§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Roy Mason)
I beg to move,
That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1978, which was laid before this House on 21st November, be approved.
The purpose of the order is to extend for a further six months the availability of the powers provided by the emergency provisions Act. These powers were designed to meet an exceptional situation and I do not lightly ask for their renewal.
But this is not a situation of our making or choosing. The House has recognised that in the past, and will, I am sure, continue to recognise it. It is brought about by the activities of a small number of fanatics who seek to impose their views through violence, knowing that they have no democratic mandate.
If it is argued that the Act may diminish some civil rights, it can be said that it does not begin to compare with the destruction of human rights which terrorism brings. Is any human right more precious than the right to stay alive; the right to live in peace; the right to have a livelihood? These are the rights that the terrorists are taking from those who do not agree with them or will not submit to them.
I have no wish to see the emergency powers retained for any longer than is strictly necessary. The terrorists seek to show that they can bring normal life to a standstill. The greatest single weapon of the people and the Government is our ability to show that they are not succeeding and never will succeed, that violence is irrelevant and pointless and that normal society and normal standards of decency and fair play will not be destroyed in Northern Ireland.
If, therefore, I am asking today for a renewal of the present powers, it is because I regretfully believe that the need for them has not yet passed and that the situation still makes them necessary.
I last reviewed the security situation for the House in June. I said then that 1500 we must look for the clear signs of progress in assessing the position. I predicted that we were unlikely to see anything in the way of dramatic change. Rather, as the security situation improved and restrictions eased, we should see a build-up of public confidence and a gradual return to normal living.
I believe that this is what has been happening. The overall incidence of violence and terrorist activity has decreased and other matters are increasingly occupying the attention of the community.
Since June there have been prolonged lulls in terrorist activity, alternating with sharp bursts of violence. I have no intention of indulging in false optimism, but the figures clearly indicate a continuing decline in the overall level of violence.
So far, in the period since 1st July, a total of 27 people have died as a result of terrorist activity compared with a total of 49 in the first half of 1978 and 30 in the second half of 1977. The number of shooting attacks has continued to decline since 1st July, and the overall total for the year is 30 per cent. down on that for 1977.
While bomb attacks are nearly 25 per cent. up on the previous year, mainly due to the two rounds of bombing attacks in the last few weeks, and the amounts of explosives used have risen sharply, cassette incendiary attacks are only 16 per cent. of the total for 1977.
The bombing attacks which took place in a number of country towns on and after 14th November and on 30th November were a blatant attempt by the terror-rists to panic the community, and especially the business community, into calling for a reintroduction of the old security restrictions. I am pleased to say that they have signally failed in their objective.
The Provisional IRA, having failed to achieve the slightest move towards the attainment of its goal, continues to indulge in violence for the sake of violence. In the past it has relied heavily on the tacit—and sometimes overt—support of some of the community which supports the Republican ideal. I emphasise"some"because there are many who embrace that aspiration who have consistently spoken out bravely and bitterly against the mindless terrorist campaign.
But the support of the minority community for the PIRA is dwindling, and 1501 increasingly PIRA represents no one but itself. Its recent activities have been strongly and roundly condemned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) as well as by Mr. Austin Currie, Bishop Daly, the Roman Catholic Bishop for Derry, and Bishop Butler, the Church of Ireland Bishop of Connor.
As the police with the strong support of the Army maintain and increase their pressure, the terrorists have been forced more and more towards sporadic attacks mounted from ever less secure bases in the cities and in the remoter and sparsely populated rural areas, especially to the west of Lough Neagh and in the vicinity of the border in South Armagh, Fermanagh and West Tyrone. During most of this period, members of the security forces, on and off duty, have continued to bear the brunt of terrorist violence. Since last June, three members of the RUC and its reserve and seven members of the Regular Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment have died as the result of terrorist activity. Whilst these figures are much below those of two years ago, I regard every death as a tragic loss. I am sure that the whole House will wish me to express the sympathy of the House with the relatives of those who have died.
We recognise how much the whole community owes to those men and women of the RUC and the RUC Reserve, the Regular Army and the UDR who continue to carry out their duties, often in difficult conditions, with such courage and fortitude for the benefit of all the people in Northern Ireland. Let us not forget either that death in the course of duty has come to the prison service, the fire service and the civilian search unit.
In abhorring these senseless killings, we must not lose sight of the progress that is being made towards a more hopeful future. With the increasing localisation of terrorist activity, large areas of the Province are becoming accustomed to a relatively calm and peaceful existence. Unquestionably, there is a new sense of confidence which is not lost on visitors, whether business men or tourists.
As the House knows, I am committed to the principle of fair and effective enforcement of the law by bringing terrorists to justice through the courts. This principle has been the firm founda- 1502 tion of our security effort since it was put forward by the Ministerial Committee on Law and Order in Northern Ireland which reported in the middle of 1976.
As two years had elapsed since then, I thought it right this summer to commission a review of the progress made in the meantime and of how best this progress could be carried forward. That review has confirmed the extent of the progress that has taken place, both in the state of security in the Province and in building up the capacity of the security forces, especially the police, to achieve further progress.
Having discussed the review with the Chief Constable and the GOC, I have concluded that the Government's present policy is the right one and that we must stick to it. I believe that all the main parties in this House agree with the essential objectives of that policy.
The Government's purpose remains the achievement of police acceptance and effectiveness throughout Northern Ireland, so that the RUC can administer the law with a minimum of Army support. One cannot isolate security policy or make valid statements about it without at the same time remembering the wider context in which it must be set. The security situation is important, but it cannot be separate from political, social and economic developments.
The security forces for their part must be always aware of the civil environment in which they operate. That is the framework within which particular decisions about specific security operations must be made.
A central feature of our policy is the evolution of the RUC as a modern and efficient police force. I think the House will agree that it is immensely encouraging to see how much progress it has been making. It has moved a very long way in a comparatively short space of time, both in building up its numerical strength and in developing its specialist skills and its overall professionalism.
The significant drop in the level of violence has meant that the number of charges brought against suspected terrorists has also been reduced. Nevertheless, 664 people charged in the first three-quarters of 1978 is a substantial figure. Of these, 46 were charged with 1503 murder and 65 with attempted murder. The great majority of these charges relate to crimes committed very recently. In September charges were brought against one person in relation to the bombing of La Mon House restaurant, which took place in February of this year, and further investigations are continuing into that episode.
A large number of convictions has also been secured relating to offences committed a long time previously. In September alone, convictions were secured in respect of 26 murders committed two or more years previously.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The right hon. Gentleman referred to arrests in connection with the murders at the La Mon House restaurant. Will he or the Minister of State say something about progress in identifying those responsible for series of murders in Newry where, I believe, an arrest was made some weeks ago?
§ Mr. Mason
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to establish the facts and convey them to the right hon. Gentleman later.
The RUC is also increasing its efforts to deal with fraud and similar offences, whatever their origin may be. A specially trained fraud squad has been established. A criminal intelligence bureau of fraudulent activities has also been set up, aimed chiefly at company frauds.
In common with other police forces, the RUC tries to prevent young people from becoming involved in anti-social or criminal conduct. RUC youth liaison officers keep in touch with schools and help teachers to prepare the children for responsible and law-abiding citizenship. At present RUC youth liaison officers are involved in about 90 schools throughout the Province.
In order that the RUC should be able to meet is expanded role, my predecessor said in July 1976 that as a first objective every effort would be made to recruit up to the then establishment of 6,500. A major milestone was reached in October this year, when the strength of the regular force passed the 6,000 mark. The time is thus approaching when we shall have to consider whether present 1504 and anticipated demands upon the force would justify increasing the strength beyond 6,500—and, if so, what that increase should be.
I am arranging for a study to be undertaken within the next few months. I cannot anticipate the results, but let me give renewed assurance that, should it establish that the present recruitment ceiling is inadequate to enable the RUC to meet its foreseeable commitment, that ceiling will be raised.
I have referred to the role of the Army in support of the RUC. I have no intention of doing the terrorists' work for them by withdrawing Army support too early. But as the terrorists are increasingly obliged to concentrate their efforts in certain parts of the Province—leaving other areas in relative peace—the Army is able to concentrate its own efforts accordingly.
A fifth resident infantry battalion was introduced into the Province in September, replacing a four-month roulement unit. This will provide greater continuity in important areas of activity.
The UDR continues to play an important and increasingly effective role in ensuring the security of the Province. The recently announced reorganisation of the company structure in a number of battalions is aimed at improving that effectiveness still further while the build-up of the permanent cadre now gives the regiment a 24-hour capability in many parts of the Province. The permanent cadre is now 2,386-strong. Recruiting has gone well.
Co-operation across the border between the two police forces continues to develop. The terrorists do not respect the border, and our joint efforts have to match that. Contacts now exist from the level of Chief Constable and Commissioner down to officers working in the divisions on the border. I am confident that they will make it progressively harder for the terrorists to take advantage of it.
Allegations have been made in some quarters that the Army is operating a new policy of shooting first and asking questions afterwards. There is no such policy. The Army in Northern Ireland operates today to the same rules as it has done for years past. The soldier is no more exempt from the law of the land than is any other citizen and he has to 1505 be prepared to answer to the law for his actions.
In accordance with that law, in carrying out his duties he is under orders never to use more force than is necessary and never to open fire if the situation can be handled by other means. These are the yellow card rules.
It is an integral part of our policy that terrorists convicted in the courts should serve their sentences in the same way as all convicted criminals, whatever their aims and affiliations. I do not need to rehearse to the House the situation of the protestors in the Maze. They are claiming to be given special treatment in recognition that their crimes were politically motivated.
The Government's reply is still the same. Special category treatment is being phased out. All these protestors have been convicted in open court by due process of law. No one is in gaol for his political views. Men who have murdered and bombed have no right to be treated differently from any other criminals.
If the conditions in which they now live are obnoxious, they are entirely of their own making. The form of protest that they have chosen is revolting to any civilised society, and I must pay a sincere tribute to the prison officers whose dedication to duty ensures the regular cleaning and disinfecting of the filth for which these prisoners are responsible.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the activities of certain prisoners in H block, the conditions in which they live and the filth that they have created for themselves. Is he taking any steps to defeat the Republican and Provisional IRA propaganda which is at work in the United States of America among certain Congressmen? Strangely enough, I understand that the prisoners are gaining sympathy because of the conditions in H block.
§ Mr. Mason
Yes, I am taking all measures to combat the propaganda wave that some are trying to mount externally—that is, outside the shores of the United Kingdom. They are getting little sympathy from within the Province and within Great Britain. I am trying to combat propaganda activity, especially in the 1506 United States of America. The visiting Congressmen who have been to Northern Ireland but who have not met any of the senior democratically elected leaders of the Province know full well that they would be rejected if they were to take up the cause of the Provisional IRA protestors.
As the security situation improves, people's attention is drawn, quite understandably, to the operation of the emergency legislation. We are as conscious of this as anyone. Parliament never intended the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 to last indefinitely, and made it subject to renewal every six months. Parliament also conferred on the Secretary of State the power to continue by an order such as we are considering today all or any of the temporary pro visions which are in force, or to provide that all or any of them will cease to be in force. We have always kept it under close review in case there was either a need for intensification or an opportunity for relaxation. The Act is not a monolith, and we have never regarded it as such.
The time will come therefore when the Government will be able to recommend to the House that the stage has been reached for one or more of the Act's provisions to be allowed to lapse as being no longer essential for the maintenance of order.
I hope that that time may not be too far off, since, when it comes, it will be because the improvement has been sustained and the return to normality is accelerating. Each provision will have to be treated on its merits. I have no intention of leaving the security forces without adequate powers to deal with the situation in which they find themselves.
Each time that I have to ask the House to renew the 1978 emergency provisions Act I consider with great care whether there is still a need for all of the provisions. I do not believe that the moment when we can begin to allow parts of the Act to lapse has yet arrived and I cannot say yet when it will arrive.
However, I can promise the House that between now and next summer I shall keep the matter under the closest review, in the light of the way in which the security situation develops, and I shall not hesitate to recommend that this or that provision should be allowed to lapse 1507 if I judge that the situation warrants it. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights is examining certain aspects of the working of emergency legislation and I shall be very willing to consider its advice.
I have devoted a large proportion of this speech to the subjects of the police and policing. I believe this is right. Just now I looked forward to the day when the Government could look positively at the possibility that one or more sections of the emergency legislation might be allowed to lapse. It is the RUC, with the help of the Army, which will take us to that point, and it is the RUC which will still have to maintain law and order when emergency legislation is no longer considered necessary in Northern Ireland. I ask those who call most strongly for the dismantling of the emergency structure to remember this. I ask them to give active and unstinted support to the efforts of the RUC to restore peace in Northern Ireland. That is what all but a tiny handful of people of Northern Ireland want and that is what they must have and what I believe they deserve.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)
The emergency powers are still needed in Northern Ireland and the Opposition agree to their renewal. I thank the Secretary of State for what he has said. I agree with his priorities.
I have returned from talks with the security forces during the past two days, when I discussed all the principal aspects of security policy that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. I agree that there is now much more confidence among the people than there was a few months ago. That is to be noticed as one travels around the Province. I also saw officials concerned with the prison service. The right hon. Gentleman's comments about H block propaganda are extremely important.
Despite the latest outbreak of bombing, the population is showing great calm. Unlike some people far from the dangers of Northern Ireland—the armchair critics —the people of Northern Ireland are refusing to be trapped by IRA propaganda. I notice that they are getting down to cleaning their shops and tidying their homes in a most calm manner.
1508 I agree that support for the Provisional IRA in the minority community is continuing to dwindle. I do not often find myself in agreement with The Irish Times, but its statement this week that the Provos have nothing to say to the people of the North is excellent. I was glad to read that.
The appraisal given to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and myself in the middle of June that the terrorists are equipped for a long struggle has been sadly justified. We are seeing that now. During my two-day visit it became clear to me that relentless pressure must be retained on all terrorist groups throughout the next 12 months to keep them on the run. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that he may have to consider the nature of the emergency legislation in future, but relentless pressure must be the policy.
Some solution must also be found to the problem of the godfathers of terrorism—we have heard a good deal about their operations in the last two days—and how they should be brought before the courts. This still remains a major problem. The Secretary of State and the House will know to whom I am referring. The bombings of the last two days have been coordinated. The source of supply is obviously a new bomb factory. The sooner that is identified and neutralised, the better it will be for everyone.
It is obvious that the car bomb has returned to the scene. By the end of 1978, the number of bombs may well be as large as in 1977. On the other hand, the Secretary of State quite rightly said that the number of Army and civilian deaths has been kept down, presumably as a result of the great success of the security forces in catching terrorists during 1977. But he is right to tell the House that every death is tragic, and I pay the same tribute to all those who have so well served the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.
The security forces to whom I spoke clearly do not favour a general review or reappraisal of the fundamental elements of the existing policy, in response to the recent increase in violence. They are entirely in favour of the present policy of giving the main role to the RUC. The Army evidently does not wish to see soldiers acting as policemen again, or showing a considerable uniformed 1509 presence in the streets of the Province, and I entirely agree with that. The RUC is obviously ready, willing and able to go on enlarging its role, although I was told in Belfast of the shortage of men available for some routine work. I was glad, therefore, to hear the Secretary of State mention the question of establishment and a possible increase beyond 6,500, because this may be necessary for routine duties.
I had the pleasure of visiting the additional resident battalion of the Green Howards in October. I was very much impressed by them. I think that their policy is right and I hope that there will be another resident battalion in Northern Ireland before long.
Everyone to whom I spoke, including shopkeepers, felt that the security barriers should not be hastily re-erected, particularly in the absence of any significant demand for them by the traders and ordinary members of the public. A sudden re-erection of barriers would be greeted by the terrorists as a victory for them.
The security forces lay great emphasis on the cumulative effects of their steady pressure on the terrorists. The word they use is"attrition ". I do not like that word very much but I think it describes the only possible security policy at the present time. It is a question of wearing down the terrorist groups operating in Northern Ireland.
