HC Deb 21 November 1972 vol 846 cc1089-223

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have to inform the House that I have selected the Amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his right hon. Friends: That this House, recognising that Northern Ireland will not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to substitute a Bill which provides for less limited questions to be posed, and for the poll to be preceded by the publication of a White Paper containing Her Majesty's Government's clear intention to give a definite undertaking which will ensure that all the people of Northern Ireland have an equal opportunity to exercise political power based on a Bill of Rights assuring civil liberties and equality before the law, and also containing proposals which would enable both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to find means of co-operation for the benefit of the people of Ireland as a whole.

3.35 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William Whitelaw)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

It comes before the House in fulfilment of a promise to the people of Northern Ireland. That promise was made when the Parliament of Northern Ireland was prorogued in March this year. The House will know that Her Majesty's Government included a proposal for periodic plebiscites in the measures which were discussed with the Northern Ireland Government shortly before the Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued.

Too many elections in Northern Ireland have been contested in effect on the border issue. The possibility of a Parliament which might be in favour of getting rid of the border was a spectre which regularly raised its head. Our aim in proposing plebiscites was to take the border out of the day-to-day political scene, and to reassure the people of Northern Ireland that there would be no change in the position of their Province as part of the United Kingdom without the consent of a majority of its inhabitants.

The proposal was accepted by the Northern Ireland Government although, as the House will know, other measures which were regarded as essential by Her Majesty's Government were not so accepted, and in consequence legislative and executive powers vested in the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government were transferred for a period of one year to the United Kingdom Parliament.

In his statement to the House about this transfer of powers on 24th March, my right honourable Friend the Prime Minister re-affirmed that the Government would in due course invite Parliament to provide for a system of plebiscites in Northern Ireland about the border, the first to be held as soon as practicable. This Bill seeks the authority of Parliament for a first poll on the border, and sets out the questions to be asked, and the manner in which they are to be put to the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)

Will my right hon. Friend clarify a small point? He referred to a "plebiscite" and in a previous statement on 17th October he referred to it as a "plebiscite or referendum". The Bill calls it a "poll". Are all three things the same?

Mr. Whitelaw

There must be some hidden and subtle meaning behind the question which I am not able to comprehend. I shall stick to exactly what I have said and to what the Bill says and to what I am seeking to do. I am concerned with Northern Ireland, and I suspect that my hon. Friend has other interests somewhere in the back of his mind.

The Bill does not provide for any future poll. The questions are simple and to the point. The roots of the matter with which the Bill deals—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Perhaps the Secretary of State will be dealing with this point later in his speech, but he says that the questions are simple and to the point. They involve our relationship with a foreign power, namely the Republic of Ireland. Can he say what discussions he had with the Government of the Republic about the nature of the questions to be posed and, in the event that the results should be in favour of union with the Republic, what arrangements he has made for that to be implemented?

Mr. Whitelaw

There have been constant talks between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach on these matters and I prefer to leave the matter at that.

The roots of the matter with which this Bill deals, as so often in Irish affairs, lie deep in history. The special position of Northern Ireland within the British Isles is, of course, a very old problem. It did not begin with the formal partition of Ireland, which simply recognised that at that time the two parts of the island could not live together in peace. But we have to concern ourselves with present facts, which are that the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is guaranteed by an Act of this Parliament which affirmed that this status would not be altered without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The exact words are to be found in Section 1(2) of the Ireland Act, 1949.

It has been argued for some years past that since the decision whether partition should continue is really one for the people of Northern Ireland, it is they whose consent should be sought. Indeed, the Downing Street Declaration of August, 1969, made between the Leader of the Opposition, as the then Prime Minister, and Lord Moyola, the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, provided that the consent of the people of Northern Ireland should be obtained for any change in the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, as well as reaffirming the provision in the Ireland Act to which I have just referred, relating to the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

The position of the Government, and I believe of this whole House, is quite clear. There can be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom unless by the will of the majority. But equally, if the majority of the people in Northern Ireland were to opt for a united Ireland, no British Government would stand in the way.

This Bill put that point to the Northern Ireland people in the clearest possible way. The voter is asked whether he wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, or whether he wants Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is perfectly possible to vote "yes" in favour of both those propositions on the basis that one wants to remain part of the United Kingdom in the immediate future but also wishes to have negotiations leading ultimately to a United Ireland?

Mr. Whitelaw

How people decide to vote or not to vote in any election on any question put to them is a matter for them. I suppose it is possible to do that, but practically any questions that could be devised would be capable of much the same interpretation.

The Bill provides that the date will be fixed by order; this will be subject to negative Resolution procedure, as will be the order making regulations for the poll. In deciding upon them Her Majesty's Government will consider carefully the views of this House during the passage of the Bill. But if the Bill commends itself to the House, and to Parliament, the poll will be held as early in the New Year as the legislative processes, and the requirements of organisation and printing, will allow.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I appreciate the Herculean task facing the right hon. Gentleman, but may I ask whether he is aware that people of moderate opinion are most apprehensive about having any poll during the dark nights? I visit this part of the island on personal business regularly and I know that there is constant fear in the minds of people that they will be subject to serious provocation during the dark nights from all sorts of sources. All of the security forces in this country will not be able to prevent that.

Mr. Whitelaw

No one is more aware than I of all these points after the past seven months. I understand the hon. Gentleman and I have in mind some of the recent difficulties that have arisen. These have all to be taken into consideration when dealing with the Bill and the timing of the order.

The Bill provides that those entitled to vote in the border poll will be those entitled to vote at an election to the Northern Ireland Parliament, that is to say the Stormont franchise will apply. There is not a great difference between this and the Westminster franchise, but the qualifications for the Stormont franchise are more closely related to an interest in the province.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the poll is to be held before or after the local government elections?

Mr. Whitelaw

I consistently said, when the local authority elections were postponed, that the poll on the border would be held before the local authority elections.

It is desirable that the poll should be taken on the same franchise as will be used in the local government elections, which is accepted as the one most representative of the people of Northern Ireland.

On the other hand, the Bill provides that the poll shall be conducted along the lines of an election to this Parliament. The under-sheriffs are the returning officers for Westminster elections in Northern Ireland and my noble Friend the Minister of State will be holding consultations with them this week to discuss the detailed arrangements for the poll. Westminster rules are generally known and, we trust, respected. They cannot be applied absolutely, because in this poll there are no constituencies and no candidates. But in making regulations for the conduct of the poll, Her Majesty's Government will have close regard to Westminster practice.

One feature of this practice is more generous provision for postal voting than under the Northern Ireland Parliamentary election rules, which is important at a time when so many voters have changed their address.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements to supply people with a poll card and number so that they will be notified through the post that they are on the register and able to vote?

Mr. Whitelaw

I recognise the importance of this point. No doubt it is something which the hon. Gentleman will develop during the debate. We will certainly consider it when we come to the regulations.

I turn now to the Amendment upon the Order Paper standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and others of his hon. and right hon. Friends.

Mr. Peter Archer (Rowley Regis and Tipton)

Before the right hon. Gentleman deals with that point, may I ask whether he knows of any statutory precedent for a suspending and dispensing power as wide in its terms as that which he is assuming in Clause 1(2)?

Mr. Whitelaw

I cannot give the hon. and learned Member an answer to that question off the cuff. I will look into it and see that either I or one of my hon. Friends is carefully briefed to answer the point during the remaining stages of the Bill and to consider any representations which may be made upon it.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of the Bill, may I put one further question? He said that this is one of a number of polls. Is he able to say with what frequency they will take place? Shall we need a fresh Bill each time we have a plebiscite?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think I said exactly the opposite; at least, that is what I meant to say. This Bill provides only for the first poll. The question of any future poll, plebiscite or referendum is left wide open and is not affected in any way by the Bill.

I turn to the amendment on the Order Paper, standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. and right hon. Friends. This calls first for the Government to substitute a Bill providing for less limited questions to be asked. Here I must re-emphasise what I said earlier. This Bill relates to Her Majesty's Government's pledge. That pledge is to give the people of Northern Ireland an early poll. That poll is to be about whether they wish to stay in the United Kingdom or to become part of a united Ireland.

The Opposition amendment relates to a quite different kind of poll. It relates to a poll about the future constitutional arrangements of Northern Ireland, such as equality of status, Bill of Rights, relations with the Republic, and so on. They are certainly some of the questions which must be answered by any eventual constitutional settlement. Their importance could not be questioned in any way.

But surely it is also fair to argue that those who answer the simple question in this Bill by voting to remain in the United Kingdom can be in no doubt that such a decision carries with it rights and responsibilities. These rights and responsibilities arising from membership of the United Kingdom have been clearly spelt out recently by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Therefore I do not think it can be accepted that the poll, whenever it comes, will be asking the voters to sign a blank cheque. The voters of Northern Ireland know perfectly well what membership of the United Kingdom involves—the support of troops to prevent civil war, the support of £200 million a year to keep unemployment down and standards of living up, and, on the other hand, acceptance of the equality and freedom of all citizens under the law and the right of Parliament to decide what the constitutional arrangements should be.

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

Earlier the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that the poll would come before the local government elections. It is important for those hon. Members who have supported his policy since he took office to know why he changed his mind. He originally said that the local government elections would come first. There has been a suggestion that he has been subjected to threats. Would he make clear why he changed his mind on the timing?

Mr. Whitelaw

Certainly. I never disguised my own desire that it would be better to have the poll on the border before the local government elections. However, in the circumstances in which I found myself I put forward the date 6th December for the local government elections. I then received representations—and the hon. Gentleman and the whole House should know this—from representatives of, I think, all the parties who were seeking to take part in those elections that 6th December would be a thoroughly unsatisfactory time to hold them. That was not just one section's view; it was that of all the parties. That being the view of all the parties concerned—of the people who were actually to take part in those elections—that they should not have them at that time, it was, I think, perfectly reasonable for me on that basis to change my mind. I have no illusions about it; I recognise that when one changes one's mind people say that one has done it under pressure of this sort or that. Sometimes in politics it is a strong thing to do to change one's mind, I believe, if one has evidence that one's decision may not have been the wisest decision. I therefore decided to change my mind because I felt that it was right to do so.

As for the Government's White Paper, we are anxious to get this out as soon as possible, and I intend to start urgent consultations with parties and organisations next week. We do not believe that it would be wise to commit ourselves at this stage as to the order in which the border poll and the White Paper will come, but, bearing in mind that both are urgent, we shall certainly wish to hear the views of this House.

Nevertheless, when all the arguments about timing, dark nights, new registers have been considered and discussed, as they will be, there is one fact which I must ask the House not to forget. There are people in Northern Ireland who simply want to demonstrate by their vote to the rest of the United Kingdom and to the world at large their passionate desire to remain as part of the United Kingdom. At the time when their Parliament was prorogued they were promised that they would be able to do just that. They expect that promise to be fulfilled and that opportunity to be given to them. That is the purpose of this Bill.

3.52 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House, recognising that Northern Ireland will not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, calls upon Her Majesty's Government to substitute a Bill which provides for less limited questions to be posed, and for the poll to be preceded by the publication of a White Paper containing Her Majesty's Government's clear intention to give a definite undertaking which will ensure that all the people of Northern Ireland have an equal opportunity to exercise political power based on a Bill of Rights assuring civil liberties and equality before the law, and also containing proposals which would enable both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to find means of co-operation for the benefit of the people of Ireland as a whole. I would make it clear that, in moving this reasoned amendment, the wording of which has been designed to reveal our real doubts on aspects of Government policy, we shall not be voting against the Second Reading of the Bill. As a matter of principle we are not against the referendum, but we have doubts about its timing and its wording.

The matter of the referendum leads me at once to a point I raised in the debate last week. I do not think it has been answered. I refer to the meaning of paragraph 82 which, the House will recall, although I shall not read it all, says: The wishes of the people of Northern Ireland on their relationship to the United Kingdom and to the Republic will be ascertained by a plebiscite early in the New Year. I come back to the point with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt today in his speech and also in questions. Is it to be a once-for-all plebiscite, and then are there to be pragmatic consultations? The Secretary of State told us today that he is to start consultations very shortly. I know that neither the Secretary of State nor anybody in the Government, nor anybody here, is responsible for Press reports, but the Press reports of the Prime Minister's Press conference last week are all that we can go by. They report the Prime Minister as saying that if the Northern Ireland people choose the United Kingdom then it is up to us at Westminster here to take the decision. We note that the Secretary of State talks of "consultations soon" and then a plebiscite and then, I presume, consultations again before the White Paper—

Mr. Whitelaw

That is not exactly what I said. I think I made it quite clear. What I said was that I was having consultations immediately following publication of the paper for discussion, having given the parties time to consider it. It leads to the White Paper. In my speech today I left open the question whether publication of that White Paper or the border poll will come first. I left it absolutely open. I want to make that perfectly clear.

Mr. Rees

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his intervention, but what is exercising us on this side of the House, and what is the burden of my argument today, is the timing. It is important for us to know, and as soon as possible, when the people of Northern Ireland as a whole will be brought into the consultations.

On the border itself, the Green Paper, in paragraph 41, said: In announcing Direct Rule —and the Secretary of State repeated this today— the Prime Minister stated that in the future periodic plebiscites would be held to allow the people of Northern Ireland to declare their views on the Border issue. This is a different matter from plebiscites on wider issues about the constitution. This is the Prime Minister saying that there would be future periodic plebiscites on the border. We are entitled in this debate to get this clear, because here is what seems to be, in the Prime Minister's words, the first of a number of plebiscites on the border. We need to be clear whether there is to be a plebiscite on any other matter. The Prime Minister did not say. It would be valuable to have spelt out the time scale the Government now have in mind for the next border poll. Is it to be in 10 years? Is it to be in five years? Or have the Government changed their mind and is this to be the only plebiscite on the border? In other words, is the Prime Minister's March statement still Government policy?

I mentioned a week ago that as between paragraph 82 and the questions in the Bill there are differences. Paragraph 82 says, The wishes of the people of Northern Ireland on their relationship to the United Kingdom and to the Republic will be ascertained by a plebiscite early in the New Year. The paragraph does not say that the plebiscite is to be on the border but that it is to be on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. I accept that, colloquially, "the border" is used as an umbrella heading for the feelings of the people of Northern Ireland on the problem between themselves, the United Kingdom and the South, but we cannot carry out plebiscites under umbrella headings that sum up people's views. The plebiscite should be conducted on the basis that the Bill is a constitutional Bill, as we are arguing. We shall seek to put this right in Committee, if only for the sake of accuracy.

It would be foolish for anyone to try to alter the border between North and South; to do so would be a sign of failure. Technically, it would be possible to alter the border and still to maintain the existing close link between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. This may be a pedantic or technical point, but it is important to get it right in the Bill.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I am sure the hon. Gentleman did not do so intentionally, but he referred to the problem between Northern Ireland and the South of Ireland and the problem between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. There is no problem between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. We want to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Rees

In the way in which he raised that point, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) touched another nerve in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. What I meant was the question of the relationship between the two.

There is a technical point on the title of the Bill. It is a constitutional Bill and not a Bill on the border, and we shall seek to put that right at the appropriate time.

Our main criticism is that the questions are too narrow in what is essentially a constitutional Bill. I accept that implicit in all that the Secretary of State said today is that the plebiscite—as he conceives it—is not part of a constitutional settlement but is designed to settle the minds of the majority in Northern Ireland. That may be desirable, but with the plebiscite in its present form the Bill is a constitutional Bill.

The link with the United Kingdom matters to the majority in the North. The Secretary of State mentioned the Ireland Act, 1949, and the Downing Street Declaration. The pledge matters. That is reinforced by the fact that Northern Ireland could not be forced into the South. It would be impossible, it would be resisted, the South could not cope and, even if it were possible, it would be politically and morally wrong to force Northern Ireland into the South. On both sides of the House, the key word is "consent". The more we say that, the more the people in Northern Ireland seem not to listen. But it is "consent" that we have all sought all the way along. The IRA has ignored the question of consent and it will have much to answer for at the bar of history.

There are now elements in the Protestant community who set out to emulate the IRA; they, too, kill and maim, and whatever is said about the IRA applies equally to them. Those Protestants, too, ignore the fact that "consent" is the key word in all discussions. Consent is made the key point of our reasoned Amendment, and I hope that this will be noticed by the majority community in Northern Ireland.

The questions should go further than the constitutional link. Other parts of the package will undoubtedly appear which should be included in the questions—the new Assembly, the Bill of Rights, the all-Ireland link. There should, at least, be a third question to appeal to the moderates. The third question which we shall suggest is: Do you want eventually to live in a united Ireland brought about by free consent of the peoples of Northern Ireland and of the Republic of Ireland? The questions as framed ignore the moderate who is prepared to look at the long term.

The Alliance Party has proposed a new question to cover the considerations which led to our third question. The Alliance Party is small. As yet, we do not know how much support it has in Northern Ireland, but it sets out to attract the moderates in both communities. The Alliance Party, in a letter to me, after agreeing with the principle of the plebiscite, says: We are, however, worried about two features of the suggested questions. First, we believe it is important that long-term aspirations should not be mixed up or confused with the situation as it is today, and that there should therefore be a preamble on the ballot paper making it clear that people are not being asked now to express an opinion which will be a once and for all commitment. Secondly, we believe that the first question is at present framed in terms which can give rise to widespread confusion. It is meaningless to ask people to vote for the link with Britain without making it clear the terms under which the link is acceptable to Britain. We have already seen the widely differing interpretations which have been placed on the Green Paper. We believe it is essential that the White Paper spelling out very clearly the terms of the link with the rest of the United Kingdom should be published before the plebiscite takes place. The preamble suggested by the Alliance Party is: It is the intention of the United Kingdom Government to hold plebiscites on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland from time to time: It does not say "on the border", but "on the constitutional position", and that fits in with our point about the title of the Bill. The preamble continues: These are the choices now open: — Do you wish Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom under the terms outlined in the White Paper? OR Do you wish Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland? That question brings us to the timing of the White Paper. As I said last week, in the light of political reality, we regard that as the major aspect of the debate, and it is the major aspect of our reasoned amendment. I have quoted what has been said by the Alliance Party. The question we have suggested is in similar terms to the view of the New Ulster Movement. I will now quote what is said by the Northern Ireland Labour Party. The theme of everything that the Opposition are saying is that the view of the moderates in Northern Ireland must be expressed, and that will be the theme of our amendments in Committee.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

That is the view of the Unionist Party, which contains most of the moderates.

Mr. Rees

The Unionist Party in its old form covered a wide spectrum of views. As a result of the Government's action in March, that wide spectrum of views is no longer one common arch like a rainbow but split into bits. I am putting forward the views of the moderates and some members of the former Unionist Party may agree with them.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)

If the White Paper were to come first and we were then to have a plebiscite as set out in the Alliance paper, should we not have a conditional plebiscite and would this not change the whole meaning of the plebiscite? If people were told, "Instead of simply remaining British, you will be British on certain terms", that would surely be a concept very foreign to this country.

Mr. Rees

The hon. Gentleman has put his finger precisely on the point I was making. I take it from what the Secretary of State said today that he has not yet made up his mind. If people are told, "If you want a link with the United Kingdom, this will happen" and then, a week or two later, they are told "These are the terms under which you will be in the United Kingdom", such a statement is made with some degree of false pretences. The hon. Gentleman has summed up our view.

What the Northern Ireland Labour Party said is this: We have insisted that the plebiscite 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 of continuing to live within the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) put the matter in different words, but he probably knew that it was the view of the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the moderates in the North of Ireland.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

The hon. Gentleman could not have perverted what I was saying more successfully.

Mr. Rees

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I would not wish to pervert his views or the views of anybody in Northern Ireland. I prefer to stick by the views of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.

The Secretary of State has given the House his view of the matter. The question of security must come into this debate and hon. Members on both sides of the House have faced up to it, The question of security and the timing of the election must be taken into account by the Secretary of State in the light of the information he has before him. However, to hold the plebiscite before March is asking for additional trouble from the security aspect. Ask those who have been involved in elections in Northern Ireland in the past and they will say that at the best of times, let alone under the present conditions, in some areas people are sometimes prevented from going to the polls. How much worse will the situation be now.

The Secretary of State said that all political parties were of the opinion that the local elections should not be held on 6th December. Those parties could not face a local election in the conditions which obtain in the Province. But exactly the same conditions will prevail when dealing with the border polls. The whole question of election is difficult and such activity in January and February will be very questionable.

We shall seek in Committee to develop this argument about timing in terms of the electoral register and it is important to face up to this matter. The Secretary of State said that the poll would be fought on the Stormont franchise. We must look at that situation to see how it all adds up. Some of the rules to be applied are to be on the Westminster lines, and again we must look to see what the result will be. The new register is to be issued on 15th February and, in our view, it is the best register to give a chance to everybody to express their views.

The Government must reveal in a White Paper their views on the sort of Northern Ireland they envisage. Will the assembly enable all people of Northern Ireland to play their part? Will the political arrangements be based on a Bill of Rights in which procedures of internment will be within the rule of law? Surely we should have the Government's view on this subject before the "terrorist order", as it is called, with its temporary arrangements comes before the House for debate. It would be most helpful to have the Government's view of the future.

I do not at this stage ask for any details about what the Diplock Commission will report, but I should like to ask what the Government envisage coming out of that report. A statement was made about the Diplock Commission in the other place, but no statement on this subject has ever been made in this House. I listened carefully to what happened in the other place on that occasion, and I believe that it is important that we should be told what sort of Northern Ireland the people there will expect in considering any link with the United Kingdom.

The people of Northern Ireland must know more about the Irish dimension. In our reasoned amendment we said that such an arrangement should also contain proposals which would enable both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to find means of co-operation for the benefit of the people of Ireland as a whole. This is a reasonable suggestion and is put forward as a way of seeking means of co-operation.

In the last few days I have received a document from the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, part of which says: The people of North and South have a common interest in seeking the aid and expertise of the European Community for the development of the Irish region of the Community. But it would be unwise to rely on the EEC for more than marginal aids. Perhaps it is even more urgent to ensure that the people of North and South should co-operate in measures for the development of the resources of the whole region, and further co-operate in ensuring that regulations of the EEC are applied in a manner which will help and not hinder such development. The whole question of Irish development is seen differently in the North from the way in which it is seen in the South. It has been incredible in recent weeks to see just how differently the Irish dimension has been regarded in the North as compared with the way in which it has been interpreted in the South. We must remember that there is a special relationship between the United Kingdom and the South of Ireland. There is a common travel area and there are special arrangements in this country in terms of franchise for people coming from the South of Ireland—arrangements similar to those enjoyed by those who come from the Commonwealth. Furthermore, there are special arrangements about finance, and in the South, although the markings on the coinage are different, the values in both countries are the same.

The United Kingdom and the South of Ireland are both on the brink of going into the Common Market. In my view, if a reasonable line on the Irish dimension is pursued by Her Majesty's Government, it will bring a reasonable response from the South. I choose my words carefully when I say that, unless and until the South of Ireland recognises the realities of the North in some form or another, there will be trouble from time to time. If the South wishes to discuss the North with us, we must discuss Article 2 of the Irish Constitution with it. It would be an open-ended discussion if one were talking about an Irish dimension. It does not work both ways.

I say to the hon. Member for Antrim, North, who looks as if he is about to get at me on this, that it is no good our shutting our eyes to the question that there is already an Irish dimension, that what we are seeking to do is to rationalise it in the light of the 1970s when the whole concept of it arose at a time of civil war.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is good at reading my facial expressions. Is it not a fact that in our last debate on this subject I raised the matter of Article 2 and said that there could not possibly be any co-operation between North and South until the South was prepared to recognise that Northern Ireland is, by the wishes of its people, part of the United Kingdom and that the South has no right to claim territorial rights over the territory of Northern Ireland? Is it not a condition in the European Economic Community that no member State can claim jurisdiction over the territory of a fellow member State?

Mr. Rees

On that last point the hon. Gentleman might well be right. I am interested to hear him repeat what he said last time. In effect, what he says is that the Irish dimension must be talked about and discussed, which is precisely what we are saying, and not shovelled under the carpet and left until after the border poll. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to know the Government's thinking on that before he advises his supporters what to do, given his views on the matter.

The Secretary of State told us that he has an open mind on timing, that all will be revealed when he comes to the House with an order. We believe that such an order should not come into effect until it has the approval of the House and that it is too important an issue to be left to the negative procedure. We shall take the opportunity of trying to correct that in Committee.

We are not asking for the precise date of the plebiscite, only that the White Paper should be published before the plebiscite. It is on this timing that we shall be voting. We believe it to be fundamental.

Returning briefly to the Bill, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Peter Archer) expressed our concern about the powers given to the Secretary of State in Clause 1(2)— The Secretary of State may … make such further provision as … may appear to him to be expedient"— that seems rather broad— including provision modifying or excluding … any enactment or statutory provision "— surely not?— or making further provision to control or regulate (by the imposition of criminal penalties or otherwise) activities intended to influence the result of the poll. Again, surely not? Does it mean that criminal penalties may be imposed against people who care to come out openly in favour of one or the other, which means that there will be no meetings on the matter? What, for example, if people advise certain sections of the community to abstain, which at least is a possibility given the nature of Northern Ireland? Would this lead to the imposition of criminal penalties? We must know more about this. We shall find ways of discussing this in Committee, but it is important to have the Government's preliminary views on this.

We shall not oppose the Second Reading, but in our reasoned amendment we are putting the views of moderate opinion in Northern Ireland, that moderate opinion that we all say does not get a hearing. It has had one from us today and will continue to have one during the course of the passage of the Bill. We will press our views in Committee, for only in these ways can we impress upon the Secretary of State that timing that we believe will bring the best result.

