HC Deb 14 June 1976 vol 913 cc37-100

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Frank R. White.]

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

This debate arises from the growing anxiety on the Conservative Benches and in other parts of the House about security policy in Northern Ireland. The Government should be under no illusion as to its depth and feeling. Despite the deaths of 1,546 people in the past seven years, no hope is yet offered of any new and decisive measures. Although the number of arrests of terrorists has been increasing, the Government appear to us to be marking time and drifting towards even greater violence if they cannot restore the authority of the law in Northern Ireland. We cannot afford the present world-weary and negative attitude in official circles. New thinking, it seems, is not being encouraged. Its absence is another reason for this debate, as it leads to a sense of despair among the people on the mainland as well.

That is not to say that the House lacks sympathy for the Secretary of state in his very difficulty task, which it has shown in the past to his predecessors. We on this side of the House agree with him on a great many matters, but an Opposition have a duty to put forward constructive alternatives, and the Government in this emergency should give them proper thought and consideration. The Opposition lack the technical information in an emergency such as this to put forward specific plans on security. I think it would be agreed that we ought, as Members of this House, to advance those in outline which we consider to be responsible.

During the past few months we have increasingly criticised the lack of coordination of the security forces. It seems to us that no one is clearly in charge. The Secretary of State must make it quite clear that he is the civil power in Northern Ireland. The security forces in Northern Ireland are his ultimate responsibility. It would not be fair, when Ministers are questioned in the House about security operations, to say "It is not my problem but that of the Army or the police." The Secretary of State has the ultimate responsibility. He is the civil power.

The Government's policy towards guerrilla warfare which we face seems to involve a half-hearted containing operation. We think that the Government should go over to the offensive and declare war against terrorism. In the past few months, their comments have shown little sense of urgency. The Government still support the extraordinary fiction of a provisional ceasefire and yet claim that this does not hamper or affect the rôle of the security forces. The two are just not compatible. Everyone knows that the Army regards itself as being on a low profile at present. We feel that the present security position is deteriorating as a result of a lack of firm political leadership. The Army, the UDR and the police, who have borne the burden of the past seven years, deserve no less, and we are not criticising them.

A week ago, on 7th June, the Secretary of State was directly challenged in this House on the delay in reaching conclusions through the Ministerial Committee on Law and Order which he appointed six months ago in January. He replied that this body was concerned with the long term and that there was no magic solution or panacea. The House knows that already. That answer also gave rise to the present debate. Everyone knows that in the short term, from day to day and from hour to hour, the greatest anxiety of the people of Northern Ireland is for life and limb. One person on average is killed every day. One hundred and fifty-five people have been killed this year alone, of whom 31 were members of the security forces.

The right hon. Gentleman kindly asked political parties, including our own, to contribute our ideas on security to that committee. We have not sent a written memorandum, but we have made a number of suggestions to him over a period of several months and I set out several points in a letter to the Secretary of State dated 21st May. When I met the Secretary of State with my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 19th May, I drew attention to the need for greater flexibility in reacting to terrorist raids on the border. I said that an anti-terrorist force—I have since called it a border force—should be formed under the GOC from Regular soldiers integrated with selected men from the UDR and the RUC to provide local information.

I should like to expand a little on that idea. This would be a highly mobile force, specially trained, because it is necessary for the Army to be more adaptable in its ability to hit back at skilled marksmen. We are dealing, in the border zone especially, with hardened guerrillas, not the wretched hooligans who machinegun people at bus stops, and they will never be beaten unless the specialist nature of the operation is understood fully.

There would be no purpose in creating such a force unless there was a border zone where all movement was much more strictly controlled. Identity cards and movement passes should be in force in that zone, and a narrow strip on either side of the border should be the subject of joint control by British and Irish security forces, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend) has often suggested.

I know that this is an intricate subject, and the difficulties of doing this jointly are constantly argued. But that is not the way to win a war. Every reasonable plan must be examined carefully. I have informally made known my views in various quarters, because a cross-border security zone offers at least some hope of stopping the influx and exit of gunmen.

The way of the advocate on these frustrating problems is indeed a stony one. Today's Daily Telegraph agrees that such a plan would be excellent if it could be established. It says: The total defeat of the IRA might well be brought in sight". But in the same paragraph it says that the proposal was foredoomed. It says: The data should not be changed". The data are changing all the time. This is one of the proposals that should be considered, because close border co-operation is one of the secrets to the solution of this problem.

None the less, nothing should be done to discourage the Government from setting up an anti-terrorist border force on the Northern Ireland side and entering into further discussions with the Republic. I hope, therefore, that the Government will take some positive action on this. It is high time they did, and not only on the border.

Months ago many of my hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) suggested that the contribution of the UDR could be increased by full-time units working closely with the Army. These part-time soldiers risk their lives daily and show great devotion. Could the Secretary of State tell us what he is doing—not in the future, but now—about that proposition? This was put to him last autumn, if not before, and it has been very much in our minds during conversations with him.

The Secretary of State told us on a number of occasions on his plans for the primacy of the police. No doubt they have received a check from the wanton murders of policemen and women which have shocked the United Kingdom in recent weeks. The terrorists, unfortunately, still possess the operational strength to make many more such attacks if action is not taken. What, therefore, is the right hon. Gentleman doing, not in the long term but now, to see that, now they are in the front line, the police can protect themselves? Recently, we were told by a Minister of State during Questions that they had the arms that they needed if they asked for them. This is not exactly inspiring.

We hoped, at the suggestion of the Secretary of State, to talk to the Chief Constable about this. We were not suggesting a paramilitary force. We were suggesting that while the violence lasted the RUC should be armed with modern rifles and should receive anti-terrorist training like the Metropolitan Police.

The RUC has a splendid record which is often mentioned in this House. We hope that leaders of the Catholic community will urge people of their faith to join up and to support the police. As I have said more than once, unofficial action outside the police force would serve only to create further danger and would handicap the security forces in their main anti-terrorist operations.

All the security forces are in need of stronger legal powers to catch the godfathers of terrorism, some of whom walk about the streets scot-free. When the Government are questioned about this, as they have often been recently, they say that they do not wish to tinker with the criminal law as it applies to the whole United Kingdom. After seven years of destruction and terror, however, the special conditions in Northern Ireland have to be recognised by stiffer penalties for the deliberate organisation of murder.

As a party, we have proposed a new offence of terrorism, following the Gardiner Report. This would apply to the whole of the United Kingdom, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) suggested in the debate on 25th March. What action is the right hon. Gentleman taking on this, and when is he taking it?

There will not be even a temporary peace in Northern Ireland until the Government declare war on these sordid and cowardly murderers. How can they do this while they are conducting clandestine meetings with their leaders? How can they possibly achieve the confidence among the population of Northern Ireland which is urgently required?

Last Monday, the Secretary of State said in reply to me: I am engaged, quite correctly, in testing the views in the community of Northern Ireland. In the penumbra of Northern Ireland, where large numbers of people are Republicans, it is valuable for me to do so, but I am not in business to negotiate with murderers on either side."—[Official Report, 7th June 1976; Vol. 912, c. 929.] We can accept what the right hon. Gentleman said in the last part of that answer, but what exactly is he trying to convey to the House? Will he explain whether the talks have saved innocent lives?

The men we are discussing treat murder as a way of life. They are not going to give up violence while British officials are prepared to chat to them over drinks. There may be no negotiations, but inevitably there are rumours of a deal. Talking to representatives of the gunmen undermines the position of hon. Members from Northern Ireland in this House and of other elected representatives.

We are well aware of the pressure put on the right hon. Gentleman to stop these talks by Ministers in Dublin. We believe that such talks create a sense of despair and defeatism. They weaken the authority of the Government and encourage more terrorism. If the right hon. Gentleman continues them, with warnings from all sides, he must bear a terrible responsibility for the future.

We want clear answers from the Secretary of State to our suggestions this afternoon. Nothing which might help to restore confidence should be lightly dismissed by curt official answers. We agree with many things that the Government do in relation to Northern Ireland, but we must speak our minds and say quite bluntly that in the present security situation nothing which might restore confidence should be passed over. Too much is at stake. By the end of the year there will be more experienced terrorists out of prison and on the streets. We shall watch with some apprehension what the Government decide to do, because if they do not act the Army will have to remain for many more years and there will be no constitutional progress in Northern Ireland.

4.15 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

What I should like to do this afternoon, in response to this debate, is to share my thinking with the House on the current security situation and what can be done about it. The theme of Government planning is the rule of law. I would like to describe what working towards the rule of law means for the security forces. I should also like to say something about the work of the Ministerial Committee on Law and Order, which I have mentioned before to the House, and to talk about co-operation with the Republic.

I shall be talking about this very shortly when we debate the renewal Order for the emergency provisions. At the same time it is likely that we shall be debating the renewal of the Northern Ireland Act 1974. As this gives me two opportunities to talk about security, I shall be able to concentrate on political matters in the later debate. We must not forget, of course, that the security and political considerations cannot be divorced—their relationship is not as simple as is sometimes thought. It is not my view that those who are involved in violence would stop it if there were a political solution.

As I explained in the White Paper of July 1974 and again in my letter to the Chairman of the Constitutional Convention of 14th January this year, which was published as a White Paper, our aim is to see a devolved Government in Northern Ireland acceptable to both communities there. As I said in my letter to the chairman in January this year, Experience in recent years has made it plain that no system of government within Northern Ireland will be stable or effective unless both parts of the community acquiesce in that system, and are willing to work to support it. It is in these terms that we have to view the security situation.

There is no doubt that we do not get full support for the security arrangements from a sizeable portion of those who are living in Northern Ireland. This is not something which can be achieved overnight, as we must remember that we are not operating in England, Scotland or Wales, or even in Great Britain as a whole.

The problem in Ulster is not the classical colonial problem that has faced this country in recent years. The security problem there is both urban and rural. It is a situation in which small groups of criminals wax and wane with the degree of support and assistance they get from the communities from which they come. When a community feels threatened, frightened and at risk, it will succour its violent men, giving them a standing they would not otherwise have. But we cannot ignore all the strength of folklore and history combined in Ireland which is ever present and which we on this side of the water find difficult to comprehend.

What we are dealing with in fact is not a single problem at all but a skein of interconnected problems, compounded out of fear: the basic division of the community, malicious misinterpretation, remembrance of past injustices, intimidation, the criminal legacy of seven years of violence, the poisoning of community relations, vandalism, and the alienation of youth. It is especially the problem of youth and youth involvement which will concern us in Northern Ireland for many years to come.

Furthermore, we are dealing with a changing situation. The overall pattern has changed. There is less of a planned campaign, less civil rights violence with mass confrontation on the streets. Much of the violence is still orchestrated and directed, but we see more examples of unco-ordinated operations and individual criminal activity. This is something that the security forces have to take into account.

Some of the violence is the same kind as we have seen for the last seven years—the killing of those who make mixed marriages, the murder of those who live on sectarian interfaces and who are the accessible victims of retaliatory murder, the blowing up of pubs whose customers are usually members of one community or the other and, of course, para-military killing of para-military.

The House will recall that 1976 began with a wave of sectarian violence in County Armagh. Five Catholics were killed, and this was followed by the murder of 10 industrial workers, taken out of their bus and shot down when returning from work. It was a result of action by the Government and mainly the security forces that the sectarian violence in the area was significantly reduced. But, as hon. Members have rightly emphasised, violence has since continued at a high level in other areas and under other guises.

The Provisional IRA has engaged in a campaign of cold-blooded murder against members of the security forces, particularly against the RUC and the UDR. So far this year, 15 members of the RUC, five members of the Army and seven members of the UDR have been killed. Why is this? They are shooting members of the security forces and particularly policemen because of the growing success of the RUC in securing convictions before the courts. We have also had, in recent months, attacks on members of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.

One-hundred and twenty-nine civilians have died in terrorist violence this year. This includes not only members of paramilitary organisations but ordinary civilian members of the population. Those who provide the community with essential services, especially those whose work recognises no sectarian boundaries, are among the most frequent targets for cowardly attack. Those who wish to get on with their work in peace or to provide, in the face of mounting economic difficulties, employment to others see their premises bombed or gutted by fire.