I now turn to what I regard as the most important problem today in Northern Ireland—that of the Maze and the propaganda protest campaign being conducted by the prisoners there. It is very noticeable, in referring to support within the minority community, that there are far fewer sympathisers than there would have been a few years ago. All of us here who are concerned with Northern Ireland affairs will remember that well. But we need some counter-propaganda, and the question is how this should be undertaken.
There is no doubt that the object of the operation is to get at sympathisers in the United States of America, because funds for the IRA are drying up. I have had occasion to discuss this on television quite recently. I hope that members of the Government will take part in discussions on television on the subject, because the Opposition thoroughly sup- 1510 port the Government in what they are doing in standing firm against the protest. It would be a good idea if both Government and Opposition were to be seen standing together on those occasions so that viewers could realise this. I entirely agree with what the Secretary of State has said in the past, but I think that more public understanding of this would be a good thing.
The greatest fillip which could be given to the IRA at this stage would be any concession to the current filthy protest campaign which it is carrying out in the prison. Any weakening would, above all, destroy the morale of the Province's 2,400 prison officers. This was pointed out to me yesterday by the Secretary of State's own Department. I was very much impressed by what was told to me in no uncertain terms by the officials to whom we spoke. We have good reason, I believe, for making this attitude clear outside the House.
During the protest, prison officers in the three H blocks have had to endure enormous provocation from the protestors, as well as undertaking regular cleaning operations in order to prevent an outbreak of disease. Each cell is cleaned once every three weeks or so, I understand. I should like the Government—the Opposition will assist them—to declare their absolute determination to stand firm in the face of this blackmail, in order to convince the prison officials that their work has not been in vain. I know that this was the view of Mr. Albert Miles, the murdered deputy prison governor. Some Young Conservatives went over to see him just before he was murdered. They told me that he had said to them that any face-saving formula would be seen as an insult to the memory of his six colleagues in the prison service who had been killed. He was a fine man and, sadly, he was killed very shortly after he made that statement to those young people.
The propaganda has to be met and defeated. The photographs of the facilities available in the prison should be widely circulated, as they are of considerable interest. There are education and recreation facilities which the protestors are denying themselves by turning their cells into pigsties. A good deal more use could be made of the photographs. showing the facilities and the nature 1511 of the accommodation, particularly among British officials abroad. They ought to be in possession of the facts.
I know that our ambassador in Washington has made a statement, and I welcome it, but I hope that a more positive message will be given from Government sources throughout the world. The propaganda is being spread throughout the world. It is to be found not only in the United States but in Europe and in the Soviet Union. According to the propaganda, the prisoners are suffering ill treatment from the prison authorities and not from their own actions.
Those are the most important points that I encountered during my short visit to Northern Ireland. We agree with the order and its renewal, and will give the Government our full support.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)
The Ulster people have had to endure almost 10 years of terrorism, and by any standards that is an appalling record of government and law-keeping. It is sad to have to concede this evening that there is still the need for strong security policies and the necessary law to give effect to those policies.
It would be very wrong of us, even though we may feel frustrated and wearied by these problems, to place any difficulties in the way of restoring peace, stability, law and order in Northern Ireland. I complain about having had to endure this for 10 years, but I do not want the complaint to be interpreted as meaning that I do not recognise the enormous progress that has been made in restoring effective law and order in Northern Ireland. Indeed, this is the first occasion on which I can be so forthcoming in recognising the progress that has been made.
But in recognising this progress I do not want the Secretary of State and his colleagues to assume that they can adopt a complacent attitude or feel that the problems are almost over, because we do not believe that they are over. We support the renewal this evening of the emergency provisions, but we are not concinced that that in itself is enough. We feel that, before the last shot can be said to have been fired, much more will have 1512 to be done by the security forces, and it may be necessary to look at the entire legal apparatus to enable the security forces to complete the job.
The statistics that the Secretary of State has quoted are impressive and one cannot argue about them, but behind those statistics there is a lot of misery and much economic loss that we cannot ignore. We sometimes dismiss these IRA attacks as the acts of madmen, but there is a strange cunning in these acts of madness. As an example of what I mean I cite their reckless placing of a bomb on the shoppers' train from Dublin to Belfast. That had a very effective economic consequence. It was another blow at the commercial life of Belfast.
I do not believe that the terrorists were oblivious to what they were doing. What they were oblivious to was the possible cost in human lives. This is the awful dilemma that we face. We must protect our economy and our people. We cannot afford to play politics or be curtailed by the consideration of what is good in terms of a propaganda war. People in Northern Ireland want to feel that everything that can be done within the legal framework is being done to defeat the IRA terrorists.
The most significant sign of progress—here I heartily join with the Secretary of State—is the growth in the effectiveness of the RUC. Every law-abiding citizen in Northern Ireland rejoices at this, and we are now pleased that the Government are much more realistic and practical in their approach to the policing of the Province. It is a sad matter of record that it was the Government who undermined the effectiveness of policing in Northern Ireland.
We rejoice that we are no longer concerned with politics when it comes to having an effective police force in Northern Ireland. The RUC has, against great odds, established itself in most parts of the community as a force that can be regarded with trust and with pride. I commend the Secretary of State for the speedy way in which he has improved the quality of equipment that is now available to the RUC and for ensuring the increased mobility of the force. However, I plead with him not to rest in his labours because much still needs to be done in providing additional vehicles and 1513 radio communications and in instituting a reappraisal of the armaments requirements of the RUC.
I am confident that now that the RUC is seen to be in a position to do its job there will be no difficulty in attracting additional recruits. I have no doubts when I say that I believe the force needs to be increased in strength to 8,500—the experts will tell us the exact number—because 6,500 is not enough even to deal with the normal situation in the Province.
The task of crowd control at football matches or other great public gatherings is sufficient to demonstrate the problem faced by the RUC. I am always jealous of the capacity of London's Metropolitan Police to muster, without any sense of emergency, large numbers of policemen to deal with great public gatherings. Dealing with such occasions in Northern Ireland always presents a crisis if there is any risk of a breach of the rule of law.
So it is a matter of urgency to build up the RUC and to look at the recruitment of officer material for the force. A force is only as good as its leadership. I talk about leadership not only from the top but at every level in the force. There could be introduced with advantage special training and educational courses for recruits with officer potential in the RUC. There is one weakness in the development of the police as the prime law and order force in Northern Ireland, and that is the lack of adequate reserve power to deal with emergencies. I am talking about the day—I hope it will soon arrive—when we do not have to call upon the Army as an aid to civil authority.
I think that the time has come to address our minds to the problems that will arise when that day comes. The Ulster Defence Regiment is a fine force, doing a wonderful job, but it has no long-term role in the policing of the Province. It is a regiment of the Army, and I believe that we should consider whether its character should be changed so that it can be an auxiliary force of the police rather than of the Army.
Unless we face this fact, it is unreal to talk about establishing, once and for all, the primacy of the police in Northern Ireland. I should, however, like to pay tribute to the work that the volunteers in the regiment have done. I am in no way critical of the men or the job they 1514 are doing, but as organised now it does not fit into the pattern of the police organisation in the future. One further sign of progress is the nature of the Army's job in the Province. No longer is it performing the original absurd role projected for it of forming some sort of United Nations peace-keeping force. The Army can now be seen for what it is. It is there to help the civil authorities, and that is a barometer of real progress. I think that we should mark that up.
What I want to say about the Army concerns the matter of reviewing the strength of the Regular garrison. It is all too easy for people who are fearful of the situation to be disturbed by routine troop movements. I should like to see the matter more clearly spelt out. What is the size of the Regular garrison normally stationed in Northern Ireland? Once that is established, and once there is a formula for relating that size to the needs of the Province, there will be less risk of would-be politicians distorting the picture when we have normal times.
I cannot develop my argument without referring to the recent spate of bombings. It will be argued by the IRA and others that this indicates that there has been no progress in curtailing the terrorists. That is nonsense. I think that the recent bombings are illuminating, because it is clear to me that, for the first time in this long decade of violence, the IRA is more and more being pushed over the border. The Irish Republic is a safer place for them than Northern Ireland. Belfast is no longer in the front line, as far as we can see. It is the towns and targets more convenient to the border that are now in the front line.
This situation causes me some concern —though I welcome and accept the Secretary of State's assurances that there is growing co-operation between the two police forces in the island—because I am not happy that enough is being done in the Irish Republic to curtail the IRA. It is an alarming fact that over the past 12 months armed robberies in the Republic have netted about £3 million to £4 million. I do not think it is reckless to speculate that the great bulk of that money has gone into the coffers of people associated with the IRA. I am sure that not all of that money is used for the good of the cause—probably it is helping some of the members of that organisation rather 1515 than the cause—but some of it is, I am sure, going to aid the cause.
That sort of money concerns me. No matter how good the international community may be in helping to control terrorism, anyone who can spend millions of pounds can buy assassins and weapons. There is a duty on the Government of the Irish Republic to see that the law is more effectively enforced in the Republic and that these armed robberies, which threaten all of us, are brought to a speedy end.
We have talked long about better cooperation with the Irish Government. At the end of the day we come to one inevitable conclusion: there will be no progress until the Government of the Republic not only take action in their own courts but adopt a policy of extradition. That in itself—the very act of subscribing to the convention for extradition—would be a massive deterrent, preventing many young people in the Republic from being sucked into something which is wholly evil and has nothing to do with a patriotic cause.
That would certainly lessen the chances of the Republic being used as a hideout or haven for terrorists on the run. Unfortunately, at the moment, they seem to find this far too easy. I therefore urge the Secretary of State to make further representations to the Government in Dublin to shoulder their obligations in the name not only of law and order but of humanity, and to plead once more for extradition between the two countries.
In the face of the renewed activity in Northern Ireland, we must consider what lessons can be learnt. It is well known that Gerry Adams, not long released from prison, is again playing a leading part in the IRA's campaign. It is a source of worry and concern to those who have done so much to get on top of the IRA that the organisation should be rejuvenated from time to time by the return of leadership of this capacity.
That leads me to ask: are the sentences adequate for the situation in which we live? I do not believe that they are. A new approach needs to be taken to sentencing. Anyone convicted of an offence motivated by terrorism should receive a sentence for the duration of the campaign of terrorism or a fixed term of years, whichever is the longer.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
What is there in the Northern Ireland situation which suggests to the right hon. Gentleman that if it were possible to keep in gaol those guilty of terrorism there would not be young people aged from 14 to 17 anxious to take up the cudgels?
§ Mr. Craig
I do not think that many young people are anxious to take up the cudgels. Many are being tricked and trapped into a situation which they find it difficult to get out of. When I deal later with the IRA's concept of humanity I might cite some examples of how young people, once ensnared, find it difficult to get out again.
I was going to say that, as I read the situation—I know that I am not alone in this interpretation—it is only a matter of time until a further serious onslaught is made against the personnel of the RUC. We therefore have a duty to frame the law to provide the maximum protection for the security forces—not just the law enforcement agencies but the prison service as well.
The time has come to reconsider the introduction of the death penalty for the murder of a member of the security forces or the prison service. I do not accept that it has no deterrent value. It has a real deterrent value. The Secretary of State may know about the prisoner who was confined to one of Her Majesty's prisons and was in danger of losing his life, on the instruction of an illegal organisation. That organisation told a prisoner who was already confined on four murder raps to eliminate the newly-confined prisoner. The man had nothing to lose and a lot to gain, since the IRA had told him"If you do this job for us, we shall see that your wife and children receive added benefits."
Thankfully, the prison service has so far avoided such a crime being carried out within its confines, but this shows what happens when a man has nothing more to lose. The death penalty should be considered.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I am not in full accord with the right hon. Gentleman and give no support to his call for the return of the death penalty, but is he aware that the case that he has illustrated happened on the other side of the political and religious divide and that 1517 I had to ring up the Minister of State to ask him to ensure that a loyalist prisoner would not be taken to the Maze, where he was in danger of being killed by his former UVF associates?
§ Mr. Craig
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming the sort of situation that I fear might arise from time to time in our prisons. I was not aware that he had been of assistance in the matter, and I am grateful that he was prepared to help in that direction.
I should like to refer to some of the consequences of these emergency provisions in terms of the ill-informed propaganda warfare which is now being waged. Some would have us believe that because of these provisions there is no due process of law in Northern Ireland. That is a wilful falsehood. There is fair trial in Northern Ireland. The absence of a jury, though regrettable, does not mean that the judiciary cannot be relied upon and trusted. The quality of justice administered by our courts is as high as one can find anywhere. Indeed, as a lawyer, I sometimes think that if my future were at risk I would rather have it decided by two or three judges than by a jury of 12.
In principle, we should like to see trial by jury restored, but against the background of intimidation and the risk of losing one's life it is unrealistic to ask for that. But its absence does not indicate a lack of proper judicial process. All who are convicted are convicted on evidence which has been well and truly tested.
I join the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) in asking the Secretary of State to stand firm on the Government's decision about special category status and to attack those who seek to promote its restoration. The Government's case is sound and should not go by default. I was horrified by the"Nationwide"television programme last night. The hon. Member for Abingdon did the best he could in restricted circumstances, but that programme was ill advised and inaccurate in many respects, showing a complete lack of knowledge of how a prison works.
I could not believe my eyes or ears when I saw a mother being interviewed while on her way, allegedly, to visit her son who was on the blanket. The inter- 1518 viewer was putting words into her mouth. She did not know whether she would be able to see her son or, if she did. whether he would be given time to clean himself up. If he was in a dirty condition, that was entirely his own decision.
What did not come out in that interview was that prisoners who rebel against the prison rules lose their privileges:stage by stage as punishment for their continued rebellion against authority. Last night's programme gave the impression —I believe deliberately—that privileges were being withdrawn for political reasons rathen than for the proper administration of the prison. The hon. Member for Abingdon sail all that needed to be said on that issue.
There can be no yielding to demands for special privileges for criminals of this nature. They are common criminals. The only special thing about them is the extent of their degradation. Far from getting privileges, they merit the full severity which can be administered under the law. The great majority of people in Northern Ireland will support the Government in their determination to ensure that neither politics nor terrorist pressure shall lead them into creating unfair privileges for such criminals. It was a great mistake that special category status was ever introduced. I suppose that it was brought in because of the treatment that was necessary for those who were interned without trial. But it was a great mistake. A big price has been paid for it, and an even bigger price would be paid if there were any question of a compromise. It would be a betrayal not only of the prison service but of all law-abiding people in Northern Ireland.
I hope that the Government will use all the organs of government to ensure that the truth is known, and I trust that the BBC will not again be given the opportunity to put such a one-sided, distorted picture before viewers in the United Kingdom.
As has been said, we are dealing with people who have no comprehension of the meaning of humanity. It sickens me to hear pleas being made on their behalf on the ground that they deserve special treatment in the name of humanity. These people indiscriminately placed bombs in public places, not caring who or wits people were killed. Have we forgotten 1519 the horrible bomb in the Abercorn restaurant and in many other public places? The dead may be buried, but those who loved and cared for them have not forgotten. There are people living today who are badly mutilated. They have a very poor opinion of IRA humanity.
The IRA attemps to justify the bombings and hoax bombings by going through the process of giving due and timely warnings when it suits it. Such warnings should not be regarded as acts of humanity. The warnings have been used to develop a system of disruption almost as massive and destructive as the bombs themselves.
If anyone has any doubt about the character of these criminals, he should consider how they treat their comrades. Even a minor offence can result in the offender having a bullet in the knee. They think nothing of inflicting capital punishment as a penalty. If, in the exercise of their own law, they are prepared to hand out such punishments, they have a distorted sense of values if they claim special privileges for themselevs.
I am not attempting to claim that two wrongs make a right. I am merely emphasising that, by criminal standards, these criminals are the worst in our society and do not merit any special sympathy or treatment. If prison conditions are intolerable for them, they are the result of their own actions.
Compromises of a dangerous kind have largely been responsible for the people of Northern Ireland suffering for 10 years. The sign of progress today is that fundamental values and standards of right and wrong are no longer to be compromised. The RUC, the Army and many people are willing to lay down their lives to see that those standards are maintained. Far be it for us in politics to jeopardise what they stand for.
