§ Mr. Speaker
Before calling upon the Prime Minister to move his motion on Northern Ireland, may I inform the House that I propose to select the amendment in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), which I suggest he should move during the course of the resumed debate tomorrow:but regrets that the White Paper does not provide for adequate Parliamentary representation for the people of Northern Ireland.I do not propose to select the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Well-beloved) nor the manuscript amendment of which notice has been given to me in the name of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder). No doubt those hon. Members will be able to deploy their arguments in the course of the debate on the motion or the amendment.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
Mr. Speaker, may I refer to the amendment put down in my name and that of the hon. Member for—
§ Mr. Speaker
Is this a point of order with regard to the selection of amendments?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
§ Mr. Speaker
There can be no such thing. There can be no point of order about the selection of amendments. It must be another point of order.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Today this House is debating something that is relevant to Northern Ireland, and every Member for Northern Ireland must necessarily have an interest in this debate. Could I draw your attention to the fact that the amendment which you have selected actually approves the White Paper, whereas the amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) is an amendment which gives an opportunity to those in Northern Ireland who are of the opinion that this White Paper should not be approved. Can I not ask you to reconsider your decision?
§ Mr. Speaker
If hon. Members take the view which the hon. Member has put forward they can vote against the motion. 1319 I have considered this matter carefully and I have made my decision. It is for me.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)
I beg to move,That this House approves the White Paper on Northern Ireland Constitutional Proposals (Command Paper No. 5259).Naturally, I will try to listen to as much of this debate as possible but because of my other official engagements as Prime Minister over the next two days I hope the House will extend its customary indulgence to me if I cannot be here as much as I should like.
The White Paper which the House is asked to approve represents a major turning point in the affairs of Northern Ireland. That fact is acknowledged not just in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom but in the world outside. This White Paper is an historic document. Not even the longest-serving Members of the House can have personal experience of debating a new constitution for part of the United Kingdom.
The White Paper does not just recommend a new constitution for Northern Ireland. It contains proposals affecting every part of public and political life in the Province, proposals which will bear directly on the lives of every city, town and village and every family and individual. These proposals are the product of a year of detailed consultation and preparation since the Government took responsibility for direct rule.
I know I speak for the whole House when I say how grateful we are to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to his staff, both those based on London and those based on Belfast, for their patient and untiring work. At no time have they spared themselves. A major part of their achievement is that I am able to recommend to the House today the constructive, and I believe that they are acknowledged as far-reaching, proposals set out in the White Paper.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not been alone in showing steadfastness and perseverance during this difficult year. The same qualities have been shown in abundance by the security forces and by the citizens of Northern Ireland. But the Secretary of State's 1320 burden has been a lonely one, and it is right that the House should today pay a tribute to him. Whatever the future may hold, my right hon. Friend by sheer force of character, courage and humanity has earned for himself an honoured and respected place in the history of Ireland.
I believe that the House would wish me to say again how much we owe to the Governor of Northern Ireland and to Lady Grey for their devoted and selfless service to the Province. I know that the advice which the Governor has been able to give to my right hon. Friend day by day has always been wise and constructive. Both Lord and Lady Grey are held in the highest regard throughout Northern Ireland, and during this difficult period they have consistently provided a focus for stability and good sense.
We in the United Kingdom Government have never wished to work out by ourselves the terms of a settlement and then impose it on the people of Northern Ireland. Over the past 12 months the Secretary of State has met and discussed with all the parties and interests in Northern Ireland how they think the Province can best be governed. A large measure of agreement emerged from these consultations, and, now that the White Paper is published, the proposals are widely thought to be a fair and reasonable basis for progress. In this context I gladly acknowledge the support already given by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party.
Given the long history of differences between the two communities in Northern Ireland it is inevitable that no single set of constitutional proposals could be devised which would be agreed by all points of view. The reason is simple enough. Any set of proposals which met all the wishes of one community would be unacceptable to the other. Today I ask all the people of Northern Ireland to look at our proposals in a positive and constructive light. I ask them not to think of demands they may have failed to secure but of opportunities which now lie open to them. I ask them to reflect not on past struggles which divided the communities but on common interests which can now unite them. Talk of demands and concessions is the language of a past which failed. But talk of 1321 opportunities and common interests offers the promise of a peaceful future.
Many members of the majority community have asked that the Province should retain extensive responsibility for its own affairs. To them, we offer devolution, to the Assembly and to the Executive, of a wide range of powers of Government, both legislative and executive.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Will my right hon. Friend tell the House whether the power that will be devolved on the Stormont Assembly and the Executive there will be equivalent to the power held by the old Stormont Parliament?
§ The Prime Minister
I am about to deal with certain aspects of this. My hon. Friend must know that the full details of this are clearly set out in the White Paper, saying what is to be reserved for Westminster and what is to be devolved.
Many of the majority have asked for assurances about the future of the border. To them we offer an unequivocal statutory declaration, in the constitutional Bill, that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom and will not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.
On 24th March 1972 when I told the House that we were taking over full responsibility for Northern Ireland I announced that there would be a plebiscite to deal with the border. That plebiscite has been held. We, the Government, kept our promise. At the same time, I expressed the hope that it would enable the border to be taken out of Northern Ireland politics for a period so that the parties could concentrate on other matters of common interest.
None of these proposals which meet the requirements of the majority community are proposals to which any fair-minded member of the minority community could reasonably object. In turn, the representatives of the minority have sought fairness of treatment and equality of opportunity. To them we offer firm statutory assurances against the abuse of legislative or executive powers. For the individual both in his job and in his other activities we offer the comprehensive protection of a charter of human rights.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
On the question of legislation, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether it is the intention of the Government to repeal the Flags and Emblems Act (Northern Ireland)?
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps we can wait until the legislation comes before the House.
In turn, representatives of the minority have asked for a real share in executive power. We have said that the Secretary of State must be satisfied, before powers are devolved, that the Executive is not solely based upon any single party if that party draws its support and its elected representation virtually entirely from one section of a divided community. None of these are proposals to which any fair-minded member of the majority party could reasonably object.
The White Paper does much more than just strike a balance between the interests of the two communities. Many of our recommendations, and the White Paper package as a whole, are of equal value and importance to both communities. It is equally in the interests of both communities that for the first time since partition we offer a real prospect of government by the consent of all the people of Northern Ireland and, more than that, of participation in government by members from both communities.
It is in the interests of both communities that the remaining parts of the United Kingdom pledge to their fellow-citizens in Northern Ireland not only their continuing financial support, now running at about £300 million a year, but the protection of the British Armed Forces for their lives and property. It is in the interests of both communities that we restate as firmly as ever before our determination to bring an end to violence and to restore the rule of law.
Our constitutional proposals are themselves aimed at bringing an end to violence, for no terrorist organisation will find any but limited support in a country where stable and accepted institutions are being freely operated; but I acknowledge that this can be achieved only over a period of time. Meanwhile the Government maintain their priority to combat terrorism from whatever source it may come.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
In 1922 we failed to beat the IRA, and we gave to the Irish Free State the opportunity to fight the IRA. It beat the IRA by using ruthless methods. Now we are creating an Assembly but we are denying it powers to fight the IRA and violence. We are keeping that for ourselves in a situation where we have manifestly failed and where the morale of our Army is crumbling because it has lost confidence in our political leadership. This is the situation in which we find ourselves.
§ The Prime Minister
I have seldom heard a more outrageous statement in this House. There is absolutely no evidence that the morale of Her Majesty's forces is crumbling. The morale of Her Majesty's forces, despite all the difficulties, is extremely high; and so long as forces which are provided from the whole of the United Kingdom are engaged in Northern Ireland the responsibility will rest here at Westminster.
The House may be interested—this is concerned with the point the hon. and learned Gentleman has just raised—to have the latest figures for arms finds and for persons charged with terrorist offences. To go back no further than the beginning of this year, 333 illegally held guns of various types have been recovered, 189 of them from Catholics and 144 from Protestants. More than 4,000 lb of explosives have been found, rather more than half of it in the hands of Protestants; and the security forces have recovered more than 29,000 rounds of ammunition, about 13,500 from Catholics and 15,500 from Protestants.
As far as arrests are concerned, again since the beginning of the year, 92 Catholics and 83 Protestants have been arrested on firearms charges, 32 Catholics and seven Protestants on explosives charges and six Catholics and 19 Protestants on charges of murder. Over the same period there were 157 convictions for specific criminal offences relating to terrorism. These figures speak for themselves. It is clear that there is absolutely no justification for the allegations that the security forces are biased in their activities towards one community or the other.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that since 1968, when figures were first kept, 1324 165 soldiers have been killed, and of these 110 have been killed since March of last year when Stormont was suspended? Is he further aware that more than 99 per cent. of these have been killed by the IRA and that the IRA have themselves claimed these killings?
§ The Prime Minister
I am well aware of these figures. I was giving the House the latest figures for action taken by the security forces—and effective action at that. With the Government's full support, the security forces will continue to pursue remorselessly all terrorists, whether from the IRA or from extreme Protestant organisations. While intimidation and threats still prevent the normal judicial machinery from operating with full effect some form of detention remains necessary. But the Detention of Terrorists Order is being used to deal with terrorists from both communities, and detention orders are issued not on the dictate of a Minister but by impartial commissioners hearing the evidence available to the security forces.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
The right hon. Gentleman has given a sectarian breakdown of the figures of arms and gun finds. Could he perhaps inform the House what the breakdown is on detention orders and how many Catholics and how many Protestants have been detained without trial?
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Lady would like to have those figures, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will deal with the matter in his speech tomorrow afternoon.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon for a further interruption, but, on reflection, is not it regrettable that we should be talking about captures of arms and arrests in sectarian terms? Should we not refrain from speaking of the two communities in a religious sense? Are we not concerned with two sections of the population; namely, the law-abiding and the terrorists?
§ The Prime Minister
It may be regrettable but it corresponds to the facts of life in Northern Ireland at the present time. I have deliberately given these figures to deal with allegations which, as my hon. Friend knows, are widely made, 1325 that the security forces are biased towards one community or the other. The White Paper describes the further steps we propose to take in this matter, and the Bill to give effect to the recommendations of the Diplock Commission should enable us sharply to reduce the impact of intimidation on the processes of the courts. The Bill will also repeal the Special Powers Act and re-enact only those provisions which we judge essential to counter the damage inflicted by terrorism and intimidation on the normal machinery of justice.
The provisions of the Bill, including the provisions for detention, will operate only as long as Parliament here is satisfied that they are required by the emergency in Northern Ireland. I have heard some criticism of the fact that provision should be made for any of these powers to be maintained. But I know of no country which does not make provision for an emergency, and it will be under parliamentary control here at Westminster.
In his speech tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will comment on the proposals in the White Paper in the light of his personal experience over the past 12 months in Northern Ireland. I would like today to deal first with the position of Northern Ireland inside the United Kingdom as a whole, and then with relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and, as I have stated, will remain so unless and until her people decide otherwise. That is a fact. Those self-styled loyalists who profess anxiety on this score can only arouse fears which are wholly groundless among their supporters. No doubt it is the aim of some that such fears should be aroused even though there can be no basis for them; but the people of this country will not be slow to assess their true motives and the falsity of their claims of loyalty to the United Kingdom and the Crown.
Then there are those who suggest that the White Paper somehow makes the people of Northern Ireland into second-class citizens of the United Kingdom because we have not proposed either complete integration or an increase in Northern Ireland representation at 1326 Westminster. If integration had been wholly supported, that approach could have been considered further. But the truth is that, with the exception of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his party, very few people in Northern Ireland have indicated that they want to see the permanent abolition of all institutions of government in the province; but it is also equally clear that integration would be wholly unacceptable to a substantial element in the population.
To those who argue for increased representation at Westminster I would just like to point out that under our proposals Northern Ireland will have a unique set of institutions of its own, with extensive governmental powers. Indeed, in some respects the new Northern Ireland Assembly will have more powers than its predecessor. We intend that it should have a large measure of freedom of decision in its choice of financial priorities and policies, subject to overriding United Kingdom interests; and it will, for the first time, be able to legislate on some matters which have hitherto been reserved for the United Kingdom Parliament. That is the answer to the question from my hon. Friend. He will find that that is set out in detail in paragraphs 83 and 89, particularly the latter, of the White Paper.
Moreover, on this point of Westminster representation, the House expects to consider later this year the Report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution. While we cannot yet know what the Royal Commission may recommend, it is within its terms of reference to propose new institutions in other parts of the United Kingdom. If it were to do so, such proposals might well have implications for Northern Ireland as well as for Westminster, and it can fairly be argued that this is not the right time to make changes in Northern Ireland representation here at Westminster.
I add one further point. I must say how much I deplore the talk from some commentators and leader writers of gerrymandering Northern Ireland representation at Westminster. The Westminster constituencies in Northern Ireland have not been, and are not, under challenge. It is wrong in this discussion, especially 1327 at a time when elections on the basis of proportional representation are shortly to be held in Northern Ireland on the basis of the Westminster constituencies, to suggest in any way that there is gerrymandering in this respect. There are sound reasons which I have again announced today for the attitude taken to representation at Westminster in the White Paper. I suggest that those reasons ought to be examined on their merits and not on the basis of the emotive call of gerrymandering.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I do not wish to divert the Prime Minister from his main theme, but does he accept that, quite apart from what the Kilbrandon Committee may report, what is proposed for Northern Ireland will raise similar questions for Scotland and Wales?
§ The Prime Minister
That was the point that I was making. The Royal Commission may make specific proposals about Scotland and Wales, quite apart from anything that it may say about Northern Ireland.
The proposals in the White Paper, and in particular the proposals outlawing discrimination, are designed precisely to ensure that no citizen of Northern Ireland need fear treatment as a second-class citizen but that all are first-class citizens of the United Kingdom. It is precisely because the people of Northern Ireland are fully acknowledged as citizens of the United Kingdom that the country as a whole readily agrees to give very generous financial support to Northern Ireland. It is precisely for this reason that this country is sending its young men to fight, and in some cases, alas, to die in the struggle against terrorism.
However, there is another side to this. If the United Kingdom as a whole has an obligation to the people of Northern Ireland, they in turn must accept the same social and political obligations, the same standards of behaviour, as the rest of the country. This means that we must see an end to civil disobedience, to rent and rate strikes, to unwillingness to co-operate with the police. It means an end to private armies, and to the obstruction of those whose task it is to protect public order.
1328 It is now very widely accepted in Northern Ireland that there should be new institutional arrangements for consultation and co-operation between the North and the Republic. There have been periods in the past when such cooperation has taken place, mainly at official level, in certain spheres. But the suspicions and distrust which have existed over the last 50 years, on both sides of the border, have prevented the advantages of such co-operation to both sides being developed further.
I remember thinking how extraordinary it was that when I arranged for the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Republic and Northern Ireland and myself at Chequers in September 1971 it was the first time that the three Prime Ministers in these closely-knit islands had met for nearly 50 years. Looking back on it now, it seems even more extraordinary. But good relations exist between Westminster and Dublin. They existed with Mr. Lynch, and they have been established already with Mr. Cosgrave. I am glad that this is so. I believe that it is of advantage both to the Republic and to the whole United Kingdom.
The common interests on which North and South can work together to their mutual advantage are not difficult to identify. They include tourism, roads, transport, electricity, the co-ordinated implementation of regional development policy, and many other matters. The White Paper does not exclude any subjects from discussion in a Council of Ireland, or seek to determine in advance who should take part in the Council's work.
It has been suggested that we were wrong in our approach to this, that we should have outlined in greater detail in the White Paper the detailed membership and responsibilities of the Council. I do not think that this would have been either practical in the time available to us or, indeed, wise.
Those who will represent Northern Ireland in the Council, whether they come from the Executive or from the Assembly, or both, have yet to be identified in the elections; and if the Council is to work effectively, its form and functions cannot be imposed but must evolve by consent and by co-operation between 1329 both sides. But I know from my recent talks with Mr. Cosgrave, Mr. Corish and Dr. Fitzgerald that they themselves have given considerable thought to these matters, and I am certain that they will be ready to put forward detailed practical proposals at the conference which Her Majesty's Government intend to arrange.
Then there are some who allege that a Council of Ireland is a halfway stage towards the domination of the North by Dublin. This is another of those wholly unreal fears, often whipped up for ulterior motives, which are so destructive of political progress in Northern Ireland.
When they come to discuss the formation of the Council, the representatives of the United Kingdom Government, of Northern Ireland and of the Republic will all base themselves on the principle —here I quote from the White Paper— ofthe acceptance of the present status of Northern Ireland, and of the possibility—which would have to be compatible with the principle of consent—of subsequent change in that status".I am quite certain, from the discussions which I had earlier this month with Mr. Cosgrave and Mr. Corish, that this principle is well understood by the Government of the Republic.
I welcome and share the view expressed by the Prime Minister of the Republic in his speech in the Dail on 14th March, when he said that the policy of his Government waspacification and reconciliation, but it must be reconciliation based on the recognition of rights and of their effective protection and assured implementation".With that I agree wholeheartedly. That is the policy underlying the White Paper. It applies to majority and minority alike.
There are two further and interrelated points which I would like to make before leaving the subject of the Council of Ireland.
First, I very much hope it can be agreed that the Council will concern itself with concrete issues and practical action. It must not become a forum for those who want to rake over the embers of past quarrels; and the best way of avoiding this will be for the Council to engage 1330 itself primarily with practical responsibilities, to the benefit of people on both sides of the border.
Secondly, if representatives of the North and the South both prefer that the United Kingdom Government should not participate directly in any joint institutions, we should not object. But a number of important functions of government, including security, will be reserved to the United Kingdom Government.
The United Kingdom Government have responsibility for our obligations as a member of the European Community, as well as for finance provided from United Kingdom sources. If the Council of Ireland wished to exert a practical influence on these policies, arrangements would have to be made for the United Kingdom Government to be associated closely with its work in these respects.
The proposals in the White Paper provide a unique opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous future, with better opportunities for employment and a better chance of security for their homes and families.
Over the past week we have seen compelling evidence that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland want the proposals to work. All political leaders in both communities must now prove their leadership by participating in the practical implementation of the proposals. They must stand in the elections, debate responsibly in the Assembly and its committee and, whatever their party allegiance, take a constructive part in the making of laws and the administering of services.
We have heard the threat that our constitutional proposals can be made unworkable. I do not doubt that this is so. The constitution of the United Kingdom, based on conventions built up over the centuries, or the constitution of the United States, with its elaborate structure of checks and balances, could both be made unworkable, given irresponsibility and malice.
At all times the machinery of government is an instrument which ought to be treated with respect by those in power and opposition alike as well as those who elect them to power. But if the leaders 1331 of Northern Ireland have a common desire to advance the interests of their country by working together within a constitution which involves representatives of both the majority and the minority in day-to-day government, our proposals will work, and they will work readily.
The people of Northern Ireland, as well as of the rest of the United Kingdom, will not lightly forgive politicians whose personal ambition leads them to refuse to work the settlement, even before it has been tried. I think the House will agree that the critics from the extremes of both communities have totally failed to suggest alternative solutions which might be successful. All we have heard from them are proposals for the imposed dominance of one particular interest. There could be no more certain prescription for disaster, and for the destruction of everything that is worth while in Northern Ireland.
I would like today to leave one final thought with the House. The truth is —and this is why I so radically disagree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—that violence has failed in Northern Ireland. Violence continues, and still claims its victims week by week. But violence has failed to achieve its aims. I mean the aims of those who talk of unity but, in fact, use violence to spread division from village to village and street to street. I mean the aims of those who talk of loyalty and law and order but use violence to promote faction and disorder throughout the Province.
Our aim in putting forward these proposals has been to create conditions in which those who wish to prevail in Northern Ireland can do so only by persuading their fellow citizens, by asking for and securing their votes. There is a sense in which for many years Northern Ireland has suffered not from too much politics but from too little. Our aim has been to recreate the normal processes of politics, of peaceful argument and fair resolution of that argument at the polling booths. We take these processes for granted in most of the United Kingdom —perhaps too much for granted. The whole purpose of this White Paper is to restore the polling booth to its place at the centre of the political life of Northern Ireland—and to banish and de- 1332 feat the gun, the rocket and the bomb, the terrorists and the hooligans. That is the justification for the effort which day by day, month by month, we ask our soldiers to undertake, and which—perhaps more difficult still—we ask their families to accept.
The White Paper provides the constitutional framework within which the people of Northern Ireland can seek the path back to peace and prosperity. How precisely they will do so must be for them to decide. But at the same time I believe this House has a duty to give its overwhelming endorsement to the opportunities created by the White Paper.
Any hon. Member who may be tempted to vote against the motion tomorrow night should weigh very carefully the consequences of his or her action in terms of human well-being, and indeed of human lives. Whatever the differences between us on other issues, I see no reason why every Member of this House should not vote tomorrow evening to approve the White Paper, and to support those in Northern Ireland who want the proposals in it to succeed.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
Since direct rule, we on this side of the House have been advocating an Assembly with the single transferable vote. We have been advocating power-sharing, the ending of the Special Powers Act and its replacement by emergency legislation accountable to Parliament and based on a Bill of Rights. We have advocated an all-Ireland dimension. On this last point my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition broadened this discussion in November 1971 in his 15-points speech. These principles form the structure of the White Paper. On principle, therefore, we support the White Paper.
We shall, of course, examine critically the legislation that stems from it, the constitutional Bill, the new emergency legislation—the Diplock proposals—the antidiscrimination Bill and the ending of discriminatory laws. We are under no illusion that the White Paper might fail in its objectives—there have been too many false dawns in Northern Ireland—but it must be given a chance and we want it to succeed. It is, however, to Northern Ireland that we look for a response. It is for this reason that we want the Government to provide the means for the 1333 people of Northern Ireland to speak via the ballot box. There has been, of course, as the Prime Minister said, a positive response from the NILP, the Alliance, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and some Unionists.
But the last elections in Northern Ireland were some years ago. There has been direct rule and there have been fundamental changes—profound changes— particularly in the Unionist Party. We want to give the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to speak, and to speak soon. We hope that the single transferable vote will allow the voting habits of people to be depolarised, although we notice in the White Paper that the single transferable vote is for only one election. It would be as well for the parties in Northern Ireland to consider the technicalities of the new system and particularly the way in which the election result in the South of Ireland, in the Republic, came about, at least to some degree, by two parties working together.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The hon. Gentleman will realise that the Liberal Party commands 1 million votes—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is 2 million."]—well, 2 million votes in this country. In the House today will he give a promise to the people of this great country, Great Britain, that he will support proportional representation for the people of this country?
§ Mr. Rees
No, I would not give that promise, but the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) in his approach shows the House why we need the single transferable vote in Northern Ireland.
As I understand it, the constitutional Bill includes the procedures for the election, but if the White Paper is any criterion, that Bill will be a long one. If that is the case, the elections could not take place in June but in September. In our view, that will be too late. In our view, that would lose the impetus of the White Paper. In our view, early elections would concentrate the minds of the electors. It might also concentrate the minds of aspiring members of the Assembly. So I put to the Prime Minister what I have already put outside the House: will he consider hiving off from the constitutional Bill those parts of it which might be called an electoral Bill, or a Representation of the People Bill and get on with that in such a way that 1334 elections could be held in June? The major part of the Bill is vital to thinking ahead and it is very likely that Bill No. 2, as it were, would be ready by the time the elections were held. I suggest, for example—because we do not want to go into the marching season—that the election could be held on 28th June.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it would be better to postpone the district council elections and to have these Assembly elections first? The Prime Minister has emphasised that there should be agreement. There is agreement across the board by all the political parties that the Assembly elections should come first.
§ Mr. Rees
The hon. Member raises a point which has been put to me from all bands of the political spectrum in the last few days. I simply transfer it to the Secretary of State. This is certainly a point which has been made, because this local government election might act not as a dummy run for the electoral procedures but instead as an occasion for the White Paper emotions to come up. That would be a bad thing, so it is said, for the local government elections.
