§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
I am tempted to suggest one or two other measures which might be included in your next announcement of Royal Assent, Mr. Speaker, but I shall refrain from that and confine myself to offering what I hope will be constructive suggestions and guidelines about how Her Majesty's Government can proceed in what remains of this Session and perhaps in the next Session, especially with regard to legislation for Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) have quite properly dealt at length with security and also with what might be called the psychological warfare aspect of security. It is with that aspect that I wish to concern myself in my opening remarks
It has been recognised that the most effective weapon in the armoury of those who wage war against Northern Ireland is propaganda. It is far more lethal than the bullet and the bomb, to use the words which have been employed by those who seek to destroy the Province and to discredit those who serve it. No group of people have suffered more in this respect than the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and none are more deserving of the sympathy and support of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.
We who represent Northern Ireland have become resigned to assaults on the 1725 character and integrity of our police force by those who seek to profit from lawlessness and rebellion. But our patience is more than tested by those supposedly responsible individuals and organisations who seem ever ready to jump on the Republican band wagon of abuse of the RUC.
In April of this year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) alerted the House to the likelihood of a new campaign of denigration against the RUC. Within weeks, such a campaign was well under way. As hon. Members know, violent Republicans in Northern Ireland have never found themselves short of people in the public eye willing to contrive to take off the heat and to distract public attention from the real cause of unrest in our Province. There is nothing new about this. In collusion with such willing individuals, the IRA was employing this tactic successfully as far back as 1969.
On this occasion it is Amnesty International which has taken up the cause and lent itself shamefully to the Provisional propaganda machine. Do-gooders from whatever quarter, anxious though they may be to help, will be very well advised to leave the affairs of Northern Ireland alone—
§ Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the sentence that he has just uttered is almost exactly word for word the statement issued by the Chilean Minister for Internal Security with reference to Amnesty International? Will he bear that in mind?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I could not identify the little tune that the hon. Gentleman was whistling while the hon. Member for Abingdon was speaking—
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Perhaps it was somehow connected with the theme song for the World Cup. I can assure the hon. Member that we in Europe have quite enough problems—and I mean Europe generally, not just Northern Ireland—to stray into the South American controversies.
1726 At best, I can say of Amnesty International—and this would be most charitable—that it is politically naive to allow itself to be skilfully exploited by those political dishonest in a situation which affects the lives of many innocent people. Those who make themselves available for comment on the activities of the lawful authorities in Northern Ireland would do well to be ever mindful of the lives that have been lost and of those that may be yet lost as a direct consequence of the emotive language which can so easily excite the worst tendencies of the criminally extreme in the Province.
In this regard, it is particularly regrettable that the peace people have been tempted once again to play politics and should prove so willing to encourage popular prejudice. It is hardly responsible, for example, after the shootings of members of a so-called IRA active service unit, to suggest that British troops now seem to be given licence to shoot on sight. Nor was it helpful for some to suggest that the renewal of the temporary provisions order should be opposed in Parliament.
Before I depart from these twin organisations, may I say to the Secretary of State that although I, like the hon. Member for Abingdon, seldom find myself having much in common with the Government of the Irish Republic, it might interest the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) to remember that that Government did not permit Amnesty International facilities to investigate far graver allegations in the South of Ireland. Perhaps there is a lesson to be derived from that.
People in Northern Ireland undoubtedly resent attempts to equate action by the Security Forces with violence perpetrated by the IRA, and, anxious though they may be for peace, they certainly have no desire to return to the days of the "softly, softly" policy. Successive Northern Ireland Ministers have told the House that we are at war, and, that being the case, it is absurd for the peace people or anyone else to suggest that we can proceed as though we were engaged in a picnic. I believe that the people of Ulster, who have suffered so much, are prepared to make yet greater sacrifices should that prove necessary in defence of those things they hold to be dear. The Secretary of State can certainly be assured of their support 1727 and of ours for such measures as are necessary to secure the defeat of this insurrection.
The Secretary of State has done much to reassure people in the Province as to the Government's long-term intentions and as to their resolve not to abdicate their responsibilities in the face of violence. It has been said of the Secretary of State that, in contrast to some of his predecessors, he actually behaves as thought he has the right to govern Northern Ireland. That is as it should be. It is for that purpose that he accepted his appointment from the hands of Her Majesty. He governs Northern Ireland on the instructions and with the consent of Parliament, and we certainly welcome the resolution and conviction that he has shown at all times.
There will be criticisms, and the right hon. Gentleman understands our responsibility to make those criticisms that we consider to be necessary and justified. We also have a responsibility to reflect the fears and anxieties of our constituents and of all who live in Northern Ireland. I hope, however, that we shall all continue to be constructive and seek always in this House and outside it to avoid wild accusations which may be very useful for attracting headlines but which severely damage public confidence in the capacity and the will of the security forces.
Constructive criticism can be made with regard to the Ulster Defence Regiment. I take this opportunity to remind the House of the feeling which still exists that the regiment—it is a regiment of the British Army in Northern Ireland—is not being employed to its full potential. I was glad to hear the Secretary of State say that as the new units are formed, so will the scope and area of their responsibility be increased. That statement is to be welcomed. I do not propose to rehearse all the arguments with which hon. Members are well acquainted, but I should like to focus attention on one or two problems which have been less widely canvassed.
The UDR strength remains well below the statutory maximum, and the belief remains widespread that recruitment procedures are unnecessarily sluggish. I should be grateful for an assurance from the Minister who is to reply that this matter will be kept constantly under review. I should be interested to hear his reply to the suggestions that the training of 1728 members of the regiment is not all that it might be and that the weapons provided in some areas are hardly of a modern and sophisticated type. I do not profess any detailed knowledge of the weaponry best suited to particular situations. Circumstances obviously vary between different parts of the Province. However, these suggestions arise so frequently that I am bound to ask why and to seek clarification from the Government.
Ultimately, the greatest deterrent to would-be terrorists is the knowledge that they will be detected and brought before the courts. Recently we have heard that the conviction or detention rate in criminal cases is causing alarm in certain quarters. Let us assure the Secretary of State that we on this Bench do not share that concern. We welcome the increasing success that is evident in this area of detection and conviction, and we hope that the message is not lost on those who might be tempted to involve themselves in crime and gangsterism.
Some months ago, in a debate on security, I referred in detail to sentencing policy in Northern Ireland. My contention then was that the fanciful theories practised in Great Britain were of no relevance to Northern Ireland. Sentences in the Province were in many cases far too lenient, I pointed out. This week in Great Britain, proposals have been made drastically to reduce maximum prison sentences for a wide variety of offences. Even worse, it has been suggested that the judges might have regard to these extremely preliminary proposals before any decision is arrived at in Parliament. I am most anxious to make it clear that, whatever ultimately may be decided for Great Britain, we would resolutely oppose drastically to reduce maximum prison any such changes in the Province. We shall be very grateful to have reassurances from the right hon. Gentleman on this point, and particularly if he can indicate whether he is of a similar mind.
We have never led people to imagine that there is any magical way of ending terrorism anywhere. The lesson of recent months, weeks and even days has been that no type of civilisation is immune from suffering and damage from relatively small killer gangs. Moreover, the experience of countries which have been most successful in dealing with terrorism teaches us that nothing serves better to 1729 weaken the effort of the security forces than the erosion of public confidence and morale.
We must be prepared to face the worst that can be thrown against us. We perform no service by merely pandering to fear and encouraging people to believe that there is no cause for hope. The forces of subversion know that they cannot succeed in Northern Ireland without first breaking the strength and resolve of the people. In that objective they have failed so far. Whatever others might choose to do, we at least do not propose to help them in their task.
My colleagues and I are not without hope for the future. We take heart from the enthusiasm of the Secretary of State and his colleagues to plan for the future of our Province. The bogy of economic withdrawal has been firmly laid to rest, and it is to be hoped that we are not far from the beginning of a period of growth and prosperity. My colleagues and I do not conform to the view that the conflict in Northern Ireland is of economic origin. Therefore, we do not accept that economic formulae hold the key to its resolution.
As the Secretary of State has said—he speaks from experience together with his colleagues—we represent a hard-working and industrious people who will prove themselves only too anxious to play their part in repairing the damage of recent years and in building for the future. The Government show every willingness to make their contribution to that future. It is to be hoped that all sections of the community in Northern Ireland will make a similar response.
It is hardly surprising that the areas that suffer most from social and economic stress are those that have for too long been under the domination of the IRA, a domination which happily is diminishing. It is in the true interests of, for example, the people of West Belfast, represented by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who is present today, that the security forces are encouraged and supported in their efforts to eliminate all traces of gangsterism that still remain. However, artificial arrangements, whether they be in West Belfast or elsewere, manifestly are not the answer to the problem. It is 1730 clearly the quality and attitude of mind that we must seek to improve.
There is no indication that any significant body of opinion in the House, other than on the Ulster Unionist Bench, is willing to erect in Northern Ireland the sort of structure that we are proposing to erect in Scotland, where representatives will be elected to run the functions devolved to them. In Scotland there will be no requirement for representatives to agree among themselves or for the institution to enjoy a blessed state of what has been called "general acceptability"—
§ Mr. Molyneaux
—before it is permitted to do the job for which it is created.
Attitudes to Northern Ireland are still very different. A condition of devolution in the Province is a requirement that there shall be combined in the decision-making body, be it Cabinet or Executive, those who wish to belong to this nation and those who wish to belong to another. The idea is preposterous. We know that the majority of people in Northern Ireland will not accept any structure designed to detach them from the rest of the kingdom, but as long as that idea is maintained so long will devolution continue to elude Northern Ireland. The stark fact has now, I think, been recognised.
We are, therefore, in the very position to which I looked ahead in June 1977, when we last renewed direct rule. On that occasion I said:In the next few months those who have obstructed the return of normal government and normal structures of government to Northern Ireland must be brought face to face with reality. If by the end of this year"—that was 1977—the way is not clear, if there is still no hope of even a start on devolution, the alternative must be faced. At that point preparations must begin to apply to Northern Ireland institutions that exist already for the government of Great Britain. It would not be our first choice, but in our opinion it would be vastly preferable to drift and uncertainty."—[Official Report, 30th June 1977; Vol. 934, c. 661.]We have already wasted six years and Northern Ireland still has a far from effective system. At parliamentary level, no one can pretend that the Order in Council procedure is satisfactory. At the level 1731 of local government, Northern Ireland is the only part not only of the United Kingdom but of the British Isles without a proper structure. Therefore, the sixth annual renewal is the occasion for accepting the facts of life, and on that basis we must now advance.
The methods of making law must be improved. The Government must share out administrative responsibility with those who are prepared to accept it. We should recognise, as the Secretary of State this morning has recognised, that there is an unfairly under-used potential partner within district councils and their officers. In all spheres, there must be in the coming year—and, I hope, in the early part of the year on which we are embarking—a determined drive to restore to Ulstermen and women the benefits and privileges presently enjoyed by their fellow citizens of the realm.
§ 12.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I shall try to follow the theme expressed by the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux).
I begin my remarks by referring to the Secretary of State's comments about the continuance of direct rule. The right hon. Gentleman is open to the criticism that he is allowing his political room for manoeuvre to set up a form of local government in Northern Ireland to be restricted by the disagreement between the local political parties. If I were uncharitable, I might suggest that he is using it as an excuse for inactivity. I suggest that he would find it difficult to name any other part of the United Kingdom where disagreements between the local political parties have prevented the Government from going ahead with whatever laws they believed were right for those areas.
Is the right hon. Gentleman able to tell me that the Government had the total agreement of the Scottish National party for their plans for devolution to Scotland, or the total agreement of Plaid Cymru for their plans for devolution to Wales?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Order. That has nothing to do with the subject matter that we are discussing.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it must have to do with the devolution plans for another part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) is putting questions about the views of the Scottish nationalists on devolution. What has that to do with the matter under discussion?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Having made my point, I ask the Secretary of State why, if the Government did not have the agreement of those two nationalist parties, he demands the absolute agreement of the local political parties in Northern Ireland before he will put forward his plans for some form of devolved Assembly in the Province. If it is because he intends to maintain direct rule as it is for the foreseeable future, is he not guilty of denying Northern Ireland the proper democracy that we might reasonably expect a Province of that size to have within the United Kingdom structure?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that Sir Patrick Macrory suggested in his report that Stormont should be the top tier because Stormont existed and because, as Sir Patrick said, to give a Province about the size of Yorkshire more than one top layer of local government would be to give it, in his opinion, an excessive amount of local government. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman must come clean about the Government's intentions. He must do more than stand at the Dispatch Box every six months to tell us that until he can get agreement among the local parities he can do nothing to break the present impasse in Northern Ireland political circumstances.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to do more than make negative statements and, at least in a Green Paper, to share the Government's views with the House of Commons so that all of us may know how he will fill out his concept of a single Assembly with certain powers. I hope that he will then arrange for the House of Commons to have an opportunity to debate the Green Paper.