The pattern of retaliatory killings was repeated over the weekend of 5th–6th June when sectarian attacks took place resulting in 11 people being killed and a substantial number injured in a series of shootings and bombings without warning on civilian targets, mainly in Belfast. Intensive activity by the security forces in all affected areas was taken to limit the outbreaks of violence and led to a number of arrests. Without this decisive action, the casualties could have been much higher. It is perhaps no coincidence that last weekend there were more mortar and other attacks on the Army in Belfast, fortunately ineffective.

Those are the facts of the violence. Now I turn to the response by the security forces. Against this background, I shall give the House the simple facts of the security forces' achievement. The figures would have to be multiplied by 30 to give a comparable figure for this side of the water.

This year, up to the end of May, 497 people have been charged with serious terrorist-type offences, including 47 for murder, 38 for attempted murder, 142 for firearms offences and 93 for explosives offences. And up to the end of May 402 people were convicted of serious offences, 31 of them for murder. Some 1,300 persons convicted and serving prison sentences in Northern Ireland are serving more than four years; this represents two-thirds of the prison population. One hundred and sixty-one persons are serving life sentences. So far this year, 26,265 lb. of explosives has been recovered or neutralised, compared with 22,724 lb. for the whole of 1975.

This is the nature of the violence in Northern Ireland. It is a variety of types, it has a variety of causes. There is no simple solution to this type of violence. There is no ingenious mechanism or sudden new initiative that will make the problem disappear overnight. If there had been a simple solution, successive Governments and their security advisers would have found it.

As there is no simple answer, we must be prepared for a long haul. During this period there is one fundamental key to advance, and that is through the rule of law. In the long run, the rule of law means enforcing the recognised law of the land in the recognised courts. To work towards the rule of law is the only way to proceed which offers the prospect of a long-term solution to the security situation.

We have already taken steps in this direction. No interim custody orders have been made since February 1975. When internment was introduced in 1971, with 1,400 people detained, apparently it was said glibly that it would all be over in three weeks. However, the violence escalated to far greater proportions. That was the effect of a proposal by the Parliament of Northern Ireland which was not within the rule of law as it is understood in these islands. That swift initiative, which made everyone feel so grand, did not succeed. I have found other examples in Northern Ireland where something is done which is pleasing and sounds good in the House of Commons but ignores what Ireland is all about. There is no swift answer or swift initiative.

I am glad to say that the last detainee was released in December 1975 and that special category status has been abolished for all crimes committed after 1st March 1976. As much as I supported that idea from the Opposition Benches at the time, I now believe that the introduction of special category status to give political status to men and women of this kind was a great mistake.

I mentioned earlier the myths that lend support to para-military activities in Northern Ireland. But all those to whom I speak in the minority community tell me that the biggest step in reducing this support in the past year has been the ending of detention. At the same time, the ending of special category status has been recognised as a significant contribution in restoring the rule of law.

Let me deal now with the rôle of the Army in the context of the rule of law. The Army is not on a low profile. It is working hard for the greater part of every day, sometimes 18 hours per day per soldier. When there is increasing activity for two or three days, there is often what amounts to over-stretch. The Army is not showing a low profile.

The Army continues to do a vital job in Ulster under the leadership of the General Officer Commanding Sir David House. It will remain in Northern Ireland as long as it is required. Province-wide, it still has a vital rôle in providing an essential framework of security within which the police can operate, and it must be on hand to cope with situations which are beyond the capacity of the police to control. Its presence is also necessary in those areas where the police cannot operate alone. It is not the case that the police have not operated in these areas only for the past seven years. There are many areas where the police have not operated for the whole of the 50 years of existence of the Province. This is not a new situation. Given the existing level and pattern of violence, the continued presence of Regular forces in substantial numbers in support of the police is clearly essential at the present time and in the foreseeable future in Northern Ireland.

The Army is at present employed in the Province in the same strength as throughout 1975. It has been alleged both by individuals and in the Press that 1,375 have left the Province this year. That is wrong and is simply not true. There has been no reduction in the number of soldiers in the Province. The Spearhead Reserve, as the House was informed at the time, returned in May to its normal rôle of emergency reserve after four months in Northern Ireland. Soldiers constituting that reserve can be recalled if required. Meanwhile, the level of forces in and around the South Armagh area has remained unchanged from the level of January this year. The SAS remains deployed there. A high level of activity will continue to be maintained in all areas where the threat of violence and intimidation is acute.

This means that the GOC, who is overall Director of Operations, is responsible for the detailed deployment of all his forces, including the UDR, and for the overall co-ordination of security force operations. Of course I have overall responsibility, but this is a point upon which I feel extremely strongly. It is not the job of politicians to interfere in the deployment of forces in the Province. My security advisers have the necessary knowledge for this task and they must be allowed to do what is required.

There will be normal troop changes as units go to and from the Province as part of the ordinary roulement arrangements. Some people misrepresent these changes. Every time a platoon of soldiers moves from one area to another, or gets on an aeroplane to return to Germany, we hear allegations of "pull-out of troops" or "sinister military moves". This would be laughable anywhere but in Northern Ireland, where the rumours are believed in inverse proportion to their foundation in fact.

Mr. Neave

Two points arise out of what the Secretary of State has said. First, at what point was the Army's profile raised? Until recently the Army was certainly under the impression that it was on a low profile. Secondly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, whatever else is the position, he is responsible for getting results from the security forces?

Mr. Rees

I am prepared to accept the responsibility for what happens, whether that is good or bad. I say, however, that the deployment of the soldiers and their use must be a matter for the GOC and his officers. There have been complaints in the past of interference by politicians. They have never arisen from my actions, because I do not approve of that.

The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) asks about the Army's low profile. Last year there was a ceasefire. I did not describe it as a ceasefire. Those were the words used by the Provisional IRA. The hon. Member will see from the number of people arrested at that time that there was no low profile. However, I stopped the twice-weekly search of every house in Derry and in certain other areas, but, if the security forces want to go to a house to question someone because they have evidence or because they are reaching a point of taking a matter to the courts, they do not have to ask my permission. I did not order a low profile.

Many people in Northern Ireland regard a high profile as putting the Army right round the green areas, going in and "fixing them" and seeing that the whole thing is cleared up by the weekend. The hon. Member for Abingdon does not say that, but that is the sort of action that some people believe will take us back to the times before 1968–69 when there was no violence to speak of. I do not interfere with the profile of the security forces. They respond to the level of violence which obtains in the Province.

It is sometimes argued that greater effectiveness could be achieved if all the security forces operated under the direct command of a supremo security director. Full co-ordination of operations is, as I have said, already assured by the responsibility of the GOC as Director of Operations. The level of co-operation between the Army and police is of a very high order. The fact is that the rôles of the police and the Army are complementary, but they are different. In my view, that was the mistake which was made in the early days of the campaign. One cannot turn a police force into an army and one cannot turn an army into a police force. Their functions are complementary but they are different.

When we got towards the end of detention, I began asking myself why the Army was sent there in the first instance. Why did the people think that the Army went there in 1969? It was to separate the communities.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

That is what they thought.

Mr. Rees

Exactly, The hon. Member for Antrim, South uses a phrase that extends the argument I am putting. That was not the situation two, three or four years later. It is not the situation seven years later. Nobody clearly thought out in the first instance why the Army went there. I believe that an investigation could and should take months, because I did not want a quick, simple answer. I wonder who, in 1972, had the nice quick answer of putting men in a barracks and having aircraft engine noise in order to get information from them. I wonder what depth of thought was given to that. I warrant it was a swift thing done overnight to get an initiative, but I believe that initiatives of that kind do not face up to the facts of the problem in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

My right hon. Friend will recollect that when he and I were sitting on this side of the House in 1969 some of us had the gravest doubts, and there was nobody who imagined, that the Army would be there for seven years. Few of us thought that it would be there for more than six months.

Mr. Rees

Whatever people thought, I say to my hon. Friend that it illustrates why I thought that a long, hard look at this and at the long-term trends of violence was necessary.

Now I turn to the police and the crucial problem of securing the greater effectiveness of the police in enforcing the law of the land. This is what the rule of law ultimately depends upon. This is the long-term problem that has been the main concern of the ministerial committee that was set up at the beginning of the year. This committee has been working for four to five months. I make no apologies for that. Indeed, the committee would not be much use if it had produced a quick report in a couple of months. Irish history is full of examples of quick responses and superficial proposals that have set off policy in disastrously wrong directions. My ministerial colleagues and I have been determined to avoid this kind of mistake and to take a long, hard look at what is involved in achieving the rule of law in the long term.

However, the work of the committee and the studies that have been carried out by our advisers have already begun to inform practical thinking and change action on the ground. The Chief Constable of the RUC has already set in hand a significant reorganisation both in RUC headquarters and in the field. The immediate purpose of this reorganisation is to enable all the available resources of the force to be focused towards the paramount objective of the detection of criminals, particularly terrorists, and the obtaining of evidence which can be used in the courts to bring those responsible to justice.

Three aspects of this policy are now being implemented. The first feature of the new organisation is the creation of three regional crime squads which are already being formed. They will be closely co-ordinated with the Army. These regional crime squads are based on relative Great Britain experience. They will use the latest and best-equipped vehicles and communications equipment. They will add technical strength and muscle to the human resources—the men and women—of the RUC. They will cover the whole Province, corresponding to the North, South and Belfast areas, equating broadly with the existing Army brigade organisation.

Secondly, special emphasis will be laid on units, both centrally at headquarters and in support of each of the three regional crime squads, to collate resources and intelligence to gain convictions. With regard to that second aspect, with my knowledge of the evidence given me when I personally signed away 400 people, I regard that as one of the most important developments that the Chief Constable is taking.

Thirdly, there is the extension and more purposive use of specialised units dealing with forensic and similar technical work. I recollect, in the course of violence coming from one particular side of the community, that I was informed that a single weapon could shoot 20 people and that forensic evidence is what was required to tease out the sort of information on which a conviction could be founded. Forensic changes and similar technical work is part of this third point that the Chief Constable is doing at this very moment. The reorganisation of policing, led by the Chief Constable, is being vigorously pursued, and its end product will be evidence that can be used in the courts. This means getting information of a high quality that will stand up in court.

With regard to changes in the law, I wish to make only one observation today. That is, that there is no point in making changes in the law unless the police can obtain evidence to substantiate charges under the law. Changes in the law may look good, but if they are unenforceable they are not worth a row of beans. I must make it clear once more that no kind of para-military rôle is envisaged for the police in this reorganisation. There can be no question of putting the clock back. We look to the future.

In the years following 1969, the RUC received a good deal of criticism. The RUC today is a different force. Approximately two-thirds of its members have joined in the past five years. I want to pay tribute today to the courage and professional competence of the men and women of the RUC. They are not a paramilitary force—they are a civilian police force in the finest tradition. Neither the Police Federation nor any other organisation wants the RUC to become a paramilitary force. I want to make the police more efficient. That means giving them more support on the ground, like the police forces in the rest of the country, particularly the Metropolitan Police. That is the line in which they are moving.

RUC morale is today, in spite of the risks of the work, as high as it has ever been. The force is increasingly being recognised for what it is and must be—a truly impartial force. Yet we all know that its acceptance is not yet complete. There are areas in Northern Ireland today where a full police service cannot be provided. Nevertheless, it is only by the increasing acceptance and effectiveness of the RUC that the rule of law can become a reality.

I very much agreed with the right hon. Member for Down. South (Mr. Powell) when he pointed out in this House on 7th June that any action, however well-intentioned and however understandable, by private persons or groups of persons, could contribute nothing to security and could only endanger it. As he said, it is only the security forces of the Crown which in the long run can prove to all concerned that there will be no practical result from vigilante groups or other misplaced private security initiatives.

