HC Deb 06 December 1973 vol 865 cc1583-99

10 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Mills)

I beg to move, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act Proscribed Organisations (Amendment) Order 1973 (S.I., 1973, No. 1880), a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th November, be approved. The order is the first of its kind to be made under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973. Its effect is to add two organisations to the list of those proscribed in Schedule 2 to that Act. They are the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Red Hand Commando, both extreme self-styled loyalist organisations.

For an organisation to be proscribed under the Act it must be one that appears to the Secretary of State to be concerned in terrorism or in promoting or encouraging it. It is, of course, not sufficient that there should be claims from individual terrorists to represent an organisation. There must be an actual organisation, and it is because there was doubt on that point that this order was not made before.

However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is now satisfied that organisations actually exist which are using these names and which are engaged in terrorist activities. He has therefore made this order and I commend it to the House.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

The Minister has been in Northern Ireland for a long time, or at least what probably seems a long time, but he obviously has not picked up the Irish propensity to talk for a long time. However, no doubt he will answer later the points we raise.

I have two basic questions about the organisations that he mentioned. Who are the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Red Hand Command. May we be told something of their aims, activities and membership? Are they assocated with any other organisation, when were they formed and why are they now being proscribed? How many alleged members of the UFF and the Red Hand Commando have been detained by the security forces since the proscription of the two organisations almost four weeks ago? How many of those detained have been put in the Maze? How many are to be subject to prosecution in a normal court of law and how many have been released?

The order is made under the urgent procedure and I doubt if anyone will complain about that. As we were told in Macbeth, If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly". However, the order raises serious questions. On the point about proscription, I remind the House that in the debate on the Civil Powers Special Regulations on 14th May this year we expressed serious reservations about the idea of proscription and on that occasion the Republican clubs were being de-proscribed. In the Division late that evening both my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. MacNamara) and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) voted with the Government on the de-proscription which took place. However, when the emergency provisions Bill was in Standing Committee in June this year the Opposition voted against proscription as a general principle in debates on Clause 18 and Schedule 2.

I should like to repeat the argument that I put then, and perhaps I may remind the House of what I said in proposing that Schedule 2 should be deleted. I said, The longer I consider the method of proscribing organisations to deal with the problems of Northern Ireland or any other country, the more I think that it is the wrong approach, and I shall seek to argue that. It does not need repeating but for the record I make it clear that in no sense could anyone countenance the activities of at least some of the proscribed organisations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 25th June 1973 ; c. 599.] The question is, what does proscription achieve? I reminded the Standing Committee that members of the IRA in uniform march in Belfast, and Mr. O'Connell goes to speak at funerals there. Has it helped to have the IRA proscribed? I reminded the Committee that the Central Citizens' Defence Committee addressed a letter to the IRA in Andersonstown. The address of the IRA in Andersonstown was given in the reply of the IRA to the CCDC. Here is a proscribed organisation that advertises its address. Over here, and correctly, in my view, we do not proscribe the IRA, and in strict security terms one of the advantages of that is, I presume, that the Special Branch know who the people are in the IRA, whereas if they were driven underground or into cover organisations it would be a little difficult.

I have been re-reading the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debate in Committee, and there was but a very short reply on this matter when the Minister of State made his speech in that debate. Brevity seems to be shared by Ministers of State and Under-Secretaries of State in answering on this point. Diffused in his speech was that it is politically impossible to de-proscribe. Then we voted against that clause on principle, but we saw the political problem that faces this Government or any Government in Northern Ireland on this matter.

If at best proscription achieves nothing practical, then at worst it has at least one important disadvantage. The act of making membership of certain organisations illegal tends to give the impression to some people that the members of other, non-proscribed, organisations are acting legally ; or alternatively, that the illegal actions of members of such organisations are being ignored by the authorities. The best current example is the Ulster Defence Association. Since that body has not been proscribed some people seem to think that all the actions of its members have been legal, or at least that the illegal actions of its members are not being taken sufficiently seriously by the authorities.