Surely it is the Government's job to govern as they believe it to be in the best interests of those for whom they have responsibility. When a Government are as willing as this Government have been to introduce devolutionary plans for other 1733 parts of the United Kingdom, it seems remarkable that, at present at least, they have run out of any imiginative proposals for Northern Ireland and are not prepared to share such views as they possess with the House of Commons.
Having touched on the future political institutions for Northern Ireland, perhaps I may turn my remarks to the security situation. As an English Member, it gives me great pleasure to come here six months after six months to hear that the security situation in Northern Ireland is improving year after year. But I wonder when the violence in the Province will reduce to the admittedly high level on this side of the Irish Sea. When that moment will be reached must be anybody's guess.
I also wonder when those who continue to perpetrate what my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) described as the continual wave of senseless killings will stop and ask themselves where it is going. What is being achieved by their criminal terrorism? How does the death of Patrick McEntee or of Constable Turbitt add anything to the political future? How does the burning of buses or the destruction of the La Mon House restaurant create a political initiative or encourage any mood of reconciliation?
Do any of those acts make anyone in the North want closer links with the South, or vice versa? Do they help the cause of Irish unity, if in any way that is their purpose? Do they persuade people that they would be safer in Northern Ireland without the presence of the security forces, the police or the Army or without the emergency powers which we are seeking to renew today? I cannot believe that anybody—even the most bigoted of these terrorists—can imagine that any of those objectives is in any way being achieved by what now has become an endless trail of killing, wounding and maiming for the sake of violence, no more, no less.
I should like to pay my own tribute to the security forces, which I had the privilege of seeing last April, and, in particular, to the Ulster Defence Regiment with its full-time and part-time members who turn out so willingly night after night to safeguard their homes, towns, jobs and neighbours.
I had the privilege of going to Portadown to see a battalion at work there. I 1734 was enormously impressed by the enthusiasm and discipline of the officers and men and by their morale and equipment. However, I was sorry to hear that they were still being asked to wait for the radios which they all believe would enormously improve their efficiency. Since they seemed to think that it was possible they would be re-quipped by the end of the year, perhaps the Minister of State in his reply will tell us how progress on re-equipment is going.
I was also impressed to hear that there had been no fatal casualties through terrorism in Portadown since 1976. It seems quite an achievement to be able to turn our 75 to 100 men every night in one town, not to mention the Greenfinches who give of their time, and to hear so few complaints about the job that they are being asked to do. Of course, the rate of pay was one issue that was raised, as was the question of adequate insurance. I found that surprising after the number of years that the UDR has been in existence.
A particularly burning issue which was raised with me by a number of members of the regiment was the £35 training bounty. I was told that it was paid only if they did a seven-day camp. Most of those to whom I spoke felt that that was an unreasonable qualification. They felt that the £35 should be paid, bearing in mind that some people cannot take seven days off to go to camp, particularly when they are giving us as much of their spare time as they are to serve the regiment.
Money aside, the only other pessimistic note that I heard struck concerned the small percentage of Catholics who are now in the regiment. All of us are aware—indeed, it was impressed on me—how much intimidation is placed on members of the minority community who dare to come forward and say that they, too, want to have a hand in protecting their communities. I feel a sense of disappointment that the Ulster Defence Regiment, which was set up to be a community force, has in fact become so much a majority force, if that is the right word, and that the minority are dissuaded from coming forward.
It would appear that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) seems to want to make light of this point. Therefore, I ask him to have a little time 1735 and charity for those members of the minority who turn out night after night knowing that their lives are in danger and, more than that, that their homes and their loved ones are also in danger. But, regardless of that, they feel that they want to play their part in making Northern Ireland a safe and peaceful place for all who live there.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I shall use such words as I choose. If the hon. gentleman wishes to call them mealy-mouthed or anything else, he is at liberty to do so. Having made that point and the point about intimidation, I have to add that it is a factor which possibly we do not fully understand on this side of the Irish Sea.
I went to Londonderry in the course of my visit in April. I was surprised and shocked to be told by the police that a particular man, whose name they gave me, was living there. They know of his activities. Apparently he is the master knee-capper for the Provos in that great city. The police said that, although they could give me his name and tell me all about him, and although many other people outside could do the same, they could not in any way run him in because no one in the area where he lived had the courage to give evidence against him. People knew that if they gave evidence their fate would be dreadful. I hope that the hon. Member for Selly Oak will bear that point in mind. I wish that he would not smile. If he knew what knee-capping was, he would know that it was a particularly brutal type of wounding which can make people permanent invalids. If he finds that a laughing matter, his scruples and feelings are curious to say the least.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
The fact that the police can name that man and know 1736 that he indulges in this type of activity and yet are unable to touch him makes me wonder how effective these emergency powers are. To be told that were David O'Connell to appear in Londonderry the police would not know how to charge him, except to make use of an exclusion order, and that they picked up Martin McGuiness some months ago and held him for seven days but were still unable to charge him, makes the point that these top men in the Provisional IRA are able to escape the justice that is so rightly their due simply because we have not devised within these emergency powers provisions that can catch those godfathers of terrorism.
I make that point because, in renewing these powers, we perhaps imagine that we have created a legislative structure which is adequate to root out the ringleaders of the violence and intimidation that plague Northern Ireland and put the chance of a united community that much further away. Yet by suggesting that perhaps these emergency powers need amending to catch those people I know that there is the danger that we may create a society of restriction and turn Northern Ireland—a part of the United Kingdom—from being part of that open society which is the hallmark of a democracy.
We must continue to respect individual rights. We believe in one man, one vote and in the power of democratically elected majorities. I know that Northern Ireland is not the best example of that. Because of that, I approach with caution the question of any amendment to the emergency powers which might deprive the ordinary citizen of his rights to a greater extent than is already the case.
I accept that there are special circumstances in Northern Ireland where violence is at a level which can be described only as unreasonably high and where the threat of violence is ever present. Any further erosion of the usual safeguards of the law is fraught with danger. That is the check on any suggestion that I might make that these powers should be amended. At the same time, I believe that we must consider whether there are amendments that could be made which would catch that special category of people who continue to dominate the violence in Northern Ireland.
1737 I turn to the Amnesty report about allegations of ill treatment. Of course, that report runs the risk of being used as propaganda to undermine the confidence of the community and the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon are both right, as is the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, to warn the House of that danger. As they have said, the attempt to undermine the confidence of the community in the RUC has gone on relentlessly since the present level of violence has existed in Northern Ireland. But I wonder whether it is not more dangerous to allow one's fear of the propaganda value of the report to blind one from letting Amnesty produce its report than to tell Amnesty that if it goes there to produce a report it may exacerbate the doubts, uncertainties and feelings of people towards the Royal Ulster Constabulary. On balance, I believe that the Government were right to let Amnesty go to Northern Ireland.
If the Government were right to allow Amnesty to go—they could have refused to let them, as did the Irish Republic, if there was doubt about some of the allegations—I find it surprising that the Secretary of State now seems so anxious to pour as much cold water as he can on the report. It is surprising that he should, in a sense, suggest that because Amnesty chose anonymity in its report it has done something which only helps the enemies of Northern Ireland and nothing to alleviate the situation which may or may not exist.
If one blesses the Amnesty mission, one must accept its report at least in terms of setting up an inquiry. One cannot say to Amnesty "Come and have a look" but, when its report does not say what one hoped it would say, suggest that those who wrote the report were set on creating propaganda.
§ Mr. Powell
Surely one cannot have an inquiry into the validity of individual alleged cases if anonymity is maintained.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I recognise that. But did the Government discuss with Amnesty how it would set about its investigation? Did the Government ask whether Amnesty planned to treat each case on an anonymous basis? Did the Government set down any criteria within 1738 which Amnesty was to act? How do the Government react to Amnesty's own Press release in which it argues that there were three reasons for anonymity? Those reasons were, first, the confidentiality pledged to the individuals concerned; secondly, that Amnesty International, as a matter of policy, does not seek prosecution; and, thirdly, that the established complaints machinery of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was found to be inadequate.
If the Government let Amnesty go and claimed that it had their blessing, they must take whatever comes and set up an inquiry, as the Secretary of State has done. But, I repeat, did the Government attempt to lay down any guidelines within which Amnesty was to act, or did they say that it could go and that they would be grateful for its report?
Last week I met David Simpson, the director of Amnesty International. I discussed the report with him. David Simpson admits that he is an idealist of an almost unreal order. He recognises that any area which is beset with terrorism will have to use methods which are unusual in an open society or in a democratic State.
Being an idealist of that nature does not blind him entirely from the consequences of the report produced by his organisation. I found it somewhat worrying when he told me that Amnesty International requested a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the report. That meeting was not allowed to take place. He then went to the Government and asked whether he could discuss the report overall. He asked whether the Government had any comments to make. He got the brush-off. Any attempts that Amnesty has made to show that it recognises that the report could be harmful and that it therefore had to be treated with great care in terms of how it was published and how the Government reacted to it did not receive the co-operation that was expected.
I have no doubt that there are reasons for that. I recognise that the Secretary of State must be anxious about the security of the Province and the status of the RUC. I hope, however, that the Minister of State will tell us how much discussion the Government had with Amnesty before it went to Northern 1739 Ireland and why it was thought right not to discuss the report with Amnesty on 2nd May. Why was it thought right to make statements in the House which appeared to suggest that the Government disowned the report?
If we can prove to the people of Northern Ireland that what goes on in the Province will always be a matter of concern to the Government at Westminster, we shall build up a confidence that they can trust the institutions of this Parliament. In the end, it is better to investigate allegations and prove them false or otherwise than not to allow an organisation such as Amnesty to make a report and so leave the doubt in people's minds that there are two laws and two sets of rules by which parts of the kingdom are governed.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
The people of Northern Ireland are always glad to hear the contributions made in these debates by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). I should like briefly to comment on the latter part of his speech before going into the material which was set before the House today by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
I believe that the Government did right to allow Amnesty to come to Northern Ireland. I believe that they did right in allowing Amnesty to make its investigations. But, Amnesty having been given those facilities, I believe that is is only right that Amnesty should now be prepared to put the evidence for the findings which it has made out into the open, so that the general public are not asked to comment on anonymous accusations but can see for themselves the basis on which those findings have been made. It is then up to the people of Northern Ireland to say whether Amnesty was right or wrong in drawing certain conclusions.
I feel that the Secretary of State went sadly astray when he set up the type of inquiry which he has set up. I feel that he should have had a public judicial inquiry to which Amnesty could have been summoned and could have been made to give evidence under oath and to name the doctors, the jurists and the prisoners. Then, under the closest possible examination, scrutiny and cross-examination, the truth could have been found. I 1740 regret that that is not the type of inquiry which has been set up.
I am, however, glad that the Secretary of State suggested today that if Amnesty was prepared now to come forward and declare that it would name the people concerned, they could be brought forward before this private inquiry and the findings of the private inquiry would be made public. That, of course, goes only part of the way. I do not think that it goes all the way. I can well understand the misgivings in people's minds, because we are not having, as it were, the clear light of public scrutiny put on the report and on the inquiry itself.
In the Northern Ireland situation, a lot of evil and vile propaganda has been used from the report. Suggestions are made by politicians and others that have nothing whatsoever to do with the report. In reading the report, I do not find a general indictment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That point is almost forgotten. In fact, Amnesty made it clear that the uniformed members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary were to be commended for the way in which they carried out their duties in Northern Ireland.
But I must say, as a public representative in this House, that if there are members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who are not acting in keeping with the code of ethics of the RUC, it is better for all of us that this be brought out into the open and that these people be made to face whatever charges may be put against them.
It is not fair to charge people who cannot come forward and clear their names. It is not fair to make a general attack on the whole Royal Ulster Constabulary or upon the detectives who are working in Castlereagh. These are matters that we need to take on board this afternoon.
It is to be regretted that the inquiry was not set up in another way, but we have come half the way. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) says that Amnesty is now prepared to come forward, and the Secretary of State says that so far it has not done so. I trust that as a result of this debate today Amnesty will come forward and will be prepared to give evidence. I am not now talking about the giving of evidence to 1741 the Director of Public Prosecutions, because there are many reasons why people feel that the DPP is not the person who should deal with this matter and that it should be dealt with by the inquiry. I have very little faith, at times, in the decisions of the DPP, because on one occasion when I wanted a mere adjournment, for political reasons his Department would not even grant that adjournment in a case which was afterwards thrown out of court. I do not have very much time for any Department which is prepared to make political decisions.