On the question of timing, when the matter was discussed on 14th November, an editorial in The Guardian—which referred to Dr. O'Brien's preference for an extra question and my preference expressed at that time for the paper to come out first—said this: … each is designed to take the heat out of the situation and might also have the effect of removing the excuses for boycott or violence which seems likely to accompany any voting in Northern Ireland next year. In our view, the moderates are right. Before the plebiscite on the link with the United Kingdom the people should know what sort of Northern Ireland they are voting to live in. This is the key to our argument. It is the one we put today and why we shall vote on a reasoned Amendment. It is the core of the argument that we shall put in Committee.

4.25 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has made a most reasonable speech on his "reasonable" amendment. To seize on one point of agreement, I share the hon. Gentleman's view that the Short Title of the Bill— Northern Ireland (Border Poll) Bill "— is odd. I should not take the least exception to it if it were sought to make amendments to that in Committee, for it does not seem to express what the Bill purports to do.

It is not difficult to accumulate, if one puts one's mind to it, doubts and reservations about the Bill, its timing and its wording. By far the easiest and safest sort of speech to make about the Bill is one which reluctantly concedes the principle but then hedges the concession about with insuperable practical difficulties.

I share the hon. Gentleman's view about timing, and, in particular, about the timing of any referendum and of local Government elections. It has always been my view that the odds are on a boycott of the plebiscite by at least one section. It has always been my view that, although the ballot is secret, going to the ballot is not, and that it is very important to cover the tracks of those who may wish to vote. It has further been my view for that reason that there would be some advantages in combining local government polls and the plebiscite in one operation. These are matters of detail on which we may all have separate views. No doubt they will be discussed in Committee with the assistance of the hon. Gentleman.

For my part, I have come to the firm conclusion that this plebiscite must be held, that it must be held on the terms of the Bill, that it will be best held before the White Paper appears, and that more in the future of Northern Ireland may depend on those propositions than on the outcome of the plebiscite itself. I will come on to say why I have reached that conclusion.

My right hon. Friend will not misunderstand me if I say that, although I welcome the reception which the Green Paper has received on future options for the constitution of Northern Ireland, it is unwise to draw too much comfort from that reception. It is not a reliable guide to what yet lies before us and him. As long as the options are reasonably open, the reception of the Green Paper is reasonably predictable. The crux for my right hon. Friend and for us will be the White Paper itself, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is aware of that.

I was not quite convinced that the hon. Member for Leeds, South shared my view that the White Paper may bring us to a very more difficult stage than the reception of the Green Paper may have led us to suppose. It may confront my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with the most critical moment which has occurred since he inherited this office in March. We do ourselves no service at this stage in pretending otherwise. It will be miraculous if we get the White Paper accepted without a crisis of gravity. It is right to say that now and not later. No one will be offered—no one can be offered—all he wants. In the nature of things, the disappointment will fall most heavily on those who hitherto, for 50 years, have represented the majority, who have had the monopoly, if one likes, of government in the province. Even the Green Paper, its wording, what it excludes, and the reception accorded to it, can leave us in small doubt about that.

Therefore—this is my approach to the plebiscite—I view the reactions of the majority at the time when the White Paper appears, and the possible repercussions, with certain misgivings. It is that, in my view, which is decisive on the question of timing, for while there may be arguments such as the hon. Gentleman advanced for bringing out the White Paper before the plebiscite is held, we must all recognise that, if the reception of the White Paper were such as I envisage as possible, the plebiscite would have to be postponed sine die.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The right hon. Gentleman is developing with much force what I was saying, for example, about the Irish dimension. But does it not work the other way? If there is to be a plebiscite and people are judging whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom, how much more angry will they be a short time afterwards when they see the terms on which they are to be part of it?

Mr. Deedes

That is a perfectly fair point, and I should be the last to assert that this is a matter on which one can be didactic. I am expressing my view and trying to give the reasons why I consider that, on balance, that view should hold.

In saying what I do about the reaction of the majority to the White Paper when it appears, I do not pretend, as has in some quarters become fashionable, to speak as a neutral. I find it difficult to take a neutral view as between the fire and the fire brigade. I do not take the view that the troubles at this moment in Northern Ireland are six of one and half-dozen of the other. In the last 2½ years, at least part of the IRA's policy has been to needle the Protestant majority into the kind of deplorable reactions recently witnessed from some sections of the UDA and their associates. I do not imagine that there are many hon. Members who would contradict that.

We now affirm our intention to deal with violence from whatever quarter it comes. Fair enough. But it is neither historically nor intrinsically correct to suggest that we are dealing with two rival sectarian forces which are equally blameworthy. We are not, and it is an utterly false analysis to suggest otherwise.

But, that being said, as things are now—

Mr. McNamara

Who blew up the water pipes outside Belfast and who burned Bombay Street?

Mr. Deedes

The hon. Gentleman and I could go through a long catalogue. What I am saying is that when we assess the events of the last 2½ years we can with neither historical nor intrinsic truth declare that it has been six of one and half-dozen of the other. That is not a judgment which I can accept. I have formed a careful view of these matters, and I am doing my best to express it now.

All that being said, as things are now, in the pass to which 2½ years of contrived provocation have brought us, with the reaction of the Right, it is the reaction of the Right to the White Paper which I fear most. "Very well", some hon. Members will say, "you then wish to appease them with the plebiscite". That is not quite my argument. It is to the majority of which I am speaking that our undertaking has been repeatedly given. I suppose that the firmest statement of it was given by the Prime Minister in March when he appointed my right hon. Friend as Secretary of State: no change in the situation, in the constitutional situation—I accept the amendment to "constitutional" rather than the reference to the border—without the will of the North being expressed.

If we are now seen to waver or to deviate from that undertaking, we shall undermine confidence, or, more accurately, we shall diminish that confidence which is already at a premium to a point when the White Paper may be doomed not only to failure but to bloody failure. That is the essence of my view about our approach to the plebiscite.

I would not expect either side in Northern Ireland, battered, poisoned and damaged as they have been by recent events, necessarily to see it in that light. But I would hope that the two sides in this House, which have had the advantage of being able to stand a little back from the battle, could see it in that light. However closely we engage ourselves in the attention which we give to the affairs of Northern Ireland, we are not subject to the pressures of the people of the province, on whichever side they may be.

I am not blind to the Opposition's point of view, and I do not regard it as unreasonable. They accept the necessity, they concede the principle, but they say, "Let us do it in a different way from that proposed in the Bill". In the context of our politics, that is a thoroughly reasonable approach. In the context of Northern Ireland politics, I doubt that it is as reasonable, because we are not here comparing like with like. When the hon. Member for Leeds, South, in all sincerity, proposes his reasonable amendment, I concede that it is reasonable to us on this side and to his hon. Friends, but we must consider the interpretation in the province. I am sure that he is seized of that point.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

Why should it be wrong to try to apply British standards to people who keep telling us that they are British?

Mr. Deedes

With respect, the hon. Gentleman misses my point. I shall not elaborate it because to do so would take up more of the time of the House. I have made my point, and it was not the one on which he intervened.

We who have stood a little back from all these events ought to get our perspectives right. The plebiscite itself, I believe, with its predictable outcome—hon. Members are entitled to say that we shall not find out anything that we do not know now—seems to me to have an importance but an importance which it is possible to exaggerate. Of far greater importance, to my mind, are our chances of getting an acceptable workable constitution for Northern Ireland. This is infinitely more important.

Of course, it can be argued that, other things being equal, the chances of getting that result would be improved if there were no plebiscite at all. I think that there is something in that. But other things are not equal. We gave our undertaking, and confidence in our word would be fatally eroded if we went back on it now. If we amend the Bill in a way calculated apparently to give less than that undertaking, the same result may flow.

My final word is this. I believe that there comes a point—I know that my right hon. Friend will not mind my saying this—when the man who accepts the main burden is entitled to make an appeal to the House. In my view, the Secretary of State is entitled to ask for the confidence of the House in this matter and in the way in which he proposes to handle it. All of us would do his job differently, and none of us would in the least like to have to do it. A concomitant of direct rule is to impose an almost intolerable burden on the Secretary of State. Of course, the House of Commons has an inalienable right to differ, to criticise, to oppose and to attack its principal servants, from viceroys down to Secretaries of State for Ireland. That is not in question. But in this matter, and on the Bill in particular, for reasons which I feel deeply, I believe that my right hon. Friend is entitled to the benefit of our doubts, and I for one unreservedly accord it.

4.38 p.m.

Mr. Russell Johnston (Inverness)

I do not believe that there can be many hon. Members who are greatly fond of referenda as a means of taking a democratic decision. The speeches already made in the debate have reflected our doubts and the practical problems in devising questions which effectively meet the sort of situation, complex as it is, that we have in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, as the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said, there is a clear commitment which must be honoured and on which we must go ahead.

In indicating at the outset, therefore, that we on this bench will support the official Opposition amendment, I emphasise strongly that this implies opposition not to the idea of the poll but, rather, to the timing and to the nature of the questions asked. Perhaps even the word "opposition" is too strong, and I should speak of doubts and uncertainties.

Firstly there is the question of the desirability of having the White Paper first. I mentioned this matter last week, as did the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). Despite what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said, I do not think that if one had it first one would be creating a plebiscite on a different issue. It is reasonable, surely, as has already been said, that people should know precisely what form the relationship with the United Kingdom will take. I proposed to quote the Secretary of the Alliance Party, but the right hon. Member for Leeds, South has done so already. That underlines from a moderate standpoint that it is not an unreasonable request. I am glad that the Secretary of State has already made it clear that his mind is not closed on the matter and that he will give it consideration.

The second major factor is the questions to be asked in the poll. As the Secretary of State said, they are very simple. I suspect that that is part of the problem. It is part of the problem of all referenda that in the end questions often end up too simple to tackle the kind of complexity to be dealt with. As some Liberals in Ulster have suggested, the problem might be less stark if the voter were offered a little more latitude and if instead of putting down the traditional British "X" he were given the chance of putting a "Yes" or a "No" against both questions if he felt so inclined. That would make it less likely that the plebiscite, referendum or poll—we are not sure which it is—would be boycotted. That is a real and serious difficulty and danger. As the right hon. Member for Ashford said, one cannot look into the ballot box but one can see people going to the polling booth. It might be less likely to be boycotted if some latitude were possible. As the questions are devised, they virtually force people to vote on strict and traditional sectarian lines.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. R. Chichester-Clark) indicated dissent.

Mr. Johnston

I see that the hon. Gentleman is frowning, but I think that they do. There are really so many alternatives. Among the categories of people who are involved in the plebiscite, there are those, for example, who favour a united Ireland but who realise that that proposition is not on now. Some of those people would like the opportunity of demonstrating that their vote to stay in the United Kingdom is not necessarily a vote supporting the traditional Unionist position.

There are also those who would favour a United Ireland only if drastic changes were made in the Republic. But the changes which that group regard as desirable vary a great deal. There are Unionist whose main driving force is not so much a desire to remain part of the United Kingdom as a desire to stay out of the Republic at all costs. The two things are not the same.

There are the leaders of the non-sectarian parties who will undoubtedly be under pressure to say what advice they will give their members and who very often will hesitate to give any advice, for fear of alienating one or the other section of their membership. It is all right for traditional nationalists and out-and-out republicans because for them it does not matter what form the plebiscite takes as in many cases they will ignore it entirely as they consider that Northern Ireland is not an area of self-determination.

If one thought along those lines, it would make the whole exercise rather less stark and potentially less divisive. We all realise that there is potential in the referendum for divisiveness. For example, if one had the option of saying "Yes" or "No" to the second question rather than putting an "X", the UDI people might say "No" to both, "No" to Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom and "No' to its being joined with the Republic. But I feel certain that the category who would say "No" to both would be quite small. That would place Mr. Craig in an interesting position. There are a number of other interesting answers which one would derive from that. It is surely desirable that in an attempt to lessen the passion on the border, which after all is what this exercise is all about, we should seek not only to obtain a result but to make that result as informed as we can and, if possible, to reduce the rigidity of the voting pattern.

I think that the amendment which the Labour Party has put forward is reasonable. The way that the Secretary of State has spoken, which is always so reasonable, suggests that he has not necessarily rejected it. Equally, I am sure that he will not regard a vote for the amendment by us or by the official Opposition as basically any kind of criticism of the attempt which he is making to find a solution, but rather as a real and sincere doubt about whether it is being done in the most effective way.

4.48 p.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

As usual, the debate has ranged around many subjects. However, I shall return to the Bill. We have been talking about an imaginary White Paper, a Green Paper and all sorts of things, but I shall spend the next few moments directing the attention of the House to the need for a border poll.

I welcome the Bill. I congratulate the Secretary of State on the way in which he has facilitated its introduction. It is long overdue. I supported the Ten-Minute Rule Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) earlier in the year. That was superseded by the Prime Minister's declaration in his package for Northern Ireland when direct rule was introduced.

In the past, both Governments have given sincere pledges on the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. Many people say that the Bill is the be-all and end-all, but it is not. It will not stop the war in Northern Ireland. The only thing that it will do is to give people in these dark days the right to say where they stand as regards their future within the United Kingdom. That is absolutely necessary. It will also remove for the time being the question of the border from politics.

We are entering a new phase in Northern Ireland with the reorganisation of local government. We are awaiting with great interest the White Paper. Meanwhile, the border issue will be decided when the border poll takes place. That will leave the other necessary measures as top priority when we discuss the reorganisation of local government and the new legislation which will be introduced in Northern Ireland.

For far too long the border has been an issue in Northern Ireland politics. That is because the pledge given to Northern Ireland was given to the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and this will be the first time in over 50 years the people have had the right to express themselves—not the politicians, but the people. That is absolutely right, because Stormont could have taken Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom against the wishes of the majority of the people. That was the legal position.

Now that Stormont is in suspense, where does the power lie? I take it that it lies with the Secretary of State. But the Prime Minister quite rightly foresaw the need for a border poll or plebiscite, and I am delighted that at long last we have the Bill.

I hope and believe that the poll will take the heat out of the situation. It has already been said this afternoon that there may be intimidation, that the poll should not take place during the hours of darkness and so on, that the timing should be right. But I have been in the House for a long time, and I know that on practically every measure that has come before the House during that period half a dozen Members have said, "This is not the right time to produce such a Bill". There never is a right time. I say to the Secretary of State, "Take your courage in both hands and hold the poll as soon as possible, despite all the criticisms".

I am sure the Secretary of State has received representations on behalf of the under-sheriffs and their staff, who are very worried about the problems they will face and about their remuneration. The right hon. Gentleman should look into the matter and report to the House later.

The point raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) about the provisions of Clause 1(2) had also puzzled me, and I had made a note of it myself. I refer to the passage on page 2: or making further provision to control or regulate (by the imposition of criminal penalties or otherwise) activities intended to influence the result of the poll. Does that mean that no political party in Northern Ireland can campaign during the border poll? Is it possible to advertise or to take part in any sort of campaign? This vital matter should be made absolutely clear. Doing so this afternoon will take a lot of worry out of the situation. I do not believe that politicians need to run around the country knocking on doors and trying to get people out to decide their future within the United Kingdom. The people will gladly go out provided the necessary security is guaranteed.

I may not represent all the views of the party I represent here, but broadly speaking we welcome the Bill and wish the Secretary of State every success in its introduction.

4.53 p.m.

Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)

I do not want to follow the line of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis), because I hold a totally different view. I do not live in Northern Ireland, but a person who goes to a place from time to time sees things that those on the spot have taken for granted for so long that they are conditioned in a certain way.

This is an important debate, because since the proroguing of Stormont this is the first tangible political initiative the Government have presented to the House. Therefore, it is only right and proper that we should examine it, weigh it up, argue and discuss it. That is what the debate is about.

Our reasoned amendment is no reflection on the integrity of the Secretary of State. It has been moved because in our judgment the Government's proposal is out of tune with what they promised, and may well be seen as a step back rather than a step forward. We are entitled to tell the Secretary of State that we shall vote for our amendment because we believe that it, and not the Bill, fulfils both the letter and the spirit of the Prime Minister's statement in March.

Why do we have the Bill now, and why in this form? Is it that the Government are anxious to reassure the majority? How many times must we tell people, "So long as you want to belong, no one will take that right away from you"? Are not we in effect reassuring them with a meaningless poll? We know what the result will be. But have we considered the implications and consequences that may flow from such an activity at this time? Is not there a danger that those on the majority side who have felt for so long that the Government were selling them down will now believe that the Government will bend with the wind, that they will appease and buy themselves short-term popularity, in the hope that the people will then swallow the unpalatable things that are bound to come? Or is it a Government priority in the present situation at all costs to reassure the majority, who do not need any reassurance? Will not the proposed action lead once again to a grouping along traditional lines and encourage polarisation? We must have the answers from the Government. They must tell us their motivations for what they propose, and why they are doing it now.

The Secretary of State said that the questions in the poll were simple and to the point. To a lawyer they are impeccable, and clarity itself. But to a politician they can spell all kinds of things. When someone in Northern Ireland is asked: Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom?", we here feel that the words, "on terms acceptable to the British Government", are implied even though they are not said. But those who vote, "Yes", are adding in their mind, "on terms dictated by us, the majority in Northern Ireland." Words can mean one thing here and a totally different thing in the context of Northern Ireland. Are we sure that in voting, "Yes", the majority will be de- ceiving themselves, or are we being deceived? What do they believe in when they are voting "Yes"?

The Secretary of State's first task is to declare clearly what is in the Government's mind. There is no need for any more discussions about what the Government intend to do. The Green Paper has been seen, and it is now for the Government to make up their minds. We know full well that whatever they propose, there will be those who dissent, It is a matter of the Government's will and courage. There is an urgent need for the White Paper. It is most important that it shall be produced so that the people of Northern Ireland, Ireland as a whole and Britain can see what is in the Government's mind.

My second suggestion is that if, clearly, the Government intend to go ahead with this poll, why not have the local government elections on the same day? What might this achieve? In the first instance, for the first time since 1969 it would provoke and permit discussion on issues, albeit local issues. It would encourage and produce a multiplicity of people offering themselves for election at local level. We should see the extent of the support of the extremists, be they the IRA and UDA, Vanguard, or whatever. Above all, we should be able to see what they think about the border, at the same time expressing themselves in terms of local activities and local elections. That might be a means of overcoming boycott and intimidation, and it might be a beginning of a move back to peaceful conditions in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State has admitted that he has changed his mind in the past. I urge him now that, on an issue of such profound importance, he should look again and change his mind once more.

5.1 p.m.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

I trust that I shall be permitted to go out of order for about 30 seconds to record what I believe many will feel—that is, our utter sense of revulsion at the attack on Mrs. Austin Currie last week. Many of us are rural Members with wives living substantially on their own. I am one. I hope that it will be borne home on everyone in the Province of Northern Ireland that these are people who are behaving in a bestial manner that would not even have been acceptable to the Gestapo in Belsen. This is beginning to make most of the British public heartily sick of all that is happening there.

Having been allowed that slight digression, I find myself in a peculiarly difficult position. Such rare moments as I have when I am capable of thought are usually when I am mowing my lawn. I devised a speech when mowing my lawn on Saturday, and I made a few notes. However, when I looked at the reasoned amendment, I discovered that what I had written was almost identical. Therefore I feel bound to say how much I admire the reasoned amendment. It has a wide consensus behind it. I have considerable respect for the role of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) in this matter. We have all received communications from the New Ulster movement and the Alliance Party, which are attempting to maintain the centre—balance line. They support this view, too, and it may be that there are other Tory backbenchers who take a similar line.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

No doubt the hon. Gentleman will agree that I am as moderate as anyone, as are my Unionist colleagues. We are taking a centre line. I think that that should be on the record.

Mr. James

I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) will vote for the Opposition amendment. Time will tell.

The reason why the Bill has been rushed forward is that my right hon. Friend became aware that what appeared to be a dragging of feet by the Government on having this border poll gave grounds for suspicion in some quarters, which were totally without foundation, that there was an element of bad faith. What proves the good faith is not the date on which the border poll is held but the date on which my right hon. Friend enacts the Bill. The very fact that, under immense pressure, Parliament is taking the Bill on the Floor of the House in one week amply discharges the burden of proof of my right hon. Friend's good will. Therefore we need not look at the poll itself as being a matter of urgency. Once we have the Bill on the Statute Book we can apply our minds to the right order of batting as between White Paper, the poll, and local government elections.

I come down very strongly on the side of those who feel that it is only reasonable that if a poll is to be meaningful people should know precisely what they are voting for and, for that, it is essential to have the White Paper first. I urge my right hon. Friend to produce the White Paper first for another quite important reason. It is that a considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to spend a week or two of the Christmas Recess going to Northern Ireland. Such visits would be more meaningful if we had a White Paper before us and could get people's reactions to it at grass roots level.

Mr. Kilfedder

A white flag would be more appropriate.

Mr. James

I never have any embarrassment when I go there. I do not need a white flag, an orange flag or a flag of any other colour. When I go. I like to meet my friends. If I go there over the Christmas period, I hope to be able to discover how they react to the White Paper. For that reason. I should like the White Paper first and if possible before the New Year so as to enable those of us who go to Northern Ireland to discuss it with our friends there.

I go along strongly with the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley), who suggested that there was merit in having the poll and the local government elections at one and the same time. From a security point of view, each operation will involve sending many extra troops, at least on a temporary basis, and it would be more economical to send them once than twice. What is more, it is alleged that Sinn Fein and other way-out movements will contest the local elections. Intimidation will be much more difficult if people are going to the polling booths with two objectives in view which are no one's business but their own. The hon. Member for West Bromwich is on to a good point in suggesting that that should be the case.

I also take the view that it is necessary to have somewhat more relaxed questions. I am aware that my right hon. Friend has found that there are more points of view on Northern Ireland than there are people to articulate them and that he has been inundated with views from all sides.

There is considerable merit in the proposal of the New Ulster Movement. Its suggested first question, Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom on the terms set out in the White Paper?", seems the only realistic one to ask at the moment. Its second suggested question, Do you want eventually to live in a United Ireland brought about by free consent?", takes account of the fact that the concept of the EEC is beginning to bite north and south of the border. I do not want to pre-empt anyone else's options over the next 10, 15, or 20 years. It is entirely up to them. But the time may come when people both north and south of the border, once there are no customs duties, once there is free movement of labour, and once we are in this far greater European concept, will come to the conclusion that what people are concerned with at the moment in Northern Ireland is an utterly meaningless irrelevance in terms of the 1970s. For those reasons, I should like to see a more relaxed questionnaire.

I come to how I propose to vote tonight. I do not want to arouse unnecessary hopes in the breast of the hon. Member for Leeds, South. I have expressed a view which is strongly in line with his, which is supported by the New Ulster movement and the Alliance Party, and which is my own independent judgment. However, the hon. Gentleman and I have one factor in common. It is that we do not carry the responsibility in this matter. I am convinced that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has shown considerable flexibility of mind in the way in which he has dealt with the problem throughout, and I have no doubt that that flexibility will apply to his response to the debate. But since he carries the burden of responsibility, he is entitled to my support. Whatever his considered conclusion may be, bearing in mind that he has access to far more facts, figures, and information than I have, he will have my support.

5.10 p.m.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Sutton)

The House has listened to a speech of intense moderation by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James). I think that many hon. Members will understand why he intends to vote as he said, though he has spoken in a somewhat different manner.

I hope that the Secretary of State will realise that the spirit of bipartisanship which has been demonstrated in the debate shows that hon. Members are fully conscious that in the streets of Northern Ireland people are being killed. We in this House are only too aware of the need to do everything possible to preserve the authority of the Secretary of State and, as far as possible, to eschew party politics in this issue. That is my attitude, and that is how I shall decide to vote.

The decision to hold a plebiscite, referendum or poll—all three being synonymous—was a major mistake by the Secretary of State. It is not against the spirit of bipartisanship to draw attention to an error, to explain why it is an error, and to hope to minimise that error.

I am fully conscious that for the Secretary of State to go back on the pledge to hold a plebiscite would have a bad effect in Northern Ireland. It would be foolish to pretend to have a situation different from that which in reality exists. In reality, I recognise, that decision has been made. I regret that decision. I hope that out of all the doubts that are beginning to be expressed in this House about referenda we shall hear no more of the periodic plebiscite but that this will be a once-only operation which, to take the Secretary of State's words, satisfies the need to "demonstrate". There may be a need to demonstrate. I reject however this way of demonstrating. I think that opinion is well known amongst the majority in Northern Ireland. I do not think we need a referendum to bring it out. But let this be the end; let us have no more of these plebiscites.

The Secretary of State should also take seriously the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) in his moderate introduction on why, while accepting this poll, he should give attention in its timing to local government elections and the White Paper.

I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman's colleague some months ago suggesting that if the plebiscite were to take place, it should coincide with the local government elections. I am convinced that if we are to get people to the polls we need more than just a plebiscite to get them there. The coinciding of the local government elections with the border plebiscite will bring a higher poll. The mere fact of having to vote on local issues, on the one hand, and the border issue, on the other, starts the process in Ireland of thinking wider and away from this one dominant issue.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman's argument on the latter point is persuasive. Reverting to what he said about periodic plebiscites, may I ask him to distinguish between the periodic holding of plebiscites—I entirely agree with him that that is a nonsense—and the writing into a constitution perhaps that the constitution itself, or the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, could not in future be altered without a plebiscite?

