HC Deb 05 July 1973 vol 859 cc822-49
Mr. McNamara

I beg to move Amendment No. 16, in page 7, line 40, leave out subsection (5).

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris):

With this we can also take for debate Amendment No. 23, in page 20, line 2, leave out Schedule 1.

Mr. McNamara

To put the Opposition view on this matter into context I think I had better quote, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) did in Committee, the words of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his speech of 25th November 1971, that internment would cease as soon as the necessary conditions exist for an improvement in confidence, it being understood that all against whom criminal charges were to be preferred would be subject to normal criminal procedure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th November 1971 Vol. 826, c. 1588.] Again, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South said, we are not saying that by a stroke of a pen the problem of Long Kesh can be ended. It was a long time growing and it can be ended only by political developments whereby the leaders and people of Northern Ireland face their problems. They cannot be faced by troops from England day by day. It is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland.

It is important to point out what my right hon. Friend said. He did not say that internment would end when peace came. He did not suggest that internment should end as soon as all the violence had ceased. He said that internment would cease as soon as the necessary conditions exist for an improvement in confidence. It is an improvement in confidence that we are looking for, and that we are hoping for as a result of the Assembly elections.

8.45 p.m.

In many ways, many of the people who were forgotten during the last set of elections in Northern Ireland were those who were in internment. Granted that many of the political parties mentioned them and recognised that they were there. By and large, however, the population of Northern Ireland ignored their presence. The population looked for peace and for an Assembly which would work on a power-sharing basis. But whether or not the people of Northern Ireland ignored them, we in this Parliament cannot ignore them, for a number of reasons which I shall enunciate.

If we ignore these people now, sooner or later, as night follows day, the problem of Long Kesh and the people who are therein imprisoned will face us. Whilst properly concentrating on the immediate problems associated with the Assembly and the new political associations in Northern Ireland, if we allow ourselves for one moment to forget the problem of Long Kesh—whether in terms of the extreme Republicans or the extreme Unionists at present imprisoned there—we risk losing any chance of getting that political peace that we want. It is in that context that we must look at the question of internment.

Opposition Members are roughly divided into two main groups in our attitude towards internment. One group says specifically that internment was a mistake, that it should end and that it was wrong. The other group says that internment was, perhaps, necessary but that internment plus what we have already passed this evening, contained in the Bill, is not necessary; one or the other thing is not necessary. That group says that if we pass—as we have done—the early clauses of the Bill, internment should go.

The people of that latter group, however, may also be subdivided, some into a group which says that, perhaps, in many ways internment is preferable to the bastardisation of the law which we have achieved through the acceptance of the majority of the recommendations of the Diplock Commission. I say that even though the Government have gone some way to accepting some of our criticisms of the Bill in Committee.

We say that internment is a mistake which, if it continues to exist, will be a cancer in the body politic of Northern Ireland. In whatever section of the community it exists, it is seen as a derogation of normal standards of civilised behaviour. It is easy to argue and to say immediately that the people who have been suspected of perpetuating terrible crimes have themselves derogated from those same standards of civilised behaviour, but we claim that in a civilised society there are ways of dealing with such people which will not offend the general tenets of liberty and human dignity. Internment fails to meet that point.

There have also been occasions when the Government have failed to seize opportunities which have existed to do away with internment. The imposition of direct rule and Operation Motorman were two such occasions when internment could, perhaps, have been done away with at a stroke. In that way the Government could have ensured that the main grievances of the ordinary person in Northern Ireland, who had felt his dignity affronted by internment on 9th August, could have been done away with.

I say that for this reason. I have had considerable correspondence with persons who have been interned in Northern Ireland, or with their families. I have had complaints one way or another. I have had letters from the families of internees, but, although there have been murmurings about evidence being "planted", I have not had one letter from a person convicted of a criminal offence associated with the present troubles or from the relative of such a person. I hope that in saying that I am not risking my fate at the hands of fortune and inviting many letters from relatives of people in prison.

Internment fails if people do not feel that, even in a society which they may not accept as being politically just, they are being treated fairly. The Government may argue that since direct rule they have released many internees who were arrested in the original sweeps of 9th August onwards and that those who remain have been before commissioners or the appeal tribunal and, therefore, are justifiably detained in Long Kesh. This may well be so. Although I do not grant that argument, it does not overcome the tremendous feeling of injustice in the minority community, which exists particularly after there have been disturbances at one of the internment centres and families have returned home after failing to visit relatives. It is this core and cancer in the body politic of Northern Ireland which is causing the trouble.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have been waiting to see whether the hon. Gentleman would come to a point which I think the House will wish him to elucidate in respect of the amendment. He has tended to move away from it. He will understand that the combined effect of the Bill is to repeal the Special Powers Act and the Detention of Terrorists Order. The effect of the amendment would be to delete Schedule 1, which would mean that, upon the Bill becoming law, there would be no authority for the detention of those at present in detention and they would all have to be released immediately. Is that the hon. Gentleman's intention? I ask because it appears to conflict with his opening words.

