 I have heard nothing in recent months or weeks to prove that they were incorrect. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said this afternoon that the men of violence were not qualified to sit down at the table. I do not believe that they want to do so. They must know in their hearts that they gain much more by pursuing a campaign of violence. That is a reality.
Secondly, the consultative document is not an attempt to improve parliamentary democracy; quite the opposite. It is the final stage in an endeavour to subvert pure democracy by arrangements designed to frustrate the will of the majority clearly expressed over and over again in the ballot box using the same electoral machinery as it available to our fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is the opposite to what this House last Thursday was trying to effect in Rhodesia.
The contradiction is startlingly clear when we compare the proposals in this paper with the five principles on Rhodesia. No. 1 is unimpeded progress towards majority rule; No. 2 asks for guarantees against retrospective changes in the constitution; No. 3 calls for immediate improvement in the political status of Africans—and that would be the majority in Northern Ireland; No. 4 is progress towards the elimination of racial discrimination, a principle accepted by everyone in Northern Ireland; and principle No. 5 is that the British Government must be satisfied that any basis for independence is acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Would the hon. Gentleman interpret the fifth principle as saying that any test as to the future of Northern Ireland should be acceptable to the British people as a whole, particularly the people of Great Britain?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
That does not apply with Rhodesia. No such democratic principles are to be observed in Northern Ireland, and the Government's double standards on this issue are so blatant that many people will be inclined to accuse them of political hypocrisy. That is the second reality.
There is a third reality which should concern us and which should certainly concern the Prime Minister. In the 141 debate on the Gracious Speech my right hon. Friend took it upon himself to chide my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) for making realistic assessments of the probable opposition to various possible solutions and for committing the crime of submitting those assessments to what the Prime Minister termed "a somewhat unbelieving country". My right hon. Friend might with more accuracy have said "an unbelieving Government". It was an unbelieving Government which embarked on the ill-starred March initiative, reasoning that as the Protestants had displayed such wonderful restraint in the past it was safe to assume that they would endure all the humiliation which could be heaped upon them in future without any risk of a backlash. I wonder whether the Government still hold that view.
It was an unbelieving Government which thought they could retreat from the promised referendum when it became unpopular with those who decided that the verdict would not be to their liking. It is a sad fact that the Government decided to keep their promise after all only when the UDA showed its teeth in East Belfast.
I would not join my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) in laying all the blame on the Secretary of State. A major share of the responsibility for the shilly-shallying lies on other shoulders. This unbelieving Government still cling to the hope that they can create some ethereal structure to suit would-be politicians who have never fought, let alone won, a General Election. When will the Government realise that if only the military objectives were achieved and the terrorists defeated there would be no need to tinker with the constitution of Northern Ireland or with the parliamentary structure which has been acceptable to all except the few who are pledged to its destruction?
I turn briefly to the question of the plebiscite. I feel strongly that it should come before the publication of the White Paper. The Prime Minister pledged that the referendum would be on the straight question of the border. If the issue is now to be complicated, it will be regarded as a breach of faith. Any merit which there may have been in the idea of a 142 referendum lay in the fact that the border question might be taken out of party politics. But the idea of confusing the question with various other issues will split and divide even some of the new parties and movements. I am sorry that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) is not present, because he made some helpful suggestions whereby it would be possible to modify the question paper so that people could vote "Yes" to both questions. He might have gone further and made it even easier by suggesting that the two "Yes's" might be printed on the ballot paper.
I come briefly to the proposals. For me, the first and most preferable option is the reinstatement of a Parliament of Northern Ireland. That would, in my opinion, immediately restore confidence and repair the damage done by the March initiative. It was unnecessary damage because the suspension of Stormont brought no response from those who demanded such a course. It was admitted that the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland were destroyed not because of any failures but simply because their opponents conned Her Majesty's Government into believing that the shooting war would stop if only Stormont were abolished.