I should also like to commend the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who said in a recent radio programme—during last weekend, at the height of those very difficult two days—that the numbers of troops were less important than the question of people's attitudes. It is by recognising these true facts of the situation and in supporting the security forces that hope for the future resides. I take this opportunity to pay personal tribute to the contribution made towards achieving these aims by the retiring Chief Constable, Sir Jamie Flanagan. Sir Jamie was justly proud of the progress made by the RUC in recent years. He laid the foundations on which I am confident that his successor, Mr. Newman, will continue to develop the impartial and professional force that the Province already has and deserves to have.

Mr. Neave

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the RUC—we agree with all he said about its not being a para-military force or acting as soldiers—will he answer my question about giving armed protection to the RUC when it is in the front line?

Mr. Rees

With regard to arms, the Chief Constable is putting to the Police Authority—the Government supplies the money—the need for better weapons in the border areas and weapons of a different style to facilitate quick removal from a vehicle. These are being provided and we are also considering—again, it is in preparation for ordering— a weapon which can meet conditions in the border area better than the weapons used at present. This is a border situation where I am advised that these are required.

I have already mentioned the ministerial committee and the way in which its work is already informing action on the ground. The committee has almost completed its work, and I hope to say more about its conclusions shortly in the debate to which I referred earlier. I shall say more about the ministerial committee's conclusions in future. I had in mind at one stage the publication of a White Paper about the committee's work, but I have decided against that since I am anxious not to reveal operational and other details which could be advantageous to those who wish to destroy peace. The more I look at the early reports of the committee, the more it seems to me that there is in them what would be only to the advantage of paramilitary forces and is best not published.

However, what I can say now is that the committee has been concerned to analyse the nature of the foreseeable threat to law and order, to specify the measures and forces that will be required now, in the medium term and in the long term, in order to deal with the threat and to achieve the rule of law, and to show how successful action will depend upon interdependence and co-operation between the police, the Army and locally recruited forces. The report is long-term.

What I have said so far about the Army and the police therefore represents the initial stages in the application of the ministerial committee's ideas, which of their nature must be long-term. As far as locally recruited forces are concerned, I can say that we have decided, on the strong advice of my advisers, against the introduction of a Regular battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but certain aspects of that issue are best left to the report of the committee in a few weeks' time.

The UDR, like the police, is not yet fully accepted everywhere in Northern Ireland. For example, it is not accepted by many people in the Social Democratic and Labour Party. That is a fact of life. It is not what I want it to be, and not necessarily what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West wants it to be, but it is the situation. But I should like to pay tribute to the bravery and self-sacrifice of its members and to make clear that it has a vital and developing rôle now and in the future.

The UDR will remain a regiment of the British Army. It was set up in 1969 to support the Regular forces in Northern Ireland in protecting the border and the State against armed attack and sabotage, and it plays a valuable part in that latter rôle. It is its continuing rôle. It offers scope for men and women who have a good knowledge of their local areas to make a positive contribution, based on that knowledge, to the achievement of the rule of law. It will continue to provide an essential service to the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

The right hon. Gentleman used the expression "acceptability" about the RUC and the UDR. Is he saying that the local community is not prepared to accept the fact of these two bodies, or that history is against the acceptance of them?

Mr. Rees

Certainly, the mythology, folklore and sometimes the facts of history are against it. That is a major part of the situation. I am informed by those who are operating in the streets that they are getting far more help from people in the green areas, but we have not yet achieved acceptability in that people will openly come to them in the sense of the term "acceptability".

The interdependence and co-operation of the security forces on which I have laid stress is the key to the future. It is misleading—I mention this because it would not happen here, but it happens in Northern Ireland—to abstract and misdescribe particular elements of the developing programme, to coin such slogans as "Army withdrawal", "employment of soldiers by police" or "Ulsterisation of security". The value of the Government's approach lies in the combination and interdependence of the various elements of the security forces.

However, interdependence does not mean integration. It would be wrong—I must keep saying this because the point is not understood in Northern Ireland—to establish the police as a paramilitary force, for the police to conduct military style operations or for the police and the Army to merge in whole or in part.

I turn now to the proposal which has been made for a joint Regular Army-UDR-RUC force with special training and responsibility for combined anti-terrorist operations in border areas. On the advice of my security advisers, I do not share this view. Full co-operation and coordination of operations is fully assured by the existing arrangements. I under stand that the Government of the Republic have made a response to what the hon. Member for Abingdon has said—I have a copy of it here if he would like to see it—from which it seems that, from what they have heard of the suggestion so far, they do not think much of it either.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

Is it not the case that when my right hon. Friend visited the Republic and had discussions with the Dublin Government they fully supported the stand which has been taken by the British Government? Is it not also true that over the past 48 hours the Irish Government have denied the interpretation which has been put on a meeting they had recently with the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), stating that his version was completely in conflict with what he was told by the Irish Government?

Mr. Rees

I think that that must be a matter for the hon. Member for Abingdon. All I have seen in this respect is a Press report.

I have spoken so far of the measures we are taking and propose to take in Northern Ireland, but they cannot be viewed in isolation from those of the Government of the Republic of Ireland. We continue to attach the highest importance to achieving active co-operation across the border in a wide variety of security matters with the authorities in the Republic. There has been a steady advance since the discussion I had with Ministers of the Republic at Baldonnel in 1974. I may add that I regard that meeting as one which stimulated a great deal of what has happened since. My latest talks were on 28th and 29th May, when I visited Dublin and reviewed, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Justice of the Republic, a number of areas in which this co-operation has been developing. Co-operation between the RUC and the Garda is developing steadily.

This co-operation is important in two ways: first, to ensure that the efforts of our respective security forces complement and reinforce each other, and, secondly, to ensure that incidents involving the legitimate activities of the security forces on either side of the border against terrorism do not cause friction between us. My exchanges with the Ministers in Dublin were, of course, confidential, but I can say that the programme of co-operation covers all the vital practical issues, such as communications, control of explosives, exchange of information and joint planning.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether he had any discussions in Dublin about the return of the two prisoners who escaped across the border from the maze Prison? Are they to be returned soon?

Mr. Rees

I did not get myself involved in any matters which were sub judice under the law in the Republic. We discussed the practical issues which have been ongoing and which go on from day to day between ministerial meetings.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

There is one point about co-operation with the Irish Government that I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman. I was in Dublin only yesterday. One of the biggest stumbling blocks to greater co-operation between the British and Irish Governments is the continuance, whether the right hon. Gentleman likes it or not, of talks between his officials and representatives of illegal organisations in the North. They are wholly condemned in the Republic.

Mr. Rees

I think that we must get this point clear. My officials do not talk with members of illegal organisations in the North. They never have done. The hon. Gentleman has put his finger on the point at issue. They do not negotiate or talk in the sense of Panmunjom and the rest. They do not take place nearly as often as people tend to believe. [Interruption.] There may be occasions when it may be necessary, and that is the position I take.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

I think that the right hon. Gentleman is inadvertently leaving the House in some confusion. He said that meetings between his officials and members of illegal organisations did not take place and then that they did not take place nearly as often as some people believed.

Mr. Rees

I meant the ones which do take place and have taken place with members of organisations which are not illegal, but they have not taken place as often as thought.

Mr. Powell

The difficulty—it is one which we all share—is that the distinction between legality and illegality which distinguishes the Provisional IRA from the Provisional Sinn Fein is to a large extent unreal. Everyone knows that a communication with the Provisional Sinn Fein is the equivalent of a communication with the Provisional IRA. I agree that legality is a matter of importance in certain contexts, but it is part of the anxiety which is felt that the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand the tension that is created by these contacts with the Provisional Sinn Fein.

Mr. Rees

I think that I do understand. But in terms of Ireland—the point was that there was concern about some talks which may be taking place—these bodies, which I am saying are legal, are legal in the South as well and stand for election. In terms of Ireland as a whole, while I fully accept what was being said about an overlap, there are organisations which are legal. Indeed, on the Protestant side, the UDA is a legal organisation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

It is not right.

Mr. Rees

It may not be right, but large numbers of politicians in the North associate with it from day to day. At the time of the Ulster workers' strike, they did that whilst still Members of this House. All I am seeking to prove is that the point about legality or otherwise is not as simple as is sometimes understood this side of the water.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is possible for a man to belong both to the Provisional IRA and to Sinn Fein and, in addition, that it is well known that the two bodies have broadly the same objectives and are in communication with each other?

Mr. Rees

The link between what is called the Irish Republican Army and the political wing, Sinn Fein, must be true. The right hon. and learned Gentleman tells me that it is well known for people to belong to both organisations. If they are in the North and if this is so well known that he can prove it and will let me have the information, I will pass it on to the police, because it is an illegal act for which they can be brought before the courts. It may be thought that it is well known, but it cannot be well known, otherwise the police would have acted. A number of people tell me that certain men are associating with or belong to illegal organisations, but nobody gives me the evidence on which the police can work. I simply tell the House that it may prove to be necessary, whatever happened in the past, and if it is necessary to do that with organisations which are not illegal, it would be my duty to do so.

Finally, I should like to refer to the arrangements which came into force on 1st June 1976 under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act 1975 and provide for co-operation between the two Governments to ensure that terrorists cannot escape the consequences of the law by removing themselves into the neighbouring jurisdiction. Terrorists can now be tried in the courts of the one jurisdiction for certain crimes in the other. The RUC, the Garda and the legal authorities concerned are in regular contact to ensure that all the practical arrangements are ready to enable these procedures to work effectively. In all these areas it remains the Government's intention to work for the most effective understanding and practical co-operation between ourselves and the Republic. We share the same aims. If the terrorists were ever to achieve their aims in the North, the outlook for the South would be bleak.

The achievement of peace in the North through the rule of law will take time. Violence will not disappear overnight. The terrorist faces a bleak future. He cannot win. The Government will never surrender their obligations and responsibilities.

4.54 p.m.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

The Secretary of State, quite near the beginning of his speech, said something that has often been said from the Dispatch Box, regardless of who happens to be speaking, to the effect that no solution can be lasting and stable in Northern Ireland unless there is agreement. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that that search for wider agreement has often deflected and distracted us from what should be the task of winning the war against the terrorists.

There are various political reasons for the existence of the United Ulster Unionists as a separate party in Parliament, but there are also reasons that fall within the scope of this debate on Northern Ireland security. Whatever the Government and whatever the personalities, we on the United Ulster Unionist Bench feel that on occasions we have seen and heard it all before. There is no doubt in my mind that this mood—almost of resignation—stems from what is generally known as the bipartisan policy. Whatever that may mean in Parliament, if it means anything, it is certainly something that the average citizen in Northern Ireland totally fails to understand.

In 1968 and 1969 the Labour Government certainly misread the situation. They failed to understand and identify the forces then at work. It is no good saying that the Provisional IRA came into existence at a later stage in reaction to certain other things. Whatever the position may have been at that time, the manipulators who are manipulating the situation to this day were in existence in 1968.

As a result of the Government's failure to understand, they took the incomprehensible step of breaking up and destroying the internal security forces of Northern Ireland. That was about as sensible as abolishing a fire brigade in the belief that its existence encouraged acts of arson.

To be fair, the Labour Government did not walk alone. The bipartisan policy ensured that measures, over which they might then have hesitated, were embarked upon with gay abandon. As the Secretary of State remarked, he has wondered since whether the people who took the decisions at that time really understood that they were committing the Army to a task from which it might be difficult, if not impossible, to extricate it.

I recall that my predecessor, in a speech in this House, asked the question: did Her Majesty's Government at that time understand the task, and how long a task it would be, to which they were committing the Army? We on this Bench derive some satisfaction from the fact that the pendulum has now swung the other way, but this House should never be permitted to forget that the concession in those early years to the No. 1 objective in the little red book of the international terrorist—to destroy the internal security forces of the State—encouraged the terrorists and made the task of the security forces so much more difficult.

The No. 2 terrorist objective of undermining and destroying the Government was carried out by a different firm of demolition experts—the Conservative Government of 1970/74—for the destruction of Stormont was perhaps the greatest triumph that the terrorists could have hoped to achieve.