Mr. McNamara

If the hon. Gentleman had looked at matters a little more carefully, he would see that if our amendment is accepted the present Detention of Terrorists Order will stand until we reach the last Government amendment. which shifts the Detention of Terrorists Order from Schedule 1 to the repeals schedule of the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman considers that he has repealed the Special Powers Act by taking back every power apart from being able to refuse a coroner's inquest on a person who dies in custody, he can fool himself but not me or the rest of the House.

Mr. van Straubenzee

There is an important point here. I was aware of that point, and I hope to move that amendment. It is only a repositioning of the repeal. There is no amendment to do away with the repeal. Is it the Opposition's position that, if the schedule is taken from the Bill, those at present in detention should remain in detention under the powers in the Detention of Terrorists Order? It will be helpful if the hon. Member will make this clear.

Mr. McNamara

We are saying to the Minister that he cannot have both. If he looks carefully at the point I made earlier when I quoted my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South, he will recognise the point we are making. We realise that there are nearly 1,000 men in the Maze prison. We cannot simply open the doors tomorrow and tell them all to go. Equally, however, the Minister knows that, if he took his argument to its logical conclusion, he could introduce an amendment in another place to retain the Detention of Terrorists Order, bring the Bill back here and see what happens. Judging from the way the Government have acted on other Bills in this respect recently, they would probably get their way.

A practical point is that until the Bill becomes law the Detention of Terrorists Order will remain in force and we shall have time to think about the problem. If we managed to persuade the Government to concentrate on how to deal with the problem, we should have achieved something.

It may be that the Secretary of State will make a tremendous gesture about internment when he announces the formation of the Executive or when the Assembly meets. Perhaps he will be able to announce, as we hoped he would at the time of the imposition of direct rule, and even more so at the time of Operation Motorman, that we shall get rid of it. That brings me to the second point of the amendment, which was raised so eloquently by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) in Committee, that, with the powers given to the Government in Committee, even without our amendment, which we do not intend to press, there are sufficient provisions in the Bill to end internment.

When the Diplock Committee was established the Government gave it as its terms of reference to consider what arrangements for the administration of justice in Northern Ireland could be made in order to deal more effectively with terrorist organisations by bringing to book, otherwise than by internment by the Executive, individuals involved in terrorist activities". The Diplock Committee had three possible courses of action. It could have said that it found no alternative, it could have suggested a system of diluted justice such as we have seen earlier in the Bill, or it could have said that a system of special courts such as exists in the Republic was needed.

It said that it did not want special courts but, instead of saying that it recommended internment, which many of my hon. Friends think would have been a more honourable course of action, it said that it wanted internment and diluted justice. The Opposition do not believe that the Government can have both those powers. That would be asking too much. By diluting justice, as has been laid down in the earlier part of the Bill, and departing from the normal standards accepted in this country, we are lowering the value of the courts, and of a conviction in the courts.

9.0 p.m.

We are, perhaps more importantly, making it appear that no matter where a person goes, or what he does, he will be caught up by the Government. If he is acquitted, he will be interned, as has happened. If he is interned and the Government get sufficient evidence, they will put him on trial. People are caught on a terrible Morton's Fork. The Opposition cannot recommend the House or the country to accept the system.

The Alliance Party's manifesto contained on the back page a statement that: The law of Northern Ireland must be applied with absolute fairness and absolute impartiality in all areas—but it must be applied. Both sides of the House will agree about that. The manifesto added that the law must also be respected. That is something we feel deeply about. The provisions of the Bill and the continuation of internment prevent the law from being respected.

The manifesto states what is also the Opposition's view, that: In our view no man should lose his liberty except through due process of law. Short-cuts such as internment without trial are wrong. They not only offend against the concept of the Rule of Law but also make the task of law enforcement more difficult, particularly in a divided community. Extraordinary circum stances of major violence demand exceptional measures from Westminster. But those measures must at all times comply with the fundamental principles of justice. No man is guilty until proved guilty. I have regretfully come to the conclusion that in the changed circumstances since the original internment of 9th August internment may now be necessary, but the bastard system grafted on to it of tribunals and cases going before commissioners in the name of justice is no form of justice at all.

These are the reasons for our amendment.

Mr. McMaster

The final remarks of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) gave a clue to the entire problem. Internment is not desirable. On the other hand, it is wrong to try to persuade oneself or the House that ending internment would, as the hon. Gentleman said earlier, remedy a grievance and thus perhaps lead to peace in Northern Ireland.

Internment did not come first. The campaign of violence proceeded for some time, and escalated, before internment was introduced. Following direct rule, a large number of those interned were released but, far from bringing any reduction in violence, this resulted in the violence escalating, and, unfortunately, some of those who had been interned and later released were involved. They were caught and were again either interned or brought before the courts.

It is clear to anyone who visits the internment camps that many people who are interned are members of the illegal—illegal in Northern Ireland—Provisional IRA. They organise in the internment camps and march—and riot, as we have seen in the last 24 hours. When they escape they again engage in terrorist activities. These people are known terrorists. It is impossible, and has been impossible in the past, to establish that they are guilty of any offence. But in the situation in Northern Ireland it is essential that they should be locked away to protect the general public.