§ The Prime Minister
I do not wish to deal with the particular point about the local government elections at this stage, but I can tell the hon. Member—I know that my hon. Friends, too, are interested —that consideration has been given to the structure of the Bill. It would be possible, of course, to have a Bill which dealt with these major considerations and then a further Bill which dealt with the detailed proposals. Of course, even then, since an electoral Bill is obviously of the utmost importance, it would be necessary to deal with it fairly expeditiously in the House if elections were to be held as soon as some people are expressing a desire that they should be held—a desire which I fully share. As the hon. Gentleman emphasised, a Northern Ireland Assembly should be able to work out all the necessary implications affecting many people in Northern Ireland. To carry them through, the second Bill, dealing with the details, would also have to be handled fairly quickly in the House.
§ Mr. Rees
We are all grateful, I think, for the Prime Minister acceding to this 1335 suggestion, which I made within the last 48 hours. We will, of course, co-operate, within the bounds of full consideration of the electoral measure. That does not mean that we shall not do all we can to see that the elections are held in June, because we believe that to be vital. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government have obtained an impetus and it would be a bad thing if that were lost in the last few months. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that it is, of course, on timing that we have had disagreements with the Government over the last year. It is on timing that we feel very strongly.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Would the hon. Gentleman assist the House in getting it perfectly clear what is the nature of the agreement which seems just to have been reached? Is it that, instead of one Bill there should be two Bills? If that is so, how is it intended that the House should proceed when the Question originally put by Mr. Speaker is put again at the end of tomorrow's proceedings?
§ Mr. Rees
I have no doubt that there is great import in what the right hon. Gentleman says about constitutional Bills, but it is for the Government to consider the implications of that. The suggestion from this side was on the one point that it is important to have elections. That is not an evil or even an illogical suggestion, considering the constitutional history of this country. One could look back to the Reform Bills of the last century, like those of 1884, for example, when the then Liberal Government separated the constitutional changes from some of the electoral considerations. There is a respectable history for this, if my quick glance at the history is correct.
There is a great deal of flexibility in parts of the White Paper, but should not more information be provided, perhaps in a discussion-type Green Paper— I do not stick to that particular form— on a number of matters? We in this House and the political leaders in Northern Ireland should be mulling them over.
As for the Assembly, which is referred to in paragraphs 37, 42 and 43, there is 1336 one point in paragraph 43 which I should like to bring to the right hon. Gentleman's notice:The Government believes it to be right that the Assembly itself should work out its own detailed methods and procedures.…It is likely that, if the elections take place in June and if the major part of the constitutional proposals are in the second Bill, there will be an Assembly very quickly, and it would need to start working.
Unless there is pre-discussion, or rather pre-information, about the possible form of the Assembly, it will be very difficult for it to get moving very quickly. I am not asking for finality from the Government—they are quite right to put it in this form in the White Paper—but I should like to know what the alternative possibilities are.
The White Paper says, I think, that the procedure need not be of a parliamentary type, but is there not experience in other parts of the world? Are there not State assemblies in, say, Australia and other parts of the Commonwealth which we could examine and which people in Northern Ireland should consider, so that they would not start with a tabula rasa on the first day they meet? Similarly with committees—
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
May I put a hypothetical question to the hon. Gentleman, since he is in a hypothetical mood at the moment? Supposing the majority of members elected to the new Assembly decided that they wish to see another status, say an independent status, for Northern Ireland. What would his position be then?
§ Mr. Rees
If the vast majority—this is the key to the whole problem—want to cause disruption or have a different view of the Assembly, then the White Paper will to a large degree have failed, and people will have to start again. But I will come back to that point, for the hon. Member's particular benefit, in a moment. What matters to us in this House is that parties in Northern Ireland should stand up and be counted and say whom they represent. It is only then that we shall know whether the White Paper has a chance of success.
With regard to the committees, how should the heads of departments be 1337 chosen? What are the possibilities for choosing a head of department? On this, too, we are asking not for finality but for ideas. What are the possibilities with regard to the Executive? At the moment, I find myself dependent on the evidence given to the Darlington Conference, which appears in the Green Paper. There are all sorts of interesting speculations on which, with the aid, perhaps, of more statistical knowledge than I possess, one can work out the possibilities of what might happen in the Executive, depending upon the results of the election.
All I would say is that there would be no merit in the statutory Catholic or the statutory Protestant on the Executive. It would be better if we had an Executive which met the right hon. Gentleman's criteria arising out of a coalition. But the figures, which can only be guesses on my part, do not lead one to believe that this will come about very easily. Again, I accept, one has to wait for the election result.
We in this place and the parties in Ireland need ideas in all these flexible aspects to promote discussion. It would be wrong to leave them until the day after the election. We do not know the results, and in the heady days after an election there may not be the time for people to put their minds to these important practical problems.
Another question to which I think we ought to give our minds is the rôle of the Secretary of State. May I assume from paragraph 50(a), which deals with the Secretary of State's functions, that we shall need more legislation in this House after he has had consultations with the elected representatives?
With regard to paragraph 50(b) it is important that we should give our minds to this point in the next couple of days. From this White Paper, the right hon. Gentleman will be drawing up a Bill. It is often difficult to amend a Bill, and if we have considered it before hand we may save ourselves some trouble. This sub-paragraph refers to Northern Ireland departments acting as the right hon. Gentleman's agents, which raises in my mind the question of accountability to this House. What procedural arrangements will there be here for dealing with the Secretary of State's legislation? We would all agree, on both sides, that the 1338 arrangements since direct rule have been unsatisfactory. This was inevitable perhaps given the nature of direct rule, but what procedural arrangements have the Government in mind for the legislation which the Secretary of State in his own right will be bringing before the House?
I wonder whether this is only a matter for the Secretary of State but also for the appropriate committee of this House. It may be, for there will be a number of orders emanating from the Secretary of State's Department. I have found—I have no doubt that constitutional experts may find more—that there are about five methods of Orders in Council coming before this House and stemming from Northern Ireland. Two of them come under the Northern Ireland Temporary Provisions Act through regulations. There can be a regulation under the authority of an Act of the Northern Ireland Parliament. In exceptional conditions, I understand, there could be regulations made under the Civil Authorities Special Powers Act, and they could come before this House. Before we find ourselves later this year dealing with orders, we must face the fact that I and some of my hon. Friends find ourselves daily being handed Orders in Council fitting into all these categories. It is very difficult to conceive that they will be discussed on the Floor of the House, because of lack of parliamentary time, and we must put our minds to the procedures in this House.
Over all, the Secretary of State—and I am not referring to the right hon. Gentleman in particular, but to any Secretary of State under this White Paper— is an extremely powerful being. The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) wrote an interesting article in The Times recently, and in it he said that under this White Paper the Secretary of State is a cross between a governor and a commander in chief in colonial terms. The Bill must spell out clearly what it is that the Secretary of State will do.
I can only hope—I say this in no carping spirit—that the job of Secretary of State has not been built around the energy and the personality of the existing Secretary of State. He bears a very hard burden, flying backwards and forwards —but I need not develop that. However, I put this to him, that Ministers change, 1339 as, of course, Governments change, and I only hope that this job has not been conceived on too narrow a basis.
With regard to the devolution of powers, when one looks at the reserved and transferred powers in the White Paper one sees that there is additional proof that this White Paper is tailor made for Northern Ireland. When I have heard, since this White Paper came out, people imagining that the White Paper has any relevance to the rest of the United Kingdom I have thought that those people could not have read it, because it is tailor made for Northern Ireland in the context of Northern Ireland.
We note the order to remove the peculiar Northern Ireland oath declaration, which meant that people in Northern Ireland had to take an oath of allegiance to the Government. I raise the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) raised: does the Flags and Emblems Act, for example, come under this? I do not believe it comes under the Special Powers Act. I believe it was an Act of the Northern Ireland Parliament.
It is early days yet, but if the White Paper is successful there is a case for giving the Assembly more power. I notice that hon. Members looked a little askance when the Prime Minister said that the new Assembly would have more powers in some respects than Stormont. In many respects Stormont was a facade, particularly on financial matters, and the people in Northern Ireland should not run away with illusions of grandeur that the presence of a mace, and so on, made the Assembly really very powerful. In basic respects this White Paper gives more powers to Northern Ireland.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I take it that if the hon. Member is saying that Stormont was a facade and that financial and fiscal control is here, he is conceding the case for more Northern Ireland Members in this House.
§ Mr. Rees
That is curious logic, but I will come to it in a moment.
I was saying that there is a case for giving the Assembly more powers, and it is for this reason—the existence of the Assembly, the fact that its powers can be increased, and, as the Prime Minister 1340 said, the all-Ireland dimension—that we agree with the Government that the 12 Members of Parliament is right.
I bring to the notice of the House the words of Mr. Utley in the Daily Telegraph today. He has knowledge particularly of the Unionist side in Northern Ireland. He says:The rank and file of Ulster Unionists care little for the fact that they are to get no more representatives at Westminster.To be fair to Mr. Utley he goes on to the question of the Governor as being more meaningful than the question of membership.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Does the hon. Member not agree that that is just Mr. Utley's opinion? He had better wait till the elections to see what the people in Northern Ireland think.
§ Mr. Rees
I think I can say the same thing to the hon. Gentleman.
We need to know more about the functions of the Secretary of State. With regard to the all-Ireland dimension, the Irish dimension, my right hon. Friend, as I have said, raised this point about 18 months ago. It is a major part of the Green Paper. It is deliberately vague, and I can see the merit of that in the context of a new Irish Government and the fact that there are no elections yet in Northern Ireland. He mentioned three objectives as the basis of discussion. I want only to make one point. I could wish there were more ideas around in this country, from the North of Ireland and, indeed, from the South of Ireland. I am not saying that the Government in the South of Ireland should have spoken yet on how the All-Ireland Council could be organised, but it is remarkable how over 50 years so little has been said about this. It stems from the fact that we in this House—it was before my time —shut our eyes to the problems, quite wrongly. When one searches for ideas on this one finds they are remarkably deficient. I would like to see more ideas coming out of the South of Ireland. I would like to see the political parties in the South of Ireland being more positive in this respect, because they bear as much blame as anybody else for shutting their eyes, except for a very long-term aim, to the problems of the North and the South.
What is certain is that the All-Ireland Council will have to concentrate on 1341 economic development. The right hon. Gentleman made that point. There is no doubt in my mind from my conversations with trade unions in Northern Ireland whom, once more, I praise, because they deserve it, that the economic dimension of the Irish dimension could prove to be the base on which the all-Irish dimension could develop.
There is one other point I personally would like to see discussed. It stems from the former hat I wore in the last Government. I would like to see them discuss citizenship, because there is no such thing as citizenship but nationality. It is confused with regard to the Commonwealth. To say it is confused between Ireland and ourselves is putting it mildly. To say it is confused between the North and South of Ireland is equally true. I say to the Prime Minister that it might well be that we could withdraw, because it would need the Protestant Irish and the Roman Catholic Irish to understand what it is all about, but to discuss it would be valuable.
We need to restore law and order first. Of course political matters and economic matters all count together, but the need to restore law and order in Northern Ireland is the most important need. We could well have a political breakthrough but still lawlessness which frightens decent people in all communities could go on.
A successful political breakthrough would help, but this is why, in our view, means must be found—I put this in a vague way because I do not wish to be too precise—of allowing all people in Northern Ireland to stand in the elections. I should like to see the Government finding a means whereby Sinn Fein and the Republicans could stand in the election. The analogy is in the South. While in the South both wings of the IRA are illegal, Sinn Fein is not illegal. The official Sinn Fein is a registered political party. In the last election the official Sinn Fein had, I believe, 1.14 per cent. of the total vote. Whatever delusions of grandeur anyone has about a political base, 1.14 per cent. is a fairly elementary statistical figure to understand. It is important that we see the strength of everyone who claims to be a leader in Northern Ireland.
From the White Paper I understand that the Special Powers Act is to go. This 1342 will affect the situation with regard to proscribed organisations. I realise the problems raised in the White Paper about people who at one minute are killing and the next minute are saying that they are democrats. The two cannot be brought together and I understand that. But I am sure that a way can be found whereby people can stand for election. It may well be that the support of the IRA will be as meaningful in the North as it is in the South.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the Sinn Fein and Republican candidates contest the Westminster election?
§ Mr. Rees
I was aware of that. If that were a way out—I doubt it—perhaps that would be the approach. But it is up to the Secretary of State, with his detailed knowledge, to see whether that is possible.
With regard to law and order, I turn to the question of policing. The White Paper is right when it asserts on page 6 the relationship between the community and the police. The Royal Ulster Constabulary does not police certain areas. That is a fact which everyone who knows Northern Ireland knows to be true. The RUC has had the most difficult job. Its men are in constant danger. I have met not only its leadership but also, from time to time, policemen—for example, in the police federation, where one meets a cross-section. The men I have met are fine men who have talked to me about the need for the police to be on a British basis. All that I can say about that today is that it might be something to help the situation—the subject ought at least to be discussed— if the police authority could devolve management to local authorities in some way. At least we should consider auxiliary police, as in wartime here, as perhaps something we could use in some way in Northern Ireland.
Incidentally, we shall be responsible, in this place, for the police, as for all security after the Bills become law, if they become law in the way that it is suggested in the White Paper. We should certainly have to find means of discussing important matters of this nature.
On Diplock—as a shorthand for the wider aspect that the White Paper raises, 1343 the legislation to deal with violence and subversion—we welcome the end of the Special Powers Act and the fact that emergency provisions will be subject to the control of this House. But I repeat to the right hon. Gentleman what we have said many times. It is important to see Diplock in the context of the charter of human rights. We cannot discuss Diplock properly unless we know firmly what is the basis of residence in Northern Ireland.
I have been actively involved in Irish affairs for about the last 18 months. Prior to that I was in the Home Office, but only on the periphery of matters for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) shouldered firm and direct responsibility and showed, as we all know, much understanding. But I observe that we have come a long way since those days. Things have changed, particularly in the last year. One change is that, while they might have felt it before, all the political parties in the South, like the Social Democratic and Labour Party in the North— I am glad to see my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) in the Chamber today—talk no longer of unification as a practical aim of politics now. They are talking about conciliation, about making the Province of Northern Ireland work. The hope, the cry, is for a new society to grow in the North. We recognise the aspirations of both communities. It is difficult. It is not easy and may well prove to be a pipedream. But it is something on which we have to work.
The Protestants of the North cannot be forced into the South. Pledges or not, forced unification is not "on", because it is not possible. I have always felt that the practicalities of that are more important than words on a piece of paper.
I repeat what was said at the Labour Party conference last year and what has been said by so many of the political leaders in Northern Ireland and in Ireland as a whole. Consent is the only way to change the status of the North. The IRA does not realise the harm that its bombings and killings have done, morally as well as politically, now and to future generations. I judge that by talking to people and from my post-bag. Anyone 1344 who believes that bombing and killing achieve political ends per se all by themselves in a nice, clean objective way must talk to those whose people have been killed. The hatred is there and will last for generations. It will go down to their children.
The IRA can disrupt the community. It can kill. It cannot win the battle. The same is true, in a different context, of the Ulster Volunteer Force. To them both I say this: a man with a gun looks Dig, but at the ballot box he reverts to his true size. That is why people shy away from the ballot box—because it is pleasant to be big and to believe that one is very important. I often note that the man with a gun seems to get far more attention in many parts of the media than those who are trying to do the sort of thing that most of us in the House want.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On the point about the ballot box, will the hon. Gentleman explain why the SDLP and other parties boycotted the border poll which was so important?
§ Mr. Rees
I do not think that boycotting the border poll puts them in the category of any of the groups I have mentioned in the last few moments.
To all those who are not prepared to use the White Paper as a basis for political action, I put the simple question: what next? The civil war in the 1920s, which still dominates political thinking even among people who do not believe in violence in Ireland, brought the illogical border. If the White Paper were to fail there could and would be another illogical ad hoc situation. It would likely follow bloodshed. To those in the United Kingdom who talk of a pull-out, just like that, I say that it would be a prescription for people to murder each other. I hear analogies with other parts of the world where murder and killing has continued a long distance away. If it were to go on in Ireland, it would not be too far away.
There is no simple solution. Any change of policy depends on elections. A political solution can lead to the withdrawal of troops. This must be our aim. There must be disengagement. But to imagine that a quick disengagement would in any way solve the situation is wrong.
1345 The White Paper gives the chance of a new direction, but it requires leadership. It is easy to be pompous in this place, from a distance. If there is one thing that Irish Catholics and Protestants do not like it is English pomposity. But it requires leadership in Northern Ireland, too. Only the people of Northern Ireland can tell us where the approach of the last year has failed. For ultimately we do not determine the future of Ireland. The future of the North of Ireland will be determined by the people of Northern Ireland themselves.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Apart from congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with all my heart on having got us thus far, I want to make only two points without taking up too much time.
The first relates to what the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said at the beginning of his speech. I remain convinced that it is worth a tremendous effort to get the General Election in Northern Ireland staged and the Assembly in being before the summer holidays. The alternative to that is an interval of six months, and in Northern Ireland that is a long time, particularly because that six months will include the marching season, which begins roughly in the middle of July and continues towards the middle of September.
I accept that it may well be May before the Bill is before us, and it could be June before it leaves us. I accept that the parties will need time to recruit their candidates, to prepare their campaigns, and to get back in harness. Most difficult of all the machinery for running an election, if the machinery required for a border poll is any guide, will be complex, detailed and time-consuming. These are enormous difficulties, but, along with other hon. Members, I take the view that if difficulties are not insuperable we must do our best to overcome them. We should consider, for example, whether some of the preliminaries could not be run in parallel with the Bill's progress through the House. Would it be necessary to indemnify against expense if it could be done, as it might be, with agreement? I have no doubt, listening to the exchanges in the hon. Member's 1346 speech, that the Opposition would be not unco-operative in bringing the General Election forward.
When the Bill comes it must have adequate time in this place so that it may be fully considered. But none, least of all those who are closest to representation in Northern Ireland, would wish their opposition to particular passages of the Bill to stand in the way of giving the people of Northern Ireland a chance to vote at the earliest opportunity. Until that happens a great deal of dangerous confusion will reign, and it might well increase. One consequence of suspending the parliamentary proceedings has been that a considerable number of people claim to speak in the name of the people of Northern Ireland. They are, of course, in a very strong position to do so because there is no ballot box to test their credentials. Some of them, and maybe some of us, will be surprised when that test has been taken. Meanwhile the unrepresentative can claim parity of esteem and often a great deal more publicity than those who may be representative.
There will be no stability until the election is out of the way. A careful reading of the White Paper persuades me that only after the election can the main design—devolution, power-sharing, the question of relations with the Republic— begin to take shape. Only after it has taken shape should we be able to see how far devolution can go, and what the r61e of the Secretary of State will be eventually. As I read the White Paper, this is indeterminate at the moment.
It is because of this element of uncertainty that I do not join some of my hon. and right hon. Friends in the demand for more Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland. The complaint is made by some that Northern Ireland will have a lesser status, though this is arguable, than it had under Stormont. It is even argued that it would have a county council status. I believe it will have a great deal more. Stronger complaint would lie if we determined now that more Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland should sit at Westminster, because that could surely imply a limit to the extent of devolution. It could suggest that for all time the limits on the power of the new Assembly would be confined to the minimum that the White Paper 1347 has to offer—in other words, a permanently reduced status for the Assembly of Northern Ireland.
§ Captain Orr
Surely that would mean that present representation from Scotland precludes any kind of devolution for Scotland in the future.
§ Mr. Deedes
Not at all. I decline to accept that we are comparing like with like in comparing Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. For a number of reasons—such as the land frontier, the sea, and history—it would not be a comparison of like with like, and I do not intend to embark on that argument.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that Northern Ireland is, to a large extent, a part of Scotland grafted on to Ireland?
§ Mr. Deedes
I am not taking up that challenge either. I should have thought that the hon. Member would have been the first to complain if the shape of things to come put a final limit on the powers of the Assembly and the likelihood of more power devolving on to it.
For all its appeal to reasonable men, the White Paper offers no guarantee that violence would cease or decrease. Paragraph 58 refers to:provisions for the more effective combatting of terror and violence.We shall await with great interest what the Bill has to say about that. Whether violence continues, abates or gets worse will not necessarily depend on what the IRA leadership has to say. There seems to me something faintly ludicrous and distasteful about those "salons", held by mandarins of the IRA at which selected representatives of the media are summoned to hang upon their lightest word. "Is it peace?" they ask eagerly, and the answer is solemly noted and displayed with great prominence.
Does anyone suppose that such men will lightly abandon the positions to which we elevate them so flatteringly with this delusory power in return for the indignity of losing their deposit at the General Election? I wish to challenge the point made earlier on the need to change the law in order to make it possible for Sinn Fein representatives to stand. It is in theory ideal. But does 1348 anyone believe that some of these men would willingly exchange the power they now have for the indignity of appearing bottom of the poll? It is arguable but I doubt it. Power of this kind is very addictive.
§ Mr. McNamara
Does the right hon. Gentleman not sec the converse of this argument, that if the opportunity is given and if these people are shown to have only minor support within the community, their right to speak, to have attention paid to them and to try to threaten with the gun is thereby considerably diminished?
§ Mr. Deedes
I am prepared to go part of the way with that suggestion, but the real point that concerns me is what the hon. Member for Leeds, South said about the man with the gun looking big and the ballot box cutting him down to size. What the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said may be true but it is not an argument for suggesting that violence could be decreased in that way. The man with the gun is well aware of just that point.
It is my belief that violence and what it can achieve has proved very addictive in the minds of some of these people; the power to carry guns, of having access to explosives, of plotting and planning outrages, and of having the power to intimidate, which is far stronger than the power to persuade, is all very attractive and will not be yielded as soon as some would hope. This is particularly so for youths of 16, 17 and 18. We should reflect when we are weighing the prospects for the security forces now how heady and how compulsive is the power to influence events by such methods. It will not, in my view, be readily forsaken.
§ Mr. McManus
The right hon. Member has referred to youths of 16, 17 and 18 and other ages. How many of these youths has he interviewed to obtain their views, and on what does he base his judgment, other than on dubious sources of information?
§ Mr. Deedes
These statements give me no pleasure, but as a result of a great many visits to Northern Ireland, visits to the security forces, seeing a great deal of what goes on and hearing the evidence 1349 of eye-witnesses I have not the slightest doubt that one of the most tragic problems is that youths of 15, 16 and 17 have been dragged into this violence and have been turned into potential assassins. The hon. Gentleman must not think that I am using it against them. I am using it against the generation which has brought them to that path.
What has been let loose on the streets of Belfast cannot be stopped now simply at the whims of the IRA, even if the orders are given by the IRA. It will prove very hard to stop. All this is fully set out in Chapter 9 of the Diplock Report, to which the House gave insufficient attention. The first paragraph of that report reads:One of the most troubling features of the present situation is the use made of the young by terrorist organisations to aid them in carrying on their activities and to hamper the work of the security forces.Diplock then unfolded the difficulties, one of which was the lack of any secure establishment for these young boys, which he described aslittle short of disastrous in present circumstances".That was last year. I am not clear how far we have faced this problem since Diplock made that observation. He also said last year:We are frankly appalled at the apparent lack of any sense of urgency.Is it not time that we took this more seriously?
I sometimes hear it said, with singularly misplaced optimism, that the IRA forces are down to young men of 15, 16 and 17. True or not, the statement fills me with misgivings. This is part of a generation that has been corrupted. They are not subject, as are their leaders, to the effect that certain actions may have upon their image. They act even more irresponsibly than certain Provisional leaders of the IRA. Until we realise this and act upon it, I fear that they could still bedevil and imperil what we all hope will be a better and more hopeful course.