However, I am glad that the Secretary of State has today given the assurance that, if Amnesty comes from behind the cloak of anonymity and puts forward evidence to him, that evidence can go before the inquiry. That is what I understood him to say. I accept that that is going part of the way, if not all the way.
When the Secretary of State commenced his speech, he put great emphasis upon what the people of Northren Ireland think. From listening to him, it would seem that the final discipline for him would be the people of Northern Ireland. He then gave two examples. He stated that if a majority desired to leave this kingdom and go into a united Ireland, that majority wish would be upheld. But then, when he came to a Government of Northern Ireland, he made it clear that if a majority wanted to govern Northern Ireland, that majority could not govern Northern Ireland because of a Government-buttressed veto given into the hands of a minority who would oppose majority rule.
When one studies and draws logical conclusions from those two statements and propositions, one realises that it is easy to be understood by the Loyalist community that if a majority with anti-Loyalist feelings wanted to sell the Province into a united Ireland, the British Government would fight for the rights of that majority. But when a Loyalist majority want to rule Northern Ireland their wishes will not be taken into account. With all due respect to the hon. Member for Newbury, we do not have democracy in Northern Ireland today.
It seemed to me a very poor case that the Secretary of State was making when he talked of some boards having 30 per cent. elected representatives and some 1742 having even 40 per cent., but none has 51 per cent. elected representatives. This is held forth as an evolution of democracy. In the House the other night, the Secretary of State's colleague, one of the Ministers to be praised for his hard work in Northern Ireland, the Minister responsible for housing, told us that, because the local government authorities would be predominantly Protestant, the Government would not proceed to give any more powers to those local authorities.
This House should consider not the powers that are given to local councils but the constitution of the local councils, their nature and how they are constituted. If the local councils today could have a majority of elected representatives on the boards that make far more far-reaching decisions that the councils when they are in session—I am talking about hospital boards and education boards—we would be stepping forward to democracy in Northern Ireland.
Why cannot the Minister make a very simple proposal and say "All right. In future we shall have a majority of elected representatives from the councils on the boards, and we shall not depend on a majority of nominated members"? Why can we not do that? That is not a very difficult thing. That would at least establish that the elected representatives of the people would have the majority upon the boards.
When the Secretary of State discussed social affairs, he gave a quite glowing report of what he thought were the beneficial effects of direct rule. I do not think that the divorce law legislation which recently went through this House—it is notable that the majority of Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland voted against it—is beneficial to Northern Ireland. I do not think that that should be put on the credit side at all, and I do not think that that was the opinion of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
How are these opinions obtained? How are they canvassed? They are canvassed through the Standing Committee on Human Rights. Who sets up the Standing Committee on Human Rights? How does it reflect the views of the people of Northern Ireland, if at all? One has only to look at the composition of the standing committee to know that the majority 1743 viewpoint is not over-represented, if it is represented at all, on it. I say that as one who has, with many other hon. Members on this Bench, appeared before the standing committee. Its antagonism to our proposals was evident. So the Standing Committee on Human Rights does not reflect both the majority and the minority.
Yet the Secretary of State tells us that the standing committee proposed the divorce legislation. I would rather that the Secretary of State did it off his own bat, with all due respect to him. He knows my opinion of him and my opposition to his views, but I would rather that he did it on his own than that he should go to any picked, faceless people, who will always go against the majority in Northern Ireland and who, as we know from experience, are opposed even to the forces of law and order in Northern Ireland. These, apparently, are the people from whom we are to get our opinions and by whom the House must be swayed in legislation which is brought before it.
We know what this standing committee said about homosexuality. We are to get an order on that matter. Fortunately the order has been delayed, and I hope that it will be delayed for ever. The amazing thing about that order is that we shall get a further period of consultation. We have had many such periods. I welcome the delay that there is in bringing forward the order. However, I wonder whether the Secretary of State, when he comes to the House next time to renew this order, will drag up an order on homosexuality and say that that is brought forward for the social benefit of the people of Northern Ireland. Even the Secretary of State realises the cynicism with which I am now speaking.
This is an important issue. How does the Secretary of State know what is happening in Northern Ireland? The only way to know what is happening in Northern Ireland is through the ballot box. It would be a good thing for the Secretary of State to tell the House that the Government will bow to the discipline of the ballot box and let the people of Northern Ireland say how they want to be governed.
I understand that, in a new departure, the people of Scotland are to have an opportunity to say what they think about 1744 a proposal made by the House of Commons—namely, the proposal for direct rule. What about submitting an Act dealing with direct rule to the people of Northern Ireland for their opinion? There could even be a 65 per cent. vote on that matter, if the Government wanted, because many members of the minority would express their disapproval of direct rule.
§ Mr. Powell
There is just one thing which I am sure has not escaped the hon. Member's attention: that is, that if, by whatever mechanism, the 1974 Act were rejected, the 1973 Act—that abominable absurdity of power-sharing, intolerable to any good democrat—would automatically revive. That is an alternative which neither he nor others would wish to place before the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I regard both Acts as twins and I would tie them together. The best thing to do would be to put them together to the ballot box and then to put the Convention report to it as well and see how it comes out. We know how it would come out. However, the Government will not do that.
The hon. Member for Newbury made a vital point when he asked what consultations were undertaken with the people of Scotland or the people of Wales when they were asking for their particular form of devolution. Yet the Minister says that he will keep in mind the wishes of Northern Ireland.
On the question of security, I should not like anyone in the House to get the wrong impression. Unfortunately, there are not many Members here today. If Northern Ireland Members and the Ministers responsible for the administration of Northern Ireland affairs were discounted, the attendance would be very thin. We have empty Benches on Fridays. Northern Ireland business seems to be like the fish that we eat on Fridays—we eat it only on Fridays. That seems to be one of the conditions under which we debate Northern Ireland legislation on a Friday.
The House should wake up to the subject of security, because things in Northern Ireland are not good. When there is a lull there, it is usually before a storm. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) raised a very vital issue about his constituency, an issue which I 1745 wish briefly to underscore. I believe that it was a tragedy when the Special Air Service was removed from Armagh. If the SAS had still been operating in Armagh, those policemen would not have been murdered and, what is more, that Roman Catholic man who spoke out against the IRA and who, I understand, was knee-capped, then hooded and then brutally murdered, would have been alive today.
When the SAS was operating in South Armagh, the IRA never said to people who were opposed to it "Get out within seven days." It was only when the SAS was withdrawn that the IRA was able to make what is a very effective threat indeed. I trust that the Minister will have good news for us today and will tell us that the SAS will be coming back into operations in Armagh and other districts where such men need to operate.
It is only the under-cover operations of the SAS that can deal with the IRA—those murderers who have no regard for life or limb, no regard for any appeal that might be made to them, even from the leaders of the Church in which they profess faith, and who are prepared to carry out the most monstrous atrocities and, indeed, fly in the face of the whole community. We need a return of SAS activity in Northern Ireland, and especially in Armagh.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary will always be under attack from many evil propagandists in Northern Ireland because it is looked upon as the force that executes the power of the Queen's writ in the realm. Those who do not want the Queen's writ to run in the realm will oppose the RUC. Therefore, the House must give to the RUC the equipment, the weaponry and the moral backing to do the difficult task that lies to it.
I wonder what recruitment to the RUC is like. Perhaps the Minister will be able to help us about this.
The hon. Member for Newbury said that Roman Catholics were not being recruited to the Ulster Defence Regiment. Can the Minister give us any facts about any increase in the number of Roman Catholic members of the RUC? As the hon. Member for Belfast, West nodded his head today and responded when I said that Amnesty had not attacked the 1746 uniformed members of the RUC but had given them credit for what they were doing, I ask the Minister to appeal to the members of the SDLP who claim to represent the minority community in the political field to come out into the open and advise their members not only to support the RUC but to join it. Perhaps the Minister will take that on board.
The hon. Member for Newbury knows, as we all do, that members of the UDR have been under vicious attack from the Irish Republican Army. Every member of the UDR is potentially an object of IRA attack. I can well understand the feelings of the Roman Catholic community in regard to this matter, but I feel also that there is a legacy here because the UDR has been severely condemned by politicians, especially SDLP politicians, in Northern Ireland. I believe that that has led to the general antagonism and, in particular, the antagonism of certain sections of the people towards those who join the UDR.
Every man who joins the RUC and every man who joins the UDR is at risk. Every Roman Catholic who joins the RUC or joins the UDR is at even greater risk, since not only is he at risk of attack by the IRA but he is at risk of attack from those who would give information to the IRA, and informers work more easily in a district where their viewpoint is in the majority. These men deserve the utmost praise from us all.
I re-echo in the House the appeal which has been made by all sections of the community in Northern Ireland for the return of the body of Constable Turbitt. Those of us who have visited that home have seen the anxiety, the awful distress and the depth of despair of a mother who can only say "We have a wake in this home every night, but we have no body. We meet, and we have sympathy, but there is no day of burial." So the wound remains open for all time until the body is returned. I trust that, somewhere, someone will be able to give the forces of the Crown information for the return of that body. I am sure that I echo the feeling of all in the House in that matter.
I turn now to economic matters. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said that no one should talk about economic withdrawal. Yet there are trade unionists, nominally not 1747 Unionist voters but nominally supporters of the Government party, who have constantly said that they can see withdrawal in certain sections of work in Northern Ireland.
I should like the Minister to comment on the recent speech of Mr. Alan Carr in Belfast, when he said that an inquiry should be made into the Belfast shipyard because, he said, the Belfast shipyard has not received one order for its engine works since it was excluded from the overall nationalisation of the shipyards. It used to do over 50 per cent. of the work of the British shipyards, so Mr. Carr asserts, and now it is doing nothing.
The Minister of State is, I believe, most interested in industrial relations and in securing employment. We need a Government statement and comment on that matter, which is of great concern. As we all know, the economy of Northern Ireland is tied up with the prosperity of the shipyard. We are glad that, as a result of recent negotiations, work of other types is being brought to the engine works, but we hope that the Minister can give us his comments.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)
I have spoken to the trade unionists in Harland and Wolff not once but many times about this. The simple truth is that there are no engines being built anywhere in the world at this moment. Orders throughout the world are very sparse. That is the overall picture. I am battling to get our share, and we are building what engines we can. This is why I was quite pleased when we managed to agree the deal with the MAN engineering company in Germany, which will save about 400 of the jobs in the engine workshops.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am grateful for the Minister's intervention. Perhaps, when winding up, he will make a comment also about the Polish order, to which Mr. Carr referred, saying that it was a very large order yet none of it had come to the shipyard in Belfast. These points need to be answered, and we want a comment from the right hon. Gentleman on that matter.
The cancer of unemployment is rife in Northern Ireland, and everyone is concerned that employment should come to the Province. But, as has been said, 1748 where terrorism is rife and where the people in those areas give at least tacit support to terrorism, they cannot expect that those who come to set up factories will choose their particular place for the establishment of those factories.
I trust that the Minister will continue to outbid the Republic of Ireland and get the jobs from America and elsewhere. I hope that he will not take too seriously the noises from Dublin on this matter or the threat that Europe will drag him before some imaginary judge to deal with him for flouting certain European laws which we have never heard of or never considered.
My information is that the Republic is doing the same thing. I saw a letter recently from a man interested in setting up a business in Northern Ireland but the Dublin Government were prepared to outbid anything Northern Ireland could do in order to get him. Two can play at the same game. I want the Minister to outbid the Dublin Government every time and get jobs for the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Concannon
I quite understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but, as he tells me that I ought to outbid the Republic at every point, he should understand that this is public expenditure, and I hope that on occasion, when certain votes and decisions are being taken in the House, he will remember that fact.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
There are different ways of spending one's money. If one has £X, there are some things one need not do. One of the things the Minister need not do is destroy the education system of Northern Ireland. Let him keep the money that he intends to throw away on that and put it into jobs. I do not want to labour that now, but there are many other things which the Minister could stop doing so that he could get on with other things. I am not asking for an increase in Government expenditure. I am asking the Government to get their priorities right and to spend their money wisely. That is all. I am asking for good stewardship.
I realise that the right hon. Gentleman must make that political point, but it is rather cheap. However, I appreciate that having to sit here all day on a Friday is something of a purgatory for him, so we forgive and absolve him.