If it were not for the presence of fanatical members of the Republican movement who have been waging war on the general community in Northern Ireland, internment would not be necessary. But to suggest that releasing the internees will bring peace in Ulster is to delude oneself. We have only to look at the history of the past three years.

Grievances are spoken of as though the cause of the trouble in Northern Ireland was simply the grievances alleged to have existed. But concessions were made by Lord O'Neill when he was Prime Minister and by Lord Moyola, who, as Major Chichester-Clark, was Prime Minister after him. For the past 16 months the House has been responsible, and yet terrorism continues right up to this moment. Therefore, it will be realised that there is more to ending the trouble than simply remedying grievances.

That is why I cannot accept the suggestion of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North that to remedy this grievance might lead to peace in Northern Ireland. The truth is that those behind the violence are not seeking the remedying of grievances. If they were, they would have stopped fighting long ago. They are seeking a political end, and are prepared to go to any length, including murdering and torturing their fellow citizens, to achieve it. Faced with such a situation, which I think the hon. Gentleman described as almost being war, civil war, we must use extraordinary measures to cope with it. It is for that reason that, although we have the elaborate provisions of the Bill, the dilution of justice, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is not enough.

The members of the IRA are known, because they have appeared on television and in the rest of the media when invited to do so. I regret that the media have played such a mischievous part in the past three years in playing up those people, interviewing them repeatedly for their publicity value, and have ignored their duty to the general public, not only in Northern Ireland but in the United Kingdom as a whole, to support established authority, the police and the security forces. Instead, they have helped to play up the terrorists in such a way that they have assisted them in maintaining their campaign of violence and gathering funds for its furtherance.

It is necessary to arrest those men, men who have appeared on television and the radio, have been interviewed by the Press and have made public statements, men like Sean MacStiofain, who, by their own admission, are leading terrorists. They may never be caught in possession of a gun. They do not commit the foul murders, the shooting in the back of the head, the shaving of women's heads and tarring and feathering, the things we know about in Northern Ireland. Earlier in the debate an hon. Member spoke about the Nazis. The people I am speaking about are every bit as vicious as the Nazis. I am speaking not of those who carry the gun and commit the act of violence, but those behind them who plan the violence. They are the people whom it must be possible to intern when they are arrested, in order to attempt to bring the situation under control.

It is not only the weaknesses of the criminal law that are behind the necessity for the dilution of justice set out in the Bill. It is also necessary because of the other gap which still remains, the fact that the ringleaders cannot be locked away unless there is a system of internment which is supported until law and order are completely restored in Northern Ireland. That is why I feel that the provisions must be retained until peace is completely restored in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Ardwick)

Although I am passionately concerned with the situation in Northern Ireland, I have kept away almost entirely from the debates which have stemmed from the Government's White Paper, the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill, the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill and this Bill. That is because I am an opponent of the White Paper and I do not believe that a settlement is possible under the terms of the White Paper. Therefore, the provisions of the three Bills which have been introduced in consequence of the White Paper have struck me variously as irrelevant or repugnant.

Except for making one speech to demonstrate my view of the irrelevance of the Constitution Bill, I kept away from that measure. To demonstrate the repugnance which I feel for this present Bill, I have so far kept away from it. However, the amendment is a suitable one on which to state my view. It is symbolic of the lack of reality underlying the Government's policy.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) was right when he said that the people whom the Government may wish to intern are, as he put it, seeking a political end. The people who are causing the appalling terror and bloodshed in Northern Ireland, which the hon. Gentleman describes so graphically from his own experience, are political extremists of the most abhorrent kind. But the fact that they are such extremists does not mean that they should be interned without trial. It means that, until they are alienated from the population in which they are embedded, the filthy deeds which they continually perpetrate will continue.

The hon. Gentleman gave the game away in his brief contribution. He said—I took down his words—that terrorism continues right up to this very moment. Of course it does. Day after day we read, we hear on the radio and we see on television the most unspeakable and evil acts committed by terrorists against innocent members of both communities. in Northern Ireland. Not only do they go on, but they continue to rise towards a crescendo which cannot be anticipated. All this happens while internment without trial continues.

Those who argued that we required capital punishment to keep down murder had their argument invalidated because capital punishment was accompanied by murder. In the same way, to argue in favour of internment without trial to deal with terrorism will be proved wrong because we have terrorism and we also have internment without trial. There is no indication—and no evidence can be produced to this effect—that the end of internment without trial will create more terrorism. I believe that terrorism will go on with or without internment without trial because terrorism is not something to be controlled by punishment. The only way it can be dealt with is by a political solution.

9.15 p.m.

I have constantly disagreed with certain of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench, just as I disagree with hon. Members opposite, when they say that to deal with terrorism must be a prime aim with a political solution, just as much as I strongly disagree with those hon. Members on the Government side who believe that no political solution is possible until terrorism is dealt with, because I believe that there will be no end to terrorism in Ireland as a whole—it is not confined to the North—until the Irish themselves deal with it and until no British soldier is there as a cushion between the Irish terriorists and the Irish people.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Gentleman is missing the point. As he says, terrorism will go on whether or not there is internment. But he should think of the position of the ordinary man in the street who sees known terrorists going about. Cannot the hon. Gentleman understand the feelings of outrage of a person who has perhaps lost his wife, his sister or his child, or who has been injured himself, when he sees known terrorists interviewed on television, admitting to being the ringleaders of terrorism, and yet they are not put away? What sort of violence will result from that outrage of the people? That is why internment is necessary while violence goes on.