A condition of free elections is not simply an absence of violence. It is an absence of fear, an absence of the intimidation that violence engenders, and we shall find it very difficult to eliminate among those who have grown up to regard it as a way of life.
1350 A critical deficiency in Northern Ireland in the next stage will be of confidence. The people of Northern Ireland have kept their courage but have lost their confidence, and that is hardly surprising. It is at the root of many of the hesitant reactions to the White Paper.
The Prime Minister expressed the belief that most people in Northern Ireland want these proposals to work, and I entirely agree. Nine-tenths of the opposition to the proposals is not political opposition but fear—fear of what may be the consequences if certain things occur—and that is very difficult to eradicate. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also said that violence has failed. I wish with all my heart that I could accept that. The fact is that violence and the consequence of violence have taken away from the people of Northern Ireland something which we perhaps too readily take for granted. The effect of violence and the intimidation that it engenders on the border poll, which some of us witnessed, and on the elections yet to come, is something which we in this country must not underrate. As we move from what has been the mainly security past to what we hope will be the political future, we should bear in mind that there can be no real confidence until violence and the hidden consequences of violence can be shown clearly to the people of Northern Ireland to have failed.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
I believe that the White Paper should receive the support of the House. I equally believe and fervently hope that it will be given a fair chance of working in Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to the courage and fairness which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has shown since his appointment. The White Paper is a manifestation of those qualities. If it is not out of place, may I also say that I think the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to acknowledge that the restraint and wisdom shown by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), which was typified by his speech, are a contributory factor to bringing us to the present situation.
I entirely agree with the analysis made by the right hon. Member for Ashford 1351 (Mr. Deedes) of the effects of violence on young people. That is a continuing social problem. Those young people will continue to learn history from different books, different schools and different philosophies. This will produce a social problem that no White Paper can solve, and it will take a long time for us to ameliorate that situation.
It would be impossible for any member of the Liberal Party to oppose the White Paper. I remember that in Blackpool, in 1967, two years before the dispatch by the Leader of the Opposition of troops to Northern Ireland—in my view rightly—there was a resolution passed which called for proportional representation for all Northern Ireland elections, the repeal of the Special Powers Act, human rights legislation to prevent discrimination, co-operation with the Republic on matters of mutual concern and the transfer of the border problem from Stormont to a plebiscite.
I remember my Liberal colleague Sheelagh Murnaghan on four occasions introducing into Stormont a Human Rights Bill and receiving not a single vote for it from the majority party, although she managed to drive one Unionist Member of the Stormont Parliament into abstention.
I do not want to dwell on the past. Those who do are those who want to live in the past and are not prepared to accept change in the future. That that attitude has been endemic should not cause surprise when we find opposition to the White Paper. I think it is generally known now even by the most introspective Englishman—I am not an Englishman; I am a Celt—that there is more bloody-mindedness in Northern Ireland than there is in the whole of the rest of the United Kingdom put together. We understand that that is one of the problems with which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State has been contending, and we wish him well.
I want to make one or two brief comments on additions and amendments which I should like to see in the White Paper. Whilst I entirely agree with the Prime Minister that violence has not achieved anything in the sense that it has not brought about reunification or a 1352 basic change in the relationship between North and South, I very much regret that it has achieved political change which for the last 50 years no form of democratic argument and discussion achieved. The great tragedy in the history of Ireland is that we have almost always conceded to violence that we could at an earlier stage have conceded to logic.
There are certain improvements that could be made in the White Paper, and I shall refer briefly to the Assembly, the police and this House of Commons. I agree with the power-sharing concept in the White Paper but I think that the right hon. Gentleman will experience difficulties in forming an administration. I would prefer the Executive to be elected by the Assembly by proportional representation, as happens in Switzerland to good effect. We want to see that the political and religious majority and minorities are represented, we want to see that Protestants and Catholics are represented, and we also want to see that different political parties and different shades of opinion are represented. That is far more likely to happen under a PR election which has the additional advantage of having behind it the authority of the Assembly. We should make it plain that the democratic opportunities for the electorate are now being enlarged and not restricted.
I wonder whether there is a case for saying that the Northern Ireland Members of Parliament at Westminster should also be ex officio members of the Assembly. I do not believe they should be paid or able to sit on the Executive, but their presence initially might be a useful form of cross-fertilisation between the Assembly and the House. That suggestion may horrify some Members of the House, although I must point out that two of the three parties in this House have had the experience of sitting in two Parliaments, one in Westminster and one in Strasbourg. Indeed the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) sits in two Parliaments, as I believe does the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
The electorate must be clear about how the proportional representational system works. There may well be a case for having a specimen ballot form before 20th 1353 May. I am sure that we shall be told that the system is alien and undemocratic, but we must remember that we are restoring the electoral system which Lloyd George introduced at the time of the partition. He believed—in my view rightly—that this was the only way in which we could afford a choice within political parties and also guarantee that minorities were adequately represented. It was Lord Craigavon, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who said when abolishing PR that had the system not been changed the Opposition would have been returned.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Does the right hon. Gentleman not also recall that at that time Mr. Cosgrave regretted that he could not abolish proportional representation in the Irish Free State?
§ Mr. Thorpe
Yes, but the system has persisted in the Republic, and it has produced great stability. It produced, for example, only three political parties out of 144 seats. Under the English system there were six political parties in Stor-mont at the last election. One effect of proportional representation in the Republic is that a man's religious beliefs have never been decisive in determining to which political party he belongs. That is why there has never been a Cabinet in the Republic which has not contained Protestants. Although Protestants only represent 5 to 10 per cent. of the population, none the less they have been represented—whereas in 50 years of polarisation under our own system there has not been a single Cabinet Minister who is a Catholic, save for one non-elected Member, and they represent 35 per cent. of the Northern Ireland population.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
The right hon. Gentleman's facts are correct, but does he not realise that there is one great difference between Ireland under the STV and the proposal that is now before us? Ireland under STV has three- or sometimes four-member constituencies, whereas the proposal before us is that there should be seven-member constituencies and in a few cases six-member ones?
§ Mr. Thorpe
The principle is the same, and the details are not very important in terms of whether they are multi-member constituencies or otherwise. 1354 Incidentally, the figure is not three in Southern Ireland, though I do not want to get drawn into details. I declare an interest since I am Vice-Chairman of the Electoral Reform Society and I have made a study of this subject. I believe it is vital that people understand how the system works, and the Government are right to introduce it.
I should like to pay a tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which, with one or two exceptions, has behaved extremely well under appalling conditions. I should like to make one suggestion at this point, although perhaps the moment for it is not yet right since tempers have not yet cooled. I should like to see a joint recruiting campaign for the RUC and the Garda in border areas. There has been considerable cooperation over the years between the police in the Republic and police in the North. I see one hon. Gentleman opposite laughing, and no doubt we shall soon be hearing about the "red hand" of Maynooth and all the other cliches from the last century. However, I appreciate that my suggestion is not possible at present. But I believe that if the police could go into the Bogside without being thought to belong exclusively to one community, and if it could be thought that the police had mutual interest and an interdependence in maintaining peace on both sides, this would be an enormous advance. This is something we must look at. And incidentally if we could successfully achieve four-Power policing of Vienna after the war, I see no reason why the same formula should not work in Ireland.
§ Mr. Kilfedder rose—
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am sorry; I cannot give way.
Let me try to deal with the position of Members of Parliament at Westminster. I have a good deal of sympathy with the proposal that their numbers should be increased, and I hope that the Prime Minister is right that, following the Kilbrandon Report, the question of devolution in the United Kingdom may well proceed further. If this happens we may wish to look at the situation again. But I should like to see the Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland returned to this House by proportional representation. I believe in 1355 proportional representation, and I should like to see it applied in this House universally, but I recognise that the conservatives on both sides of the House make that impossible at this moment. But I genuinely believe that people like the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) and Terence O'Neill would have a much greater chance of seeing moderation succeed than by perpetuating in Westminster a system which we have condemned in Northern Ireland, because the very system of polarisation makes extremists.
The Government will always say that the system will apply only to Northern Ireland but to nowhere else; they will say that we must never think that it will invade one inch of territory in the United Kingdom. Even though I accept that the case is overwhelming that elections in Northern Ireland should take place under PR, I also believe that it would be another way of giving a chance to moderates to come to this House.
We all regard the Ulster Members as colourful. I do not believe there is any one of them whom we regard as a flaming moderate—with the possible exception of the hon. Member for Londonderry, and he retired from the field under extreme pressure from his constituency. I want to see people of moderation who can stand for multi-member constituencies.
I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds, South that everybody must condemn violence. Of course people realise the odium of the IRA, but there are thugs in every community. It takes oppression and frustration to bring those thugs to the fore. I do not in any way defend them, but I am merely saying that it would be difficult for that situation to have prospered in any other part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, we want to see the maximum number of people fighting the General Election, and I believe that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has the ingenuity to see that those who want to stand may qualify. This may have to be done by a declaration that they reject violence, but I do not believe that they should be asked to take an oath which will offend their conscience when they happen to disagree with the constitution. There are some people who have been elected to this House who are not in favour of 1356 violence but basically do not like our present constitution. Therefore, I do not foresee any great difficulty.
Another rich sphere of co-operation will be in the European Parliament. I hope that the time will come when Labour Members of Parliament from the Republic and United Kingdom Labour Members will be able to co-operate in Strasbourg.
There must be a basic change of attitudes. It is all very well for Mr. Faulkner to say that he welcomes the support of Catholics. But it is very odd that in all the 50 years which have elapsed there has never been a Roman Catholic candidate for the Unionist Party. It is not for any lack of recruits. We well remember the case of Mr. Boyle in 1969 who was President of the Unionist Club at Queen's University, Belfast. He was prepared to fight South Down as a Unionist, but the Unionists rejected him because they did not want to select a Roman Catholic and preferred that the Nationalists should get in unopposed. It is attitudes of that sort that must be changed.
We must give the White Paper a chance. I am certain that if we see a continuation of some of the intransigence from the hard-line Protestants, or from the men of violence on either side, they will find that there is intolerance in this country and that this country will not stand such intransigence very much longer. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I gather, is temporarily leading the movement against the White Paper. Of course, we know that in Northern Ireland leadership is of fluctuating value. I think particularly of Hymn No. 689. I do not believe that hymns are necessarily the finest display of the poetry of our nation but they sometimes have something to offer. Hymn No. 689, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman has sung on regular occasions, includes the following words:Once to every man and nationcomes the moment to decide,in the strife of truth withfalsehood for the good or evil side.The White Paper, for the first time, gives a real chance to the moderates. I have faith in the future of Northern Ireland because I believe that there are moderates whom we can call upon. If that is so we may have the prospect 1357 in our lifetime of ending what has been one of the most tragic and at times one of the most shameful chapters in our history. I hope that the White Paper will succeed. Those who oppose it will have a very heavy burden on their conscience, as will those who engineer its failure. I believe that it can succeed.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
The flavour of the speech of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) cannot fail to have added to the feeling which has been forcefully brought home to us today. This is probably the most important debate on Northern Ireland which has taken place in this Chamber in the last half century. We must approach it in that realisation.
Before I comment on the White Paper, I remind the House of the horror of the people of the United Kingdom on learning of the horrible assassination of three young soldiers which took place in my constituency on Friday night. Enough has been said about that already, but I wish to say that perhaps, 98 or 99 per cent. of the people of my constituency extend their sympathy to the families of the men involved. They extend their good wishes for the recovery of the other soldier who was seriously injured.
I also add my tribute to the work of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is only right that I, as a Member for a Northern Ireland constituency, should put this on record. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has not always seen eye to eye with me and many of my colleagues on many issues. Nevertheless, the work which he has performed, his sincerity and the strains which he has undergone have been such that we should put our thanks on record. I refer particularly to the wide areas of consultation in which he has engaged over so many difficult months.
It is my belief that the White Paper, while it does not attain the first choice of many sections of the community, is a reasonable basis of compromise. It contains sufficient to satisfy a wide area of the people of Northern Ireland. It is my impression that a wide cross-section of the people of Northern Ireland wish to give the plan a chance. They will deal harshly with politicians who, for their own short- 1358 term interests, attempt to sabotage the White Paper.
There are two areas where I hold a different opinion from the position set out in the White Paper. First, it is unfortunate that there has not been recognition that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House, particularly having regard to the downgrading in the functions of the new Stormont. In fact it is not a parliament—nobody can pretend that it is— but an assembly. On 13th February, in a written answer, I was told that the average Northern Ireland constituency had approximately 86,000 electors. The average figures for Welsh and Scottish constituencies are 55,000 and 51,000 respectively. The average figure for a United Kingdom constituency is 63,000.
The House must recognise that there is a substantial difference between the size of the average Northern Ireland constituency and constituencies in other parts of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has always been under-represented in this House. I know that in the past Stormont has had theoretical powers in financial matters, but in practice financial matters were dealt with essentially by this House which raised the taxes. Consequently Stormont was a very limited Parliament. I appreciate that we could discuss this matter backwards and forwards and would in the end get nowhere. Therefore, I appeal to the Government and Opposition Front Benches to consider whether that matter could not be considered by an impartial body away from the hurly-burly of politics. Perhaps the matter could be put before a Speaker's Conference or a group of senior Privy Councillors or a judicial body. There should not be a political decision but a decision taken in a judicial atmosphere on the merits.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
It would be helpful for the House also to know that there have been times during the last 40 years when some English constituencies have been well in excess of the quota. An answer to a Question only a year ago showed that there were 48 English constituencies with electorates of more than 80,000 and 16 with electorates of more than 100,000.
§ Mr. Mills
That is an interesting point. However, the burden of my argument 1359 is based on the average figure for Northern Ireland. Compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland is substantially under-represented. Nothing is solved by sweeping that situation under the mat. I am suggesting that there should be some form of judicial or impartial examination. That would help enormously to remove the heat from the matter.
I also take a different position from that expressed in the White Paper on power sharing. Long before the White Paper was published, I said in speeches and on other occasions that I recognised that we must have a form of meaningful power sharing as of right in a new assembly. I maintain that view. I agree with what was said from the Opposition Front Bench—namely, that power sharing has been left rather too vague in the White Paper. I hope that it can be more carefully spelt out at a later stage. The Observer, in its editorial last week, put the position very well. It said:As things stand, it is open to the Protestant leaders to play down their present differences over how, or whether, to share power with the Catholics and, once returned on the old ' tribal' ticket, to proceed to sabotage the new system.It may be within the recollection of hon. Members that that is what has been attempted in certain quarters over the last seven days. That is because the area of power sharing has been left far too open. The Craig axis has combined with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) together with, although I am not quite sure, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). They have said that they will proceed to stand for election. That I welcome. However, they have said that they will proceed to election and then will make the system unworkable. That is a deplorable attitude.
We must next consider Mr. Faulkner's position. He has produced four definitions of power sharing. By doing so he has succeeded in fudging the issue. He has attempted to say that power sharing is really the old committee system in the old Stormont. He has also said that power sharing could be based on a broader Unionist Party alone. He has several other definitions. I left the 1360 Unionist Party after trying to get the party to accept that, whether it liked it or not, the consequence of March 1972 and direct rule was that the old mould was broken and that one had to play a constructive rôle in creating a new mould.
But because of this fudging of the issue of power sharing, some people have been able to postpone reality once again. I entirely understand those who say "In no circumstances am I prepared to have anything to do with power sharing", although I do not accept that view. I equally understand those who say "We must make power sharing work". But I cannot accept the view of those who are attempting to fudge the issue, because that is the most blatantly absurd situation of all.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I owe the hon. Gentleman an apology. I should have included him on the side of the angels. I assure him that, like the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), he has the respect of the House for the moderate way in which he has put forward his case.
§ Mr. Mills
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman.
In this situation one watches a vast amount of television of a somewhat repetitious nature. I hope the House will forgive the fact that I myself must go very shortly to a television studio. I have seen a lot of television in the last couple of days in which, I fear, many politicians have been building up the fears and anxieties of the ordinary men in the street.
On the one hand there are those who say that the White Paper is a sell-out to a united Ireland, which I do not believe is true. On the other hand there are those who say that the people of Northern Ireland will become second-class citizens. I do not accept that either. But it is all expressed in emotive language, and such an atmosphere can pollute the way in which the White Paper is received.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) suggested the desirability of having the Assembly elections at the end of June. There is much merit in keeping up the momentum and having them at the earliest possible date. But certain other considerations have to be borne in mind. The local government elections are due to be held on 30th May. Would it be the 1361 intention still to hold them? Again, July is the traditional marching season in Northern Ireland.
Therefore, under the hon. Gentleman's suggestion there would be three months of continuous activity—a local government election campaign, an Assembly election campaign and the marching season. That is why, although theoretically it may be highly desirable to have the Assembly elections at the end of June, the other side of the coin is the disruption which could be caused, the diversion of security forces, the potential flash points and all the other problems. If we were to have the Assembly elections at the end of June, we should be spared the local government elections at the end of May. Could not they be postponed once again? I recognise the undesirability of further postponement but it would be logical having regard to the new situation.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
When my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) was advocating early Assembly elections, he was saying in effect that the local government elections ought to be postponed again. There is very good reason for it, in the sense that if we have the local government elections first they will inevitably be fought not on local government issues but on the White Paper. It is much more important that the Assembly elections should be fought on the White Paper and, therefore, should come first.
§ Mr. Mills
I accept that. It reinforces the point I am making.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South also suggested the desirability of having two Bills—the first proceeding with the elections and the second and later one being a constitutional measure. Again I see the merit of that proposal in theory, but in fact it would mean people seeking election to an Assembly with vast areas left open. In many ways that would be undesirable. If we are to have the Assembly elections in June, this House must work day and night to get the legislation on the statute book in time. To proceed at a leisurely pace and produce the constitutional measure afterwards would be highly undesirable.
There are many other things I could talk about but there is one point in par- 1362 ticular that I wish to put on record. Paragraph 112 of the White Paper deals with the Council of Ireland. This is where the misrepresentation by politicians has been very great indeed. Those who misrepresent it must search their own souls as to the consequences of their actions.
I think that the Government are right to have left this area very open because it is a true recognition that such a body can only work, and work effectively, if it proceeds on the basis of consent. One cannot frogmarch people into a Council of Ireland unwillingly. One can only proceed on the basis of consent, as I think has been recognised. I am glad also that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has emphasised that this body must have a practical function and not be a wordy talking shop. I am sure that is right.
The White Paper has been described as a reasonable formula for reasonable men. It will require great courage by politicians, Protestant and Catholic alike, to give it a chance to work. Among the Catholic politicians it will need people who are prepared to stand up to the pressures of the IRA and to isolate it and show that the bulk of Catholic people are prepared to give this new system a chance, are prepared to have a new deal for Northern Ireland and to try to have a new community which has a future. Protestant politicians will equally have to make decisions which will require great courage, to lead the people not into a dead end, not into a further postponement of reality, not into a system of fudging issues, but to put the issues clearly and say that this is what they believe is in the best interests of Northern Ireland.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
The Prime Minister said that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has occupied a very lonely position. He could have been much more lonely, but he has had several Ministers to assist him and, above all, he has throughout had more support from the Opposition than any other Minister has had before him. I am very glad of that. Similarly his White Paper has received more support than opposition in this country, in the Republic of Ireland and in Ulster itself, and I believe that it deserves it.
1363 I intend to be briefly and gently critical of one or two things in the White Paper because I do not think that they should be in it. I shall not touch on the highlights, which everyone else will. Indeed, what I shall say will probably be said by no one else, which is an excellent reason for saying it.
There is a widespread idea that the bitterness and bigotry in Northern Ireland has its origins in schools and that if all children went to the same sort of school they would soon learn to know and love one another. There has, therefore, been a great cry for educational integration as a means of curing the bitterness and hatred. This point was raised by at least two newspapers on Sunday. Others may have raised it, but I read only two. One of them said in its leader that we should encourageany sign of readiness to break down the rigid separation of schoolchildren that a divided structure of education enforces throughout the Province.The other one said:But is there not something else the Roman Catholic Church can do? Would it not be a wonderful move forward if it were to accept the ending of segregation in education? So that children in their first, most impressionable years could learn to be friends with boys and girls of other faiths, instead of, as now, growing up to hate them?And the White Paper, in paragraph 20, chips in with:… in Northern Ireland, it is the Roman Catholic Church which maintains a separate system …".That is very largely true. The Roman Catholic Church does maintain a separate system, and many Protestants maintain a separate system. But what maintains it above everything else is geography. This is not sufficiently known, but it is pertinent to the White Paper and the Ulster problem as a whole. The two communities are entirely separate: each in its own area, with its own shops, its own pubs, its own cinemas, its own playing fields, its own schools, chapels and churches. It has always been like that. This is nothing new.
If I speak about the past it is not because, as others might say, I am living in the past. The point is that in Ulster the past is the present and always has been. This separation of the two communities, which is at the root of all 1364 the bitterness, is nothing new. It has nothing to do with Stormont, nothing to do with the Government of Ireland Act and nothing to do with the B Specials. It has always existed.
My father spent the first 25 years of his life in Belfast and he used to tell me that never once had he walked along Sandy Row. In fact, he sometimes added, rather smugly, that when he reached his late teens it might have been dangerous for him to be found on Sandy Row because by that time he had begun to play football for a team called Belfast Celtic and this was regarded by Orangemen as a very reprehensible pursuit.
Many years later I lived in West Belfast myself; I spent more than two years there. During all that time I never once met a Protestant—not once. This was not due to any bigotry on my part. It was not the result of some deliberate choice, because here in England some of my closest and dearest friends are Protestants, or at all events non-Catholics. But in the area in which I lived, in the circles in which I moved, there was never a Protestant to be seen. And that is still the case. Much more recently, after I had been a Member of this House for nigh on 20 years, I was for a few days the guest in Downpatrick of an Ulster Unionist Member of this House, Mr. George Currie. Because I had stayed in his house he got into very severe trouble with his constituency party. My stay there was quoted against him at a subsequent adoption meeting. This may sound very comical, but Mr. Currie did not find it at all amusing and he did not live it down. It is still the same.
Whether all children should go to the same type of school, I am not going to argue at the moment. What is beyond argument is that in Northern Ireland they cannot. A Catholic child goes to a Catholic school, a Protestant child goes to a State school, because there is no other school in their area to go to. And not all the White Papers in the world, not all the Acts of Parliament, will alter that.
I mention this, as I have already said, because nobody else is likely to mention it, but also because I think it is a waste of time, print and paper to put these things in the White Paper. But it may be useful, because this has given me 1365 occasion to tell other hon. Members of the House who are not so well acquainted with Northern Ireland just how complete is the separation of the two communities.
The one other point I want to mention concerns the police. The White Paper says:ministerial powers in relation to the police will be reserved to the Secretary of State.That is one of the most consoling sentences that I notice in the White Paper. I am delighted that the control of the police is to remain with the Secretary of State. But then it goes on to say thatthe Northern Ireland Executive will be invited to act as an advisory committee to the Secretary of Stateand that district councils will be set upto form the basis of local committees with advisory responsibilities in relation to the policing of their districts … they could encourage local citizens to help prevent intimidation, vandalism, etc.To encourage local citizens to help the police presupposes one enormous condition: it presupposes a condition sine qua non—literally, without it nothing; it presupposes that the local citizens have some confidence in the police. I regret to say that the people on the Falls Road have no confidence in the police. That is about the mildest understatement that could be made on the matter. If I were to be more explicit, more accurate, my language would be much stronger, even violent, but I choose not to use such language. I do not join in the praise which my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has extended to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
This lack of confidence, to put it once again very mildly, is no new thing, but it is greater now than ever. One of the reasons is the behaviour of the police at the beginning of the violence. May I remind the House, in case anyone has forgotten, how this age of new violence began, when it began, and where and how? It began when several hundred houses were burned down, several hundred houses from which were chased in terror several hundred Catholic families. The behaviour of the police on that dreadful night and day was such that no one could ever praise that force again.