I have no doubt that all my colleagues will support the renewal of these provisions on the basis that the Government will continue to exert themselves to bring peace and harmony to our country.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Many of us absolutely condemn the IRA for these dreadful atrocities. But should not the right hon. Gentleman mention and condemn the brutal 1520 killings by the paramilitaries who count themselves to be on the other side? Should we not make it clear that, from whichever side terrorism, brutality and killing may come, we condemn the groupings which do it? I think it is absolutely necessary to put on record that we are totally against terrorism from both sides.
§ Mr. Craig
I do not dispute what the hon. Gentleman has said. I only hope that he is not trying to minimise the activities of the IRA. The IRA brought about this situation and, unhappily, produced this reaction. I agree that brutal murders by terrorists on either side are to be condemned. Terrorism cannot be justified in a democracy when people have the right to decide their future by the ballot box. The ballot box rather than the bullet is to be preferred.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)
Whatever else may be deduced about the wave of Provisional bombing—I accept what my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) said about how the IRA has suffered during the past two years—it patently does not represent the work of a few groups of ill-disciplined, politically motivated criminals or of isolated individuals within the Provisional IRA trying to put a brave face on the difficulty that that organisation has experienced in the past year in keeping up the momentum of the war. To that extent, it presents us with a more worrying set of circumstances than virtually anything we have had to face since Her Majesty the Queen visited Northern Ireland 18 months ago.
This current phase, which is now entering its fourth week, has all the hallmarks of detailed planning and organisation. It exhibits a degree of co-ordination and discipline which clearly tells us that the terrorists have—we hope only temporarily —regained the initiative. There is no point in turning a blind eye and saying that we should not acknowledge it because we are doing our work.
The widespread nature of the bombing also illustrates an ease of movement of equipment and explosives throughout the Province. That is worrying in the extreme and demands that far greater efforts be made in checking and monitoring people and vehicles. From my personal experience in moving about Northern Ireland, I 1521 have the feeling that road checking is not being pursued with the same vigour, or with the same resources, as was the case in the past.
Detailed planning and co-ordination demands planners and organisers—" the godfathers ", as they were described by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). In a debate on security on 6th March I said:These people form the vital component, just like the detonators in the bombs, the volunteers and the materials for terrorism which will always be available in Northern Ireland if One has the money for the materials and the history to generate the volunteers. So long as these men are at large, so long will the campaign continue."—[Official Report, 6th March 1978; Vol. 945, col. 1063.]On that occasion I asked the Secretary of State to consider whether the law could be strengthened to deal with these people. I join with those hon. Members who have asked him to consider whether the law needs strengthening to take these people out of our society.
Another potential source of assistance and advice, quite apart from recruits, comes from among the people who are presently being released from prison on completion of 50 per cent. of their sentences. There must be people qualifying for remission as of now who six or seven years ago were found guilty of some very serious terrorist offences which at the time merited sentences of 10, 12 or 14 years. These were people who bombed and murdered. They were guilty of gross offences. They are now becoming available to the terrorists.
Is the Secretary of State satisfied that the movements and activities of these people, who have been only conditionally released, are being adequately monitored? Just as important, is he now able to assure us, since he was not earlier this year, that if and when they are again apprehended and brought before the courts, the attention of the courts will be drawn in every instance to the fact that a sizeable proportion of their original sentences are to be served?
I find it incomprehensible that during the past six or seven months the courts in Northern Ireland have released people on bail and have given suspended sentences to people who have been guilty of terrorist offences. I do not see how someone caught in possession of a weapon or 1522 bomb-making material, or who is an accessory to a terrorist offence, can be given a suspended sentence.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East said, now is not the time for softness. Like him, I do not believe that we can consider terrorism in Northern Ireland without taking into account the role of the Irish Republic. I know that some people think that I have a bee in my bonnet about the Irish Republic, but I share a common land frontier in my constituency with it, and I am seriously concerned about what is happening there.
Despite what the Minister of State told me three weeks ago about the role of the Irish Republic, it is quite obvious that during the past few weeks many of the bombs and other materials have been run into the Province from Eire. This is evidenced not only by arrests in Northern Ireland but also by the good work of the civic guards in the Republic, particularly in county Donegal, where the civic guards probably saved Londonderry from a blitz during the past few weeks.
Can the Secretary of State tell us whether there is a bomb factory in the Republic? Do the security forces know that or suspect it? Do the commercial explosives and detonators which are now used in the bombs originate in the. Republic? Do the various fertiliser mixes being used in car bombs originate in the Republic? Is it true that the home-made detonators which are now used in these bombs are being made in the Republic with professional advice and assistance?
A substantial number of devices have been defused. We must pay tribute to those professionals who have done this very dangerous work and who over the past few weeks have saved Northern Ireland from a lot more damage. When those bombs were defused and examined, a lot of information must have been made available.
I should now like to refer briefly to my constituency and to a number of disquieting incidents which have occurred there in recent times, which illustrate to me and my constituents that there is a growing confidence in the terrorist fraternity. I refer particularly to the fact that large groups of armed men have been able to roam around the border areas of 1523 South Armagh, crossing the border from time to time, abducting people, questioning them and in at least one instance beating them up. They made no attempt to conceal their presence or the weapons which they carried. They have acted in this brazen fashion, and are obviously confident that they will not be apprehended.
§ Mr. John Dunlop (Mid-Ulster)
Does not my hon. Friend agree that it is something of an anomaly that a short time ago a small unit of the special patrol group of the police strayed across the border at Clady in county Tyrone—a notorious Republican area—and were shortly detected by the army of the Republic and just as promptly turned back across the border? If the army of the Republic is so proficient in detecting an innocent excursion such as that, how is it that these other movements to which my hon. Friend has referred seem to go undetected, and that the IRA's free movement across the border continues unhindered?
§ Mr. McCusker
I hope that the good work which has been done in parts of Donegal will be seen operating across the border in county Tyrone and county Armagh. As to the incidents to which I referred, that is not happening. But I am confident that those people would not behave in that fashion if the SAS was operating in South Armagh in the strength in which it was operating a few years ago. I hope that the Secretary of State and others will bear that in mind.
I am convinced that these public demonstrations are taking place to undermine the confidence of the public in the Government's determination to defeat the terrorists. If those people simply wanted to abduct someone and question him, they had no need to do it in the brazen, public fashion in which they did it. I believe that it was done in that way for effect.
Although the statistics for South Armagh are improving, they are still disconcerting. This year alone—and these are the forgotten people, many of whom come from the mainland of the United Kingdom—four Regular soldiers and one UDR man have been killed in South Armagh. Three civilians, two of them innocent Roman Catholics who were executed by the IRA, have been killed, as 1524 have two policemen. That is almost a dozen people killed in that small area of my constituency. That did not happen in 1977 when the full rigours of the covert activities of the SAS operated there.
Those are appalling figures. If they were repeated throughout the Province, it would represent a death rate comparable with the worst years of the troubles. I appreciate that the SAS is a finite military resource, but I can think of no better task on which it could be deployed. It is not unreasonable to suggest that at least some of the stimulus for the attacks is caused by the Government taking action to reinforce Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom.
Tonight's message to the terrorists should be"Forget your campaign of murder and destruction. It has had the effect only of bringing about what you least desire. You cannot bomb Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. You cannot bomb Northern Ireland into a united Ireland. You cannot win." The steadfastness of the Northern Ireland community has been shown by its refusal to be panicked by the recent outrages. That reinforces my view.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Stan Thorne (Preston, South)
My contribution will be in the form of a question which is at the root of what we are considering. Most of us are familiar with Irish history. We are well aware of the violence that has been part of the Irish problem for many years. One knows about the Easter Rising and many other occasions in Irish history when attempts have been made to solve the political problems with violence.
The right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) referred to democracy. Most Northern Irish people would like to conform to a system of democracy. It is out of the question to say that a democracy exists when some sections of a community are deprived of certain human rights. We are talking of a section of the community which sought to use the ballot box and to argue for equal rights in a variety of spheres. It was tempted by Governments and political parties to believe that they intended to carry out power sharing. Flow does that community feel when it finds that there is no such intention?
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who is not in the 1525 Chamber today, has made it clear on a number of occasions that there is to be no power sharing as long as he is alive. The Government's position is clear. The Government believe that power sharing in Northern Ireland is essential if a peaceful community is to be created. That has been said from the Dispatch Box on numerous occasions.
§ Mr. Dunlop
Does the hon. Member recall the power sharing Executive of 1974? A party which gained about 22 per cent. of the total vote handled 40 per cent. of government. That was good power sharing.
During that time violence did not decrease but escalated. More people were killed and more damage was done during the lifetime of the power sharing Executive than at any other time. That so-called democracy is no solution to the violence. The violence will continue. The IRA has no time for that type of power sharing. Patently, it wants to destroy both Governments, North and South, and institute a one-party, Marxist form of government for the whole of Ireland. That is its goal.
§ Mr. Thorne
Obviously the hon. Member's knowledge of the IRA's political position is better than mine. I was not aware that the IRA was a Marxist organisation intent upon establishing a Marxist form of government. But I agree that there are different interpretations of its aim.
The hon. Member seems to be saying that if normality is restored in Northern Ireland we would have power sharing and establish civil rights.
§ Mr. Thorne
I accept that there are limitations on civil rights in the United Kingdom. I did not vote for the Prevention of Terrorism Act, which the Opposition did. Some of my constituents have been subjected to that Act and their rights have, to some degree, been invaded.
As I was saying, if normality were restored, power sharing and the establishment of human rights would follow, it is said. But statements from Ulster Unionist Members give the lie to that suggestion.
§ Mr. Thorne
We have a democracy in the United Kingdom with a Government in power at present for which only 27 per cent. of the electorate voted.
That may be the right hon. Gentleman's conception of democracy, but it is not mine. If we are to have an argument about democracy, that is all very well, but I think that Mr. Deputy Speaker would tend to argue about that.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
I am very glad that the hon. Gentleman has made some reference to my coming into the Chair. Perhaps he could assist me. I understand that what we are discussing is the desirability of continuing in force the temporary provisions of the Act. It seems to me as though we are having a general debate on the future and the past and on what the Government have been doing. In my opinion, that has nothing to do with the offences that are enumerated in the Act.
§ Mr. Thorne
I agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I lost my way in attempting to take up one or two of the points made by Opposition Members which were apparently in order at the time they were made, particular reference having been made to democracy in Northern Ireland.
It seems to me that we are right to test the idea that, normality having been restored, we could expect the sort of things to which I have just been referring. The question then follows—this is why we are discussing the order, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are absolutely right: do emergency powers assist us to create the normality that we need in Northern Ireland as a preliminary to the democratic traditions to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? As I said at the beginning, for me that is the key question, and the only question.
What is the evidence? Emergency powers have been in existence in Northern Ireland for some years. We have 1527 heard from the Secretary of State that we are winning. I remember a very recent speech in which he said"We are winning." Someone over in Northern Ireland must have heard him, unfortunately. Also, someone may have heard what the right hon. Member for Belfast, East said earlier about there being no bombings in Belfast. I hope that there will be no reaction to that.
§ Mr. McCusker
Does the hon. MemMember for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) really think that we or the IRA are so naive as to require the Secretary of State or anyone else to jibe them into bombing? They will bomb and continue to bomb and destroy without any excuse from us.
§ Mr. Thorne
That is a very helpful observation relating to the point that I was making. If that is the case, how can we establish that emergency powers are in any way effective in preventing such a situation?
I should like to put the argument the other way. Is it not just possible that by ending emergency powers we can begin to get a response towards bringing an end to the continuous reign of violence in Northern Ireland? The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is convinced that that would not be the case. I am not so convinced. It is because I am not so convinced that I have some difficulty in accepting this order. It is a matter for the Government to satisfy us that this continuance of the order will contribute to the restoration of the normality in Northern Ireland which we all seek.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) indicated earlier, no one on the Labour Benches is prepared to give any support or sustenance to the Provisionals or to the UVF. All too often, some Opposition Members seem to have certain preferences when they speak in this House. Condemning the Provos is one thing. Condemning the UVF is something about which we hear very little. It seems to me that that situation is no accident.
1528 I condemn both organisations and others for perpetuating the violence. The Government should grasp the nettle. They should say"We shall not renew the emergency powers but will rely on the people of Northern Ireland to reach a peaceful solution." But in so doing we have to address ourselves to precisely those points that hon. Members opposite wish to forget—power sharing and the establishment of human rights for all sections of the Northern Ireland people. No other way is possible to solve the crisis in that unhappy land.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
The hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) took us back to the Easter Rising. At that time, a republic was proclaimed from the steps of the Post Office in Dublin. It is only the Government that was then proclaimed that the Irish Republican Army and its political wing, Sinn Fein, recognised as a legitimate Government in the island of Ireland. The House may be grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his historical allusion because it brings out clearly the point that the IRA is the enemy both of the United Kingdom and of the Republic of Ireland. It rejects the system of constitutional democracy that exists on both sides of the Irish border.
From time to time we make our complaints about certain weaknesses that we see in the policy of the Irish Government in endeavouring to suppress terrorism. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) referred—I do not think that he needed to say that it was a bee in his bonnet—to what we have long said about the failure of the Irish Government to extradite terrorists, or suspected terrorists, or fugitive terrorists, and to sign the European convention for the suppression of terrorism. We have these complaints, but we should also acknowledge with gratitude the great efforts that the Garda Siochana makes in co-operation with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and it is a fact that we should always bear in mind that the IRA is our common enemy.
I do not like this order. It is a painful necessity. But those who will the end of security must will the means. Those who want to restore peace and order must be prepared to confer large powers 1529 upon the Secretary of State and the security forces. But, because we confer those large powers, we must, and the House always wants to be vigilant for the rights and liberties of the subject.
The hon. Member for Armagh referred to the courts. I want to say a word about the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. The office of the independent Director of Public Prosecutions was introduced in 1972. I do not accept a large part of the Amnesty International report of June this year, which made some grave allegations against police officers. So far as I know—perhaps the Minister of State can tell us something about the matter —Amnesty International has not been able to substantiate them.
However, that is not what I want to address myself to at present. I want to speak about something which causes me concern and I believe will cause all hon. Members concern. I refer to the delays, which I am told are lengthening, in bringing accused persons to trial. There is much said on this score which probably is not accurate. When I made a courtesy call on the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Armagh soon after his enthronement, practically the only political matter he raised with me was the number of persons in the women's prison there who, he said, had been there without trial for an excessive period. I put the matter to the Northern Ireland Office, which was able to give me certain reassurance.
Nevertheless, the Amnesty International report says that delays of as much as 14 months have been reported and that delays of a year are common. The report suggests that the usual delay is six months. That may or may not be correct. There may have been an improvement since June, but I should be grateful if the Secretary of State or another Northern Ireland Minister would make it his business to consult the Attorney-General, who is also Attorney-General for Northern Ireland, to see whether there is something that gives cause for concern.
There can be many reasons for delay. Sometimes the delay can be on the part of the police. We realise the heavy burdens that the Royal Ulster Constabulary carries. There may be a shortage of experienced officers. Witnesses may be intimidated. There may be difficulty in 1530 arresting other joint offenders. There may be allegations against investigating officers. There are all kinds of reasons for delay, but it is not something that the House can lightly accept.
We should be vigilant for the rights and liberties of the subject, and we should also be vigilant and concerned for the efficiency and well-being of the security forces, without whom, as the Secretary of State said, no one in Northern Ireland would be able to enjoy the most important human right—the right to live peaceably with his neighbour. Incidentally, I was very glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army was here earlier, because I want to say something about him in a moment. We should be sure that the only forces of the Crown that are actively engaged against an enemy, a ruthless enemy, receive all the equipment they need in good time.
I wonder how many police lives were lost because of the delay in providing the Royal Ulster Constabulary with armoured Land Rovers. There was delay because of industrial trouble at what was then called British Leyland. If industrial trouble was holding up vehicles needed to save the lives of members of the security forces or protect them from injury, an appeal should have been made to management and workpeople not to allow an industrial dispute to interfere with supplying the RUC. I believe that there would have been a response.