Mr. Kaufman

I can well understand the feeling of outrage which consumes people in Northern Ireland when they see what is happening to their dear ones. That sense of outrage seizes one when one sees all the bloodshed and violence in one's home on television in Manchester or in London. Where I strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman is in his belief that the piling on of force or repression will deal with terrorism.

I know that I am in a minority in holding this view, but I submit that there is no way that the British Parliament and the British Armed Forces can deal with this situation, because it is not a British problem. I will go further. Just as I believe that it is not a British problem and that the only way it can be dealt with is by the people of Ireland themselves, North and South, Catholic and Protestant, taking whatever action they think fit in order to deal with the terrorism, equally I believe that the ordinary people of Great Britain, not simply parliamentarians, will not find it possible very much longer to accept a situation in which methods so totally alien and abhorrent to them are used in dealing with the terrorist situation.

One of our proudest and most cherished possessions in this island is the system of the rule of law, which we guard very closely. We are proud of it. Whenever it is invaded in any way, hon. Members on both sides of the House leap to protect it.

What I see with growing sickness is I hat for Ireland the British people are sullying their own feelings for justice by the methods which they feel compelled to use in order to hold down Northern Ireland. I strongly take the view—I believe that it is being shared more and more by the people of this country, a minority though we may be—that if that is the only way in which Great Britain can hold Northern Ireland, Great Britain had better resign herself to leave Northern Ireland, because it is far better to free Ireland and her problems from the British grasp than to go on with a grasp which means that the traditions of justice that we cherish in this country are filthied and sullied in the way they are at present.

It is tragic that many sincere Members of this House who stand for the rule of law have to go into the Lobby tonight and vote for methods of keeping law and order in Northern Ireland which they would not accept for one instant in their own constituencies in Great Britian.

My attitude, not simply to this issue but to the Bill as a whole, is not only that we cannot hold Northern Ireland without the methods which the hon. Gentleman champions but that we cannot hold Northern Ireland even with the methods which he champions. Greatly though I care for the people of Northern Ireland, greatly though I mourn for their troubles, I believe it is better for Ireland and better for the people of this country if we admit that we cannot hold Northern Ireland any more except by methods of barbarism, to use Campbell Bannerman's great phrase.

Since methods of barbarism have over decades been proved unacceptable to the ordinary British man in the street, they cannot be accepted in Northern Ireland. The malaise which is symbolised by the amendment so eloquently moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is one which goes right through the Bill and right through the Government's policy on Northern Ireland.

As I said in a speech on the Northern Ireland Constitutional Bill, the sooner we realise that Northern Ireland is not part of Britain but is a different country which we confuse with part of Britain because it is nearer and because its inhabitants speak English, the sooner we accept that Northern Ireland is simply the last in a series which included Palestine, Aden, British Guiana and Cyprus, the sooner we come to this inevitable conclusion, the sooner will the British people—my constituents—stop being killed and the sooner will the Irish be able to settle their own problems.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Gentleman is missing the point. It is not a matter of holding Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman and his party supported the plebiscite and the two elections we have had. The elections showed, as did the plebiscite by 600,000 votes to 6,000, that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and wishes to remain part of it. What he is suggesting is that, because there is a small minority using violence, we should give in to that minority rather than meet the challenge.

Mr. Kaufman

I must tell the hon. Gentleman, for what my small minority view is worth, that I have consistently dissociated myself from the general view of my Front Bench on this, although my Front Bench did not support the referendum and tried to delete it from the constitution.

Mr. Orme

My hon. Friend will recognise that we have always opposed detention without trial. We voted against it.

Mr. Kaufman

I accept that not only my party in general but my hon. Friends on the Front Bench in particular have a shining record on this. What I was saying in reply to the general point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, East was that although my party as a whole has certainly, mistakenly in my view over the past 24 years, supported the border guarantee of the Attlee Government, I have never supported it. I regard it as a tragic and mistaken guarantee.

The whole notion of the United Kingdom is a fiction of a nature which misleads us here. I do not accept the notion of a United Kingdom. It is something produced by the minority in Ireland to bamboozle the rest of us into thinking that Northern Ireland is part of an idea called the United Kingdom.

I do not believe that there is a Northern Irish problem. I believe that there is an Irish problem. The majority in Northern Ireland for which the hon. Gentleman speaks both eloquently and sincerely is nevertheless a minority in Ireland. That majority in Northern Ireland is being permitted to place a veto upon the future of the whole of Ireland. If the only way in which Britain can continue to link Northern Ireland with it is by employing these methods of barbarism—internment without trial and the rest—the sooner we abandon this fiction, the sooner we accept the inevitable and allow Ireland and all the Irish to solve their own problems, Catholic and Protestant together, the sooner will the killing end. As long as we continue to use these methods, the killing will surely accompany them.

