HC Deb 15 November 1973 vol 864 cc644-6
4. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about the constitutional position in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Whitelaw

The constitutional position of Northern Ireland is that set out in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will my right hon. Friend take careful heed of what is said in the Kilbrandon Report about representation here of Northern Ireland? Will he realise that some of us think that Kilbrandon underestimates the proper representation here? May we in this House have available the proceedings of the Northern Ireland Assembly?

Mr. Whitelaw

Obviously, discussions about the Kilbrandon Report are continuing and it would be wrong for me to anticipate discussions inside the Government and in the House. I will look into my hon. Friend's suggestion that the proceedings of the Northern Ireland Assembly should be available in this House.

Mr. Fitt

With regard to the constitutional position in Northern Ireland as it stands, and with particular reference to the action which the Secretary of State had to take on Monday morning following the unconstitutional activities over the weekend by Unionist extremist forces, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that, within hours of his banning those two illegal organisations, a statement was issued by them declaring their intention to continue with unconstitutional activities—with bombings and killings—and to give their full political support to the political parties which are led by Mr. Craig and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), and that as yet Mr. Craig and the hon. Member have not dissociated themselves from these organisations?

Mr. Whitelaw

I note what the hon. Gentleman said in his first point and I can only lay emphasis and further stress on my remarks about unconstitutional action. It would be wrong for me to seek to interpret statements which may have been made either by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) or, indeed, by Mr. Craig. They must make their own statements, but I trust that they will completely dissociate themselves from violence and unconstitutional methods—and do so unequivocally, if I may say so.

Mr. Kilfedder

Does not my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is completely wrong and dangerous for the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to suggest that these are Unionist groups? They have nothing to do with the Unionist Party. Does my right hon. Friend also accept that the people of Northern Ireland have the right, as the people of Great Britain have the right whether they be on the Labour or the Conservative side of this House, to push the Government to follow policies which they believe right? Is my right hon. Friend aware that we in Northern Ireland feel that the constitutional proposals are not in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Whitelaw

I think I dealt with my hon. Friend's point in a previous answer. I said that it was perfectly proper for anyone in any democratic society to oppose the actions of any Government by constitutional means. No one can doubt that. It is equally not right for people to oppose Parliament and Government by unconstitutional or violent means. The important point is that that distinction should not be blurred in any way.

I never suggested, and I do not think that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) suggested, that these people were Unionists. He referred to organisations which I found necessary to pro- scibe on Monday. I stand by my decision to proscribe them and I make clear that I did so because I believed—indeed, I had more than reason to believe—that one of the organisations concerned was responsible for the bombings. Indeed, one of the organisations subsequently came out with an admission that it was responsible for the bombings, so my action was justified on its own admission.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Is it not important, whatever mix-up there might be about who supports whom, that anyone who is a democrat, who stands for election, should say not just to the IRA but to the UFF and other oganisations that they are wrong? Does not the right hon. Gentleman also agree that some hon. Members in this House who have been elected ought to stand up and be counted? I have here a document from the UFF which says we give our 100 per cent. support to … the Democratic Unionist Party and the Loyalist Coalition and that it is responsible for bombings. Should not someone say "We do not want support from the likes of you"?

Mr. Whitelaw

I can only say that I hope that action on the hon. Gentleman's suggestion will be taken by those concerned.