Dr. Owen

I prefer to take my stand on a representative democracy. Previously the only legislative position in Northern Ireland was in the 1949 Act, which was that alterations could not be done without the authority of the Stormont Parliament. The Stormont Parliament is prorogued, and I think that it will cease to exist. Therefore, a decision about the constitutional future of Northern Ireland should be made by its representative Parliament, which is here in this House. If the Northern Irish wish to take part in British institutions, they should accept representative democracy in this House. That is why there should not be periodic plebiscites. This is the fundamental argument why the Government made a great mistake in going for the plebiscite.

In April this year I looked hard at the question of a plebiscite. It was then in the form of a referendum. It was very tempting—I admit to being tempted—for many people to believe the arguments then being put about that there was some way of preserving party unity through the introduction of a referendum on the EEC. I am not antipathetic to all referenda as an absolute principle. I considered the referendum over the Common Market in great detail, but I became convinced, as I looked at the arguments against referenda, that the more complex the decision, the more difficult the decision, the worse an instrument for decision making a referendum is. If we want vision, judgment, timing, and flexibility, I put my support firmly and squarely behind representative democracy, not behind periodic plebiscites and a plebiscitary democracy.

This seems the central issue, and we cannot baulk it. This is why the Bill is important. We are introducing into one part of the United Kingdom a constitutional practice which we have resisted introducing in any other part of the British constitution. We resisted it on the most major issue of the day—the Common Market. If ever there were a case for a referendum, it was on that issue, when at least we were to take the views of all people in the United Kingdom.

We are now introducing a plebiscite in one specific part of the United Kingdom. We have resisted it when it has been pressed on all parties by the Scottish Nationalists and by the Welsh Nationalists. We are now introducing a new Bill for one particular part of the United Kingdom—Northern Ireland. It is not as if anybody were arguing that we are in any doubt about the result. We know the result. Therefore, we are not arguing for a plebiscite or a referendum for clarity; we are arguing for it for public relations, for demonstration purposes.

This is profoundly dangerous. Whatever our views on the Northern Ireland issue, whatever emphasis we might wish to place on future initiatives, I put my authority behind this democratically elected House of Commons to decide the future of Northern Ireland.

We must ask the people of Northern Ireland to have confidence that the decisions about the future of the province and its constitution will reflect the democratic views of the British people as a whole through representative democracy in this House.

The Government would do well to indicate, in the winding up speech, that it is not their intention to pursue this plebiscite, border poll, or referendum any further. Enough is enough, and it is time that that was said in this House.

The degree of unity in this House on Northern Ireland issues comes more from bafflement and bewilderment than from any belief that any of us have a monopoly of wisdom or any immediate solutions. Most people think that whatever solution comes out of Northern Ireland, it will not be short term. It will not come within the next White Paper, or perhaps even the White Paper following that. It will be a long-term solution. Therefore, if we are looking for a long-term solution, I plead with the Government not to take refuge in what are essentially short-term transient measures, of which the plebiscite is one.

The Government have also been misled into believing that a referendum can in some way, to use the Secretary of State's words, take the border out of the day-to-day political situation. Experience of referenda in other countries belies that fact. One has only to look at the French referenda on regional government and the Common Market. When people came to vote, they reflected the overall political situation. That is what will happen in any referendum. People will not look at the poll isolated from other political influences. Some people will not take part in the poll; others will support the argument which has begun to be heard here about how the question is framed. We would have had this argument if there had been a referendum on the Common Market. One party would have said that the way that the question was framed was wrong and that therefore it was impossible, whatever one's views, to support the Government of the day. It would inevitably have become a bitter party political issue, and we all know it and that is why some of us rejected it.

Therefore, I hope that the message from both sides tonight will be that we have a system of government that has survived many blandishments. This plebiscite first started as a compromise, when Bonar Law and Asquith met in two secret meetings in 1913 and thought that having a plebiscite to allow Irish counties to opt out of the Home Rule Bill would somehow be a solution. It was not the solution then and it will not be in 1972 or 1973, whenever this border poll takes place. The message that the Secretary of State should take away is, "No more".

The need in Northern Ireland is for vision and courage. That will best come from Governments seizing this immensely complicated problem and looking for long-term solution. Perhaps the best hope will come through North and South being partners within a wider framework than even Ireland, the framework of the European Economic Community, of trading together, finding the same regional incentives coming from Brussels, working within a wider political framework which embraces many different religions and communities. It is that wider framework, even beyond the boundaries of a united Ireland that we must somehow make the vision for all the Irish to look to.

We sometimes forget that, ever since 1969, the practical result of everything that we have done in Northern Ireland, judged by any objective facts, has been failure. The sad thing is that, for all the optimistic statements—we understand the reasons for making them—the record shows odd peaks and troughs but overall a gradual decline. This is the issue that the Northern Irish people of all persuasions and all political views should recognise—that they are heading for a disastrous situation in that province.

The need is not for optimism but for the plain unvarnished truth of pessimism. What we must never forget is that we are the servants, in the last analysis, of that wider and great majority which is the majority of the United Kingdom. None of us in this House, whatever he may say here, can lose contact with that wider majority. Ultimately, that will be the majority that will speak.

The Northern Irish people, whatever their political views, should take more notice of the fact that there is beginning to grow up within the United Kingdom a profound pessimism and disillusionment with what is going on in that province. They must look to that wider majority, because that is the key to whatever constitutional changes this House will ever make. No one in this House wishes to make constitutional changes that will be stuffed down the throats of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, but, equally, no one here can commit himself not to make constitutional changes that would be demanded by the majority of the people in the United Kingdom.

So I say to the Government, "Do not be led down the by-lanes of referenda, border polls and plebiscites. Stick with representative democracy. "Many of us have fought and made sacrifices for this over many years, including recent years. It is worth making sacrifices for. I hope that this little Bill will not be the first chink in the armour of the overall strength of our present system of government.

5.24 p.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I should like to start with a comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James). It should be said plainly that all right-thinking Protestants also wholeheartedly and unreservedly condemn the attack on Mrs. Austin Currie, but we in Northern Ireland also share the revulsion against the cruel attack on a police reserve constable who, after getting into his car to go home after a hard night of service, was blown to pieces.

I also completely and totally condemn the irresponsibility of 65 Roman Catholic priests, who have made a terrible statement which needs to be condemned by the Government Front Bench—that British soldiers are leaving off their uniforms and going out on the streets of Belfast shooting innocent, unarmed Roman Catholic civilians in order to get the IRA on to the streets. I utterly condemn that and also the fact that these priests have condemned their fellow priests, whom they accuse of being afraid of intimidation, for not signing the same declaration. I do not want to raise the heat of this debate, but these things need to be said, and in this House. I fear that what has been said by those priests will once again put the whole Roman Catholic community into the hands of the Irish Republican Army.

The House needs to be reminded of the aim of the IRA. Its aim simply is to destroy the border and to remove from the majority of people in Northern Ireland the right to be part and parcel of the United Kingdom. We have been told by them, by the Prime Minister and by hon. Members on both sides that ordinary people should make their presence felt. The only way to do that is democratically to declare where they stand.

I go almost all the way with the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen). I do not like plebiscites or referenda. I believe that this House should govern Northern Ireland—that is why this House should stand for total integration and take the power completely into its own hands. But I am not arguing that today. I am simply saying that the people of Northern Ireland now have no parliament of their own. That was taken from them by an act of this House, and they have no way of expressing themselves on the burning issue of the day—whether the IRA will win and destroy the border or whether the people are determined to hold on to their British citizenship and the right to be members of the United Kingdom. That is the simple issue.

Before direct rule came in, I made a speech in the House on 20th March in which I said that it was essential that the people of Northern Ireland, both sides of the community, should have a democratic opportunity to express where they stood on this issue. When the Prime Minister announced the prorogation of Stormont and the taking of direct rule by this House, on 24th March, he said that there would be … a system of regular plebiscites in Northern Ireland about the Border, the first to be held as soon as practicable in the near future and others at intervals of a substantial period of years thereafter. These plebiscites will be in addition to, and not in substitution for, the provisions in the Ireland Act, 1949 …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1972; Vol. 883, c. 1862.] But Northern Ireland has no parliament, and if there is no likelihood of her having a real parliament, what is the use of the guarantee in that Act? The people must have an opportunity to express themselves, and that simply is what the Bill proposes.

Mr. Stallard

The hon. Member said that Northern Ireland has no Parliament. Nor has Lancashire. He is now exercising the same rights as any of us who represent constituencies which claim to be a part of the United Kingdom.

Rev. Ian Paisley

This House gave to the people of Northern Ireland their Parliament. The people did not pass the 1920 Act. It was passed by this House. It was a compromise, as the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton said, and he spoke about a secret meeting. But let this House not wash its hands, like Pilate, and say that it is clean, because it was this House that set up the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The House has a responsibility. It took away the Parliament of Northern Ireland. At the time it was taken away, a firm, concrete promise was given by the British Prime Minister that the people of Northern Ireland would be allowed to express themselves on this issue. The Prime Minister and the Government are obliged to honour that resolution and assurance they gave to the people of Northern Ireland. The Government have a right to keep that promise.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that he felt that the people of Northern Ireland should have a right to comment upon any firm proposals that were made in the White Paper; in other words, that there should be questions that would bring in the White Paper proposals. That has nothing whatever to do with the border poll. If this House, in its wisdom or otherwise, wants to put the proposals the Government have in mind to the electorate of Northern Ireland, it is quite entitled to do so, although I am sure that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton would vigorously oppose that and feel that we should stick to parliamentary procedures, as the people of Northern Ireland would like. But this issue cannot be mixed up with the White Paper, because there would be a series of proposals in the White Paper, some of which would be acceptable to probably all sides of the community, some of which acceptable to a large section of the majority of the community, but some of which would be totally unacceptable. Where should we be if we put every proposition in the White Paper to every man in the street for a decision on what he wants to accept or reject?

The two questions involved in the poll are reasonable and give each section of the community the right to vote affirmatively on them. That means that a person does not go to the poll and do nothing. The Government have a right to say, "Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom", or "Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom"? Those are plain, straight questions. No one needs to say to the House that people will be perplexed. They will not be perplexed, because some hon. Members of the Opposition have said that they already know the conclusion. If they do, they should be quite happy to await the result of this poll.

Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)

Will not the hon. Gentleman accept that those are not straight questions? They are proposed as alternative questions. The alternative question to "Do you wish to remain inside the United Kingdom?" is "Do you wish to remain outside it?". The majority of the people of Northern Ireland consider the arguments as having nothing to do with the Republic and are not being given an opportunity of voting, no matter how sensibly or ridiculously we view their attitude, for an independent Ulster. Many supporters of the hon. Member would support such a decision to have an independent Ulster rather than a republic.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Lady has no right to say what my supporters would vote for. She would not like me to suggest what her supporters would vote for. In last week's debate, the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) posed the question of the situation which would arise if the people of the United Kingdom said "We do not want Ulster to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom." I made it clear then that we would be driven out of the United Kingdom, but that would not mean that we would be driven into the arms of an Irish Republic. That is an entirely different thing.

The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland do not want to go outside the United Kingdom. They wish to remain in the United Kingdom in the same way as a citizen of Yorkshire, Scotland or Wales remains in the United Kingdom. That is why I advocate that this House takes its sovereign power and rules Northern Ireland properly. That is the policy I have always advocated.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that what the Opposition are saying is that when that question is asked we are entitled, as the Parliament of the British people, to ask the people of Northern Ireland under what conditions they are prepared to remain part of the United Kingdom? That is the key issue.

Rev. Ian Paisley

That may be the key issue when the White Paper is printed but it is not the key issue of the promise made by the Prime Minister. We were never told, when the promise was made, of a White Paper, a Green Paper, or any other paper. Those are side issues. I am talking of a promise made to the people of Northern Ireland. People from all sections of the community think that perhaps the Government should not have done what they did with Stormont. That is not just one section of the community. But our Parliament at Stormont was taken from us by this House, which had the right to do that. I have always stood for that. Stormont had its right to exercise its powers. The British Parliament said, "No, you will not exercise them", and it took them away. That was written into the 1920 Act.

But we were given a promise which was not linked with any White Paper or Green Paper. We were told plainly, "You will have a vote on the border issue." The people want to go to the polls to say to the IRA, "You will not, with bombs, bullets or anything else, put us into an all-Ireland Republic." The people have the right to say that.

The other section of the community has an equal right to go to the polls to say, "We want to be in a united Ireland." Both sections of the community should have the opportunity of expressing their wishes.

Miss Devlin

Following what the hon. Gentleman said, after the decision of the referendum, should the counties of Fermanagh and large sections of Tyrone, for example, vote that they want to be in the Irish Republic, would he agree that the border should be redrawn, allowing the counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone to be in the Republic?

Rev. Ian Paisley

No, I would not agree, because I believe that we are voting as a province. But if the British Parliament wants to take the issue to all the people of the United Kingdom, let it do so. If all people of the United Kingdom say, "We are sick, sore and tired of the Ulster people", so be it. Some Ulster Members are a little tired of other hon. Members telling us that they are sick, sore and tired. Our people are being slaughtered and all sections of the community, Roman Catholics and Protestants, are shedding tears. I am a little tired of people saying that they are sick, sore and tired of Northern Ireland. Some of us working in our constituencies are sick, sore and tired of what we see when we are trying to help people who are feeling the burden in the heat of the day. We would say, "If you want to drive us out, you can." The dark, eleventh hour may come, but we shall not be sold into a united Ireland, because the present constitution of the Republic is repugnant to Protestants and we would have nothing to do with it. There is no use in changing Article 44 for it only states a fact: that the vast majority of citizens of southern Ireland are Roman Catholic. If they want to write that into the constitution, they are entitled to do so. But if they vote Article 44 out of existence, they should not think that the people of Northern Ireland will then be taken into the South, for they will not. The people of Northern Ireland will still want to go on their own road. As long as they have the majority, the real safeguard for the people of Northern Ireland is not the border poll or any resolution passed in this House, but their own majority. As long as they have the majority, they will be able to continue on the road on which they want to walk.

I wish to deal with mechanics of the matter. In a Northern Ireland election, poll cards are not issued, which means that people are dependent on the election addresses received from the various candidates. I have opposed that arrangement in Stormont and here at Westminster. Everyone should receive a poll card with his name and number on it. If the election is to be conducted on the Stormont franchise, poll cards should be issued. There is not much difference between the Westminster franchise and the Stormont franchise—I believe it amounts to only 7,000 votes. The people in Northern Ireland will not fight over which franchise is used. That is not the issue. The Stormont franchise carries a residential qualification with which the citizens of the Republic must comply before they can vote. That is the only difference, and I would be quite happy if the Westminster franchise was used.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on the way in which he presented the Bill. His speech will be well received in Northern Ireland. He has spelled out what will happen, and that we shall have the poll out of the way before we deal with local government. I am surprised that any Labour supporter should agree with the Unionist Party, because the Unionists want the poll and the elections to be taken together. I do not agree. Let us have the local government elections after the plebiscite.

I urge the Secretary of State to press ahead with his proposals as quickly as possible in spite of the arguments put forward by the Opposition Front Bench about the tragedy of Northern Ireland. We are all living in that tragedy. People are still going to their work, they still have to go on the night shift and to their places of business and pleasure, and it is just as easy for them to go out to vote as it is for them to go out to work. We are living with a tragedy, and the sooner the poll is held the sooner Ulster can move forward in the direction in which the House wishes.

The decision will be made in this House, but let no one here think that the people of Northern Ireland will ever be bludgeoned, cajoled or bombed out of their right to remain outside the Irish Republic. They desire to remain full citizens of the United Kingdom, not only having the privileges but also carrying responsibilities. Ulster has carried certain responsibilities in the past and I am not here to eulogise the Unionist Party. I have been its most bitter opponent. The whole of Northern Ireland has shared the sorrows of the United Kingdom and has shared its trials. At least we should be able to share the blessings and the privileges and, please God, so will our children in the future.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

I have made my attitude and my position clear since the plebiscite was first announced. Normally a plebiscite or referendum is held to determine the attitude of the people to a given issue. It has already been stated today that the outcome of the plebiscite is well known, and it is therefore a wasted exercise. It will tell us nothing that we do not already know and it could escalate the tension in Northern Ireland. I hope that I am proved wrong because I do not want to see further tragedy or fatalities in that country. But it would be the supreme optimist who would say that the holding of a plebis- cite in such conditions would not lead to further death and tragedy.

I wish first to take up the point raised by the lion. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) about the mechanics of the plebiscite. The Secretary of State said this afternoon that it would be held under the Westminster constituency system. Shall we know how the various constituencies vote? Shall we know, for example, how the vote goes in Mid-Ulster, Belfast, West or Fermanagh and South Tyrone? We are all too well aware that the Northern Ireland borders were deliberately drawn to create a permanent majority and a permanent minority.

It is well recognised by the Minister of State and the Secretary of State that flags are important in Northern Ireland. To anyone who espouses the continuation of the link with Great Britain, the Union Jack is an important symbol. To anyone who espouses unity with the Republic and the eventual reunification of Ireland, the Irish Tricolour is the political symbol. At the moment it is an offence to carry the Irish Tricolour. The Special Powers Act, the Flags and Emblems Act, the Public Order Act and all the other repressive legislation prevents anyone who espouses the cause of a united Ireland from actively campaigning in the referendum.

In the 1964 election the Republican candidate for West Belfast—it was not me, because I was on the opposite side of the fence acting on behalf of another candidate—had his headquarters in Divis Street outside the Falls Road. He flew the Tricolour outside his headquarters and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) threatened that if the police and the security forces did not take the flag down from the window he would lead an army to do so. That was the beginning of the Divis Street riots. The hon. Member said that those who want unity with Ireland and the abolition of the border should be given every right and facility to say so. Does he mean that anyone in Northern Ireland who espouses the cause of national unity should be allowed to carry the Tricolour, that they should not be arrested under the Special Powers Act or the Public Order Act?

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Member not agree that not only was the Tricolour flown but threats were made to the Methodist congregation which had to stop its Sunday evening church services? Many people in Northern Ireland passed along that road which was on the border of the Shankill Road, and under the Flags and Emblems Act it was illegal to put out that flag. I was asking only for the Government of the day to enforce the law.

Mr. Fitt

I would not agree with the hon. Member. In Belfast there are the "grey areas", where Protestants and Catholics live together. He says that many people traversed that area of Divis Street and that did not like the sight of the Tricolour and wanted it taken down. How can a referendum or plebiscite be held if one party is to be denied the right to use that symbol?

We have the Special Powers Act and all the authority that is given to the police. If those who wish to maintain the link want to call a meeting in Royal Avenue in the centre of Belfast they may do so, and there would be thousands of Union Jacks present on such an occasion. Yet if those who seek to bring about the unity of Ireland wanted to hold a meeting in Royal Avenue and wished to carry with them the Irish Tricolour, will they be permitted to do so? There will be one section of the people in this referendum who will not be given all the privileges that will be given to another section. Northern Ireland was deliberately drawn to give a permanent majority to the Unionists.

Look at what was said in the House by the then Prime Minister when discussing the Home Rule Bill. Mr. Asquith said then: You can no more split Ireland into parts than you can split England or Scotland into parts … you have in Ireland a greater fundamental unity of race, temperament and tradition … I am expressing my own opinion, which I believe to be justified by experience. You have an essential unity of race and temperament. …The more Irishmen are encouraged and empowered to co-operate in the great works of governing their own country the more convinced am I that these differences will disappear … in that common sense of fundamental and overpowering unity which I believe to be at the centre of Irish nationality."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th June, 1912; Vol. 39. c. 787.] Those sentiments are as clear and valid today as they were then.

The Government are now telling the Irish people that they will give hope to one section of the community but not to another. They will not give to that other section the opportunity to determine their destinies as between the two parts of Ireland. Mr. Asquith also said elsewhere: Ireland is a nation, not two nations, but one nation. There are few cases in history, and as a student of history in a humble way, I myself know none, of a nationality at once so distinct, so persistent, and so assimilitive as the Irish. He said later: There are obvious and formidable objections to exclusion "— this was when he was talking about setting up the Six Counties— in whatever guise they may be clothed, and I believe they are felt quite as much by men of all parties and opinions in Ireland as they are by more detached critics outside."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th March, 1914; Vol. 59 c. 912.] No one will support the partitioning of Ireland, said Mr. Asquith.

Unfortunately, he has been proved to be wrong. In this situation when men and women of good will throughout the world have said, "Let the Irish people settle their own problems and learn to live together," what the Government are doing is to give back into the hands of the minority the right to dictate to the majority. Sooner or later this situation must be brought to an end.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

The hon. Gentleman said that the boundaries of Northern Ireland have been so delineated as to perpetuate a Protestant majority in the North. How was it that Professor McNeill withdrew from the Boundary Commission that was to delineate reasonable boundaries and to establish the Six Counties? The Irish Commissioner unilaterally withdrew and as a result a settlement which would have been more favourable to the Free State was denied.

Mr. Fitt

I do not know how long the hon. Member has been in the House but he should take a little trip to the Library and read, in the life of Lord Carson, what Lord Carson said in another place in 1934. Lord Carson, the architect of Northern Ireland, said, In the setting up of the State of Northern Ireland we —meaning the Unionist Party— went around every town, village and hamlet in the counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan to see if it would be possible to govern the Unionist Province of Ulster from the City of Belfast. In other words, he was counting the heads of Protestants and Catholics in the nine counties of Ulster. He found out that the figures were against him. So what they did was to take as much land as they could with as much of a population as they possibly could to give them majority-minority politics in Northern Ireland—with a permanent 65 per cent, majority.

One of my colleagues said to me today that this is just about the only plebiscite in which the result was determined 50 years ago. We all know the result. What will the result achieve? My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has already asked what this plebiscite is about. Is it to determine the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, given that the State was brought into existence by such crude methods? What happens if the people in County Tyrone vote for exclusion from the United Kingdom and want to align themselves with the Irish Republic? Will they be allowed to do so? Will the same thing apply in Fermanagh and Derry? Everyone knows that the Unionist majority population is centred in the city of Belfast and within a radius of about 30 miles of that city.

What is democracy all about? Does it mean that although we know that the people in County Tyrone do not want the present constitutional relationship between the United Kingdom and themselves, they have to have it, whether they like it or not? Are the Government saying that they will send their security forces into County Tyrone and, "if you do not like what we are telling you to do, then you will have to lump it, because we assure you we have the power and means to make you accept our decisions"? This is exactly what the Unionist Party has been doing since the creation of Northern Ireland 50 years ago.

An hon. Member predicted mass abstentions, a possible boycott of the poll. There will be people in the city of Belfast who would like to vote one way or the other but who will be intimidated into staying away from the polls because of a fear that their homes may be wrecked, that they will be readily identifiable and that their wives or children may be beaten up because they have had the termerity to cast their vote one way or the other. In East Belfast there are thousands of people living in fear. If a Catholic is recognised on polling day, although it may be quite possible that he intends to cast his vote for the maintenance of the link with Great Britain, to the thugs and Unionist extremists standing at the corner of the street or out in support of the other side that person will be a Catholic who will vote only one way. Such a person could meet his death on the way to the polls. These people think that every Catholic in Northern Ireland will vote for inclusion with the Republic and that every Protestant will vote the other way.

[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]

Miss Devlin

May I add to the point which my hon. Friend is making? I notice certain hon. Members from Northern Ireland constituencies shaking their heads in disagreement and saying "Rubbish". My hon. Friend will remember that at the last two elections held in mid-Ulster he actively campaigned on my behalf and that it was necessary at the polling station at Tobermore to have two loads of policemen on full-time duty to allow the Catholics of the area into that polling station.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at my election at Toome Bridge the situation was completely reversed and that on the night of the poll my agent had to be brought out of the polling station by two loads of policemen?

Mr. Fitt

I think that what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and by the hon. Member for Antrim, North will serve to illustrate the dangers which are involved in carrying out this plebiscite at this time. We have heard of intimidation in Ulster and I am well aware of it at Toomebridge, represented by the hon. Member. Those elections were to send people to this House. Think how much more emotive and dangerous it will be when a vote on the question of the border is involved. Passions will be aroused, and tensions which already exist will be greatly increased.

For what? We know now what the result of the plebiscite will be. The questions in the Bill as drafted will be the questions on the ballot paper, and we are told that the loyal people of Northern Ireland want to say, "Yes, we want to remain part of the United Kingdom." That is what we hear. There will be voting members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Northern Ireland Alliance Party, the Democratic Party and the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, all those people who are continuously at loggerheads with one another, and they will be forced to say "Yes". Of course, the will of the greater numbers here will determine that the plebiscite is to take place, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said, there should be inclusion of further questions to give moderate, peaceful-minded people in Northern Ireland the opportunity to express their opinions. What the Government are asking, by proposing these two questions, are that the extremists shall decide what they want and what they do not want. This is appealing to the baser instincts of the extremists in Northern Ireland.

I know that there are many of my hon. Friends who want to take part in the debate, so I shall bring my remarks to a conclusion quickly, but I pose a valid question. If the plebiscite takes place, will every citizen in Northern Ireland be guaranteed protection on his way to and from the polling station? Will voters not be handicapped by the Public Order Act and the Special Powers Act? Will they be permitted, for instance, to advocate the unity of Ireland and to display the Tricolour as a political symbol? This has never happened in the past and I cannot see it happening now or in the future. Till both sections of the community are given the right and opportunity to express their will in this matter, this plebiscite will prove to be a recipe for disaster in Northern Ireland.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)

I feel I must first of all apologise to my right hon. Friend for missing the first minutes of his speech.