If we talk about reforming the police and asking people to help them, we must begin to think about the reform of the 1366 Royal Ulster Constabulary. There are areas in the Falls Road—this is the area I know best but there are similar areas in Derry and elsewhere—where the Royal Ulster Constabulary as at present constituted will never be willingly accepted. What we ought to be considering is the reform of the police in Northern Ireland. I have no solutions or suggestions. I am afraid I am not very constructive. Perhaps we will need two police forces, one for those areas and one for the others. The idea may sound absurd, but if anyone has a brighter idea I wish he would stand up and say so.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
Is my hon. Friend aware that the battle record, if such it be, of the RUC is rather more damning than he has made out because in the opinion of many of us the trouble started on 5th October 1968, not 1969, when my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) was savagely assaulted in my presence by the members of the RUC?
§ Mr. Delargy
I was not ignorant of those events but I did not wish to be provocative and use strong and violent terms to describe the RUC, as I would normally. One of the things which the House should do urgently is consider the reform of the police in Northern Ireland. The ideal solution is to hand law and order over to the police, because otherwise we will have the military over there for ever.
Besides the people of Northern Ireland we have to consider the people of this country too. They have behaved extremely well. The English are a most tolerant people. I mean the people, not their rulers—the ordinary, faithful, decent, patient, common people. They are remarkably tolerant and we should not stretch their tolerance too far. We are already spending their money to the tune of £300 million a year. Their soldiers are already in Northern Ireland undergoing great risks and we ought to get them out as quickly as possible. We can do that only if we have an efficient police force there.
§ Mr. Maginnis
Before the hon. Member leaves the subject of the police, he will know that I am a former member of the RUC. Is he judging the whole of the RUC on the misdemeanours of the few?
§ Mr. Delargy
No. I am judging the RUC on the misdemeanours of the many. I am judging it on the misdemeanours of the overwhelming majority.
§ Mr. Maginnis
§ Mr. Delargy
I agree. It is a great shame that the majority of police behave in that manner.
I will say something now which will surprise my hon. Friends and hon. Members on the Government side. It has to do with the representation of Northern Ireland in this House. It has been decided, apparently by both sides, that representation should remain as it is. I feel a bit uneasy about this. In spite of what the Prime Minister said, it looks a little like a gerrymander and I have a horror and loathing of gerrymandering. I have been objecting to it in Northern Ireland, where it is worse than anywhere else in the world, for all my adult life, and I would hate there to be even the suspicion that we are a party to any sort of gerrymander
I am not advocating increasing the number of Ulster Unionists in this House —God forbid! I would insist that elections should be by proportional representation. This might encourage a more representative, more non-sectarian representation. At least it ought to be considered. I have not finally made up my mind. I would hate to be generous to the Unionist Party but the Government ought to consider whether representation should be increased, provided that the elections are held under proportional representation.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William Whitelaw)
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point. He says that he has not made up his mind and is considering it. Will he bear in mind that whatever decision may be reached, and the Government's decision has been stated perfectly clearly, this could never, in any circumstances, be described as gerrymandering because it is an argument as to whether the amount of powers devolved do or do not justify more representation here? That is an argument. It cannot possibly be a matter of gerrymandering.
§ Mr. Delargy
I accept that mild rebuke. It is not gerrymandering directly because gerrymandering, apart from any- 1368 thing else, means fiddling around with boundaries and we are not doing anything of the kind. No. "Gerrymandering" is the wrong word and because I cannot think of another at the moment I will leave it at that.
I welcome the White Paper. I agree that I have not been constructive but there are some in this House who are even less constructive than I am. There are some who would reject the White Paper outright, and to do that would be destructive indeed. Those who do that are dangerous. They are concerned more with power than with people andwherefor are they very dangerous.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I follow the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) with diffidence because he has great knowledge of Belfast and Ulster generally. One point among others that he mentioned was to do with the people of this country. This is something which frankly worries me and must worry my right hon. Friend.
We have in Ulster between 14 and 18 battalions which have become to all intents and purposes the civil power. My right hon. Friend is perhaps the most powerful colonial figure ever in recent history. He is his own Secretary of State and his own Governor with his executive council of soldiers and Ministers. It is a regime which is really colonial. However admirably he has conducted this regime, and I give him full praise for that, the White Paper is to be welcomed because it means that here can be a step forward to democratic and proper civil authority. This is the problem which faces us above all else: the question of preparing for proper civil authority rather than the military authority in Ulster. I would praise my right hon. Friend for the brilliant way in which he has conducted his military and other operations.
There are only three things I would say on the White Paper itself. I hope that the elections will be soon. I hope that everyone, of whatever political persuasion, will be permitted to stand, so that there can be full and obvious representation. As my right hon. Friend has often said, it is difficult to understand what goes on in Ulster; it is a province and a world of rumour, and the more 1369 these rumours can be personified in persons sitting in the Assembly, the better for all concerned.
Finally, I hope that my right hon. Friend will again consider the question of the Governor. I believe that what is suggested would be an error at this stage at the same time as the numbers of Members of Parliament who will have to sit more or less in their numbers in this House of Commons are still undecided.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider or keep in reserve for a time his decision on whether or not there should be a Governor in Northern Ireland. Quite apart from the loyalty to the Crown, quite apart from the historical importance of the Governor—if only for 50 years—there are, as I believe he will agree, advantages, as I, as an old colonial constitutionalist know, in having an additional card in the pack which on occasion can be very useful: because though the civil power of an individual can be devolved, the authority of the Crown is a most useful reserve. One hopes that one day the office of the Secretary of State for Ulster will fade away, that it will not be there for ever. At this stage, therefore, to rid ourselves of the Governor is at least a little previous.
I hope that in the next few months there will be the election and then we will be in the hands of the leaders of Ulster as to what they will want to decide. After all, it is they and only they who can take decisions on Ulster's future. But at the same time as, and parallel with, this process my right hon. Friend and his Ministers will clearly remain in control of matters in Ulster for at least a year. For at least a year this form of colonial administration will continue. I believe that during this period of a year or so it is essential that certain things should be done to the structure of the State in Northern Ireland to make sure that a civil administration can take over without a breakdown of law, order and various other forms of authority. I believe that this is perhaps the most important function that is to be performed by this Government—to see that in certain areas reforms are carried out.
I am a Roman Catholic and I will join issue, though not very fiercely, with the hon. Member for Thurrock on this question of religious education. Some time ago in Calcutta I saw Mother Theresa, a 1370 woman I enormously respect, who has set up one of her missions in Belfast. I was on my way to Bangladesh where at that time the most appalling atrocities were being carried out on both sides. Mother Theresa said when I called upon her that the greatest scandal today was not in Bangladesh but in Ulster, where Christians were killing Christians.
I quite agree about the separation of the communities but there is now a chance, not just in sixth forms, colleges and universities, to integrate not non-denominational education but education in which teachers of both communities can take part—that is, in nursery education. That may not apply in certain areas but there are certain mixed areas where it would apply; and my right hon. Friends, and especially my right hon. Friend who looks after these matters and his Undersecretary, have here a great chance of making some progress.
I turn to two other matters of supreme importance in which it is the duty of this Government to improve the position. I believe that within the Civil Service it is far better to go back to ideas which were much clearer in the 1920s than they are today, calling a spade a spade and saying, as the hon. Member for Thurrock has said, that there is this separation between Catholic and Protestant. I have heard people on the platform say "I do not want to refer to Catholics in public". I say we should call a spade a spade because there is this division, as fierce as the division between Arab and Jew, or between Kikuyu and Luo. When a report on the police was made back in the 1920s people were far more objective and said that one-third of them should be Roman Catholics and two-thirds Protestants. That should be the approach rather than Lord Hunt producing a report which said that recruiting Catholics for the police would be reverse discrimination. God protect us from such enlightenment.
I believe that, far more important than anything in a Bill of Rights, it would be possible now in a Civil Service code to make certain that recruitment to the Civil Service was based on a straight proportion between the religious denominations. That would be going back to 1922 but I believe that it would be a great advantage. Equally I believe that on area boards and other commissions and authorities people should be chosen in 1371 proportion on a religious basis, because it is a reality.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the question of the Civil Service, I should like to make an important point on which he and many others like him can help. No one can deny that today recruitment to the Civil Service is undoubtedly on a disproportionate basis. The problem is that not enough—if I dare to use his phrase—Roman Catholics are applying to join the Civil Service. I have made representations to certain leaders of the community and it would be very helpful if more was done in the schools to persuade Roman Catholic children that it was possible to join the Civil Service. There is great need for help and encouragement to give them that opportunity and to persuade them that it is worth while to come into recruitment for the Civil Service.
§ Mr. Fraser
My right hon. Friend's words are very encouraging, and the more that can be done in that way the better. I believe, however, that this is a vicious circle and that Catholics do not join the Civil Service because they feel that there is discrimination against them. The more it is made clear that there is no such discrimination, the better it will be.
Lastly, on the question of the police, I thought that the hon. Member for Thur-rock was unfair in his broad and total condemnation of a force which has suffered enormous casualties. More than 30 policemen have been killed, more than 100 have been maimed or injured and quite frequently houses have been beseiged and families threatened and so on. These people have been through a wretched rime. Seldom has more opprobrium been thrown at anyone or more slaughter suffered by a force. One can only give them all one's sympathy.
I believe nevertheless that there is a need for reorganisation of the police and of the RUC right down from the central police authority, which I believe has not been successful. The authority has been too big, has had too many people and perhaps has not had sufficient weight and importance on it. At the same time as there is that reorganisation downwards, we should consider something which is perhaps more important, upon which the hon. Member for Thurrock only touched.
1372 I do not know how many hon. Members have read the report of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Intercommunal Relations. He paints an appalling picture of what has been happening in Belfast, with 40,000 and more people having been moved into either Catholic or Protestant ghettos in the past years. He portrays the appalling conditions there and warns of what could happen unless something is done, with communities of 2,000 or 3,000 responsible for their own protection and with armed Catholics and Protestant groups making it impossible for Protestants or Catholics to pass by in safety. It is the most alarming report on Northern Ireland that I have read.
It must be recognised that possibly the strongest and only true loyalties in Northern Ireland are to community or religious groups. I say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that the police have failed to function. I have seen them fail in the Falls Road and in other areas. They are simply not there.
I believe that we have to go back in time and to consider what happened in this country before there was a police force. I advise hon. Members to read what the great Webbs wrote about the situation before the present police force existed here. In the 1730s there was a vestry in Hanover Square where there were 32 watchmen—local men prepared by the local inhabitants. Hon. Members would be advised to go back to the Act of 1835 and the setting up of police in the boroughs. Let them go back to the attempt in 1842 to get every ratepayer to do his time as a village constable. Let them even go back to "Much Ado About Nothing" and to Dogberry and Verges.
There is a chance now to build up a system of unarmed community police under local watch committees. I hope that my right hon. Friend and his Ministers will look at this possibility It is far better that the peace-loving people of Ulster, be they Catholic or Protestant, should be enrolled in such a body, looked after, paid for and uniformed if need be, than that they should fall into unofficial communal groups, armed against each other and determined to preserve and make the worst of the prejudices and tribal feelings of that unhappy region.
There should be two movements in terms of the police. The first is a general 1373 reorganisation of the RUC right down the line. The second is to give serious consideration to the creation of unarmed forces based on local watch committees—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the right hon. Gentleman elaborate a little on his request for a complete reorganisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and tell us where he feels that the RUC has failed in its organisation?
§ Mr. Delargy
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) should have been here to listen to me.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not want to take up any more time than I need. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will have read the various proposals put forward to the Hunt Committee, concerning more recruitment, getting in more Catholics and setting up separate forces for Belfast and Derry. With these I would agree. I might even have the support of the hon Member for Antrim, North in my suggestion to set up local watch committees. He has himself put forward the idea of having local bodies responsible for local defence.
I conclude by returning to what I said at the beginning of my remarks. This country must put a term to what we can do in the way of providing troops for Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that a military State, with the constant osmosis of the military in absorbing more and more functions, will destroy the will of the Ulster people and eventually will destroy the will of the Army. That is why I say that there must be a term. It is not for the Government to say it now. But I am convinced that, once the Assembly is elected and we have people speaking with the voice of Ulster, then will be the time for this Government to say enough can be enough.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
The White Paper begins on page 1 by quoting the Green Paper. Perhaps I in turn may quote that quotation. It reads:Any division of powers and responsibilities between the national and the regional authorities must be logical, open and clearly understood. Ambiguity in the relationship is a prescription for confusion and misunderstanding. Any necessary checks, balances or controls must be apparent on the face of a new constitutional scheme.1374 It is my opinion, not by my definition but by the Government's own definition in their Green Paper, that this current White Paper must stand as a prescription for confusion and misunderstanding. It is not logical about what the division of powers will be. It is not clear. Nor is it open about what division of powers exists between the regional and the national authorities.
There are a number of terms which are not entirely new to this House or to the people of Northern Ireland. For example there are references to "power sharing". It is said in the White Paper that there must be power sharing, but it is not clear how in Northern Ireland power sharing is being interpreted to mean what the various political parties want it to mean.
The White Paper fails to define what power sharing is. Indeed it would be impossible for the White Paper to define it because it fails to define what powers are to be shared. We are told of powers which will be reserved to Westminster. Then we are told of powers which will not be given to the Assembly. Further, we are told of powers which may or may not be given to the Assembly. We are told of powers whose devolution depends upon the behaviour of the Assembly.
While I accept that the British Government may find this necessary to safeguard their interests, it is more than ambiguous and more than confusing. To a certain extent it is dishonest. The people of Northern Ireland have been asked to go to the polls and to vote in elections for something about which they know nothing, and the kind of politics which are emerging in the forthcoming Assembly elections are not the kind of politics that one would wish to see in any normal situation. One cannot stand for election to the Assembly on the question, say, of integrated education. A candidate cannot declare in his manifesto his views on industrial matters, on economic matters and on law and order, simply because he does not know, if elected, whether he will have any power to deal with these matters.
We are told that the Assembly, when elected, will sit initially until 30th March 1974. I find that something of a veiled threat to the voters of Northern Ireland. I declare my own interest by accepting that my definition of democracy does not 1375 coincide with the common definition of it which is shared in this House. But I find myself defending not my definition but Parliament's definition of democracy. I find it totally undemocratic to say to people "There will be free elections. If you vote for a certain political philosophy you will be given powers. Your Assembly will be allowed to sit for a period of four years, and ever after you will conduct your own elections. However, if you exercise your free vote in a manner which is not pleasing to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, your Assembly will not have powers."
In the forthcoming elections I shall not cast any of my preference votes in the direction of Mr. Craig or the coalition of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). Having a certain sympathy with them, however, I find it unfair to see the threat placed before the population of Northern Ireland that if they decide to vote in such a way that the majority opinion is for that coalition—or for any other—which does not meet with the approval of the Secretary of State, then, come 30th April 1974, the right hon. Gentleman will throw the whole lot to the winds. That may be necessary according to the Secretary of State's definition but it cannot be said to be democratic.
After all, when voters in this country went to the polls at the last election they would perhaps have liked to wait to see who won the election before the issue of the Common Market was introduced. There was a lot of cross-party opinion on that, but people could not say "If you elect the Labour Party you are committed not to joining the Common Market and we shall allow Parliament to decide, but if you elect the Conservative Party there will be a referendum".
Things cannot be done that way. The Government must say "This is the Assembly, this is the power that it shall have, and there is the election, whether we like the outcome or not". That is democracy. It is not democratic to say "There is the election, vote for the coalition of the Northern Ireland Labour Party-Alliance Party whose election manifesto appears to be 'We will buy anything' ". Joe Kavanagh runs his business in Belfast on the slogan "I will buy 1376 anything", which appears to be the philosophy of the middle-ground coalition. If we vote for the "I will buy anything" policy, we shall have an Assembly. If, however, we vote for the philosophy of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), which goes between his own party and that of Mr. Brian Faulkner— "I shall buy something and we will talk about the rest"— we shall get so far but not as far as we would get if we were good and were to vote as the Government would like us to vote.
If, however, in our wisdom—or lack of it—we discover that for different reasons, and voting for different philosophies, the two ends outweigh the middle; if, for example, in our Assembly of 80 we find that, however opposed those who believe in my philosophy are to those who believe in the philosophy of the hon. Member for Antrim, North—if, taking both sections together, they outweigh the "I will buy anything or something" philosophy, we shall not be allowed the democratic right to maintain the Assembly.
Again, here too I have a certain sympathy with the Loyalist policy, and it can no doubt argue its own case—if it emerges in Northern Ireland, again calling a spade a spade—and in the struggle from 1968 to the present time, if the population has learned nothing else, the Loyalists have learned that they are loyal to a country which is doubtful whether it wants them, and the Catholics have learned that they want to join a country which is doubtful whether it wants them, so we are clear on one point—that in this Assembly the extreme sections find that they are in a majority together but neither has power on its own, the one common point of agreement may be that they do not like the terms on which they are offered citizenship of the United Kingdom. It may equally be that they will not like the terms on which they might be able to join the existing Republic of Ireland.
The one point which they may have in common is that they ought to go their own ways. It is undemocratic at this stage to refer to such a situation as a disaster because, after all, one would be dealing with a democratically elected majority in Northern Ireland, whether one 1377 liked its opinion or not. One would have to talk about negotiation or non-negotiation of independence.
There would then come the question of British aid. People have been told— and again this is pressure at the election —that that kind of negotiation is out of the question. My opinion, given my knowledge of the history of Governments, is that once one comes to the fact nothing is out of the question, and this Government may find themselves going back on their statements about the—
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I am trying to follow the logic of the hon. Lady's argument. Is she suggesting that these two extreme groups may be united in wanting to go their own way in finality? Would they be putting that as their view at the elections?
§ Miss Devlin
That is another point. For some time the Loyalist coalition has been talking quite openly about what it would do. I am trying to talk objectively about a possibility which the House must envisage. I think that an independent Ulster could not possibly survive. If the two sides came to agree upon independence, they would fall out when they were trying to work out how that independence would come about. We are talking not about what I believe, but about what the Secretary of State believes and about a possibility which may emerge. After all, the Loyalist coalition has talked about independence, and they must have some ideas on the subject. The Provisionals have talked about independence if there is a nine-county Ulster, so they too must have some idea of the political structure involved.
What I am saying is that the White Paper allows for that kind of confusion to grow because it does not state the relationship between the House of Commons and the new Assembly. It does not state here and now how far it can go and how far it cannot go. It does not state what powers it has or does not have. This is a game of ball where the biggest child has the ball and says "We shall play a game so long as it is played by my rules. If it is not, I shall take my ball away." That might be a factual situation but it is not democracy.
The White Paper has not solved the problem. It has provided room for 1378 changes which may foster confusion. No doubt each of the parties will say that they will do either A, B or C. Because the White Paper allows for A, B or C to be done, people will be elected on nothing. It will be impossible in the forthcoming elections to decide on anything other than to which general coalition to belong. There are those who believe that the White Paper cannot work, those who believe that it might work and those who believe that at any price they will make it work. That is not the basis on which to achieve an assembly to run the affairs of any country. That is the point I am trying to make.
I come next to the kind of assembly that we shall get. We have been told that the Special Powers Act will be repealed and that certain emergency measures will be introduced. Will the abolition of the Special Powers Act mean that those organisations which are now proscribed will no longer be proscribed? Will the Provisional Sinn Fein be allowed to contest the elections? There is no question of someone saying that he would like them to be allowed or that they ought to be allowed to contest the elections. We should be told definitely whether or not they will be allowed to contest them. That is an entirely different organisation with a political philosophy different from that of the official Republican clubs. Will they be allowed to contest the elections?
There is a peculiar anomaly in Northern Ireland. In my constituency practically every town has a Republican club. In some towns they actually run and man the local advice centres. They represent workers at tribunals. They fight to meet the needs of people for maternity grants and allowances for families. At some local levels they are accepted and allowed to do so. They negotiate over the question of demonstrations. Even at a higher level with the Civil Service and members of the police force and authority they are accepted.
Yet one finds in other areas—for example in Strabane, where a Republican club runs an advice centre and deals with every aspect of local problems and is accepted by the labour exchange and the police—that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive refuses to deal with problems which they raise because theirs is a proscribed organisation. We cannot have people standing for election and then 1379 told that they cannot take their seats because their organisation is illegal. Nor can we have people prosecuted because they are working for such organisations in elections.
I am attempting to look objectively at the problem. I have my own views, but I am attempting to see how the White Paper deals with the situation. I appreciate the position put forward by the Government about violence. They argue that Sinn Fein cannot be allowed to fight the elections while the IRA exists. I ask the Secretary of State and the House to consider something which perhaps at this stage they cannot understand. This House and the Government deal with what they understand to be law and order and rightful authority. Because of the history of immediate problems in Northern Ireland there are sections of the population who in normal circumstances are law-abiding citizens.
The right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) referred to localised police. These people within their ghettoes see the local UDA or the local IRA, whom the Government see as ruthless terrorists and law breakers, but to a large extent they are seen by local people not as intimidators but as exactly what the right hon. Member was talking about. To these people they are a law-enforcing agency which can protect them not only from sectarian violence from a neighbouring ghetto but from petty crimes in their own area.
I agree that this is rough justice. It is not justice as this country might understand it, but to the people in those areas where there are no police and there is no confidence in what this House understands as a police force, that kind of rough justice is accepted. It is accepted by the local people that the IRA should shoot in the knee someone who continually pilfers from someone in their neighbourhood. This House should begin to understand that; then perhaps it can understand the whole question of violence.
Many Catholics in the North of Ireland find it hard to understand why the British Government will not differentiate between Sinn Fein and the IRA yet at the same time can differentiate between its own political and military philosophy. Many Catholics, and indeed many Protestants, 1380 see their respective military organisations as respected defence organisations.
This is not an attitude with which beyond a certain extent I can agree, but it should be remembered that when we talk about "taking the gun out of Irish politics" this is not a one-sided affair. It is a question not only of taking their guns out but of taking British guns out as well. That is how they see it. Therefore it is not illogical to them that they should be allowed to contest elections whether the IRA exists or not. Voicing my own opinion, I should say that unless both wings of Sinn Fein are allowed to contest the election, there is very little chance of ending the military side to their politics. The Government may find it hard to understand, but one cannot close the door of political channels to them and expect them to do nothing.
The Government may say that one cannot expect them to maintain their guns and open the door to them, but it is up to the Government to open the electoral door in the hope that by opening that channel to more and more people whom frustration originally drove to violence, the need for violence will end. Hon. Members may say that it is not right, I am not saying that it is right, but so long as it seems right to the people there they will continue to do it.
One has only to look at the most recent and probably most horrific manifestation of violence in Northern Ireland in the past few days. In any humane terms there can be very few things more horrific to imagine than the cold and calculated plotting in the manner necessary to kill the three British soldiers. One can see how horrifying it is that a group of people actually sat down and worked out a long-term plan not for sniping at a soldier, not for violence which comes out of a riot, but for that kind of terrorist activity. Whoever did it must have thought, in what to me and to most people are utterly distorted minds, that that activity had some value for them. I accept that hon. Members cannot be objective about that kind of horror against their soldiers.
§ Mr. Orme
I am following the hon. Lady's argument, which is very detailed, with great interest, as I am sure the 1381 House is doing. From her reading of the situation, if the bans were lifted both from the Republican clubs and Sinn Fein, does she think that that would have any influence on those who at the moment are using guns? I know that she is looking at the situation from the outside, but does she think that it would have any influence? This, I am sure, would have a bearing on anything that the Government might decide.