I want now to raise what may seem a more trivial matter as regards supplying the security forces with what they need, but it will not seem trivial to those of my hon. Friends who have been out with the Ulster Defence Regiment in the cold and damp, whether on the border or in the Mourne mountains. I refer to combat gloves, a matter that I raised in the Army debate in May, when I asked the Government to give an undertaking that the combat gloves issued to the Regular Army in Northern Ireland would also be made available to the active ranks of the UDR by the onset of winter. I received a courteous letter from the Under-Secretary, in which he confirmed that it was the intention of the Ministry of Defence to provide the gloves as I had asked and that action was already under way. He said:Arrangements have already been made to ensure that the needs of the regular element of the UDR will be fully met for this winter.1531 I emphasise"the Regular element ". He went on to say that it would not be possible to provide them to part-time members of the UDR possibly until the winter of 1979–80:My Department is currently examining what additional production capacity might be made available but I would not wish to raise false hopes that part-time members of the UDR will receive their gloves earlier than is currently forecast.I wrote back to the Minister and suggested that to get people to make the gloves might be a more useful piece of job creation than some of the others of which one could think. I am afraid that the Under-Secretary of State took that rather too seriously. He replied to me on 25th October, saying thata new job creation scheme would not help to meet our immediate requirement for combat gloves more quickly.He then gave me a very interesting discourse on leather cutting and the four-year apprenticeship required for a cutter and said:Even the more simple task of sewing the gloves together can require up to 10 months' training.He went on to reflect upon the difficulty of recruiting young people to the trade. But, he said:One of the main suppliers of combat gloves is at present, with some Government assistance, training eight young people for full-time employment with the firm. The combat glove is a high quality article "—undoubtedly it is—requiring considerable skills in manufacture…Our current orders, together with normal commercial work, will absorb the capacity of our two main suppliers until March 1979.He said that the Department was searching for additional manufacturing capacity and was having great difficulty.
I shall not detain the House any longer with complaints about the supply of combat gloves.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
If the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) would like to go out with a unit of the Ulster Defence Regiment in the damp and cold and try to handle his weapon, assuming that he were given one, he would know that this apparent 1532 triviality is a matter which should be of concern to this House. I shall not weary the House any further with this correspondence. However, this does not show the proper sense of urgency in supplying Her Majesty's Forces in Northern Ireland with what they need to defeat the terrorists.
There are two other matters of concern in the Ulster Defence Regiment to which I wish to refer. There is some doubt whether it is really necessary to lay it down that no one shall serve in the regiment after the age of 55 unless he receives an annual extension, to a maximum age of 60, and that it is in the interests of the regiment.
There are perhaps right hon. and hon. Members, such as the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) or even me, who if we were in a position to do so might be able to give service in the Ulster Defence Regiment and would not be too old for that. It is often the case that older people make up in maturity what they may lack in agility. In an irregular locally-recruited regiment there must be many tasks which could be performed by people older than 65 even, and I should have thought that flexibility should prevail in this respect.
The other matter which gave some concern arose from the rumours—I suppose they are not true—that there would be an amalgamation of battalions. Since the report was made by the Army's Inspectorate of Establishments, I gather that there has been some merging of companies. However, there was considerable alarm in the UDR lest there be amalgamations which might tend to destroy important local associations. It is the local character of a unit of this kind which is most valuable.
I agree with the Secretary of State that members of the Provisional IRA recognise no one but themselves, and that they seek power from the barrel of a gun because they know from experience that Sinn Fein stands little or no chance in democratic elections
. The Secretary of State said that the Provisional IRA's atrocities had been condemned by the SDLP. He also quoted the Roman Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr. Edward Daly, who spoke of the weariness of the Catholic—and, indeed, 1533 the whole—community in Northern Ireland of the Provincial IRA campaign. Bishop Daly said:It is long past the time when those who promote and plan this campaign should realise this, and bring an end to the distress and heartbreak they have inflicted on the people of the North, Catholic and Protestant.Dr. Daly began his priesthood at Castlederg, which has suffered terribly in recent times. He spoke of the cruel and ruthless bombers and the decent, good people who are their victims. He went on to say that the perpetrators of these bombings were guilty of cowardly and totally immoral actions against defenceless and harmless people and that sooner or later they would have to atone and answer for their deeds. He added that no doubt there would be screams for public sympathy when that happened.
The Bishop of Derry then referred to what is happening in H block at Her Majesty's prison Maze. He said:As a person who is concerned about prison conditions and interrogation procedures here in the North, may I point out that atrocities such as those of last week further erode the little public concern that remains about such matters.It is a fact, and I do not think that any hon. Member in the House could deny it, that the self-inflicted squalor in H block has one purpose only—falsely to convict of brutality the Northern Ireland prison service, to whose devotion and sacrifice just tribute has been paid in this debate.
There is only one thing that keeps the Provos in business—the lingering hope that the"Brits"can be bombed or bored out of Ireland. Unfortunately, there are those on this side of the water, as well as in this House, who call for the removal of British forces. This means surrender of the sovereignty of the British Crown and encourages that lingering hope which keeps the Provisionals going. I shall not comment on the motives of those who man the"Troops Out"movement, but all they are achieving is the prolonging of the troubles and the terror.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I am not inclined to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) except to remark on the paradox of what he said. While he is anxious to keep British 1534 sovereignty over that foreign country called Ireland, he shows less anxiety on this score in Rhodesia.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I shall not refer to Rhodesia because that is beyond the scope of the order. I am anxious to maintain the democratic right of the people of Northern Ireland to self-determination. They should have the same right as that given to the people of Southern Ireland to determine their status and whether they wish to adhere to the union, democratically and freely, by voting.
§ Mr. Litterick
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I can understand that he is not anxious to pursue the matter of Rhodesia. There may have been a slight error of emphasis in his closing remarks.
I am inclined to agree with the statement of the Secretary of State that violence is irrelevant in the context of reaching political solutions, but I am also uncomfortably aware that I can agree with the Secretary of State quite easily because I am the inheritor of a political tradition in which violence plays a virtually non-existent part. In so far as it has played a part, it is in the distant past.
It is easy for Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen to agree among ourselves that violence is more of a nuisance than anything else in the resolution of political problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) referred to the fact that not only are we in the ninth or tenth year of a war but that the Province of Ulster and the Republic of Ireland were created in, and out of, violence.
While the Irish Republicans of the day were negotiating at gunpoint—that is, the British were pointing guns at their heads —the Carsonite mutineers were pointing their guns at the head of the British Government. By violence and the threat of violence, Ulster and the Republic of Ireland were created. Before then, most of the significant political changes in the relationship between England and Ireland occurred either as a result of violence or as a consequence of the threat of violence. I shall not bore the House by going through a historic catalogue.
Even a simple matter like the saying of the Catholic mass in British prisons was 1535 conceded only after a series of what one would now call terrorist attacks in Britain and the death of several prisoners in British prisons through hunger strikes. That was violence over the simple matter of following a religious ritual in the prison system. It did not challenge the integrity or the sovereignty of the British Crown, but it did, apparently, challenge the right of the then British ruling class to decide to the last letter how Irish peopleCatholics—would run their affairs, even in British gaols. They were citizens like everyone else, but some of them had to die to obtain the simple right to say mass in gaol.
While we deplore the violence in this situation and perhaps agree that violence is irrelevant to the solution of political problems, it might be less easy for an Irishman to agree with us. His experience of the resolution of political conflicts is decidedly different from that of Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen unless we reach far back into our own history where we discover as violent a past as anyone else has experienced.
The Secretary of State claimed progress, as he usually does, but I wonder about that. He told me two weeks ago that there are six times as many people in prison in Northern Ireland as there were 10 years ago. I suppose that that is progress of a sort, but it is rather a bleak sort of progress.
The Secretary of State went on to assert that the need for the Act is still present. I am not sure whether he said that he thought we had a fair and effective means of enforcement or whether he meant that he was aiming at producing or developing a fair and effective means of enforcement. I think that it is generally agreed, however, that the objections to the Act are that in its enforcement it is far from fair and efficient. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South that it is counter-productive. The very existence of the Act is counter-productive because it implies the systematic use of force by the State to produce a particular kind of order.
I do not intend to go through the Act clause by clause, but let me give an example by quoting sections 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. They all say much the same thing. To the average British citizen they por- 1536 tray the key characteristic of this kind of legislation and for the average British citizen they provide sound enough reason for objecting to the use of this kind of legislation by the State in any circumstances.
For example, section 11 begins:Any constable may arrest without warrant any person ".Section 13 begins:Any constable may arrest without warrant any person ".Section 14 begins:A member of Her Majesty's forces on duty may arrest without warrant… whom he suspects".Section 15 reads:Any member of Her Majesty's forces… or any constable may enter any premises ".We see"may arrest any person"and"may enter any premises"without warrant, and every Englishman, Scotsman and Welshman and, I hope, without too much confidence bearing in mind who is present, every Irishman will feel that this is basically wrong, whatever is being attempted to achieve by it. It will inevitably lead not simply to occasional abuse but to a systematic violation of people's rights.
Whatever was happening before—and I do not want to dig that up—to heap upon it the opportunity for certain executive arms of the State to add further injustice will not lead any community towards the solution of any political problem. It will simply add fuel to the existing fire.
I can give an example. There is a man in the public gallery who is observing the debate. His name is Brendan Gallagher. He has been arrested, under section 14 of the Act, more than 300 times. He was arrested 183 times in a 12-month period under that section, which reads:A member of Her Majesty's forces on duty may arrest without warrant, and detain for not more than four hours, a person whom he suspects of committing, having committed or being about to commit any offence.One would have thought that after the first 100 times the security forces—that is the Army—would at least have been driven to the conclusion that whatever crime they suspected this man of committing, or planning to commit, it was not true, because they could not get any proof. But no, they went on to arrest him another 100 times, and then 1537 a further 100 times after that. In any other community in Britain, let alone in Europe, that would have amounted to harassment.
The man to whom I refer has never ever been brought to court by the security forces. As he has been arrested over 300 times, hon. Members can work out how many times his home has been broken into and turned over by the Army. He has never once been arrested by the police. That seems to me a strange circumstance, because usually the local police know more about the local community and those who live in it than does anybody else. They are certainly likely to know more than the British Army, which, unhappily, is not regarded with brotherly affection by the minority community in Northern Ireland.
Despite that knowledge, the RUC has never once invaded that man's home. It has never once arrested him on any charge, however spurious or difficult to sustain. But that has not deterred the Army from using its power under this Act to arrest this man more than 300 times.
I repeat for the benefit of the Minister of State that the man's name is Brendan Gallagher, who lives in Strabane. The sheer number of arrests is evidence enough that he is being deliberately and maliciously harassed. It is the Minister's duty, on our behalf, to discover why successive regiments of Her Majesty's forces—and in the period of four years of which I speak many regiments have been involved—have systematically harassed Brendan Gallagher despite the fact that he is palpably innocent of any crime against any law—and even the law contained in the Act which is now before us, which is in itself a stupidity.
I could stand here all night reciting stories of other Brendan Gallaghers, but I shall not do so because it seems to me that Brendan Gallagher himself can stand for them all. He can stand for the true meaning of this British legislation which has been forced on the Irish people.
If the Minister can justify the Army arresting an innocent man more than 300 times, I think that my right hon. Friend had better warn the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary not to be so brave when abroad in their declarations about 1538 human rights. This man is innocent, and he is being got at. This Act is being used to destroy his life by making him a marked man. If that can be done to one man, I suggest that it can be done to anybody, because this legislation confers that kind of power on an executive arm of the State.
We all know that the Opposition are keen to rise to challenge the Minister if they hear that a tax inspector has invaded somebody's premises to discover whether he is not paying his whack. In such a case they advocate the individual's rights with great vehemence, but I wonder whether they will be as strong in their advocacy of human rights in the case that I have put before the House.
How many times do British soldiers have to arrest a man to pin a charge on him? It appears that 300-plus is not enough. How much time is being wasted on these multiple, pointless, stupid arrests? How much bad feeling is being created by behaviour of that kind?
There is another section of the community to which reference is made from time to time but not, I suggest, in the proper terms. The harassment under the powers given by this Act is applied to very young people. I am talking about schoolchildren. What I am describing is being clone by the Army throughout Northern Ireland. Children are taken to police stations, held for a short while and then released. It happens virtually every day. No charges are laid. The children are taken in so that the Army can scare the living daylights out of them.
What happens? The children develop a hearty dislike, not to put too fine a point on it, of people in British uniform. The British uniform becomes synonymous with being taken to an Army post, thumped and then thrown out. That is what happens.
My right hon. Friend has a duty to answer for that sort of behaviour. The people who behave in that way, and those who make Brendan Gallagher's life unbearable, are acting on my right hon. Friend's behalf. He is allowing it to happen on our behalf. We in turn are allowing it to happen on behalf of the British people. I cannot justify that.
I can find no political necessity for that sort of behaviour by an executive arm of the State. Nor, I believe, can my 1539 right hon. Friend. I do not think that tonight he will seriously try to justify that behaviour. I hope that he will seriously investigate the case of Brendan Gallagher. The Act is what Brendan Gallagher's life is all about. It is about giving irresponsible people powers which they never should have had in the first place. It is about relying on military power to get political solutions.
My right hon. Friend's experience should have taught him a long time ago that there is no way in which soldiers can create a solution for politicians. Indeed, the opposite is invariably the result. The only thing that soldiers can do, however well-meaning they may be, is to mess up a political situation. They poison it and make it even more difficult to resolve. The Act is the underpinning piece of legislation. It virtually guarantees that there will be no political solution while it is on the statute book.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) has spoken about human rights. We are all anxious to sustain those rights for all citizens of the United Kingdom. No one would put up a case to deny human rights. However, there are exceptional circumstances that require the curtailment of rights on occasions. Northern Ireland has had 10 years of violence. Some sympathy should be extended to the people in that long-suffering province.
I recall the House being packed—I am not talking about the few hon. Members now in the Chamber discussing the war in Northern Ireland—when bomb outrages occurred in England. By heavens, hon. Members were to the fore on that occasion. They were virtually waving their fists in anger. Mr. Roy Jenkins, the humanitarian Home Secretary of the time who is now in Europe, said that in view of what had happened he had to take draconian measures to deal with the menace. Labour Members supported him. If a bomb outrage occurred in the constituency of the hon. Member for Selly Oak, he would be demanding strong action from the present Secretary of State. He would be demanding the introduction of troops to sustain the police.
§ Mr. Litterick
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. If he consults the records of the House, he will discover that I did not back Mr. Roy Jenkins on the occasion to which he refers. I criticised him most severely.
r: I did not say that the hon. Gentleman backed Mr. Roy Jenkins. I said that if a bomb outrage occurred in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, he would demand of the Home Secretary that every effort should be made—
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says.
It is strange that when the Provisional IRA campaign is not affecting people in England, Scotland and Wales, hon. Members are not in the Chamber in large numbers to give support to Members representing Northern Ireland and to give moral support to the Northern Ireland people. The Ulster people have sustained this attack on their liberties, their lives, their homes, their offices and their jobs for 10 years. The message from this House ought to be one of sympathy with them and congratulations to them on their forbearance and patience. Instead of that, the Ulster people would be right to be angry at what has just been said by the hon. Gentleman.
In his speech, the Secretary of State spoke of the blatant attempts being made by the Provisional IRA to panic the community, particularly the business community, with its recent bombing campaign. He emphasised that there was a new sense of confidence in Northern Ireland. I cannot understand how the Secretary of State can say that. The people of Northern Ireland have great courage. They do not intend ever to be defeated by the Provisional IRA and bombed into an all-Ireland Republic, but they have no confidence that the bombing and the terrorism will be brought to an end by the present policy.
The Secretary of State said that support for the Provisional IRA was dwindling and that its sporadic attacks were being made from less secure areas in Belfast and 1541 Londonderry. What evidence has he for that statement? Can he say that the police are now policing those areas in greater numbers? That would be the only evidence to show that the people were turning away from support for the Provisional IRA and giving support to the forces of law and order.
Once again we had statistics, coldly given by the Secretary of State, almost like a doctor describing to a crowd of medical students the progress of his dissection of a body. We are dealing—this is the point which needs to be made constantly—with the lives and deaths of Ulster men and Ulster women. We are dealing with horrible mutilation and terrible devastation in the Province. For the past 10 years, figures have been trotted out regularly from the Dispatch Box intended to show that the Government are winning the battle in Northern Ireland. Once again, we have had figures of the number of people arrested in Northern Ireland, the number of rifles found, the number of convictions obtained, and so on. But the figures given by the Secretary of State do not convince me that the Government are winning, or, indeed, attempting to win, the war against the Provisional IRA.