The new structure must have real powers and it must be credible. On one occasion the Secretary of State said that the past 50 years had been a period when Northern Ireland had what he termed, very accurately, close contact government and that he felt, as we all did, that this proved to be of immense value to all the people of Northern Ireland. In my judgment, those people of Northern Ireland who endured a great deal would be well satisfied with the return of a local legislature and executive, with all its former, on-the-spot, decision-making powers, which are important. Those powers must be under-pinned by means of enforcement of the laws. The powers should not be withheld because of protests from a small minority who in the past six months have rejected with equal enthusiasm the laws made at Westminster.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) made the assertion not long ago that the people he represents will reject any future security measures taken by a Stormont assembly, and he went on 143 to say that he also heartily disliked all the security measures taken by the Government at Westminster. This would seem to mean that the Secretary of State now has a free hand to decide where the power of security should lie, because he will be criticised either way. Nor does the argument that Westminster control of security leads to less confusion carry very much weight, because those of us on the ground have noticed that there has probably been even more confusion since the initiative than there was when Stormont shared the responsibility for security with the Westminster Government.
However, if a viable Northern Ireland Parliament is unacceptable to this House and the Westminster Government, there must be no halfway house. That would merely perpetuate all the uncertainty and instability. I agree wholeheartedly with the points made on this issue by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South. The Government here must find the stomach to carry through a logical alternative. There is only one logical alternative, and that is complete integration within the United Kingdom. The objection has been made that there would be no peg on which to hang Macrory—I mean, not physically, but his structure. [Laughter.] Well, the Macrory structure has been postponed on numerous occasions. It would not be all that great a disaster if it were abolished altogether. Then, of course, it is quite clear that people here have no great relish for additional Members from Northern Ireland, but that is a cross they would have to bear.
Thirdly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has said, it would be highly unpopular in Dublin. This, again, raises the question whether we are trying to legislate for the people of Northern Ireland, who belongs to the United Kingdom, or to placate and please a foreign, independent republic.
There is, to my mind, one objection to integration. It is not, I know, shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It is question able whether one should trust future politicians at Westminster. He, being rather more of a Christian than I, probably subscribes to the belief that 144Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seenbut I can well remember an hon. Member on the benches opposite on one occasion telling me that he believed that one reason why I objected to integration was that I would never trust a future Labour Government. I might now, on reflection—having read certain sections of this Green Paper, and particularly paragraph 78—be inclined to add a second political party at Westminster to that category.
I want to mention very briefly a point which I think needs to be clarified, and that is, an independent Ulster. I am not talking about a unilateral declaration of independence or a rebellion against the Crown, but over and over again in this Chamber this afternoon we have heard the suggestion that British public opinion might tire of sustaining the Army presence in Northern Ireland. With various overtones that has been suggested from both sides of the House, and added to it has been the suggestion that the whole United Kingdom should participate in deciding whether Northern Ireland should be part of or cast out of the United Kingdom. That suggestion has been repeated in various forms. We should, then, be quite clear in our minds on the point—and on this the Green Paper does not lessen my fears—that there could come a point in time when Northern Ireland—our Province—would be cast out of the United Kingdom. What I want to make absolutely clear is this: it should not be assumed, if that decision were made, that it would automatically mean a united Ireland—with Northern Ireland included.
Finally, if the Government and this House are serious in their intention to restore stability in Northern Ireland, first of all they must resolve to end the campaign of terror. Secondly, they should undo the mistake of 24th March and reinstate the legal Government of Northern Ireland. If they cannot bring themselves to do that, then they must not refuse us the right to full integration within the United Kingdom, to which we are entitled as loyal citizens of the United Kingdom.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)
I will take up the final point made by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I hope that we can find a political solution. Most of the 145 people who have spoken in the debate today have put forward their own political solutions. Unfortunately, they are all different. I am becoming more and more despairing that a political solution can be arrived at. If it is not going to be arrived at the House must take note of the fact that the British people are getting more and more fed up with what is happening in Northern Ireland.
I refer to the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), who said quite firmly that there may come a time—it has not come yet—when the British people will say, "You must get on with the job yourselves, and sort your own problems out."
That is the message which hon. Members representing Irish constituencies should take home with them.
As the hon. Member for Antrim, South said, if Northern Ireland found itself out of the United Kingdom that would not automatically mean a united Ireland; it might mean an independent Ulster—I do not know. With our soldiers being killed day after day by terrorists of both sides, and with British soldiers being shot at by the UDA and the IRA, we may find that the patience of the British people is not inexhaustible.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)
To embark upon the end of this debate with what I hope is the one thing on which we can all agree, in welcoming the new Minister of State to the Northern Ireland Office I should like to say to him that, while the problems of higher education may frequently have seemed to him to be peculiarly intransigent, they are, I suspect, as nothing compared with the problems which he is now undertaking.