1749 It is essential that the economy of Northern Ireland be made stable. When we read of areas where unemployment is at 30 per cent., we realise how a young person, having finished schooling and then seeing that there is no prospect of a job, becomes a drifter in society. We realise also the consequences of the breadwinner losing his job. Let it not be forgotten that, if he loses his job when he is over 50 years of age, he is hardly likely to be employed again in the present situation in Northern Ireland. All this brings a dark shadow to the Province.
I turn now to constitutional affairs. The Secretary of State spoke of people coming up with significantly different proposals. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that he is prepared to meet any of the leaders and representatives of the parties in Northern Ireland who will put up significantly different proposals? Is he prepared to discuss them?
I ask that question because, having said that, the right hon. Gentleman then went back to partnership and participation. It all depends on what one means by partnership. There is a sort of partnership in this House between all parties to deal with business of the House. But is the right hon. Gentleman back to the bogy of "If you get 22 per cent. of the vote, you must get 40 per cent. of the seats on the Executive"? If he is back to that, there is no way forward. If, however, he is saying that he is prepared to discuss significantly different proposals, I think that that is an opening of the door. On behalf of my party, I should like to discuss with him significantly—I emphasise "significantly"—different proposals. I should like clarification on that.
I turn to the question of social affairs. Two parts of our society are under attack as a result of foolish Government policies —education and hospitals and their administration. We shall have an opportunity on the question of appropriation to go into these matters, but I ask the Minister to talk to the Secretary of State and his other colleagues, and in particular the one colleague who cannot come to this House, who sits in another place. We can never question the noble Lord. We can never put him through the rigours of a parliamentary debate, though he is 1750 the man responsible for two of the most important portfolios in the Northern Ireland Office, education and health.
I hope that the noble Lord will desist from the road down which he is travelling, a road that is blockaded by the opinion of not only Protestant but Roman Catholic educationists. Will he realise that there is a consensus against the foolish forcing on the people of a comprehensive system of education?
I was never for the 11-plus, but I am certainly not for the present selection procedure. I do not know how many of my parliamentary colleagues have received representations on the matter, but I have had sheaves of letters and I have met scores of my constituents who are irate over the selection procedure.
Children who are one-plus-one-plus-one are supposed to get into a grammar school. Many of them are not doing so. Some one-plus-one-plus-one-minus are supposed to get into a grammar school. They are not doing so. Children who are one-plus-one-plus-two are supposed to get into a grammar school.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
As my hon. Friend says, they have no chance of getting in. That is not right. The teachers' unions have already made statements about the matter. The secondary schools are also now crying out about the difficulties that are being created for them.
The schoolmaster in a certain area who was able to get only a small percentage of his children through the examination to a grammar school now makes the selection himself, and he says that nearly all his children are grammar school material. If he is in a small community, he is naturally intimate with every member of that community. He goes to the same place of worship. He plays bowls in the same place. He wields the rackets in the same place, and he is in the same clubs. When a parent says to him "You say that my child is not of grammar school material", how will that man answer?
It was different when there was at least an examination set outside the school. It would be different if there were a selection completely divorced from the school, with the reports of the year's work being borne 1751 in mind. Perhaps that would be a suitable way. The present procedure is definitely not right. It is causing serious trouble, and all the schools of Northern Ireland are in a turmoil.
Moreover, there is the important fact that there are committees still to report. Yet the Minister continues with his proposals. I ask him to have another look at the whole education system and to see that a halt is made until the committees report and until there is proper consultation. The consultation broke down because too many people were opposed to the proposals.
I now come to the subject of hospitals. I see in the newspapers today that a contractor from England is to rush into Antrim to try to put up the hospital that is to be built there, as no contractor in Northern Ireland can build it with the speed that is necessary because of the running down of the other hospitals. County Antrim is being badly served because of the Minister's decision on hospitals. I see that the hon. Member for Antrim, South has been protesting vigorously about the situation of the White-abbey Hospital. The same applies to the Massereene Hospital, the Waveney Hospital, the Route Hospital, the Moyle Hospital and the Coleraine Hospital.
With mayors and deputy-mayors from my constituency I met the Minister, who told us that there would be no children's ward in the new Coleraine Hospital. Now I see that he issued a statement through a member of the board that there would be a children's ward there. Then he issued another statement going back on his earlier statement. The Minister meets deputations and says "You will not have a children's ward at the hospital", then a member of the board says "You will have one'", and eventually the Minister says "Yes, you will have it." A matter of children's health should not be decided in that way.
The whole system being operated in the hospitals of County Antrim is a disgrace. There is provision there for limited acute services. Provision is made in the hospitals to look after the people of their districts. Because of the Minister's decision, these hospitals are being run down, and then a frantic effort is made to build a new hospital in Antrim. That is not the way to handle the hospitals in 1752 Northern Ireland. I should link with this matter the Mid-Ulster Hospital, in regard to which there was a lobby over here recently.
We are asked today to renew direct rule. I do not think that direct rule is beneficial. I do not think that it is helping society in Northern Ireland. I do not think that by carrying on with direct rule we shall get anywhere fast. The time has come for this Government to be prepared to submit their proposals to the House and put them to the people, so that the final discipline of the ballot box may be imposed.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Wm. Ross (Londonderry)
A debate such as this gives us a chance to look once more at the Secretary of State's work and to support his actions, as we would all do, in opening up the town centres in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that it is possible ever to win a war by hedgehogging. I hope that we shall never return to the hedgehog principle; instead, I hope that we shall keep the men who were engaged on the security barriers free to chase the terrorists rather than stand as targets to be shot at.
The debate also gives us a chance to question the Secretary of State's actions. It is because of this opportunity that I rise to ask a few questions, not on the constitutional or political future of Northern Ireland, or even in terms of a fuller complement of seats in this House for Northern Ireland, but, rather, to ask about the Secretary of State's attitude to the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
One aspect of the Northern Ireland terrorist situation that has fascinated me from its beginning is the efforts of those whom my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) described earlier as the do-gooders in our society. Above all, it is the willingness of the do-gooders to believe all the terrorist propaganda that is thrown up, and to forget those who have been deprived of life, limb and property, that I find most astonishing.
I believe that the report of Amnesty International falls into that general category. Amnesty International seems to have believed every word it was told, every propaganda word that was spoken to it. It seems to have believed every 1753 unsubstantiated allegation. If it has not, at least that is the impression given by Press, television and radio to the public.
The RUC has had many inquiries and inquisitions into it over a number of years. First, there was Hunt, then Sir Arthur Young, of—shall I say?—the illest possible fame. The list of inquiries proceeds through Scarman, Compton, Diplock and Gardiner and now Shackleton. Heaven knows how many other minor incidents have happened.
Every one of these inquiries was in one way or another connected with the terrorist situation. Every one has had unsettling effects in the fight against terrorism. Therefore, every one has to some extent helped the terrorists rather than the police force.
A Government's first duty is to protect the State and its citizens from attack, whether that attack is mounted from within or from without. I note that in their reply to the Amnesty International report the Government say that democratic Governments have a grave dilemma. I cannot see that dilemma. There cannot be any dilemma in the objective of government, which is to protect the citizens and their property and the territory of the State from those who would seek to overthrow that State. If a Government find themselves in a dilemma, surely the way to resolve that dilemma is to consider what their primary duty is. When they see that that primary duty is to ensure that the society they represent is protected and propagated, the dilemma should disappear.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
I am concerned by the hon. Member's suggestion that anyone who investigates allegations of brutality is somehow helping the terrorists. Is it not the case that he is, on the contrary, helping to sustain the rule of law? Would the hon. Gentleman not say that when the judge in Northern Ireland yesterday threw out a statement allegedly made by Mr. Gerard Murray because he could not accept the prosecution's case as to how Mr. Murray's injuries during interrogation had been sustained, he was actually sustaining the rule of law and was not helping the terrorists by that verdict?
§ Mr. Ross
I believe that the hon. Gentleman was not present in the House 1754 when the Secretary of State made his opening speech. If he had been he would have heard that point answered. He should read Hansard tomorrow and see what was said.
I believe that there are times, in a terrorist situation, when a Government must take harsh measures. Many harsh measures have been taken in Northern Ireland in the last 10 years, and on every occasion the law-abiding section of the community has been prepared to put up with those measures because it has seen the necessity for them. I believe that if the measures taken by the Government to maintain the rule of law and defeat terrorism are seen to be effective, not only will it have the effect of inhibiting primary terrorism; it will stop any secondary or reactionary terrorism which might result.
The RUC operates within the letter and the spirit of the law, but I believe that the laws passed by this House must be such as will enable the forces of law and order to win and operate successfully against terrorism.
The reply of the Secretary of State to Amnesty International is reasonable in many respects. He goes to great lengths to explain the procedures followed. On the other hand, the Amnesty International report seems to me to be only too anxious to find fault. I wonder whether the Secretary of State found it as strange as I did that the persons complaining were so terribly coy about coming into the light.
After all, this House and the Government have been through all this before—all the attacks mounted on the security forces, whether they be the police, the Army, paratroopers, or the SAS. I believe that the Government have learnt something, because there is a rather spirited defence in some of the paragraphs of the reply of members of the security forces.
Why did the Secretary of State think it necessary to issue this reply? I do not believe that it was necessary. I think that it was necessary only to direct the attention of those complaining of brutality to the fact that they have a right to sue for damages through the courts. If that is so—and a number of people have taken that course—why was the attention of these complainants not directed to this right? Thereby, every single allegation could be investigated, the complainants 1755 could be subjected to cross-examination, as the police would be, and the whole thing would be pulled into the open and examined in the full light of day.
I therefore can see no reason why the Government should have issued a statement of the type they did. I believe that the Government and the House should get rid of the guilt complex that we seem to have through being called to account over the measures that it is necessary to take for the preservation of life and property in Northern Ireland, and that a far more robust attitude should be adopted in the future than has been adopted in the past.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
An occasion such as this gives us an opportunity to go over the events and facts of life as they have emerged in Northern Ireland. After listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross), I wonder what sort of make-believe world he is living in. His whole speech about Amnesty International was a contradiction of the facts. I propose to take this opportunity to try to clarify for him—if that is possible—what has been happening.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State grouped his speech under four different headings. First, he spoke about the findings of Amnesty International. He seemed to discount them. When he spoke in this House on 15th June, we who were present had to accept what he said. We were in no position to contradict. But I found it strange even on that occasion that he appeared to be treating so lightly such serious allegations from such an eminent source.
It must be remembered that Amnesty International's findings all over the world have been accepted by Governments of both parties in this House and by the majority of responsible public opinion in the United Kingdom. I believe that it is no contradiction to accept the findings of Amnesty International about Iron Curtain countries, South American countries, and European countries. That applies to the Republic of Ireland as well. If there is any reason for me to criticise the actions of the Garda or the security forces in the Republic, the House knows me well enough to know that I would not be intimidated from doing so.
1756 My right hon. Friend said that the allegations were anonymous. Let me tell him that they could not be otherwise. He said that the allegations were made against unnamed police officers. Again it could not be otherwise. It could not be otherwise, because the RUC refuses to divulge the names of police officers charged with ill-treating people detained as suspects.
I know many of those who were detained. They claim that they were ill-treated. They were released. The hon. Member for Londonderry would advise that they could sue the people they charge with ill-treating them, but it is impossible to do so.
When these people sought legal advice about the best method to take action against the detective they claimed had beaten them up, they were asked "What is his name?" They were told that they could not litigate against an unnamed detective. When they sought from the RUC the name of the detective, they were told "We are not allowed to give it." One cannot proceed with litigation of this kind without having a named individual. One cannot claim compensation or take out a court case against the RUC as a force. One must have the name of the officer one is charging with ill-treating or maltreating one.
It is just too easy for my right hon. Friend to stand at the Dispatch Box and quite lightly toss away remarks about unnamed police officers. The facts of life are that those who were ill-treated have tried by every means at their disposal to find out the names of the persons whom they allege ill-treated them.
My right hon. Friend said today that Amnesty International was splitting hairs. I advise anyone who is in the House at the moment to read Hansard of 15th June. It will then be apparent who was splitting hairs. I believe, from what is alleged in the document that I have from Amnesty International, that my right hon. Friend was then, intentionally or unintentionally, misleading this House. I remember sitting here and listening to him. He said that there were only five cases that called for any sort of inquiry. That was the clear and distinct impression that he gave to this House. The letter from Amnesty International absolutely refutes the charge that there were only five cases.