In fact, while membership of the UDA is not illegal, some members of that organisation have been detained, and others convicted of crimes as serious as that of murder. The instance of the UDA makes the point clear. The law should be directed at individuals and not at organisations, and on that basis the policy of proscription, as a principle, is little short of worthless.

I return to the UFF and the Red Hand Commando. I was in Belfast on the day those organisations were proscribed. There had been killings, and they were killings of Catholics at that time, and, given the proscription of the IRA, there was a cry, "Proscribe those other organisations". Politically, and in my view politically only, the Government felt they had to proscribe those organisations, and it was understandable, given the feeling there was, that the Government acted in that way. But it was a political action, it was not the necessity to deal with the people concerned, because if they had had evidence against the people concerned they would not have needed proscription to deal with them.

We shall not vote against the order tonight. That would be misunderstood in the current situation. I end now as we did in Committee on the Bill. We do not condone violence. We want the Government to act against those who break the law, from whatever organisation they come. We want to see the method of proscription ended. It is dangerous to give advice months ahead, but I would say to the Government, end it when detention is ended. Our hope is that when detention is ended proscription will be ended, and we hope they will be ended next July when the matter comes before the House when some of the provisions of the Act come up for renewal.

Given the situation in Belfast when these organisations were proscribed, we shall not vote against the order. We have grave doubts about the method of proscription, and we shall seek to bring this matter before the House time and again in the months ahead.

10.11 p.m.

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

It has become almost a ritual when we embark upon a series of Northern Ireland orders at this time of night to make a complaint. I go through the ritual again simply to place upon the record the fact that we consider this a monstrous way of dealing with matters of such great importance. We are to deal tonight with an order concerning the life, limb and liberty of people, and an appropriation order concerning the whole range of Government expenditure in Northern Ireland. We are to do so while the staff of the House is depleted. We are left with the fag-end of the week, in the small hours of the morning possibly, debating these very serious matters at an inappropriate time.

It is almost impossible to explain to anyone in Ulster how it comes about that, at what one might call a peak parliamentary time, on Monday next from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., we are to debate the landscaping of New Palace Yard, but that we are dealing with matters of great importance to Ulster at the fag-end of the week.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has cogently and rightly argued against the case for proscription, and I agree with him. I think that on the whole I have steadily, over these debates on the subject, become convinced that there is no great value in proscription at all. I think the sooner it was ended the better. Proscription, as the hon. Gentleman rightly argued, does not achieve anything in the end. Proscription has proved in practice to have had no marked effect at all.

The trouble about proscription, as the hon. Gentleman again rightly argued, is that it becomes almost impossible to de-proscribe. The only thing that can be said in favour of proscription is that it marks a sort of public disapproval of the organisation concerned and its aims. But one cannot then de-proscribe without doing the reverse—without saying that Parliament is now setting its seal of approval upon the organisation that is now to be de-proscribed. Thus, I place no great reliance upon proscription.

This order proscribes two more organisations. The only value of the order is that it allows us in this House to place on record once again our detestation of any organisations or people who use violent and barbarous means to try to achieve a political end. It gives us the opportunity to do that, and in that sense I welcome the order.

It also displays the impartiality of the authorities in their treatment of violence from whatever quarter. In that sense, too, it is valuable. For that reason I join with the hon. Gentleman in saying that we do not oppose the order, and for that reason only. I also agree that we should eventually try to get away from proscription. I had intended to ask almost precisely the questions the hon. Member asked about the two organisations, the number of detainees and so on. I have one further question to ask. How many of these people belonging to these organisations, if there be any already detained, will be released before Christmas in accordance with the Prime Minister's promise today? It will be interesting to see whether the release of detainees has about it the same impartial air as the detention.

One of the anomalies about proscription is that we are proscribing organisations in Northern Ireland which we do not proscribe in the rest of the United Kingdom. This seems nonsensical. If it be right for us to use the weapon of proscription against such organisations in one part of the United Kingdom then logically we should use that weapon throughout the United Kingdom.