I have listened carefully to the debate and the first thing I want to do is support the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). Simply because one is not totally involved in Northern Ireland, as some hon. Members who have spoken are, one hopes that one may, perhaps, be able to see the problem at a distance and, therefore, in a different focus. One would like to claim that one would be more balanced, but I would not have the temerity to do so. I would say straight away that if there is one reason for holding this plebiscite, and soon, it is that a pledge was made in this House and that in Northern Ireland the confidence of the people in Westminster rests upon the fact that when we make a promise we carry it out. That pledge was made, and, therefore, we must carry it out.

Some people ask, why have the plebiscite at all since we know the answer before it starts? They say that we are merely going through a public relations operation which will signify nothing at all. One hon. Member has said that this afternoon. After four years of violence such as that province has never seen before, and after 52 years in which it had a parliament and now it does not have one, I suggest that it would not be a bad idea to know just how keen the people of Northern Ireland are on maintaining the union with the United Kingdom. The situation is not the same as it was pre-1968. It is different. Attitudes need to be expressed, and this plebiscite is at least one may by which the people of Northern Ireland can do just that.

I must add that at this moment Northern Ireland is the least democratically represented part of the United Kingdom, and that, in turn, has created a frustration in the people of Northern Ireland, which, to some extent at least, they can get rid of in this plebiscite; for it will be the first time they will have had a say in their future since the suspension of Stormont.

There is an additional advantage which this plebiscite may confer. I refer to world opinion. Some people, abroad in particular, have the impression that Ulster is one of the last outposts of British imperialism, that it is kept within the United Kingdom by force of arms, and that, given the chance, the people who live there would willingly and gladly leave the bosom of the United Kingdom and clutch the bosom of Dublin. Well, let us have the plebiscite; let us have a simple vote and let us find out; and let us give the answer to the world, the answer which the people of Northern Ireland want to give.

It has been suggested in this debate that this plebiscite is something quite new in British political life. It has been suggested that the wording of the questions is wrong and that it should be changed because it does not give enough flexibility. A brief word on the wording: can it ever be perfect? Can we ever reach a state of affairs where everybody says, "This is marvellous"? We have to have a rough-and-ready justice.

However, this is not the first plebiscite of its kind. There is a plebiscite to decide the future of another part of the world which wishes to remain under the British crown. I refer to the referendum in Gibraltar in 1969. We are all aware of the Spanish claims at that time expressed, as they were, in the United Nations and elsewhere, and the pressure put on the Gibraltarians to surrender to Spain by closing the border to their workers. Spain claimed this rock with its tiny population of 12,000 or 15,000 people. They said that it belonged to Spain and if its people were only given the chance to show it, they would wish to clasp the bosom of Madrid. We had the referendum and we know what happened. Only 44 people out of the total population of Gibraltar voted to join Spain. Not one of us in this House will deny that since the referendum we have heard very little from the Spanish claimants suggesting that Gibraltar should somehow be part of their country.

Mr. Rose

Would not the hon. Member concede that there is a difference between Gibraltar and Northern Ireland—that whereas everyone universally in Gibraltar was totally in accord with the system of government, that is certainly not the case in Northern Ireland and has not been for the past 50 years?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

That may well be a point, but the simple fact of the referendum in Gibraltar settled that issue.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Settled it?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Up to this moment no claim has come, so far as I am aware, from the Spanish to suggest that we are coercing the people of Gibraltar to remain under the British crown. So I suggest that the plebiscite about the border in Northern Ireland would have a like effect.

Mr. Stallard

Would the hon. Gentleman say whether he would be satisfied if the result of this referendum were based on a 50.1 majority? Would he accept that there is an argument here for varying the percentage to what would be an acceptable majority?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is trying to lead me down a dangerous avenue. However, I merely say that I believe in a simply majority, and I leave my answer in those terms.

To come back to the value of a plebiscite; if it is allowed to be a success—and why should anybody wish it not to be, for here is the opportunity for those who claim that the move towards a united Ireland is overwhelmingly strong to prove the point?—we shall know the majority will of the people we are now ruling from Westminster. That success depends on the number of people who will be able to vote. Therefore, the question of intimidation, violence and the need for total security arises.

Security in the first issue is a task for the security forces, but I say to my right hon. Friend—although I know that I am telling him something he knows—that if more than the present 21,000 troops are needed to make the plebiscite successful, we must have more troops. I suggest that the territorial units in Northern Ireland, which for some strange reason exist apart from the security forces, might be brought into play.

Has my right hon. Friend considered whether the voting hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. must necessarily stand for this operation, or whether they might be reduced by one or two hours to cut down the after-dark danger of violence? What measures does my right hon. Friend plan to introduce to protect those who are involved in carrying out the election, the staff, for they could be more at risk than anyone else?

Comparing this plebiscite with the Gibraltar referendum, has my right hon. Friend given thought of having an impartial group of observers to make sure of fair play in all the counties of Ulster? The observers in Gibraltar undoubtedly were of great value. They were drawn from Commonwealth countries and they brought in a third-party measure of fairness that was appreciated by everyone involved and refuted any attempts to suggest that the referendum had been rigged in such a way as to give a majority to those who wished to stay under the British Crown.

Lastly, I come to the question whether the White Paper should come before or after the plebiscite. The Secretary of State this afternoon appeared to be opening a door to the suggestion that the White Paper might come before. I hope it does not. It can be argued that it is one thing to ask the people of Northern Ireland whether they wish to remain British when they know what form of government they will enjoy, but it is quite another to do that when they have no political institutions of their own and are awaiting a fresh crop of institutions from this country. But to have a plebiscite on the White Paper as well as on the border is to muddle the whole issue. Why have a plebiscite on the White Paper? Why not put on the plebiscite sheet a series of questions about possible form that the Government of Northern Ireland might take? When the answers to those questions is obtained, then we can have the White Paper.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, the plebiscite is about whether the people of Northern Ireland want to remain British. It is as simple as that. Do they want to remain British regardless of the political institutions that are set up, or are they prepared to remain British only on conditions. It would not be helpful to have the answer that they want to remain British only on certain conditions. In that case there could be no future for Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, nor would we wish Northern Ireland to remain with us. Therefore, the question which must be posed, without any statement about what the institutions are to be, is, "Do you wish to remain British, or do you wish to join the South? If you remain British then you are accepting the implication of the Green Paper that in the future Westminster will loom largest in the government of your province".

I strongly suggest to my right hon. Friend that the White Paper should not come before the plebiscite, but that the simple question contained in the Bill should be asked. The answer will tell us beyond a peradventure the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland, and we shall not have entered into an obscene political auction that can only keep the doubts, uncertainties and violence alive.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) referred to simple questions and made a simple, if not simplistic, analogy with Gibraltar. Surely the fatal flaw in his analogy is that whereas Gibraltar is a united community, we are dealing with a divided community and, whereas Gibraltar is ruled by consent, we are dealing with a community a large part of which is ruled without consent.

Another flaw in the reasoning of almost all the speakers on the Government side is the assumption that a person can vote on whether or not he wants Northern Ireland to belong to the United Kingdom without knowing what kind of Northern Ireland there will be. It is impossible for him to do so without knowing the type of Northern Ireland that he is voting for.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said, this must be the first plebiscite in history the result of which was predetermined more than half a century ago. His speech and that of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) suggested the flavour of the divisiveness that will undoubtedly occur if such a plebiscite is held. An entity having been carved out specifically to give an artificial majority to one section of the population of Ireland, surely the whole exercise is futile and begs the question. The result will enable the South to say that the people of Northern Ireland are a minority of the people of Ireland, and it will enable the Unionists to say that the Unionists are the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Wilkinson

If that logic had swayed the Labour Government, they would not in 1947 have granted partition to India on the basis of the self-determination of the contested States. It was perfectly clear that the States with a Muslim majority would opt for Pakistan.

Mr. Rose

We all saw what happened in India following partition. There has been war and massacre and now Bangladesh has emerged from the flames. In the same way, two countries were coerced into belonging to Ulster and, according to the hon. Gentleman's argument, they would have the same right to leave Northern Ireland as Bangladesh had to leave Pakistan. Analogies can prove almost anything, and it is no more helpful to make that kind of foolish analogy than it is to make the simplistic analogy with Gibraltar. What we are dealing with, unhappily, is Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State, in an overall package which was welcomed, threw a sop, a hostage to fortune, by promising this poll, and it is something that he must regret. It is only because I believe it is wrong for a Government to renege on a commitment that I shall not be going into the Lobby to oppose the Bill in principle. I support the amendment, which is a reasoned and reasonable amendment.

Northern Ireland cannot, unhappily, be divorced from its history and birth pangs. It is interesting to look at the last occasion when the view of the people of Ireland was expressed. It was on 12th June, 1920, when the last county council elections were held in Ireland under the union with Britain. There were then 33 counties, because Tipperary for some reason had two councils. Of those the Unionists received the majority in four only: Antrim, Derry, Armagh and Down. The overwhelming support for the Nationalists was also demonstrated in the elections to the House of Commons at the time through the Nationalist Members who were then elected. That was the last plebiscite in Ireland and I did not hear those who paid lip service to the plebiscite today draw attention to that last plebiscite in Ireland.

I am the first to concede that we have to look at things as they are; we must look at the reality of what has happened over 50 years. We cannot put the clock back to the situation as it was 50 years ago and pretend that Northern Ireland as a separate, albeit artificial, entity, did not come into existence.

I do not believe that Ulster or Northern Ireland can be coerced against the will of the people into an all-Ireland State and I do not believe there are many people in Ireland who would wish to see that. There are a variety of reasons why many in Northern Ireland would object to it. Some reasons axe legitimate; others are perhaps hysterical. We all understand some of the clerical overtones in the Republic, some of the personal laws, censorship, and other matters which offend Protestants in the North—matters which the Opposition have been urging the Republic to remedy. The Republic has already begun to remedy the situation in terms of Article 44. These matters are obstacles to reconciliation, just as much as the trappings of 50 years of Unionist domination were obstacles in the North. But already, as I have said, the Republic is moving on these matters.

We have the right to ask those who pay lip service to the rule of the majority "What became of the two counties which were unwillingly drawn into the Province of Ulster?" I would ask the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) on the question of Fermanagh and Tyrone to turn up in the Library the speech made by the then Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. He said: There is no doubt, certainly since the Act of 1920, that the majority of the people of the two counties prefer being with their Southern neighbours to being in the Northern Parliament … and although I am against the coercion of Ulster, I do not believe in Ulster coercing other units. I wonder what the hon. Gentleman has to say about a form of coercion in those circumstances where under every available method then available it was clearly shown that those two counties did not wish to be included in Ulster.

Mr. Wilkinson

What I was trying to explain was that it was clear that if the recommendations of the Irish Boundary Commission had been accepted—and I invite the hon. Gentleman to turn to page 146 of that report—by a ratio of three to one, the Free State would have had a more favourable start.

Mr. Rose

The hon. Member must know that at the end of the negotiations on the treaty Michael Collins went back taking with him the word of Lloyd George and an understanding that those two counties were to be a part of the Republic. He was badly let down and the recent revelations in regard to the Boundary Commission—revelations which, apparently, the hon. Gentleman has not read—show that those two counties were coerced into the State of Ulster. That is the sordid historical side of the matter. My objections to a plebiscite are objections of principle because of that very fact. The withdrawal at this stage of the promise made by the Minister could have worse consequences than if we go ahead with the poll. It could do more harm than good because it might feed the fires of those who play on majority fears of being sold down the river at Westminster.

The only way to balance the equation—and this is why I am prepared to support the amendment—is to time the plebiscite so that it coincides with other moves. These should include a Bill of Rights and local elections on the new franchise and with new boundaries, together with a guarantee of minority participation at all levels of national and local government. If this does not happen, the plebiscite will be highly divisive and will create far more violence than it is like to remove. It will bring to the fore the very ugly sectarian passion that we want to see eliminated. It will raise into prominence the very issue which needs to be taken out of Northern Ireland politics.

The border is not an issue in the sense of Ulster being gobbled up by Mr. Lynch. He realises only too well that such a meal would give him severe indigestion. Many in Northern Ireland seem to misunderstand the situation. It is in issue in the sense that a freely negotiated settlement or arrangement with the Republic should not exclude eventual federation or union. These two considerations will not be excluded by the placing of crosses on a ballot paper. Ballot papers are a first-class example of the danger of referenda. They pose false alternatives and exclude many other possible alternatives. I could vote "Yes" to both questions—the first in the short term and the second in the long term. But there may be even a third "Yes"—namely, if we want to look into the longer long term, to federation of the whole of Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom.

We have also had proposals for a condominium, which has been supported by some people. Indeed Mr. Richie Ryan, a respected member of the Dail and also a Member of the Council of Europe, advanced this idea. But the real issue is not whether people want to remain part of the United Kingdom or part of the Republic of Ireland, but whether they want to remain linked on the basis of the kind of government we have seen over a period of 50 years involving Unionist tyranny or on the basis of the kind of proposals put forward in the White Paper. For this reason the White Paper must come first, and it is intolerable to have a poll on the constitution without knowing on what conditions the people are to remain in the United Kingdom. It is putting the cart before the horse.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting, after the publication of the Green Paper with its implication that the Stormont Parliament will not continue in the way it has, that people in Ulster imagine that they will return to the government which they have had for 50 years. Therefore, the future clearly will see a new situation, and it is simply not true to suggest that it will be a vote for the past.

Mr. Rose

The hon. Gentleman appears to be remarkably naive about the situation in Northern Ireland. Union with the United Kingdom must involve certain changes in attitude and an acceptance of the kind of standards which we accept in the rest of the United Kingdom. A "Yes" vote is not only a "Yes" to belonging to the United Kingdom but a "Yes" to a democratic Ulster—an Ulster which will be very different from the kind of Ulster we have seen in the last 50 years.

One hon. Member seemed to think that the history of Ulster began only two and a half years ago. In apportioning blame for the terrorism on both sides, about which we all know, he forgets what has happened over the last 50 years. The people must decide whether they are opting for the Ulster of the hard-line Unionist Faulkner or the demagogic bigot Mr. Craig, or the kind of Ulster for which we on the Opposition benches have been asking for some time.

It is the kind of Ulster and the quality of Ulster which is the issue that should be voted on. A wide spectrum of opinion from the Alliance Party up to the party of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West—the SDLP—accepts the broad terms of the White Paper, as we hope it will be if it follows in the wake of the Green Paper.

There are large sections of people in Ulster who do not accept that but who would nevertheless be prepared to vote "Yes" in the stark terms of the referendum. Are they prepared to vote "Yes" to an Ulster without the Special Powers Act? Are they prepared to vote "Yes" to an Ulster that does away with the kind of discrimination we have seen over this period? Are they prepared to vote "Yes" to an Ulster in which the communities on both sides disavow their extremists and recognise that they are perverting proud national and religious symbols into symbols of hate? Will they understand when voting in that way that it is a new Ulster for which they are voting?

If the Ulster loyalists want their cake they cannot have their halfpenny as well. They cannot have a sum of £200 million in cash and, what is far more tragic, a subsidy in human lives and blood when the very people who have defended them are now being stabbed in their backs for their pains.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will my hon. Friend also say that those in the minority community who utter very strong strictures against British troops whose purpose for being in Northern Ireland is to defend them must realise that the price in blood cannot be paid for ever?

Mr. Rose

Everyone in Northern Ireland in the majority and in the minority communities must understand that, whatever the hon. Member for Antrim, North said, the patience of the British people is not inexhaustible. Every day we see manifestations of this at the grass roots level, not only on the part of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition who reflect this but in a growing weariness and a growing impatience with what they regard as essentially a domestic Irish quarrel. There is the danger of British public opinion reaching the point where it says "Pull out our forces who are being shot at from both sides"; and there will be a terrible result. It will be a result in which we shall see pogroms and massacres and the 300 years of bitterness will come to a dreadful fruition and conclusion.

The terrible tragedy is that the sufferers will be those who are the most downtrodden, those who have the most in common, be they Protestant or Catholic, Nationalist or Unionist, who should be fighting shoulder to shoulder for better social conditions, better housing and jobs and against the neglect of the Province which we have seen over the past 50 years and who have been conned by the banners and the sashes on both sides into fighting one another at the expense of their mutual interests.

It is for these reasons, because of the appallingly bad timing, because of the simplistic and stark manner in which the questions are posed, because of the ignoring of the historical reality of the way in which Ulster came into being, and because of the detachment of the questions from the other important changes that are foreshadowed in Ulster, that the plebiscite is not only irrelevant but is divisive and ultimately harmful.

I shall vote for the reasoned amendment tonight. If the Government do not meet the amendments that many of my hon. Friends and I shall table for Thursday, they must not assume that, in our anxiety to remain bipartisan and to be helpful, we will be willing to go through the Lobby on Third Reading in support of the Bill.

The Government must be prepared to accept amendments in Committee, because there are many of us who think that 2½ million Irishmen and 55 million people in Britain, apart from the 1½ million people in Northern Ireland itself, also have a very legitimate interest in what happens in a divided Ulster.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

When I was listening to the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) my mind was going back to his attitude to Israel and to the Arab cause. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a very strong supporter of Israel and a very strong opponent of the Arab cause.

Mr. Rose

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that I have been an equally strong and passionate supporter of the Arab cause where Arab national independence movements have stood, in Aden and elsewhere? What the hon. Gentleman has just said is entirely wrong and is calculated to inject into the debate a little more of the religious bigotry which we know he already stands for.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am not trying to bring any religious bigotry into the debate, and I do not think that on any occasion I have engaged in such conduct. I know the hon. Gentleman's position in respect of Israel. He should equally condemn the terrorists who are threatening Northern Ireland, people with a different culture and with a different tradition to the people of Eire.

The hon. Gentleman spoke of 50 years of Unionist tyranny. This is absolute nonsense. There was never any tyranny in Northern Ireland. It would be the most surprising state of affairs if that were true, because that would have been a tyranny which saw an increase in the number of people who were allegedly being persecuted, people even coming from the Free State into Northern Ireland. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's allegation about tyranny.

That is the sort of lurid language that we hear from the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), but I do not need to refer to his speech because the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party has rightly condemned the hon. Member for Belfast, West and the SDLP as a sectarian party. The chairman went on to describe their proposals for the future of Northern Ireland as "utterly sectarian" and said they proved quite conclusively that the SDLP was nothing more than a new Nationalist Party". Unfortunately, that is the party with which many hon. Members on the Opposition side wish to ally themselves in preference to the great mass of ordinary members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. The Chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party said in October that the SDLP had apparently decided to adopt the idea that there are two nations in Ireland, divided from each other by religion and that eventually the Catholic nation must coerce the Protestant nation. That is what the SDLP stands for. I am glad to hear the ordinary members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party rightly condemn such an attitude. I am sorry that the Opposition do not equally condemn such an attitude on the part of the SDLP.

Mr. McNamara

The hon. Gentleman said earlier that he was a moderate. So he is, as was Genghis Khan to Attila the Hun. That being so, is not what the hon. Gentleman said what Erskine Holmes said that the SDLP is; and, therefore, as Mr. Erskine Holmes is not notorious as a supporter of the policies of the SDLP, no more than is the hon. Gentleman, we shall take what he is saying with a pinch of salt?

Mr. Kilfedder

Mr. Erskine Holmes may well have condemned the SDLP. I would not be surprised if he had. I am referring to the newly elected and democratically elected Chairman of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, Mr. Archie McArdle. That is another leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party who condemns the attitude of some hon. Members opposite in preferring the SDLP.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West said that in the plebiscite the Roman Catholics will vote against the link with Britain and that Protestants will vote for the link. That was the message the hon. Gentleman had. We know from an opinion poll which was conducted in Northern Ireland recently by the political magazine Fortnight, which is the local equivalent of the New Statesman—[Interruption.]—I say that not because I approve of the New Statesman or of whoever its editor for the time being may be. I say it because Fortnight is not a Unionist magazine. It is anti-Unionist.

That opinion poll clearly established that 41 per cent. of Roman Catholics taken from a sample over all the Province were against the removal of the border. Only 24 per cent. voted in favour of getting rid of partition; 26 per cent. abstained and 9 per cent. did not know.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Kilfedder

No, I shall not give way, because there are others who wish to speak.

Mr. Duffy

That is what the hon. Gentleman always says.

Mr. Kilfedder

No. I have given way already, and if I give way again it will further lengthen my speech.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) made what I thought was a most interesting and admirable speech, with much of which I could agree. Like him, I am against referenda and plebiscites. Although I was against Britain's entry into the Common Market, I voted against the holding of a plebiscite because I did not regard that as the way to decide the issue. As has been said, it is impossible to select questions which will please everyone. If we had decided to hold a referendum or plebiscite on the Common Market, we should be arguing for a year about the right questions to put to the nation. But I accept a plebiscite in the present case because the Government promised a plebiscite to the people of Northern Ireland, and that pledge must not be broken.

There has been a campaign of violence in Northern Ireland which has nearly broken the law-abiding people of Ulster. The recent campaign of urban and rural terror waged by the IRA and the Provisional IRA is aimed, and always has been aimed, directly at the destruction of Stormont and at establishing an all-Ireland Socialist republic, whatever that may mean in their terms. The campaign has cost 623 lives and injury to over 7,000 people, and has given rise to a compensation bill of inestimable proportions. The Supplementary Estimate of £15 million could by no means cover the full extent of such compensation. Each bomb, each killing and each injury has increased the uncertainty felt by the people of Northern Ireland, and this is why it is so essential that the plebiscite be held, in order to restore their morale and give them certainty for the future.

It is noteworthy that Miss Maguire, who escaped from the clutches of Mr. MacStiofain, has said—we in Ulster knew it already—that the Provisional IRA deliberately engaged in sectarian killings, the purpose being to provoke the Protestant people into retaliation. It is much to the credit of those people that there has not been the retaliation which the Provisional IRA expected.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) talked about the moderates. The great majority of people in Northern Ireland are moderates, and in that I include members of the Unionist Party. I am proud of the restraint which they have shown.

We have two political movements in Northern Ireland to which reference has been made today, the Alliance Party and the new Ulster Movement. They have never fought an election, and we do not know what strength of support they have. [An HON. MEMBER: "Any time."]

Captain Orr

Exactly—any time.

Mr. Kilfedder

At any time they could have come forward and contested other elections, but they did not risk putting their policy before the public in an election. They have their reasons for wishing to delay the plebiscite. They have their reasons for wishing complicated questions to be put to the people. They wish to see the Unionist Party disintegrate.

It must be recognised that the plebiscite is essential, and essential for one particular reason—to reduce tension. We have heard a good deal about what may happen when a plebiscite is held. I recognise that there is fear of danger and of intimidation. There are those who do not wish the people to record their vote one way or another. But it is important for the peace of mind of most people in Northern Ireland that the plebiscite should be held, and held as quickly as possible.

In common with other hon. Members I received from the New Ulster Movement a memorandum which was printed after the Bill was published. The opening passage of that memorandum tells us that A referendum was promised by Her Majesty's Government on the prorogation of Stormont. No referendum was promised by the Government. The Government promised a plebiscite, and there is an essential difference between the two. A referendum is a constitutional device to involve a people directly in the legislative process. The Australian constitution, for example, provides for a referendum in certain circumstances. Nearer home, the Eire constitution requires the holding of a referendum if it be proposed to revise or change a provision of the constitution. But what the Government promised here was a plebiscite, not a referendum. The people of Northern Ireland are not to be asked whether they want a particular change in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. They are to be asked to express an opinion on the border.

The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) suggested that the Opposition's reasoned amendment is fully in line with the Government's pledges and with what the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have said in the House. It is worth recalling what has been said in the House since 24th March. On 28th March the Secretary of State said: I wish first to repeat the assurance about the border. Under the 1949 Act the border is still in position. Clearly, the assurance stands absolutely that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority so decide. In addition to that assurance, we have the proposals for a plebiscite which add"— I emphasise the word "add"— to the assurance I gave, and that assurance stands in the name of all parties in this House."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th March, 1972; Vol. 834, c. 242.] Those were my right hon. Friend's words. He gave a powerful assurance, without qualification or equivocation, and he spoke of the holding of a plebiscite in order to reinforce that assurance that Northern Ireland would stay within the United Kingdom until the majority decide otherwise. In fact, my right hon. Friend was repeating what the Prime Minister had said on 24th March in the House, that the holding of the plebiscite would take the border issue out of everyday Ulster politics.

The Government's purpose was clearly to endorse the pledges which have been given since the days of Mr. Attlee in 1948 by testing the views of the people on the specific issue of the border. There was no commitment to ascertain their views on any other question. There was no intention to ask the people what they thought about an independent Ulster or what they thought of dual control of Ulster, as suggested by the SDLP, both of which propositions have been rejected by the Government. I agree with the Government in their references to those propositions in the Green Paper. What was proposed was a plebiscite on the border.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for missing the opening part of his speech. In giving us his account of the Government's policy on this matter, does he agree also with their policy as stated by the Prime Minister when announcing direct rule—one finds it in paragraph 41 of the Green Paper—that there are to be periodic plebiscites on the border? If, in 10 years, it reaches the pitch that there is a majority in favour of joining the South, would the hon. Gentleman agree on that?

Mr. Kilfedder

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's observations about periodic plebiscites and I shall, if I may, come to them later.

It is said by some hon. Members opposite that the plebiscite should not take place until the White Paper has been published, the argument being that the plebiscite on the specific question of the border cannot be put until the people know the shape and functions of the future assembly, whatever it be, which is to take the place of Stormont. The same could be said about the second question. Should people in Northern Ireland be asked whether they want to join the Irish Republic without knowing the kind of republic they are being asked to join? Will it be the same old theocratic reactionary republic with which we are all familiar today?