1757 I intend to put on record the view of Amnesty International, and then hon. Members on both sides of the House will be able to judge the merits or demerits of each case. I have received a letter, posted to me on 23rd June, whose contents are as follows:I am writing to you regarding statements made by Mr. Roy Mason in Parliament on 15 June concerning the recently published AI report of its inquiry into allegations of maltreatment of detained suspects by members of the RUC (reported in The Times on 16 June). A number of comments made by Mr. Mason in answer to questions put before him in the House were misleading with respect to the substance of the complaints of maltreatment contained in Al's report.AI did not, as was suggested by Mr. Mason, examine in detail only five of the 78 cases in the report.In the cases of the 26 persons who were not interviewed personally by the AI mission, AI's delegates examined medical reports in several cases of examinations by more than one doctor and affidavits by the complainants themselves. The information on these cases was supplied to Al's delegates directly by lawyers and doctors who had examined the complainants personally in their professional capacities and with whom the delegates were able to discuss the allegations/complaints. Similar corroborative information was obtained from doctors and lawyers in the cases of the 13 persons who were interviewed directly by the mission and on whom medical reports were examined by the mission.Mr. Mason is therefore incorrect in saying that 26 pieces of medical evidence thereafter were placed before AI, but they had no complaints'.The remaining 39 complainants whose allegations are described in the report testified personally to the mission but no medical evidence was presented for examination by the delegates. However, in many of these latter cases, as with the above-mentioned cases, police doctors' reports exist but were not made available to the mission; in a number of these cases also the complainants have been examined by their own doctors, and in certain instances the complainants had been transferred to hospital for treatment after interrogation. The mission discussed individual cases with a total of 40 doctors all of whom had examined complainants personally either during or shortly after their detention in police custody.The five persons who were selected for further examination in greater detail' by the mission's medical experts were selected not because the mission delegates felt that they were the strongest cases but because they were typical of the overall range of cases examined by the mission. They were examined not only for the purpose of further assessment of the veracity of allegations, but also in order to detect whether other corroborative factors were present, such as continued psychological 1758 disturbance or other after-effects of maltreatment.AI has thus"—contrary to what my right hon. Friend said—based its findings on detailed documentary information regarding 39 cases of alleged maltreatment, and on a further 39 cases from whom the delegates obtained direct testimony only but on whom in many of the cases documentary information regarding the allegations also exists. It should be emphasised that the authorities with whom the mission discussed the allegations of maltreatment were unable as a matter of policy to comment on individual cases, and thus the information obtained by AI regarding the individual cases came only from the representatives of complainants and from the complainants themselves. This is clearly stated in the report.Finally, AI states:As emphasised my Mr. Mason in Parliament on 15th June, the 78 cases contained in AI's report were only a small proprtion of the 3,444 persons questioned by the RUC during the first 11 months of 1977. They were also only a small proportion of the 671 who subsequently lodged complaints for assault during interview against members of the RUC during 1977. Beyond this there are the cases—possibly numerous—in which individuals may have suffered maltreatment but declined to lodge a complaint. It is for this reason that AI has urged that any inquiry into allegations of maltreatment should not be confined to the 78 cases in AI's report, but should be open to examination of all complaints made during the period covered.That letter is signed by Dick Oosting, the deputy secretary-general of Amnesty International.
I do not want once again to preface my remarks by saying that I do not support the IRA. If that is not accepted by now, it will never be accepted. I detest and despise every action of the Provisional IRA. I regard it as the greatest disaster that has ever happened to the island of Ireland since the famine of 1846. I do not believe that it is motivated by patriotic feelings. I believe that the members of the IRA are a bunch of thugs, criminals and villains, who have no support from any section of the Northern Ireland community.
Let the IRA take no sustenance from the report of Amnesty International and the letter that I have just read to the House. Let the IRA take no pleasure from what is contained in it. I have not read the letter with any intention of helping the IRA in any way or, as some people have said, of taking the heat off it. I have done it for a different reason. I 1759 have done it because I honestly believe that quite a number—in fact, we had nearly 4,000 in 11 months—of young men, middle-aged men, old men, innocent people, guilty of no crime, were taken into interrogation centres in Northern Ireland and maltreated. I completely absolve the uniformed branch of the RUC and make no charge whatsoever against it, but I believe that a number of detectives—perhaps a very small number—are exceeding their duties and bringing the law into disrepute in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday afternoon—this matter has already been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead)—Lord Justice McGrath was hearing a case in Belfast in which a young boy had signed a confession admitting an armed offence. The judge had evidence before him from medical experts that this young boy had sustained wounds. Thee were marks on him and facial abrasions. When the boy was asked how he received them, he said that he was sitting on a chair and fell asleep during interrogation, that he took sick and fell on the floor, and that that was how he received these abrasions and contusions. The judge, needless to say, did not accept one scintilla of this evidence. That young boy was released because the judge was absolutely convinced that the confession that the boy had made was under duress of police brutality.
I contend that that judge, by his decision in the courts of Northern Ireland yesterday, was saying to the RUC, in effect, "You are guilty of maltreating this individual to such an extent that he confessed to a crime that he did not commit." I expect that we shall be told by someone from the Government Front Bench that the papers in the case should now be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions and that the DPP will then decide whether to take action against the policemen who were involved in the interrogation of this individual. If the DPP said "There is no case to answer, I do not believe these allegations", it would be tantamount to telling the judge that he is a liar. The DPP would be saying that he did not believe the judge, that he was stupid, or that he was not capable of holding his position.
Here we have a violent contradiction between the forces of law, as evidenced 1760 by the judge's decision. If a judge can give decisions such as that, and there is no reason for giving them, he should be removed, because he is incapable of carrying out his functions. On the other hand, if the DPP continually gives decisions—according to the Amnesty International report there have been 671 complaints—that there is no evidence against the police, he should be removed. If there is someone in Northern Ireland who appears to be acting with a particular bias one way or the other, thereby bringing the law into disrepute, it is indeed a very serious matter.
§ Mr. Powell
What course does the hon. Gentleman recommend should now be taken following the case yesterday to which he has referred?
§ Mr. Fitt
I am delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has asked that. I am no legal expert, but I have spoken to persons who claim that they were ill-treated. They went to their solicitors, who sought the names of the persons accused of ill-treating them but were unable to get them. I believe that the Government or the police should make known to the individual acquitted yesterday the name of the detective who interrogated him. The lawyer acting on behalf of that individual could then sue in the courts against the detective.
§ Mr. Powell
Is it the hon. Gentleman's view that at the moment the initiative lies with the legal adviser of the acquitted defendant?
§ Mr. Fitt
Yes, if he can get the name. But the legal adviser cannot get the name from the police or from the Government. Unless he gets the name of that particular detective, he cannot take any action. The right hon. Gentleman should query this. I have gone into the matter in great detail. The fact is that one cannot sue the RUC; one can sue only the individual involved.
There were 671 complaints. I know that the IRA, or extreme organisations of any description, would probably want to make propaganda out of this. If any of their members are brought in for interrogation, it is logical that they will shout from the high heavens that they have been ill-treated. If that is their game, and I believe that it has happened, it is the Government's duty to 1761 show just how spurious and malicious these allegations are. That is why I would have hoped the Government would accept the recommendations of Amnesty International. I believe that they should have had a full, sworn and open public inquiry, so that the accused could meet his accuser. People in Northern Ireland are no fools. They will be able to make up their minds.
I accept that my right hon. Friend has turned his face against the proposal for a public inquiry and is now to proceed with a private inquiry. I understand the very real dangers involved in a public inquiry. I appreciate that a named detective who appears at a public inquiry may at some future date leave himself open to a murderous attack by the IRA. I accept that. However, there are ways in which these men could be brought to such an inquiry in order to face their accusers. It is still not too late for the Government to take that view.
It is of paramount importance that in Northern Ireland justice must not only be done but be seen to be done. At present, many of my hon. Friends in this House and many friends in Northern Ireland have grave suspicions that the police are acting in a biased way towards named individuals. I know personally of a number of cases where men have been detained for three days, and sometimes up to seven days. By the time they are released, with no charge against them, they go back to their place of employment and find that their jobs are no longer available. They have been detained, interrogated and perhaps ill-treated. Yet when they return to work, they find that their jobs are no longer available.
At the time when this emergency legislation was going through the House I asked that some safeguards should be written into the Act, because emergency regulations are all too readily available to employers whenever they want to get rid of a particular employee. We have had emergency legislation time and time again. I admit that I cannot foresee an early opportunity of taking such legislation off the statute book. Once such legislation is there, it stays there for quite a long time. From 1922 until 1972 we had the experience of the Special Powers 1762 Act. We now have the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. I believe that it will be a considerable time before such legislation is taken off the statute book. However, I believe that safeguards could be written into the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act just as they have been written into the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act.
Because of the disquiet voiced from hon. Members on the Government Benches, Lord Shackleton is now inquiring into what is happening with regard to the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has agreed to set up an inquiry to monitor what has been happening. Why cannot this be done with regard to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act as well? It could be done so that a person could have recourse to someone who could inquire into the operation of the emergency provisions in order to ensure that justice was really being done.
I turn to the Government's position on the Northern Ireland economy. I recognise that against the background of a world economic recession it has not been easy for the Government to do everything which they should have done. With all their ups and downs, I accept that the Government have tried, sometimes against the voices of hon. Members from Northern Ireland, to take remedial steps with regard to Northern Ireland's economic position.
My right hon. Friend has readily agreed, because it cannot be contradicted, that Northern Ireland has the highest unemployment problem and figures not only in the United Kingdom but in any of the regions of the EEC. That is not the whole reason for "the troubles" and the violence, but it can be a very potent factor. I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Government for the specific steps that they have taken.
Sometimes I get a little annoyed about the irony of the situations that develop in Northern Ireland. I am the only Northern Ireland representative in this House who supports the introduction of seat belts.
§ Mr. Fitt
It has been opposed by Ulster Unionist Members. I can only go by their votes. The argument is that they are not opposed to seat belts as such, but want them introduced in other parts of the United Kingdom as well. From the outset, I have supported the introduction of seat belts. Yet I find that the factory—General Motors—which will make the seat belts is to be situated in another part of Belfast and that the many unemployed people in my constituency will not benefit from the setting up of at least this industry.
As for cross-border co-operation, I have said before that there is more cross-border economic co-operation taking place than would have ben possible if we had had the Council of Ireland, and allegedly it was the Council of Ireland and the cross-board dialogue that was taking place that brought to an end the power-sharing Exceutive. That is what we were told. But I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the cross-border economic co-operation which is taking place.
I have one slight qualification, concerning EEC benefits and financial assistance from the regional fund. I wonder whether that is additional to British Government finance in Northern Ireland. When the EEC makes a grant, does it mean that the Government give less? I do not think that that question has ever been answered satisfactorily.
§ Mr. Powell
May I suggest to the hon. Member a means of arriving at a probable answer, namely, to reflect upon the fact that we pay more to the EEC than we receive back again? I think that that will lead the hon. Member to the natural answer to his question.
§ Mr. Fitt
Certainly my question has once again given the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) the opportunity to voice his opinion of the EEC as a whole, even outside the Northern Ireland context.
I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to do all that they possibly can to speed up the provision of housing, given the present parlous situation, especially in the city of Belfast. There are people living there in dire circumstances. I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has encountered almost insurmountable 1764 difficulties in trying to acquire land, to stop the problem of squatting, and so on, but the position is so serious now that most certainly he must try to accelerate the rate of progress on the housing front. It has been reported to me that an elected councillor in Belfast last night made a plea to people to stop squatting. I know for a fact that outside his role as a city councillor he is encouraging squatting. It would pay some people to be a little more honest. If they are in favour of squatting, they should say so rather than say publicly that they are opposed to it whilst they give every encouragement to those who are doing it.
I come to the political and constitutional question, on which, I suppose, this whole debate hinges. If there were not a political or constitutional problem, we would not have emergency powers and all the other difficulties which so bedevil daily life in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend said that there had been no movement on the political and constitutional question since we debated these matters last year. I agree with him. But, having agreed, I must ask myself the reason why there has been no movement. I can tell my right hon. Friend what it is.
The Unionist Members in this House—certainly they represent the majority opinion in this House, since there are 10 Unionists of various descriptions to the two Members on the Government Benches —have made it clear that their first option is for a return of the Stormont Parliament as it was prior to its abolition by the then Conservative Government in 1972. How ever, since no major political party in this House sees that as even a remote possibility, they will settle for a highly acceptable second opinion, which is to have more seats for Northern Ireland in this House and a return of powers to local authorities in Northern Ireland. But the end-result is the same, it gives power back to the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland without giving it an instrument such as Stormont. In fact, that is integration.