Mr. Fitt

My attitude on internment has been made clear from the first time it was mentioned here by the Secretary of State. I well remember that on the assumption of direct rule the Secretary of State said that the Government would take steps to bring to an end the notorious Special Powers Act, with which we have lived since 1922, which has been responsible for the alienation and polarisation of the communities and which has brought untold trouble.

I hoped then that the Special Powers Act would be completely repealed. As time went on we were disillusioned. There was the introduction of internment with hundreds of people interned—on one occasion more than a thousand. Then there was the Detention of Terrorists Order, and now in this proposed legislation internment without trial is to be continued.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House are opposed in principle to the continuation of internment. I recognise that there are men of violence in Northern Ireland who are determined to bring about their political aims by continuing violence. The continuation of internment will not deter those men from proceeding along the path they have chosen to achieve their political ends.

We were told by the then Unionist Government, which had the support of the Conservative Party, that internment had to be introduced to stop the men of violence. In fact, it did not do so. There has been an escalation of violence, an escalation in the number of deaths and in the number of atrocious crimes that have been committed, which are not restricted to one section of the Community.

It becomes a little irritating to hear the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) continuously blaming every death, atrocity, explosion and killing on the IRA. There have been many brutal and callous killings committed by people on the Unionist side of the fence—Unionist extremists—yet the hon. Member for Belfast, East in every speech he makes in this House seeks to attribute all the violence to one section of the Community.

Internment will in no way deter those men of violence. Even though there may be a small section of the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland interned at the moment, I am as much in favour of their release as of the release of all the others who are interned.

I pose a question to the Secretary of State which he will eventually have to answer. Within the bounds of Long Kesh—or Maze Prison as it is politely called—there are innocent men. There are men with Republican backgrounds, born of Republican families, dedicated to the ideal of the reunification of Ireland and bringing about an Irish Government in the 32 counties involving the Irish people. They are men who have not been involved in violence, but they have been interned since August 1971—interned because of their ideals.

9.30 p.m.

There is another category of men who have now been interned for a considerable time. I refer to young people who have been caught up in the wave of violence, young persons of 17, 18, 19 and 20 years of age. In the campaign at the moment they have said that they want no further association—if indeed they ever had any—with the campaign of violence. They are prepared to sign petitions and to give any undertaking which the Secretary of State may demand to seek their release.

Many of the men interned have serious domestic problems, problems involving their wives, children and their families. All they seek at the moment is their release from incarceration in Long Kesh. They are prepared to give any undertaking asked of them by the Secretary of State. Is it not strange that the Secretary of State now seems to take the view that those men were involved in violence. He believes that they were so involved and, therefore, they are not to be afforded the opportunity of changing their minds. Many of those who were originally interned now realise the futility of the campaign of violence and are now seeking, by the only means left open to them, to petition the Secretary of State. They have appeared before the commissioners and have been legally represented before the tribunals. They have gone to appeal, but the appeals have been rejected by the commissioners. The only redress open to them is to petition the Secretary of State.

If the Secretary of State takes the view that these men cannot be released, one can only foresee that there will be a series of riots, such as we had yesterday afternoon, in the Maze prison, or Long Kesh. It may be that the Government feel that with the military forces at their command, with the weaponry available to them, they will be able to suppress any riot that may take place in that internment camp. They succeeded yesterday, but they may not succeed tomorrow. Incidentally, when visitors come to see their relatives in Long Kesh they are subjected to most humiliating searches before they are allowed to contact their relatives.

I have said that I hold no brief for men of violence. Throughout this campaign of violence I have condemned the men of violence—men not only in the IRA but in all other organisations Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), said that during the elections for the Assembly the people in Northern Ireland largely ignored the internees. That is not right, because the internees were not ignored during the campaign for election to the Assembly. The internees by their own efforts made certain that they would not be ignored. Every morning in the local Press there were a dozen advertisements exhorting those who supported internees to spoil their ballot papers in the Assembly election. The SDLP did not ignore the internees, but we said that while the campaign of violence continued in Northern Ireland it would be extremely difficult to advocate the release of the internees.

Mr. McNamara

Perhaps I should rephrase the words I used. What I was trying to point out was that, where internment itself was being sought to be made a particular issue by a particular group, it was ignored in looking for greater peace in the Northern Ireland community.

Mr. Fitt

I am glad that my hon. Friend has explained his remarks. I accept his explanation. I took him to be saying that there were those in Northern Ireland who had ignored the internees. Though I oppose the campaign of violence and those engaged in it, at no time will I ignore the plight of the interness until the last of them has been released from incarceration in Long Kesh.

In the course of an intervention in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), the hon. Member for Belfast, East, said that people appeared on television advocating violence and that they were not interned. All I say to the hon. Gentleman is that anyone from Northern Ireland who advocates violence in the Press or on television will most certainly be wanted by the security forces—

Mr. McMaster

I did not say that people appeared on television advocating violence. I said that people appeared on television professing to be leaders of the IRA or members of the Provisional IRA and were putting forward Republican views, and that their actions contributed to the prolongation of the trouble in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke of condemning the men of violence. Of course I condemn the men of violence, both of the IRA and of the other side in Northern Ireland. Like the hon. Gentleman. I hold no brief for men of violence on whichever side they may be. However. I remind the hon. Gentlemen that in practically every case where a member of the security forces has been killed, the Provisional IRA has admitted responsibility.