Once again, I beg to differ. I do not believe that the policy being pursued by the Government is right. The Secretary of State gave some indication that he was on the wrong lines when he declared that one cannot isolate security policy from political, social and economic development. This discloses, to my mind, the weakness of the Government, who seem to believe that the terrorists will be persuaded to cease their violence as a result of political or economic policy. This is sheer moonshine, because the terrorists will keep on fighting, taking lives, mutilating and destroying, because that is what they are hooked on. They want to be able one day to say that they have driven the British out of Northern Ireland and have brought Northern Ireland within an all-Ireland Republic.
I have already said that the Provisional IRA will not defeat the Ulster people. Even if the British Government withdraw from Northern Ireland—and the Left wing of the Labour Party would love them to do so—the Ulster people will stand on their own two feet and face the Provisional IRA and whatever menace 1542 the IRA might wish to offer a decent, law-abiding people who, in fact, live on good terms with their co-religionists in Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA has brought great havoc to the Province and has created a hatred which was not there before. Two weeks ago 14 towns in Northern Ireland were bombed and eight were bombed last week. Yesterday chaos was created in Belfast as a result of two bombs and three hoax bombs. Castlederg was devastated a fortnight ago and the whole of one street in Omagh was destroyed. The quantity of explosives available to the IRA has not been effectively reduced. For instance, a 150 lb bomb was defused in Maghera.
It is against this background of renewed violence and destruction that I challenge the Government on their reduction of troops in Northern Ireland. I have said in debates this year, last year and the previous year that the Government should not reduce the number of Regular troops in Northern Ireland. But they continue with their policy, against the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland.
I wish to give evidence of an ever-present danger facing the people of Ulster who have shown such remarkable restraint and fortitude.
The name of Martin Meehan is well known to many hon. Members. He is one of the notorious IRA godfathers of violence and is believed to have been involved in the murder of 13 policemen. I have discovered that during the past week Martin Meehan has been in my constituency of Bangor, a quiet but highly-populated area where Protestants and Roman Catholics live happily together. All that the police were able to do was to stop him, search him and his car, and let him go. He is one of the leaders of the Provisional IRA who are manipulating young people and others and terrifying many of them into acts of violence.
During that same week, last week, six men suspected of being members of the youth wing of the Provisional IRA, all of them from the Markets area of Belfast, were also spotted in Bangor. What were they there for?
In view of the widespread bombing campaign in the 22 towns I have mentioned during the past two weeks, one 1543 can assume that Martin Meehan and the six suspected members of the Provisional IRA were not there just to take the sea air or taste the pleasures of that resort. They were, no doubt, making a survey of Bangor to discover where the security checks were only perfunctory and where targets were easily available.
That is the threat to Bangor and its people. There are threats to other towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland. Many of them have already suffered terribly. Innocent people have been injured or have lost their lives and have had their homes and their jobs taken from them.
I cannot function properly as a Member of Parliament representing Northern Ireland without protesting in the name of the people of Ulster by saying that more troops are necessary there. More action is needed by the Government to restrain the terrorists. Certainly action is needed to take persons like Martin Meehan out of circulation until the violence is ended.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
At the outset, I think it is right to draw the attention of the House to the fact that on a number of occasions the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) mentioned an individual in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said that that individual was suspected of having been involved in the murder of 13 policemen. That was a serious allegation, and it should not have been made in the House. If there is evidence that that person was involved in the murder of 13 policemen, or others, that evidence should be given to the security forces in Northern Ireland. It is not right that such aspersions should be cast in the House.
The hon. Gentleman said that he suspected that Mr. Martin Meehan was in Bangor in his constituency to case the joint for possible bombings. That was another serious allegation which must cause some concern to the people who live in that area.
§ Mr. Fitt
I hope that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. I suggest that he should 1544 be more certain of his information before making such allegations in the House.
I have no time for Martin Meehan. I suspect that at one time he was a member of the Provisional IRA. Anyone who has had any contact with that organisation does not have any support from me. However, it is unfair to name any person in the House if allegations cannot be fully supported by evidence.
We are discussing an order made under the emergency provisions Act. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) said that we had had these emergency provisions for some years. As anyone in Northern Ireland knows, emergency provisions legislation of this description was first placed on the statute book in the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1922. It was known as the Special Powers Act. From 1922 until 1929 it was renewed every 12 months by the Parliament in Northern Ireland. In 1929 the Government said that the Act should become a permanent part of Northern Ireland legislation. Therefore it was not of necessity debated every year in the Northern Ireland House of Commons.
Throughout those years certain sections and provisions of the Special Powers Act were used against individuals in Northern Ireland. That did not stop the violence—it increased it. Every year, at Easter, whenever there was a Royal visit or if there seemed to be a heightening of tension between Republican and loyalist communities, the Act was brought into being, and though people were not charged they were interned.
Looking back, we now see that such legislation as this is no guarantee that there will be a diminution of violence. The existence of such legislation was a big factor in the commencement of the civil rights movement in 1968. One of the demands then made was for the abolition of the Special Powers Act. It had been a running sore in Northern Ireland since the day it went on the statute book in 1922.
The Special Powers Act was taken off the statute book in 1972 by the Conservative Government and replaced by the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Six years afterwards, we still find it being renewed every year. I do not want to predict, but I am confident that this 1545 legislation is almost becoming part of the permanent legislation affecting Northern Ireland.
After the Birmingham bombings, which killed so many innocent people, the House met in a mood of absolute hysteria and put on the statute book the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. The then Home Secretary said that it was draconian legislation. If that was draconian legislation for this part of the United Kingdom, this is draconian legislation as it affects people in Northern Ireland.
Anyone who opposes this legislation is liable to be called a friend or supporter of the Provisional IRA. I believe that there are many people in Northern Ireland who have a respect for the law, who have a respect for the judicial system as it has evolved in the United Kingdom and Ireland over a thousand years, who have a detestation of every act of violence committed by the IRA, but who are still not prepared to accept such legislation.
Such concern was expressed by my hon. Friends about the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act as it affected that part of the United Kingdom that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary thought it advisable to hold an inquiry into the operations of that Act. A committee was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Shackleton, who has since reported to my right hon. Friend. If such concern was expressed over the operation of that Act, I believe that it is just as necessary to have a committee or some means of investigation which would be acceptable to, and have the support of, the general public in Northern Ireland to consider the ramifications of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and decide whether it affects innocent people throughout the Six Counties.
I believe that this Act has infringed and impinged upon the liberties of thousands of innocent people of all religions in Northern Ireland. It is those people in whose defence I am speaking tonight. I do not speak in defence of anyone who has engaged in acts of violence. I am speaking on behalf of the innocent people who have been caught up within this Act.
In 1971, for the fourth or fifth time since the creation of the State of Northern Ireland, internment was introduced. In- 1546 ternment was the raw nerve of the Catholic community, because on each and every occasion when it was brought into operation it was directed solely and exclusively at the Catholic minority population.
§ Mr. Fitt
If the hon. Gentleman wants to contradict me, I am sure that he will be able to catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye. I repeat that internment was directed exclusively at members of the Catholic community. During the war years there was one occasion when two or three Communists were caught up in it. Perhaps that justifies the disagreement which has been voiced by the hon. Gentleman. However, internment was the raw nerve of members of the Catholic community because they felt that these emergency powers, otherwise named the Special Powers Act, were being directed at them.
Every hon. Member knows what a disaster internment was. Because of the ending of internment, we found ourselves in the position of having H blocks and special category prisoners. I believe that at present internment exists under a different name. I refer to the very long periods of remand. It is my belief that every accused person in the United Kingdom has the right to be brought before a court and either convicted or set free. I do not believe that it is justifiable, under any circumstances, to remand a person in prison for up to two years. However bad or overloaded the system, and however heavy the burden on the police or the Department of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, two years is far too long. There have been cases of persons being remanded for up to two years, yet when they have been brought before the courts they have been found not guilty. In other cases people have been brought before the courts and sentenced to one year's imprisonment when they have already suffered two years in prison on remand.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)
I hope that my hon. Friend is not suggesting that all those who appear in court have spent two years on remand. There was one exceptional case which involved all the possible judicial processes and 1547 which was finalised in the House of Lords.
§ Mr. Fitt
I am saying that many people in Northern Ireland have been months and months on remand. The Minister of State says that there was only one case of a person being kept on remand for two years. We are dealing with draconian legislation. The Minister should not come to the Dispatch Box and say that we need the legislation because of what happened last week and the week before that. Ministers should be able to tell us how many people have been on remand for over six months or even over 16 months. I should be delighted if the Minister could disprove the figures which I have given.
I urge the Minister to use every endeavour before the end of the debate to supply those figures. There must be somebody in the Northern Ireland Office, either here or in Northern Ireland—that is, if they are not all at Christmas parties—who can tell him how many people are on remand in Northern Ireland and how long they have been on remand. The House is entitled to know those figures.
In Northern Ireland there is a tendency to believe that if a person is charged with a scheduled offence he is guilty. The Secretary of State referred to the person who has been charged in relation to the terrible La Mon House tragedy which so convulsed the population of Northern Ireland, such was its brutality and fruitlessness. What will be heard and read in Northern Ireland about that? It will be said that the charged man is guilty. Why did the Secretary of State refer to that case? The effect that it will have on everyone in Northern Ireland is well known. There is a tendency to believe that if someone is charged with a terrorist offence he is guilty before he is convicted by judge or jury.
Reference has been made to the fact that other persons have been charged with serious offences. Instead of mentioning the La Mon House tragedy in the House again, the Secretary of State should do everything that he can to ensure that the person concerned is brought before the courts as quickly as possible and, if he is guilty, subjected to the full consequences of the law. Anybody who was involved in that dastardly, ugly affair 1548 gets no sympathy from me or from any sane section of the Northern Ireland community. He must be found guilty in a court and not convicted here by innuendo.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and I seem to pick out the same sentiments expressed by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State said that security cannot be separated from the political, social and economic development of Northern Ireland. That is exactly what this legislation is doing. It is looking for a military solution to a political problem. The more it continues, the more of a vicious circle it creates.
I heard the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) advocate that the present RUC force be increased from 6,500 to 8,500. We have heard this before. I have already said that since 1922 we have had the Special Powers Act and over the past five or six years we have had the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. I am not quite sure what the military figure is and I do not think anyone in Northern Ireland is quite sure. There are all sorts of people who believe that the Army is being taken away very quickly and there is doubt about the effective numbers, but the last number that I heard was 13,000.
Therefore, there are 13,000 members of the British Army in Northern Ireland, 8,000 members of the UDR and 6,500 members of the RUC. The right hon. Member for Belfast, East is advocating that the RUC force should be increased to 8,500. Next year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will say"We now have 8,500 members of the RUC." Then more Opposition Members will say that we should bring that number up to 10,000. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) will then say that South Armagh, in his constituency, is not as well protected as it should be.
§ Mr. Fitt
I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to understand anything of the sort. Perhaps he would listen to the argument which I am trying to put forward and the questions I am posing. Someone can then try to give me the answers.?
1549 I have already said that there are 13,000 Army personnel, 8,000 UDR men and 6,500 members of the RUC—and that last figure will be increased if we listen to the request of the right hon. Member for Belfast, East. Next year we shall come back to the House and we shall be told that things are going very well and that we have got more recruits for the RUC. We shall then be told that we are doing even better and have more recruits for the UDR. We shall not be too sure—as we are not too sure tonight—about the number of Army personnel.
The hon. Member for Armagh will then say that his constituency seems to have been neglected by the Army and that there are not enough SAS men there. Therefore, again we would be off on the merry-go-round. Instead of 32,000 we shall have 34,000 this time next year, and the year after that 36,000 and the year after that we shall have 40,000, and we shall be no nearer a solution to the problem of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what, in his opinion, the optimum strength is for the different sections of the security forces?
§ Mr. Fitt
There are 1½ million people in Northern Ireland, and I think we would need about half a million RUC personnel, half a million UDR personnel, and half a million others. At the moment there is no optimum figure. That is the terrible tragedy of it. Hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House have no optimum figure in mind.
Why are there so many Army personnel in Northern Ireland? What are they doing? Are they leading to a diminution of the campaign of violence, or are some of their actions calculated to escalate the tensions and emotions?
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) quoted at length from the Act and referred to the power which it gives to the police and the Army. I suggest that an Army is not the weapon that one uses to grapple with the political situation in Northern Ireland. Many of the Army's actions are very serious whilst others can only be described as very funny.
1550 I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State will have read a report in The Irish Times of last Saturday in which it was reported that a person who lived in Dublin was travelling to Belfast to visit relations. He was stopped late at night by an Army patrolman on the northern side of the border. Even at that time of night it was easy to see that the Army questioner did not come from Newry. However, the soldier asked the driver of the car Where are you coming from?"The driver said that he had come from Dublin and that he was going to Belfast to see his relations. The soldier, who, as I say, obviously did not come from Newry—he was West Indian—said to the driver"You are very far from home, are you not?"The driver of the car said"Well, you are not exactly sitting under a banana tree yourself." For that, the driver was dragged from his car and kept for four hours, the maximum permitted time that a person can be kept by the Army.
§ Mr. Fitt
That is what I said. The West Indian should not have treated that Irishman in such an objectionable manner.
The Shackleton inquiry into the prevention of terrorism found that 2,000 people had been detained at various ports of embarkation, airports and so on, in Northern Ireland and in Britain. Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State tell me—if not tonight, perhaps he will reply by letter—how many persons have been taken to the Castlereagh interrogation centre this year? How many were taken there last year? How many were subsequently charged, and how many were subsequently released? How long were those individuals kept in the interrogation centre? Was it one, two or three days? Was the extension of the prevention of terrorism legislation used when they were kept there for seven days? How many people were released without being charged? All this is relevant to one's acceptance or rejection of this type of legislation.
Every six months, when the House is asked to renew this legislation, the Government seem to take the view"Anyone who opposes this is not living with reality. People should not be opposing this." The Government seem to say that people 1551 should be giving the Secretary of State, the Army, the police and all the security forces in Northern Ireland a blank cheque —" Go ahead. Do what you want." If we ever arrive at a time when this House is not prepared to stand up in defence of innocent individuals, the reputation that this country has had in regard to human rights will certainly have gone. That is why I am speaking here tonight.
Over the past few days, I confess that I have wondered whether I should take part in this debate, because of the activities of the IRA over the past few weekends and how they have wrecked so many small towns in Northern Ireland, particularly Castlederg, which I know well. Many individuals have lost shops and homes in Castlederg. Condemnation has been levelled at the IRA by his lordship the Bishop of Londonderry and by many others. Rather than listen to that justifiable condemnation of those terrible acts, the IRA engages in exactly the same thing the next week and the week after that.
I do not think that all members of the IRA are stupid. They knew that this debate was to take place here tonight. Perhaps they thought to themselves that that would stop me, the Member for Belfast, West, taking any part in the debate, and that after their actions I would be embarrassed, perhaps, in trying to level any criticism at this legislation.
I believe that I am more justified than ever I was in standing on the Floor of this House and questioning this legislation, trying to ensure that it is not inflicted on those who do not deserve it. In Northern Ireland the powers of the Army are unlimited as regards the question of the number of arrests. I am not too sure of the figures that have been mentioned by the Secretary of State. I remember asking the same question on the last occasion when we debate the extension of these powers. What is the maximum number of times that one person has been brought into the interrogation centre at Castlereagh and released without any charge ever having been levelled?
When people are repeatedly taken to that interrogation centre, even though they are innocent, when they are released they return to their place of employment, if they have one, and their 1552 employer will ask"Where have you been?"They will say that they were being interrogated at the Castlereagh interrogation centre, and immediately a suspicion is created in the mind of their employer, particularly if this happens on a number of occasions. The employer has the suspicion, and may be entitled to it, that that person has been engaged in some kind of terrorist activity. There is no proof, but it may lead to that person losing his employment. I know of instances where unemployed persons who, on the day they were supposed to sign the unemployment register, were in Castlereagh. When they returned that night, or the next day, or perhaps two or three days later, they were denied unemployment benefit for the days that they were incarcerated in Castlereagh. I do not believe that there is any entitlement to do that under the Act.