One can think of many questions—I see the hon. Lady for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) nodding in agreement—which any intelligent Roman Catholic in Northern Ireland would want to have answered before casting his vote against the border. The question would be different for different people, but if Father Faul of Dongannon is right—and I am sure he is not—many Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland would join the Republic tomorrow—or perhaps even tonight—because the sale of contraceptives is illegal there. He thinks, as many do, that people in Northern Ireland spend their time queueing up in chemists' shops in order to buy contraceptives.

I am sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster would agree with me when I say that people in Northern Ireland cannot be expected—

Rev. Ian Paisley

My hon. Friend is on dangerous ground.

Mr. Kilfedder

—to say whether they want to go into the Republic when one does not know when, or whether, the Republic of Eire will change into a progressive and reasonable State.

Miss Devlin

The points made by the hon. Gentleman about Father Faul of Dongannon and the constitution of the Irish Republic are of some value, but the fact is that the women of the Free State are managing in their own fair circumstances to survive, and the question of least importance in Southern Ireland is that of contraceptives. People there are much more concerned about the right of married women to work, about the position of the family in the constitution of the Irish Republic, about the wages structure and so on. It belittles the argument to reduce the aspirations of the people of Ireland to a question of contraceptives.

Mr. Kilfedder

I agree with the hon. Lady. I used the quotation I gave as an example, but there are other objections that one could raise against the Irish Free State.

The Ireland Act, 1949, and the 1969 Downing Street Declaration reaffirmed the pledge given by the United Kingdom Government that in no event would Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. When the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill came before the House the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) suggested that it should include a statement that nothing should be done under the Bill which would override or derogate from the Ireland Act, 1949. As a result, and with the support of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), an appropriate clause was incorporated in the Bill.

Some hon. Gentlemen opposite are shifting from that position. They are shifting their position from the concluding words of the Downing Street Declaration that The Border is not an issue. For the great majority of Ulster people the border is not an issue because, for more than 50 years, they have consistently voted for the maintenance of the union with Great Britain.

As hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, the result of the poll may prove the obvious, but it is needed to restore the morale of the majority of law-abiding Ulster people, who have suffered so terribly for so long. But there is another equally important reason why the poll in its proposed form should go ahead as quickly as possible. It will provide a safety valve. For the first time in three or four years, ordinary decent people will be able to take a positive and lawful step to reply to those Republican terrorists who have been killing, bombing and maiming people in order to bring about a united Ireland. Ordinary people will be able to express their views through the ballot box. By putting a cross on the ballot paper, these people will be able proudly to declare their wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

There are many who counsel that the Government should change their mind about the White Paper, that they should issue a White Paper first and that they should enlarge the question in the poll. Why are people lobbying the Government to break their promise? They are doing so because they are interested mainly in destroying the Unionist Party. Knowing that they cannot do that in a democratic election, they are trying to do it this way, and I trust that the Government will stand firm in their resolve.

I am sure that the people of Northern Ireland will welcome my right hon. Friend's speech today. It may not please some. The SDLP does not want the poll in its present form. It does not want the truth to get abroad. It has never liked the truth. The world will be interested to know the strength of feeling in the Province for remaining part of the United Kingdom, a feeling that is shared by many Roman Catholics. Of course there is the danger of a boycott being organised by the IRA and of a campaign of intimidation being mounted to prevent the minority from recording their vote, but in my view the Government should go ahead with their proposals.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South advocated periodic referenda.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

No. I asked the hon. Gentleman whether, if he supported the Government's policy, he also supported the Prime Minister's view that there should be periodic plebiscites.

Mr. Kilfedder

My position is clear. I have stated it before, though perhaps not in the House. I do not like the idea of periodic referenda. Holding them periodically would constantly reactivate the fundamental issue, and if that were to happen people would not be able to get down to ordinary, everyday politics. They would merely look from one plebiscite to the next instead of getting down to dealing with more fundamental issues.

I urge the Government to hold the plebiscite before the White Paper is published. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite would like the White Paper published first, in the hope that it will divide the majority of people in Northern Ireland. What I want to see is confidence restored to the people of Northern Ireland. We want the plebiscite first, and then we can get down to tackling the future structure of the area.

6.58 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

To a growing band of Members and people outside the House, the oft-repeated declaration that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority in Northern Ireland wish it is being called into question. The future composition of the United Kingdom is a matter that can be decided only by the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. The future relationship of the United Kingdom with foreign Powers, be they the Republic of Ireland or countries of the European Community, is a matter which in the long run can be decided only by the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. That being so, in Committee attempts will be made to broaden the opportunities for the people of the country as a whole to speak on this issue.

Captain Orr

Perhaps we can debate this more fully in Committee, but would the hon. Gentleman agree that the right of the Kingdom as a whole to decide the political structures within the Kingdom as a whole is different from the right of the Kingdom as a whole to alienate any part of the Kingdom?

Mr. Wellbeloved

The future composition of the United Kingdom is not a matter that can be decided by a majority in Northern Ireland. That issue can be decided only by the British people as a whole. I hope that that is clear to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and that it will be clear to all in Northern Ireland too. It is not they who, in the long run, will decide whether the present boun- daries of the realm are to continue as they are now. That matter will be decided by us, by the British people as a whole.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Will the hon. Gentleman note that it was not the people of Northern Ireland who asked for the plebiscite? The people of Northern Ireland had it promised to them.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I take note of that proposition and I look forward to the hon. Gentleman joining me in trying to broaden the area of the plebiscite to include the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. The Secretary of State in the close of his speech said that the purpose of the poll was to allow the people of Northern Ireland to demonstrate their passionate desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. The best way that the people of Northern Ireland can demonstrate that passionate desire is to support the British Army, to disband their para-military organisations and to repudiate those lunatics who are leading them along the paths of civil war. I say to my hon. Friends who sometimes give the impression that they are slightly biased towards the minority point of view that they, too, should be making known to their friends on the minority side that the British troops in Northern Ireland are there for one purpose only, to protect the minority from the lunatics within the majority.

Mr. McMaster


Mr. Wellbeloved

Yes. When I read in the Press that 65 priests have condemned certain activities of the British troops, it is worth while reminding my hon. Friends, who sometimes give the mistaken impression that they are prejudiced, that it is impossible to maintain such iron discipline on troops, whose comrades have been assassinated on the streets, that they do not sometimes, in the execution of their duty as peace keepers, put an elbow into somebody's ribs.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)rose—

Mr. McMasterrose—

Mr. Wellbeloved

I give way to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), who has been present throughout the debate.

Mr. McMaster

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the soldiers who are being shot are being shot in the Falls Road and the Ardoyn areas, which are Catholic minority areas? Of the 630 dead, more than 90 per cent. have been shot by the IRA. Of the 7,000 injured, many have been blown up by the IRA in a most cowardly fashion. The IRA are the people who are stirring up Northern Ireland.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I condemn all those who are guilty of murder in Northern Ireland, whether in the Falls Road or the Shankill Road. All of them deserve condemnation by any decent and civilised section of the community.

The people of Northern Ireland can best demonstrate their passionate desire to remain part of the United Kingdom if they disband their para-military organisations and join the legitimate forces of law and order, such as the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They should play a part, under the direction of the Ministers of the Crown, in preserving law and order in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McNamara rose—

Mr. Wellbeloved

Above all, people on both sides should renounce the old hatreds and the worn-out slogans that we so often hear in this House when hon. Members from Northern Ireland are speaking. They should show that they have a willingness to live together as decent human beings in peace and fellowship. If they fail to take the last opportunities that are now being offered to them, eventually the majority of the people of the United Kingdom will speak. They will say that it is time to call a halt to Britain's entanglement with Northern Ireland and to prepare a transfer of power to an independent Northern Ireland and allow it to solve its own problems. Time is running out. It is now up to both communities to grasp what little chance remains before the ultimate solution comes from the majority of the people of this country.

7.5 p.m.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)

If the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will allow me, I shall begin with a text from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who recently said … 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1972; Vol. 846, c. 43.] Those words, taken in conjunction with the foreword to the Green Paper, which says that it is necessary … to find a system of government which will enjoy the support and the respect of the overwhelming majority", give a basis of realism on which to begin an appraisal of the measure now before the House.

Partition of itself is not evil. It is a respectable political notion, especially when it is founded on the principle of self-determination, which is the idea behind the border poll which we are debating. It must be accepted that the history of Ulster and of Ireland shows that there are in essence two nations within Ireland. One must take note of the two-nation fact within Ireland. For the past 60 years the two parts of Ireland have in many ways been drawing further apart rather than closer together. The 1916 Easter Rising was obviously something we felt even more deeply than the 1942 acts of civil disobedience by the Congress Party. In 1937 a new constitution—theocratic constitution—announced the declaration of a republic. The attitude of the South in World War II and the declaration in 1949 that Eire would leave the Commonwealth all reinforced the view of Ulstermen that they were much more British than Irish.

Just over a week ago when we were debating the Green Paper we were in Remembrance season. I do not think that many right hon. or hon. Members can have arrived at the House then without at some stage walking through the graveyard of Westminster Abbey. In the course of that walk they would have seen that not only Ulster regiments like the Inniskillens, but also Irish regiments like the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and all the other panoply of Irish regiments fought alongside the British—[An HON. MEMBER: "The Connaught Rangers."] Hon. Members have a sense of pride, as did their forebears who were Irish hon. Members during World War I, who suggested that the Irish should fight alongside the British.

None the less, over the past 50 years the two parts of Ireland have drawn further apart. Since 1968 that process has been accentuated from the IRA campaign which, it has to be acknowledged, has been largely sustained by the Republic of Ireland. It may be that the realisation of the danger is now dawning on the Republic. It may be that the arrest of the so-called chief of staff of the Provisional IRA signifies something significant. If it does, it may be that the Republic realises the true nature of the struggle, which has been well identified by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) The hon. Lady, speaking in the debate of 13th November, said: 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"— that is the questions— 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. The hon. Member later said: The implications of the struggle in Ireland go much deeper than that. The 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. And towards the end of her speech she said: Our problem … 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1972; Vol. 846, c. 99–106.] She went on in a similar vein. The hon. Lady is saying that she is keen on getting rid of green Tories, red, white and blue Tories and every other sort of Tory. The conclusion that people on both sides of the water will draw is that the democracies in the British Isles as we know them can no longer be totally unaware of what is at the back at least of the official IRA campaign.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Gentleman quoted my speech at length. I was not previously aware that it had so impressed him. But I am not sure what he is trying to prove. It is a well-recognised or self- confessed fact that I consider myself to be a revolutionary. Therefore, the hon. Gentleman is proving nothing. To quote from my speeches and from them to draw inferences about what the official IRA happens to be doing is quite unjustified. If the hon. Gentleman wants to draw conclusions about the official IRA, let him quote Cathal Caulding, who is equally impressive.

Mr. Wilkinson

I prefer to quote to the House the speeches of Members of the House; they are more relevant. What I was adducing was that the Government cannot be indifferent to what is happening in Ireland, because it affects the security of people on both sides of the water. I was saying that it is right and reasonable for the desire for self-determination to be expressed.

In the 1947 debates on the partition of India there were those, particularly in the Labour Party, who fought very hard against partition. The arguments advanced were very similar to those that opposition Members are now advancing about partition in Ireland. Mr. Jinnah had a very apt quotation on the subject. Attlee was very keen in 1947 to leave a united India behind him, and Jinnah said that if the fly refused to be inveigled into the spider's web it was claimed that a veto was being exercised and the fly was intransigent. Why should the United Kingdom Government do anything to inveigle the people of Northern Ireland into a State where the welfare benefits are lower, the pensions are paid at a later age, where there is a republican system which most northerners consider inferior to constitutional monarchy, where in every respect economic performance has been far below that of the North? When we consider the figures for trade between the North and the South of Ireland, we find it very striking that the export performance of the North is far better than that of the South.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assess the will of the people of Northern Ireland. In a sense that has been done already. Over the past 60 years the people of Ireland have voted with their feet on this issue. An interesting article in The Times of 3rd July described the problem well, under the heading: Eire: a land where emigrants are born It showed that in the Republic of Eire 56 per cent. of the Protestants had emigrated over the past 60 years and 5 per cent. of the Roman Catholics, whereas in Northern Ireland there had been an increase in population both on Catholic and Protestant sides. Those statistics are extremely interesting and relevant.

I hope that the Government will continue with their plans for the plebiscite. Partition has been proved to be a reasonable system where there are totally different aspirations in a country. It was sensible in Pakistan. In Cyprus it has been proved to be the only thing that will work in practice. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) is not here, because I must add that the genesis of the State of Israel was in partition. I would condemn the expansion of that State by force of arms, but its origin lay in partition.

I should like to suggest a chronological order of events for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The first essential is to maintain the security initiative. No plebiscite will work if there is a possibility of intimidation and violence. Therefore, over the coming months the anti-terrorist campaign must be maintained. When that has been achieved, when the nights are shorter and the days are longer, and the risk of intimidation less, and when we have the new register, then I hope that the will of the majority can be expressed. Then, and only then, and in keeping with the will of the majority as it is expressed, the definitive constitutional proposals, in the light of the majority will, should be introduced.

Next, I ask my right hon. Friend at least to consider—I do not put it more forcibly—the possibility of a boundary commission. The last boundary commission was as still-born as was the Council for All-Ireland. There is a basis in the referendum, particularly broken down on a ward basis, for an analysis of the pro-Unionist or pro-Republican position. There is also ready to hand the result of the census of 1971, which took place on both sides of the border.

If Opposition Members wish to dispute with me whether the proposals of the Boundary Commission of 1924–25 would have been more favourable to the Free State or to the Northern Ireland Government, all I can say is that it is undoubtedly the fact that in terms of population and everything else they would have been more favourable to the Free State if they had been implemented.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is it not also a fact, with regard to the Boundary Commission's final decisions, that the treaty was ratified by the three Parliaments—the Parliament of Northern Ireland, the Parliament of the Irish Free State and this Parliament—and that the present boundary was also registered with the League of Nations?

Mr. Wilkinson

I acknowledge my hon. Friend's expertise on that question.

If the Republic were willing to show co-operation in a boundary commission or in a Council of All-Ireland, which it was previously unable to do, it would at least be moving towards qualifications that might engender a reasonable aspiration for unity within the hearts of the people of the North. At present, there are so many things that stick in their gullets, not least the neutral stance of the Republic of Ireland. Many Ulstermen have served the British Crown and made supreme sacrifices in the defence of freedom. It rankles with them that only £28 million a year is spent on security by the Republic of Ireland, whereas £2,200 million is expended by the rest of the United Kingdom. Through the NATO Alliance, the Republic of Ireland enjoys a security that it would not otherwise enjoy. Therefore, at very least a declaration that it would join the North Atlantic Alliance would be evidence that it was prepared to take steps to bring it into closer concert with its neighbours and the rest of the United Kingdom. Probably Commonwealth membership and a statement of loyalty to the Crown are too much to expect, but now that the Republic is about to join the EEC, a declaration by the Republic that it would join the North Atlantic Alliance would be welcomed.

I welcome the Bill. I welcome the simplicity of the questions to be put to the electorate. They are unambiguous and clear. The plebiscite was certainly needed when Stormont was prorogued. I am glad that the pledge to have one is being honoured. I wish my right hon. Friend every success in putting the Bill on the Statute Book and in the practical implementation of the plebiscite.

7.20 p.m.

Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)

I shall make no attempt to pursue the argument of the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson). It appeared to me that he kept jumping from one illogical statement to another and drawing the weirdest conclusions from them. If he wanted to give examples of the success of partition, he chose a very poor case when he spoke about India.

The main point to have come from the debate, certainly from the Government benches in favour of the Bill, has been that the Prime Minister promised the plebiscite. I am not the one to say that Prime Ministers ought to break promises. However it is a tradition of Prime Ministers to break promises almost as soon as they are elected to office. I do not condone that kind of activity. However if Prime Ministers thought more carefully before making promises about what they were capable of doing and about what they intended to do there would be less necessity on their part to break promises.

We arrived at the situation where the British Government and the Prime Minister were faced with a dilemma when Stormont was prorogued. After all, Stormont had sat there for 50 years. Now the loyal people of the North of Ireland were to be told that Stormont was no longer fit to govern the North of Ireland, whatever language that might have been clothed in. However the point may have been put across in Parliament, it was obvious to the loyal population of Northern Ireland that it had literally lost its Parliament.

To the loyalists of Northern Ireland, over a period of 50 years their Parliament had been more than the British Parliament is to the British people. It was not an assembly for debating legislation and for taking the responsibility of government. It was an assembly which throughout its existence never really attempted to claim the allegiance of or to govern on behalf of a large section in its community. It had represented the majority. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) himself said that the people of Northern Ireland should take consolation and remember that their security did not even lie in this referendum. He said that their security lay in their majority. That is quite right. As the loyalist population sees it, its security lies in its majority. I shall discuss that majority in a moment. But to the loyalists that majority was represented by the edifice, the structure and the Parliament of Stormont, and along came the British Prime Minister and took that Parliament away.

The British Prime Minister threatened the majority of the loyal population, and he was frightened about what would happen when he took the Parliament away after 50 years. So it was necessary, as has been the consistent policy of successive Governments in this House with regard to Ireland, to pedal the old bicycle: "If you have to put one foot down, put the other one down and hope that the bicycle will move forward."

In taking Stormont away, the majority had to be safeguarded. Something had to be put in its place to pacify a population which might be angry at losing its built-in majority. Therefore the Prime Minister promised a plebiscite, probably in the absence of anything else to promise. We can debate whether it is a plebiscite or a referendum. The Bill refers to it as a poll. In that regard I advise those of the built-in majority and hon. Members in this House who come from Northern Ireland to cast their minds to the promises of Governments and Prime Ministers. This is not a referendum. It is a poll. It is a seeking of opinion. Governments have changed legislation. A British Government created Stormont. A British Government took it away. A British Government passed the Northern Ireland Act. A British Government can take that away. This Government say that the position of the people of the North of Ireland will not change unless the people of the Northern Ireland so decide. That is why we have this poll. But the Government can take that away. This is not a referendum. It is not binding for all time.

I do not agree with this proposal for a moment. But I advise the people of the North of Ireland to be careful about what they are buying in this Bill. They are buying a poll which consults them. What is meant by the Prime Minister's words is that it is a pacifier. It is a promise. The same promise has been made about further polls. There is no mention of them. It may be that the loyal population of Ulster will be pacified and will cast their Xs. Once again we are treated as peasants. We in the North of Ireland can write. We can write "Yes" and "No" and make up our minds. We shall cast our Xs, and the majority will vote for the retention of the British link.

What guarantee have the people of the North of Ireland that their wishes will be respected should it suit the British Government to change their minds or if the British people should change their minds through this House and cast them out into the darkness, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North said? The poll offers them nothing in the long term. It offers them a short-term vote which lasts for one day. It is the Prime Minister of Britain saying to the loyal people of the North of Ireland "Have it, vote it, and shut up." The Prime Minister is saying "Vote and get it out of the way. After that it will no longer be an issue." But how does it cease to be an issue? It has been an issue for the past 50 years. But it is not the kind of issue represented in this Bill.

If the only reason for our going through what this poll will bring upon us in the North of Ireland is so that, for once in his miserable life, the Tory Prime Minister can actually keep a promise, it would be better if he broke this one like he has broken all the rest. If that is the only reason for having this referendum, it is nothing new for the Prime Minister to change his mind and fail to keep a promise.

The price which will be paid for keeping this promise will be a greater price than that which has been paid in the United Kingdom for the breaking of all the rest of the Prime Minister's promises. We are to go through this farce which changes nothing and which means nothing just so that the Prime Minister can keep a promise. That is the crux of what we are debating today.

We then come to the mechanics of voting. The people of the North of Ireland are asked, Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic …? I have said before and I repeat that those are not the simple alternatives facing the Irish people. That is not what the people whom I represent and the policies which I represent are arguing or fighting about. That is not even what members of the Provisional IRA are fighting about. They are not fighting about exchanging Ted Heath, the Prime Minister of this Government, for Jack Lynch. If it were what they are fighting about, they would have changed their minds today when Mr. Jack Lynch has Sean MacStiofain in gaol. They will hardly vote for him, for the Curragh camp or for his legislation.

The fight is much deeper and broader than that. It is not simply about taking away Article 44 in the constitution of the Republic or whether contraceptives are to be sold freely in the Irish Republic. It is not about low benefits. I myself was raised on the Welfare State. Had I been raised in the Irish Republic as it exists, I appreciate that life would have been a lot more difficult for me and my family.

I am not asking to swap one side for the other. Nor are the people whom I represent. We say that we, as people—not Catholics, not Protestants, not people of Ulster, Munster, Leinster or anywhere else but ordinary, decent working people—are entitled to something better than we are getting on either side of that border.

We are told that the solution to our problems will be to vote one way or the other. Of course we cannot put down 150 questions on a referendum. If we did, it is doubtful whether the present system would last, never mind the Government. For example, if we were to take a poll whether people liked living in slums, does anyone think that any of them would vote "Yes"? If we were to take a poll whether people liked earning the wages they get or would like to earn more, does anyone think they would say "No, we will settle for what we have "?

We are arguing not about the delineation of boundaries, but about the structures within those boundaries. We are opposed to the border because it is artificial. It maintains a false division between the people of our country on both sides. We contend that on both sides of the border there is a system of Government which perpetuates not only the poverty of the poor and the wealth of the rich and in that poverty the prejudice and fear of the poor, but continually turns their fear and prejudice against each other on questions about where the border is drawn.

The questions asked may well produce one of two results. A majority will be overwhelming, because the Catholic population will not vote. Alternatively, the majority of people will vote—I doubt that very much—and we shall still get the built-in majority to which reference has been made. I am not suggesting that because we already know that majority, there is no point in holding the referendum. My argument is that the referendum will help to create and perpetuate that majority which is based not on any rational decision of people who want to be British or Irish or of people who are moderate or extreme, but on the crucifixion of the people of Northern Ireland. It is based on a religious head count.

We have had quotations from the setting up of the boundary. Lord Cushendun, addressing the Ulster Unionist Council in 1920, said: To separate ourselves from fellow loyalists in Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal was hateful to every delegate from the Six Counties; but the inexorable index of statistics demonstrated that it had to be so. We have heard about the passionate desire of people to be British. There was a passionate desire of some people to be British in Counties Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal. What did they do? They said "Hard luck, boys. Democracy might work if we had you, but here we have a sectarian head count that we can hold so long as the politics of the Six Counties are held in the way they have been held for the past 50 years." It is all right so long as they are argued on the question of the border, the Union and the Republic and nobody questions housing, economic development and certainly not educational policies. Anybody with wit making his or her way through politics in Northern Ireland up to 1968 kept his or her voice very low on the question of education.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does the hon. Lady agree that reasonable people would say that to unite Ireland is to double the problem because, instead of having a minority in a small State who are disaffected, we would have a substantial minority in a larger State who would be disaffected? This is the nub of the problem and why people, with a good deal of sound sense behind them, favour partition.

Miss Devlin

I take issue with the hon. Gentleman on what he has said on a number of counts in this House today about what reasonable people would or would not do. People in Northern Ireland are not natives or primitives. They are reasonable people and would continue to be reasonable people if stupid people did not keep talking about how reasonable they were and how unreasonable we are. We are all reasonable people if we are treated as such.

The hon. Gentleman, as is natural with a Tory, continues to fail to see the problem. I am not asking that we add the unemployed of Northern Ireland to the unemployed of the South. I am suggesting that we get rid of the people who cause unemployment on both sides of the border. I am not suggesting that we should lump the problems together and wipe them off our doorstep. I am suggesting that, by getting rid of Toryism and all that it stands for, we shall not have these problems.

I am sick, sore and tired of hearing people say what the United Kingdom has done for us. The majority of the people in Northern Ireland work in British-controlled factories for wages which no trade unionist in Britain would accept. They work for a lower rate than is earned in comparable factories in this country, although they have the same costs of living. People in Northern Ireland are sick, sore and tired of lining the pockets of the British shareholder at the expense of themselves and the British taxpayer.

I am not talking about lumping the problems together, but getting rid of them. This referendum will not get rid of them, because it is yet another short-term meaningless gesture in the overall politics of Ireland. People will vote "Yes" or "No", but it will not make a bit of difference to what is happening in Northern Ireland except to make its security more difficult. I am not talking solely of the Government's concern regarding the British Army. I am talking of the mechanics of putting the Bill into effect and holding a border poll.

The Bill provides that the Secretary of State shall have power to prevent people influencing the poll. What is the point of holding a referendum or poll if people cannot be persuaded to change their minds? A referendum on the Common Market was held in the Republic of Ireland. I participated quite actively persuading people not to vote in favour of the Common Market. We lost heavily.

Is the Secretary of State saying that such a campaign could not be conducted in the North of Ireland on the border poll? Will it be illegal for me—I assure the Minister I shall be there—to hold meetings, put up posters, send out addresses and campaign in every town and village in my constituency urging people to stay away from the referendum? As a purely practical matter, I should like to know how long I may have to spend in gaol as a result of such activities. I should like to get my business sorted out. That is what I shall be doing. My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) and many others will also be doing that. Therefore, we would all like to know some simple facts.