§ Miss Devlin
I believe it certainly would, in two respects. I believe that there are large numbers of people who must be understood in their own terms. Large numbers of people see violence as their only effective means of expression and they may find some other channel by which to attempt redress of their grievances, some other channel for their exercise of power. Those who do not want to exercise power in that way may well find that they no longer have the support of people who share their policies—people who are prepared to say at this stage "There is a door. If you are really interested in your policies, why not use it?" People do not really like violence.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Cannock)
Taking this a stage further, does the hon. Lady think that the result would be accepted by the minority if it were something totally alien to what they themselves wanted?
§ Miss Devlin
I believe it would. I cannot speak for the Provisional IRA, but I believe that it would for the following reason. This House talks about a minority which holds so many to ransom, but it does not. It functions, and functions effectively, because no matter how their actions appear on this side of the Channel, there are enough people weighing that action in all its horror against their own situation who are still sufficiently committed to that minority to shield, to hide, to feed and to clothe them. I believe that, given some means of expression, that minority itself, whose interest is to work towards a united Ireland, may find it more effective. I cannot promise—I am not a member of the Provisional IRA—but I am putting forward a risk and a gamble that I believe the Government have to take.
1382 If the Government do not take the gamble, if they keep the door closed, there is no question but that the violence will continue. All I am saying is, open the door and there is a good chance that the violence will end. I cannot make promises, and I have no intention of making promises or of speaking for people for whom I cannot speak, but I am saying that it is a gamble that the Government must take.
The Government must also remember, when dealing with the whole of the White Paper, that the Prime Minister's figures of arms finds and guns showed that there was a fairly even balance. The courts have put away, we discover, about as many Protestants as Catholics. The Army has found as many Protestant guns as Catholic guns. But detention without trial is still something that is visited in the main on the Catholic population.
Despite the equality of lawlessness, as it would be seen here, there are still about 300 Catholics in detention and fewer than 30 Protestants. Therefore detention without trial, by whatsoever name, is still seen in this light. Indeed, the majority of the people detained are people who have had no bearing on the development of politics in Northern Ireland because they have been there since the introduction of internment.
Unless the Government are prepared to move on internment, there will be civil disobedience and there will be a belief in the Catholic community that the law is no part of them, that order is not order in which they have freedom but order which is imposed upon them. Again, that is a gamble which the Government will have to take if there are to be elections and assemblies and an attempt to normalise things so as to impose the machinery of law and order.
People must be brought before the courts. I am as opposed to the internment of the 30 Protestants as to the internment of 300 Catholics, but again facts are facts. The Loyalist population opposes only the internment of its own 30 people and the Catholic people feel, with some justification, that the internment of those 30 is only to balance the scale, to still the accusation of discrimination. This is something that the-Government must consider.
§ Mr. Winterton
Before the hon. Lady leaves the grievances of these special minorities, the wings of the Sinn Fein, will she explain what are the special grievances which cannot be reflected through existing parties in Northern Ireland which are not illegal, such as the SDLP, the party that she represents, the Unity Party and other parties? I think that the SDLP has the ultimate objective of a united Ireland. The hon. Lady implied that this was the special grievance of those parties. Why cannot they use the existing parties instead of resorting to this bestial and brutal behaviour of killing?
§ Miss Devlin
I will come back to that emotive language about bestial and brutal killing. I remember one incident in particular.
These people have their own philosophies. The Provisional Sinn Fein, which I believe in Irish politics to be somewhat to the Right, believes in a regional structure for Ireland. The official Republican movement, which is much older than either me or my party, believes in a Socialist Ireland and has no allegiance to the existing Government or structure of the Irish Republic. I have often wondered why I do not join the Official Sinn Fein instead of taking the vast majority of them into the very small party of which I am a member.
When he talks about their bestial and brutal behaviour, I do not expect the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) to be objective but I do expect him to realise that, although he talks of law and order, there are those in Ireland who call that bestial and brutal behaviour. I was horrified by and I condemn—in fact, I find it almost impossible to understand what breed of mind plotted it—the killing of the three soldiers. But I equally condemn the killing of what hon. Members would call terrorists or bestial and brutal people.
I know the facts of the case I want to mention. Hon. Members might call them terrorists but I prefer to call both of the men involved soldiers—
§ Miss Devlin
The hon. Member may disagree with this, but I remember an instance last October when two men sitting in a car in a car park were taken out of the car by members of the British 1384 Army. Hon. Members will say that this is not true because they refuse to consider that it is true. The car was searched and in the boot was a rifle. Those men were breaking the law and there was a court to deal with them—yet both those men are dead.
They are dead because they were dealt with in the following fashion. They were taken out of the car. Whether the soldier panicked or not I do not know, but when one soldier announced his find the soldier who was guarding Mr. Hugh Herron fired his rifle and Mr. Hugh Herron fell dead. John Paddy Mullan immediately tried to escape because he thought that he too would be killed.
The inquest has yet to take place, although the death occurred in October. But the body of John Paddy Mullan showed clearly that he was shot several times through the back at a distance of less than 30 yards. He could have been brought down by what is supposed to be the regulation shot in the knee. The Army never claimed that there was a weapon on his body. I find that horrific because that individual was a friend of mine. Hon. Members too may find it horrific.
The Government must understand that, while they talk in terms of their own Army and of law and order, they have to accept that now, not only in the Catholic community but in the Protestant community, the fibre of what we call law and the respect for what is called law has so broken down that people have made their own law. They are not intimidated by the IRA or the UDA. They depend on them, they feel that they need them, and until such time as we can deal objectively with our guns and your guns we shall get nowhere. Until such time as we stop producing in this House waffle, ambiguity and illogical nonsense such as we have in the White Paper, we shall not get anywhere.
I have my own fundamental beliefs. I reject the White Paper because I do not believe that in the long term it can solve the problems of Northern Ireland or of the Irish people as a whole. I do not say that the majority of people in Northern Ireland share my beliefs, but I am strongly suggesting—again, as objectively as I can—that if the Government want to make the White Paper work or even last as long as their 1385 own date, 30th March 1974, they should get out of the mess of internment as quickly as possible and should immediately repeal at least that section of the legislation which says that Sinn Fein cannot contest the elections.
If they cannot fight through the ballot box, their experience and history shows that Sinn Fein will fight through the bullet. As the history of this Government has shown, we may not end up with a very successful independent Ulster or a very successful independent Ireland. Terrorism is mistakenly said in this House not to work. Terrorism does work and it works very badly. Terrorism has produced the independence of more countries from Britain than one can imagine. It has left almost every one of them with an even worse situation.
If this Government are prepared to waffle their way on until terrorism succeeds in separating the people from the United Kingdom, we will be left in a situation in which we have, be it Mr. Craig's Ulster or Mr. MacStiofain's Ulster, at any rate not a very satisfactory place in which to live.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
In following the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) I should like to draw the attention of the House straight away to the last and perhaps the main point of her speech when she asked that Sinn Fein be allowed to fight the elections. She suggested that if they were allowed to fight the elections perhaps the IRA would give up its violent course, but I would suggest that her arguments themselves are self-contradictory.
§ Miss Devlin
I made it perfectly clear that I could not make any such suggestion. What I said was that if they are not permitted to contest the election one could guarantee a continuation of violence, and that one had to take the gamble that if they were allowed to contest the election they might cease the violence. I made no suggestion or promise.
§ Mr. McMaster
If one simply refers to the White Paper one will realise that the plebiscite which was held just two weeks ago in Northern Ireland showed clearly that some 592,000 electors voted 1386 in favour of retaining the constitutional link—that is, almost 600,000—as opposed to just 6,000 who voted in favour of Republicanism.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the hon. Member give way?
§ Mr. McMaster
I wish to make a little progress with my speech; then I will give way; but I have a number of points to cover.
I know there was a deliberate boycott on the minority side. I saw this in my own constituency. I went down to the New Lodge Road during the day, where in the one polling station only two people, a man and wife, had the courage to vote. This example of intimidation does no credit to the minority. No one can tell me that only two people wanted to vote during the whole day. In any area of any country one always gets more than two people. There were several thousands of people entitled to vote at that polling station.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Would it not be right to say that many people who wanted to vote, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, and felt that there might be some danger in going to poll, used the postal ballot? Would that not be a fair comment?
§ Mr. McMaster
Yes, I agree that that is a fair analysis. One quite serious criticism of this White Paper is that it refers to the minority, meaning, of course, the Catholics, because the White Paper speaking of the minority, does not just mean Republicans; the figures there mean the one-third of the population who are Catholics, implying that they are all Republican. This is far from true, and I think the plebiscite showed it.
If one analyses the figures of the plebiscite, the referendum, one comes inevitably to the conclusion that between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the Catholic population voted in favour of the constitutional link.
§ Mr. McNamara
We have continuously had conclusions being drawn about the way Catholics or Protestants did or did not vote, but the only evidence which exists is the number of people who polled. We do not know where they polled, or at which polling stations, or in how many 1387 areas. We wanted to know but we were not told. The hon. Member cannot possibly draw any conclusions like that.
§ Mr. McMaster
The conclusion is, I think, quite simple. Is the hon. Member saying that some 90 per cent. of the Protestant community all voted? It is an incredible figure. I can say that from observation in my own constituency, which I went round. I myself estimated that between 70 per cent. and at the very outside 80 per cent. voted, but in the majority of polling stations about 70 per cent.
§ Miss Devlin
I think that in all fairness the hon. Member must accept that one cannot say whether 70 per cent. or 90 per cent. or what percentage of the population voted in a particular way according to their religion, but, taking the natural course of Northern Ireland politics, one can certainly say a certain percentage voted twice.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am afraid that I must treat that, and, indeed, all the criticisms which my remarks provoked, as really being a criticism of the plebiscite itself, because what hon. Members are saying is that the plebiscite was no use because one cannot say it proved one thing or the other. I do not accept this. I think it established quite clearly that the overwhelming majority in Northern Ireland do wish to maintain the constitutional link.
I accept that what the hon. Lady has said was sincere. I accept that the IRA are not just fighting alone but have the protection of a certain proportion of the minority in their areas. The hon. Lady asked, among other things: if the Sinn Fein were entitled to fight in the election would this not be fair? I would refer her and other hon. Members to the actual record of that body. The IRA have killed now a total 760 people in Northern Ireland. They have murdered some 235 members of the security forces—that is, the Army, the police and the Reserves. The hon. Lady asks what could be more bestial than the cold-blooded killing of the three soldiers? This is an invidious comparison, but I would draw her attention to the 33 members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who have been taken from their homes, many of them cruelly tortured by the IRA, and then shot dead. 1388 I would ask her if that is not bestial behaviour. How can people responsible—
§ Miss Devlin
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Member to continue to assert as fact something which has been strenuously denied by the security authorities—that is, that many members of the UDA were tortured?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
There is no point of order there for me. I am not responsible for what happens over there. I am responsible only that people should be in order here, and so far they have been.
§ Mr. McMaster
I speak with grave consideration on this matter. The bodies have been examined, and I have spoken to people who have seen them—
§ Mr. McManus
§ Mr. McMaster
—and it is quite clear that what I say is correct. How, I ask, can men who are responsible for this sort of action in Northern Ireland, for over 30,000 explosions which have resulted in 202 deaths and over 7.000 serious injuries in Northern Ireland, be allowed to contest the elections? This is asking more of human endurance than it is right to ask in the case of the citizens of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. McManus
May I ask the hon. Member two questions? Is it not clear that six or seven known members of the UDA are at present on trial for murder and that one or two of them, as I understand, have been found guilty, and yet no one has suggested that the UDA should not be allowed to contest the election? Is it not also a fact that many hon. Members opposite have said publicly and often that if the democratic process fails there they will fight, but that nobody suggests that they should not be allowed to contest the election? Mr. Craig and an hon. Gentleman opposite have hinted that if the democratic process fails and if England tries to put them out of the Union, then, by So-and-So, they will fight, thereby indicating they will attempt violence, and yet it has not been suggested that they have no right to contest the election.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for 1389 the hon. Member to make in the House remarks about another hon. Member— about things I did not say. What I said was that if this House tried to put us into the side of Ireland we would fight. Let us get it straight.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
That is not a point of order for me. The hon. Member should seek to intervene in the ordinary way and not put to me points of order like that.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am sorry, and I hesitate to go into these details—
§ Mr. McManus
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy
The hon. Member relishes them.
§ Mr. McMaster
—but having listened to the speech of the hon. Member opposite, and in view of the fact that we are debating the White Paper, one must present to this House a picture of how the people of Northern Ireland feel. Hon. Members of this House have never been asked to stand up to casualties like this. This country went to war twice in this century when it was not attacked in the way that the people of Northern Ireland have been attacked. Everyone asks us to exercise restraint. What part of the population of Britain has faced an onslaught like this and been asked not to retaliate? Were there any complaints in this House when we bombed cities in Germany at a time when our women and children were being killed here?
For three years we have stood up to an onslaught of tremendous viciousness and savagery deliberately mounted by the IRA to achieve a political end. It is the people responsible for this onslaught that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) would like to see fighting elections and becoming heads of government in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Winterton
I do not think that the House can go all the way on that point with my hon. Friend. Would he not say that these despicable people would suffer such a savage defeat at the polls that they would not dare to offer themselves?
§ Mr. McMaster
If tempers were cooler in Northern Ireland and if the history had not been one of such terrific violence and savagery over the last three years, 1390 perhaps what my hon. Friend says would be right.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will my hon. Friend give way?
§ Mr. McMaster
No, I have given way a great deal. I cannot do so again because I want to make a reasonably short speech.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
The hon. Gentleman should sit down, as he has finished now.
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster referred to the ambiguities in the White Paper. On its first page the White Paper sets out a recital of the statement in the paper published in October 1972, "The Future of Northern Ireland ", and two requisites of the proposals which the Government put forward. First, paragraph 2(c) states that thedivision of powers and responsibilities between the national and the regional authorites must be logical, open and clearly understood. Ambiguity in the relationship is a prescription for confusion and misunderstanding.Sub-paragraph (e) states thatAny new institutions must be of a simple and businesslike character, appropriate to the powers and functions of a regional authority.I am in agreement with the hon. Lady in that if one studies the White Paper one finds that it is anything but clear, simple and businesslike. I am surprised that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out this recital in the preamble to the White Paper because it clearly does not follow the requisites he prescribed.
Along with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), I feel a deep debt of gratitude to the work which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done in Northern Ireland. I appreciate the work done by him and his Front Bench colleagues over the past year in seeking a solution to the problems in Ulster. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider what has happened during the past weekend and whether we do not have two distinct problems in Northern Ireland: first, the problem of a fair, equitable administration of the province: second, separately and apart, the problem of violence. These must be treated separately, otherwise my right hon. Friend will be very disappointed because, in spite of the plebiscite, the 1391 White Paper and the constitutional legislation which is to follow, the violence of the IRA is bound to continue.
I want to ask my right hon. Friend some detailed questions as this is the time when one should question and try to clarify the rather vague, ambiguous recitals in the White Paper.
Paragraph 32 of the White Paper, a fundamental paragraph, states that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is to be protected. It provides that this will not be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. What does my right hon. Friend mean by "consent"? Are we to have a series of plebiscites? How is this to be interpreted?
Paragraph 41 provides that four years will be the appropriate term of the new Assembly. Is four years appropriate? If this Assembly leads to change in the balance of power from time to time, is it right that an administration in Northern Ireland should have a life as short as four years? Modern planning requires more than even five years, as the imperial Government know. How can proper plans be made and put into effect in such a short time if at the end of that period the Government are to change? Is it a fixed, final term or can it be extended?
Paragraph 39 contains the provisions on proportional representation. I understand the logic of this paragraph, that this, perhaps, is the only way of increasing the size of the new Assembly to 80 and having early elections. Is it the intention to keep to the 12 Westminster constituencies and have five or six, and in some cases seven, members elected? All the appearances show that four, five or six parties will contest these elections. If there are to be five or six seats, the electorate will be presented with a list of 30 or 40 names. How can ordinary people be expected to sort out an order of preference in such a long list? Is this a sensible, reasonable and workable system? I should prefer a straight vote for the ordinary, single-member constituency. But if we are to have PR, would it not be easier to subdivide and have smaller areas represented by a smaller representation?
Paragraphs 35 to 43 deal with the oath which will be taken. I hope that we 1392 shall be told a little more about the form of the oath which members of the new Executive will be required to take.
Concerning paragraph 44, will my right hon. Friend tell the House and the people of Northern Ireland what part he intends to play when the new administration is set up in Northern Ireland? This is a fundamental matter. What part will he play in appointing heads of departments and the head of the Executive? How far will he be affected by the majority wishes of the Assembly? Once it is elected and in operation and has selected the heads of its various committees, what will be my right hon. Friend's rôle? Does he intend to play an immediate rôle, discussing with the Executive from day to day the matters with which it is dealing, or to withdraw a little and stand apart? This matter is of great importance. Since the White Paper was published, I have found that this matter has been causing considerable concern in my constituency.
Paragraph 52 raises the question of the will of the majority. Will a majority vote of the Assembly be final when issues of the membership of the Executive are in dispute? I repeat the question because it is a fundamental one which has caused great concern to the Unionist Council, which met to consider these matters yesterday. Will members of the Executive be restricted to persons who will work peacefully for the good of Northern Ireland in a constitutional way?
If the White Paper and the constitutional Bill which is to follow are to have any chance of success, the membership of the Executive must be restricted to people of good will, people who are prepared to work peacefully and constitutionally for the good of Northern Ireland.
Paragraph 53 raises the question what is to happen to executive power? Is it to be completely devolved, or not, to the new Assembly? I apologise to the House for running through these points quickly but they are vital points which have been raised by my constituents and which must be clarified.
Paragraph 56 deals with the franchise. Will my right hon. Friend clarify which franchise is to be used? I have received correspondence and representations on the matter. Is it to be the Stormont franchise or the Imperial franchise?
1393 I deal with the paragraphs in the White Paper chronologically, although not in order of importance, and I turn now to paragraphs 81 and 82, which deals with the position of the Governor. The people in Northern Ireland are very disturbed by the way in which this office has been abolished. We are determined to maintain the constitutional link with the United Kingdom, and, in my view, this link would be weakened if the representative of Her Majesty the Queen in Northern Ireland were removed. Unfortunately, Her Majesty has not visited Northern Ireland frequently—[Interruption.]—and, therefore, it is important for the people of Northern Ireland that this office should be retained. I have heard, without knowing whether it is true, that the Governor has been dealt with in a rather discourteous maanner.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It is necessary to interrupt my hon. Friend at this point. I must state categorically that that rumour, which I have heard, is absolutely untrue. Since I have stayed with the Governor and had great courtesy, kindness and help from him, it would be a reflection on me if such a rumour were true. The Governor would readily confirm that this is the position. He will be looked after in every way due for the service he has given.
§ Mr. McMaster
I thank my right hon. Friend for that assurance. It has caused considerable concern. I am grateful to him for clearing it up. We, in Northern Ireland, hold the Governor in deep affection and esteem.
I pass to paragraphs 83 to 89, which lead me to ask my right hon. Friend what tax powers are to be transferred to the new Executive. What will its financial responsibilities be and what part will members of the Executive play in matters of national interest, such as negotiation with the Common Market and the EEC countries?
Paragraph 106 refers to discussions and negotiations which are to be had with the South of Ireland. Will members of the Executive in Northern Ireland meet their opposite numbers in Dublin as equals? What does acceptance of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland entail? I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saying earlier today 1394 that there could be no Council of Ireland until the Republic accepted the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. I presume that my right hon. Friend will confirm that to be the case and that it means that the Constitution of the Republic will be altered, because it has been, and remains, offensive to people of Northern Ireland to read that Constitution and to find in the recital that it purports to relate to the 32 counties of Ireland. If the Constitution of Northern Ireland is to be properly recognised there must be some amendment to the Constitution of the Republic.
What measures will be discussed in the Council of Ireland? People in Belfast and throughout Northern Ireland believe it would be wise to meet their opposite numbers, and indeed, there have been meetings in the past, to discuss such matters as control of terrorism, mutual trade and tourism. But there is a fear that the status of Northern Ireland might be discussed, and this would be completely unacceptable. I make that perfectly clear to the House and to my right hon. Friend.
Finally, I deal with the major point of security. Will my right hon. Friend spell out the Government's intentions in respect of the control of internal security? This matter must be retained by the administration in Northern Ireland if there is to be an effective administration there. I completely repudiate the comments of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), who attacked the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The police, as I showed in statistics, have given devoted service in Northern Ireland. They have been savagely attacked, many have been killed and many more injured. The control of the police and internal security will be an important issue when normality is restored to Northern Ireland and perhaps my right hon. Friend will say what is meant by that phrase which is used in the White Paper.
I urge my right hon. Friend to reconsider his decision about the number of Northern Ireland Members at Westminster. Even though considerable powers are to be given—I appreciate that the Prime Minister said those powers are in some way greater than the powers previously given to Stormont in respect 1395 of economic and financial control—I suggest that the number of Northern Ireland Members at Westminster could be increased. The 12 Westminster Members who represent Northern Ireland play a vital part in fundamental issues which are decided at Westminster, matters including taxation—and it is a fundamental principle of British justice that there should be no taxation without representation— foreign affairs and the Common Market. It is only fair and just that Northern Ireland should have a full voice and vote when these subjects are debated and when votes are taken in the House. I fail to see why the Government and the Shadow Cabinet can object to the forms of government in Northern Ireland and say that there is not proper representation of the minority and at the same time deprive the whole of the population of proper representation in the affairs of this House.
I recommend, and have said so in Northern Ireland, that the people in my constituency and in Northern Ireland generally should accept the White Paper. It can be turned into a workable form of government in Ulster. But I would ask my right hon. Friend to remember just how tense is the situation.
I have asked my right hon. Friend to deal with certain points which have caused concern. When the Bill is presented there will no doubt be a number of amendments, and in order that the White Paper should pave the way to peace and good administration in Ulster. I ask him to give sympathetic consideration to the concern we express. Unless there is clarification of the questions which I have raised and which have caused concern, there will be problems. I hope that some of these vital issues will become the subject of amendments. I assume that the Bill has already been drafted—
§ Mr. Whitelaw
It has not.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am delighted to hear that. Perhaps, therefore, the matters that I have raised can be dealt with in the Bill. That would avoid any difficulty in putting down amendments to it. Unless these points are properly covered, the Bill which emerges may turn out to be unworkable, and that would be a tragedy too serious to face.
1396 My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to violence and extremism on both sides, as did the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, and she also referred to the number of arms that have been found and where they have been found. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the casualty figures. Would there be such a body as the UDA in Northern Ireland if it were not for the fear that we shall be sold out? I do not believe that Northern Ireland will be sold out. That has been guaranteed.
Many hon. Members have suggested that if the killings go on the Army should withdraw. It is because of such suggestions in the House, on the BBC and in the Press that the people of Ulster are frightend. They know what the IRA is doing; they have seen violence committed. When I was in the centre of Belfast yesterday I heard four bombs go off near me. Can hon. Members think what that is like? It is a wartime situation, and no one wants to be left defenceless. No wonder ordinary men arm themselves for their protection. I make no excuse for it, but it is a fact that people are armed and are prepared to fight to defend themselves if they have to.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Government not to hesitate to condemn violence by the IRA as the fundamental cause of the disturbances in Northern Ireland. That violence has escalated over the last three years and has led to the death of 165 British soldiers—110 in the past year since Stormont was dissolved. Do the people who carry out such hideous attacks upon the Army and the police really want political reform? They must be dealt with separately by the Army, with resolution and courage. I ask the House to consider that as a separate matter from the White Paper. With this qualification, I wish every success to my right hon. Friend in this initiative.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
Mr. Deputy Speaker
I do not like having to talk to the House about the length of speeches, but I have a long list of hon. Members who wish to speak, and I am getting more and more depressed about my chances of being able to call them. At the present rate there will be time for only four more speeches today. 1397 I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind. I know that hon. Members feel moved and wish to express their feelings, but other hon. Members must be given the chance to say what they wish to say. I hope that hon. Members will not think that I am putting undue pressure on them. In the last resort the situation is in their hands, not mine.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
I shall pay heed to your injunction, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House has to be grateful to the hon. Members for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) —apart from the great length of their speeches— for having brought to the House the blinkered vision of both sides by their continued defence of their own side in the Northern Irish dispute. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster put up a case in defence of the IRA which could have been made with equal conviction about the Mafia, who, in a sense, protect their own people and support them against counter-violence. Then we heard accusations from the Protestant side about who began the violence and who is responsible for its continuance.