The debate in many ways has been a rather depressing one. In listening to the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) I was horribly reminded of the remark made about the Bourbons, that they had learnt nothing and forgotten nothing. In almost any debate about Northern Ireland, or about any part of Ireland, one is constantly weighed down by a sense of the pessimism of history. On listening to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and, by some strange transition, to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss 146 Devlin), I was conscious that it is possible to analyse a problem brilliantly and to reach conclusions which allow of no solution. Yet, as the Secretary of State knows all too well, it is the job of politicians to find solutions, however difficult the problem with which they are faced.
In his discussion paper the Secretary of State has put forward proposals which have acquired a certain consensus among the Northern Ireland parties. The Leader of the Unionist Party was a little more enthusiastic, albeit qualifiedly so, about this discussion paper than were those who represent his party in Parliament. I hope that the Leader of the Unionist Party is more typical of its members than they are.
The range of opinion which has shown an interest in the discussion paper has spread from Mr. Faulkner on one side across to the Taioseach in the Republic of Eire on the other. It may be that there will emerge from the discussion paper at least the outlines of something upon which most moderate people can agree. The Secretary of State, however, will never manage to satisfy the extremists.
Perhaps the best thing one can say about the extremists is what was said by Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address when he was addressing his own irreconcilables, North and South. He said that he had an oath registered in pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other; one of them would make war rather than allow the nation to survive and the other would accept war rather than let the nation perish.
§ Captain Orr
In the same speech he said that he had an oath registered in heaven to preserve the Union.
§ Mrs. Williams
It is fair to say that the Union of which he was speaking included both the North and the South—but we will come to that later.
I believe that the outline of a political solution emerges to some extent from this discussion paper. I want to touch on some proposals that have been put forward by the Northern Irish parties and which the Secretary of State has brought together in a reasonable and in many ways imaginative discussion paper
147 First and foremost, it is clear that there is a broad consensus that wants to see a Northern Irish body at the level of Northern Ireland once again constituted. But I doubt whether there would be full unanimity behind the suggestion that it should be called, as it once was a Northern Ireland Parliament.
In many ways, Stormont was never a real Parliament, and the discussion paper delicately makes that clear. Stormont never had effective control over the financial resources of the country that it ruled. For some time it has not had effective control over the security of the Province. Therefore, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) said, it was an institution which, while having many of the trappings of a Parliament, essentially had the powers of something less. When I say "something less" I do not mean a county council. The difficulty about Stormont was that it was a sort of hybrid institution.
The discussion paper attempts to feel its way towards some sort of institution which might be a forerunner of regional Government in a full development at some later stage. Clearly, that new institution, in whatever way it is constituted, cannot, and I do not think would expect to, have the sovereign powers that necessarily belong to a full Parliament, some of which should remain at Westminster so long as Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
I regret that there was not more discussion in the debate about the attempt in the discussion paper to feel its way to embodying more into the structure of the Province itself, and not least into its good government, those of the minority who are prepared to accept the constitutional structure of Northern Ireland. As yet there is no solution to the problem. I wish that we had debated it more. But it may be that through proportional representation and through an extension of the committee system, perhaps some form of blocking majority for certain sorts of legislation, it will be possible to give the minority which is prepared to act constitutionally a much stronger sense of itself being involved and sharing the responsibilities of the Province than it has had in the past.
148 Next, the discussion paper shows clearly that there is a wide consensus for a Bill of Rights. It may be that different parties would put different provisions in a Bill of Rights. But that there needs to be in a highly divided society some sense of the rights of the individual and some guarantee that those rights will be carried out in almost any form of situation, whoever is the local majority, is now a crucial milestone on the way to some sort of peaceful solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. On this, the Secretary of State can build.
Again, there is a hint in the discussion paper, though I wish there had been more of a hint, of the need for a reconstruction programme in Northern Ireland. In paragraph 71 the discussion paper refers toan investment of national economic resources on a very substantial scale.It seems to me that it might be well for the future of Northern Ireland if at some stage the Secretary of State were to spell out in more detail what that reconstruction programme might constitute and what sort of prospect it might hold out to the working people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic, so that there was some sense that the future might look more hopeful than the immediate past in terms of employment, industrial growth and some sort of security for those still in agriculture.