When the then Prime Minister was asked what was the object of the exercise, he said "We have done this to end the violence and to bring the two communities together." "End the violence indeed. One might ask how many innocent lives have been sacrificed in that process. It was that act of lunacy which not surprisingly, convinced the IRA that it had been given so much that it would soon be given all.

Again, I must be fair. My clear impression is that the Labour Opposition would not have engaged in such a foolish act as to destroy the established Parliament in Stormont with no clear idea of what was to be put in its place. The Labour Opposition did not join the few of us—my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was one of the few, other than the Ulster Members—who tramped through the Lobby on various occasions to point out some of the consequences of that act. The blessed bipartisan policy again came to the rescue of the Government of the day.

At a later stage, as if the lesson had not already been learned, the then Secretary of State met the IRA in face-to-face talks. We made our opposition known at that time, so that at any rate we on this Bench are entitled to tell the present Secretary of State that even the talks that have taken place between his officials and that other nebulous body—the Provisional Sinn Fein, the Provisional IRA or a combination of both—are highly dangerous and should stop. They cannot in any circumstances be justified. We feel—the Secretary of State may agree with us—that whatever limited intelligence advantages may be gained are far outweighed by the enormous political disadvantages.

Towards the end of that same Parliament both parties connived at the imposition upon Northern Ireland of a form of government that would never have been tolerated in any other part of the Kingdom. The crowning folly was Sunningdale, which the SDLP—represented here by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—was frank enough to admit established the machinery for transferring Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic. We were grateful to him and his party for that warning.

The then Secretary of State, who is not present today, said about the Sunningdale Agreement that if people took the trouble to read it they would not become confused and would not misunderstand it. The people in Northern Ireland can read. It was precisely because they read it that they saw what was involved. They saw what was intended and what was planned to be their fate, for they rejected Sunningdale.

It is no good saying, as the Secretary of State seemed to imply today, that that was why the people were involved in the Ulster workers' strike. The verdict on Sunningdale was given in February 1974 by the electorate of Northern Ireland. Whatever minor local difficulties the House might have been engaged in about the future of the trade union movement, in Northern Ireland that election was fought on the Sunningdale Agreement. It so happened that 11 out of 12 of those who opposed Sunningdale were returned to the House. The message was clear, the writing was on the wall. Both Front Benches at that time should have recognised the message. They should have acted upon that assessment. Had they done so, the Ulster workers' strike, with all its consequences, would never have taken place.

Is it any wonder that terrorist morale remained at such a high level for so many years? On the other side of the coin, is it surprising that the Northern Ireland citizen might have come to the point of wondering whether he was on the losing side when he saw his wishes ignored and the objectives of the terrorists granted on so many occasions?

I am astonished that so many right hon. and hon. Members fail to understand the mood which we on this Bench try to reflect. For example, they cannot understand why we have no vested interest in provoking a General Election in the United Kingdom. One answer to that is that we have had three times as many elections in Northern Ireland as have the electorate in Great Britain. People then ask "What notice have they ever taken of our elections?" When we have been returned to the House and have said what we stood for and described the mandate on which we stood in two General Elections, people say that that does not matter. They say "This is the Parliament of the United Kingdom and we do not take any notice of that."

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. He is saying that feelings in Northern Ireland are different and that we should take account of those feelings. That is most important. If we had done so we on our side might not have made grave errors over the years, although I am not saying that there are not grave errors on the other side as well. But the hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If Parliament votes in a way that is not liked by the members of his party, does that mean that there is loyalty only so long as the rest of the United Kingdom agrees with the view of the small number of Northern Ireland Members?

Mr. Molyneaux

No. I think that the Secretary of State, with his customary fairness, will admit that I have always upheld the sovereignty of Parliament, even at the time when, unfortunately, successful attempts were made to transfer it to Brussels. I hope that some day we shall get back that element of sovereignty—but I am straying outside the terms of the debate.

It is not a question of the people of Northern Ireland being fed up with tramping to the polling stations; it is a question of their having expressed their opinion in the clearest possible terms. There was a clear expression of opinion in the border poll, when the vast majority of the people said that they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. What did the Government of the day do? They proceeded to have a conference at Sunningdale and said "Yes, we know you want to remain part of the United Kingdom, but we intend to set up this machinery to transfer you out of the United Kingdom."

Mr. McCusker

Does my hon. Friend remember that when Mr. Cooper was Minister of Community Relations in the power-sharing Executive, in addressing a meeting of SDLP party workers he described the Sunningdale Agreement as a vehicle by which Northern Ireland would be trundled into an all-Ireland Republic?

Mr. Molyneaux

I am glad to be able to confirm that statement. I hope that it will be noted by those who may be tempted to try such an experiment in future.

If the Government are determined to demoralise the IRA—and demoralisation is probably the most telling factor—there is no better way than to demonstrate that from this day onward Northern Ireland will be treated in exactly the same way as any other part of the United Kingdom, to which it belongs and to which it will continue to belong.

Turning to the physical and material conflict, it is undesirable to create new forces or formations. In my experience of war-time service, such activities tend to lead to confusion. There are already four branches of the security forces of the Crown, very well equipped to perform the task of coping with terrorists. In this debate we ought to address our minds to methods of making fuller and more effective use of the existing forces. For a start, we the elected representatives—and in that I include those who are not at present with us today—have a clear duty to encourage recruitment into the existing security forces of the Crown. In fairness, I think most of us have carried out that responsibility and we continue to do so. We want to assure the Secretary of State, in case there is any doubt, that that will be our continuing aim.

There is, however, another side to the question. The Government also have their responsibility. They must do all they can to remove obstacles placed in the way of suitable persons making themselves available and applying for membership of these forces. It makes no sense to me—it is a position that I cannot defend—to be given firm evidence of a case in which someone who has served with distinction in the Armed Forces of the Crown, who has perhaps lived most of his life abroad and has no connection with political, let alone para-political or para-military forces in Northern Ireland is rejected by the Ulster Defence Regiment or by the RUC Reserve.

I know that the Secretary of State is determined, and I make this appeal to him. The best service that he can render to assist us in what we are trying to do to co-operate with him in increasing the effectiveness of these forces is to ensure that the people in control of the vetting procedures really get down to realities and exercise far more flexibility than they have in the past.

Her Majesty's Government have already given indications that they are sympathetic to the establishment of full-time formations of the Ulster Defence Regiment. We urge most strongly that they press on with this with all possible speed. On that point, it might not be too much, before the debate ends, to ask whether the Government will be in a position to give us some reassurance about their intentions.

I have said before—this is no criticism whatsoever of the Army—that it is far more difficult for the Royal Ulster Constabulary—the RUC on the ground or the intelligence section of the RUC—to co-operate with the Army, which is being switched around at four-monthly intervals, than to co-operate with the Ulster Defence Regiment element, which would be in a state of readiness and availability right round the clock seven days a week. It makes sense to aim at this.

If I were in the position of the Secretary of State, I would not become too depressed by the rumours about the Ulster Defence Regiment not being acceptable in certain areas, presumably on the ground that too many of them happen to be of one religious persuasion. I do not think I need point out to him that in those areas—and they are a very limited number—anyone representing authority would be rejected. If the Mothers Union were equipped with sand bags to extinguish fire bombs they would be rejected, as the Ulster Defence Regiment is being rejected. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not give too much priority to that objection.

I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army is not present, because I should like to congratulate the Army on the tremendously difficult job that it has been doing. I wish to congratulate it particularly on the success it has had in apprehending terrorists immediately after acts of terrorism. Having progressed so far, I do not think it is too much to project and consider means of preventing these acts—in other words, apprehending the terrorists before they can reach their objectives. I concede that this may be a very difficult job, but it comes back again to the question of intelligence. It means that it cannot be solely an Army job. There must be greatly increased intelligence.

The Secretary of State has already conceded this. There must be greater cooperation between the RUC and the Army. The right hon. Gentleman was quick to pay tribute to the co-operation and collaboration that exist at top level; at least, that was my understanding of what he said. I am not so certain that that co-operation exists at all levels. This is something that could be usefully examined, because it does not really make sense for two arms of Her Majesty's security forces to be acting in one area in complete ignorance of what the other is attempting to do.

On the point that the Secretary of State made about law enforcement and bringing terrorists before the courts, I agree that there is not much point in the Army or the RUC picking up terrorists and criminals unless they can be convicted. This question comes back largely to intelligence. In this respect we welcome the integrated intelligence centres that have been set up, I understand, on the initiative of the new Chief Constable.

I began with a quotation from the Secretary of State, and I shall end with a reference to another quotation that he made in this House about 10 days ago. He repeated something that I said in his absence three days before, so I do not think he was paying me the compliment of repeating what I had said. He delivered one simple sentence which, I think, if repeated, would be more effective than all the hot air that is expended by all sorts of commentators who pretend that they know all the answers. He made a simple statement, with, for him, unusual vehemence from the Dispatch Box. He said that we must convince the terrorists that under no circumstances will they be permitted to win.

This House can do no better service to the people of Northern Ireland and to the people of the United Kingdom, than echo that statement today.

5.18 p.m.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Though Honours is currently a touchy subject, I think this is the first time, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have been in the Chair since you were awarded the Privy Councillorship. I am sure that I speak for everyone on the Government Benches when I say that we congratulate you.

Perhaps the low attendance at this debate simply serves once again to reveal the extent to which the House of Commons, if not the Government, has opted out of the problems of Northern Ireland.

Almost throughout the debate the Government Front Bench, plus the Parliamentary Private Secretaries and the Whips, have outnumbered the Back Benchers by two to one.

Frankly, I do not wonder at the extent to which many people in Northern Ireland resent what they see as a lack of interest by politicians on this side of the water. Perhaps it is not so much lack of interest as resignation—weary resignation—to which the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) referred just now.

From 1969 to 1975 I was one who publicly said that I felt there was nothing that the British Army could do in Ireland. I never understood why my right hon. Friend—as hard-working a Minister as one could find—or the right hon Members for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) or my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), ever thought that they could succeed in Ireland where Gladstone, Cromwell and Stratford and, indeed, Edward Plantagenet had failed.

I never understood why they ever supposed that they could be successful. But now everyone says that to withdraw the Army would cause a blood bath, and one must accept that since so many people say that it is so. Many of us now simply shrug our shoulders and wish our Ministers well.

I should like to ask several questions. I hope that my first question does not display a lack of taste, but one is often asked what is the total financial cost—the human cost cannot be counted—of the Northern Ireland emergency.

I ask for the roundest figures available, and I must ask the question because I have been asked it so often myself.

Secondly, what encouragement, if any are the Government giving to the Dutch and to people such as Edward van Thijn, of the Dutch Socialist Party, who, with a number of other Europeans—not only those in the European Parliament—has tried his best to achieve some kind of dialogue? With their history the Dutch may have some part to play. Although it may seem far fetched, any straw is worth grabbing.

I must register a most unpopular, possibly ill-informed and perhaps naive opinion about the people who criticise the Secretary of State for allowing his officials to talk to people. As an outsider, I go back to back to the old Churchillian principle that jaw-jaw is better than war-war.

I have been to Northern Ireland and talked to both sides, although perhaps I have not been there as recently as I should.

Nevertheless, it seems to some of us that some kind of communication line must be kept open. Whatever one's feelings about talking in that situation, the idea of keeping open a line of communication is, at any rate, worth while, and the Secretary of State should not be vigorously attacked on this count.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South asked whether people realised in 1969. The frank answer is "Yes". Some people did realise in 1969. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will forgive me for referring to our late colleague, Dick Crossman, because he and others, who may have been wrong on other issues, said that more thought should be given before sending troops to Northern Ireland. Sending in an army is one thing, but extricating it is another—one hundred times more difficult.

Thirdly, if, if, if, there are to be assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff and if, if, if, there are to be the same number of Scottish and Welsh hon. Members, which appears to be the pledge of the Labour Party, how in Heaven's name can we deny the Northern Irish membership, without Stormont, at least 18 to 22 hon. Members? Again, that is a question of politicians thinking things through before they act.