I look back to my last speech on this subject in which I dealt with the wrongs of the minority in Northern Ireland with whom I sympathised and whom I supported. They suffered discrimination in housing and in jobs, but none of this was, for a moment, worth the misery and suspicion that has been engendered since 1968 on each side, which has cost 750 deaths and is now producing 1,000 explosions a year. This community as a living, tangible entity has been virtually destroyed. That is a commentary on how violence breeds violence. It is a commentary on how hatred and suspicion are used to justify these terrible deeds and afford the excuse for similar deeds to be committed by the other side.
That is why the House should snatch at anything that offers a way out of this situation and a positive way forward, and that is why I regret having any doubts about the White Paper. Despite these worries, I want it to succeed. But I have many doubts and worries, not so much on the concept behind the White Paper but on whether it can overcome the fears and the suspicions that have been manifested in the House tonight.
1398 I begin by sketching in the events that I assume the Government hope will take place. The Government presumably hope that there will rapidly be elections for the Assembly on the basis of the Act based on the White Paper. They hope that a certain number of the Protestant community will be returned who will be prepared to work the principles contained in the White Paper, especially the key element of power sharing. They hope that the other sectors of the population, those in between the two extreme groups and those in the minority community, will likewise return either parties on individuals willing to work the power-sharing system. They hope that, if moderate representatives of the two main groups are in a majority in the new Assembly, the Secretary of State will be able to turn to the Members of the Assembly who are willing to work the system and constitute them the Executive and devolve power on them. This is stage 1, and there will be many difficulties before we get that far.
It is hoped that in stage 2 this new Executive will proceed to govern Northern Ireland through the Assembly in a manner which is sufficiently different from the past to create confidence in both communities which will spread down to the rank and file. The new pattern of government will have to be sufficiently different to cause the Catholic population to cease to shelter, succour and feed the IRA, and the Protestant population to feel that it is no longer necessary to maintain their men under arms, their vigilantes and patrols. It is hoped that because of this new atmosphere these two armed groups will be disbanded and progress will be made towards the rebuilding of community life on a non-discriminatory basis. I presume that that is the Government's expected way forward.
What worries me is the number of hurdles that have to be cleared before this satisfactory development takes place. What can we in the House do to make this kind of progress and better atmosphere more possible? It might be useful for me to sketch in a few comments on what should happen to enable this to come about. The most crucial initial hurdle is that the old Unionist Party, which used to represent the majority of the population, should be clear that the issue at the next 1399 election will be whether or not it is prepared to work the White Paper.
I am worried that there will be talk of the possibilities of negotiation about the White Paper and of the Bill being changed so that the Unionist Party is able to dodge the great issue of whether or not it will work the White Paper. I think it is better that there should be a split in the Unionist Party. I want that amorphous gathering of politicians to split into two sections: first, those people who believe that the White Paper is unworkable, who do not want to work it but want to go bust for UDI on their own and to try to save what is left of the system they used to know before Stormont was abolished; secondly, there are those elements in the Unionist Party who are prepared to work a system of the kind set out in the White Paper by the Government. I want those two sections to go separately in to the election, each putting its distinct point of view. Only in that way will the public know what they are voting for, and only in this way can the Government know, after the election, whether they have the majority they want in the Assembly. In order to clear that hurdle, I hope the Secretary of State will make it clear that there will be no negotiation on this basic issue of power sharing, but that it is clear and unavoidable and must be accepted by either side.
We must then deal with another matter. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster spoke about confusion and obscurity in the White Paper. That is quite wrong. The White Paper makes clear that for practical purposes there will be devolved to the Assembly the same powers—barring security—as were exercised by the old Stormont Assembly. But the form has to be different because in the years between 1920 and 1970, while that Assembly existed, it passed some powers back to Westminister. It developed other powers which did not exist in the 1920 Act; thus, it arrived at a somewhat new situation. It must be made clear in peoples' minds that the new Assembly will be as effective in governing the internal affairs of Northern Ireland as was the old Stormont Assembly. That point should be made clear, and it should not be an issue at the election.
1400 The consequences have their effect on the question of representation in this House. I thought that the under-representation of Northern Ireland was wrong under the old pre-direot rule system. In effect, the overall decisions of principle on health, housing and education were taken here. It was only the local variations which were left, in practice though not in law, to the people of Northern Ireland; they had relinquished certain powers by their own voluntary will. The resulting situation is being recreated by the White Paper. Therefore it still holds that the people of Northern Ireland should have their fair representation in this Chamber because this House will decide the overall issues of principle. This lack of full representation is, therefore, a continuing anomaly. It is one on which the Government would do well to concede.
In addition to a clear contest between those Unionists who are prepared to work the power-sharing inherent in the White Paper and those who are not, it is also important that when the minority and its politicians stand at the next election people will want to be clear whether they stand for continuing chaos, disorder and bloodshed, or whether they will want to try to take some advantage of the proposed system and make it work.
I welcome the stand taken by the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Alliance Party and the SDLP. One point —probably the only point—on which I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster is that the Sinn Fein should be allowed to contest the elections—and for this reason. Only if the Catholic community, like the Protestants, presented with the alternative of whether they wish to go on with the present disastrous bloodshed or wish to elect politicians who are prepared to work the White Paper, take part in the system to be created by the White Paper, shall we discover how the balance of forces will work out within the Catholic community. The ideas embodied in the White Paper will succeed only if at the end of the day, when the Assembly meets, there is a majority within the moderate Unionists, the Centre Party and the moderate Catholic representatives which is prepared to undertake power sharing and 1401 make it work. That is the first base which must be reached.
What can the new Executive, once created, do to make the people of Northern Ireland think that it is a new regime and begin to turn away from the extremists and the old fears and suspicions which will take generations to die? How can we make the new Government look and sound different? One method is for the Government to give more aid to Northern Ireland and to allow the new Executive to undertake a massive programme of re-building and restructuring community life in Northern Ireland. Also, the new Government must be allowed to start meaningful cross-border communications between the Republic and Northern Ireland while accepting the total undertaking that no change will be made in Northern Ireland without the consent of the people there.
The sort of thing which it could do would be to set up a council for the development of the whole of the North-West of Ireland, including parts of Northern Ireland and of the Republic. Such a body should be set up and be composed of representatives of the Republic and of the North of Ireland Government and include members of the Brussels Commission—because that is where we must look for a considerable amount of Community aid. Under the umbrella of George Thomson and his Common Market regional policy, we could do something to combine areas of the North and of the South which have such common purposes and interests. We must show the people that the new Government can make cross-border contacts which are of real use to the people. We must show that the British Government will support such a move as part of a positive programme to restore the fabric of community and civilian life. If these things are achieved, some of the hurdles may be cleared. But I am still a little pessimistic.
The one final thing we must do is to look square in the face what will happen if the plan fails to overcome any one of these difficulties. What will happen if, at the end of the day, the IRA continues to fight, if they are still supported by the Catholic ghettos and if the UDA are still on the streets? My worry is that the White Paper will be the end of 1402 the road. It is the logical end point in terms of persuading the two communities to live together within the same geographical area.
I can see no solution to which the Government can turn if these new proposals fail. What worries me is that the only possible answer then will be the separation of the two communities. This will be cruel and disastrous. As the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) said, 40,000 people are not living in their homes in Belfast, because they have been driven out. It might be kinder to them in the end to separate the two communities so that there is a single, defensible Protestant area and a single, defensible Catholic area.
The scheme set out by the White Paper is the last chance for the two communities to live together and to begin, little by little, to trust each other. If it fails, I can see nothing for it, in terms of humanity, but a separation of the two communities so that people can live at peace with their neighbours. I hope that we shall never come to this pass, to the cruel and frightful policies of wholesale movement of populations which have led to recriminations all over the world. But if this last proposal fails, we shall be left to choose between the present horrors and something which, though bad, might be more supportable. That is why I still hope that this last chance will succeed.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) made a most constructive speech. He criticised the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) for saying that the White Paper was ambiguous. I think that the White Paper is somewhat obscurely written and to a certain extent this may have contributed to its widespread acceptance, on which I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The White Paper contains a skeletal set of proposals on which the flesh must be built.
I should like to refer to a topic which has been mentioned by earlier speakers, namely, the proposal to declare redundant the Governor and his lady. I regard it as a psychological blunder that this was written into the White Paper. I 1403 am not the only hon. Member in this House who can testify to the wisdom and humanity of Lord Grey and I was glad to hear the Prime Minister's tribute to him. Soon after the Border poll which has resoundingly pronounced in favour of the British connection, the Government propose to remove the outward sign of the British connection in Northern Ireland, many of whose people set great store by the symbols of constitutional monarchy.
I do not see why, in advance of explaining how the prorogued Senate and House of Commons of Northern Ireland would be dissolved, it should be necessary at this stage to announce the abolition of the viceregal office. It is all very well to say that the HML's and Deputy-Lieutenants can maintain the link between the people of Northern Ireland and the Monarch. But that is not considered enough in Scotland where the Sovereign holds court and residence and in Wales with her special link with the heir to the Throne. Such a psychological error is bound to create the suspicion that Her Majesty's Government would like to approximate the institutions of Northern Ireland with those of the Irish Republic.
I hope that we shall not be vexed, as was the Irish Free State, with a wrangle about oaths. It is better that there should be no oath than an official oath which makes allegiance optional for those who will serve the Crown and the executive in Northern Ireland. It is better that there should be no oath than some kind of emasculated official oath. To weaken the Crown connection is to weaken the British connection.
We should steer clear of qualifying reiterated statements about what the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian called a total undertaking, by saying that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom as long as that is the will of her people. Such qualifications are unfortunate. Majorities can be softened up by the strain of seemingly unending terror. They can also be alienated by patronising chatter in the media such as "This is Ulster's last chance" or "Ulster must take it or leave it." That is the wrong approach if we want to put the White Paper over. There is implied the supercilious suggestion that if the natives do not stop squabbling, nanny will give notice.
1404 Is it my right hon. Friend's intention that the Assembly should be brought swiftly into being? If necessary a separate Bill could be introduced so that the Assembly need not wait upon a definitive constitutional scheme. We read that the Assembly is to be elected for four years. What happens if the new executive cuts across the majority in the Assembly and there is no power for an earlier dissolution? In that situation will we revert to pure direct rule?
Have the Government in mind to include in the Bill provision that if Members should abstain from taking their seats and serving in the Assembly, they should give up their seats in favour of the runner-up at the election? That would be a salutary provision having regard to the time-honoured Irish custom of abstention after election to a legislature.
Will Eire voters, who might acquire some sort of residence on the eve of an election in Northern Ireland, be entitled to vote for the Assembly as they would be able to do in Great Britain for the Parliament of the United Kingdom, or will the Northern Ireland seven-year restriction be preserved?
I shall conclude with a short comment on the Council of Ireland and the trans-border co-operation mentioned by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian. It seems to have been forgotten that the Council of Ireland is one of the policy proposals of the Ulster Unionist Party. The Council of Ireland should not raise false fears or false hopes of a change of sovereignty. However, the membership of the EEC of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic means that the border will lose its economic significance, and it is important that the North and the South should work together to secure for the Irish regions their fair share of Community aid. There should be economic co-operation and co-operation in the development of tourism, for example in the region embracing the great city of Derry and its hinterland in the lovely county of Donegal.
Some years ago Mr. Brian Lenihan, who is now the Foreign Minister of the Republic, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as looking back nostalgically to the last century when projects of a wider devolution throughout the British 1405 Isles were canvassed although not realised. Whatever dreams are dreamed of Ireland, North and South, the practical and peaceful course seems to be not that of a united Ireland but of a united Northern Ireland, within a more united British Isles. There are then three dimensions: the British dimension—that is, the dimension of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—the Irish dimension to be expressed through the Council of Ireland or whatever common organs may be set up between the two sovereign Governments, and the third dimension—namely, Europe.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I shall not start my speech, like the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) by lamenting the departure of the Governor of Northern Ireland. I lament other much more important omissions from the White Paper, such as the ending of detention without trial and its one-sided application; the legalisation of Sinn Fein and the Republican clubs so that they can fight elections; the repeal of emotive legislation, such as the Flags and Emblems Act, which forbids the flying of the tricolour and continues to divide the community of Northern Ireland; and, most important of all but curiously an item that has so far escaped the notice of Government hon. Members, a more specific commitment to industrial growth and the curing of unemployment.
On the other hand, I regret the presence in the White Paper of an even more emphatic assertion of sovereignty by Westminster over Northern Ireland, which, if it is to endure on any basis other than strictly purposeful, taking Northern Ireland in a new direction and on a short term, strikes me as wholly unreal. I deplore, therefore, the inclusion in the White Paper of paragraph 32.
The most serious flaw in the White Paper is that in practice, as the Economist observed last week, it is a framework which will need to be operated by the same people who have brought Ulster to its present condition. Some of those people were present on the Panorama programme on Monday night. They were either prepared to exploit the White Paper's ambiguous phrasing or pledged to wreck it.
1406 I acknowledge the difficulties that faced those who drafted the White Paper, but they are not without responsibility for its ambiguity and for its vague areas. I understand the basic requirements that confronted them. They had to produce a White Paper that would restore peace. Any modus vivendi which can be achieved through any such proposals now before the House would necessarily have to be an interim arrangement, but an arrangement which would pave the way. I also understand that it had to satisfy the people of this country. I firmly believe that it has been designed to prepare the ground for a long-term policy objective which will solve the Irish problem once and for all.
I am in no doubt that that is what the majority of the people of this country look to the Government to do. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) in his praise of the British people. They have behaved in a manner that could not be emulated by any other people anywhere in the world. I regard them as the most tolerant people who have ever graced the face of the earth. Yet even their tolerance and patience must now be running down. They will be looking to the Government to eliminate those sources of infection which have poisoned Anglo-Irish relations for centuries and to disengage, so far as is practical, from Irish affairs.
Another basic requirement of the White Paper was that it should meet with the approval, no matter how tacit, of Dublin.
I suppose that what all of us also look to the White Paper to provide—and at this point we must acknowledge that we are asking the almost impossible of the authors, within the compromises inseparable from any constitutional statement drafted by one country for another—is a peaceful path towards a solution of the Irish problem.
I believe that the path to such a peaceful solution lies through the probing and exploration of two policy areas in particular. The first is exactly how power will be shared between the two communities. The second is over how wide or how narrow a field the new Council will operate. The Government will doubtless justify their postponement of decisions on these crucial issues on the ground that they must be taken by those who will 1407 have to work the new arrangements—in other words, through consent.
But that pre-requisite must not be used as an evasion by the Government of the need to promote policies which are conducive to the fulfilment of this aim. Consent is not a fortuitous happening or a neutral concept. It must be worked for, encouraged and cultivated. I am tempted to ask at this stage whether it is not more likely to come from the moderates, from those who will work in this empirical way.
Would not the moderates stand a better chance of election if the White Paper were a little more specific about power sharing and the Council of Ireland? Would this not also have compelled a more meaningful response from Dublin? After all, there can be no retreat from either, and in the absence of guidelines the extremists will surely supply the detail, as we saw in Panorama. In this way they will play on the fears of electors. Meanwhile, Dublin will only back away more and more from any such commitment to a Council of Ireland and what may lie behind.
If it is argued that the White Paper had to be studiously non-committal about the form and function of a Council of Ireland, I reply that we can still properly urge that it should ultimately be given more positive content. Although it may initially be invested with economic responsibility, we must see that it also has a built-in capacity to extend the range and degree of its responsibilities into other areas.
This is why I was so heartened by the Prime Minister's speech and especially by his pledge that no subjects will be excluded from the Council of Ireland. I readily acknowledge the priority which must be given to those items that he specified. Later, when the legislation is before the House, we shall be anxious to take them up and add to them.
But there is one that I want to nominate right now in order to stimulate those who are really concerned for the advance of Ireland, and especially for the success of the Council, in order to get them working in this positive direction towards integration and joint study and eventually to mutual benefit—first of all at the economic level, but later on, we shall hope, at the political level.
1408 My first recommendation is that the Government should build a motorway from Belfast to Dublin. I know that it would cost many millions of pounds, but we have already spent that amount in Northern Ireland and will go on spending there. Steps like that would integrate the communities in Ireland.
I was also heartened to hear the Prime Minister say that representatives of Dublin and Northern Ireland will meet within the Council on the basis of the present status of Northern Ireland, and also of the possibility of a change in that status. That is surely the right approach. As The Observer said on Sunday:Creation of the Council of Ireland is the new dimension in which Ulster is being encouraged to work out its salvation.That is why I believe that any plea, such as we heard from the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), on behalf of increased representation at Westminster must run counter to the underlying intent of the White Paper.
From Harold Wilson's 15-year plan to Edward Heath's slow disengagement White Paper there must now be very few Members of this House who wish any longer to hang on in Ireland. Most of us in this House, like most of the British people, will wish to make a success of the interim arrangements contained in the White Paper so that we shall be all the better placed to proceed to a final settlement.
I am not wholly convinced that the White Paper is sufficient. What I am convinced of, however, is that we shall make a success of these interim arrangements only if this House is concerned to deepen the positive content of the White Paper, identify its growth points, nurture them and help bring them to maturity.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
I have listened with great interest to practically all the speeches made so far in the debate. Like all others who have spoken, I shall give my views honestly and sincerely. I hope that I shall be constructive and not destructive about the White Paper and the legislation that is to follow.
I believe that the White Paper can neither be fully accepted nor fully rejected. To me, many of its proposals are 1409 unacceptable and many are tolerable. I wholeheartedly support three items in it because on previous occasions I have myself proposed that they should be brought into effect. These are the amendment of the Ireland Act 1949, the Council of Ireland and the Bill of Rights.
Amendment of the 1949 Act is long overdue. I supported and did my best for the Bill, presented in the House some time ago, designed to make the one change necessary—the substitution for the word "Parliament" of the word "people". I am delighted that at long last the Government have recognised that this is the right course of action.
It is not generally known that if the legislative assembly known as the Stormont Parliament had, by some fluke, had a majority so minded, it had the power to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom even though it might have been against the wishes of the majority of the people. I am delighted that at long last the decision to remain in or opt out of the United Kingdom is to be placed firmly and squarely on the people of Northern Ireland.
Secondly, in considering the setting up of the Council of Ireland, while I know the bones of contention among many people, my firm view is that it is far better to talk round the table than to shoot at each other from behind the border.
The legislation dealing with the Bill of Rights and the Charter of Human Rights is necessary to ensure that all sections of the community obtain their rights within that part of the United Kingdom in which they reside:(a) the right to freedom within the law, including freedom to advance any political or constitutional cause by non-violent means;(b) the right to protection under the law, so that freedom is not taken away or diminished by violence, oppression or intimidation by others; and(c) the right to equality of benefit and opportunity, so that society will deal in an equitable and even-handed way as between one citizen and another, without bias or prejudice.Those are the conditions laid down on page 24 of the White Paper in Part 4— "A Charter of Human Rights".
As I have said, many of the proposals in the White Paper are unacceptable; many are tolerable. I have the highest regard for the Secretary of State's integrity, 1410 his tolerance and his hard work and endeavour on behalf of Northern Ireland. At the same time he is placed in a very difficult position because, under the White Paper and the legislation which will follow, he is given terriffic powers. If the legislation follows the pattern laid down in the White Paper, the Secretary of State could become a modern Dick Turpin, and if he succeeds in implementing such legislation he will certainly have made Dick Turpin look like the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The proposed new Assembly in Northern Ireland is like a pub with no bar. No clear definition of powers has been given although certain things have been conferred, on conditions. The thinking behind the White Paper in this respect is simply that we should wait and see who is elected to that body.
In looking at the number and composition of the various parties likely to contest the forthcoming election in Northern Ireland, I think that the Secretary of State is certainly keeping his options open. The parties likely to contest the election are numerous: the Unionist Party, to which I belong; the United Loyalist Action Group; the Alliance Party; the Labour Party; the Social Democrat and Labour Party; the Nationalist Party; Sinn Fein, perhaps, in some colour; and many other smaller groups. Personally I welcome an election as it is the only way of finding out who represents whom in Northern Ireland. The present position is intolerable. No country and no part of any country can hope to flourish or even survive in a vacuum.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) in his opening speech, reminded the House of our position regarding the Order in Council, and there is no time available to discuss it fully in this House. He also touched on the thorny question of representation in this House—namely, the number of hon. Members. I believe honestly and sincerely that the number of hon. Members representing Northern Ireland is totally inadequate and not commensurate with the powers held by this Government. The new proposals state that the number of hon. Members representing Northern Ireland at Westminster should remain the same. I believe it is a fact accepted by all political parties and by the people of the United Kingdom that there can be no taxation without representation. I am 1411 firmly convinced that even under the old system Northern Ireland was under-represented at Westminster.
Let me turn for a moment to the composition of the Executive. To my mind this is one of the thorny problems set out in the White Paper. There is a vague reference to the barriers which will be placed in the way of anyone who would act against the State. I should like to ask the Secretary of State or the Minister who is acting on his behalf whether persons acting against the State will be included in the Executive. If so, it will not be necessary to use against the walls of Stormont the tactics which were used to bring down the walls of Jericho. The only criterion by which one can judge this position is whether the Secretary of State himself would act in an executive such as I have already mentioned: that is, an executive containing members who are themselves out to destroy the very State they represent.
I turn now to another very thorny problem, that of the Governor. We have in this country a high regard for Her Majesty the Queen, and the Governor in Northern Ireland has been the Queen's representative. In Scotland there is the residence of the Queen which she occupies at various times of the year. In Wales there is the connection with the Throne through the Prince of Wales. But now we are told that the position of Governor is to be abolished. I should like to add my own to the compliments already paid to the Governor, Lord Grey, and his wife. I have met him on many occasions and I believe that he is the finest Governor who ever graced Stormont Castle. I say that without reserva-tion. I hope that there will continue to be some form of Queen's representative in Northern Ireland because, if there is not, many people will think that the British Government do not want us any longer.
I turn now to another thorny problem, that of the franchise. Under the proposals the franchise will be reserved to the Westminster Parliament. I should like clear definitions to be given with regard to the franchise, because under the Northern Ireland system people from the Republic of Ireland have to have a seven-year qualification before they can vote in the Northern Ireland election and a three-month qualification is necessary 1412 before they can vote in a Westminster election. I am firmly convinced—I do not think anyone can argue this point— that it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be said that full parliamentary power has been given to Stormont when the franchise is being withheld and exercised separately in this House. That is the difference between a parliament and an assembly.
Another thorny problem is how the consent of the people will be determined with regard to the constitutional position. I am firmly convinced that the plebiscites which have been proposed will have to be used at some stage in the future, but I am also firmly convinced that to hold plebiscites at short intervals would be a disaster, because this would only keep the pot on the boil and would not allow people to settle down and get on with the normal business of government. My suggestion is that no plebiscite on the border should be held until at least two-thirds of the Assembly request it. That would be a safeguard against having plebiscites at very short intervals.
I shall take your advice, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and conclude my speech by referring finally to the Royal Commission on the Constitution. This has been in being for a very long time. It was first announced in another place during the Gracious Speech of 1968. Since then deliberations have taken place and I have asked on numerous occasions when this report would be available. I thought that it would be available last year. At long last the Prime Minister said that we were to have it this year.