It seems nonsensical to say that this weapon will be used against the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland but not against that organisation in the rest of the United Kingdom. Thus these proscription orders, to be logical, ought to be United Kingdom orders. If the UFF is a dangerous organisation, to be banned by parliamentary action in one part of the kingdom, then it is a dangerous organisation that ought to be proscribed throughout the kingdom. It is hard to explain to anyone why the Provisional IRA is unlawful in Northern Ireland and yet is perfectly lawful in the rest of the United Kingdom and can go about its business openly, collecting funds. It would be just as easy to argue that these two organisations, being proscribed, should not be allowed to carry on their activities, if they chose to do so, in the cities of the rest of the kingdom.

Like the hon. Gentleman, I do not propose to oppose the order. All I say is that it will not make the slightest difference to the activities which it seeks to destroy. Proscription made not the slightest difference to the activities of the Provisional IRA. This afternoon there have been a series of hi-jackings and bombings and they may still be going on. Proscription will not have the slightest effect on the people who normally associate with the organisations we are now proscribing. We are going through an activity here which is a little unreal and out of touch with what is happening. I should prefer to hear from the Minister more about the security forces and what they are doing about getting on top of violence from whatever quarter. I should like to hear about the work of Intelligence and how it is finding out about conspiracies.

It is not so much an organisation that one wants to get at. One wants to get at those who are actively conspiring against the public good to use violence for political ends. I hope that my hon. Friend will tell us a little more about that. I do not intend to oppose the order although I do not think that it will do the slightest good.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) I deplore the manner in which the House is dealing with this Northern Irish business. We are discussing the liberty of the subject in Northern Ireland at this late hour and in derisory numbers. I have already described this situation in relation to Irish business as a constitutional scandal.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) asked, who are these people? I, too, would like to hear a little more about that from my hon. Friend. Doubtless, these two lurid organisations contain some sincere loyalists who justify, to themselves at any rate, desperate courses by the destruction of a parliament to which they were attached and objection to political concessions made by Her Majesty's Government. I am also fairly certain that these organisations contain criminals, common and uncommon, thugs, sadists and political racketeers whose loyalism is an obscene contradiction in terms, the sort of people about whom I was told by a Catholic hotelier of my acquaintance from whom they levied a regular supply of crates of beer in return for not damaging his property.

These people use a flag and abuse a faith for criminal ends. Nor should their use of the Union Jack blind us to the penetration of organisations such as these from the extreme Left. I suppose it could be said that the UFF is like the UVF only more so.

Some hon. Members may have studied an interesting interview with Tomas MacGiolla, the President of the Official Republican Sinn Fein, in the Morning Star of yesterday. In this interview Mr. MacGiolla said : It appears to us that the Tyrone UVF has some good people but the local UDA is Right-wing. Elsewhere it is the other way round. That is very interesting and significant. "Good people" said Mr. MacGiolla. Good for what? Surely, for the erection of a revolutionary republic on the ruins of a Christian Ireland.

We have no sympathy for these organisations. Nevertheless, we want to hear what will be achieved by proscribing them, particularly when the previous Secretary of State rejected the Conservative Party Conference demand to proscribe the IRA in this island as in Northern Ireland. There are arguments on both sides, but it is strange that certain organisations should be singled out in this way, and I should like to hear more from my hon. Friend.

10.24 p.m.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

When the House of Commons suspended the Parliament of Northern Ireland on the basis that it was not dealing fairly with the affairs of Northern Ireland and took over the duty of running Northern Ireland from Westminster, it should have acted honourably and ethically. Having taken the duty upon itself, it should have given prime place in parliamentary time to dealing with the affairs of Northern Ireland. It has failed abysmally in the exercise of this duty.

Most of the debates which have taken place in the past 20 months on Northern Ireland have taken place late at night or in the small hours of the morning. In that way the proper function of the House to act as a chamber in which grievances can be discussed and ventilated cannot be performed. There is little hope of the matters which are debated in the small hours of the morning being reported in the following day's Press. By two days later the matter is dead. If all the British people were faced with the type of terrorist campaign which has faced the people of Northern Ireland, what would they say if the grievances of their constituents were ventilated only in the small hours of the morning?

I add my voice in protest against the shabby way in which Her Majesty's Government have treated Ireland during the past 20 months since Stormont was suspended.