If no activity can be carried on to persuade people one way or the other, will everything we do be illegal? If not, where will the delineation fall? What will be legal and what will not? If it is legal to attempt to influence the poll, and if the poll is to be held on the basis of election procedures, how near the polling stations will we be allowed to go on polling day to encourage people to change their minds and not go to the polls? How many meetings will we be allowed to hold? If we are entitled to hold meetings, will we be afforded, as is our right, the protection of the security forces in holding those meetings? These are real problems which I have faced at election times. We shall be holding the most massive non-voting campaign that Ireland has seen—and we are pretty good at abstaining. Therefore, we would like that matter cleared up before we start.

The Government have not a clue as to what they have taken on. I am sure that the majority of British Members of Parliament have never experienced a Northern Ireland election. I will give a few examples on the issue of a Northern Ireland election. I remember some of the things that happened when I stood for election. I have already referred to the fact that, on polling day, it took two wagon loads of policemen to guard a polling station all day to allow people in and out. Are there enough security forces for every polling station in Northern Ireland? And if the British Army is guarding the polling stations, who will guard the town centres? Who will guard the police stations if the policemen are guarding the polling stations? These questions will have to be resolved.

We held a meeting in a small town in Moneymore. That is to say, we tried to hold an election meeting. The law said that, as a candidate for a parliamentary seat, I was entitled to speak anywhere in the constituency and to be afforded the protection of the security forces while doing so. I remember perfectly well, at 8.30 in the evening, arriving in the town of Moneymore. I remember Mr. Michael Farrell, the only person who managed to run the gauntlet to the platform, who managed to get on the platform. The equipment was wrecked, the lorry was wrecked, the town was wrecked and 400 policemen were wrecked—and they were not wrecked by my supporters. It was impossible to hold a meeting in that town, and the pattern continued right through one by-election.

I hope that the Minister realises what he is taking on. There is no point in saying that it will be different. It will not be different, because the Minister must remember that, traditionally in Northern Ireland, elections have not been about policies. They have been about what this Bill is about. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has already mentioned the question of flag-waving. The flag wavers will be out on both sides and the flag stoners will be out on both sides. I put it in all seriousness to the Minister: even with 21,000 British soldiers, with the present security problem in Northern Ireland, a poll like this cannot be run.

How are the Protestants going to vote in majority Catholic areas? I am actively campaigning for people not to vote. That is not to say that I am in favour of intimidating people away from the polls. Before it even happens—because I know it will happen—I condemn it. But let me tell hon. Members, it will happen. It happens at every election and it will happen here. It will happen particularly now where the lines have sharpened, where the ghettoes have strengthened, where, as they have been called, "the grey areas" are fewer.

It will be very difficult for Protestants in Derry to get to some of the polling stations. It will be very difficult for Catholics in Belfast to get to some of the polling stations, although, hopefully, no one will be going to the polling stations.

Mr. David James

The hon. Lady says that she will actively campaign against people polling. I am never certain whether she is a Catholic or not, but is she aware that, in his encyclical "Paceam in Terris", Pope John XXIII deliberately enjoined on all Catholic voters the right and indeed the duty to take part in public elections?

Miss Devlin

With respect to the hon. Member and the late Pope, he does not have a vote in Northern Ireland—[Laughter.] I might usefully add that I have been reared as a Catholic but that no one ever asked me to vote for anyone in authority in the Catholic Church. He might usefully practice what he preaches.

I have said that, although I am against the poll, although I will be voting against the holding of this poll, there are questions that the Minister must take seriously into account. I do not believe that they can have been taken into account, since otherwise the Prime Minister would have been allowed to let this promise slip as other promises have slipped.

The only thing that will come out of this border poll is that the divisions already created will be so strengthened that it is ludicrous for people to talk about holding this poll and then having the White Paper. This poll will ensure not whether certain sections of the Loyalist population will accept the terms under which they have voted to remain in the United Kingdom; it will so harden attitudes that there will be very few sections of the Catholic population, after this poll, who will be the slightest bit interested in what is put forward in the White Paper.

The old border memories will have been stirred up. We have already heard from both sides of the House about border security. What will happen in this poll, if people vote in it, is that there will be a hardening of attitudes in the traditional areas. Things have been so stagnant in Northern Ireland that nothing has changed almost since the 1918 election, when the majority of the country democratically voted themselves out of the United Kingdom and the minority in the North were allowed to make a difference, and the border, to suit that permanent majority, was drawn.

That border is still very volatile and vulnerable. There are still loyalists in Monaghan with a passionate desire to be British. There are still people on our side of the border, in South Down, who support the IRA. One only has to look at the support that the Provisional IRA has along that border to see this. It has the support of the people in those areas. How else could it work so efficiently?

Raise fear on the question again, have the flag-waving and the drumming and the going to the polls and the fighting to get in and out, and stir up the old blood—this House will be a long time settling it down again. It will not be done in time for the White Paper. It will not be done in time for the local government elections. It will not be done in time for the general election which is bound to come shortly. All that it will do is that, for a short-term gain, to keep a Prime Minister's promise, it will create more hardship, more hatred and more fear in one day's polling than has been in the past four years of fear and intimidation. And in the end the Government will have their majority one way or another.

And I ask the Minister, what difference will it make? Are the British Government seriously telling me or any other hon. Member that it will make any difference to British policy? What will it change in the White Paper if they have the majority or not? It will change nothing. What will it change in the overall policy of the next five or 10 years? The Government might as well admit to the Protestant population "That is your poll, that is your first and last poll and that is your stand for unity with the United Kingdom. It is your first and last stand, because if the Provisionals cannot force you into an Irish Republic, watch the British Government do it if and when it suits them."

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)

I should have been astonished if the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) had contained a single new and constructive idea. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. Nor, I am certain, will the House or anyone who knows me expect me to follow her particularly destructive train of thought.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman not admit that the hon. Lady's answer to the question of the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James) was one of the most constructive contributions ever made in this House, since she made it clear that, if she did not have a right to vote for the Pope, the Pope should not direct her how to vote?

Mr. Pounder

That field is one with which the hon. Gentleman is more acquainted and familiar, perhaps, than I am.

One of the most depressing things which has run through this debate is the appalling air of fatalism which seems to have permeated the speeches from both sides, but particularly those of hon. Members opposite. The idea that the poll will promote further sectarian divisions, the gloom about the vote, the dangers inherent in a poll—this catalogue of woe contributes absolutely nothing to the existing situation in Northern Ireland.

Is there no one who is prepared to get out of the morass of sterile thinking and criticism and narking complaint and objection to everything which it is sought to do in Northern Ireland at this time? It is the most dispiriting experience to sit through this kind of debate. The Opposition are correct when they say that the plebiscite result will not tell anyone anything which is not known already. In the starkest terms, that is true. But there are certain very important factors, one particularly, which many in Northern Ireland and outside are very anxious to ascertain. That is the extent to which the vote for the retention of the link with the United Kingdom will transcend sectarian lines. I am satisfied that, given a reasonable freedom from intimidation and reasonable normality during the conducting of this election, many myths will be exploded and one will see clearly the extent to which the sectarian line is crossed by the voting pattern.

My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) quoted certain statistics from an opinion poll published in a magazine in Northern Ireland. I have my doubts about the efficacy of any form of opinion poll; therefore, I shall not speculate on figures. But it is reasonable to expect that there will be a considerable crossing of the sectarian line and this in itself will be of considerable value. I have spoken frequently in Northern Ireland and have gone on record there as being a passionate believer in the holding of this plebiscite and holding it as soon as is humanly possible. I do not hinge my argument—although this is an important point—on the fact that it was promised on 24th March. It was promised, let us remember, not in response to any request by the former Northern Ireland Government or any body of opinion in Northern Ireland. It was something wished on us. Many people thought that the plebiscite would be held in the late summer or early autumn. Indeed, I tended to that conclusion after the remark of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 29th June, when he said, I added that it was Her Majesty's Government's intention to invite Parliament to institute a plebiscite on the Border as soon as possible, but which could not be before September."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June, 1972; Vol. 839, c.1685.] Fair enough. No one thought that it could be before September; but one was thinking in terms of October. But time passed and nothing happened about the holding of the plebiscite and the necessary legislation. Quite clearly, people—I was one of them—began to doubt the Government's good faith in the context of the promise they voluntarily made on 24th March.

I take issue, therefore, with my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. David James), who tended to give the impression that the moment the Bill was on the statute book the pledge would be fulfilled and the polling was something which could wait for some sunny day in the future. I could not disagree more. The pledge is the day of the poll, not the enactment of this legislation. It would be disastrous if, having passed the Bill into law, there then came another unreasonable period of delay before the people of Northern Ireland were given an opportunity to cast their votes.

One point which also must be remembered, and which is not appreciated by those who may be unfamiliar with the situation in Northern Ireland, is that for the last seven months the only democratically elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland operating at any level of public life have been their Members sitting in this House. Because Stormont was prorogued, by-elections for Stormont could not be held. There have been some vacancies, but one does not know how the voting pattern would have developed. Local government has been in a state of flux for some time as a result of the changeover in implementation of the principles of the Macrory Report. Therefore, there was a serious danger—there still is a danger—that as a result of this apparent erosion of democratic institutions with which the people were connected and for which they could vote, they were beginning to turn their back on the whole concept of democracy. This was further fed by the feeling—rightly or wrongly, and fairly or unfairly, a feeling widely held and which must be recognised as such—that the only way to get anything done in Northern Ireland was by violence and street demonstration. That was the view taken certainly by the long-suffering loyalist majority, who saw many things they did not like happening as the price of their restraint, in a sense.

If one is to allow that sort of attitude of mind to continue, democracy, democratic institutions and all the other things we are talking about for the future of Northern Ireland will have a very uphill battle. The people must be given an opportunity to have a say in something, and the border plebiscite is clearly the first and easiest thing to hand in that regard.

One thing I have been surprised at, however, is the extent to which people have criticised the form, in the debate, in the Press and at meetings one attends in Northern Ireland. There has been criticism of the questions tabled on the form. But the questions are simple, straightforward and stark, as they should be in an issue which is basically simple, straightforward and stark as between the two alternatives. I cannot understand why people are seriously advocating the injection of a series of fancy nuances into what is a very basic matter for the people of Northern Ireland, that is, whether or not they wish to remain part of the United Kingdom.

One of my constituents studies these matters in some depth. He sent me a magnificent memorandum. I am sorry that I do not have it with me. He tabled 16 possible questions for a plebiscite poll, with all the nuances one could imagine. It was a magnificent exercise. But where did it take us? Absolutely nowhere. The answer is as straight and simple as the questions.

I wonder whether hon. Members here are falling into the trap of assuming that circulars they receive from political movements in Northern Ireland—well thought out though they may be—represent a greater body of opinion than may necessarily be so. The new Ulster movement, whose circular we have probably all read, is basically now a one-man show. I do not say that with disrespect. The Alliance Party has not yet tested its strength at any level involving the electorate of Northern Ireland at ward or parliamentary elections. In my constituency there was a by-election in April of this year. The Alliance Party had a tailor-made opportunity to stand for a council vacancy in an area in which it had considerable support. It did not do so. I do not question its motives, but one cannot judge the efficacy of an argument unless one knows broadly the extent of the support on the ground that argument has.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Gentleman is making a perfectly valid point, with which I agree. However, would he not accept that the last elections fought in Northern Ireland were such a long time ago, and things have so drastically changed, that it is impossible to say whom we represent? I say that for all of us here. All I know is that I represent what I stand for, but I do not know how many people stand with me on it, nor does the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Pounder

For the first time I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. That is an entirely valid argument, which I accept. I should like to see a general election in Northern Ireland held as soon as possible. I am not speaking disrespectfully of those who were elected in the Stormont election of February, 1969, but so much has changed, even since the hon. Lady and I were elected in June, 1970, that one wonders how much one speaks for one's electors as distinct from speaking purely for one's own beliefs and convictions. I accept that point entirely. Roll on the day when we can have an election in Northern Ireland which will enable us to know which strands of opinion command the widest support.

I have three specific questions. Will the Minister confirm that the count at the election will be conducted centrally? I realise that the result will be announced province-wide and not split into counties or Westminster constituencies. But it would be impossible to maintain the necessary degree of secrecy of the result for any given area unless the votes were put in one box and taken by helicopter to where they will be counted.

Hon. Members have referred to the problems of holding an election in the winter. But the security problems will exist at a plebiscite vote, a local government election or an election for a reconstituted Stormont. Any election in Northern Ireland would have its security problems. Is there anything to be said against holding the plebiscite poll over two days in the hours of daylight—say on Friday and Saturday? I accept that if the poll is held in the hours of daylight earlier in the week there is a risk of disenfranchising a great many people who are employed in offices and factories.

My third point, which was raised by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), concerns the position of anyone who votes in favour of both questions. Would that be a spoiled vote in the sense that it would be in a general election where someone voted for two candidates? I have received correspondence in the matter and I would be obliged to have an authoritive answer setting out the position.

There have been references to the timing of the plebiscite with regard to the publication of the White Paper on the political institutions in Northern Ireland. I can see the tenable argument of those who believe that publication of the White Paper should precede the plebiscite, but I take a different view. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made the point vividly. I suspect that the White Paper will not be wildly popular among the majority community in Northern Ireland. It would be most unfortunate if a perfectly simple and straightforward issue like the plebiscite were to become clouded by other issues and used as an excuse to express a view for or against the White Paper. The poll has been awaited since March. Let us keep it as straightforward and simple as we can, and not clutter it with the White Paper, vitally important as that is.

I do not accept that any plebiscite could necessarily take the border out of politics for ever. But it is tremendously important to try because every Stormont election since the inception of that parliamentary institution has been fought on the border issue with real politics—housing, education and so on—taking a second place. That has been profoundly unfortunate. I look forward to the day when we can have straight up-and-down, left-right politics in Northern Ireland, for both Westminster and Stormont elections. That can be achieved only if the border is taken out of politics. It may be decided to have border referenda or plebiscites every 15 or 20 years and that would be fair enough. But in the intervening period, let us get on and fight our politics on the bread and butter issues.

It has never been our wish that the border should dominate our elections but it was a fact of political life and it was reinforced by the Ireland Act, 1949, which put the constitutional destiny of Northern Ireland in the hands of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Now, and I am delighted to see it, the decision on whether we remain in the United Kingdom has been taken away from Stormont and given to the people of Northern Ireland. That will help us to get on the right sort of political footing for fighting elections on the kinds of issue which matter to people in their everyday lives. Please let us get away from always fighting elections with that overriding issue.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Member is saying that the Unionist Party never wanted the border to be an issue, and I am glad that at least he is looking forward to fighting elections on social policies. But if what he says about the Unionist Party has always been true, will he explain to me—and I am no supporter of the Northern Ireland Labour Party—why, time after time when the Unionist Party was opposed by the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Unionists sent out circulars not challenging the policies of the Labour Party but saying that Labour did not believe in the link with Great Britain?

Mr. Pounder

I think the hon. Member has misunderstood me. The border in Northern Ireland was not created by the people of Northern Ireland or by any political party there. It was created by a Westminster decision and because of that it became a political issue at election after election because there was no other machinery for determining the border situation. The Northern Ireland Labour Party was ambivalent, to say the least, for many years on its attitude towards the border. My recollection does not go back before 1949, but in the 1949 Stormont elections the Northern Ireland Labour Party was ambivalent about the border. The Ireland Act, 1949, put the decision of the border into the hands of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and because of that the border was made a live issue at every election because it could not be determined at any other time. That is why the plebiscite poll is right.

8.9 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I wish to divide my speech into two parts, the first dealing with the major constitutional importance of the Bill and the second dealing with its effect within the Irish context.

I was appalled at the length of time taken by the Secretary of State in introducing this important measure. He spoke for barely 20 minutes, 10 minutes of which were padded out by questions from Labour Members, which he was only too happy to answer in order to expand the little that he had to say. It was a speech of constitutional importance which should be causing concern on both sides of the House, and particularly to the Conservative Party which claims to be a constitutionalist democratic party, because of the enormous sweeping powers given to the Secretary of State. He has the power to suspend the law, to dispense the law, to vary the law, to repeal the law, and to enact fresh legislation. That is all without the consent of the House and subject only to the negative resolution procedure, if hon. Members are lucky enough to seek to apply it within 40 days, within which time the poll will already probably have been held.

We as a House are failing in our duty if we do not say to the Secretary of State and to the Government that this is a breach of everything for which the House is supposed to stand. It is against the whole concept of the Bill of Rights which our great and glorious Sovereign, William III and his most noble lady, Mary, gave to this country when they graciously accepted the Throne from the Commons of England assembled. This is an important constitutional issue and the "Henry VIII clause" in this Bill is aptly named. Yet the Secretary of State barely mentions these enormous powers.

This is not a normal piece of social legislation. It is constitutional legislation of price importance. We are introducing into our constitutional life the idea of a plebiscite or referendum whereby a part of the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are to say of themselves and by themselves, without reference to the remainder of the population whether they should remain within the United Kingdom, irrespective of whether the rest of the United Kingdom wishes them to be in it. It surprises me that the Secretary of State should blandly introduce this Bill and imagine that we do not understand the extent of the constitutional implications. This is totally out of character for the right hon. Gentleman.

I turn to what he can do under the Bill. He can positively disenfranchise the whole of the Shankill Road and Sandy Row by a stroke of the pen. He can disenfranchise the Falls, the Bogside, the Creggan, Crossmaglen, Lisburn. He can disenfranchise my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) so that she need not bother campaigning about whether people can vote; she just will not be able to vote. He can give the vote only to the inmates of Long Kesh, only to red-haired women with squints, he can do whatever he likes. All of this will be subject only to the negative resolution procedure. We all know how Statutory Instruments are dealt with in this House, an hour and a half after ten o'clock at night, rarely voted upon within the correct period. This is a Draconian power which is being given to the Secretary of State.

Not only can he regulate those who will or will not vote, he can arrange things so that he can stop people campaigning for the poll. We all know that people say, "It is 'honest Willy'. We can trust the Secretary of State who is a man of honour and integrity. He would never do a thing like this." That is not the point. The point is that he has the power to do it without reference to this House. On a non-political basis I say that this is a bad thing.

Further, he can impose criminal penalties without limit upon those seeking to influence the result of the poll. My word! Half of the Unionist Members of Parliament will be in prison because some of them are in favour of influencing the poll. I think that some of them want Northern Ireland to maintain the British link. It is not good enough to bring forward wide-ranging powers of this nature without a proper explanation of them at this point.

I turn from the constitutional issues to the party political matters. Our amendment is important because we should have the White Paper before the Bill. My reason for saying this may seem a little strange to some hon. Members opposite and I am sorry that there are not more Ulster Unionists Members present. My real fear is that this Bill will go through, that we shall then get a White Paper and the loyalist, Protestant working class will say, "We have been betrayed again by our leaders and the English connection." The tragedy over the past four years has not been the terrible impositions on the minority, internment, Long Kesh and all of the other things to which the minority have objected. It has come to accept those, it knew they were part and parcel of their tradition in the six counties. The great tragedy has been the betrayal of the Protestant working class by its supposed leaders. On every issue which that working class has held dear, it has been betrayed by those whom it thought lived for it.

This is shown by Lord O'Neill's comments on the career of Lord Brooke-borough and what he should have done to try to bring the majority in the North to terms with the minority. Look at the issues involved. These people were supposed to belong to some great mythical order of brotherhood, the Orange Order, the Black Sash or whatever, which gave them a certain social cohesion—jobs for them, opportunities for their children. They alone were loyal, and because of that they had to protect themselves, not from the enemy without but from the enemy within, and therefore they needed the "B" Specials. They were in a certain position, they were loyal and therefore they had to have jobs. What happened?

As a result of Lord O'Neill's timorous steps, as a result of the Downing Street Declaration, suddenly all those people whom they had elected and in whom they had reposed their trust, came along and said "Sorry lads, but for 50 years we have led you completely up the garden path. The Prods are the same as the Tagues. We have to share jobs, we must all have houses, we have to treat everyone equally and the 'B' Specials must go because they are nasty and they are sectarian political thugs. We were not wrong but everything is different now."

They have had every pillar of everything in which they believed pulled from beneath them. It has been as bad treating them in that way as it has been to say to the Tagues, "There is no Papal infallability, there is no Virgin birth, everything you have been led to believe in is wrong, there is no Pope, there is no promised land in the Republic." It has had a psychological effect on them. It has had an effect on the growth and strength of the UVF and the UDA and on the emergence of a queer sort of National-Socialist body among the Protestant working class in Belfast.

What will the situation be if the Bill goes through? A huge majority of the people will vote in favour of the maintenance of the Union thinking that the question: Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? means what they have always thought belonging to the United Kingdom meant. It meant, "Our jobs, our houses, our Stormont, our Parliament." It is no good people saying that the Prime Minister spoke toughly when he went to Northern Ireland. He did. He spoke, with his head under a sandbag, very toughly. It is all right people saying that the Prime Minister gave a very good imitation of the poor man's Mike Yarwood, because he did, but it is no good the Prime Minister's saying any of these things if a couple of weeks later we get a White Paper which repudiates everything the Protestant working class thought they were voting for. That sort of thing which created Shankill riots when the "B" Specials were disbanded, and all that sort of thing, will create them in mounting escalation, because Protestant people will think that they have been betrayed.

Because of that it is important that the White Paper should be published before there is any poll because it is owed to those people who feel that their main loyalty is to the link with this country; it is owed to them that they should know what their future with this country is to be. It is no good our saying that there were never enough jobs to go round anyway or that they were living in slums the same as those the Tagues lived in; it is no use our saying that their economic and social condition was as bad as that of the other side. It is no good saying it because they never believed it.

One of the great things coming out of this debate is the myth and legend which is created not only in Northern Ireland but inside this House that somehow by holding this border poll we shall get rid of the border out of Irish politics. That is nonsense. When my right hon. and hon. Friends were in Government, before all this trouble, my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), my hon. Friend the then Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Duffy) and others of my hon. Friends and I went to Ireland. We were aware of the conditions in the North. The argument then was not about the border but about having a decent British standard of living. We said that they should forget about the border and try to find a way of raising the standard of living for the people in both communities who have been kicked about like a political football by Green and Orange Tories who do not care a damn about their standard of living. Cannot we do something about the social and economic conditions of the people?

Who put the border there? Those who suddenly realised that it meant what we were saying started waving Union Jacks, the people who objected to one-man, one-vote in local government. There were members of the Unionist Party who are now members of this House who denied that there was any sort of discrimination in Northern Ireland, who denied that the "B" Specials were anything but political thugs in uniform. They brought in the Union Jacks. I was they who said that the threat to blow up the water mains outside Belfast came from the IRA. There was an hon. Member opposite who was saying that very thing, very different from the Scarman Report.

We have to realise, whether we like it or not, that we are not going to get the border out of Irish politics by this Bill or any other. The only way to get the border out of politics is through the realisation that there is a community of interest between working-class people on both sides of it, and that the people on both sides should work for institutions and political and social organisations which will enable them to live together.

So we come to the second of the questions in the Bill: Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom? I put it to the Secretary of State, what discussions did he have with the Republic of Ireland about this question? He said that his right hon. Friend—Mike Yarwood—was in contact with the Taoiseach, but he did not answer my question. I therefore ask the Minister of State specifically whether he will answer two points. First, was the Northern Ireland Government consulted about this plebiscite? Were they consulted about the actual form of the question as it appears in the Bill?

So I come to another question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman cannot reveal this, but it is something we ought to know if we can get it out of him. What sort of discussions did the Government have with the Republic of Ireland about the possible consequences of a majority in favour of joining the Republic?

This last question, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West said, is an insult to the Republic in the terms in which it is couched. It is also an insult to this House. It is also an insult to the people of the whole Kingdom. We are not being consulted about whether Northern Ireland should be part of our country—which is what the Unionists say it is. That right is granted to the people of Northern Ireland but not to us. We are not consulted as to whether it should be shovelled off on to something called by hon. Members opposite, a theocratic and reactionary republic. We also have an interest in this question.

That brings us to the last part of the Opposition amendment. We feel that that third part of our amendment means, if it means anything, and if the talk in the White Paper about the Irish dimension means anything, that we must envisage a situation where all parts of Ireland may come very close together, united, federated in some form or another. That is what we would like to see as a long-term policy. We think it should be a hope held out for the moderates on all sides.

All right, have the early plebiscite, create tensions, create problems; but unless we have this third provision we shall not solve the problem. We may get away with it for 10 years, and the IRA may be defeated, and Vanguard and the UVF may or may not be defeated; we may get away with it for 10 or 15 years and everybody may then say, "We have peace in the six counties, they are happy and content in the six counties". The little lads may stop throwing stones in the Shankill or in the Falls or in the Bogside. But after 10 years the little lads will be older and they will be bitter lads, on both sides, and we shall end up with this problem again, in our children's time, or in our children's children's time, unless we are prepared to grasp the nettle and say that we have to create a situation in which the two communities can live together. To do that we have to hold out the olive branch.

We can do that only if we consult the Irish Republic about what is to be done to improve the situation in the South to make it more attractive to the people of the North. We can do that by holding out to the moderates the hope that through the natural logic of events there will be a united and perhaps federated Ireland. The Bill and the questions asked do nothing towards achieving that solu- tion. We know that there will be a plebiscite and we know what the result will be. We shall fool no one and we may well betray the Protestant working class yet again.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) sees the situation with different eyes from mine. As an outsider, although one may not see the situation more clearly, one sees it in a slightly more detached manner. It is essential to have the poll before the White Paper because the issue of a White Paper would unnecessarily complicate the situation. The questions asked must be simple and straightforward, as are the questions in the Bill, in the hope of taking some of the heat out of the political situation.