Mr. Fitt

I do not think that it is possible to qualify one's rejection of violence. I have heard the hon. Member for Belfast, East and some of his colleagues say that the violence now emanating from the Protestant majority community was an understandable reaction to what they had been subjected to by the activities of the IRA. Whatever the IRA has done since the campaign of violence began and however heinous its crimes, nothing can justify the callous and brutal murder of Senator Paddy Wilson last week, and I have no doubt that that was committed by Protestant extremists.

One cannot qualify one's rejection of violence. If there are violent men in any of the communities in Northern Ireland they must be condemned unequivocally.

I return to what I was saying about people's appearances on television. I thought for one moment that I was about to find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Belfast, East. However, I repeat that anyone who has advocated violence in Northern Ireland in the Press or on television most certainly will be on the wanted list of the security forces. Anyone appearing on another channel broadcasting from the Republic cannot be controlled by me or anyone else here or in Northern Ireland. But I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East that men who advocate violence, from whichever community they come, should not be given the facilities of the Press or television to preach their evil gospel which has brought such tragedy to Northern Ireland.

I believe that internment has brought with it total disaster to Northern Ireland. The men who are interned have families outside. For each man interned, it has antagonised his immediate family and perhaps other people in his neighbourhood. There are young boys interned who are now 17, 18 and 19 years of age. When the troubles began in 1968 they were only 12, 13 or 14. Internment is not the answer to the problem.

I agree that internment can be ended only by political action. I say here as I have said throughout Northern Ireland—I believe that the Assembly election has given me a further mandate to say so—that those who continue the campaign of violence are keeping internment in being in Northern Ireland. Unless and until they desist from their activities the gates of Long Kesh will remain closed. I want to see every single internee released from Long Kesh as speedily as possible. I shall do everything I can in a political sense to bring about an end to intern- ment. To me, internment is abhorrent in principle. I believe it is abhorrent to the majority of people in this House and to the majority in Ireland.

As such, I could not support any attempt in the House to retain detention. I shall vote against the measure on Third Reading.

Mr. van Straubenzee

There has been one useful clarification at the start of this interesting debate. I thought it right to make clear the effect of the amendments as the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) was good enough to say, when we were discussing this matter at some depth in Committee, that he would not and did not seek to argue that internment should be ended tomorrow. Indeed, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) re-emphasised that. Therefore, we have reached agreement that if this amendment were to be carried—it will come as no surprise to the House to know that I shall advise against so doing—there would have to be inserted some kind of interim procedure because it is not the view of the official Opposition, and certainly not of the Government, that all those at present in detention—I am talking about detention, as distinguished from internment—would still have to be restrained.

In that connection I point to the provision in the schedule by which the cases of those detained will now, if the House so agrees, come under regular scrutiny by someone who is not a Minister.

As one who has to play a very close rôle in all this—a distasteful rôle, as I have never disguished from the House—I personally attach great importance to the fact that that review procedure will be by someone other than a Minister.

I hope that I am doing appropriate justice to the cogently argued remarks of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North when I say that he rests his case, first, upon the proposition that sufficient changes in the administration of justice are contained in Part I of the Bill to make detention unnecessary. I hope that I fairly summarise his remarks.

I would gently chide the hon. Member with the fact that, if he tells me that I am trying to have both cherries, he and his hon. Friends have sought by their votes to deny either cherry to me. They sought to prevent Clause 2 from ever appearing in the Bill. No one has ever said for a moment that the proposals in Part I are at this moment sufficient on their own to deal with terrorists. The Diplock Report made it clear that the proposals, which now form Part I, could not be expected to deal effectively with terrorism.

The point of the proposals in Part I is to strengthen the administration of justice. We need not go back over that discussion but the proposals would increase the measure's capability to deal with terrorists. I hope that that time is not long delayed. I have said repeatedly that in their strengthed form the courts may be able to deal on their awn with terrorists, although the Diplock Report made it clear that that time had not arrived.

9.45 p.m.

Mr. McNamara

Will the Minister please look at the terms of reference given by the Government to the Diplock Commission? They were specifically to replace internment. We have not replaced internment and we have diluted the course of justice.

Mr. van Straubenzee

No, but I have said to the hon. Member before that I am satisfied that the make-up of the commission was such that, if it had wanted to make some alternative, totally new proposal, it would certainly not have been inhibited from so doing. What it did when it discussed the minimium requirements of a judicial process in Chapter 4 was to make some very swingeing comments upon the present situation in Northern Ireland.

In Paragraphs 15 and 16, the Commission said: The minimum requirements are based upon the assumption that witnesses to a crime will be able to give evidence in a court of law without risk to their lives, their families or their property. Unless the State can ensure their safety, then it would be unreasonable to expect them to testify voluntarily and morally wrong to try to compel them to do so. This assumption, basic to the very functioning of courts of law, cannot be made today in Northern Ireland as respects most of those who would be able, if they dared, to give evidence in court on the trial of offences committed by members of terrorist organisations. The reason why they cannot is unfortunately extremely simple. A judicial system like that described is not at present capable of operating in Northern Ireland. The succeeding paragraphs of the report make the reason devastatingly clear.