That is why, in the rest of my contribution, I propose to address myself to the widely reported speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short)—the former Leader of the House—which he made on 11th June. I have given him notice that I intend to do that, but perhaps my telephone message has not been received and I therefore acquit him of any discourtesy and hope that he will not accuse me of discourtesy.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central said that the rejection of the Devolution Bill by Westminster would re-create the tragic story of the rejection of Home Rule for Ireland in the early years of the century, which led to a separate Irish State. That proposition should not have been formulated in that way.

It was like holding a pistol at the collective head of the House of Commons and saying "Reject my devolution brainchild and there will be civil strife". That is not the situation as it affects Scotland.

It will not be an absence of assemblies in Edinburgh and Cardiff that may cause civil strife. The remarks of my right hon. Friend, which might have been taken out of context, caused widespread resentment in Scotland— a fact that was commented upon at a meeting yesterday afternoon of the West Lothian constituency Labour Party.

But my right hon. Friend deserves an answer, and it is this: should we not reflect on the close resemblance between the novel proposal in the White Paper and the structure of Stormont? There is an uncanny and spine-chilling resemblance between the two. To what extent did the Stormont system lead to a small, inbred, inward-looking society, which created the conditions for the tragedy that we are discussing today?

To set up a Stormont in Edinburgh could create conditions for a far less healthy society than we have in Scotland now.

Mr. Tom Nairn, one of the speakers from the Devolution Unit at the Devolution Conference in Edinburgh, talked in terms of the Edinburgh Assembly's having a single Scottish police force, responsible to the Assembly.

I want to register that some of us do not want any Scottish police force responsible to any Assembly. In his speech my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that rumour was in inverse proportion to fact. That is what can happen in the Press of a small inbred community.

For all its undoubted faults, shortcomings and exaggerated inefficiencies, Westminster has been a force for tolerance and understanding in what my right hon. Friend calls a system of devolved Government.

In Scotland we have, no less than in Ireland, our folklore and our history. Do not let any Scot imagine that we do not have our folklore and history. On 26th June there will be a mass rally at Bannockburn—a place with emotive feelings. Therefore, all the malicious misinterpretations to which my right hon. Friend referred could easily be repeated.

Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central, I conclude that Stormont-like Assemblies in Edinburgh and in Cardiff taking powers from the regions and the local authorities—which are the subject of unprecedented attack—will do little to benefit the people of Scotland and could do them untold harm. If debates of this kind have any purpose, they should serve as the kind of warning that might have been taken years ago in relation to the tragic problems of Northern Ireland.

5.29 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

Our debates on Northern Ireland are frequently clouded with distorted views of history, but until now I had not heard the Battle of Bannockburn brought into them. However, I can join the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in saying that, unlike the honours in some Honours Lists, your elevation to the Privy Council, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will give great satisfaction in all parts of the House. We were very glad to see it, Sir.

I can also agree with the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) that we in the House approach debates on security in Northern Ireland with a certain degree of resignation. It is almost seven years since I, with various hon. Members from my party, first went to Belfast and Londonderry and saw British soldiers on the streets in support of the civil power. If we proceed towards victory over terrorism and the restoration of peace at our present pace, it seems all too likely that those soldiers will be on the streets in support of the civil power for another seven years.

The Secretary of State spent some time defending himself against the possible accusation that he was taking too many speedy initiatives. I would not accuse him of ever having taken a too-speedy initiative in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the praise.

Mr. Goodhart

I do not think that in his remaining time in office the right hon. Gentleman is likely to deserve our condemnation on that score, but there are four areas in which I believe he should take legislative action quickly.

First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) mentioned, we should have legislation on the offence of terrorism. My hon. Friend and I and the Secretary of State have often agreed that the principal problem in Northern Ireland security is the inability to get at the men who organise violence. It is comparatively easy to pick up the front-line troops. It is not easy to get at the Godfathers. Since the Gardiner Report was published there has been an increasing flow of opinion towards the belief that the offence of terrorism should be put on the statute book. I hope that there can be action soon.

Secondly, we should have prompt action on the question of proper identification and control of movement. That means identity cards, first in part of Northern Ireland and then in the rest of Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom. The Government recognise that there is a problem, but they do not know what to do about it, as anyone who has read the report of the debate on 26th April on the Order affecting movement between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain can see. They are hovering on the brink of introducing a proper system of identification when people move between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland and between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I hope that they will be prepared to take effective action soon.

Thirdly, there is the question of the control of detonators. When some of us were in Northern Ireland in the second week of April, we were told that there had been 4,849 explosions in Northern Ireland since the beginning of the emergency. I suspect that there have now been 5,000, a grisly milestone to pass. Their one common factor is that they have been set off by detonators.

Some of us are not satisfied that the present laws on the control and registration of detonators are adequate. The former commander of the bomb squad in Northern Ireland, Colonel George Styles, is perhaps the greatest expert on the matter. He is vehement in his belief that we need fresh legislation on it. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) has introduced a Bill on the subject which, alas, has been blocked by Labour Members. I hope that the Government will take up that legislation or at the very least publicly state their reasons why they are not prepared to act to make the proper identification, control and recording of detonators mandatory.

Some of us are not satisfied that the technical advice that the Secretary of State and the Home Secretary are receiving on the subject is entirely correct. We should like a full Government statement so that we may see the thinking behind their decision not to implement the measures so sensibly put forward by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

To do the Secretary of State justice, I should say that he has not been part of the operation to block the Bill, but the Home Secretary wrote to me saying that it was not acceptable. However, the security forces in Northern Ireland have been pushing for it or a similar measure for many years. Perhaps the Secretary of State will say—

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Nobody has ever pushed me on this matter in the two and a half years that I have been in Northern Ireland. But I am concerned about detonators, and we are co-operating with the South on the matter. I spend a great day of time looking at it. I am not prepared to stand by and be told that I have resisted pressure from anybody in Northern Ireland on the control of detonators. Indeed, I am informed that it is very well done.

The other factor is that many of the detonators do not travel through normal lines of communication as they do over here. They are home made, and so on. I am happy to look at the matter, but I will not be told that somebody put it to me and I rejected it, because that is not true.

Mr. Goodhart

I hope that the Secretary of State will consider it as a matter of urgency. Having talked to members of the bomb squad and its most distinguished former member, I can have no doubt about the vehemence of their feeling on the matter.

There is also the question of compensation for injuries. This is being investigated by a committee that has been sitting for more than 15 months, yet we still find that compensation of £20,000 is awarded to former terrorists—I agree that that is an award that is under appeal and has not yet been paid—while many members of the security forces and their dependents—widows and children—receive substantially less. Surely the problems are not so complicated that we need 15 months to go into the matter. Even if the committee reported now, it would take at least another nine months to get any change in the legislation on to the statute book. Can we sit back without criticising a two-year delay in making a comparatively minor alteration in the law?

I was sorry to hear the Secretary of State say that he did not intend to publish, in the form of a White Paper, the report, or even part of the report, of the committee that has been carrying out the long-term review of the security situation in Northern Ireland. But such is the state of security in certain sections of the Government in Northern Ireland that we can assume that the contents of this report will no doubt reach the UDA, and perhaps the Provisional Sinn Fein or the Provisional IRA. Perhaps somebody can look to them, or certainly to somebody in Northern Ireland, to make available to Members of this House the contents of that report.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I do not think that this is a matter for amusement. Many people are being killed in Northern Ireland, and we know that material gets out. I shall in future put to the House the general conclusions of the report, but there are large sections involving intelligence and intelligence collection which I would be a fool to publish—even if it means that the hon. Gentleman can have a little joke about it.

Mr. Goodhart

I would not dream of suggesting that the entire contents of the report should be published. Of course, we would not press that suggestion, but I should like to see a general outline of the report published. Indeed, I am delighted to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that there will be publication of a bowdlerised report, which was all we expected anyway.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I shall be giving the House the general contents of the report in the debate to renew various legislative provisions. It will not be in the form of a White Paper. I believe that I have a duty to give the House the general passages, but not the detail of the report.

Mr. Goodhart

I hope that the Secretary of State will go into some detail and will not confine himself to generalisations. However, clearly that is a matter for discussion later when we see what happens. I hope that even before publication, or before the Secretary of State mentions those matters in a speech to the House, we shall have further news about recruitment of a full-time section of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Many people have pressed for such recruitment for a long time, and it was also mentioned in the speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, South. The Ulster Defence Regiment carries out most valuable work, but it is composed largely of part-timers. This means that its work is confined largely to night-time and weekends. Much valuable work at checkpoints could be carried out by full time members of the UDR. I hope that we may be told that a substantial number of such personnel will be recruited to the UDR.

Finally, I turn to another regiment which has done much good service in Northern Ireland without attracting many headlines. I refer to the Royal Military Police who provide a valuable interface between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the rest of the Army. Many of them spend many years in Northern Ireland. Service in that corps normally involves two years' service in Northern Ireland. I have been concerned about some of the problems in co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Military Police. Difficulties arise when the Royal Ulster Constabulary work side by side with the Royal Military Police, whose members are paid at a very much lower rate. That is perhaps unavoidable in the present situation, but I am certainly concerned about the long hours put in by the Royal Military Police at the present time. They serve in Ireland for a period of two years, and the hours imposed upon them must constitute a great strain. We in this House must never take the high morale of our security forces for granted, and we must take care not to impose an unbearable strain on those who bear the task of guarding society.

5.46 p.m.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

Last week in the House we were treated to a number of helpful and constructive debates on Northern Ireland. One dealt with the subject of industrial relations and the other debate centred on the question of fair employment. In contrast to those helpful debates, today's debate can do nothing for the people of Northern Ireland. Today's debate will heighten the divisions that we all know exist in Northern Ireland, it will be completely unproductive, and it will do nothing to allay fears or de-escalate tension.

I wonder why the right wing of the Conservative Party sought to bring forward such a debate at the present time. Perhaps it is attempting to ingratiate itself with those hon. Members who represent Northern Irish constituencies. Those on the right wing can be sure that on security questions there will be a unanimity of outlook between Northern Irish Unionists and Right-wing Conservatives.

In a debate that is supposed to be dealing with the security of Northern Ireland, with its consequences for the United Kingdom as a whole, there is a notable absence of the vast majority of hon. Members in the House. No doubt some Opposition Members are being fitted out with their finery for Ascot week, but we shall see what happens to attendance in the House on other days this week.

I feared that today's debate would take the form as we have seen it today. In other words, the contributors to the debate so far have spoken as though there is only one class of terrorist in Northern Ireland—namely, the Provisional IRA. Nobody so far has referred to any other type of terrorist in Northern Ireland. I believe that it is my duty to make the House and the country aware of the fact that there are other types of terrorists in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Molyneaux

In this House I have repeatedly made my position clear. I have said that the Provisional IRA is the prime cause of violence. We have subsidiary and subordinate forms of violence that will have to be dealt with and rooted out, no matter by what name they are called.

Mr. Fitt

I am now delighted that I came along to this debate—if only to hear that admission by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). That admission was not made earlier in the debate, and I am glad that it has been made, because people could have been given the wrong impression.

A number of deaths in Northern Ireland in the past two or three weeks, many of them atrocious murders, have been carried out by Loyalist murder gangs rather than IRA gangs. A Loyalist gang was responsible for machine-gunning the Clorane Bar. Furthermore, there was the attempted murder of a young Italian family at Mountainview Park, allegedly in return for the IRA killing of a Mr. Parsons, in Woodvale. Therefore, when we are talking about terrorists in Northern Ireland, we are talking about all terrorists.

I have made my position quite clear about the IRA. I believe that every terrorist in Northern Ireland, whatever cause he espouses, should be taken out of Northern Irish society.

I have noticed recently that the Opposition do not seem to have any policy on Northern Ireland other than to adopt a hawkish attitude. If they were in control there would be blanket searches, the IRA would be chased over the border, and the attempt to find a military solution would be completely divorced from any political developments. Those members of the Opposition at present in the House are not noted for their liberal views. We have only to look at them and at the constituencies they represent to know that if they were in government they would embark on policies that would bring about absolute disaster in Northern Ireland.