Given that position, was it ever likely that there would be any movement? If I were a Unionist facing those possibilities and problems, I would not budge an inch —in Common Market terms, a centimeter. I can tell my right hon. Friend that there will be no political movement in the constitutional sense in Northern Ireland so 1765 long as this Government appear to be acceding to the Unionist request for more seats in the Westminster Parliament and a return of certain powers to local authorities in Northern Ireland.
It is unnecessary to remind my right hon. Friend that it was the mismanagement or maladministration of local authorities in Northern Ireland which very largely led to the beginnings and the eruption of the civil rights movement on to the streets. I warn him to be careful about any functions which he is now considering returning to local authorities in Northern Ireland.
The Minister for Commerce in Northern Ireland will know how many of the 26 district councils have refused to sign the Fair Employment Declaration. That is an indication of the mentality which still exists in Northern Ireland. He will also be aware that the Parliamentary Commission has found on repeated occasions that Cookstown council is still engaging in discrimination. There again is an indication of what would happen if powers were given back to local authorities in Northern Ireland.
I come, then, to the speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). He told the House of the visit one day last week of his Leader to the beleagured Province of Northern Ireland, and he asked the House to accept that it was a tremendous success. I can tell him, however, that anyone who was there was not of that opinion. I do not think that it was a success. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Prices and Consumer Protection had a much more welcome reception on the following day, and everyone knows the portfolio which he has at the moment.
The Leader of the Conservative Party went to Northern Ireland last week not with the intention of solving any of the problems there and not with the intention of alleviating the distress which exists there, but with the intention of courting Unionist votes, given the possibility that there may be a "hung" Parliament after the next General Election. The right hon. Lady was playing the 1978 version of the Orange card That is exactly what she was seen to be doing in Northern Ireland. It is rare for me to find myself agreeing with the Liberals, but I agree with that party's 1766 spokesman's comment on that occasion. The right hon. Lady's visit was so blatant as to be counter-productive.
I ask the hon. Member for Abingdon why the right hon. Lady did not go to St. Dominic's School, on the Falls Road? As the representative of that area, I received a little courtesy note telling me that she intended to call into Mackie's Foundry on the Springfield Road, and that she would also go into St. Dominic's School on the Falls Road. Why did she change her mind? Was it for security reasons, or was it because the people in the school did not want to see her? This has nothing at all to do with security, of course—the people whom I represent just do not like Tories—what is more, it has nothing to do with the religious complexion of the people who run the school.
I can tell the hon. Member for Abingdon that the right hon. Lady's visit was not the raging success that he asks this House to accept that it was.
The speech of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) brings us to the position which is a fact of life in Northern Ireland. He referred to the speech that he made in this debate last year, and he quoted from it. He went on to say in terms which I claim are unmistakable that he was happy with the position and that it was leading to integration. That was the full import of his remarks: he is now quite happy to accept the continuation of direct rule, leading to integration. I advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that that is a very dangerous position for the Government to accept.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Surely the hon. Member is a super-integrationalist, because he is saying that he does not want direct rule or integration diluted even by minimal powers being restored to the district councils. He wants everything to happen here at Westminster.
§ Mr. Fitt
I feel safer with it here than with it in the hands of a Unionist ascendency in Northern Ireland. I do not want that position to continue. I have had experience of what happens under the dictates of a Unionist Government upon the local authorities in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member made a very ill-advised attack upon Amnesty International. We all know the situation in 1767 Northern Ireland, but the hon. Gentleman and those of his ilk take the view that anyone who says anything about a policeman a soldier or a UDR man must be wrong. That is completely the wrong attitude to adopt towards the security forces.
§ Mr. Fitt
Yes, it is the attitude that prevails in totalitarian States. Such an attitude—I hope it is not being reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—would lead us into a lot of dangerous trouble in Northern Ireland.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State who is responsible for commerce in the Province was right to make the interjection he did in the speech by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley.) Having listened to eulogies from the right hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Members for Antrim, North and Abingdon about how well the Government had done in Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend was right to ask himself the silent question "Why, then, do they always vote against us on any major issue?". Time and time again when crucial issues have come before the House and when the life of the Government has been hanging in the balance, we have known where to find the Unionists and Tories from Northern Ireland. We have known into which Lobby they would go.
I urge my right hon. Friend and the House not to accept the kind words and eulogies that have been expressed in speeches from the Opposition Benches today. They are genuine, but only in wanting a return to a Unionist ascendency in Northern Ireland. If they do not get that, they are determined to take the Government down the path of total integration.
It has been said that there are all sorts of do-gooders and others who claim to be acting in the interests of Northern Ireland. Sometimes their solutions to the problems would get us into more trouble than we are in at the moment. Whether or not the Unionist Members or Connor Cruise O'Brien believe it, it is right to continue to try to find a Government or political institution for Northern Ireland that commands broad acceptance among 1768 both sections of the community, but not to be driven along the path that has been mapped out by the hon. Member for Abingdon—a path which, if the Government travelled it, would lead only to untold trouble in the Province.
§ 2.3 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The lion. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) castigated the Leader of the Opposition for her visit to Northern Ireland. I cannot see why he should do so. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Lady is a British politician. She is entitled to go anywhere within the United Kingdom.
I am surprise that the hon. Gentleman should tell the House that a school in the Falls Road which the right hon. Lady was to have visited but, for some unknown reason did not, did not wish her to enter its premises because the people there do not like Tories. I dislike some Members of this House, but that does not mean that I would bar them from visiting my constituency or any school in it. I believe that the more that Members of Parliament, such as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick), visit the regions of which they know very little, the better. The hon. Gentleman would do well to go round Northern Ireland to see what the people have to endure in the Province.
I can criticise the Tories a great deal, but there is nothing wrong with the Leader of the Opposition trying to canvass votes in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, West spends his whole time when he is here trying to canvass support from Labour Members. I know not with what success he meets, though in spite of his protests the Government intend to go ahead with increasing the number of Northern Ireland Members and we now hear that the seat belt factory is to be located in Dundonald rather than in his constituency. He has been courting votes and canvassing support, and he therefore cannot criticise the Leader of the Opposition for doing so.
We are today being asked to approve the continuation of direct rule for a further 12 months. This annual event reminds us of and commemorates the destruction of the Stormont Parliament in 1972. That shameful betrayal of the traditional Ulster Unionists by Conservative 1769 leaders marked the end of 50 years of solemn pledges and rousing declarations of support for the Government, Parliament and people of Northern Ireland. It is therefore natural that I should be suspicious and that the Ulster people should be hesitant about the merits of any pledges that are now given.
The Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), not so long ago advocated that a group of "prominent people" should be set up to advise the Secretary of State and could be consulted by him. I believe that the Conservative Party is not too sure about the right policy for Northern Ireland. Perhaps in its heart it knows what the right policy is, and that that is to re-establish what is destroyed. However, it is not too sure what to put in its place if it does not do what is right by the Ulster people. Does the Conservative Party believe, to use the expression of the hon. Member for Abingdon, that "prominent people" are more to be prized than the democratically elected representatives of the Ulster people? The hon. Gentleman seems to be hankering after the old days when authority was vested in the local aristocracy or magnates. Shining through that suggestion is the Tory Party's belief in elitism, that the so-called upper classes or the new establishment is better fitted to rule than we ordinary people in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I do not dispute that, but I am referring to the remarks by the hon. Member not so long ago in this House. I disagree with what the Conservative Party says about the top tier of local government. Speaking on behalf of the Ulster people, I say to the Tory Party "Why not try the democracy that exists in the rest of the United Kingdom?" Why do the Conservatives not heed the call of the Ulster people? Why should Ulster not have a democratically elected Stormont, Parliament or Assembly with legislative powers instead of a non-elected band of the new establishment, which now contains safe trade 1770 unionists? They are to be found in Northern Ireland as part of the new establishment, as in the rest of the United Kingdom. I suppose that they are to be regarded as those best to advise the Secretary of State.
I say bluntly that we do not want any of the nonsense of an upper tier of local government. When I say "we", I speak of a great many people in Northern Ireland. There is no justification for a yet further tier of regional administration in the Province. There is no justification for a tier of regional administration or council that will neatly sidetrack, and deliberately sidetrack, what should be the dominant issue—namely, to restore a Stormont Parliament or Assembly.
It is part of the armoury of those who skilfully are trying to make direct rule permanent—in other words, total integration. That is why a top tier of local government is being advocated as something that will work wonders for the people of Northern Ireland. Lo and behold, a top tier of local government, or what it really would be—an impotent administrative central council—is being made synonymous with democracy. It is not. It is a trick to try to entice the Ulster people into abandoning what is best for them. It is arrant, blatant nonsense, and I say so on behalf of the Ulster people.
Existing local government can and should be made more democratic. More powers should be granted to it. That does not entail creating more jobs for the boys and an irrelevant sham that would do nothing to help the hard-pressed Ulster people.
Direct rule has done nothing, in my opinion and in the opinion of a great many, for Northern Ireland. There are 60,000 men, women and young persons unemployed. That is the equivalent of 2½ million unemployed in Great Britain. That is a figure that would arouse great anger in this place, but we in Northern Ireland, according to the Secretary of State, should admire him and his four busy, active, hard-working Ministers, as he described them. They are hard-working, in one respect: they are engaged in a publicity machine to project their image in Northern Ireland and across the water to ensure that they have a better chance, or that their chances are improved, for a place on the Labour Party 1771 executive and for higher office in a Labour Administration. Yes, we may have another one after the next General Election. Of course, that is very much in the fate of the gods.
We have endless talk and gimmickry. It comes from the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office. We have the Belfast area of need, the youth opportunity programme and job opportunities, yet the number of unemployed continues to rise. That is something that I will not accept. I say so to the Minister. I was not elected to this place to prop up his Administration. I was not elected here to prop up direct rule by congratulating Ministers on the way in which they perform their duties. In fact, they are not performing their duties properly. They may tour around the constituencies, but they are not getting rid of the great number of unemployed in Northern Ireland.
The really substantial advances achieved in Northern Ireland in industrial training, further education and incentives for investment have been inherited from former Stormont Administrations. We may be critical of some of the former Ministers in the Stormont Parliament, but we can point to the achievements of former Stormont Governments. Over the decades Stormont helped Northern Ireland a great deal.
In my opinion, little of lasting substance has been created since direct rule to compare with those achievements of Stormont. What the Government have achieved—it is a remarkable record when we think about it and ponder over it—is the enormous burden of bureaucracy that oppresses Ulster people. At the last count we had 109,000 public servants. The number is still rising. That is an achievement that the Minister responsible for the environment smiles at. It may help employment in providing jobs for some people, but the money that it costs should be used to create far more jobs and more factories and to ensure that there is not too much reliance on the public sector.
What have the Government done in pursuit of care and concern for the Ulster people? I think that those were the words used by the Secretary of State. He said that care and concern are "the hallmarks" of what he and his colleagues are trying to do in Northern Ireland. 1772 What have the Government done? They have, for example, pushed ahead with hospital centralisation in the teeth of local and medical opinion.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has rightly castigated the Government for mishandling comprehensive education. They have made Northern Ireland education a political football. The Government have taken no measures in the Province to reduce the cost of food, coal, gas and electricity to levels of costs enjoyed elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Instead, they are pushing up the rents of Housing Executive houses. As the Under-Secretary of State who is responsible for matters of the environment, but who is no longer present, has accepted, the standard of Housing Executive houses is falling and repairs are not being carried out. The work that is done is not up to the quality that we would expect in our own homes.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I do not believe that any of these measures would have taken the same course if they had been in the hands of Northern Ireland elected representatives sitting in a Parliament or Assembly at Stormont. Such representatives would have a greater understanding of the true needs of the local community in the Province. Policies devised in London may be suitable for the Midlands, for example, but they have shown themselves to be entirely unsuitable for Northern Ireland.
I concur with the remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North on education. The transfer system that is presently causing so much hardship for pupils and parents in Northern Ireland was lifted from the Inner London Education Authority and planted in Northern Ireland with terrible results. The Government can take no pride in the amount of agony and trouble that they have created as a result of that system being used. The job opportunities scheme was planted in Northern Ireland totally without modification. The job opportunities programme for young persons, which was tailored for large conurbations such as London, Birmingham, Liverpool and similar areas was applied indiscriminately to the totally different physical conditions of Northern Ireland. No opportunity 1773 was given to local people to use the financial resources which were available in a specifically Northern Ireland way.