I see the point made by the Prime Minister about representation of Northern Ireland in this House and the fact that he would rather wait until he sees what the Royal Commission proposes. If the Royal Commission says that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland should have a certain representation I would abide by that decision. I am sure that everyone in Northern Ireland would do the same.
This White Paper can neither be accepted nor rejected in total. I advise the House that it is the basis on which the future of Northern Ireland can be built. However, I warn the Secretary of State that if he is adamant that no amendments can be made to the subsequent legislation, the whole edifice on which we hope to 1413 build the future of Northern Ireland will fall down. I am firmly convinced that if good sense prevails between the people of Northern Ireland and their leaders and the Secretary of State and if firm proposals and guarantees can be given, with a reasonable amount of compromise on both sides, the White Paper will have a chance.
On the other hand, if we meet a stone wall, with no concessions, we will run into trouble. I shall not vote to reject this White Paper. I shall try to make it work. I have lived all my life in Northern Ireland. I have a family and a business there. I have a stake in the country. Every right-thinking person will try to bring something out of the present chaos. I hope that wise counsels will prevail, not only in Northern Ireland but within the Cabinet and among all those who have to take these decisions. Despite any political party, the best interests of Northern Ireland must be paramount so that we can look forward to a period of peace and prosperity.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
In a debate in which the majority of speakers have been either Ulstermen or descendants of Irish immigrants to Great Britain, or participants in the long-standing discussions we have had in this House on Ireland, it may be thought that as an Englishman I should be a little hesitant to have the cheek to table an amendment to the Government motion to approve the White Paper. I make no apology for having tabled that amendment or for striking what will be the first seriously discordant note to enter the debate.
I have travelled around the world a fair amount since I became a Member of Parliament. I did a considerable amount of travelling when I was in the Royal Navy. When I read the history of this country I find many things in the long and chequered colonial history of Great Britain of which I am entirely proud. But when I look at the long and tragic entanglement of this country with Ireland I have to admit that there is very little in which I can take pride as a citizen of Great Britain.
We have tried to solve the problem created by us in Northern Ireland in a vast manner of ways ranging from 1414 attempts at bloody suppression to integration and now the White Paper. In all those previous attempts, and I believe in this present one, we have met and will meet failure in our efforts to bring peace and prosperity to Northern Ireland. The current attempt, like the others before it, is based upon a fallacy, upon the myth that Britain can solve the problems of Ireland.
It is my contention that the problems of Ireland can be solved only by the people of Ireland as a whole. There is one thing in which I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), who spoke from the Front Bench on this side of the House, and that is his tribute to the Army. I believe it is faced with an intolerable task that we have imposed on it. It has been subjected to abuse and criticism both in Northern Ireland and in the Westminster Parliament which on many occasions has been grossly unfair.
Anyone who has served in any of the forces will understand the leadership and the discipline that is vital to the exercise of restraint when British Service men are faced with cold-blooded, brutal murder in carrying out their duties on behalf of this country, and the revulsion and anger that those brave men must feel when they see their comrades brutally and cowardly maimed and murdered in Northern Ireland in carrying out the mistaken policies of this Parliament.
We need to understand also the anger and the growing sense of frustration that the British people are beginning to allow to manifest itself in their statements and arguments throughout the country. I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South that I entirely agree with what he has said: that we cannot pull out the British Army, that we must stand firm and say to our people that that cannot happen yet, that the time for it has not yet arrived and that certain political decisions must be taken before we get to that stage.
I believe that this debate on Northern Ireland is a most fundamental one. What are we to do in the new situation that has followed the collapse of the Stormont Parliament and the collapse of the existing constitution in Northern Ireland? I believe that new opportunities are now 1415 open to us all. I do not believe that we are bound by commitments given either in 1969 by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition or by previous Governments concerning the future of Northern Ireland. I feel that those commitments have been eroded away in blood in the last three years and that we now have an opportunity of starting again and taking a fresh look at our approach.
In his opening speech the Prime Minister said that those who oppose the White Paper must take very careful thought about the consequences of their opposition. That has been said in other places at which I have been present when this subject of Northern Ireland has been debated—that we must all be mindful that lives of human beings are at risk and that every word we utter will be listened to and acted upon in Ireland.
All I would say to that is that Gladstone, Attlee, Wilson and now Heath are issuing the same statements as they issued when they were following mistaken policies in the past, and those mistaken policies have been responsible for the blood that has already flowed. So nothing I can say is going in any way to produce any more terrible difficulties than did anything those leaders have said in the past. I believe the White Paper will be a repeat of the follies of the past because, as is said in paragraph 32, we shall repeat the guarantee that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as a majority of people in Northern Ireland wish it. I believe it is that guarantee which has been the stumbling block to real unity, real progress and real peace in that troubled isle of Ireland.
I want to give the House three reasons why I feel that that guarantee is unacceptable. It is unacceptable, first of all, because it fails to take any account of the British dimension. We hear a lot about the Irish dimension but very little about the British dimension. I believe the only people who can decide the future boundaries of the United Kingdom is a majority of the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.
The British people have been deliberately excluded by the Government from taking any part in that decision. When this House agreed to the legislation for the border poll, some of us pleaded with the Government to extend to the British 1416 electorate the opportunity of expressing an opinion on the future relationship of Northern Ireland with Great Britain. It was refused.
No guarantee of this nature given without the express consent of the British people as a whole can be sacrosanct. Some future Westminster Parliament prepared to heed the wishes of the British people may well remove that guarantee. I believe that that needs to be stated and to be understood in all the discussions on the future constitutional relationship of Northern Ireland with Great Britain, wherever they take place. That is my first reason for being against the so-called guarantee.
I am against it, secondly, because I believe it to be a fraud upon the minority population in Northern Ireland. I differ from those of my hon. Friends who say that they agree with the White Paper because it can lead to the unity of Ireland. I do not accept that as being based upon reality. It is a delusion, in my judgment. We can mess about with the new Assembly of Northern Ireland, we can fiddle around with various methods of electing representatives to that Assembly, and we can have all the other discussions on policing, on Diplock and on all the other matters which have been and will be mentioned in this debate. But the one cold fact remains. The very border of Northern Ireland as at present constituted was designed to ensure the permanent numerical superiority of those who wished to retain the link with the United Kingdom. I believe that it is a fraud upon the minority because it offers hope without the chance of fulfilment.
My third reason for being against paragraph 32 of the White Paper and the guarantee is my belief that it will act as a prop for the majority population in Northern Ireland. It is a straw which they will grasp, as they have grasped it over the past 50 years. It destroys the impetus and the desire which many people hoped to see emerge from the other proposals in the White Paper. It destroys the desire to co-operate with the Republic of Ireland. It destroys the desire because it destroys the necessity for co-operation.
Whatever the all-Ireland institution may be, I do not believe that it will work so long as the people of the majority in 1417 Northern Ireland have this so-called guarantee as a prop on which they hope they can lean. That is my third reason for being against the White Paper and bitterly opposed to that section of it which asks us to re-enact that guarantee.
All that the White Paper does and all that it is capable of doing is to put the lid back on the pot in Northern Ireland. All that it will do is to transfer the crisis of decision that we face to another Parliament and another generation. I have no doubt that this Parliament will mistakenly accept the White Paper. But all the crisis and all the bloodshed that we see will surely come again in another generation. Instead of our sons going with the British Army to Ulster, our grandsons will be sent there, because we intend to re-enact the fatal folly of a guarantee that says it is only the majority in Northern Ireland who can determine the future boundaries of the United Kingdom and of Ireland itself.
In the end, either now or at some future time in the history of our two countries, we shall be forced to recognise the fundamental reality that it is only the Irish in the North and the South who will solve their own historic problems. I believe that it will be far better if we face the facts of geography and history now rather than baulk away from them.
I do not believe that Britain has any place at all in Ireland, either as a mediator or as a constitutional prop. The only future for this country and for Ireland lies in friendship based upon some link other than unity as nations. We must recognise the realities of the situation, and for that reason I hope that the Government will listen to at least one plea of the Opposition Front Bench. I go so far as to support the election of the Assembly, but no further. If any legislation comes before this House which incorporates the fatal guarantee that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom I for one shall be implacably opposed to it, and I hope that many of my hon. Friends will join me in my opposition.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
I hope that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) will forgive me if I do not follow him along the line of his argument.
1418 The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) criticised the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) who emphasised the ambiguity in the White Paper which will make it difficult for people to stand for election and difficult for those who vote to know what they are voting about.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) raised the question of education and its desegregation. The hon. Member for Thurrock did not believe that that would help to solve the problem in Northern Ireland, and he gave as one reason for his view the geography of certain areas.
I believe that desegregation in education would go some way towards curing the dreadful gulf which exists between the two communities in many parts of Northern Ireland. There are areas in which desegregation could not work physically, and obviously Roman Catholic schools would continue to exist in such areas, but in the lower echelons of education it would be a good thing and would, over a generation or so, begin to break down the barriers which have existed for far too long.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone also raised the question of the continued presence of the British Army in Northern Ireland. I join others in undivided and complete praise of the efforts of the British Army. Since it has been in Northern Ireland it has been asked to do an almost impossible job, but it has done it. It has had odium heaped upon it from both sides, and that is regrettable because there is no better army in the world.
My right hon. Friend spoke about setting a term for the removal of the British Army from Northern Ireland, and I think that that must be done. We want to get back to proper, civilian democratic government. There is no doubt that at the moment the Army is the instrument of government, as seen by many people in Northern Ireland, and the sooner we can get away from that and get back to a civilian administration in its entirety the better it will be for the people there.
I praise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his Front Bench colleagues for their patience in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend has shown 1419 tremendous integrity, hard work and service to the extent that few others, if any, could have shown, but he knows that I disagree with what the Government have done, and my position today is no different from what it was about a year ago.
The constitutional proposals in the White Paper are an unfortunate compromise which panders to the unconstitutional aspirations of a section of the minority community in Northern Ireland which seeks, by violence and other detestable means, to drive the British Government to surrender an integral part of the United Kingdom and to cede it to the Republic of Ireland.
The political stability of Northern Ireland has been severely undermined not only by the actions of the party opposite when in power but also by the actions of the present Government since we have been in power. This was exacerbated 12 months ago by the prorogation of Stormont and, I believe, further weakened by the proposals we are debating today.
My right hon. and hon. Friends never gave the parliamentary reforms which were being brought in by the Unionist Government at Stormont a chance to work. Instead they abolished a democratically elected Parliament which, despite a number of shortcomings which I quite willingly concede, had acted as a safety valve for the expression of opinions by all the people in Northern Ireland. Since direct rule we have heard that the number of explosions has increased, the number of killings has increased and incidents of violence have increased quite dramatically. By removing the local democratic assembly, direct rule has put politics on to the street and the majority law-abiding community has been driven to believe that it must now rely on its own resources for its defence.
No one negotiated with the Provisional IRA before that fatal March of 1972, there was no Vanguard before March 1972, there was no UDA before March 1972 and no UVF before March 1972. and the British Army was not caught between the crossfire of two communities.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the hon. Member tell the House who proscribed the UVF? Was it not William Craig, and 1420 was it not the first organisation to be proscribed?
§ Mr. Winterton
It was not active on any noticeable or effective scale. I think that deals with that intervention.
When he opened the debate, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister doubted the loyalty of some of those who call themselves Loyalists in Ulster today. He took exception to that insinuation because Northern Ireland and her people were priceless assets to us in the battle of the North Atlantic in the last war, while Southern Ireland was a sanctuary for hostile submarines. If not entirely sold on the bestiality of Adolph Hitler and his regime, they were not noticeably hostile to it. Who are our friends, the Loyalists of Ulster or the Republicans whose aspirations are fed by the abolition of Stormont. proportional representation and the opportunity to abuse power sharing which forms an important part of the White Paper? I shall not be a party to letting down our proven friends in the Six Counties because, whether my hon. Friends like to admit it or not this is precisely the feeling held by very many people in Ulster today and it is reflected daily in the heavy mail which I get from Ulster.
§ Mr. Cormack
Does the hon. Member think that this inflammatory nonsense is calculated to help the situation? Does he suggest that all who fought loyally in the last war were Protestants?
§ Mr. Winterton
No, they certainly were not, but I believe that people in Northern Ireland look to this House to support them at this time. I stand up to show that I support them in times of trial and great problems. They stood by the United Kingdom.
Perhaps there are some people— possibly the great majority of those in this House—who will look to the White Paper as the answer to the desperate problems of Northern Ireland. Some people in Ulster are so bruised and battered by violence and devastation that they will snatch at any straw because they are almost past caring. I will not go along with that opinion but I consider that the proposals which we are considering could and should form the basis of negotiations. Some of these proposals as they stand require clarification. Perhaps we will get this clarification before the end of the 1421 debate tomorrow night. Some of the other proposals are unworkable.
Let me deal with one or two points. How will the Executive be chosen? The success of the Assembly, which will be a very important part of the proposals, depends upon agreement being reached by the elected members of the Assembly and the Secretary of State. This is surely a crucial issue and we are not at present exactly sure what the position is to be.
My second point is about power sharing. How can it work, when—this is obviously hypothetical at this stage— a small minority in the Assembly could refuse to work in the Assembly in the context of the United Kingdom?
Thirdly, a number of my hon. Friends have raised the question of the Governorship of Northern Ireland. I believe that the Governorship should remain, and I hope that my right hon. Friend can find a way of achieving this, because it is a positive link with the Crown and a positive symbol of sovereignty for the majority of the people of the Province. I have great respect for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State but he would not be a satisfactory replacement for the Governor. Wales has the Prince of Wales and Scotland has a number of Royal residences at which Her Majesty stays on a number of occasions during the year. The people of Ulster need to have a Governor.
§ Mr. McNamara
They have Terry O'Neill.
§ Mr. Winterton
If these proposals are accepted, the elections must be held as soon as possible—preferably before the local government elections, which should be postponed. This view was reflected by hon. Members on the Opposition side.
The proposals relating to the Council of Ireland can be successful only if Eire recognises the sovereignty of the Parliament at Westminster and the authority of Ulster's regional parliament. An All-Ireland Council must not involve interference by either part in the internal domestic affairs of the other. It should merely concern itself, particularly initially, with matters of mutual interest on the basis of absolute equality. If this council were formed, 1422 it would be breaking new ground and perhaps the two parts of Ireland could begin to work together, although as separate entities.
My right hon. Friends have, I regret to say, opposed any increase in Ulster representation in this House. If even a marginal increase had been proposed, the White Paper as a whole would have been much more palatable to many more people. If there were an increase in representation, the activties of the Secretary of State would then be scrutinised by more than 12 hon. Members, who are very much overworked.
§ Mr. Winterton
I am pleased to pass that credit to Ulster Members on both sides of the House.
I wish finally to refer to internal security. If we are serious about devolution of power, internal security should be the responsibility of the Assembly in Northern Ireland. The police should be the responsibility, perhaps, of a committee of the Assembly with local watch committees, as suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone. These watch committees would be composed of local government elected representatives. This would ensure representation from all communities. They could not then be open to the trendy accusation of being biased towards the establishment.
It is not for me as an English Member of Parliament to harangue the citizens of Ulster as to the merits or demerits of the White Paper, but what I can say, as I said a little earlier, is that I can assure the people of Ulster that their case is heard in this House and that there are some people in this House who are sympathetic to their cause. I have expressed in my short address tonight my concern about the White Paper. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland themselves and their elected representatives to decide whether the proposals in my right hon. Friend's White Paper give the opportunity for peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland, not just in the short term but in the long term as well, which is surely the objective on which we should set our sights.
§ 9.1 p.m.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I am moved to intervene at this stage mainly by the last two speeches. I think that they were completely unnecessary at this stage of the debate. I am not talking only about the debate here this evening. I am talking of the debate which has lasted, certainly in this Chamber, for nearly three years. For those of us who have attended most of the debate it has been a continuous process, and some of us have not only tried to follow it right the way through but in between times we have also visited, as often as we could at least, the people who are directly concerned in Northern Ireland. We have discussed the problems with people in this country and wherever else discussion has been necessary to try to maintain some kind of continuity of the debate. I see this White Paper as part of a debate which has lasted some three and a half years.
I see the last two contributions as an attempt, perhaps not a deliberate attempt, at lifting this part of the debate out of context and as taking it by itself, and those speeches, which might have been relevant six months ago or nine months ago, are certainly not helpful at this stage. Those of us who have been continually in the process of the debate during the last three years or so, and assuming that we understand all that has gone before, ought now to be starting with the White Paper. I do not think it is necessary to go back over too much of the ground, or to score party points, at which some attempt has been made in the debate tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) knows I have a great deal of respect for his views, and I respect his integrity and I know how deeply and sincerely he feels about the views that he has expressed tonight, but I find them certainly not practical. They may well be attractive, but they are not practical. They may be premature, but they are certainly not in the context of this part of the debate which has gone on for about three years. What he is saying is a very popular point of view, I suppose. One might get a majority in the country if one took the same sort of line of argument about capital punishment. What my hon. Friend is saying is 1424 virtually "Let us pull out and let them at it."
There is a contradiction in what my hon. Friend says. He says he does not feel very proud of Britain's record in that part of the United Kingdom, and I am sure that many of us share that sentiment; but, having said that, if we are ashamed of our part in that area of the United Kingdom, have we not now a responsibility to admit the errors we have made, to say that it is up to us to leave it in such a condition that it can be put right, and not to walk away and leave it?
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I am sure my hon. Friend does not want to misrepresent what I said. I went out of my way specifically to say that it would be wrong —and I gave reasons why it would be wrong—to withdraw the British Army at this stage. Let me just remind him that the whole structure of my argument is based upon the fact that we are being asked to repeat the follies of the past by re-enacting a so-called guarantee that there is a majority in Northern Ireland which can determine the future of Northern Ireland and of Great Britain.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful for that intervention because I agree basically with my hon. Friend's sentiment about paragraph 32, although for different reasons.
Whether or not my hon. Friend likes it—this is what he was saying—we cannot now say that we ought to have a referendum, some kind of plebiscite in this part of the United Kingdom, to determine what shall be the borders. In present circumstances, one could almost be assured, in the state of the world as it exists and concerning parts in which British soldiers have been involved, of a majority which would say "We can lop off that part and let them get on with it." We would be committing the North and the South to civil war. That is not a responsible attitude.
I am not saying that, in the event of the White Paper and whatever ensues from it failing, we might not reach the position my hon. Friend has mentioned. But he is being at least premature and certainly out of context with the discussion as it has taken place over the past two or three years.
1425 I give the White Paper a reserved welcome. I do not want to be euphoric about it. My views are well known. I do not see any permanent, ultimate solution outside the reunification of the 32 counties in Ireland; but I do not see that as an overnight or an immediate solution. If I had any doubt about it, the recent election in Eire—I followed the campaign closely—backs up the point of view that there is no demand for immediate reunification. There is a desire for ultimate reunification and a desire to work with the northern part of the country towards that situation.
It would be churlish of me to oppose the White Paper. It contains many of the things for which I have been arguing in the Chamber for almost three years. I was supporting a "bill of rights" when both sides of this Chamber and of another place rejected it, mainly because it contained a proposal for proportional representation. I tried last year to introduce a Bill on just that point—proportional representation. I did not get much support.
Now that the Government have accepted at least the basic principles of PR without reservation, although I still have criticisms of the charter in the White Paper and shall say so at the appropriate time, and, having abolished the oath— something else that I have argued about —they ought to go the whole hog and abolish it for the new Assembly, for it is not a sovereign body but only like a county council, and members of the Camden Borough Council and Mid-Bucks Council do not take the oath—
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William van Straubenzee)
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman on a point of fact? If he studies the White Paper, he will see that the oath has been abolished.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful for that information. I did not get the impression that it had been totally abolished. I thought that something would be substituted for different parts of the Assembly or the Executive. If the Government are saying that it is abolished completely, I am even happier.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
In fact, as I understand it—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) is trying loyally to make his speech within his time limitation. I hope that interruptions will be reduced to the minimum.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
I shall be brief. As I understand the White Paper, the only people required to take an oath will be the members of the Executive, and they will have to take an oath, even if they are Republican in sympathy, as to their allegiance to the guarantee that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Stallard
I shall not follow up my hon. Friend's point on that matter.
I believe that it will be a cleverly drafted Bill, and the Secretary of State and his Ministers are to be congratulated. It is almost as though they have said: "We will set out to produce something that displeases everybody, and that way maybe we have a chance of getting it right." If that was their thinking they have succeeded. It could be described as a kind of curate's egg of a Bill. Someone has said it is like redecorating a house that ought to have been demolished years ago. There are many other such comments that will be made about it. But, whatever we think about it at this stage, the alternative is too terrible to contemplate, and for that reason I give it a reserved welcome.
In reading the White Paper I was struck by what appears to be a number of concessions in principle. These worry me, and they will certainly worry those in the minority in the Six Counties who will want to know what they are being let in for. One of the biggest disappointments in the White Paper is the reference to Diplock and to the continuation of internment, albeit under a different name. Call it detention, but it will be interpreted by the minority population as continuation of internment. I say categorically that whatever form it takes, I shall be consistent in opposing the continuation of internment or any form of imprisonment without trial in the Six Counties.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State admitted in a broadcast recently that he had made mistakes. That was a courageous statement. We have all made mistakes over the past few years. We have all taken up attitudes we wished 1427 later we had never taken up, and some things are better left not said. I believe that one of his biggest mistakes was his failure to grasp the opportunity to end internment and to release the internees. Such opportunities have been presented on a number of occasions in the past few years, particularly after "Operation Motorman". I have opposed the Secretary of State on this, and if he carries on as suggested in the White Paper I give notice that I will continue to oppose him.
The White Paper does not go into enough detail about policing. I will not develop that theme because my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) made an excellent contribution and particularly mentioned the difficulty of policing. He spoke from first-hand experience, and I could follow every detail although I am not from the Six Counties, but I am conversant with the situation from speaking to thousands of people who live there and I was thus able to follow his reasoning and understand the position.
Perhaps the aim should be to develop the London "bobby" concept in the new policing arrangements, and that could be a target towards which to work. That may be an unfortunate choice of phrase to talk about a target in the context of the Six Counties, but if that, or something like it, could be the aim it might be in the right direction.
I am delighted about proportional representation but I am concerned as to how it will operate in the Assembly. Even with proportional representation I have no doubt that there will be a Unionist majority. If decisions in the Assembly are taken on a straight vote, we shall be back again to where we were before. Although the minority will have representatives in the Assembly, the minority will have no power. If we are serious about power sharing in the Assembly we must consider the voting pattern of the Assembly.
I am disappointed in the part of the White Paper that deals with the economic programme. There is insufficient urgentcy. My hon. Friend the Member for Wands-worth, Central (Mr. Thomas Cox) asked searching questions about unemployment in the Six Counties, and the figures given to him show that there is still massive unemployment in the deprived areas. 1428 Insufficient attention has been paid in the White Paper and elsewhere to this immediate problem.
I ask the Secretary of State to give further thought to a suggestion I made last year for a crash programme on training and economic aid to the deprived areas. A tremendous amount of rebuilding will have to be done for which craftsmen will be needed. Should not we now be preparing the people who will take on this positive and creative construction? Should not we be thinking about funnelling economic aid into the deprived areas at the same time as we train the craftsmen to do the jobs of the future?
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
I can tell the hon. Member for St. Pan-eras, North (Mr. Stallard) that the industrial training programme in Northern Ireland is far better than that in any other part of the United Kingdom. That is one of the many matters of which we in Ulster can be proud.