It goes without saying that the White Paper should be published before the local elections are held. It will be difficult for people to elect councillors until they know what share of responsibility will be taken by local government councillors, what share by the successor to Stormont and what share by Westminster.

The more one looks at Northern Ireland the more one finds it necessary from time to time to clear one's mind about what exactly is going on. We hear talk of religious, racial, social and historic differences. No one disagrees that these differences exist, but the real root of the trouble is the exploitation of these differences by the IRA for its own ends, with the intention of alienating part of the United Kingdom, and this aim is actively or passive connived at by those who should know better.

As an island Ireland falls into a neat pattern in terms of a geographical solution, but I do not believe that there is a geographical solution to the problem. The natural links and the natural loyalties of Northern Ireland are to this country. When the chips are down Northern Ireland knows which side it wants to be on. A geographical solution is a dangerous blind alley.

One reason for the worsening situation is the doubt that was allowed to arise in the minds of the majority of the population about the future of the border, despite repeated assurances by successive Governments that the border would not be changed without the consent of Parliament and the people. That doubt was encouraged, and it grew during the time of the Hunt reforms when the majority of the population saw their own means of defence being taken away with the disbandment and disarming of their security forces, and it grew greater at the time of the suspension of Stormont. That doubt is there and it is at the root of the present situation. If the Bill and the poll remove the doubt in the minds of the majority of the population, they will make a signal contribution to peace in Northern Ireland. If we can take the border issue out of politics, this in turn must take the heat out of politics in Northern Ireland.

The overriding drive of the Unionists over the years has been for survival. They have been able to survive in their own eyes only by the maintenance of overriding power. That is a natural process. If, however, we want to switch the whole basis of politics, the poll is a basic essential. The Green Paper spoke of the desirability of switching Northern Ireland politics from the border issue to normal political issues which, it suggested were the determination of priorities and the allocation of resources. The poll is the first and most essential step in so doing.

I have two worries about the holding of a plebiscite. It was originally stated that the plebiscite would be a periodic one. That defeats the object of the exercise because it keeps the border an open issue in Northern Ireland politics. My second worry is that the plebiscite sets a precedent for militant minorities in other parts of the United Kingdom. From 1st January next year the constitutional future of the United Kingdom will undergo a change; there will be some lessening of parliamentary control. In Brussels the emphasis will be on regions and provinces rather than on national Governments.

Over the next two decades one of the main tasks of Her Majesty's Government will be to keep the United Kingdom together. I hope that the Bill will help to clarify the situation in Northern Ireland and also will be the green light for a robust determination by Governments to preserve the integrity of all parts of the United Kingdom.

8.35 p.m.

Mr. A. E. P. Daffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

We were reminded earlier in this debate by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the plebiscite was promised by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in March this year when he announced the suspension of Stormont. The Secretary of State argued that the two questions will give the people of Northern Ireland a clear choice. Secondly, he claimed that its purpose is not to gather opinions but to concentrate on the border issue. Thirdly, he implied that once the plebiscite is out of the way, Protestants will be more trusting of Westminster assurances that Northern Ireland will not change its constitutional status without the consent of the people. I wish to examine each claim in turn.

On the question of choice, the seemingly simple questions to which answer is invited are not, as the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) claimed in his speech, simple, straight-forward and stark. The constitutional relationship subsisting between Northern Ireland and Great Britain has been suspended, and its place has been taken by a temporary relationship. It is not yet known what eventually will take its place.

How are the people of Northern Ireland supposed to know whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom if they are in ignorance of the terms of the association? How can the Northern Ireland people be genuinely invited to consider reunification with the rest of Ireland without being given an exact description of the terms—constitutional, social and economic—on which such a reunion might be expected to take place? How can the Government persist in claiming that the plebiscite gives the people of Northern Ireland a clear choice?

In terms of the border, the expectation presumably is that the Unionist masses will turn out to vote "Yes" to a man in its favour. But do not those who may vote "Yes" to the border need to be reminded that they are voting not merely for the border but for the retention of the border under conditions as laid down by the British Government? How can they know unless the White Paper is published before the plebiscite? Yet the Secretary of State dodged the question put to him yesterday week on this subject by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme).

Moreover, the hope that a plebiscite will take the border out of politics is illusory, as has been recently argued by my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). The border will be taken out of politics only when it ceases to exist or when institutional arrangements are made which will span the border and carry the prospect of its ultimate disappearance—for example, a strong Council of Ireland. Yet the Government are doing nothing to further that development. They quite properly state that they have no wish to impede any movement towards Irish unity which is freely based on consent but carefully avoid the promotion of those policies which are conducive to the fulfilment of this aim; in other words, they continue to shirk their responsibility.

As for the third claim of the right hon. Gentleman, namely, that of confidence, the simple question— Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom?"— far from reassuring Mr. Craig is one which enables him to vote "Yes" but still afterwards to denounce the Secretary of State's subsequent proposals.

The Prime Minister clearly recognises this; hence the major speech that he made last week in Belfast which was directed exclusively towards Mr. Craig and those who think like him. It was a courageous and welcome speech. The Prime Minister pointed out that Westminster will continue to support the continued existence of the British enclave in the north-east of Ireland as long as the British there desire, but this support will be forthcoming in future only on stricter terms than has been exacted since 1920. These terms include genuine safeguards and influence for the considerable indigenous minority, as well as a realistic recognition that in the context of membership of the European Economic Community it is unrealistic to try to prevent the growth of closer links with the rest of Ireland.

It is hard to fault this proposition at this stage in common justice, in common sense or in logic. However, in view of recent speeches by Mr. Craig, as well as those made in Belfast during the period whilst the Prime Minister was there last week, such militants do not accept either the premise or the conclusion of that speech by the Prime Minister. At best such a plebiscite will be seen by such militants as an occasion for a ritual war dance aimed at cowing the Catholics. At worst it will be seen as a sop to placate Mr. Craig and his friends and will therefore confer on them a further dangerous amount of momentum.

In that case it can only reinforce the Ulster Defence Association with its ultra-Loyalist associations in the inevitability of a showdown with the Secretary of State. This rests on the belief of the UDA that behind the Secretary of State is a Conservative Party here at Westminster, or certainly sufficient members in it, that would not dare to abandon them economically providing that they demonstrate their readiness to fight.

I have a further criticism of the Bill as it stands. It constitutes an affront to liberal opinion in Britain and totally ignores moderate detribalised opinion in Ulster. The questions are not even framed in such a way as to encourage the participation of people in both communities. Hence the reasoned amendment. My right hon. and hon. Friends recognise, as I do, that there are doubtless Catholics and Protestants who are not at present attracted to the Irish Republic, who prefer to remain in the United Kingdom at present, but who would like to record themselves as favouring an eventual united Ireland.

The Alliance Party, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said, has expressed anxiety that long-term aspirations should not be mixed up or confused with the situation as it is today. Conor Cruise O'Brien has asked that consideration be given to the insertion of at least one more question at the time—"Do you hope one day to live in a United Ireland?"

This brings me to the Irish Republic. As it is mentioned in the Bill, was it consulted before hand? The Secretary of State was asked this question earlier this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, and he dodged it. I presume that the Irish Republic was not consulted.

Does the Minister think that this is the way to treat Mr. Lynch and his Republic who during the last three or four difficult years have shown forbearance, have shown moderation, have increasingly shown understanding, and now this weekend the promise of active support? If the court proceedings in Dublin today should be followed by peace moves, will the Minister think that his right hon. Friend's action will have enhanced the prospects of the peace-makers? What is more, as from 1st January, as the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) reminded us, the Government will be dealing with a different Dublin. There will no longer be the old relationship. It will no longer be a matter of big Britain and a small Irish Republic. It will be a matter of two sovereign Powers, equal members of a new Community.

What, then, if the Dublin Government take the view that the question of partition as such cannot be resolved in isolation by the voters in the North but must be dealt with through referenda in both parts of Ireland? An aggregate of the referenda results would, presumably, show a massive majority in the country as a whole favouring an end to partition. Does the Secretary of State still feel that he was entitled to take that risk? Is that the sort of situation we want after 1st January, when we are members of the EEC?

What of the Prime Minister's visit to Northern Ireland last week? It must be clear to all now that, as a Conservative Prime Minister, he took to Northern Ireland a different attitude, an attitude never before demonstrated towards Northern Ireland either over there or here, in the House or in the capital generally.

I doubt that the Prime Minister learned anything from his visit that he did not know already. In view of his carefully considered speech on Friday, as well as his ostentatious refusal to meet the leaders of the militant Protestant Vanguard and Ulster Defence Association movements, his purpose, it seems to me, was to encourage moderate responsible leadership on the Protestant side to a growing assertiveness. Yet the questions proposed for the ballot paper, as well as the notion of a plebiscite itself, appear to be tailored to meet the wishes or the extremist Protestant leaders.

In that sense, the Bill is at odds with emergent Government policy. The Prime Minister made clear in his Stormont Castle Press conference last Friday that there will be no further consultation with the people there and that the matter of constitutional change is now one for Westminster alone. Therefore, the Bill is directly at odds also with the Green Paper.

I have never found the Secretary of State so utterly unconvincing on Northern Ireland as he was today. He did not put forward a single credible reason in support of his Bill, save that the Prime Minister promised it. That, of course, has a compelling force for all hon. Members, as I readily recognise. However, I find it difficult to dismiss the Bill as a mere sop to Protestant militants. Unhappily, it will prove to be more than that.

The Bill is divisive and will, therefore, serve to harden attitudes. It is dangerous because it will serve the purposes not of the moderates but of the extremists, not of the centre but of those who are out on the wings. It is confusing because it runs counter to the Green Paper, and it is irrelevant because it is in conflict with the underlying logic of events.

Only the reasoned amendment, for which my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench are largely responsible—I pay tribute to them for it—has prevented me from deciding to vote against the Bill. With anything less than that reasoned amendment, I should have opposed the Bill at every stage.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

I hope that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) will forgive me if I reply but briefly to some of the interesting points that he made.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Northern Ireland and also the promise originally given by the Prime Minister as a result of which we are considering the Bill. I remind the House that on 24th March my right hon. Friend said: The Government, and their predecessors, have given solemn and repeated assurances that the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom will not be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. He went on to say: We have decided that it would be appropriate to arrange for the views of the people of Northern Ireland to be made known on this question from time to time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1972; Vol. 833, c. 1862.] In other words, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was saying that a fundamental question affecting the constitution of that country was involved and, therefore, the matter should be put to the people there by way of a plebiscite or referendum. In addition, he was saying that there should be a plebiscite from time to time. As a schoolboy I was taught to believe that the preacher should practise what he preached, and I therefore await with interest a similar referendum on the Common Market issue—not merely one referendum, but referenda from time to time to see whether people wish to continue to remain part of the Common Market.

I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend is to meet Mr. Lynch at the weekend. I hope they will have an interesting discussion about what is to happen to that interesting cockney John Stephenson who has been stirring things up in Ireland for the past three years. I hope too that they will discuss such matters as border security, but questions such as the referendum and the future of Northern Ireland are internal matters for the United Kingdom and should not be discussed with the Taoiseach, the Prime Minister of Southern Ireland. I hope my right hon. Friend will bear that in mind when he meets Mr. Lynch—at Mr. Lynch's request—on Friday.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows that I have always had grave doubts about the wisdom of a plebiscite on the border question. The idea was originally put to us some time ago. I remember, about a year ago, reading a leading article in The Times which suggested that a referendum might be a useful way of dealing with the Ulster problem and might get rid of the border issue not only from local government but from Stormont politics too. I doubted the wisdom of that suggestion and told my right hon. Friend so. Having a regular referendum on the border, be it every 10, 12 or 20 years, would only keep the issue alive.

I take issue with the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) who referred to our fighting elections in Northern Ireland and banging the Orange drum. That may be how things are done in Mid-Ulster. If the hon. Lady were to follow an election in my constituency she would realise that the clock had moved on a great deal. When I fight an election, I do so on the problems of the shipyards, the aircraft industry, housing and all the ordinary matters that affect the rest of the United Kingdom. That is the kind of situation that I should like to get back to Northern Ireland, and I should view with great misapprehension the prospect of having regular border polls.

Though I welcome the Bill, I hope my right hon. Friend will make it clear that he has moved away from the statement made by the Prime Minister which I have just read. I hope that the Bill provides for only one poll which will be the final poll on this issue.

The reason why I feel that one poll is desirable is that we have been victims of a vicious and deliberately pursued campaign of violence in Ulster for the past three years. The hon. Member for Attercliffe might have studied the situation a little more carefully before speaking about the UDA and the violence for which it is responsible. If the hon. Gentleman had studied the situation he would have realised that the UDA was only set up following the political initiative. It would not have been set up but for the violent campaign of murder which has plagued Ulster for the last three years, which increased in tempo after the political initiative in March until two people a day were being assassinated by Republican terrorists. Soldiers were being shot in the back of the neck as they walked down the Falls Road or the Ardoyne. They were shot by gunmen who were lying in wait for them.

After three years of efforts on the part of the politicians, the majority of the population were beginning to despair of politicians ever being able to find solutions in Northern Ireland. There was despair about the resolution of successive Governments, both Labour and Conservative, to deal in an effective and determined manner with what is clearly a seditious campaign of violence to secure a political end by violent means. This is the situation in Northern Ireland. It was because the people were beginning to despair of the resolution of successive Governments that the UDA came into existence.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

To put the matter in perspective, does my hon. Friend accept the official figures that over the past three years there have been over 7,000 incidents arising from the disorders and in only 147 cases out of those 7,000 incidents have Loyalists been involved? Does my hon. Friend also accept that in only 32 of those incidents have Protestants been involved in clashes with the Army?

Mr. Michael McGuire (Ince)

Whose figures are these?

Mr. MacMaster

I am asked "Whose figures are these?" We have only to read the papers to discover that the IRA has killed another person. The IRA makes such announcements from the rooftops. It makes no secret of the matter. The very name Irish Republican Army shows what it is attempting to do. I know that there has been some retaliation. I am greatly surprised that there has not been more retaliation. Of the 650 deaths which have occurred in the last three years—

Mr. McGuire

What proportion were Catholics?

Mr. MacMaster

I have seen death and mutilation in Northern Ireland. Young girls have lost their eyes and arms in cafes and public houses, including the Abercorn restaurant and McGurk's Bar. One person in 200 has been injured or mutilated in Northern Ireland in the last three years. That is an appalling figure. But not 1 per cent. has been caused because of a Protestant reaction. It is obviously a Republican campaign which is backed by a skilful propaganda campaign.

The plebiscite is now necessary to show to the world that the great majority in Northern Ireland, including very many Catholics, wish to maintain the present political and constitutional set-up in Northern Ireland. It is for that reason that a plebiscite should be held straight away to show that a high proportion of the people in Ulster wish to maintain the link with the United Kingdom. That is why many Opposition hon. Members have tried to confuse the issue by suggesting that the White Paper should be published first. It is now clear that the issue of plebiscite or no plebiscite is fundamental. It is a question which must be disposed of before we can consider the Government's constitutional proposals in Northern Ireland. It would only create confusion and it would be a red herring if the White Paper were published first.

I welcomed the reply of my right hon. Friend when I asked him today what his proposals now are. The idea had initially been to have the plebiscite first. It was then decided to have the local authority elections on 6th December. At the beginning of October my right hon. Friend seemed to be deciding that from the point of view of parliamentary expediency it would be impossible to have the plebiscite first. However, he was persuaded to postpone the local authority elections, because of the unsuitableness of 6th December, and the plebiscite has now come back into the original position of being an issue that must be got out of the way before we go on to deal with the White Paper.

The White Paper will undoubtedly contain recommendations that are not acceptable to my right hon. and hon. Friends. We shall debate them, and I hope that we shall be able to amend them. That is one of the purposes of democracy. But the fundamental issue must be clarified first.

I promised to be brief, and I shall not deal with other matters because other hon. Members wish to speak. I welcome the plebiscite, but I ask my hon. Friend the Minister of State to confirm that it is the Government's intention not to hold regular plebiscites on the issue but to have the plebiscite for which the Bill provides and get it out of the way for good and all.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

Because of the lateness of the hour, and because I promised to be as brief as possible and to make only one or two short points, I do not wish to deal with many of the provocative arguments advanced through the selective references chosen by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster).

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), I should have opposed the plebiscite, referendum or poll but for the fact that a reasoned amendment has been moved on behalf of the Opposition which can be supported, certainly as far as it goes.

I should have opposed the plebiscite for a number of reasons. In present circumstances it is utterly useless. The result is already known. The plebiscite is divisive and leaves out many questions that should be asked. Therefore, I have grave doubts whether in its present form it will improve the situation. It may even make it much worse.

The timing is completely wrong. There is a valid argument that it should not be held before the Government's proposals are known so that people taking part will be able to see what they are expected to answer, what kind of United Kingdom they are joining. It should be a United Kingdom that had already implemented a Bill of Rights in the six counties, not simply a Bill of Rights set out in a White Paper. That Bill of Rights would do away with internment and abolish the Special Powers Act. That would begin to create an atmosphere in which people on both sides of the community in the six counties could take the referendum seriously. But in the prevailing circumstances that cannot happen.

Critics in the Republic, including Conor Cruise O'Brien, have made a number of suggestions about the questions to be asked in the poll, as have the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Alliance Party, the New Ulster movement and most moderates in the six counties. They feel that the questions are almost useless, and should be changed. I hope that on Thursday we shall seek to change them. sak h-18

I should like the Minister to say how he intends to assess the results of the referendum, plebiscite or poll. Will it be on the basis of a straight percentage majority? Special circumstances exist in the six counties which, we accept, mean that we have to have this kind of device. Do the same special circumstances have any bearing on the required majority so that it ought to be more than a straight majority? Would it be more relevant if the majority were adjusted in some way? After all, there are respectable precedents. In Illinois the required percentage to carry a proposal is 66⅔. In many other countries a certain proportion of the States participating must vote in favour of a proposal. If one county in the six voted against this proposal, could that rule it out? We have had a recent example of the referendum or plebiscite concerning a proposal for unity between the Anglicans and the Methodists. In that case the required proportion in favour was fixed at 75 per cent. Those are but a few examples where it has been necessary to move away from a straight majority. In my view it would be just as useless to adhere to this kind of majority in the present poll.

Will the Minister give the House an indication about how the results will be assessed and about the kind of majority that he thinks will be acceptable? Secondly, will he say how the results will be announced? Will they be announced county by county, polling district by polling district, or how? I hope that the hon. Gentleman will deal with those two matters when he winds up the debate.

9.6 p.m.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)

I am grateful for a few moments in which to speak on an issue on which I have not spoken before in this House.

I despair increasingly of the whole subject of Northern Ireland because I believe it to be one of those issues, like that of the Middle East or that in Nigeria, where two communities are bitterly at loggerheads without any prospect of peace so long as they are resolved not to have peace.

The wisest statement in the rag bag of wisdom which constitutes the Green Paper are the following words: Both political theory and practical experience show that no scheme of government, however carefully drawn, can do more than present an opportunity for progress. It is in the hearts and minds of the people of Northern Ireland, and not just in the aims of Government or the words of Acts of Parliament, that the capacity for working and living together must flourish. While all the evidence of the past three years indicates that there is not any appreciable will for peace anywhere in Northern Ireland, that with every concession to one side or the other there is a demand for renewed concessions by the other side, no concession appears in any way to lead to an increase in the will for peace and the will for compromise by the great body of moderate opinion which is not allied to an extremist wing. It is this appearance of insensitivity to the continuing turmoil in Northern Ireland which leads increasingly to a wide measure of despair on this side of the Channel.

That is why I put my name to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) which seeks to indicate to the people of Northern Ireland that there is a limit to the patience of people on this side of the Channel about what should be done.

I am prepared to accept any settlement of this dispute which is acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. I am prepared to accept that they should go into a united Ireland. I am prepared even to accept that they should be integrated into the United Kingdom, though I doubt very much whether that is a realistic solution. However, I am prepared to accept it if that is the will of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.

There is a limit to the patience and capacity of the people of the United Kingdom who are not in Northern Ireland to continue with the turmoil, the war, the bloodshed and the expenditure of treasure simply in order that one side may go on fighting the battles of 300 years ago. This is a matter which should be brought home to the people of Northern Ireland. There is a limit.

I am much attracted to the idea of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that there should be a limit to the period of time during which we keep the Army in Northern Ireland. Something must be done to make the people of Northern Ireland realise that they must learn to live and work together, which means that they must accept a measure of compromise in what they hold most dear. If they do not, there is a strong argument for saying that the British ought to come out of Northern Ireland and leave them to decide the issue for themselves.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

This has been an extremely important debate. The Opposition attached such importance to it that they felt it essential to put down a reasoned amendment, for reasons that have been given during the debate. We feel that the matter is so serious that it is absolutely essential for the Government to get it right. The manner in which the referendum is to be held is not getting it right. We want to see the White Paper first. We believe that there is an argument for additional questions. This point has been exemplified particularly in speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). If we do not get this issue right it could lead not only to stagnation but to a rapid deterioration in the situation in Northern Ireland, bad as it is at present.

The right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) thought that our reasoned amendment was right. He said he thought he could agree with us but he did not think it was the time to raise the matter with the Secretary of State because of the burdens he is carrying. However, we feel that it is right to speak out. It is right to exercise the arguments that have been put forward this afternoon. We sincerely expect the Government to examine our arguments, particularly the amendments which we shall be putting down in Committee. We believe that there must be some give on this issue because of the seriousness of the situation.

This is the first time since 1920 that the constitution has been reviewed in the sense that the people in Northern Ireland are being consulted on the specific issue of the constitution of the Six Counties.

We have heard learned arguments and historical references regarding the 1920 built-in majority. No one in this House denies what the effect of the referendum will be. It would appear that nowhere in the world are referenda held unless people are certain to win them. On this built-in majority of two to one, it seems absolutely wrong to ask the people of Northern Ireland to vote on 1920 terms. We are now in 1972 with a more serious political situation involving the use of military force by the British Government.

Those of us who saw Dominic Behan's play "Carson's Country" will recall how he portrayed the 1920s. Unfortunately, it would appear that Northern Ireland is still frozen in the 1920 mould. However, we have moved beyond that.

I believe that people are now beginning to realise that this Parliament is responsible. Those of us who used to argue about Article 76 of the Government of Ireland Act have been proved right in this regard. At the end of the day, this Parliament will have the last word. This was underlined by the hon. Member for Antrim, North who specifically pointed out that it was not any assembly in the North, it was not any bygone Stormont, but the British Parliament which was responsible. In that sense I believe that the British Parliament must be heard concerning the proposals that are being made before putting them to the people of Northern Ireland. It would be an absolute disaster if this plebiscite led to violence, intimidation and a hardening of the situation, if it meant that people would not participate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster said that she would campaign against the referendum. She did not say whether, if the question were suitable to all the people, if there were a preamble to these proposals, if the White Paper were produced first, she might feel able to urge the people she represents to vote in the poll.

Our amendment appeals to the moderates. We are trying to isolate on either side the extremists who do not want to talk, to vote or to see a considered political settlement. It is in that sense that we are dealing with these proposals. We feel, for instance, that among the White Paper proposals a Bill of Rights should spell out once and for all the protected rights of the majority and the minority.

The hon. Lady said that this poll was a day out for the Unionists, that they could vote and that some subsequent Government at Westminster could overturn it. That is always possible while the situation is in the hands of this Parliament, but it is not a possibility if we It has happened on the minority side down the rights of the majority and the minority, leaving the door open for a united Ireland or for other decisions, but for those decisions ultimately to be taken by the Irish people. At the end of the day it is the Irish people who must resolve these matters, and they would not resolve them if the Government here tried to impose a settlement which was completely unacceptable to the vast majority.

What appals me about Northern Ireland is that there is a lot to fight about and a lot to blow up—a fight not against people and with guns but against the bad housing and the conditions there. It is strange to me when I go down the Shankill Road to find conditions which are a little better than those in the Falls Road. There is a lot that people could fight for there. Surely they want to fight for full employment instead of the 9.3 per cent. unemployment that they have at the moment.

Many Unionists and working-class Protestants have been kidded on this issue. Their sights have been set on the wrong targets. The target should be to change that society, on the basis of the sort of measures they need. It is on that basis that we consider this matter.

Today, as in previous debates, I have heard the same arguments on this economic issue from the hon. Members for Mid-Ulster, Belfast, West, Antrim, North and Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). That is a very interesting collection of hon. Members but, coming from the type of constituencies they represent, they know the basic issues. They know the poverty that exists.

It is strange to me that a part of the United Kingdom which has great opportunities and is a delightful place to live in should have an economic system which has been allowed to stagnate for 50 years, since 1920. It was allowed to stagnate because the real economic arguments were never allowed to develop. The people were always diverted to the sectarian issues, religion and the border when the real issues that face Northern Ireland are the economic and social issues.

Mr. McMaster

I was wondering whether the hon. Gentleman would call a small constituency like mine, where 20,000 people are employed in one of the largest and most modern shipyards and in the manufacture and export of more missiles than any other part of the United Kingdom, a stagnant area.

Mr. Orme

I shall come to the hon. Gentleman's shipyards shortly.

Mr. McNamara

They are our shipyards.

Mr. Orme

That leads me to my next observation. I was in the Bogside in 1969 when the British troops came in at the behest of the Northern Ireland Government. The troops were sent in by a Labour Government to protect the communities. After the troops had come in, the Catholic people demonstrated. They felt that relief had come to them. I remember a young man saying to me then "Mr. Orme, I want political equality and the sort of things I have heard people in the Bogside talking about. But I am 35 years of age and what I really want is a job, because I have never had one." That was in an area with a 22 per cent. male unemployment rate.