My right hon. Friend will recall the occasions some months ago when protests were made in the House about the killing of a young man, John Boyle, in county Antrim, by members of the SAS. Since then—and I say this to show that this matter cuts across the sectarian and political divide—a constituent of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) has died in almost exactly the same circumstances. The same emotions were aroused and expressed about the circumstances of both deaths.
I believe that any inquiry that was necessary into the circumstances of these two deaths could have been carried out within a day, or two days or three days, and certainly no longer than a week. But it has taken months, and now we hear that the papers in the Boyle case have gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions and it will probably take months before he delivers his conclusion as to whether there should be a criminal charge against those responsible for the death.
That timelag is not acceptable in Northern Ireland. When a person is killed in such controversial circumstances, it is the duty of the Northern Ireland Office, with all the support that it has at its command, to swing into action and ensure that the circumstances are fully investigated and a verdict given within a week at the latest.
One can make suggestions—I do not want to say to improve the Act. I do not 1553 want to see it improved. I want to see it abolished because I believe that it is eroding every standard of the legal system as we have known it in Northern Ireland and in these islands for upwards of 1,000 years. I do not believe that the Act on its own will lead to the defeat of the IRA. I believe that the longer it is on the statute book, the more it will create a vicious circle of circumstances which will lead to more young people joining the Provisional IRA.
Only a very small and insignificant number of people give any credence or support to the men of violence in Northern Ireland. Those who are engaged in violence are not restricted to one section of the community. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South was right to query the rather selective condemnation by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East, who seemed to be saying that it was only the IRA that was responsible for the trouble. One can remember clearly, particularly if one represents a constituency in Northern Ireland, the dastardly and foul murders 1554 committed over the past decade by the so-called loyalists and people who allegedly give their allegiance and support to the British connection.
I do not believe that this legislation is justified as it stands. An inquiry into every section of the Act should be initiated to see whether steps can be taken to ensure that it no longer affects the lives of many thousands of innocent people, as it has done.
I shall vote against the order. I understand that in a Division a few hours ago on the Public Lending Right Bill the vast majority of Members voted in one Lobby and only 13 voted in the other. I have no hesitation in predicting that there will be even fewer in the Lobby in which I find myself tonight. But I am not very concerned about the number of Members who will be there. I am concerned that with me in the Lobby there will be men of conscience who will have the courage to defy the requests made to them to give outright approval to the order, and who will be expressing their disapproval of this draconian legislation.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Wm. Ross (Londonderry)
I believe that when historians look back at the present episode of terrorism in Northern Ireland they will shake their heads in amazement that this House allowed it to continue for as long as it has. We should not be surprised if they do, because if we look back over the history of the past decade we see that Governments of both parties have strayed into all sorts of highways and byways. If the same attention had been given to the business in hand as you have given to seeing that we keep to the order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we might not have gone into those highways and byways, and the House, the country and the Government might well have decided to fight the IRA instead of talking to it.
I am one of those who warned the Secretary of State many months ago that he needed to consider changes in the law to cope with the existing and developing situation. I know that in saying this I shall cause nothing but cries of horror to come from those opposed to any such movement, but the Secretary of State and the Government should remember that the same sounds were made when the legislation that we are considering was introduced, and we have heard them again tonight. But, despite what its detractors may say, the legislation has been very helpful in clearing up many of those whom the IRA leadership sees as its expendable cannon fodder, the young people of the Roman Catholic community used by the IRA to carry bombs, to do the shootings and murders and to carry out the stoning incidents. They are the people who have suffered. The godfathers of the IRA are still there. The Secretary of State will find that he has far more friends than enemies when he decides to defend the legislation and perpetuate it.
In saying that, I realise that it is incumbent upon me to defend what I have just said. If the present powers have been effective, as I believe they have, we must see the exact reasons why progress in the war against the IRA has apparently slowed down. We must also see what improvements we should seek.
The present position is basically that the godfathers, the leaders of the IRA, are free and those who did their bidding 1556 are dead, on the run, in prison or maimed. The parents, friends and lovers of those people know perfectly well that the godfathers of the IRA are free, and I believe that they, more than anyone else, desire to see the IRA leadership in prison—or, for that matter, dead.
The Provisional IRA is the principal enemy and always has been. I am not doing what I shall no doubt be accused of, which is to concentrate on the Provisional IRA to the exclusion of all others, but it is the body responsible for the present wave of violence. It has always been in the forefront of the violence, and I believe that it always will be, as long as it is capable of playing that role.
The privates of the IRA have been decimated, and one of the reasons for that decimation is the powers in the emergency provisions Act. Those that have not been captured, killed or chased out of the country have been turned into sleepers. As a result, the whole level of IRA activity is way down on what it was. IRA tactics have changed, as everyone knows. At present there is a mere trickle, with spates, instead of the roaring torrent that we used to have. It has been a trickle, with short, sharp spates. for a long time.
In that period, I believe that those who make up the IRA leadership, who are not fools, have considered and assessed very carefully the strengths and weaknesses of the security forces operating within the present structure of law and the present Government policy to defeat them. I believe that the godfathers who have survived for this length of time have once more started to activate a small number of second-rankers. Some of those who recently have been captured in possession of bombs and bomb-making materials are the second-rankers, and that has not been happening regularly until the last two or three weeks.
Therefore, I believe that the key to this whole episode is the hard core of the IRA leaders. I should like to draw attention especially to the fact that the members of this hard core do not like losing one of their fellows. If a leading member of the IRA is killed, the IRA no longer publicises him in its death notices as a colonel, a major, a captain or even a 1557 lieutenant. He is now described as a"volunteer ". He is never an IRA officer. I know, and no doubt the Secretary of State knows far better than I, that recently leading members of the IRA have been killed and, after their deaths, have been demoted from the rank which they held in that organisation.
If we are to take out the hard core—and we must, because it is made up of the people who are the most dangerous element in the whole set-up—we have to change the law. They know that if they are picked up and they made no admission, the chances are that they would go free even though a member of the public looking at the published evidence would say that clear evidence of their guilt existed. If he makes no admission, a murderer goes free.
I draw attention again to the case of Gerry Adams. He is a man who is known not only to the people of Northern Ireland but to all the world as a leading member of the IRA. There is a stack of published information about his sympathies and activities. Yet, when he got to court, the case against him could not be proved and he went free.
On 23rd of last month, I raised with the Prime Minister the question of Messrs. McCartney and Doherty, who were arrested in Londonderry this year after displaying, on 29th January, an M60 machine gun and an Armalite rifle. The scene was captured on film, and these two men are shown plainly on that film. That evidence did not stick. It could not stick. They had to be released. They are two of the leading members of the IRA in Londonderry city, and they have been known as such for many years.
It is no use any right hon. or hon. Member saying that the authorities have no proof. The proof is in the hearts and minds of the people of Northern Ireland. It is in the communities in which these people live. The community has found them guilty, even if the courts have not, and we would do better to face the realities which exist on the ground in Northern Ireland.
The truth is that these are cases which are very well known, and I have no doubt that the Secretary of State could list many more if he wished to do so. So we have to apply our minds to the question how 1558 we should deal with the situation, because the present powers which the security forces have cannot. The Government have long since turned their back on interrogation in depth, and they have replaced that only partially with the present legislation.
If the Secretary of State knows that, he also knows that further powers are needed to ensure the preservation of life and property and, ultimately, freedom in Northern Ireland.
I suggest a few improvements that could be made. There is one activity of the security forces in Northern Ireland which has been stopped and which should be resumed quickly. I refer to the operation of frontier vehicle check points. In the last few weeks where these check points were maintained in the Strabane area and in the Donegal—Londonderry border area, the IRA had less success than elsewhere. Indeed, from 14th November, when the rest of Northern Ireland was under fairly heavy bombing attack, the Army stopped an IRA car bomb coming in over the Mourne bridge into Strabane. The next day members of the IRA tried over the Lifford bridge and they were caught again at a vehicle check point.
Looking at the pattern of bombing at that time and, indeed, since, one sees that there are paths out of Monaghan. These bombs are coming from the Republic. If one looks at the practical and strategic situation in Northern Ireland, one sees Monaghan, sticking up like a hand into the heart of Northern Ireland, as the natural place to launch attacks. There is no doubt in my mind that most of the bombs come in from that source and fan out through the Province by well-known routes along our excellent roads on their way to their targets.
It was not wise to remove the vehicle check points. The Army does not like them, but they have been a formidable obstacle to the IRA in the past. The security forces have stopped operating these check points and they should start again.
We must not retreat behind a cobweb wall into caged-off centres in the hearts of towns and villages. That is fatal. It is not only a psychological defeat for us; it is a psychological victory for the 1559 IRA. It will also tie up so much manpower that the IRA will have far more freedom to do its evil work and to travel widely and freely throughout Northern Ireland. Instead of hedgehogging, we must keep the men out in the country after members of the IRA, who are trying to drive us back behind the cages. But they are only cobweb cages, and one cannot keep the bombs out that way. One must stop them outside and stop them at the source.
The new powers that I suggest have been suggested before. No doubt the Secretary of State will hear them again and again. I hope that some day he will listen and make use of them. News items, film, tape and photographic evidence should be sufficient to prove to a court that there is a case to answer. The people of Northern Ireland have seen these men taking part in marches and have seen their photographs in the newspapers. They have seen the statements that have been attributed to these men, and have heard their speeches on the radio and seen them on television. None of this has been sufficient, in any case, to secure a conviction. But the people of Northern Ireland are absolutely convinced—as are the people of Britain—that those involved are not only members of the IRA but are leading members. This should be sufficient evidence.
The statements of convicted prisoners also should be admissible as evidence, as should statements made before justices of the peace, if some people are afraid to appear in the early stages.
Opinion of character, statements of previous convictions and the reputation of the individuals concerned should he admissible as evidence in court. If this is hidden, material facts about the person's life up to that time are also hidden.
Above all, we should make use of the sort of legislation that exists in the Irish Republic, under which the evidence of a senior police office is sufficient to secure a conviction. The House is prepared to accept that certificates from the Chief Constable in relation to damage caused by an illegal body are sufficient to authorise payment of hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation. Why can we not accept such a certificate to secure the conviction of some of those who are walking free and master-minding the 1560 terrorist horrors that we see in Northern Ireland?
I hope that those suggestions will be considered by the Government. I do not want an answer tonight because such a reply would be a gut reaction. I want the Government to think about what I have suggested. If they do not extend their powers, they can go no further. The war of attrition against the godfathers will go on, but it will be so slow that the IRA will always be able to replace those men. We must rapidly take out of society and put into prison the extremely dangerous people who arc running the whole show in Northern Ireland.
The emergency provisions legislation has been renewed far to often and the horror has gone on for far too long. I sometimes wonder what will be the reaction of people in Britain and Northern Ireland when all the files are opened in 22 or 23 years' time. I wonder how all those who have been concerned with Northern Ireland will feel at that time. I have no doubt that the present Secretary of State will come out of it a great deal better than will his predecessors. I hope and pray that the right hon. Gentleman will go on to enhance his standing by doing what needs to be done.
§ 10.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Flannery
The hon. Gentleman made a speech loaded with references to administration, where the bombs come from, the type of machine guns that are used, the courts and how to get men into gaol. There was the whole key to the utter futility, sense of hopelessness and political bankruptcy which emanate from the Ulster Unionist Benches.
We shall still be discussing this legislation 10 years from now if Unionist Members continue with that sort of attitude, which contains not a pennyweight of politics. If that frame of mind continues to pervade our debates we may as well wrap up, because we shall be here for evermore, growing more weary as we listen to the sort of nonsense that we have just heard.
I shall attempt to raise the level of the debate and politicise it. Ulster 1561 Unionist Members may grin, but they do not seem to understand politics. That is the harsh reality. They are bankrupt of political ideas. That is the key to the terrible tragedy of Northern Ireland. The Unionists have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
I pay tribute, as the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) would wish, to the ordinary people of both communities in Northern Ireland. They are the sufferers and I have the greatest regard for their fortitude and the way they have suffered through all these long, weary years. I believe that they will suffer for much longer if some politics do not emerge from the people who have caused all the upset by their oppression of the minority community for so many years.
Why was the Act passed? Does anyone think that the IRA will win? Of course, it will not, but it will carry on. The counsels of the Conservative Benches have told us at least 50 times that the IRA was being defeated. They are dreaming. The attrition can continue almost indefinitely, and it will continue until there is a political solution to this terrible problem.
Not everyone in this country wants the British troops in Northern Ireland. I want them there because the two communities want them there, and the communities know more about the suffering than I do. There is a large and growing number of people in this country, however, who do not want them there. For the first time constituency Labour Parties are discussing this subject. That is the harsh reality. Northern Ireland has communal politics, not the kind of politics across a divide that we have here.
An inbuilt majority was created in the 1920s by which a line was drawn round the majority Protestant group. Now the whirlwind is here because of that. Had that inbuilt majority not oppressed the minority, had it behaved democratically to permit the existence of ordinary political parties across the divide, the trouble would never have occurred.
The Unionists want to go back to the Stormont that created this situation. They want to carry on in the same old way, oppressing the minority, which knows what they want. It is from that base that the IRA is sustained. The Unionists, who 1562 refused to allow power sharing to work, want to return to the status quo ante of which they were so proud, and very often they forget themselves and say that here.
The situation that we now face has allowed these emergency provisions to be passed on every melancholy occasion that we have discussed them. For me they have only one real use. They enable me to write a few notes on the back page of the order. They are provocative provivisions that stir up far more trouble than they can possibly suppress.
But there is no sign of any intention on the part of the Unionists to learn the lesson that the key to the problem, the only factor that will bring peace, is an extension of democracy to the minority community so that it knows that it will enjoy democracy. Only then will they refuse to make room for the IRA or any other group of terrorists.
The only possible base for peace in Northern Ireland is for both communities to know that British democracy will obtain in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Flannery
Hon. Members should not be fooled by the"Hear, hears"from the Unionist Benches. They do not believe what I believe. They believe in communalist politics, by which that inbuilt majority does not extend democracy to the minority community, and that leads to the emergency provisions.
Do the Unionists think that this outbreak would have taken place had they extended democracy? The minority Catholic community was kept in virtual subjection all those years. Whenever a minority is denied democracy, it will ultimately break out.
The policies of the Government and of the Ulster Unionists share a common trait of absolute bankruptcy and utter futility. Never in this Chamber do we discuss the politics of Northern Ireland we discuss only the melancholy methods of suppressing the bombers. We have to find a solution that does not involve retaliating against the bombers, using the troops as policemen and the policemen as soldiers, but with no Catholics being recruited into those forces.
1563 The Ulster Unionists have no solution to this problem. I would dearly love to hear them discuss the politics of the Northern Ireland problem. The base of the IRA will be destroyed politically and not by any so-called emergency provisions. When the Catholic community has confidence that democracy is on the agenda of history in Northern Ireland, then and then only will the IRA base be destroyed and peace emerge.
In my opinion, these emergency provisions have not a snowball in hell's chance of contributing to or solving the problems in Northern Ireland. I believe with all my heart that those who pass these provisions honourably believe that they will solve the problems or contribute to their solution, and I do not doubt their integrity. It is tragic that they take that view, but I believe that unless the politics of Northern Ireland are discussed, and unless both communities feel safe, the IRA will still be there and will not be defeated.
If anybody can prove to me that the IRA is being defeated, I shall be delighted to have that information. The fact that the security aspect is better than it has been for a long time is no proof of the defeat of the IRA. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) talks in a melancholy fashion about guns, bombs, and how to prevent them, as though that is a solution to the problem. I believe that the whole atmosphere of this debate is one of futility and despair.