I come then to two rather more controversial aspects of the discussion paper. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has pointed out already that we on this side of the House hold to the view that we have often put forward and that he especially has put forward, that there cannot be a change in Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority. I shall say more about that later in my speech. However, before doing so, let me refer to the other controversial aspect of the discussion paper, which is the proposal that there might be room for an All-Ireland Council. This suggestion, though with a very different content, has been fairly widely welcomed in a very large variety of parties in Northern Ireland.
It might be that such a council could devote itself to such functional purposes as tourism, trade and economic matters. 149 However, I stress that one of the factors changing most rapidly in the context to which both Northern Ireland and the Republic belong is their relationship to the outside world. From January, 1973, both will be members of the same European Community. This by itself throws up major issues upon which there are crucial joint interests—the interests of regionalism in what has been the most depressed general geographical area of virtually the whole of Western Europe; mutual interests in terms of the movement of labour into a heavily unemployed island; mutual interests in terms of trying, for example, to get a properly balanced representation of the interests of both Northern Ireland and the Republic at Brussels. This, I believe, constitutes a dimension of hope for the two parts of Ireland and one upon which they may well build.
Even that is not the end of it. There is crucially room for functional co-operation between the two parts of Ireland. One example which was given by the Ulster Liberal Party is that of the development of the Foyle Valley. There will be other examples. There are few ways of bringing people together that are better than putting them in a situation in which they are obliged to work together for the good of the people that they represent. I believe that such functional working relationships at the level of individual economic projects across the border might well he a considerable step forward.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Would the council that the hon. Lady has in mind be consultative or executive?
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams
I cannot answer that question directly, but I hope that it might well move from being consultative to being at least functionally executive. This is a question of evolution. One must start small but one need not aim to develop small as well.
I turn to the Irish dimension, the most controversial, part of the discussion paper. A number of my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Arundel and Shoreham (Mr. Luce) made very important points in suggesting that the Republic itself has begun to change. The Republic, which admittedly for many decades has been rather frozen in its attitudes towards reconciliation with the north, is at long last showing signs of some movement 150 towards an understanding of the creation of a State in which people of all religious beliefs one day might find themselves able to live.
It is not without significance that the Republic has now put forward not just a proposal for a study of article 44 but a referendum specifically to remove article 44 from its constitution. It is not without significance that the Republic at last is moving towards a much more powerful attitude towards those involved in terrorism on either side of the border. It is not without significance that the Republic has now established an all-party committee to look at the question of those aspects of the Republic's constitution which are understandably offensive to those who are not at present citizens of the Republic.
I mention this not to try to force on anybody a concept of unification, however long term, but merely to say that history is not stagnant and that we may be seeing at long last some moves that will one day make it more possible for Northern Ireland and the Republic to co-operate, and some of us hope one day for even more than that.
I want to deal for a few moments with the question of the border poll Bill. I have been, I hope, reasonably complimentary to the Secretary of State. I shall now make one criticism of his administration. If one is conducting a bipartisan conference policy it is perhaps helpful to at least have the opportunity to consult a little about important Bills beforehand. The border poll Bill has come freshly minted, and the Opposition have, like hon. Members on the Government side, only had the opportunity to look at a Bill which has been taken out of a much wider package.
I say three things about the border poll Bill. First, I repeat that we recognise the need—I keep repeating this—that the consent of the Northern Ireland majority is essential to any change in the border or the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Having said that, however, I add that those Northern Irish Unionists who say, as they do frequently and eloquently, that they wish to be part of the United Kingdom must, as we believe, recognise that the United Kingdom is more than a geographical entity. The United Kingdom is more than a country which is concerned with the three 151 objectives set out in the discussion paper—peace, prosperity and no external threat to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, many of us believe, is, if anything, a country which ought to stand for, and be recognised as standing for the rule of law, the right of equal treatment of minorities and the rejection of the rule of violence.
That is what is meant by belonging to the United Kingdom. It means belonging to the values of the United Kingdom as well as to the financial arrangements and the geographical structure of the United Kingdom. That is why so many of my hon. Friends on these benches keep reiterating, as they have done time and again in this debate, that any invitation to the Northern Irish people to reiterate their desire to remain part of the United Kingdom must be understood in the context of being part of the United Kingdom's values as well as part of the United Kingdom's constitutional structure.
That is why we are disturbed about the timing of the border poll Bill. That is why we are disturbed about the concept of a plebiscite before the Government's own conditions for the future of Northern Ireland are made known. We recognise that these conditions are bound to take account of the will of the majority of Northern Ireland, but we recognise, too, that the majority of Northern Ireland must make a fresh approach to the minority there that is rather different from some, at least, of the history of the last 50 years.