No one in the United Kingdom can be proud of this. It is an absolute disgrace to see the wastage of human endeavour in Northern Ireland. It is a tragedy to divert it down blind alleys. Guns will not resolve it. One of my hon. Friends asked what the campaign about civil rights was about. The one issue omitted from the campaign was the border. That issue was omitted because the people said "Let us get equality, jobs and full employment. Then we can talk about the wider political questions." The campaign started on that basis. Unfortunately at that time the people campaigning were often talking to the deaf and' the blind, those who did not want to hear or to see. Terence O'Neill has a few words for this. I read them in his book, which sums it up thus: Always in Northern Ireland too little too late. Because of that, we say to the Government that they must not do too little too late this time.

The Prime Minister made a speech in Northern Ireland in which he dealt with the issue of UDI. He quoted a figure of £200 million to the majority. He said: In particular to those who urge that Northern Ireland should seize its own unilateral independence I must say that not only would such an attempt bring about a blood- bath: but that were it to succeed the British Government would not pay one penny of the £200 million a year now provided to the Province to an independent country such as they claim to want. It is in that sort of situation that we have to examine the approach of Mr. William Craig and his friends on this matter. The hon. Member for Belfast, East talked about Harland and Wolff. If there was UDI we could say goodbye to Harland and Wolff. From where would come the £49 million which the British Government are putting in at present? The same applies to Short Brothers and Harland. Some of the workers in that firm who misguidedly campaign for UDI are campaigning for a reduction in their standard of living. They can claim rightly that in the Republic the standard of living is low, but I wonder what theirs would be if there were UDI at present. The Prime Minister uses the figure of £200 million, but no one has a correct way of assessing the figure. Another £100 million can be added on loan charges. Last Friday we gave a Second Reading to a Bill which, in effect, gives £350 million to Northern Ireland. How much are British troops costing us at present? It could be £100 million or £200 million.

A total of about £500 million could be presently going into Northern Ireland. If that is set against the freeze and squeeze and we tell British workers that that money is going down the drain, that the people there do not really want it and that all that they want to do is to fight instead of looking for a political solution, things could turn very nasty.

As some of my hon. Friends have said, there is an Amendment on the Order Paper which deals with this situation, stating in effect that the British public ought to be consulted. We all know what would be the result if we held a referendum now on this issue. I am certain, however, that if the British public, knowing what needs to be done in Northern Ireland and the type of expenditure needed, could see a political base, they would be prepared to pay for it to ease the economic situation and to get the growth and expansion.

Mr. Craig produced his document "Ulster for Sale". If he carries on with the type of arguments he has been putting forward, he will not be able to give it away, let alone sell it. The airy-fairy schemes about setting up a little independent State which would be the banker of Europe with all the trade flashing through Belfast—proposals made by someone who was a prominent leader of the Unionist Party—make nonsense of the situation. I believe that Mr. Craig is misleading tens of thousands of working-class Protestants who want the same type of life at the end of the day as working-class Roman Catholics. It is in these terms that we must talk about the majority and the minority, because they both have the right to exist in conditions acceptable to them.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does the hon. Member not recollect the statement by Dr. Noel Browne, a Member of the Eire Labour Party, who said that people in the North had a far better hope for life than in the Free State—

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

That was before 1969.

Mr. Kilfedder

Both countries started out in the same way with the same limitations in 1920 and Northern Ireland has made great progress in spite of the lack of money coming from this Parliament.

Mr. Orme

When the Irish Labour Party came here and met members of the Conservative Party and the backbench committee of the Parliamentary Labour Party they made the point that if unification were granted tomorrow all forms of taxation, both direct and indirect, would have to be doubled in the Republic in order to bring them up to anywhere near the standards which exist in the North at the present time. The Irish Labour Party knows that it is not a reality. No one is saying that unification is the issue for tomorrow, but they do say that people have the right to hold that view and to work towards it and not to be outlawed for thinking along those lines. They believe that people have the right to campaign for what they believe. If the issue became a normal issue, it could be dealt with.

In spite of all the difficulties, there is an encouraging glimmer of light in that the political edifices built over the last 50 years are beginning to crumble. It has happened on the minority side with the nationalists. There are now different forms of nationalists—the SDLP, the Northern Ireland Labour Party—and it is happening on the Unionist side. I think that the hon. Member for Antrim, North is the first living example of a break in the Unionist Party. There are Protestant organisations, such as the Vanguard movement, and though they may contain people we find unattractive, an interesting aspect is that many of them are moving to working-class leadership as opposed to the old type of Unionist leadership typical of the last 50 years. This development must be taken a stage further. The workers at Short Brothers and Harland and Harland and Wolff can surely be persuaded that stability can come in economic growth and a higher standard of living. This is the way that the situation has to move. This is the crack in the edifice which I believe to be extremely important.

Who represents whom from Northern Ireland in this House? There have been no elections for Stormont since 1969. Some have said that they are not sure whether they still represent the same people who elected them in 1970, or for the same reasons. People do not know because there has been no political test. If there is to be such a test, there have to be pre-conditions. This test has to be in the proper climate. We are not opposing the referendum in principle because we realise that there is a commitment, but we are saying that we want the referendum tied first and foremost to positive proposals so that people know what they are voting about. Then we need perhaps to move to elections in which we can see what the alignments may be. We may find some encouraging results.

Let us have Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA, the IRA. Let them stand before the electorate. It has to be done on that basis. We might find some form of alignment which could move the people in Northern Ireland to an economic basis from which to argue the social case which needs to be developed for the six counties.

Trade unions play a crucial part in this. Much credit has been given to the trade union leadership which in that small society is first class. Those of us who have met the leaders admire them. They are operating under difficult conditions. Such organisation as the Loyalist Workers' Association can make things difficult for them but they are campaigning on an economic basis. It is the trade unions which have fought for the maintenance of the shipyards and the aircraft industry which are the basic economic strength of the province.

If we take those away the province would be in a weak position. The timing of these questions is crucial. I understand the difficulties of many who are opposed to this but I believe that they ought to be encouraged to go to the poll. There ought to be a preamble to the questions and a third question added, the sort of sensible question which we have put forward: Do you want eventually to live in a United Ireland brought about by the free consent of the peoples of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? There may be many people, not Nationalists or Roman Catholics, who could vote for that. It would not commit them to unification tomorrow; they can work for it. If that persuaded the minority to vote it would at least be a move in a positive direction. The Government must give this serious consideration.

This is their policy. They govern and they have not consulted any of the parties about this Bill or the questions to be asked in the poll. We are entitled to ask, in such a sensitive situation which could lead to so much trouble, that this third question be posed. We often get support on this question of a White Paper from some unusual sources. In the Unionist research document "The Future of Northern Ireland" the Unionist Party in its critique of the Green Paper says: A White Paper in June, 1972, would have been better than a Green Paper in October, 1972. The sooner a final White Paper follows … the better. If the Unionist Party believes in that it should not object to this third question.

Captain Orr

The answer to that is that the referendum should have followed very fast after it was promised by the Prime Minister.

Mr. Orme

We have not had the referendum but are just discussing the Bill, though I think that the case has been made out by the Unionist Party for these proposals to be made.

Those of us who have visited the area on a number of occasions and have been with people from all sides there know how embattled the people of Northern Ireland are, but what is interesting is that virtually everybody there is open to talk. People are prepared to discuss this issue across the divides, certainly with Members of this House. When we talk to people of differing points of view we find that there is a possibility of getting some form of liaison—not necessarily complete agreement, but there can be some type of rapport. That is essential. If it can be achieved on the basis of discussions with representative people in Northern Ireland, not just the leaders, but everybody, the Government have got to translate those feelings into positive action. The Government have not got a lot of time.

What divides people in Northern Ireland is fear. It is fear which is inbuilt. It is fear which makes people do the atrocious things, whether blowing up an RUC man on his way to or from barracks or such a thing as that dastardly attack on Austin Currie's wife. It is fear which creates in that society a situation which many people elsewhere in the United Kingdom cannot even begin to understand. We have to remove that fear. It will not be easy, but we have to be optimistic, not pessimistic. We have got to make a real approach.

The White Paper and the proposals contained in it may be the last chance for a long time to come, and perhaps before a great deal more bloodshed, when we may be able to pick up the bits again. We must offset that fear and start with a Bill of Rights, with an assembly, with a dialogue, with economic growth and expansion and possibly public ownership. For instance, I can foresee an assembly in Northern Ireland with more power in one respect than Stormont had, and that is economic power. Questions of security have dominated the situation for a long lime. We should seek positive as well as negative measures.

It is in that sense that the Opposition propose their Amendment tonight and will continue urging its provisions when the Bill is considered in Committee. Northern Ireland debates can be very depressing affairs. When we hear the views, coming fresh as they do from hon. Members on both sides of the House who live in Northern Ireland and who are under great pressure there, we can understand what a terrible situation it is. But we have to make a start to solve it and I believe that the proposals we have put forward, modest as they are, are positive and in the interests of Northern Ireland and of the people of the rest of the United Kingdom. We urge the Government to take note of them. There may not be too much time.

9.39 p.m.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)

Our discussion today has ranged wide over Irish politics and Irish history, and the names of Asquith, Lloyd George and Michael Collins have been called in aid. We have also touched on economic and social issues, to which the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) has brought a particularly powerful and sincere appeal. He dealt very vigorously in what he has just said with many of those aspects, and with a great deal of what he says I would go along. Many of the aims he set out for the people of Northern Ireland are aims we would all share.

The main theme of the debate is easy to pick out amidst many other points which have been made. It is the Opposition view put from the Opposition Front Bench and by many other hon. Members that the Bill and the proposed White Paper on the future constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland should be woven together as part of the same exercise. Against that, there is the Government view that the Bill is about the poll on the border and that it should be kept in those terms and as simple as that.

In contrast we believe that the amendment, by proposing less limited questions, tries to bring into a fairly simple procedure constitutional complexities. We fully recognise the thinking behind the reasoned amendment and the sincerity with which it is put forward, but we believe this to be the wrong way and that these matters should be dealt with by different processes. I will develop how we see those processes going forward as I deal with the points made in individual speeches. I will put before the House the way in which the Government see the constitutional developments going forward and the reason why we believe that the simple issue of the poll on the border should be kept separate from the constitutional structure and detail that lie ahead.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) began by raising the issue of timing and the sequence of future events: which should come first, the poll on the border or the White Paper? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that at this stage he did not believe—and nor do I—that it is right to predict exactly the sequence of events. We aim to press ahead as fast as possible with the White Paper and with the procedures leading up to the poll on the border. But it is not possible to say, and it is unfair to expect my right hon. Friend to do so at this stage, what the sequence will be or which will come first. My right hon. Friend made clear that he had an open mind on this matter, and I think that is a reasonable and fair position for him to take. In due course the order will come before the House and decisions will have to be clearly stated and argued out. I believe that position to be reasonable and fair, and I ask the House to accept it.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South went on to develop the main Opposition theme of the day that the poll should be broadened out with additional questions and pinned to the White Paper. I understand the argument that people should know the type of assembly, executive bodies and so on so that they will know what they were voting for. That matter divides us tonight. We have heard plenty of arguments on whether plebiscites are of any validity in reaching political conclusions in any circumstances. We have had plenty to say on that in recent months in other spheres. I only ask at this stage: is the plebiscite a vehicle for elucidating the degree of detail and subtlety of argument about the constitutional development, the detail of the structure, the administrative plans and so on of the future of Northern Ireland? We think not. Other hon. Members may think so, but I shall return later to this subject.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and the hon. Member for Salford, West pointed to the need to get the constitution right. We shall argue that it is the United Kingdom Parliament and the processes of reaching decisions of government and giving them legislative validity which is the channel through which these matters should go. I shall come to that matter in a little more detail in a moment.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South mentioned the conditions of polling and the problem of darkness. We are looking at the possibility of variations in hours and that sort of thing. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) also touched on that subject. I must stress that our mind is open in the sense that we have not finally reached decisions, and all these variations and possibilities are being studied and the suggestions made in this debate will be taken into account and will be useful.

Points were raised about the new register and this is relevant to the question of dates and the sequence of events. The date of publication of the new register will be 15th February, but it will need two weeks thereafter to check errors and to distribute documents. The earliest possible date on which the new register could be used would be 28th February.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South also mentioned timing and asked whether this matter will be dealt with by negative or affirmative Resolution. We propose in the Bill that this should be carried out by negative Resolution. No doubt this point will be pursued by the Opposition in Committee, and that probably is the best place to deal with it.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about the powers taken in Clause 1(2) of the Bill and fears were expressed that these powers were too wide. The reason for this power being sought in this way lies in the fact that my right hon. Friend may have to seek means of controlling excessive expenditure or to control intimidation. We must face this possibility. If hon. Members are worried about this matter, we shall seek to clarify it in any regulations which are brought forward and no doubt the point can be pressed in Committee.

Mr. Heffer

In the event of the minority not voting and there being no real guide to the strength of feeling one way or the other, what will be the Government's attitude?

Mr. Howell

If the hon. Gentleman is asking me for the assessment we shall make of the result, he must realise that it would be unhelpful and positively damaging to begin by saying what assessment we make before any result is reached. The Government cannot be expected to make a judgment on an outcome which has yet to be decided. I was going on to deal with the more detailed points before coming to the general matters—

Mr. Peter Archer

Before the Minister leaves subsection (2), may I remind him that at the beginning of the debate the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was asked whether there was any precedent for powers as wide as those provided in the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to promise an answer at the end of the debate. May we now be given that answer?

Mr. Howell

I cannot give the hon. and learned Gentleman the precise legal precedent. I can say that powers of that kind are needed in some cases, but I have made clear that if this point worries hon. Members we shall look at it and, if necessary, clarify the point in any regulations. If the hon. and learned Gentleman is asking for precise legal precedents, I shall have to undertake a little research and write to him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) asked whether campaigns by parties will be allowed. The answer is that they certainly will be allowed.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Dr. David Owen) made a most interesting speech. It is true that he condemned all plebiscites, but in doing so he made a devastating case against using plebiscites for multiple questions in elucidating detailed answers about how people view matters. The hon. Gentleman made a powerful argument in favour of the very important point that the United Kingdom Parliament is the place to settle the future detailed constitution and structure in Northern Ireland. I believe that to be right, and that is reflected in much of the case that the Government are putting forward tonight for keeping the poll a simple issue on the border. I realise that that is not the argument the hon. Gentleman was making, but he made some forceful points which can be taken in that way.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) made a very powerful general thesis, with which we are familiar, in favour of integration. He asked in particular about poll cards. They are sent out in Northern Ireland for Westminster elections. As we are under the Westminster rules in this poll, they will be sent out in this poll.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West made a strong speech in which he spoke about the security dangers which might be raised by the plebiscite. There are security problems. Security precautions of a necessary kind will be taken.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) asked whether the vote would be gathered and declared by constituencies. The answer is that it will not be by constituencies. It is intended to do the count for Northern Ireland as a whole.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South asked whether the ballot paper will be invalidated if "Yes" is answered to both questions. The answer is that it will, because the questions are mutually exclusive—

Mr. Duffy


Mr. Howell

People may say, as the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) has just said, "Nonsense" and put "Yes" in answer to both questions, but the intention is that the questions should be mutually exclusive.

The hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) made a very trenchant speech in which he talked much good sense. The hon. Gentleman was making a speech in favour of the amendment which really asks the question: why not a referendum for the whole of the United Kingdom? If the proposition the hon. Gentleman has in mind is that the constitutional detail of the structure of Northern Ireland should be settled by the United Kingdom Parliament approving legislation and giving effect to it, this is a principle with which the Government can go along. This is what we believe and it is what I have already argued.

Where we part company is that we do not believe that it should be done, or that it would be possible to do it, through a plebiscite, referendum, poll or whatever it may be called. We have here the parliamentary processes which some may decry but which some value. These are the ways by which the United Kingdom reaches decisions of this kind on the constitutional and detailed future of a part of the United Kingdom. This is the way we see the matter going forward.

We believe that a plebiscite is necessary in Northern Ireland, where the Parliament is prorogued, to fulfil our pledge: not to elucidate new structures of government, because I do not believe that is a valid way of using a plebiscite. It may be argued that other ways are not so good either, but that certainly would not produce the right results.

Hon. Members put to both my right hon. Friend and myself the question whether there had been consultation with the Republic of Ireland, if, as one hon. Member said, perhaps anticipating, he can get it out of me. My right hon. Friend answered that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has had fairly frequent meetings with the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. Obviously detailed relations between Governments are confidential, but naturally we welcome all moves in the Republic to combat terrorism. I cannot say more than that. If the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North thinks that he has not got it out of me, he is probably right.

Mr. McNamara

I asked whether there had been consultations with the Government of the Republic about three matters—first, the plebiscite; secondly, the form of the questions; and thirdly, what would happen if the decision was taken to join the Republic. Were those three things discussed with the Government of the Republic of Ireland; and if not, why not?

Mr. Howell

I have given the hon. Gentleman the only answer that I shall give, that frequent meetings have taken place. I will not go further than that. I told him that he would not get it out of me.

Miss Devlin

On the question of Clause 1(2), I asked whether campaigning would be allowed, and the hon. Gentleman said, "Yes". Will he then answer my other question: as in the circumstances of an election, will people campaigning be entitled to the same protection in putting their point of view as parliamentary candidates are offered under the Representation of the People Act?

Mr. Howell

If the hon. Lady is talking of the proper degree of security, my answer is that, obviously, every effort will be made to provide that security. Perhaps I have not grasped the point which she raises, and, if she cares to raise it with me later, I will do my best to deal with it.

The amendment touches on two other matters, the Bill of Rights and the question of North-South co-operation. My right hon. Friend has offered a welcome on both those aspects. We think that the Bill of Rights idea is worth considering. It will, obviously, be taken into account in developing constitutional proposals. Clearly, there is room for opportunities for North-South co-operation on a range of economic matters. These were recognised by previous Northern Ireland Governments, and we recognise them, too. There is no dispute between us on those aspects of the Opposition's reasoned amendment.

The central difference between us tonight is that we believe that the amendment is not germane to the Bill. The Bill is about the border, and it is a simple measure. The amendment is about constitutional complexities, and it raises difficult and complicated issues. We be-

lieve that those complicated issues are of great importance, but they are not best dealt with by a poll, plebiscite or referendum.

We believe that those issues should be dealt with by the Green Paper, which we have already published—admittedly, white, but I ask hon. Members to accept that it is a Green Paper—by the consultation with political parties which my right hon. Friend is now urgently entering into so that he may hear all the views, such as those of the New Ulster movement, the Northern Ireland Labour Party and all the other organisations whose views have been mentioned today; by publication of the White Paper, as soon as we can get on with that; and by the bringing of legislation to the House of Commons so that approval may be sought and the United Kingdom House of Commons and Parliament may declare their view on the future constitutional detail of Northern Ireland.

We believe that that is the way in which that process should be worked out. In contrast, we believe that the Bill fulfils a simple and straightforward pledge. It fulfils it clearly and directly, and I ask the House to join us in meeting this commitment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 201.

Division No. 16.] AYES [10 p.m.
Abse, Leo Conlan, Bernard Flecher, Ted (Darlington)
Albu, Austen Corbet, Mrs. Freda Foley, Maurice
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Foot, Michael
Allen, Scholefield Crawshaw, Richard Ford, Ben
Archer, Peter {Rowley Regis) Cronin, John Forrester, John
Ashton, Joe Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Galpern, Sir Myer
Atkinson, Norman Dalyell, Tarn Gilbert, Dr. John
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Golding, John
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Davies, Ifor (Gower) Gourlay, Harry
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Bidwell, Sydney Deakins, Eric Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Dempsey, James Hamilton, William (Fife. W.)
Booth, Albert Devlin, Miss Bernadette Hamling, William
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Doig, Peter Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Dormand, J. D. Hardy, Peter
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.) Harper, Joseph
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Douglas-Mann, Bruce Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Buchan, Norman Duffy, A. E. P. Heffer, Eric S.
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Dunnett, Jack Horam, John
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Eadie, Alex Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Cant, R. B. Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Howell, Denis (Small Heath)
Carmichael, Neil Ellis, Tom Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) English, Michael Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Evans, Fred Hunter, Adam
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Faulds, Andrew Janner, Greville
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Cohen, Stanley Fitch, Alan (Wigan) John, Brynmor
Coleman, Donald Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)
Concannon, J. D. Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)
Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Meacher, Michael Rowlands, Ted
Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Mendelson, John Sandelson, Neville
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Millan, Bruce Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Miller, Dr. M. S. Sillars, James
Judd, Frank Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Skinner, Dennis
Kaufman, Gerald Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Small, William
Kelley, Richard Moyle, Roland Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Kerr, Russell Murray, Ronald King Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Kinnock, Neil Oakes, Gordon Spearing, Nigel
Lambie, David Ogden, Eric Spriggs, Leslie
Lamborn, Harry O'Halloran, Michael Stallard, A. W.
Lamond, James O'Malley, Brian Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Latham, Arthur Oram, Bert Strang, Gavin
Lawson, George Orme, Stanley Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Leadbitter, Ted Oswald, Thomas Swain, Thomas
Leonard, Dick Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lestor, Miss Joan Padley, Walter Tinn, James
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Pardoe, John Urwin, T. W.
Lipton, Marcus Parker, John (Dagenham) Varley, Eric G.
Loughlin, Charles Pendry, Tom Wainwright, Edwin
Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Perry, Ernest G. Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg. Wallace, George
McBride, Neil Prescott, John Watkins, David
McCartney, Hugh Price, William (Rugby) Weitzman, David
McGuire, Michael Probert, Arthur Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mackenzie, Gregor Reed, D. (Sedgefield) White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Mackintosh, John P. Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.) Whitehead, Phillip
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
McNamara, J. Kevin Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Marks, Kenneth Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n&R'dnor) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Marsden, F. Roper, John Mr. James Wellbeloved and
Marshall, Dr. Edmund Rose, Paul B. Mr. James Hamilton.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Kitson, Timothy
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fookes, Miss Janet Knight, Mrs. Jill
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Fortescue, Tim Knox, David
Astor, John Foster, Sir John Lamont, Norman
Atkins, Humphrey Fowler, Norman Lane, David
Awdry, Daniel Fox, Marcus Le Marchant, Spencer
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Fry, Peter Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Benyon, W. Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D Luce, R. N.
Berry, Hn. Anthony Gardner, Edward MacArthur, Ian
Biffen, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) McCrindle, R. A.
Biggs-Davison, John Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) McLaren, Martin
Blaker, Peter Goodhew, Victor McMaster, Stanley
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Gower, Raymond McNair-Wilson, Michael
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Gray, Hamish McNair-Willson, Patrick (New Forest)
Bossom, Sir Clive Green, Alan Madel, David
Bowden, Andrew Grieve, Percy Maginnis, John E.
Bray, Ronald Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mather, Carol
Brinton, Sir Tatton Grylis, Michael Maude, Angus
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Gummer, J. Selwyn Mawby, Ray
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gurden, Harold Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Bryan, Sir Paul Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Buck, Antony Hall, John (Wycombe) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Burden, F. A. Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Mitchell, Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W)
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Channon, Paul Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Moate, Roger
Chapman, Sydney Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Molyneaux, James
Chichester-Clark, R. Haselhurst, Alan Money, Ernie
Churchill, W. S. Havers, Sir Michael Monks, Mrs. Connie
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hawkins, Paul Montgomery, Fergus
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hayhoe, Barney Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Clegg, Walter Heseltine, Michael Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Cockeram, Eric Hiley, Joseph Mudd, David
Cooke, Robert Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.) Murton, Oscar
Cooper, A. E. Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Cormack, Patrick Holt, Miss Mary Neave, Airey
Normanton, Tom
Costain, A. P. Hordern, Peter Nott, John
Crouch, David Hornby, Richard Onslow, Cranley
Crowder, F. P. Howell, David (Guildford) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Osborn, John
Dean, Paul Hunt, John Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Hutchison, Michael Clark Paisley, Rev. Ian
Dixon, Piers James, David Parkinson, Cecil
Dykes, Hugh Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Kaberry, Sir Donald Pink, R. Bonner
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Pounder, Rafton
Emery, Peter Kershaw, Anthony Proudfoot, Wilfred
Farr, John Kilfedder, James Quennell, Miss J. M.
Fell, Anthony King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Raison, Timothy
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy King, Tom (Bridgwater) Redmond, Robert
Fidler, Michael Kinsey, J. R. Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Stanbrook, Ivor Walters, Dennis
Ridsdale, Julian Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Ward, Dame Irene
Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Warren, Kenneth
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Stokes, John Weatherill, Bernard
Rost, Peter Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Wells, John (Maidstone)
Russell, Sir Ronald Sutcliffe, John White, Roger (Gravesend)
Scott, Nicholas Tapsell, Peter Wiggin, Jerry
Scott-Hopkins, James Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wilkinson, John
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Tebbit, Norman Winterton, Nicholas
Shelton, William (Clapham) Temple, John M. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Simeons, Charles Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Sinclair, Sir George Tilney, John Woodnutt, Mark
Skeet, T. H. H. Trafford, Dr. Anthony Worsley, Marcus
Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Trew, Peter Younger, Hn. George
Soref, Harold Tugendhat, Christopher TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Spence, John van Straubenzee, W. R. Mr. Michael Jopling and
Sproat, Iain Waddington, David Mr. John Stradling Thomas
Stainton, Keith Walder, David (Clitheroe)

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 39 (Amendment on second or third reading), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Jopling.]

Committee tomorrow.