The questions which have been put by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) and by some of my hon. Friends must be answered by the Minister. He must deal clearly with what advantage he sees in the banning of the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Red Hand Commando. He must reply to the question which has been put by some hon. Members—namely, how many arrests have been made in the months since those bodies have been banned and how many of those arrested have been charged or will be charged. My hon. Friend must deal with that matter.

Further, my hon. Friend must deal with the reply which has often been made in the past to myself and my hon. Friends when they have asked that the IRA should be banned in this country. My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench have said that to ban the IRA would be to drive it underground. Why did they not take the same view in respect of these organisations? My right hon. and hon. Friends cannot have their cake and eat it. They cannot say on one occasion that they refuse to ban the IRA because it will do no good, because it will hinder the security forces in the detection and prevention of crime, and yet when dealing with these two bodies—

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

Deal with the point.

Mr. McMaster

I shall deal with the point in a moment. My right hon. and hon. Friends suggest that there is an advantage in banning these organisations. If there is a difference, my hon. Friend is under a duty to spell it out.

I remind my hon. Friend that during the past four years, since the trouble started in Northern Ireland in October 1969, some 281 soldiers and police have been killed. In each case the IRA has issued a statement afterwards claiming responsibility for those deaths. Not one soldier or officer has been killed by anyone other than members of the IRA—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Leeds. South wishes to interrupt me, perhaps he will do so and give the statistics to the House.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I do not wish to join in an argument about who killed whom. I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) that I have an example in front of me of a member of the UDA who killed a policeman. I have the details in front of me because I have been checking over the past few months why the man who killed the policeman had a licensed gun. The hon. Gentleman knows by now that there is no one on this side of the House who wishes not to deal with those who want to shoot and kill. During the whole time that the IRA has been killing and shooting it has been a proscribed organisation. That is the argument which we are putting forward.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Gentleman is not following my argument. I was talking about the position not in Northern Ireland but in the United Kingdom. The IRA is not proscribed in the United Kingdom. Leaders of the IRA have come to this country and have not been arrested and charged with being members of the IRA, simply because the body is not proscribed. The hon. Member for Leeds, South has mentioned just one case out of 281 when a policeman was killed by a member of the UDA. In the other 280 cases the IRA issued statements later. If the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do so, I will go through the papers with him to prove it.

I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State why a body that has waged war, and is waging war, on the British Army—a body that has claimed responsibility for the death of our Service men and of our policemen—should not be proscribed in this country. These other two bodies, which have not been responsible for anything like the carnage of which the IRA is guilty, are being proscribed. There is a difference in treatment which cries out for explanation.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and I have repeatedly asked for action. A resolution at the Conservative Party Conference this year seeking to ban the IRA was not accepted by the Government, yet at the same time they are seeking to proscribe these other bodies which, to the best of my knowledge, have been in existence for only a number of months and whose operations are very limited when compared with the operations of the IRA.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I state categorically that I detest and hate killings and bombings by the IRA or by anybody else in Ireland. Will the hon. Gentleman say that he detests the UVF, the UFF, the Red Hand of Ulster and everything they stand for?

Mr. McMaster

Of course, I decry anybody or any member of an organisation who takes it into his own hands to cause assassinations or deaths. But I am asking why one body should be treated differently from another.

Mr. Rees

Let us get the situation quite clear, because it appears to be getting somewhat confused. In Northern Ireland the IRA, the UVF, the UFF and the Red Hand of Ulster are proscribed. They are all treated exactly the same. We are saying that proscription is a waste of time. We are saying that they should be dealt with for what they are doing and that we should not waste time on proscription.

Mr. McMaster

If the hon. Gentleman is saying that these bodies should be proscribed in Ireland, why does he not say that they should be proscribed in this country? The IRA has recently been responsible for bomb outrages in Britain and at this very moment it is carrying out hijackings and a bombing campaign in Northern Ireland. I am sure my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has taken my point and I hope that he will deal with it. The IRA is not banned in Great Britain, and yet the Government seek to ban these two bodies in Northern Ireland. Is proscription worth while or is it not?