If ever I have any doubt about going into the Lobby to vote for the Government—and there have been a few occasions—all I have to do is to look across at the Opposition Front Bench and all my difficulties are resolved. As I told my party yesterday afternoon, the military solution that would be sought in the event of a Tory Government coming into power headed by the present Tory Front Bench would bring us nothing but further disaster and tragedy.

Hon. Members have spoken of the UDR. It has been said that we should create full-time regiments. I know that Irish Sunday newspapers are not readily available in this part of the United Kingdom. I would, however, advise those who wonder why the UDR has not been openly and fully accepted by the Catholic minority to read yesterday's edition of the Sunday Independent, in which there appears an article written by my colleague in Northern Ireland, John Hume. The facts are there. He lists the names and addresses of members of the UDR—the persons involved—the dates on which they committed offences, the courts before which they were brought, the verdicts of the court, the convictions, and the fact that most of these people—and there is a long list—were found guilty of the most serious firearms offences. Further, my colleague reveals that some are in prison awaiting trial on charges of murder—the murder of Catholics in Northern Ireland.

That is why the Catholic population cannot find any great enthusiasm for members of the UDR. I have deliberately stated on many occasions, and I do so again today, that, whatever criminal actions may be committed by members of the UDR and however serious the offences may be, there is no justification for attacks by the Provisional IRA on members of the UDR in Northern Ireland. Whatever reservations I have about the UDR, which I express on behalf of the minority population in Northern Ireland, I do not say that attacks by the IRA on the UDR are justified. I advise those who are interested in discovering why there is not total acceptance of the UDR to read the article to which I have referred.

After I had listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, South I was not too sure what this debate was about. The closed circuit television tells us that it is about security in Northern Ireland. I have not heard much about that. We had a little history lesson, starting from 1968–69, Sunningdale, the UWC strike—[interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confined himself to the security aspects of the debate. The hon. Member for Antrim, South went through Sunningdale, the Assembly, the Convention, and completely misrepresented Sunningdale. He said that those who participated in Sunningdale on behalf of the SDLP saw the Sunningdale agreement as the vehicle that would change the constitution of Northern Ireland, lead to the abolition of that State and bring about a Northern Ireland Republic.

That is completely untrue. That was never the intention of the SDLP participants at Sunningdale. There were so many in-built guarantees in the agreement that it would have been absolutely impossible, because of the veto held by the then Chief Executive, Brian Faulkner, for the agreement to lead to the downfall of the Northern Ireland State. This is not the time or place to go into the reasons for that political development.

I entered the debate to advise the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) that if he is seeking a military solution to the Northern Ireland conflict, to the total exclusion of any political progress being made, he is taking on an impossible task. There cannot be peace in Northern Ireland in the absence of political development.

Whatever disagreements I may have had with the hon. Member for Antrim, South, I hope that they will not have any deleterious effect on the talks now taking place between representatives of my party and the party of which he is a member, the official Unionist Party. Both sets of negotiators in Northern Ireland have, rather belatedly, seen the sound common sense brought into Northern Ireland by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). There is movement on the political front. I hope that hon. Members representing English constituencies will not say or do anything which will hinder the success of those discussions. I hope that the political movement which is taking place will be speeded up until eventually political agreement is found. As for the solution now being promulgated by the Tory Front Bench, I advise my right hon. Friend, after his experience in Northern Ireland, totally to reject the military solution now being put forward.

Mr. Neave

The hon. Gentleman is completely misrepresenting my view in saying that I was seeking a military solution. I said that there could be no constitutional progress until order was restored in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Fitt

This is where the hon. Gentleman and I disagree. I believe that the attempt to eradicate, to defeat, the terrorists, must take place alongside the search for a political solution. One cannot be done without the other. I realise that there may not be 101 per cent. agreement between the Irish Government and this Labour Government on the security question in Northern Ireland. But there is a hell of a lot more agreement with this Government than there would be with the point of view put forward by the Right Wing of the Conservative Party.

I know that the Irish Government are not very happy about interpretations which have been put on discussions held recently with the hon. Member for Abingdon. I believe that it had to take the unusual course of issuing statements to refute statements which it knew would appear in the Daily Telegraph. There is a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland in this House. I hope that the hon. Member for Abingdon, or anyone else who thinks like him, will not go to the Irish Government and try to persuade them to make comments against the Labour Government. I believe that some attempt has been made in that direction over the past few days and that the Irish Government have rightly said that they will make their own decisions, without being influenced by hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Neave

Before the hon. Gentleman makes any further misrepresentations, I must tell the House that I informed the Secretary of State's private office before I sent information about my views to the Irish Government.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)

It is also uppermost in my thoughts that the people of Northern Ireland will be saying "What, another security debate?" They will be saying "Let us have less talk and more action." I can understand their feelings. My difficulty is to convince them that action leading to success is being taken. To that extent today's debate is useful and important.

Unhappily, I see little evidence to enable me to go to the back streets of Belfast to say that the job is being tackled in a wholehearted way. I cannot even go to the people in the back streets to tell them that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) broke new ground today. My constituents would like to hear the hon. Gentleman say "We wholeheartedly back the forces of law and order, warts and all." It is vital that the forces of law and order receive the support of every section of the community. I can understand the difficulties in the hon. Gentleman's way, but that it is a hurdle that has to be jumped. The sooner it is jumped the sooner all can make progress.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that when talking about security it is important to consider the political side of things. The two factors cannot be separated. I was rather glad that the Secretary of State made that point. I look forward to a future date when he will expound more on the political side. I do not agree that we should push ahead seeking only a military solution. As I understand the problem of terrorism, the first thing to do is to apply one's mind to the question how to starve the terrorists' appetite. It is necessary to consider how to deprive them of hope of success. It is not good enough merely to say that they are not going to win. Their appetite must be blunted, they must be robbed of all hope of succeeding. That is where the political aspect of security is vital.

I have no doubt that if we can achieve some sort of political settlement among the politicians of Ulster we shall have enormously strengthened the hands of the security forces. As we count the horrible toll of dead and mutilated and the serious economic cost of the past seven years, each one of us should be resolute in our efforts to find agreement on future forms of government in Northern Ireland. The greatest strength the IRA has at present is the uncertainty about the form of government in Northern Ireland.

Direct rule, as it is misnamed, is probably not as dangerous today as it would have been regarded some years ago. No longer do the majority look suspiciously at this form of government, suspecting that there is some plot to break the Union and bring about a united Ireland. No longer do they suspect that direct rule will result in unwanted forms of government being pushed upon them. But that is not to say that the form of government that we have today is not in itself very dangerous. I believe it is incapable of bringing peace and stability to Northern Ireland. It is not likely in any way to diminish the conflict that exists in Ulster. At best it can hope only to contain it. That is not good enough when we think of all the people being slaughtered in our streets. We have had seven years of that, yet we can still debate in the Chamber in a manner that indicates that we shall tolerate the thing going on for a couple more years. If that is to be the attitude, we cannot express annoyance and surprise if people in the streets at home decide to take a hand in the game themselves.

It is our duty to convince the people that we shall tackle the problem and tackle it now. I know it is easy to say that and that we cannot deal with it by producing new gimmicks. I can understand the Secretary of State's saying that there are no quick and easy solutions, but I hope he will understand me when I say that it is not good enough merely to wipe out seven years of terrorism as though it had not happened. The pressure must be stepped up. The primary responsibility is with Ulster politicians to reach a settlement in Ulster, but the right hon. Gentleman has his responsibility.

Although the Ulster politicians have not yet made progress, I should not like to see the Secretary of State take a posture that suggests "If they cannot agree among themselves, I am washing my hands of the situation". That would be a policy leading to ever-increasing dis- aster. Something must be done. If there is not the will in Ulster to reach a political settlement among the present breed of politicians, we must try again. We must also ask the people how they look upon the failure.

Assuming that we cannot make progress, the security policy has to make the best of a bad decision. It is right and proper that more and more steps should be taken to Ulsterise the security forces to a greater extent. It is a matter for discussion whether that should be done by creating new full-time formations. We want to see a much greater rôle being played by the RUC Reserve and the Ulster Defence Regiment.

I mention in passing a minor point relating both to the Reserve and the UDR. With the present growing unemployment we find a situation in which men who wish to serve in the Reserve and the UDR are barred from giving such service because if they do they lose their unemployment benefit. Although the numbers may not be great, it is not a good policy to allow that situation to arise. A man who is unhappily unemployed should still be allowed to give his service to the part-time Reserve and the part-time UDR without putting his benefit at risk.

It is right to talk about the primacy of the police, but we must talk about it in a realistic sense. I find myself increasingly confused by the terminology that is being used. In the Ulster situation, or in any situation in which the police have to cope with terrorism, it is nonsense to say that they are not to be in a position to act on their own to enforce the law against terrorism.

Any country that has to cope with the problem of terrorism is making a serious mistake if it organises its police on the basis that the army has to be called to the aid of the civil authority. It is not good government to allow a situation to arise in which it is necessary to call the army to the aid of the civil authority to cope with terrorists. That in itself gives an incentive to terrorist organisations to strike and to force the Government into that position. However we structure our police, matters must be organised so that the police can undertake all the necessary actions to combat terrorism.

I strongly support the steps being taken to improve the position of the police, but I say to the Secretary of State, with all humility, that he has not moved fast enough. I think he is placing too much emphasis on the difficulties that lie in the way—for example, unacceptability in certain parts of the community is being continually overstated and is becoming a political shuttlecock.

Having stressed the work of the police, I do not want hon. Members to think that we were not conscious of the valuable work being done by the Army. The Army is doing a first-class job, and it is difficult to suggest how it can be better used, but the underlying strategy must not be based on day-to-day reactions. I am faulting not the Secretary of State but perhaps myself and other politicians who from time to time react to the events of the day. Recently there was an escalation of the situation in South Armagh and there was pressure on the Government and on the security forces to step up the presence there. There has been increased pressure in Belfast. We must not be seen to react to day-to-day pressure. We must base our strategy on properly deploying the security forces to cope with the situation throughout the Province.

Perhaps the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) had a point when he said that the border was a special problem. It is special in that it is a source of supply to the IRA. Anything that can be done more effectively to police the border is to be welcomed. I wish to put on record my appreciation of the policies of the Government of the Irish Republic. They have been good. But that is not to say that further steps cannot be taken.

I should like more consideration to be given to the idea of a narrow strip of joint patrolling along the border, but before we go that far we must insist on better co-ordination between the forces on both sides of the border. There could be parallel patrolling, which would mean some sort of joint operational control. If such a long land frontier is to be covered, it is necessary to have mutual co-operation in the deployment of forces. I am aware that the Government of the Republic, naturally and properly, are circumscribed, in that they fully accept that their army is there only in support of the civil police and must act within that constraint. Therefore, we cannot push them too far on that score.

I should like to deal briefly with some aspects of the law. Steps to be taken in the new criminal jurisdiction Bills of both countries have been over-estimated. They will not be as valuable as has been represented to the people of both countries. However, I have noticed that in the European Community steps are being taken which seem to bring a new dimension to the law of extradition, and I should like to be assured that the British Government are doing all they can to hasten developments in the European Community, leading to a change in the law of extradition between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

As the Secretary of State said, the law is only as good as the capacity to enforce it, but I agree with those Members who have said that the law can be strengthened. I should have liked to have had more time to debate the Gardiner approach to the law on terrorism. It is illegal to belong to certain organisations in Northern Ireland, but there are few convictions on record for that offence. In the Irish Republic there is a long list of people who are in custody because they belong to illegal organisations. It is the nature of the law and the standards of proof which create this disparity.

I know that the Secretary of State has an aversion to detention, and I can understand his thinking on it, but as the law stands he will not be able to get at the men who are really behind the violence. I urge him to think very seriously about adopting a new approach to the law dealing with the terrorist. I should like him to consider the question of penalties. I know that it is emotive to talk about the death penalty, but the gallant men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary face a long, hot summer. They have paid a heavy price, being the prime target of the IRA. Are not we justified in considering the request from the federation that capital punishment should be introduced for the murder of a member of the security forces in the course of his duties?