One of the most chilling references in the autobiography of Lord O'Neill of Maine was to a distinguished Prime Minister of Northern Ireland for 20 years. Lord O'Neill wrote of Lord Brooke-borough:In those 20 years he never crossed the border, never visited a Catholic school, never received nor sought a civic reception in a Catholic town.That is not a possible basis for a new Northern Ireland which is in the full sense part of the United Kingdom.
Before I sit down I want to ask the Minister of State the following questions. First, can the Government give any indication of when the further and separate consultations which they have in mind will take place, and with whom? Will 152 they, for example, include consultations specifically with regard to the possibility of all-Ireland institutions within the Republic of Ireland?
Secondly, is it the Government's intention to let us have at least an outline of their proposals before the holding of the plebiscite? Thirdly, will the Government consider how unwise it would be to hold a plebiscite in Northern Ireland at the darkest time of the year in a situation in which already there are, alas, too many threats, on both sides, of intimidation?
Many of us on this side of the House and, I think, on the other side, too, believe that this discussion paper could well be the last best hope for a political solution in Northern Ireland. We believe so because it is a discussion paper which despite all the difficulties, all the problems, and all the reasons why none of us is totally happy about it, at least an attempt to base the Northern Ireland problem not on the endless reiteration of past grievances but on some sort of picture of the future.
Yet it is, above all, the future that is today in jeopardy in Northern Ireland. How terrible it is to read in our newspapers about a child who repeats a new version of the song "Ten green bottles" which goes:Ten sticks of dynamite standing on a wall,Ten sticks of dynamite standing on a wall,And if one stick of dynamite should accidentally fall,There'll be no sticks of dynamite nor the bloody wall.What we are doing in Northern Ireland, alas, is raising a generation which knows nothing but violence, nothing but prejudice, nothing but bitterness, one community towards another. Therefore, in asking the Secretary of State to look again at the timing of the plebiscite and the White Paper we do so recognising that he is sincerely attempting to find some sort of future for this troubled Province.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William van Straubenzee)
For some considerable time the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) has not taken part in a debate on the subject of Northern Ireland—certainly not since my right hon. Friend assumed his present responsibilities. I 153 hope there would be no hint of condescension on my part if I were to say that I hope it will not be the last occasion on which she addresses the House on this difficult and important subject. We have benefited very much from the way in which she has put her views forward.
She was good enough to give me a kindly welcome, and I am most grateful for that. One of the first things I thought it right to do today was quite substantially to reduce the amount of time—I know that the hon. Lady has done the same—which I should take for my speech, so that more hon. Members might have the opportunity of addressing us. The object of the debate was to hear the views of the House on what is described as a Paper for Discussion. We have all benefited considerably from it. In particular, I was very glad that after some possible doubts my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) was able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
We have had a large expression of views from a wide range of positions. We have heard from hon. Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland and a conspicuous feature of our discussion has been the considerable number of contributions from hon. Members representing other parts of the United Kingdom. Whether or not one agrees with all or some of what was said, one could not fail, for example, in listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Coombs) and the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas)—and I take only two examples—to appreciate the considerable amount of thought which has clearly gone into the speeches to which we listened. All of us would wish to refer back to and consult again the fascinating speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling).
We were warned by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), in his opening speech, that we should choose our words carefully. That was wise advice. I shall not attempt to answer every detailed point that was raised, first, because that would be physically impossible and also because, as a discussion document, the whole point of the exercise was to enable the Government Front Bench to listen to what the House had to say. I thought that what emerged was that a considerable number of hon. 154 Members welcomed at least the publication of the Green Paper. The hon. Member for Hitchin was kind enough to refer to it as being "reasonable and imaginative". Other phrases have been used about it in general complimentary terms, but I do not deduce from that that every hon. Member is satisfied with everything it contains. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) would never allow me to get away with that.
But the fact of its publication and the fact that we are able to devote a day to careful thought and study, seeking to look ahead, is an advance which we should recognise. Obviously we must move forward from the Green Paper itself, which is a product of intensive discussion between my right hon. Friend and his colleagues and officials and representatives of all sections of opinion in Northern Ireland.