I believe that it is valuable to proscribe illegal bodies, and I say this for two reasons. Let us take as a parallel recent legislation in this House relating to pornography and discrimination. They are going through this House because it is believed that if they are included in legislation it will help to form public opinion.

Mr. Orme

We accept that point.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) apparently accepts that point. In the same way I argue that the IRA should be banned in Great Britain. I want to be told why these bodies are being proscribed by the order and yet the IRA is not being proscribed.

My second point is equally valid. When bodies such as this are proscribed—and again I speak not only of Northern Ireland but of the United Kingdom as a whole—the media are inhibited from interviewing their spokesmen. Members of those bodies do not get a free and easy Press. At present, both the Press and the broadcasting organisations not only give these persons an opportunity to repeat their propaganda and their threats but also claim that they have the duty to interview them so that their views can be presented to the public.

If you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, had witnessed some of the events in Northern Ireland that I have seen, if you had seen people who had lost members of their families killed by casual bombs placed by terrorists, if you had seen injured people in hospital, and if you had then tuned in to a television programme only to see a member of the IRA interviewed in Britain or in Dublin, you would be outraged. Why, then, do we allow this indefensible position to exist?

I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider the Government's attitude to this question. If he thinks it right to proscribe the bodies specified in the order, will he not come to the logical consequence of his act and also accept our argument that the IRA itself—both the Provisional and the Official IRA—should be banned throughout the United Kingdom?

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Peter Mills

We have heard some of these arguments many times, and I quite understand the one advanced by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) about proscribing. I understand why he opposes it. I shall try to put the arguments as we see them, though I admit that this must be a matter of judgment.

Some hon. Members have said that I must answer the questions which have been put to me. I shall try to do my best. But in this difficult situation in Northern Ireland, especially in view of security considerations, it is not possible always to supply the exact information required by the House. I hope that hon. Members will not think I am being rude if I say that they go a bit far when they insist that I must answer their questions. I shall do my best.

No one will contend that proscription of an organisation by itself is an adequate means of dealing with terrorism. Like other means which have to be employed in situations of severe civil unrest, it has features which those accustomed to the standards of a peaceful society understandably find objectionable. However, where a situation exists in which a terrorist organisation is daily killing and wounding innocent people and destroying their property and publicly professing its intention to continue to do it, it is equally objectionable to the victims, their friends and the community at large if the Government do not do all in their power to prevent the terrorist organisation flaunting its power and extending its intimidation. My hon. Friends are always on at the Government, and rightly—it is their duty to criticise—about the need to combat terrorism. I am saying that this is one method of aiding that.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South asked what proscription does. It serves a notice on anyone who may be a misguided but comparatively innocent member of the organisation concerned that it is time that he got out. It prevents or inhibits the organisation from openly collecting money or soliciting support in the Press or on television or recruiting young people for the furtherance of its activities.

Captain Orr

Surely my hon. Friend is making a very strong case for the proscription of these bodies throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Mills

If my hon. and gallant Friend will be patient, I shall try to deal with that point as well.

Proscription prevents or inhibits the organisation from openly collecting money or soliciting support in the Press or on television or recruiting young people for the furtherance of its activities. It also reduces the dangers to the public peace which would result from public parades and demonstrations of organisations which are known to have killed and maimed innocent people. Some hon. Members say that it does not do enough. But it could be worse. The problem could be 10 times worse.

If we proscribe these organisations, a chief constable can issue certificates to people who are injured so that compensation can be paid. That point should not be overlooked.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Will the hon. Gentleman explain a little more about the chief constable's certificate?

Mr. Mills

I will look into this matter more closely, but I put it forward as a point of interest. The chief constable has to give a certificate that terrorist activity has taken place so that the person concerned may claim compensation. If the organisation concerned is proscribed, I believe that adds weight to the claim. I will certainly check that point. I put it in as a small point in favour of proscription.

Mr. McMaster

If someone suffers as a result of IRA terrorist activities in London—for example, in the recent bombings—does such a certificate need to be given? Is not this an argument for the IRA and other bodies being banned throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. Mills

My hon. Friend is anticipating. I will come to the position of the IRA in Great Britain in time.