The argument briefly is this. Terrorism has had such a fearful effect on the willingness of potential witnesses to give evidence in court that many of the terrorists themselves cannot be brought to justice in the courts. The only way to remove these effects of terrorism on potential witnesses is to remove the terrorists themselves, especially those who plan and organise.

No changes in the administration of justice, as the argument has it, would enable this to be done. After all, the commission examined a number of possibilities. Therefore, an extra judicial process is necessary.

Mr. S. C. Silkin

Of course we all know that the Diplock Commission concluded that both were required, and the Government have accepted that. But the Minister of State did not deal with the point that my hon. Friend was putting to him and which I have put myself on innumerable occasions tonight and in Committee: that it is quite evident from the terms of reference given to the Commission that, when the Government composed them, they thought, on the evidence known to them at the time, that it was possible to have one or The other. Will the Minister confirm that this was the Government's thinking on the evidence then known to them when they asked the commission to make its report?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The Government on this matter had an open mind, in the sense that they had asked these distinguished men—not one, but several distinguished men—to inquire what arrangements could be made in connection with the administration of justice … to deal more effectively with terrorist organisations". It is true that the terms of reference say: otherwise than by internment by the Executive", and it is an underscoring of proposals which had, by the time the report was published, been put before the House that Diplock comes down in favour of.

It is not easy for any hon. Member, wherever he sits or however strongly he feels—I would say to the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) that he is not the only one who feels strongly about these matters—faced with the evidence of men who certainly secure the admiration of us all, to go against the evidence of witnesses in a report of that kind. But it is my personal hope, and the whole of this Bill is based upon this hope of progression, that increasingly people's confidence in the effectiveness of the courts will return and their fear of intimidation diminish, so that the need for an extra-judicial system can eventually be removed.

It is sometimes said—I have heard it said both by the hon. Member for Ardwick and in part by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—that the history of what they will call internment, the Special Powers Act, is such and it arouses such passionate feelings in Northern Ireland that no extra-judicial system, such as the one we now have, is desirable. Sometimes that is put as a purely moral argument. Sometimes it is put the other way round. As the hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick put it, it is a pragmatic argument.

It is perfectly true, and I accept without question, that an extra-judicial process involves derogation from the normally accepted principles of the judicial process, and by definition that is true. We have in the past accepted that in times of grave emergency such derogations are justified. No one welcomed them then and no one welcomes them now. Incidentally, the principle is well recognised in the European Convention of Human Rights. But the hon. Gentleman would also put the more pragmatic argument that nobody has really tried to do away with internment and to see—if I do not put his argument unfairly—the resulting beneficial effect.

Mr. Kaufman

There is no reason why the hon. Gentleman should not answer an argument, even if it is not mine, but my argument was not that we should do away with internment and see the beneficial result. I do not think there will be any beneficial result if internment is abolished. I believe terrorism will go on, with or without internment. But what I do believe is that Ireland cannot be held without internment and I would rather not hold Ireland than go on with internment.

Mr. van Straubenzee

It is a matter of judgment whether there would or would not be a lowering of violence if detention were done away with. We have something by which to test it, because the hon. Gentleman will recall that at one time my right hon. Friend released quite a substantial number of internees, and I do not think history can show us that that had any resultant effect.

Another thing I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that it is a little hard to lambast us in connection with this Bill and say, to use his phrase, "You can never hold down Northern Ireland". In a week which has seen a major Bill with constructive sides to the policy embedded in it—that must be important in terms of doing the very thing the hon. Gentleman wants, and he is right, to remove the terrorists from the backers they have in the population; when we have had successful local government elections; when district councils are once again about to take up their functions and those district councils are electing their representatives to the area boards; when we have just had proper, democratic elections observed by hon. Members from both sides of this House, and when there are now elected representatives of an Assembly.

All these are pluses in the situation, and in a week which has seen such demonstrable evidence of this positive side of this Government's work I feel it is a little hard merely to criticise this particular schedule as though it stood entirely on its own. One last word to the hon. Gentleman: if he thinks the very large numbers of men and women in this operation in Northern Ireland today are motivated by political or religious beliefs of the conventional kind, if he really thinks that what motivates them is a deep belief in Catholicism or Protestantism as the case may be, he is making a very big mistake; and, leaving aside altogether the blood bath in Northern Ireland which his own policy would produce—

Mr. Kaufman


Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman was saying precisely that we should leave the Northern Ireland situation to be sorted out by the people of Northern Ireland themselves. He put this in an Irish dimension, and if he believes that thereafter his constituents in Ardwick will live in peace, I assure him he makes a very big mistake. I observed in the remarks of the Prime Minister of the Republic on Monday this week a very acute awareness of precisely this matter.