The House will recall the Darlington conference, at which a number of political parties put forward and examined their own and others' views about the future of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
It was a useful start. Moreover, many hon. Members organisations and individuals have written to my right hon. Friend setting out their suggestions. Some of these have contained particularly constructive proposals, and those to which I have referred, as well as the views of the established political parties in Northern Ireland, are all taken into account in the paper for discussion, the publication of which, as I say, has received general welcome.
As its name implies, the paper must be the basis for further discussion. My right hon. Friend has already begun his discussions with leaders of political opinion in Northern Ireland so that the Government may proceed as quickly as possible to the formulation of firm proposals. That is our next target.
I recall that my lion and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South was particularly anxious to see movement in that direction, and I respond to him in the sense of acknowledging that we must do it as soon as we can, but I hope that he will agree with me—I believe that he 155 will—when I stress that it is vital that our proposals shall not only be quickly produced, as he would wish, but shall be based on the most thorough consultations with all concerned. Despite the urgency of the situation, to which I know he attaches importance, it is imperative that the proposals formed by the Government shall be the best that it is possible, in difficult circumstances, to devise.
On the one hand, such proposals must meet the aspirations of the people in Northern Ireland and must try to resolve the conflicts between those aspirations. On the other, they must provide for Northern Ireland an efficient and effective form of government. We all know only too well how Northern Ireland has suffered in these past years. The Government and the United Kingdom as a whole owe it to Northern Ireland to create the best possible chance for future harmony and smooth administration.
Having repeatedly stressed the importance which the Government attach to discussion and debate, I wish to tell the House of what I think one can modestly call the success of the way in which the paper has been disseminated in Northern Ireland in order to stimulate that discussion. I have today answered a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder), and I have been able to tell him that in the first fortnight since publication of the paper 10,500 copies were sold by Her Majesty's Stationery Office in Belfast, and over 1,000 by local government offices in Northern Ireland. In addition, we estimate that between 7,000 and 8.000 were sold by the Stationery Office bookshops in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The process of stimulating discussion and drawing in views does not end there. The Northern Ireland Office has distributed over 200,000 copies of a free leaflet setting out the basic facts of the discussion paper. In addition, as many will have seen, a double-spread tabloid newspaper version of the discussion paper was placed as an advertisement in the three Belfast newspapers, which have a combined nation-wide circulation of over 350,000, with an estimated readership of over 1 million. Moreover, my noble Friend and my hon. Friend the Ministers of State have briefed the Press both here and in Ulster.
156 I give that information because my right hon. Friend attaches the greatest importance to the widest possible discussion of the paper, and the Government have sought to make what it contains widely known to the largest possible number of people.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
For the record, did I understand that there were 2,000 copies of the shortened version?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
No, 200,000. If I said 2,000, I did so in my nervousness—I had not put my teeth back properly.
Because of the shortness of time it is inevitable, as the House will appreciate, that I cannot, as I should wish, deal fully with all the points which were made. However, I will respond to an intervention by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) regarding the Royal Ulster Constabulary. All Her Majesty's Government's policies are directed towards achieving a situation of order in Northern Ireland until the police are able to assume full responsibility for the maintenance of peace.
Perhaps it is right for me to stress that one of the real needs of the force, to which I know the hon. Gentleman and many other hon. Members attach great importance and for whose devoted work the whole House has the highest possible regard, if it is successfully to take control, lies not in reorganisation but in a steady build-up in strength. The strength of the force at the end of October was 4,193. That is 1,141 more than at the beginning of the disorders in 1969. We are working towards the establishment of some 5,000 by April, 1975. If events show that such an establishment is not sufficient, it will be increased.
§ Mr. Deedes
What has been the recruiting figure for the last 12 months? Has it been rather disappointing?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I should like to discover the exact figure for my right hon. Friend. However, I believe that there are no undue grounds for anxiety about recruitment for that period. If my right hon. Friend will allow me, I should like to give him an accurate answer and to write to him.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that feeling among members of the police force about their 157 future not being secure is one of the great reasons why there are both resignations and no impetus in recruitment?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I do not accept the last words of the hon. Gentleman. I should like to provide him with appropriate and accurate figures. I do not wish to give figures without a careful check of the exact position. I do not think that his suggestion will be shown to be the case. I say to him and to others that this is surely one of the requirements.