In Ulster today there is almost complete and total rejection of the concept of direct rule as a practical method of governing the Province. Its implementation shows how far removed Westminster is from the people of Northern Ireland. The Ulster people do not believe that Wesminster is truly part of their lives. It is miles and miles away from them whereas they were used to their Stormont Parliament close at hand in Belfast.
The longer direct rule continues, the greater will be the alienation of the Ulster people and the more difficult it will be to bring the two sections of the community together in a harmonised relationship, which must be the goal of us all. Without the impetus that comes from having political objectives that can be attained, there is bound to be frustration and disappointment in the Province.
A Parliament so far removed from the people and yet making decisions that directly affect the lives and well-being of the people is likely to be considered with hostile eyes, which is the present position. No matter how many representatives Ulster may have in this place, the basic problems of Northern Ireland cannot be tackled except inside Northern Ireland. An ever-present danger is that Ulster people, frustrated at their inability to influence events, will turn totally away from Westminster and give greater consideration to the idea of an independent Ulster.
There is no forum in Northern Ireland for the expression of political views. I challenge what the Secretary of State said about local government representatives. He said that he often consulted them. As I understand it, the elected representatives of the 26 district councils are effectively ignored by the Secretary of State. He does not turn to them for advice on Northern Ireland issues. Nor does he turn for advice to members of the education and health boards. Instead, he is prepared to lend a ready ear to almost any community group which cannot claim to represent anyone but itself.
Despite what the Secretary of State said, it is clear that the Government are anxious to frustrate the development of 1774 real political discussion in the Province. I do not know whether the meetings for which he asked with political representatives or leaders of political parties will come to anything, but I think that his bluff should be called. Those meetings should take place to see whether he and the Government are prepared to try to restore full democracy to Northern Ireland through a Parliament or Assembly at Stormont.
The Government and Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office pay lip service to the objective of political settlement in Northern Ireland. But, in reality, they see great dangers in the encouragement of a lively political atmosphere in the Province. Otherwise, I believe that the Secretary of State would have agreed to the suggestion that I put forward to him last year: that at least the Northern Ireland Committee should meet regularly at Stormont. It would then become a focal point. But that suggestion—simple and easy to fulfil—which would provide satisfaction to the Ulster people, has not been accepted by the Government.
Finally, I turn briefly to security. Decent Ulster people—particularly those whose lives have agonisingly been touched by the terrorists—have shown remarkable courage and great forbearance in the face of fiendish and murderous provocation. In no other part of the world—indeed, in no part of Great Britain —would a local community have demonstrated such patience and restraint while being subjected for nine long years to a foul, bloody and sadistic campaign of terrorism. The Ulster people deserve the greatest praise for their restraint.
Amnesty International was mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast, West and by other hon. Members. Its report referred to anonymous complaints. This matter has already been dealt with. I shall not go over that ground again. Recently, a courageous policeman and his equally courageous colleague were the objects of an IRA attack in which one of the policemen was shot and killed and the other was shot and kidnapped. But there was no protest from Amnesty when the Provisional IRA declared that it proposed to interrogate the obviously seriously wounded policeman. There was no question of that man having rights to be protected. Yet the IRA constantly makes allegations about police brutality.
1775 Not long ago, a member of the Provisional IRA was shot in the course of planting a bomb. The IRA complained that that man had no weapon or had given up his weapon and surrendered. The IRA never gives its victims an opportunity to surrender in order to preserve their lives. It gives no opportunity to anyone who is captured to be safeguarded from torture or finally from death. Those are the actions of brutal people who have no wish to create harmony or peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland. They wish merely to satisfy their own sadistic desires. Despite that, I join in the appeal to those who know where Constable Turbitt's body may be. Its whereabouts should be revealed and he should be returned to his loved ones.
It is scandalous that the terrorists should behave in this way. They are attempting to destroy a Province of the United Kingdom which has had many years of coming together—years in which it was becoming more prosperous and the people happier. I say to the IRA that its time is up. Its members may still kill more people, but its time is up. People of all religions in Northern Ireland have had enough. The IRA should get out and perhaps seek a new life in that country which has always been a sanctuary for its members—the Irish Republic.
§ 2.25 p.m.
§ Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)
The IRA, with gun and bomb, has totally failed to demoralise the people of Northern Ireland or to detach them from their long-held aspirations of allegiance to the Crown and membership of this kingdom, but I sometimes wonder whether Parliament and Government here will do what the IRA has failed to do.
We meet here on a Friday—a day, well known by practice and tradition, which seldom, if ever, represents Parliament in strength—to discuss two very serious matters: the continuation of an undemocratic form of government and a form of law that supersedes the normal traditional British concept of the rule of law. These are two very serious matters, and we have only a handful of Members in the House this afternoon.
In previous years the House talked much about the need to defend the prin- 1776 ciples of democracy, to see that justice was done and that minorities were protected. I see little or no evidence of such a burning desire at this time.
Perhaps it is a good thing that so few Members are present, because the public, now that some of them occasionally, accidentally, listen in to our deliberations, may be rather shattered at the paucity of political thinking on these important matters, and it may do the institutions of Parliament the world of good if that paucity becomes more widely known.
There has not been one encouraging positive line of thought on the future of Northern Ireland or on any speedy restoration to normal peace under the law. I find it astonishing that after 10 years of terrorism and six years of direct rule—undemocratic as it is—we are prepared to gloss over the extent of the failures and to highlight the little successes. I do not feel that it is my duty to take part in glossing over the enormous failure, not only of this Government but of their predecessors, to deal with the difficult situation in Northern Ireland.
Before developing my argument on this line, I should like to digress to deal with the speech made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who, for reasons of sustenance, is not in his place. It was a typical speech by the hon. Gentleman. He is very good at lecturing everybody else and saying that nobody else will move or learn, but if any hon. Member has learned nothing it is the hon. Member for Belfast, West.
§ Mr. Litterick
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a noise coming through the sound system which sounds as if someone is frying chips somewhere, and it is distracting.
§ Mr. Speaker
I shall listen carefully. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) was accused of singing or whistling earlier, and I did not hear him.
§ Mr. Craig
I was referring to the principles that the hon. Member for Belfast, West appears to fry. It is ironic for one who used to rejoice in associating with those who carried banners for people's democracy that the hon. Member should today complain that the Government are 1777 about to do something which might improve the standards of democracy, however inadequate that might be. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged. For the hon. Member for Belfast, West to say that Northern Ireland should not have its proper representation in this House because it might offend the aspirations of the minority is hardly consistent with his former stance of championing democracy and fair representation in Parliament.
§ Mr. Craig
The same criticism can be made of the refusal of the hon. Member for Belfast, West to allow the inadequate system of local government to be improved. No one on the Opposition Benches would suggest that this will bring about a dramatic improvement of the situation in Northern Ireland, but it will be a betterment. Let no one be under any illusion about that.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West dealt with these issues as a sideline. He was talking about "AI." I had to listen carefully to his argument. Obviously it concerned Amnesty International, but at times I thought that his argument also concerned artificial insemination. There was a degree of artificiality in many of his arguments.
I shall not pronounce judgment on Amnesty International's report, but on the surface it is suspect. I am glad that the Secretary of State has given Amnesty International an opportunity to clear itself of suspicions which are well founded. Amnesty has presented a report based upon anonymous allegations and somewhat doubtful medical evidence. We are unable to assess that medical evidence, since we do not know its source and quality. Hon. Members would do well to remember that the Chief Constable in Northern Ireland recently had to draw attention to the fact that prisoners would be allowed to call only upon their own medical practitioners rather than upon a selective and exclusive band of medical practitioners who seemed to suit the political cause of the IRA.
I do not suggest that there may not be malpractices by the police on some occasions, but I shall be convinced, until someone can prove otherwise, that if such 1778 practices do occur they are on such a minimal scale that they are understandable in view of the difficult circumstances under which the force operates.
I am filled with disillusion when the hon. Member for Belfast, West jumps on these issues with such vigour. He seems to be too ready to adopt the politics of grievance rather than to sustain a positive and constructive approach to the problems of Northern Ireland.
If terrorism is to be defeated and if law and order are to be re-established, there must be sympathetic and continuout support for the RUC and the forces of law and order. I do not suggest that we should cover up any warts or malpractices, but there must not be this continuous carping, abuse and wild allegations.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West said that the courts of Northern Ireland can still afford the citizen protection from abuse from any source. I could not follow his argument about the recent case in which the judge rightly refused to accept evidence because it might have been obtained under duress. There is a remedy for that accused person. There is nothing to prevent his taking proceedings and carrying the matter further. The judge did not say, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West said that he said, that the confession was extracted by maltreament. The judge simply said that the circumstances were such that he could not take the evidence.
If the hon. Member for Belfast, West feels that there is substance in this case he could urge the accused to consult his lawyers, to institute the necessary proceedings against the Chief Constable and have the matter aired in the courts.
On the wider issue, the Secretary of State's speech was rather like the proverbial curate's egg; it was sound in parts. I shall be courteous and not describe the other parts. Northern Ireland will rejoice in the Secretary of State's firm declaration that the Province is a part of the United Kingdom and will remain so until the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.
I should have liked that statement to be amplified. I should have liked to hear the Secretary of State say that the Government will pledge themselves to encourage those who want to work for 1779 the maintenance of the Union and that they will strengthen the Union by ensuring at least a stable peace, prosperity, an adequate democracy, and standards that are no lower than those in the rest of the United Kingdom.
It is not for the people of Northern Ireland alone to maintain the Union; it is something which must be maintained by the citizens of all parts of the Union who believe in it. Those of us in the House who believe in the maintenance of the Union have a special responsibility. But the prime responsibility lies with the Government.
We are somewhat reassured that there will be no further abuse of standards in Northern Ireland, in the sense that no solution will be imposed upon us. I find that to be only partially satisfactory, because the tenor of the Secretary of State's remarks was that we must find a solution. I admit that we have a contribution to make, but the responsibility is that of the Government and Parliament. They have been notably lax in their search for the answer. There is a dilatoriness that did not show itself in their approach to the problems of Scotland and Wales. I feel that they should learn from their approach to Scotland and Wales, including the mistakes that they have made in that approach.
Perhaps the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could help the whole of the United Kingdom by suggesting that as we approach devolution we should at least try to find a formula that would suit all parts of the United Kingdom, and that we should do it within the context of a constitution that would strengthen the Union rather than put it at risk.
I say to the Secretary of State quite firmly that it is for him to come forward with proposals for parliamentary devolution or, indeed, for changes in local government. We shall examine them and if we find them worthy of support we shall try to see that they work in a reasonable way.
I must also tell the Secretary of State that he need not bother his head producing proposals for parliamentary devolution if they are on the basis as stated recently in replies to Questions. There can be no parliamentary government in Northern Ireland that is not based on majority rule. The sooner that lesson 1780 is taken on board by all concerned, the better it will be for those who genuinely seek peace and stability.
The corollary to this argument is that if the Government are not prepared to approach devolution in a realistic and sensible way they must accept the inevitable—that they cannot have devolution. The one thing to which we in Northern Ireland cannot be asked to consent indefinitely is the continuation of direct rule. Indeed, if there were to be a Division this afternoon I would vote against direct rule, because I believe that the Government have had more than ample time to move out of this situation.
I do not believe that integration—that rather silly word in this context—is necessarily the best answer for Northern Ireland or, indeed, that it would give Northern Ireland what it wants—longterm stability. But it would be better for Northern Ireland than this system of direct rule. The sooner a choice is made, the sooner there will be real meaning to the possibility of economic advance and sustained growth in Northern Ireland.
Admittedly, the Government are trying hard under the present system. The public purse has been more than generous in those efforts. But as long as the instability of direct rule continues, I do not believe that there will be any meaningful improvement in the social and economic bases in Northern Ireland.
I concur to a very great extent with the Secretary of State on his approach to security. It is a matter for steady progress rather than a dramatic initiative. Certainly after 10 years of blundering and misreading of the situation, it would be more than a miracle if something were to happen which would end the violence overnight. Real and substantial progress is being made, whether or not people want fully to recognise that.
The most impressive aspect of that progress is the growing effectiveness of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The RUC is now playing a major front-line role in the policing of our land. I have some doubts whether it yet has adequate manpower, material and equipment. But progress has been made, and it would be wrong for us not to recognise it.
I, for one, would like o place on record my tribute to the Chief Constable, to his officers and to the men who serve under 1781 them. I say that in that particular way because I was one of the number who doubted the wisdom of the appointment of the present Chief Constable. I now acknowledge that he has done a fine job and that he is a good officer. I hope that the force continues to improve under his leadership.