I am sorry that I have not more time to speak. I do not wish to presume on the House. I therefore close by saying that the situation in Northern Ireland is more depressing than most people here seem to realise. We have debated it today in a cool, relaxed, conversational tone. However, the tensions and fears in Northern Ireland are increasing daily. I appeal to all Members to seek the way forward, but first to achieve a measure of certainty about our constitutional position, thereby improving the chances of the security forces bringing peace and stability to our beleaguered Province.

Mr. Speaker

It is not often that I explain the basis on which I call hon. Members to speak, but may I say that I propose to call another Member of the United Ulster Unionist Party, because only one Member of that party has spoken and this is a short debate?

6.17 p.m.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

The Secretary of State said that this House and the people of Northern Ireland should be prepared for a long haul. Although he and hon. Members may be able to settle themselves to that thinking, it is not likely to be well received in Northern Ireland.

Coming off a late flight from London on Friday night, I was confronted with a newspaper headline which read: War footing call to the people. I paused, thinking that one of my rasher colleagues—some perhaps would say one of my more realistic colleagues—had had a rush of blood to the head, until I looked more closely and found that the Northern Ireland Labour Party had urged that the whole community should go on a war footing to fight terrorism. This call was not the call of those of us who are thought of in more extreme or Right-wing terms.

It is useful that Members from Northern Ireland, when going home, should see headlines like that, because there is a danger of our becoming complacent through our membership of this House. There is a danger of accepting the violence and of becoming detached from the realities of daily life in Northern Ireland by the artificiality of this place and of becoming increasingly brutalised at weekends by the events in our constituencies until it takes acts of the utmost savagery to make us react. I speak as a Member with a constituency which has had its fair share, if not more than its fair share, of such acts. We are in danger of falling victim to the cancer in our society, which is not the violence but the acceptance of the violence, and of believing that a growing tolerance of it is the way forward.

That is why I welcome the poster campaign being mounted in Northern Ireland this weekend. It poses the question "When will you become a direct rule statistic?" Some may think that that is an underhand way of continuing a political campaign, but the reality is that for six, seven or perhaps a dozen people in Northern Ireland the answer will be very simple in the next week. They will have become a direct rule statistic, even on the basis of the figures given by the Secretary of State, by this time next Wednesday.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

What were the figures before there was direct rule? Although the situation is bad and sad, any idea that there would be peace if direct rule ended would be foolish and tragic.

Mr. McCusker

The Secretary of State has me wrong. I am not making the point to justify their comment or to sustain what they are saying. I am saying that one needs to be posed the question whether one is likely to live until tomorrow or until next week to be jolted back to reality.

We were told, though I hasten to add not by the present Secretary of State, that direct rule was a panacea. For that reason, we can cross swords with some right hon. and hon. Members of this House. That is why I welcomed reports of the Wolfe Tone commemoration ceremony in Bodenstown. I reminded the House this time last year of statements made there by spokesmen of the Provisional IRA who were also vice-presidents of Provisional Sinn Fein and their comments about the ceasefire, in the course of which they spoke about the gallant deeds of young IRA men. In their bloody terms, I suppose that they achieved quite a lot.

This year, we were told by a spokesman who was accompanied by Joe Cahill that they had met and defeated the British forces for the past seven years and would continue to meet and defeat them until the war was won; there would be no stop, and nothing could halt the fighting youth of Ireland. Anything that could have been thrown at the IRA had been thrown at them in the past seven years. The IRA had met and defeated everything, whether it was the might of the British Empire or the activities of Free State Quislings.

If that spokesman had been addressing a group of two or three dozen demented hooligans, I could understand it. But he was addressing a meeting of 6,000 demented people, the majority from Northern Ireland, every one of whom was quite prepared to believe what he said. I welcomed that report, because it brought me face to face with reality.

I welcomed even more the fact that the principal of a secondary school in Belfast thought it worth his while, even after seven years of becoming used to conditions in Belfast, to telephone me in Westminster this morning to tell me that a bomb had been planted 50 yards from a college where he was overseeing a GCE examination. He thought it worth mentioning, bearing in mind the general educational controversy and debate taking place here, in order to draw attention here to some of the realities which educationists have to face in Northern Ireland. I was encouraged by that man. After seven years, he is not prepared to lie down. He is still prepared to telephone Westminster to complain so that the situation might be brought to the attention of right hon. and hon. Members in this place.

Before I received that message, I read on the ticker-tape that two bombs had been planted in Belfast. A policeman standing nearby said to me "It would not be the same if it had not been there." Although he was in no way defending the situation, in its own way his remark was a commentary on the attitude of this House, of this country and even of the people of Northern Ireland to what is happening

What are the Government doing? Over the past couple of months, they have introduced a number of measures which have restricted and angered the community. We have measures to deal with unattended vehicles. We have measures to deal with unlocked and immobilised vehicles. We have measures restricting entry into town centres. We have legislation to control movements at the border, and it is well known that it will never mean anything. But we have had to pass the legislation in order to be seen to be doing something. We have restricted and controlled the sale of fertilisers and explosives. We have heard from the Government of their talks with Provisional Sinn Fein. But all that we have done as a result is to anger and to inconvenience the law-abiding community.

We do nothing really to take up the challenge of the terrorist. Why cannot we take away the forces and the manpower involved in carrying out these measures, which in many ways merely provide the IRA with a challenge to get round them, and use them instead to tackle the problem at source? Why put an iron barrier round a town centre when we should be diverting our attention to capturing the bomb-maker before the bomb is made? If we dismantled many of the structures that we have heaped one on top of another and diverted the resources to a more positive and vigorous campaign, we might get better results.

Recently we have seen a vigorous recruitment campaign for the security forces being conducted on television and in our newspapers. However, last Saturday morning I was visited by a former member of the Territorial Army. He served for 18 years, for 11 years as a sergeant and for the last five years as a company sergeant-major. He resigned in December. He was pronounced medically fit and given a recommendation from his commanding officer. He applied to join the UDR in January or February, and only last week he received a note saying "We are sorry. You are not acceptable." Presumably he was good enough to defend this country in the face of conflict here or in any other part of the world, but apparently he is not considered good enough to defend his community in Northern Ireland. A case of that kind makes nonsense of the thousands of pounds spent on security. How can we encourage people to join when we all know of cases of that kind?

A year or two ago, we managed to get a fairly large recruitment into the RUC Reserve. However, recently I received a request to meet a group of them. They came to me as my constituents and told me that between 20 and 30 of them had been sent to a police station in an area where members of the SDLP complained about the lack of security. In that station they found neither the equipment nor the resources to do the job. As a result they are thinking of quitting. There seems little point in our taking people in if we are not in a position to use them properly.

The Northern Ireland Office has at last learned what any intelligent Northern Ireland politician learned seven years ago. It has learned to get into the war of words, which rules that when it is impossible to do anything about the problem in Northern Ireland the best course is to issue a statement and hope that it will convince people that something is being achieved. The Northern Ireland Office avoided this for a number of years, but during the past six months or so there has been a change. If there is an atrocity in my own constituency, before I can make a statement about it I often find that the Northern Ireland Office has issued a statement. The only difference is that I issue a statement because I cannot do anything. I get the impression that the Northern Ireland Office makes a statement because it does not intend to do anything.

I deliberately relate my next comment to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is to remind him that in the Greater Leeds area there are 1,500,000 people. There is no point in the right hon. Gentleman reminding us that we are discussing Belfast and not Leeds. If there were 100 policemen dead in Leeds, together with 300 soldiers and 800 or 900 innocent civilians, the Englishman would be quick to defend his castle. I am the first to express my gratitude to those members of the security forces who have died. Indeed, many of my own constituents joined the security forces and played their part. My point is that we are confronted with a situation where willing people cannot get into the security forces, where people feel for whatever reason that the security forces are not giving them adequate protection and where they see their neighbours killed, and no one can be blamed for saying that he will take action to defend himself. It is very difficult for me to condemn that kind of attitude, especially amongst my constituents, because I have to try to understand them.

I support what the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) said about capital punishment. However, I would not restrict its application to the killing of policemen or soldiers on duty. Right hon. and hon. Members of this House have to understand that for some people in Northern Ireland it is as easy to kill someone as it is to take a cup of tea in the morning. It is as easy to say to someone "Here is a gun, so take it and kill the first Protestant or Catholic you see" as it is to turn over in bed and pull up the blanket round one's head.

Life has become cheap. People kill with impunity simply because of a person's religion, believing that somehow it evens the score. I differ from my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in this, I know. But we cannot apply the same criteria when we discuss the death penalty in relation to a situation like that in Northern Ireland as we would all wish to apply in Great Britain. Life is cheap. We have to put a price on it again.

It is all very well for those who argue against the death penalty to talk about the value and sanctity of human life. For the seven people who will die this week, their lives will not have been worth a snap of the fingers. For those who have already died, their lives were not worth that much.

To go out and kill someone, whether it be by throwing a bomb in County Armagh and killing Catholics or by standing 10 workmen up against a bus and gunning them down, is as easy to perform in Northern Ireland as any day-to-day activities. I talked to the one survivor of the workmen's massacre—hon. Members would be horrified to hear the details—and the one thing that struck him at the time was the cold-blooded, quiet way in which the orders were given to gun the men down. There was no panic, there were no raised voices. The order to finish them off was given quietly and cold-bloodedly. That survivor is not living in Northern Ireland any longer. He left, hoping to find peace elsewhere, but he will not find any peace of mind anywhere else. Therefore, I think that capital punishment should be given serious consideration in the context of Northern Ireland.

Special mention has already been made of a full-time UDR, and I shall not dwell any further on that matter.

Concerning the rank structure for RUC reservists, legislation already exists for such a structure. I hope that the committee will look at a separate rank structure within the Reserve in order to utilise the men in it properly. On equipment for the RUC, one moment we are told that they have adequate equipment and the next moment we are told that they do not. Half the time, I do not know which way to turn. I have continual representations from the police, who complain that they do not have the equipment to do their job. The sooner we clear this up, the better.

A lot has been said about the introduction of the Special Air Service into South Armagh. I know that its introduction was considered unacceptable by many people for a long time. I do not want to tempt fate, and I do not doubt for a minute that the IRA could be guilty of a terrible atrocity in South Armagh this very night. There is no point in keeping our fingers crossed and closing our eyes to the possibility. But the point is that for five months in South Armagh, since the SAS went in, we have had a degree of civilisation, much more so than we have had there for a long time. There may be an incident tonight or tomorrow that will change the situation immediately, but even this will not change the fact that the introduction of the SAS has made a difference.

In conclusion I say this to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). Just because one section of the community in Northern Ireland is not prepared to play its part in defending the community, there is no reason why the other part should be stopped from doing so.

6.35 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

The bipartisan approach to the problem of Northern Ireland security rests on the need for national unity in support of the security forces, who are at grips with revolutionary terrorists. Against terrorist of whatever colour, and I say of whatever colour purposely in reply to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who has repeatedly misrepresented us, there is only one British side to be on.

The Opposition have backed the Government in measures to restore the Queen's peace and the Queen's writ in Northern Ireland. But an Opposition which cease to offer necessary and constructive criticism with the sense of responsibility expected of an alternative government fail in their duty. If an Opposition thus abdicated their (unction, they would be extinct.

The Opposition, and pre-eminently my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), demanded the closing of the notorious "incident centres" which gave de facto recognition to a one-sided ceasefire which the Government refused to acknowledge de jure. In due time the incident centres passed away.

Last summer my hon. Friend and I expressed indignation about the state of anarchy in part of Armagh. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), who has spoken with his usual force today, took me around the southern part of his constituency—that territory described by the IRA as "liberated" and by the Secretary of State as "bandit country". Our protests were eventually vindicated by the intervention of the previous Prime Minister, the right hon Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson). He described South Armagh not as "bandit country" but as "a special emergency area". That phrase was a rhetorical flourish.