I have also been asked to comment on the reconciliation of membership of the Ulster Defence Regiment and its duties with membership of the UDA. Recent activities of extremist organisations such as the UDA have shown that they can easily involve their members in incidents which bring them into direct conflict with the security forces, thus actively helping the declared enemies of the State. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Churchill) and other hon. Members. We are watching dual membership of the UDR and UDA closely. Where we have reason for thinking that a member of the UDR is failing in his duties, through outside activities or loyalties, he receives a warning. If a soldier's conduct arising out of UDA activities constitutes a military offence or unsatisfactory conduct, he will be dismissed. Members of the UDR must realise that the best way to contribute to the safety of the community is to give their undivided support to the security forces.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many members of the UDR have been dismissed for the reason he has explained?
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the hon. Gentleman state explicitly that membership of the UDA is quite incompatible with membership of the UDR?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in a situation where we all, rightly, weigh each word, I naturally weighed mine. I gave what I thought was a very clear statement—that the best way for members of the 158 UDR to contribute to the safety of the community was to give their undivided support to the security forces, and I think that the House clearly understands what is involved in that.
§ Mr. McMaster
Will not my hon. Friend draw the moral in this? Faced with a rapidly rising number of assassinations in Northern Ireland, there is great anxiety that the police force, even one of 5,000 men, cannot possibly do what 20,000 soldiers cannot do—provide protection. Could not these UDA men be enrolled in some sort of civil defence corps to protect the homes of those who cannot sleep at night for fear of the bombs and bullets of the IRA terrorists?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I think that, on reflection, my hon. Friend would not wish to press that suggestion. I am not prepared to go any further than I have this evening.
The next question I was asked was about the border poll. It was put to me by the hon. Member for Leeds, South, the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnston), the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and by the hon. Member for Hitchin among others. The hon. Lady appreciates, since she made reference to it, that there will be another, more appropriate, parliamentary occasion upon which we must look at this proposal in some considerable detail, and therefore it would not be appropriate for me to go into it in detail now. The pledge of a poll was given very clearly at the time of the March discussions and there can be no question of going back upon it. I will simply content myself now with saying that my right hon. Friend has authorised me to say that he has taken note of the various detailed points made in the debate in connection with the poll but that the right place for us to discuss them will be on Second Reading of the Bill, which will be at a very early date
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
I appreciate that there will be another occasion when we can discuss the Bill, but, in so far as we are now looking at the discussion paper, will the hon. Gentleman explain the haste involved in producing that document on one day, giving notice the next day of a Bill, and on the following day producing a Bill which 159 relates to paragraph 82 of the discussion paper?
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
It was because the decision to hold a poll, as I know the hon. Gentleman appreciates, was a pledge to which the Government regard themselves as being unquestionably bound, and about which, with respect, there might be others who would say that, far from there have been haste, there had been perhaps some delay. This illustrates the difficulty which faces any Government in such a situation as this.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
The Minister must not pretend that this was a pledge other than other pledges given as part of the package. It was one aspect of the matter, but only one, and it is not right to seek to separate it from the rest.
§ Mr. Straubenzee
I disagree that it is separated from the rest. It is part of the pledge which was given in respect of the package at the time, and I think that most hon. Members on both sides would expect the Government to fulfil their obligations in this respect. But I repeat that there is ample time for further discussion of all the detailed matters that had been raised in the debate, and I have given an undertaking that each will be very carefully gone into.
There are other matters that I would have wished to try to answer now, but I hope that it will not be thought that I have been niggardly in giving away. A point was made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North which struck a chord in myself and no doubt in others when he reminded the House that this discussion of a paper concerning the future bore particularly on the young people. This is of particular interest to myself, because my right hon. Friend's allocation of duties has meant that within his ministerial team I am in the particularly fortunate position of dealing, among other things, with matters close to the young people of Northern Ireland.
While the whole House has been rightly concerned today with the problems of Northern Ireland as a whole, with all its people, it is surely appropriate to end the debate by reminding ourselves that the word "Future" in the title of the paper we have been discussing is very important. When that word is used 160 it naturally has a far more significant meaning for those who still have their lives before them. In short, the young people of Northern Ireland have an even greater vested interest in the success or failure of the discussions arising out of the paper, wherever and by whomsoever they are conducted, than for those of us who are older. No section of the community stands to gain more by what my right hon. Friend earlier described as the genuine settlement for which he is working, and no group can contribute more to the backing-up moderate opinion, another phrase of his, for which he called. It is therefore as much as anything for the sake of the young people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic alike, that I commend the Green Paper to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Paper for Discussion entitled The Future of Northern Ireland.