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) introduced into the debate a note of realism. Until she made her speech the debate sounded like an Oxbridge Union debate. The hon. Lady spoke about the reality of the situation envisaged in the new Assembly. It was an education to me to see the look of disbelief on the faces of right hon. and hon. Members on the two Front Benches when she spoke. The hon. Lady is right. The Assembly is merely a consultative assembly—the very idea that the White Paper rejects. That is simply one of the contradictions in the White Paper.
According to the Government's proposals, if the democratically elected members of the Assembly behave themselves, as good boys or girls they will from time to time be granted more devolved power, but the Secretary of State will become and remain supreme as the combined Governor, Commander-in-Chief and political Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley rose—
§ Mr. Kilfedder
As my time is extremely limited, I cannot give way to my hon. Friend, much as I should like to do so.
The Prime Minister quoted figures of the financial assistance given to Northern 1429 Ireland by the Government. I accept that the Government are being generous, but it must be remembered that money is needed to rebuild industries and homes that have been destroyed by the IRA and to pay compensation to people who have been bereaved and mutilated. I join the Prime Minister in praising the young soldiers who, gallantly and with restraint, are helping to preserve law and order. Whether it is a Protestant, a Roman Catholic, a Nationalist or a Loyalist who breaks the law, I want to see law preserved. And nobody can point a ringer at the Unionist Party because we have always advocated the restoration of law and order.
The Prime Minister referred with some pride to his relations with Mr. Lynch when he was Prime Minister of the Repubiic. But what happened to the famous telegram which the Prime Minister sent to Mr. Lynch telling him to mind his own business, that Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and that he had no right to intervene? Times have changed and this Government's policies have changed from time to time. I looked for the 1970 Conservative manifesto to find out what was then said about Northern Ireland. I recollect that various Conservative Ministers over the years have visited Northern Ireland and praised the Stormont Government for the work they were doing in Northern Ireland.
I should like to pay tribute to the civil servants who drafted the White Paper. The eloquence of its language is surpassed only by the deviousness of its intentions. I accept that it may contain some good ideas, but the Government pride themselves on pursuing a biparti-sian policy in Northern Ireland. This is a euphemistic way of explaining what they are really doing—that is, adopting Labour Party policy on Northern Ireland. Indeed, the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that the principles expounded by the Labour Party form the basis of the White Paper, and that is the policy which is presented to the people of Northern Ireland.
In ordinary times the White Paper would be rejected out of hand, but the Secretary of State is banking on the war-weariness of the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland. After four years of 1430 a cruel IRA terrorist campaign, he believes that they have been softened up to accept virtually any terms. The Prime Minister said that he had seen compelling evidence that the vast majority in Northern Ireland want the proposals to work.
A famous author from Ireland, Dean Swift, said about an earlier imposition of the Westminster Government two centuries ago, when the spirits of the Irish people were at a low ebb:When Esau came fainting from the field at the point of death, it is no wonder that he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.Swift was talking then about theaccursed coin of Wood's halfpence foisted on the Irish people.He might easily have been describing the hoped-for reaction to the White Paper. The White Paper, however, is the product of four years of Irish Republicanism and Republican terrorism. The document is a surrender to the IRA which has murdered, mutilated and destroyed throughout the length and breadth of Northern Ireland. The IRA has achieved one of its aims, namely, the abolition of the Stormont Parliament. This has happened despite assurances that have been given by some of my right hon. Friends in past years.
We are now urged to accept the White Paper. We are told that if we do not do so we shall be branded as irresponsible. We are warned that the British public are tired of the conflict in Northern Ireland and that they want the Army to withdraw and to leave it to the two sides to fight it out amongst themselves. Even yet it is not realised that the struggle in Northern Ireland is a struggle between a conspiracy to overthrow lawful authority and the forces of law and order. Two years ago the then Home Secretary said that we were at war with the IRA. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster said in her speech today that there was an equality of lawlessness in Northern Ireland. I admit that there is some Protestant retaliation, which I strongly condemn, but it is minimal when compared with the cataract of violence mounted by the IRA. Only the inborn sense of the discipline of law-abiding people of Ulster has prevented a civil war, a war which for the past four years the IRA has been endeavouring to stimulate.
1431 Our reply to the IRA atrocities has not been violence. Our answer has been to placate the strident demands of the Republican minority. We have made changes of the most fundamental kind. Local government has been radically altered and, in my opinion, altered for the worse. A Community Relations Ministry was established, an Ombudsman was appointed to investigate complaints and a great deal more besides was done which I have not time to enumerate.
What has the peaceful majority been given in return? There has been no co-operation or reconciliation. Instead there has been a mounting crescendo of new demands, increasing lawlessness and a catalogue of murder, assassination and explosion. Let us consider what Ulster has suffered. Let us look at the realities. Let us bear in mind that this is not an Oxbridge debating society. In proportion to the population of England and Wales, 30,000 people have been killed and 360,000 have been injured, while compensation for damage would amount to £2,000 million. Would the Government last one day if such a situation applied in this part of the United Kingdom?
After four years of communal torture, what do the Government now offer to the Ulster people, who have shown restraint and forbearance? The Government blandly state that they regard as their first priority the defeat of the terrorists. But what have the Government been doing since 1968? Have they not been searching out and destroying IRA gunmen with the utmost vigour, or have they been keeping a low profile?
The White Paper makes great play of democracy for Northern Ireland, yet on the crucial question of representation what has it to say? Despite reduced powers for the new Assembly—I know that there is to be an improvement to the financial position of the Stormont Assembly—the number of Ulster Members is not to be increased to its fair share of 20 Members in this House. It is hypocritical of the Government to talk about democracy and to deny proper representation for Ulster in this House.
The White Paper tells us that the Assembly is not to have power to make any law of a discriminatory kind. The offensive implication is that the Stormont Parliament passed such laws.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I do not want to hear that noise from the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). He can make his speech tomorrow and provide facts and figures if he cares to do so. The 1920 Act expressly forbade any act being passed by the Ulster Parliament that was discriminatory and therefore could be challenged in the courts as ultra vires. I challenge the Secretary of State to give the House the name of any law which discriminates against any section of the population of Ulster.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
We hear mention of the Flags and Emblems Act, but that measure was used only when a flag was waved to provoke disorder. Surely that is an Act with which we would all agree.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The Secretary of State has had control of Ulster's affairs for over a year. If he has found any law of a discriminatory kind, no doubt he will tell us about it.
After four years of outrage, aided by the Dublin Government, we are expected to take part in a conference with the Republic of Eire. That conference has clearly two aims. First, it aims to initiate the formation of the Council of Ireland, in which the Ulster majority will be in a permanently subordinate position. Secondly, it aims to change the political status of Northern Ireland. The Prime Minister admitted that the constitutional proposals will not exclude any subject which can be discussed or exclude any who wish to take part. Whatever the constitutional Bill may say about Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom, the proposed conference can sabotage the union by changing the status of Ulster.
What need is there for a Council of Ireland, quite apart from appeasing the Republicans like the hon. Member for Belfast, West and the IRA, Provisional or Official? We have had co-operation in the past between civil servants in Dublin and Belfast. As for the hoped-for co-operation against terrorism, there should be no need to buy the assistance of an allegedly friendly neighbour and fellow member of the EEC.
1433 As British subjects, with the same sovereign Parliament and the same Queen, we demand British standards for all our people in Northern Ireland, Protestant and Roman Catholic, Unionist and Nationalist. Is that an unreasonable demand to make? Surely we are entitled to ask that we should be treated no differently from our fellow citizens in Great Britain. That is why, in company with my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) I put down the amendment which, I regret, has not been selected.
If proportional representation and the power sharing are regarded as the panacea for the supposed democratic ills of Northern Ireland, are they not also appropriate for the multi-racial communities of our large cities in Great Britain? The Tories and the Socialists do not want proportional representation in Great Britain because of their fear that it would allow the emergence of a third party—in other words, that it would allow the Liberals to have more representation in this House.
If the White Paper and the constitutional Bill to follow are not to be a charade like the mummers at an Irish fair, they must recognise the political reality that the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland are not now and never have been involved in terrorism or the civil rights movement. The Ulster people want to live in harmony with their neighbours and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Province and also to the prosperity of the United Kingdom, to which we are all proud to belong.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
In the very few momemts available to me, I want to mention two points in the White Paper. I shall vote for it but that does not mean that I have no reservations about it in addition to those I propose to mention now. The two are, I think, important.
The first relates to paragraph 56(b) of the White Paper. This says that for legislative purposes… law and order, including the criminal law, the courts, penal institutions and the estab-ment and organisation of the policeare reserved matters. That is, they are not excepted matters which the Assembly 1434 may not in any circumstances legislate for. The Assembly may legislate for those very matters of security which everybody in this House, irrespective of his views, regards as immensely important. But it may only do so with the agreement of Her Majesty's Government.
It seems to mean that the most important legislative matters in relation to Northern Ireland can be dealt with either in this place or in the Northern Ireland Assembly purely at the discretion of Her Majesty's Government, but with no ability on the part of this House to agree with Her Majesty's Government or not. That, in my view, is something that we shall have to look at closely when the Bill comes before us because I do not believe that it is simply and solely a matter for Her Majesty's Government to decide as distinct from these two assemblies. I have no objection to the Assembly or to this House legislating in certain circumstances, but it is a matter that this House must always discuss in such circumstances. It is too important an issue.
Secondly, I get rather incensed when anybody talks about the importance of the Assembly. I agree about its importance, and every single Member who has spoken, whatever his reservations about the White Paper, wants to see the Assembly elected, and elected quickly. I am grateful for the response of the Prime Minister to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). Even the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) said she hoped that Sinn Fein would be allowed to participate in the Assembly elections, which implies that she, too, wants the Assembly to be elected. Yet nobody that I have heard during this debate has mentioned the method of election by single transferable vote. Everybody says it is proportional representation. But let us consider the recent elections by STV in the Irish Republic.
Fianna Fail, the Government party: its percentage of the vote went up, but it lost the election. It even gained a greater percentage of seats than its increased percentage of the votes, but it still lost the election. Fine Gael and Labour in 1969 together had more than half the votes: there was a Fianna Fail Government as a result of that election.
1435 Now Fine Gael and the Labour Party have fewer votes than they had in 1969 as a percentage of the electorate, but they have more than half the Dail and are the Government.
I hope that after a set of results such as that people will be a little chary of using the words "proportional representation" in relation to the STV system.
I know that is related to a situation in which the number of seats per constituency was three or four. I should like to correct the absent right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), the Leader of the Liberal Party, who, when I suggested this earlier in an intervention to his speech, said that I was wrong and that he knew I was wrong because he is the Vice-Chairman of the Electoral Reform Society. I went out and checked, and out of 42 constituencies in the Irish Republic 40 have either three or four members. I suggest that that is an example of the well-known arrogance of the right hon. Gentleman, and that the Electoral Reform Society should keep in closer touch with its vice-chairman, or possibly change him.
The important point, more important than the right hon. Gentleman's inaccurate attacks on his colleagues, is that for this particular Assembly it is of the utmost importance that the precise views of the various parties in Northern Ireland be reflected as accurately as possible. Personally, I beg the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State opposite, whom I am glad to see is here for the winding up of this debate, to consider this with some care. It would be quite simple even at this relatively late stage to have a list system, which is a simple system of election which accurately reflects opinion even down to about 1 per cent. of the vote. This is very important because even with the constituencies in Northern Ireland that we are going to have, with more members than in the Republic, it will still be necessary to get 12½ per cent. of the votes in a constituency to get a single seat. It is very possible that the small violent minorities will not get such a percentage and, therefore, will not get a single seat, if they are allowed to stand for election. It is very possible that small minorities, such as those Catholics who believe in the Union, as it were, may not get a single 1436 seat. Yet these are important minorities, important, although small, groups.
In Southern Ireland STV does not produce a total reflection of opinion but a three-party system, where one party has about half the votes, one party has about two-thirds of the remainder, and the last little fraction is the Labour Party. It is a three-party system primarily. I beg the right hon. Gentleman not to have a system such as STV, which increases the power of individual personalities, which is not necessarily a good thing; which is destructive of parties, which is not necessarily a good thing; and which, above all, does not necessarily reflect opinion as well as a list system.
The right hon. Gentleman may recall that the countries in Europe most divided by religion, the Netherlands and Belgium, are countries that have a list system—for that very reason. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, instead of adopting the STV system, as I imagine, from the Republic of Ireland—even if after the first Assembly is elected they wish to decide on a single transferable vote system, which would be a different matter—for this first Assembly it is of the utmost importance that the exact views of the electors be ascertained so that the Assembly cannot be challenged by anyone on the ground that it does not reflect the electorate.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)
Although this debate will continue tomorrow, a wide number of points have already been made and it might be useful if, in the remaining minutes this evening, I gather together some of those points and in particular if I talk about what might be called the economic and employment dimension of the Government's proposals for the future of Northern Ireland. These were mentioned briefly by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at the beginning of the debate and have been touched on by hon. Members. The House is perhaps owed an elaboration of the parts of the White Paper dealing with this aspect.
It has been suggested outside the House and by hon. Members today that economic and reconstruction aspects do not receive the proper prominence which they should in the proposals. I do not 1437 accept this, because the parts in the White Paper, mainly around paragraph 83 onwards, may be brief but the undertakings, particularly those in paragraph 86, are substantial and important. They should not be minimised. I shall develop that point in a moment.
I should like first to say a word on the mechanisms and financial arrangements outlined in paragraph 83(a)(b)(c). For the foreseeable future Northern Ireland will need financial assistance in excess of its tax revenue. This means that the overall total of public expenditure will have to be acceptable to the Government and Parliament at Westminster. Within this total it is the intention that the Northern Ireland Assembly shall exercise as large a measure of freedom as possible in determining its expending priorities.
Broadly speaking it is planned to bring that about by dividing expenditure into two categories. The first will contain services which require consultation and agreement with the United Kingdom Government. These will include things such as cash social services, agricultural support and industrial assistance which will have to operate within the restraints imposed by overall United Kingdom policy. The second category will cover those services over which the Northern Ireland Assembly will be able to exercise a high degree of freedom and discretion. These will include things such as education, health, housing, trade and environmental services.
§ Mr. McMaster
How will the restraints be exercised if there is a majority vote in the new Assembly to do something which is contrary? Are there any powers to allow the Secretary of State to countermand such a majority vote?
§ Mr. Howell
I have said that the categories will have to be worked out. Things such as industrial assistance would be governed by overall considerations of the other regions as is the case now. Things such as agricultural support levels will be governed by overall agricultural policy. There will have to be a certain amount of give and take. The details and the divisions and the way in which arrangements will be operated will be discussed with the new institutions when they have been formed.
1438 The Northern Ireland Assembly will have power only to raise local taxes such as rates and licence fees. Experience of the working of the arrangements embodied in the 1920 Act has shown that transferred taxation has little meaning because in practice there has been very little scope for variation in the rates of transferred taxes. For that reason it has been decided to recognise the reality of the situation and, with the exception of rates and licence fees, to leave taxation to Westminster.
It would be possible to depart altogether from the concept of Northern Ireland revenue and to abandon any attempt to attribute to Northern Ireland a yield of taxation levied there, but this could be misleading. Northern Ireland will continue to produce a yearly budget, and I believe that a false impression would be given if account were not taken of revenue received from its citizens.
It is proposed that the system of attribution of revenue should be continued, the amount attributed being paid out of the United Kingdom Consolidated Fund into that of Northern Ireland. The arrangements under which transfers are made for national insurance, industrial injuries and redundancies will continue. As Northern Ireland revenue will need to be supplemented by a sum to be voted annually by Parliament there is clearly no need for abody to arbitrate on the method or amount of attribution. Therefore, it is proposed that the Joint Exchequer Board which used to carry out the task should be abolished.
Those briefly, are the outlines of the actual mechanics of the financial arrangements proposed. I believe that they are straightforward and realistic. The details will be the subject of discussion with the Assembly.
Having talked about the mechanics, I should like to say something about the major aims of economic and social policy for which these financial arrangements are the means. First, I come back again to paragraph 86 of the White Paper in which the Government state their broad objectives, which are worth repeating because they are substantial:to accomplish as rapidly as possible, once violence has ended, the task of physical reconstruction and rehabilitation created by the disorders of recent years;1439to create a sound base for the economy and to encourage external industrial investment;to work progressively towards the achievement in Northern Ireland of those standards of living, employment and social conditions which prevail in Great Britain.No one pretends—I certainly do not— that the attainment of those aims will be easy but I believe that they reflect the wishes of a majority of Northern Ireland citizens, and it is the firm intention of the Government to support their realisation. In doing so we start from a position which many outside observers might think would be almost impossible. Indeed, if one were to judge from the average publicity and the reporting of what has been going on in Northern Ireland over past years, one would think that the situation was almost beyond hope. But the fact of the matter, which is beginning to be realised in the outside world, is that the economic situation in Northern Ireland is not half as discouraging as it might be.
Obviously, the whole pattern of politics in Northern Ireland is elaborately, and sometimes I must confess perplexingly, bound up with the pattern of economic development. Obviously there are severe and unusual economic problems, which I do not for a moment minimise. To take the obvious example, many people in the minority sector of the community believe, though whether or not they are justified in believing it is another argument, that in the past the system has been unfairly weighted against them, not merely in terms of political power but in terms of jobs and opportunities.
The White Paper in paragraph 27 makes the general point thatIn any part of the world an inadequate social environment breeds boredom, aimless-ness, alienation from society, vandalism and even violence.The high level of unemployment in Belfast and provincial towns, which I accept as a fact, has been a factor in the violence and instability of recent years. That is one sense in which politics and economics come together where we are dealing with the economic situation.
There is another sense, more tragic and even more direct. For four years now, as hon. Members have reminded us, terrorists have been hacking at the economic 1440 fabric of Northern Ireland. Their objective, in some cases declared, has been to terrify into submission those who do not share their views. It has also been to force people over here, with each successive atrocity or explosion, towards thinking that no progress is in sight or to be expected and that the only answer is to leave the Irish to their own devices. We have heard two examples of that.
It has been a specific terrorist objective to bring the economy of Northern Ireland to a halt. Destruction and disruption have been a familiar theme. People have said that the terrorists have proclaimed that all this must be done in order to clear a way for the different style of life which is their aim but not the aim of the vast majority.
I do not claim—it would be absurd to do so—that the terrorists have not made any impact. In addition to the appalling death and injury, the full monetary measure of damage to industry, commerce and housing will not be known for some lime yet. But I doubt whether it is less than £50 million.
The indirect effects may also have been very serious. There has been some effect on the willingness of new firms to move to Ulster, though not as great as I had previously imagined. But there has been some effect, and there have been fears expressed that violence may prevent orders being fulfilled. Northern Ireland businessmen have had to incur additional costs on security measures, and a few firms have had difficulty in getting night shifts going, especially in Belfast, and, obviously, the violence has been a general brake on the creation of new jobs.
I do not minimise the impact. But it is worth remembering that the overall objective of terrorism to destroy the fabric of the Northern Ireland economy has been totally frustrated. Ulster today is still very much in business. Since the middle of 1969 only 12 small firms which employed in all about 700 people have closed down completely as a result of physical damage. During the same period new jobs have been promoted at the rate of about 7,000 a year, and the Ministry of Commerce has negotiated new projects with 180 firms in Ulster, more than 30 of them new firms.
These facts and statistics may seem remote when looked at from the terrorist 1441 situation. But they underline an encouraging situation. From mid-1969 to the end of 1972 production rose by 13 per cent. for all industries and by 15 per cent. for manufacturing. Those are rates which quite a number of other countries will envy. More important has been the relative freedom from industrial disputes. In this connection I agree with those who say that no praise is too high for the statesmanship and wisdom of the trade unions and the trade union leadership in Northern Ireland. They have been an oasis of wisdom and sanity in an appallingly difficult situation.
I do not think that there is any doubt that the Northern Ireland economy will weather the worst that terrorism can do from wherever it comes. There remain severe problems. There is the general problem in Northern Ireland as a depressed area of Britain with difficulties similar to those of other regions. There are the additional complexities on which I have touched. There is the high unemployment rate of 67 per cent. overall and going far higher than that in certain areas, with 11.2 per cent. in Londonderry and 15.2 per cent. in Newry.
On top of that there is the complication of which my right hon. and hon. Friends and I are always acutely aware that in practically every economic and administrative decision we are dealing with two different dimensions. There is the dimension of employment, of improving the job situation and improving social policy. There is the dimension of the two main groups in the community and of distribution between them.
To take an example which has involved us very closely, it is not enough to provide new employment in Belfast as a whole. The plain fact is that with very large parts of the Roman Catholic and Protestant populations living in self-contained communities employment has to be seen to be available to both sides in a city in which mobility and the readiness to travel about have understandably been much reduced. As the White Paper says, we have to aim at a more even distribution of economic activity to meet that aspect of policy.
With some political settlement, with a return to peace, this should go a long way to breaking down economic barriers. But again the fact has to be faced that if we 1442 were to get full peace and harmony tomorrow we should still have to recognise that large numbers of people in Northern Ireland will take a long time to become ready again to travel more than a very short distance to work. This creates especially difficult problems.
We also need to see Northern Ireland development in the regional context which the European Economic Community offers. I have no doubt that we need to look at the opportunities which are offered for constructive North-South co-operation on a variety of issues. My right hon. Friend mentioned some of them this afternoon. These are the possibiliites from which both sides would benefit—there is no doubt about that—but, like everything else, they have to be governed and driven forward by consent. They cannot be imposed on people who do not want to carry forward economic programmes between North and South.
Those are some of the special features which face us in Northern Ireland and make the problem of economic and social development acutely complicated. We have to make good the physical damage. We have to balance between the divisions of Northern Ireland society. We have to work, and we are working, within the overall strategic framework of the Northern Ireland Development Plan and we have at times to use a variety of what are somewhat unorthodox instruments and agencies, including our Northern Ireland Finance Corporation, the local enterprise development unit and a wide variety of other services tailored to particular needs of the area. In spite of setbacks in the number of jobs promoted and houses built, the development programme is for the most part on target, especially on the social side.
The provision of jobs under what we call the Urban and Rural Development Campaign is going according to plan. Young men are being brought to career employment. They are being enabled to carry out work which gives them pride in their community. This may be a risky and general observation to make but, as one drives around both the cities and the countryside, it seems that as a result of these programmes Ulster is in some areas beginning to look a tidier and better place with a better environment. Those are some of the steps that we have been 1443 taking, and I thought it right that the House should know about them at this stage in the debate.
I have emphasised the economic aspects of the problem that we face. Although the White Paper puts our response and plans briefly, let there be no doubt that its words are the headlines for a major programme for reconstruction. But we have to get these things into perspective. I am not claiming—and no one would claim—that the most vigorous programme of economic reconstruction will work miracles on the political and security scene. It cannot be claimed that higher prosperity will in some magical way overcome terrorism. There is obviously a hard core of naked terrorism which knows no concern whatever for jobs and living standards, whether they be of Catholics or of Protestants.
One feels that acutely when one sees the deliberate destruction against training schools and places of work where jobs which existed yesterday are destroyed today for no logical, visible purpose. The idea that terror can be tackled in its hardest and worst form by economic measures is not a relevant and realistic one.
1444 Despite all that, for the tens of thousands of people who may sometimes be frightened and sometimes intimidated, but who basically long for a normal life, a return to reason and to politics, the chance of a good job and a decent home makes a difference to the view they take of the future. Their determination to reject violent men and violent methods of economic and social advance is not everything, but in the whirlpool of Northern Ireland it has an important stabilising rô1e to play; and the pledges in the White Paper are central to the reconstruction and development of Northern Ireland and are what Northern Ireland wants and needs.
Together with the continuing assault on terror and criminality and the constant efforts to recreate politics, these proposals on the economic side are part of the overall aim of the Government and of our overall strategy, which is to bring Northern Ireland step by step to a better future of peace, stability and prosperity. That is what we are about, and that is what we are determined to do.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Hawkins.]
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.