I shall vote against these provisions, because I believe that they make no contribution to the solution of the problems that beset the people of Northern Ireland or in seeking to defeat the terrorists.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)
A good deal of the remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) will strike a chord on the Opposition Benches. He castigated the House for not debating the politics of Northern Ireland and for not approaching the problem with political considerations in mind. I am mystified how he can reach that conclusion, because in the past Session some of the most important political considerations have been ventilated and reflected upon by the Labour Front Bench. I refer in particular to the pro- 1564 posal to increase the Northern Ireland representation in this House. Increased representation for Northern Ireland will have the most beneficial effect for Roman Catholics and Protestants. That represents a political advance, and one hopes that it will be completed this Session.
The hon. Gentleman talked a great deal about democracy. The fact is that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) has persistently advocated an upper tier of local government for Northern Ireland which, by its nature, would involve representatives from both communities. Members of that upper tier could represent their constituencies without any enforced power sharing or imposed solution from this side of the Irish Channel. That kind of progress, which has emerged in the course of debates in this House, refutes the pessimism of the hon. Gentleman.
The hon. Gentleman spoke of the difficulties encountered by the minority community in Northern Ireland. I agree with much of what he said. However, the problem did not begin in 1920. If the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1793—devised and placed on the statute book by Englishmen, in the main—had been far-seeing, some of the difficulties in reconciling the Roman Catholic community in terms of sovereignty might not have persisted with the intensity that obtains at present.
Do not level blame for that sort of mistake on either Stormont or Members of Parliament who now represent the Province of Northern Ireland. Hon. Members in this House must look to their own backyard to find the reasons for the great division between the Sovereign and the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland.
I shall explain why many more Roman Catholics are not found in the police or in the UDR. It is not because men and women of that persuasion were not willing to serve. It is not because they were not welcomed into the Northern Ireland forces. It is a simple and yet sad reason. It is that the courageous Roman Catholic men and women—many of them living in border areas—who were prepared to join the UDR and RUC Reserve were singled out to be massacred and maimed. I do not blame any of them—those, that is, who survived—for having second 1565 thoughts. Do not let us by half truths imply that they were neither welcomed nor willing to serve in the forces of Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) invited me to return to the issue of internment and the people who were affected by that policy. There were four major experiences of internment in Northern Ireland. Two categories at least of those involved were not members of the minority community. The hon. Member for Belfast, West cited the first such category. In 1972, when I was called to a special synod in Belfast, headed by somebody for whom I know the hon. Gentleman has deep regard, an eminent cleric stated that we had to evolve a ministry to the Protestants who were interned and who would be interned in increasing numbers.
I know that in advancing his arguments the hon. Gentleman tends to elaborate and exaggerate. I can understand that. He is a man of deep conviction, as we all are in Northern Ireland. However, at times the hon. Gentleman is inaccurate. In this instance he is definitely inaccurate.
§ Mr. Bradford
The hon. Gentleman is right. I live not a quarter of a mile from the area in which most of them lived. However, it was not many days before there was a balance of activity by the Administration prior to the present Administration. That Administration made some of the most dastardly mistakes, and they were contrived mistakes.
I have three points to make relating to the order. First, I direct my remarks to the use of troops in Northern Ireland. It would be impertinent of me to try to advise the GOC in Northern Ireland how best to use his troops, or to advise the Minister how best that pursuit could be undertaken. I am not too concerned about trying to arrive at the right number of troops. I am concerned not with numbers but with deployment. On that score I feel that I have a right to comment.
1566 One thing which is conveniently forgotten by some hon. Members on the Government Benches is that terrorists in Northern Ireland, America, Italy or wherever terrorism has become endemic exploit above all the element of surprise. There is little point in placing thousands of troops in the streets and byways of Northern Ireland to become targets for the IRA. We should use more troops who can match the element of surprise. I am talking about covert activity. I have little conscience about reading of the death in combat of scores of IRA men, shot by members of the SAS and never again able to bomb or maim or devastate. The surprise enjoyed by these reprobates must be matched by a similar policy.
Two groups can influence the future morale of terrorists. The first is the judiciary. For reasons best known to themselves, some judges in Northern Ireland have not been giving sentences commensurate with the crimes committed. Not far from my constituency a shop was destroyed. The cost of £250,000, had to be met by the taxpayers of the whole kingdom. The sentence for that crime was two years. In another case the sentence was nine months. People have received suspended sentences for crimes which have caused the most costly injury and damage.
One judge—it would be dangerous to name him; he may not share my political views—has shown a tremendous example in giving sentences commensurate with the crimes. The judiciary have an important role in undermining the morale, the administration and the organisation of the IRA. I earnestly suggest that they look again at recent trends to see whether they are best using legislation to meet terrorism head on.
The second group who could help to defeat terrorism is the Roman Catholic hierarchy. It is all very well for some eminent Roman Catholic clerics to condemn violence, but the significance of their condemnation is eroded when they also do everything they can to undermine the Secretary of State's and the Minister of State's determination not to be browbeaten into re-establishing political status.
There is one other way, apart from airing their ludicrous views of H block, in which the hierarchy could help, namely, by recognising that a man or 1567 woman who kills a baby in a pram, or destroys an old-age pensioner, or blows a street sweeper to bits so that what is left of his body has to be buried in a plastic bag, should not be given a so-called Christian burial.
It is about time that the hierarchy had the guts to say that anyone who does that does not deserve a Christian burial. I can think of no greater psychological effect on the terrorists who claim to share she religious views of the hon. Member for Belfast, West, whose religion I do not denigrate. There would be no greater impact created than for the hierarchy of his Church to say that people who perpetrate these acts will not receive the succour and comfort of the Church. I disagree profoundly with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, but I believe that its hierarchy has a significant part to play in the obtaining of more settled conditions in Northern Ireland. It has not grasped the nettle in the past. I urge it to begin to grasp the nettle right now.
I want to place the debate in perspective. The hon. Member for Belfast, West occasionally—I accept, unintentionally—creates the impression that what matters more than anything else is the safeguarding of individual liberties. I should hold that as the fundamental pursuit of every parliamentarian.
The realities of Northern Ireland are that 1,827 people have been mutilated and killed and £260 million worth of damage has been done in that small Province. Those 1,827 people deserved the right to live. Those who have lost their jobs as a consequence of violence22,000—have a right still to be in work tonight. So when the hon. Gentleman talks about safeguarding and securing the liberties of individuals, like every other great cause in life it must be balanced by the greatest good for the greatest number.
I am no blood-curdling politician, but I believe that this legislation is vital. Northern Ireland requires trained men whose task it is to encounter gunmen and to remove their effect and influence from society. The gunmen have not responded to the peace movement. The gunmen have not responded to the prattlings of Conservative Front Bench spokesmen in the last Administration who were flown 1568 over in RAF aircraft and given tea and sticky buns. The gunmen have not responded to any political initiative, even though we disagree with it, evidenced by the hon. Member for Belfast, West. They are blinkered and rooted to a narrow gorge of violence and debauchery. There is only one way to deal with such men, and that is to remove them from society.
Having done that, let us establish that there is a political battle to be fought in Northern Ireland. There is a battle to be fought for the minds of the minority. My right hon. and hon. Friends have evidenced that we represent all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. We recognise, without shame, that we want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many of the minority agree with that view. Many did right in the middle of the so-called 50 years of misrule in Ulster. About 71 per cent. of the community returned Unionist Members of Parliament, and there was not 71 per cent. Protestants in the constituencies. So then, as now, many of the religious minority agree with our political view and the progress that we have made in the House.
The price for challenging the right of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom is that those people should not be given special places as of right at any discussion table or in any negotiations or political settlement. They have made their choice. They want Ireland as their home. They are welcome to it any time they want to move, bag and baggage. Whilst they remain in Northern Ireland they must accept the rule of Her Majesty in Parliament. Let us not confuse the religious minority with the political minority.
We believe that we have made great progress for both Roman Catholics and Protestants. We wish that the order would obtain even greater progress by removing from Roman Catholic communities in particular those gunmen who have no interest in future efforts in this House to obtain a just and lasting peace as British citizens for both Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.
§ 10.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
It is a measure of the volume of bipartisan support for the struggle in this House against terrorism that my hon. Friend the 1569 Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) should have gone out of his way to encourage the Secretary of State to appear on television more often to speak about the H block issue. Normally, the Opposition spend their time complaining that Ministers have too much coverage on television.
On this issue, as in so much else involving security, there is a genuine bipartisan—or multipartisan—approach. Of course, there will be differences of emphasis. But it is pleasant to see ideas that are proposed by Opposition Members taken up and implemented by Ministers.
I listened with particular pleasure to the emphasis that the Secretary of State gave this evening to the building up of the fraud squad. Too many people have a financial vested interest in the continuance of violence. Over the years many millions of pounds have been diverted into the pockets of the Goldfingers of terrorism.
The criminal ruler of Chicago in the days of prohibition, Al Capone, was able to terrify witnesses into silence and was finally brought to book by the income tax inspectors. We hope that successive Secretaries of State will be able to come to the Dispatch Box and talk not only of the convictions obtained for murder but of the convictions obtained for running protection rackets and other illegal financial operations.
I welcome the Secretary of State's statement that the regular cadre of the Ulster Defence Regiment has grown to 2,386.
I note that exactly two years ago, in his maiden speech as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the right hon. Gentleman announced that there was to be a substantial increase in the number of full-time members of the UDR. We welcomed that move. We had been pressing for it for many months. It has been a substantial success.
Earlier this year I had an opportunity to see some of those full-time soldiers of the UDR on an operational patrol. They all had their combat gloves. It was a cold evening. Following the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and his description of the length of time that it seems to take to get gloves for the part-time members of the UDR, I hope that 1570 the positive result of this debate will be the rectification of this situation.
There can be no doubt of the high quality of the soldiers of the UDR. There can be no doubt about the high regard in which they are held by the law-abiding members of the public. I note that they are also held in high regard by the law-breaking minority of the public, because during the past year members of the UDR. on duty and, particularly, off duty, have been favourite targets for terrorist attacks. I note, as does the hon Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), that it has only too often been the Catholic members of that regiment and of the RUC who have been the victims of these attacks.
Membership of the UDR and of the RUC demands a high sense of public duty. For Catholic volunteers the pressures and the dangers are particularly high. In his maiden speech as Secretary of State two years ago, after the right hon. Gentleman had announced the increase in full-time members of the UDR. he went out of his way to—as he put it—encourage the political leaders of the minority party to encourage their people to join the UDR and the RUC. I am sure that we all regret that this has not happened. Any fresh initiatives on the part of the Government would certainly be welcome.
Meanwhile, the establishment of the UDR itself has been under review. with the recommendation that there should be certain changes in the company structure and an increase in the number of senior ncos. What steps are being taken to implement these recommendations? Could the Minister of State tell us— now or later —whether any further increases are planned in the regular element of the UDR?
I also agree with the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) when he says that the time has come to think more deeply about the long-term role of the UDR. The need for this body of well-trained and well-disciplined experienced men will continue for many years, but its role may well have to change. It does not need a large committee to think about this problem. I note that one of the refreshing differences between the present Secretary of State and his predecessor is his comparative reluctance to set up 1571 special committees at the drop of a hat whenever a problem emerges.
This evening we have heard calls from the hon. Members for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) for a new look at the emergency provisions legalisation—calls made from two very different points of view. The hon. Member for Belfast. West said that he did not want to improve the legislation; wanted to abolish it. I want to see the legislation improved.
I had an opportunity recently of talking to Mr. Robin Eveleigh, who commanded a battalion in Northern Ireland and who has written a most remarkable book,"Peace Keeping in a Democratic Society ", which reinforces my views that we have not got the balance of legislation right. I do not think that it is right for a single community in Northern Ireland, and I do not think that it is right for the security forces themselves.
It is easier to renew legislation than to revise it. Renewal can be put through in an hour and a half. Revision will open Ministers to criticism from their nominal friends below the Gangway; it will take a lot of time and trouble. So there is a tendency to put it off. But it seems to me that the time to discuss the revision of the emergency powers legislation is not at a moment when there has been some fresh outrage but at a time when the level of violence, fortunately, is at a relatively low ebb, and the House can discuss matters more calmly than occasionally it has in the past. Alas, in the last few days, one has seen an increase in the tempo of violence.
§ Mr. Fitt
Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that it could have been deliberate policy of the Provisional IRA to engage in this campaign, knowing very well what effect it would have on Members of this House? The next time this legislation comes forward for renewal, may we not have another, similar spate of violence?
§ Mr. Goodhart
I suspect that the timing of the fire-bomb attacks was more associated with the visit of the Secretary of State to the United States in an attempt to get investment from there into Northern Ireland for the employment of all members of the community—something that the IRA does not want to see happen. Exactly why the IRA times its attacks as 1572 it does is not a matter about which I can make a guess, any more than the hon. Gentleman can.
However, we know that the attacks took place. We know that what was burned and destroyed was not only shops and homes but the hopes and illusions that peace was coming and that we could get away from emergency provisions legislation. There is a need for it. There is a continuing need for the presence of British troops in Northern Ireland.
We should not only pass the order; we should send thanks to the security forces. For two Christmases a special appeal has been launched for the provision of special comforts for the security forces in Northern Ireland. Last year it was organised by SSAFA and this year it is ogranised by The Daily Telegraph. I am grateful to both for the work that they have done.
I note also that on both occasions the organisers have been surprised by the overwhelming response to the appeals. I am glad that the British public have said"Thank you"to our security forces. This House should say"Thank you"as well.
§ 11.2 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)
It is only a few months since I spoke of my unwelcome record of having heard and taken part in more of these Northern Ireland debates in an official capacity than any other hon. Member.
I did not hear today a speech from either side of the House that could convince me that we can do away with the special powers legislation. Just about every speech on life in Northern Ireland gave more convincing evidence that the powers, which nobody wants, are continually needed.
In our last debate of this nature my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made a particularly encouraging speech. If we look back over the past year we can see that his message then has been justified, and we view the speech he made a few hours ago in a similar light.
There have been setbacks, of course, and we can expect more. But that is only natural when we are dealing with the mindless, senseless violence that is the trade mark of the Provisional IRA. No 1573 matter how much my right hon. Friend says it, the Provisionals do not seem to think that we mean what we say. The only thing we can do is to keep on reiterating it. Neither the Government nor the people of Northern Ireland will give ground to brutality and violence. We shall never recognise criminal thugs as political prisoners, and there will be no amnesty for the intimidators, the destroyers and the killers.
We have never pretended that there is an easy solution or that the road back to normality will be smooth, but we believe that we are on that road; and that, as my right hon. Friend suggested, gives us growing hope for the future.
The hon. Members for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) referred to the prison system. I agree that the House should put on record its thanks to the security forces, all types of them, in Northern Ireland for the thankless job that is being done on our behalf.
The prison officers working in the H blocks have been singled out. There are eight H blocks, not three. Five are functioning normally, but there are three in which there is a dastardly way of protesting. All my sympathy goes to those who have to administrate the blocks.
I am not trying to minimise the difficulties in the prisons, but I think that we ought to keep them in some kind of proportion. The special category population, for example, has fallen by well over 200 since this time last year and now stands at fewer than 600. When we started phasing out special category, there were about 1,600 people in the special category group. That number has now fallen to fewer than 600. Nor should it be forgotten that the 350 or so engaged in the dirty protest are among a total convicted prison population of 2,246.
It must not be forgotten, either, that the protest is not, of course, about human rights. It is not about prison conditions, which are among the best in Europe. It is simply about a spurious claim on the part of convicted criminals for a so-called political status. What they seek is preferential treatment. Their motive is clear. They believe that if they secure recognition as a group of political prisoners, their sentences will in time be set aside. It is our task and that of this House to leave them in no doubt that they are wrong. 1574 The rule of law demands tht all prisoners should be subjected to a humane regime within a framework of rules that apply to all prisoners and not just some prisoners. That is what we are endeavouring to achieve in Northern Ireland, and that is what Parliament has endorsed. If we are to succeed in our aim of doing away with the cycle of terrorism in Northern Ireland, we must continue to make it absolutely clear that there will be no amnesty.
I should like to have spelt out the prison system that we have in Northern Ireland, because it would stand spelling out. However, I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not do that at this time of the evening. But I shall make available in the Library of the House at the earliest possible moment a straightforward statement of fact about conditions in the H blocks of the Maze prison.