Psychological and physical results, des pite the misgivings of the hon. Member for Belfast, West, came from the belated introduction of the SAS Regiment. I could put the right hon. Member for Huyton on a little personal honours list for that. However, it remains our duty to expose and oppose the flabby political direction of the best trained and most chivalrous counter-insurgency troops in the world.

A pamphlet published by the Bow Group, and much admired in the Monday Club and throughout the Conservative and Unionist Party, is entitled "Do You Sincerely Want to Win?" That question has been put today by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig), who spoke from ministerial experience on the security problems of Northern Ireland.

It is disappointing that without any explanation the Secretary of State in his speech rejected the demand of many of us on this side of the House, notably my hon. Friends the Members for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and Esher (Mr. Mather), for full-time units in the UDR.

In these troubles I have been privileged to accompany on patrol the County Down, County Fermanagh and County Tyrone battalions of the UDR and I have seen how many of those fine men and women are on patrol or other duties perhaps three times a week after a full day's work. They would have to be superhuman not to feel the strain.

I hope that the Government will be less negative towards the arguments which some of us advanced during the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill and which were advanced again today by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham for travel documents or other identity papers for residents of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend referred to the Detonators Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Esher, but the Secretary of State has claimed that he was in no need of being pushed. But the Home Secretary is, and, there is collective Cabinet responsibility for the security of the realm.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has reminded us that Northern Ireland is not a colony but is part of the homeland, yet some lessons can be drawn from the considerable British experience of counter-insurgency overseas. In Cyprus, for example, there were joint operations rooms working to a common plan from a single place. In Ulster there are no joint operations rooms for the Regular Army, the UDR and the RUC.

It has been said that the military and the police cannot be fully integrated because the RUC has duties other than those of security. But crime and terrorism are evils which nourish each other. The protection racket and the private army are intimately connected. Mafias that manipulate co-operative and other enterprises and get rich quickly and bloodily have their political connections. The endeavours of the CID, the Special Branch, the Fraud Squad, the new regional crime squads, the Royal Military Police, the UDR and Military Intelligence, praised by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham, all receive information and should be more closely coordinated. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said that it was not only the Army's job, and I welcome his support for the line we have taken.

In Ulster, as in Cyprus, the Army acts in aid of the civil power. In Cyprus the Governor and the Commander-in-Chief combined civil and military functions. In Ulster the GOC is the Director of Military Operations, but not of all security operations. The question in the minds of millions is who is in charge in Ulster. I presume that the answer to that question is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Yet in his relations with the Army command the right hon. Gentleman seems to have reversed the saying that war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals, a saying even truer of guerrilla war than of a war of formation.

In his dealings with the Chief Constable—and we should wish to join the right hon. Gentleman in wishing Mr. Kenneth Newman all success—he seems to disclaim any intention of intervening. That would be a very proper attitude if Ulster was England and the RUC was the Essex Constabulary. But it is not enough to rely for co-ordination on committees and the undoubted good will and good sense and ability of Commanders. It is for Ministers, and the Secretary of State who is supremely responsible to the Crown and to Parliament, to get a grip on the organisation of security, to knock heads together if necessary, and always to give leadership and inspiration.

We were again disquieted by the insistence of the Secretary of State on the usefulness of talks between his officials and Provisional Sinn Fein. The Secretary of State cannot pursue a resolute campaign of law and order, if at the same time he is agreeing to a verbal contact with the leaders of the group responsible for the greatest density of law breaking in the North of Ireland. Those are not my words but the words of a colleague of the hon. Member for Belfast, West—Mr. Paddy Devlin.

We on this side deeply deplore the negative response of the Secretary of State to my hon. Friend's idea of a border force and a border zone. We can only regret that the idea has not found favour in the Republic. I think that in time the Secretary of State may come round to our point of view. If he does, it will not be for the first time.

Others of my hon. Friends have suggested that there should be a two-mile air corrider for surveillance by the aircraft and helicopters of both sovereign Powers, and for aerial hot pursuit.

We will continue to offer our suggestions as we should. Certainly we must beware of being impatient. Perhaps the Secretary of State thinks that we are being impatient when we assert that the report of the Ministerial Committee on Law and Order should be available shortly. Impatience and a demand for quick solutions show a characteristic weakness in democracies.

Impatience can only bring comfort to the Provos and the squalid "troops out" movement for which the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) will not give his support, I am sure, in spite of the views he expressed today and in spite of his reminiscence of the late Dick Crossman, as much a friend of mine, I hope, as of the hon. Member. Dick Crossman was dominated in his appreciation of these matters by his experience of Palestine.

We must persevere for as long as is necessary. We agree with the Secretary of State that we must be prepared for a long haul. But there is no acceptable level of violence and no acceptable term for its continuance. I therefore conclude with words not wholly dissimilar from the Secretary of State's peroration. There can be no doubt of the outcome once the terrorists are convinced that our rulers possess an unbreakable will to win.

6.44 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Perhaps, by leave of the House, I may say a few more words. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) said that we must firmly have the will to win. That will is present. It is present among the security forces. Underneath that I come back to my earlier point about the nature of the violence in Northern Ireland and the political background to it. The violence is not just seven years old. I was told in Belfast yesterday by one solid citizen that all this had happened before. He told me that they had it in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1950s and the 1960s. Obviously, the violence then was not on the scale that it is now. It is sometimes put to me that on those earlier occasions the violence diminished and eventually ended. The view which is put to me is that this is what will happen again. It has happened that way in Ireland over the past 200 or 300 years. In the past, however, the violence has subsided only to reappear five, 10 or 15 years later.

Our job, therefore, is to deal with the security situation but to try to achieve political agreement so that generation after generation in Northern Ireland does not expect and accept violence as part of the story of the Province. I must make one point to the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). Apparently talks are taking place between the political parties in Northern Ireland, and apparently they are not explanations but negotiations. I believe that it would be a mistake for me even to begin to intervene in those talks. Also, if the belief suddenly bubbled up that there was a political agreement, and if that were to fall flat on its face, we would then be in a worse position than we are now.

We have to choose the right moment, and that moment will be when those who lead the major parties in Northern Ireland come to the Government and say that they are prepared to work together for the good of Northern Ireland. Once that general statement is fully agreed, all the rest will fall into place. The mechanics of government are not too difficult to find.

We are in the position referred to by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who dealt with what happened at Sunningdale. The only point I make about Sunningdale is not what could be read into it or what the words said. For Sunningdale to have caught on in Northern Ireland, it had to have the support of the people, not the politicians. There may well have been a time when that could have been achieved. However, whatever the words that we used at Sunningdale, they were not believe by many of the general public in Northern Ireland.

It would be a mistake for me to intervene in these talks on the basis of what I read in the newspapers or what I hear talked about. We know that the best way forward is to get a form of government in which the communities can work together. I well remember that when I first went to Northern Ireland there was a great outbreak of violence in the Belfast area while the Assembly was meeting. That violence was designed to bring the Assembly and the Executive down. It was also designed to test the arrival of the new Secretary of State and the new Government. There were many new factors involved. If I say that on the political side we are ready to help when necessary and that it will be a long haul, that is not to be defeatist. It is rather that to have a sudden initiative or a rush of blood to the head at this moment would, in my view, be a mistake.

A number of points have been raised in respect of security, and I shall take one—the question of identity cards within Northern Ireland. I make no comment about the wider issue of identity cards here. This question has been examined by security advisers a number of times since I have been dealing with Northern Ireland. If I put it to security advisers, it is not because I believe that they should tell me what to do. However, it would be no good my going in breezily and saying "Let us have identity cards" and then finding that it was not working. There would be an administrative burden in establishing such a system as well as the burden of enforcing it. I am advised that the benefits would not outweigh that.

Identity cards could be useful if they were accepted by the community. I am advised they would not be accepted by a part of the community, and we might well be in a position—a sort of civil rights situation—where identity cards were burned and people said "We are not going to have identity cards issued by an imperialist Government at Westminster". We would then be in the position where a good idea had fallen flat on its face again. It would also be a very heavy burden on the security forces, and I am advised—I accept it—that the system would cease to have security value.

The problem in Northern Ireland is not the identification of people. Powers exist to enable the security forces to achieve that. What matters is the problem of producing evidence.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West asked about total costs. I cannot give a total cost because some of the later figures would be estimates. The main element would be the extra cost of keeping the troops in Northern Ireland, which from 1969 to 1976 has been £180 million. The cost of compensation for damage to property and injury to persons is about £170 million. There are other governmental costs, which can only be estimated, such as the extra costs falling on the judicial and prison system as we are more and more successful at putting people in prison as opposed to putting them into an open compound, which was the previous system, based on lack of prison accommodation.

I have to add to that the cost of the 500 additional cell places being made available. Part of that number is now available. More places will have to be made available, and I am already spending money. There is the extra cost to the economy of lost production and investment and loss of jobs and so on. But I think I have given my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West the sort of figures involved.

The question of detonators was also raised. It is not for me to be involved in the question of detonator control in Great Britain. I am concerned about the question of detonator control in Northern Ireland. Arrangements are rigorously enforced by the police in the explosion and control of detonators. Also, needless to say, any detonators recovered by the security forces are examined carefully to see whether their origin can be determined. The movement of explosive materials in border areas is a subject on which there is close communication and co-operation with the authorities in the South. If the hon. Member for Epping Forest has anything he wishes to put to me about the stricter control of detonators or explosives, I shall examine it willingly. I was firmly under the impression, and I was so advised in Northern Ireland, that the control of movements by the RUC was first-rate.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Will the right hon. Gentleman get in touch with his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, because this is a question for the whole of the United Kingdom? If he can use some influence with his right hon. Friend, that would be to the benefit of the whole country.

Mr. Rees

The problem of movement and control in Great Britain is completely different from that in Northern Ireland. If it needs to be done in a Northern Ireland context, that is a matter for me. In the course of my discussions on explosives—and there are many—I have been working on the basis of the advice given to me that the control of explosives and detonators is done extraordinarily well in Northern Ireland. There is, for instance, the control of explosives which have to be used for industrial purposes and so on.

With regard to the UDR and the question of its not being accepted, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West referred to the article in the Sunday Independent, which I read. The article mentioned the names of people in the various battalions starting way back in 1972 and coming up to 1976. It contained their battalion addresses but not, I am glad to say, their home addresses, what charges they had had, and so on. That is a matter for the Ministry of Defence. Anyone in the UDR who gets involved in this way is quite properly dealt with.

Another point which was raised was that when people attempt to join the UDR they are told that their services are not required. That job is done by the UDR itself, working under the Ministry of Defence. I play no part in it at all. It is done in the same way as anybody joining the Armed Services is dealt with. It is not a political judgment on my part. In every case the examination of credentials, if that is the right word, is undertaken by the Army itself.

With regard to Regular members of the UDR, most of whom are ex-Regular soldiers, there is already a large number of these who are known as "consolidated rate" men who are paid by the hour for their work in the UDR. I have been strongly advised by everybody—I have had no disagreement on this—that the Regular battalion aspect of the UDR would be a wrong approach.

With regard to the question of Regulars within the battalion and the use which could be made of them, when a UDR company or a group of companies moves down to the border on certain days of the week they have to have the regular "con rate" men preparing for the journey and organising it. They perform a most valuable rôle. We are looking at this aspect of it with the Ministry of Defence as part of the long-range investigations which are taking place. I have had it put to me in the last week or two that unemployed men are joining the UDR and getting paid for their work in the UDR but are having their unemployment pay or social security docked. The point is put to me that they ought to be able to claim both.

Mr. McCusker

The problem is that a person who is a part-time member of the UDR is deprived of one or the other. If he is in receipt of unemployment benefit, he cannot be a part-time man.

Mr. Rees

Of course, in terms of service to the community in Northern Ireland, that is not prevented. All I say to those who have raised this question is that I am constantly faced with the problem of payment to people who do jobs in Great Britain while they are on social security and who, quite properly, lose the money which they get from the State. Legislating to make an exception of the UDR would mean that there were other people in a similar position, and the whole problem would escalate.

Many other questions were raised such as that of compensation. I wish that it were as simple as the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) believes it to be. There was also the question of the law, and we are certainly looking—

It being Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.

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