Mr. McMaster

Is a certificate necessary?

Mr. Mills

The question of the IRA in Great Britain is for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, not for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. McMaster

My hon. Friend is not with me. Before damages can be claimed, is a certificate from the chief constable necessary and does it help if the body is banned?

Mr. Mills

That is true in Northern Ireland. The position in Great Britain is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I shall not answer on his behalf.

Questions were asked about the statistics of terrorist activities. The Secretary of State is satisfied that the organisations named in the order have been involved in terrorist activities. Certainly it would not be in the public interest to indicate the nature of the intelligence that has led to that conclusion. It is a combination of both political and security action or aid. I believe that it has a deterrent effect, although some hon. Members may disagree.

There is no doubt that the UFF has publicly claimed responsibility for certain terrorist actions. The Red Hand Commando is an organisation with its own command structure and, whilst an independent body, acts in direct alignment with the policies and principles of the UVF. It is not possible for me to go further on that point. Since proscription, 29 Protestants and 53 Catholics have been arrested and charged with security offences.

I note the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) about timing and so on, which he has made before. He must have had his tongue in his cheek when he asked me how many would be released before Christmas. That is not a question for an Under-Secretary to answer ; it is entirely one for the Secretary of State.

As for proscribing the IRA in Great Britain, the Government recognise that the maintenance of law and order throughout the United Kingdom is of primary importance. Therefore, we are prepared to take any action that will be effective in dealing with terrorists and violence. If declaring the IRA illegal in Britain would help, we should not hestitate to propose the necessary legislation. But I am sure that everyone would agree that the main aim is to get and bring to justice those responsible for acts of violence. I suppose I am slightly out of order in replying to this, because it is a matter for the Home Secretary.

Mr. McMaster

I fail to follow my hon. Friend. If an IRA terrorist escapes from prison, or even if he has never been arrested, and comes to Britain from the North or the South of Ireland, if the IRA is not proscribed what steps can then be taken to bring him to justice?

Mr. Mills

This is a matter of judgment. My hon. Friend's judgment is that the IRA in Britain should be made illegal. The Government say that they are prepared to do this if it would help over here, where the situation is entirely different.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has no sympathy for these organisations : they do not deserve any sympathy. I too have seen the misery that this sort of thing has caused. Terrorists are terrorists, whatever their label, and should be dealt with. My hon. Friend also mentioned the UDA in England. I do not suppose for a moment—

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I did not mention it.

Mr. Mills

I am sorry, I thought he did.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) was, I think, against proscribing these two organisations Although we do not say that this is the main way of dealing with these terrorists, we believe that it is a deterrent.

Mr. McMaster

I did not say that I was against proscribing these two organisations. I said that I was against proscribing them if we did not at the same time proscribe the IRA in this country. What is the difference between collecting money and recruiting in Britain and doing the same in Ireland? Can British money be used for the IRA?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

I think that the hon. Gentleman is getting out of order. It would be better if we moved on and left that point.

Mr. Mills

I accept it if the hon. Member says that he did not say he was against proscribing these two organisations. I simply thought he did. All I was trying to say was that one cannot have it both ways. We believe that proscription acts as a small deterrent and an aid, quite apart from the compensation point. This is a matter of judgment, and we believe that it is of some aid for the reasons I have given.

I would not deny that power to prosecute is also dangerous if it is not carefully used. It might drive organisations underground. It might influence people who have not realised that the organisation to which they belong is more dangerous than appeared to them when they joined it. It might even attract sympathy to an organisation when a large section of the public believes that it has been unjustly dealt with. The decision is one which must be taken after careful consideration of the security factors and of what one might broadly call political factors, since the attitude of public opinion is vitally important.

In the present circumstances, weighing up all these factors, the decision was taken to proscribe the two organisations named in the order, and I honestly believe that the decision was right. It is for that reason that I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act Proscribed Organisations (Amendment) Order 1973 (S.I., 1973, No. 1880), a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th November, be approved.