I should like to thank the hon. Member for Abingdon for his reference to the propaganda value of the H blocks and the Maze. This, of course, is a delicate matter which we have to keep in mind. I do not want to provide any additional progaganda. In Northern Ireland itself and within the shores of this island, I think we have got the message across to the general public that the squalor in which some prisoners are living is simply one of their own choosing. But I take the point about the propaganda value else-were and, as my right hon. Friend said, he is looking at this carefully.
Our approach to the making of television programmes and to the media in general is simply stated. Any journalist is free to broadcast or write as he wishes about events in the Province. Although we may not always agree with the results, we do not believe in censorship or restriction. Many journalists can testify to the help and facilities which are given them in Northern Ireland. But I am sure that they will also testify to the fact that there is a need in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland to exercise discretion. Mistakes over here can possibly cause political embarrassment. Mistakes in Northern Ireland cost people's lives.
§ Mr. Powell
In what he has just said, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would include the deplorable habit into which the press sometimes falls of not reporting events—things which have happened, even things which have happened 1575 and are attributed to the Provisional IRA —but of reporting threats of future action which are put out by the Provisional IRA, thus constituting themselves a kind of broadcasting organisation for the enemy of everyone in the Province.
§ Mr. Concannon
I am saying that there should be an acceptable form of discretion exercised by members of the press. As I say, mistakes in Northern Ireland terms cause not political embarrassment but the loss of people's lives.
The principal concern of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is the safety of life and property in the Province. Where there is even the remotest risk of lives being lost or property being damaged, he wishes journalists to exercise responsibility and sensitivity in the reporting of events. There have been a number of cases in which it could be argued that programmes on television led to or perhaps unintentionally encouraged acts of violence. I believe that greater care is now taken by the media, and I welcome that. But there are occasions when some programmes abandon any concept of responsibility and sensitivity. We had an example of this last night when an item was transmitted on the BBC"Nationwide"programme which purported to deal with conditions in the H block at Maze Prison. As an example of one-sided presentation of an issue it would be difficult to equal. The programme acknowledged that the protest was a propaganda exercise, but it then proceeded to act as a perfect vehicle for Provisional IRA propaganda.
It is significant that only a few days earlier the Northern Ireland region of the BBC in its"Spotlight"series presented a programme on the same subject which was balanced, accurate, critical in places, but at least informed. It did not attempt, as last night's programme did, to take sides.
I must say at once that the"Nationwide"programme was balanced later in the evening by an excellent programme on the Royal Victoria Hospital, which I hope all hon. Members saw.
After four and a half years in Northern Ireland, I have found that the people who are assassinated on their doorsteps are not just statistics to me. On many occa- 1576 sions they are friends with whom I have worked. I can certainly say that about Albert Miles, who was the deputy governor of the Maze prison. I can only say that the antics of one television crew before, during and after the funeral left quite a lot to be desired.
§ Mr. Litterick
I did not see the programme in question last night. However, the Minister has chosen to use his ministerial prestige to make a judgment on what people in the independent media have done by way of interpreting the Northern Ireland situation. Can the Minister assure me that he has no ambition or desire to impose any kind of official censorship on our media people who wish to examine and interpret freely whatever political situation engrosses the attention of the nation?
§ Mr. Concannon
I said that at the start, and I say it again. We have no intention of censuring or restricting in any way at all. In fact we help the press tremendously in Northern Ireland. All I am asking is for the media to show a little responsibility and sensibility in these matters. As I have said, we have a security problem in Northern Ireland, with a lot of policemen and prison officers at risk. Mistakes in making programmes like this will cause political embarrassment in the rest of the United Kingdom, but we can all take political embarrassment—it is what we are here for. What I cannot accept lightly is that such insensitive programmes as this in Northern Ireland could cost people's lives.
§ Mr. Litterick
I appreciate what the Minister has said, but I hope that he, in turn, will appreciate that his comments so far have been general in character, and as a result—and I am sure that this is quite unwitting—he sounds like a member of the Politbureau in the comments he has made. [HoN. MEMBERS:"Nonsense ".] I am not finished yet. The Minister does himself an injustice in talking like that.
§ Mr. Concannon
There are certain things that Ministers have to put up with, but I think it is a bit rich that my hon. Friend should come out with that. [HoN. MEMBERS:"He ought to be ashamed of himself."].
Hon. Members have mentioned the reorganisation of the UDR and I should 1577 like to put their minds at ease. The reorganisation was carried out after a routine inspection by the Ministry of Defence inspectorate of establishments. It was recommended that, to make the most efficient and effective use of available manpower in the UDR, certain companies should be amalgamated. When company amalgamations take place, account will be taken of local loyalties and associations so that men who have been serving together may continue to do so. This rationalisation will help to ensure that the UDR is organised in the most effective way to meet the increasing operational responsibilities placed upon it.
Men currently employed in non-operational jobs will be switched to more productive operational tasks. I stress that there will he no reduction in the overall strength of the regiment and the reorganisation will not reduce the need and opportunity for men and women to join the UDR.
§ Mr. Concannon
The way I have been treated by one of my hon. Friends makes me hesitate to give way again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) asked about the average time that accused persons spend on remand. The average period for this year has been 40 weeks. Last year, the increasing success of the RUC resulted in a large number of people being charged with terrorist offences. One outcome was a steady increase in the number remanded in custody. This year, due to the reduction in the level of violence, the number of new remands has been lower, but a large number of accused persons still have to be dealt with by the courts.
Strenuous efforts to reduce the backlog have been made by the three agencies directly concerned—the police, the DPP and the courts. My right hon. Friend 1578 has assured them of his concern to see waiting time reduced and to provide whatever resources and facilities may contribute to that end. There have been additions to the staff of detecting officers and to the staff of the DPP. The Lord Chief Justice is prepared to assign judges to preside at the six courts at the Belfast Commission and this arrangement will operate when there are enough cases ready to be heard to fill it.
The Lord Chief Justice has taken a close interest in ways to shorten the period between the committal proceedings and the trial. He has taken a number of steps to enable court hearings to be expedited and has informed my right hon. Friend that, in consultation with his judges and the DPP, he has decided to introduce a new procedure that he hopes will help to bring forward the hearing of criminal cases.
Under the new procedure, the defendant will, not later than six weeks after the date of his committal for trial, be bought before a judge in arraignment proceedings. That will enable the defendant's plea to be recorded and the court to obtain whatever information it needs to fix a date for the trial and will reduce the delays through unexpected pleas at a later date.
We welcome the Lord Chief Justice's decision and my right hon. Friend, after consultation with the Lord Chief Justice, is arranging to appoint a court listing officer for criminal cases. That officer's task will be to seek to secure the listing of criminal cases for hearing at the earliest possible date, bearing in mind the availability of defence counsel, witnesses and so on.
I hope that those steps will not only contribute to greater expedition in tie process of bringing accused persons to trial but will make it apparent to all that there is no question of delay being deliberately engineered by the Government or the prosecuting authorities. We are as concerned about this matter as is my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West.
In order to dispel any misunderstanding, let me say that in a recent count only 73 out of 1,400 accused persons had been on remand for more than a year and the number of people acquitted later was in single figures.
1579 My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) referred to one man having been arrested by the Army more than 300 times. I take that very seriously. My initial inquiries have not turned up the case, but I shall follow up the matter and will write to my hon. Friend after I have completed my inquiries. I hope that he will take it from me that I shall follow through on that subject.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) asked about the progress of the investigations into the series of three murders that have taken place in Newry since September. The three persons killed were members of, or may have been thought to have some connection with, the security forces. One person has been charged in respect of one incident and police investigations are continuing.
Cross-border co-operation between the Garda and the Royal Ulster Constabulary has continued to develop. Regular meetings on matters of mutual interest are held between senior officers of the two forces in order to exchange information and co-ordinate their efforts against the common enemy, terrorism. The Commissioner of the Garda visited Belfast for talks with the Chief Constable in September. Such contacts will continue in order to build up the already impressive level of practical co-operation achieved between the two police forces.
The Government believe that the best way to deal with fugitive offenders is by extradition. That is why we signed the Council of Europe convention on the suppression of terrorism. The Irish Government are aware of our views, but equally we are aware of their position. We shall continue to co-operate in whatever measures seem most likely within our respective jurisdictions to bring terrorists to justice.
The RUC is alert to the possibility of extra-territorial prosections provided by the criminal jurisdiction legislation, and it will not hesitate to make full use of it when suitable cases arise.
Many hon. Members referred to the godfathers. The hon. Member for Abingdon spoke of the godfathers of terrorism. We are committed to the proof of crimes in open court. There is no short cut. The answer lies in patient detective work.
1580 As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, the CID is growing speedily in size and professionalism. As I have said before, it is not the system that is lacking. All we need is the evidence to put these people away, and when we get it we shall do so. But we shall do so through the courts. There is no alternative unless we revert to detention, which is so abhorrent to everyone and which we all consider to have been such a mistake.
But with the godfathers there has to be the hit man. Before terrorist acts can be carried out, there must be someone to pull the trigger or carry the bomb. Such people must be held accountable. If we can neutralise the hit men and the carriers, the organisers will either neutralise themselves or be forced to do their own dirty work. Then they will become more vulnerable. That is when we need the evidence to present in open court.
As I have said on the occasion of this debate in the past, I do not think that the situation is normal or such that we could even think of asking the House to drop these provisions. I trust that anyone who is thinking of casting his vote against the order is not doing so in the hope that it will be lost. I do not think that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland would forgive us if we did away with this legislation now.
The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland would think that we had gone stark raving mad if we did away with this legislation. I know that hon. Members find it abhorrent. I do, too. I never thought that I would assume the powers that I have in respect of Northern Ireland. They are, however, used very sparingly—
§ Mr. Concannon
Of course, but the same situation does not apply in England. If my hon. Friend had to work in the conditions in which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West and the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) operate, who have murders and assassinations on their doorsteps, he would agree that individual liberties would have to be forsaken. The people of Northern Ireland are willing to accept that.
§ Mr. Concannon
I know that he is, but he does so with a tortured mind. He had not even planned originally to speak in the debate tonight. That indicates how worried he is about the matter.
§ Mr. Concannon
I know, but my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West is honest enough to realise that if the House voted down this legislation tonight the only people who would thank us for doing so would be the Provisional IRA.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) has made a sufficient number of interventions from a sedentary position and when standing.
§ Mr. Concannon
I do not intend to prolong this argument with my hon. Frend. I think we can continue it in other places. I wish that at times he would give some credit to his governmental colleagues who undertake a hard day's work, sometimes in trying circumstances. It would be pleasant if he would sometimes give us the benefit of the doubt.
I commend the order to the House.
§ 11.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
I am always concerned about the relevance of my party's interventions in debates on Northern Ireland. [HoN. MEMBERS:"Hear, hear."] I think I am wrong to he concerned, because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and it is right for Members of Parliament of all parties to be concerned about what is going on in the Province.
The House regrets the fact that the Secretary of State once again is asking for the renewal of these emergency provisions. We all share his obvious distaste for the necessity of this legislation. We should all appreciate the prompt withdrawal of the provisions relating to the suspension of habeas corpus. In the House recently he assured hon. Members that as soon as the dispute among prison 1582 officers ended, the status quo would be reinstituted. The right hon. Gentleman rapidly kept his word.
The statistics on violence may have given grounds for cautious hope, but this hope was extinguished by the wave of bombings from mid-November. Therefore, there is no ground for restoring the normal judicial process.
Anybody who rises at this point in a debate should keep his remarks to a minimum. I am not here to extend the debate, but I wish to mention one or two points. If we are to agree to the extension of these provisions, it is essential that the detailed workings of the Act should be kept under constant review. The Secretary of State gave his word that this would be done.
I am concerned about the isolated incidents—and I admit that they are isolated —such as the killing of wildfowlers. Because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, I found in my constituency many more wildfowlers who felt that they were more kindred to the wildfowlers who were killed than I found those who said"We come from Cambridgeshire, and they come from Northern Ireland." For that reason, I wrote to the Secretary of State expressing my concern, and he answered in a very proper manner.
I believe that it is helpful to circulate reports about the workings of controversial provisions. It is the duty of us all to make it clear to people in the United States that any money contributed to Ireland is likely to fall into the wrong hands and to lead to ends which are not thought likely when the money is given.
There are a number of specific points on which I should like to be assured that care is taken. I refer first to the detention of young people, and particularly to the detention of the mentally handicapped. I am concerned about the situation of the single judge who sits in the Diplock courts. I should like to see an investigation carried out into the possibilities of having a second judge or an assessor.
I think that there is a definite problem in the number of Catholics being recruited into the RUC. I know that over the years the Government have used Select Committees for no better purpose than to procrastinate, but I should like a committee to investigate the small number of Catholics who have been recruited into 1583 the RUC, particularly as those Catholics who serve in the RUC tend to rise to high ranks.
Encouragement should be given to all those organisations which support the diminution of terrorism, but I think that this has to be done with care. I have received, as I am sure many others have, the Peace People's pamphlet entitled:The case for the replacement of the Emergency Provisions Act by normal judicial process.If one reads the pamphlet, it sounds a convincing enough argument.
I have a copy of The Irish Times of 13th June, in which there is an illuminating article on the documents found in the flat of Seamus Twomey when he was arrested. One document contained instructions to prospective members of the Provisional wing. I should like to read two paragraphs of the advice that was given to these people.
The document says:The three-day and seven-day detention orders are breaking volunteers, and it is the Republican Army's fault for not indoctrinating volunteers with the psychological strength to resist interrogation.
§ That has to be a very good reason for extending the powers for which the Secretary of State is asking.
The dossier found in Mr. Twomey's flat ends with this statement:
Sinn Fein should be directed to infiltrate other organisations to win support for, and sympathy to, the movement. Sinn Fein should be re-educated and have a big role to play in publicity and propaganda departments, complaints and problems (making no room for RUC opportunism). It gains respect of the people which in turn leads to increased support for the cell.
§ I have been concerned because colleagues of mine have reaffirmed their support for the Troops Out movement. I should deplore, and so would a substantial majority of the members of my party, any movement which could only encourage the men of violence in Northern Ireland. Those in my party who believe that any aim would be achieved by removing troops from Northern Ireland are in a minority.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 113, Noes 10.1585
|Division No. 11]||AYES||[11.34 p.m.|
|Archer, Bt Hon Peter||Faulds, Andrew||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Ashton, Joe||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Pendry, Tom|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Forrester, John||Penhaligon, David|
|Bates, Alf||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
|Bean, R. E.||Freud, Clement||Radlce, Giles|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||George Bruce||Rhodes James, R.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Goodhart, Philip||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Graham, Ted||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Hardy, Peter||Roper, John|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Home Robertson, John||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Buchan, Norman||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hunter, Adam||Smith, Rt Hon John (N Lanarkshire!|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Snape, Peter|
|Carmlchael, Nell||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Spearing, Nigel|
|Carter, Ray||John, Brynmor||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Cohen, Stanley||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Stoddart, David|
|Coleman, Donald||Kerr, Russell||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Concannon, Rt Hon John||Kilfedder, James||Strang, Gavin|
|Cowans, Harry||Lamborn, Harry||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Tinn, James|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||McCusker, H.||Urwln, T. W.|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||McElhone, Ftpnk||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Crawshaw, Richard||McKay, Alan (Penlstone)||Walnwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Maclennan, Robert||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Cryer, Bob||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Walker, Terry (Klngswood)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Dempsey, James||Molyneaux, James||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Monro, Hector||Whitlock, William|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Morris, Rt Hon Charles R.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Morton, George||Woodall, Alec|
|Dunlop, John||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Woof, Robert|
|Dunnet, Jack||Neave, Airey||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Eadie, Alex||Newton, Tony|
|English, Michael||Noble, Mike||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Oakes, Gordon||Mr. Joseph Dean and|
|Ewlng, Harry (Stirling)||Orbach, Maurice||Mr. James Hamilton|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Flannery, Martin||Richardson, Miss Jo||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Lamond, James||Selby, Harry||Mr. Stan Thorne and|
|Loyden, Eddie||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Tom Litterick|
|Madden, Max||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.