I must make this point because so often there has been mention in this discussion of the word "internment". I am not going to look back at what was operating under the former internment procedures. I have constantly said, and my right hon. Friend has constantly begged the House to see, that, in the siuation we have in Northern Ireland today there is precious little to be gained by looking back, and that all of us, from whatever point of view we approach it, should be seeking to look forward. I am, however, entitled to say that the procedures in this schedule which are substantially the procedures in the Detention of Terrorists Order, have very important distinctions indeed from internment without trial. Let me just set them out in the briefest terms.

First, no one can be detained for more than 28th days unless his case is referred to a commissioner. Under the old system there was no such time limit. Second, a detention order can be made only by an independent, legally qualified and experienced commissioner, and he has to be satisfied not only that the person is involved in terrorism but that his detention is necessary for the protection of the public.

Mrs. Bernadette McAliskey (Mid-Ulster)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Mr. van Straubenzee

Just let me finish setting out these five points and then I will give way.

A person appearing before a commissioner has to be given as much of the evidence against him as security allows and may give evidence himself. The old system had no independent commissioners, detention was by order of the Executive. There was no requirement of a hearing of a case against a person, nor such a definition of what was to justify detention.

I hope that hon. Members on both sides will understand how distasteful it is for an hon. Member who temporarily holds my job and who was brought up in the tradition we all share to sign an order removing even for 28 days the freedom of a person; but how infinitely more unattractive, how repellant, it would be to have to take the executive act of removing freedom from a person without any hearing before a commissioner. I am just outlining the differences so that the House may see them in full.

Third, there is an appeal to an independent appeal tribunal. The old system had no such appeal procedure. Fourth, under this Bill and this schedule, which I hope the House will agree to, it is proposed that the cases of detainees should be reviewed at fixed intervals. There was no such requirement under the internment procedures. Fifth, and perhaps most important as we debate it on the Floor of the House, it is proposed in this Bill and schedule that so long as it is in force the whole system of detention shall be reviewed by Parliament at least annually; in other words, positively the Government of the day must come before the House. There is no such provision of any kind of that sort in the Special Powers Act.

These are five differences, and I said that when I had set them out I would give way to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. McAliskey

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am quite sure that he will accept that, while he may enunciate these differences, they will seem rather technical to a person inside Long Kesh, interned or detained. The question I wanted to raise was on the reference to an independent commissioner or tribunal within 28 days. There is a great deal of misunderstanding on this point. It should be clarified. When he says "within 28 days" the hon. Gentleman does not mean that the case will be heard inside that period, that a person will not be detained without a hearing for 28 days, but that within that 28 days the person will be notified that there will be a hearing. The hearing may not take place, as it has not in the past taken place, for weeks—sometimes for many months—after the original reference to the 28-day period.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Hawkins.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The procedure that the hon. Lady outlined is perfectly correct. But in Committee I was able to show that cases are heard by the commissioners at short intervals after they are referred by the chief constable. What the hon. Lady must understand, however, is that in the cases that I have examined—I have looked at them very closely—where there has been delay, overwhelmingly this has been delay at the request of the detainee.

Particularly was this recently the case with Protestant detainees. I am not questioning their right to do so, but they wanted, perhaps, some different form of representation or needed further evidence to bring in their defence. It was the commissioners who granted an adjournment. This in itself shows how the procedure works.

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman enumerated with some pride the five differences between the old practice and the practice that will subsist when the Bill is enacted. But would he agree that even these improved and modified practices, as he regards them, would be totally unacceptable in his county of Berkshire, although they will take place in Belfast? Is there not something degrading in a British Government having to carry on policies against people in the United Kingdom which the members of that Government would not carry out in their constituencies?

Mr. van Straubenzee

I did it with no pride. No one will accuse me of being proud to have to bring before the House, or to have to do my duty to operate, a procedure such as this in part of the United Kingdom. It is not mercifully— I say this devoutly—possible to write of the county of Berkshire, nor the great city of Manchester, that the assumption of the basic requirements of a judicial process in Berkshire or in Manchester cannot be made today as respects most of those who would be able, if they dared, to give evidence in court on the trial 'of offences committed by members of terrorist organisations.

That is the short answer to the hon. Gentleman. I do not mean this unkindly, but if he would accept invitations more frequently to come to see for himself the situation in Northern Ireland, or if he had been present earlier to hear, on a related point, the way in which juries are interfered with in Northern Ireland—

Mr. Kaufman

indicated dissent.

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Gentleman is accepting all this but is not accepting what flows from it. What flows from it is that in present circumstances an extra-judicial process is necessary.

I am simply saying that both sides of the House accept our bona fides and those of other hon. Members, and we all want to bring terrorism to an end. But I must put it all to all hon. Members who have views different from my own that it is not surely acceptable in present conditions that because of the intimidation of witnesses, which, alas, is a feature of the present day in Northern Ireland, men should go free who clearly ought to come up before the full force of the law. I profoundly hope that in due time—I trust that it will not be very long—it will be possible for a Government, of whichever party, to come to the House not seeking to renew Schedule 1 and its powers. That will be a very great day. I should like to think that I shall be associated with it. But until that day comes I must advise the House, in the clearest terms, that the powers contained in the schedule are necessary for law and order in Northern Ireland.

Amendment negatived.

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