As to the security aspect, while one may draw some consolation from the statistics on casualties, the death toll in particular, one finds that they are not a very good barometer for reading the progress towards the defeat of the IRA. For instance, simple little things, such as the need to lift a body out of South Armagh by helicopter, indicate that that part of the Province is not considered safe enough for the security forces to use more conventional means of moving a body. I support the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) when he says that the lessening of undercover activities is largely responsible for a further deterioration in the situation in County Armagh.
I pay tribute fully to the RUC and to the Army, but there is still a deficiency in their approach. That deficiency concerns the scale of undercover operations. It is not just a question of using the Special Air Service, the men of which are, of course, highly skilled at this sort of thing. Within the organisation of the police, in particular, we need to provide a similar undercover capacity. The gathering of evidence is the vital ingredient in defeating the terrorist when one seeks to defeat him for the criminal that he is, using normal criminal law processes.
I think that the Secretary of State rightfully gave the people of Ulster some encouragement when he spoke of the efforts that are being made to improve our infrastructure and the economic base. However, I draw his attention to the fact that our economic base is all too limited and rests on a very shaky foundation. Some of the things that are claimed as improvements would be hotly disputed by elected bodies if they had an opportunity to express their opinions in Northern Ireland.
Belfast is the heartland of the economy of Northern Ireland. One cannot talk about growing prosperity in Northern Ireland unless Belfast is sound, is in good 1782 health, and is a magnet. I do not believe that it is the magnet that it should be if it is to attract further growth to Northern Ireland.
It is true that road programmes and transport arrangements have been improved, but the whole think looks like a patchwork quilt rather than a coordinated design. We applaud declarations that urban decay will be remedied, but I am not sure that we can applaud the policies that are aimed at doing that.
This is not really the occasion on which to go into constituency matters in great depth. However, in my constituency we do not think that the means of ending urban decay is simply a process of urban development, in the sense that one clears everything and starts afresh. The rehabilitation of much of the city should be getting greater priority, and in my constituency this does not seem to be so.
I hope that ways and means will be speedily found to allow representatives of Northern Ireland to play a more effective role in the taking of these decisions. I doubt whether district councils as now constituted can usefully help in this process. They certainly do not have, as the old councils had, the necessary back-up professional staffs to contribute to the solution of problems such as poor housing and the need for urban renewal.
It is with great reluctance that I see direct rule being continued for another year, but I am not content just to leave it as a matter of reluctance; I propose to concentrate my political effort on bringing a speedy end to it. If I cannot have it ended in the way I should like to have it ended, I am quite prepared to accept the inevitable and have us governed as the rest of the United Kingdom is governed. Given the right initiative from the Government, and accepting the same standards of democracy that prevail here, the Ulster politicians are capable of making democracy work in Northern Ireland, but being treated as we are now, there is very little hope that progress will be made.
It is again with reluctance that we support the continuance of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Of course it is necessary—there is no choice —but I wonder whether the time has not arrived for us to undertake a new study into the sort of legislation that is 1783 needed to deal with an emergency caused by terrorist criminals—something far more comprehensive in law than presently exists.
We can tackle that job and perhaps give a lead to the rest of the world that has this problem now developing on its own hearths. We shall certainly not make progress if we sit back and wait on European institutions coming forward with more adequate conventions to deal with the prevention of terrorism. It is our job to have a new look at the best way to deal with this matter.
I do not want to return to hearing this sort of thing for, say, an eleventh or twelfth year. I cannot think of any other people in any part of the world who would have put up with a Government that allowed terrorism to continue for 10 years. Long ago they would have turfed out their Government and everybody associated with them and disowned them, but the people of Northern Ireland have shown a patience that is quite remarkable. I plead with Her Majesty's Government not to abuse that patience but to face the tasks that confront them and come forward with new proposals, and not evade the issue by setting up inter-party conferences in Belfast in the hope that out of the exchange of views at those conferences progress will be made.
Politicians have talked for long enough. We want to see some action. The responsibility for action and for initiating action lies with the Government and with the Government alone.
§ 2.53 p.m.
Mr. Tom Linerick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I am surprised that the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) did not at least go through the motions of showing some modesty or humility in the matter of combating terrorism. He suggested that the State was allowing terrorism to flourish. At least, earlier in the debate one of his colleagues had the humility to say that he had no instant solution.
1 suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that nobody in the world has any instant solution. He cannot wave a wand and say "Go away terrorism." He cannot fly in bombers, heavy armour, napalm and heavy artillery and think that terrorism 1784 will go away. It will not happen. The right hon. Gentleman should have enough sense to know that that has been tried and it did not work. He may recollect that it was done in the Far East when hundreds of thousands of troops and aeroplanes were committed, yet the terrorism—as it was called—would not go away.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that terrorism in Malaya was in fact stamped out by the security forces?
§ Mr. Litterick
Does not the hon. Gentleman recollect, first, how long that took, and, secondly, how many troops were committed to that operation? Will he also ponder for a few minutes on whether he thinks that the State could today make such a commitment or whether politically it would be viable in Ulster to do that?
This is the sixth request for a renewal of the statute providing for direct rule of Northern Ireland. It is more than that: it is the tenth year of the present war in Northern Ireland. It is not just a renewal of this piece of oppressive legislation but is a continuation of a long history of special and specially oppressive legislation relating to Ireland. As hon. Members know, before this there was the Special Powers Act. Before that, there was another Special Powers Act before 1922. Before that, there was other and similar legislation going back more than three centuries. Ireland has been the subject of special and specially oppressive legislation enacted by British Parliaments—Westminster Parliaments—for as long as that. Before that, Ireland was subject to special oppression, without the need for any legislation, simply by brutal military conquest.
We should remember that we cannot allow ourselves to be swayed too much by our sometimes frantic considerations of present events because, as the House should know, present events are very similar in Ireland to what has gone on before. There is nothing exceptional about them.
It was unfortunate that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), who, I understand, is Leader of one of the Ulster Unionist parties, reacted so badly to the Amnesty International report. I 1785 think he actually referred to "those who seek to profit from the difficulties and troubles of the Province". In doing so, the hon. Member joined a very large and unsavoury club.
Amnesty International is all too accustomed to the kind of reaction to its investigatory activities manifested by the hon. Member for Antrim, South. As I said in an intervention, the organisation has had the same reaction from the Chilean junta, from the Argentinian Government, from the Uruguayan Government, from the Brazilian Government, from the Greek colonels when they were in power and from the Politburo—from the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party. Amnesty International has had the same reaction—"How dare you outsiders interfere in our affairs?" So the Leader of the United Ulster Unionists has joined that tawdry group of political thugs who believe that the mere possession of political power entitles them to do anything to those over whom they exercise political power.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is "political thug" a parliamentary expression?
It is also, I suggest, part of a familiar attitude on the part of Conservatives to those who actually use coercive power on behalf of the State. I am referring to uniformed policemen and soldiers. It seems that it is difficult for Conservatives to believe that such persons can do wrong in their dealings with the civilian population. It is a kind of mental block from which they suffer.
Frequently the Tories do themselves a great disservice, and, be it said, they do both the police and the uniformed services a great disservice by insisting all too often that they can do no wrong. Those who exercise the power of the State are no less likely to do wrong than are the rest of us, and they should be subject, as the rest of us are, to investigation and to the normal judicial process if they do wrong.
We should be ready to admit to ourselves that those whom we appoint and pay to carry out our unpleasant jobs for 1786 us are from time to time likely to go wrong. Moreover, it should be remembered that the situation in which we put these people in Northern Ireland is one which is likely to corrupt their normal standards anyway. We should take full cognisance of that.
Unlike most hon. Members, I have no particular prescription for the Government of Ireland, because, frankly, I do not think that it is any of my business. I believe that the proper business of the House should be to consider how to divest itself of the problems of Ireland.
As hon. Members will know, I am not alone in this place in taking that view. Many others who have preceded me here, including Prime Ministers of British Governments, have felt the same way—that the best thing we can do for Ireland is to leave it alone. That process might be a bit difficult, of course, given the sort of parties we have here. One of the most depressing features of the two Front Bench speeches, to my mind, was the wide area of agreement which they seemed to show. I find that depressing.
It seems to me that the reason for that wide measure of agreement probably lies in the fact that the Labour Party has no Irish policy—so far as I am aware, anyway. It is certainly the fact that the Labour Party has not been allowed to discuss Ireland in conference for at least six years, and, if the rumblings offstage which I have heard from the direction of Transport House are anything to go by, our conference will again not be allowed to discuss Irish policy this year.
That means, in effect, that the Government will be drifting. They are drifting from their necessary and vitalising connections with the British Labour movement. They do not know what the British Labour movement thinks of the Irish problem. Indeed, they appear to have gone to some trouble, unfortunately, to prevent any expression of opinion on Ireland coming from the Labour movement.
1787 Nor is the situation helped by the political poverty of the parties involved in Ireland itself. One hon. Member opposite, in effect, said that, and I confess that I agree with him. It is difficult to read any signs of political originality in the parties which represent it here.
As for the IRA, in whatever form it manifests itself, it is easily seen to be an organisation which is abysmally poverty-stricken in political terms. Normally, it is true of a militant nationalist movement that the mere fact of its seeking to establish national autonomy is enough to define the movement, to give it meaning and coherence, but in the Irish situation this is not so. Whatever form it takes, the IRA does not seem to have recognised that, and, so far as I can make out, it has not come up with an original idea during at least the last half-century. If that is the best that the IRA can offer, it seems to me that it is offering the Irish people nothing at all—except bombs and bullets, which, to say the least, is negative.
At the same time, there seems to be little reason for anyone living in Northern Ireland to believe that he is actually a citizen of what one might call Britain, because he is so unequally treated by the British State. Legislation such as that which we are considering now, together with all its rather dismal predecessors, makes each citizen of Northern Ireland an unequal citizen of Britain.
If those who have power here in Westminster are serious—if they seriously mean that every citizen of Northern Ireland is a citizen of Britain—they should seek to change the laws in such a way that that equality is made manifest. They should not, for example, thrust upon us such laws as the Payments for Debt (Emergency Provisions) Act, which we had to debate last week, an Act which is an absurd imposition on the people of Northern Ireland and, in my view, quite unjustified on the facts of the case.
Such things reinforce the view, which is, I believe, held by many, that the people of Northern Ireland are not treated equally, and this, I suggest, encourages the view that perhaps they would be better off by separating themselves. Whether they mean to separate themselves as an autonomous enclave at the northern end of Ireland or to separate 1788 themselves from Britain in some other way is neither here nor there.
That kind of legislation encourages that kind of thinking, and with reason, because those people are not regarded in law as being the same as every other British citizen, nor even are those people of Northern Irish origin who live on the mainlaind regarded as equal with every other citizen of mainland Britain, because they are subject to arbitrary deportation if the authorities see fit.
Therefore, in a wide range of enactments by this Parliament, we are demontrating over and over again to the people of Ulster that they are not the same as the rest of the people of Britain. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spent a great deal of energy last week emphasising that that was his view. At the same time, by our behaviour as a State, we are telling those people "We shall weld the bonds between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland." I think that that phrase was actually used by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State within the past fornight. It does not make sense. It is inconsistent. The Labour Government should at least seek to clarify their thinking in a more rigorous way than they have done so far.
The hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), apart from agreeing with my right hon. Friend, made one interesting remark which I should like him to clarify. He said that Northern Ireland industry and commerce would continue to require considerable financial help from the United Kingdom. I think that he meant to add "certainly into the foreseeable future".
I am well aware that the leader of the hon. Gentleman's party has recently been going to a great deal of trouble to convince people—whom, I do not know—that if she and her colleagues win political power at the next General Election they will abolish the subsidy system for industry and commerce. So far as I am aware, she did not qualify that statement. I know that she was up north at the time, looking for votes, which is a respectable occupation for the leader of an Opposition party. But, as the hon. Gentleman at least seemed to say that a future Conservative Government would continue to give substantial help to Northern Ireland industry and commerce, the House would be interested to know whether he was 1789 qualifying his leader's more general policy statement in an authoritative way. Naturally, I should like to know the small print.
§ Mr. Litterick
I am most grateful for that information. Having received it, I have finished my contribution.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
It is valuable for us at regular intervals of a year or so to discuss the continuance of the Act.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) sometimes does not do himself justice in our debates. After hearing him devote so much time to condemning the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and then implying that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition went to Northern Ireland only in order to cultivate the Unionist vote, I could not help thinking that it must be very difficult to negotiate with people who have that kind of suspicious nature. To the best of my knowledge, my right hon. Friend went to Northern Ireland because she wanted to go to that part of the United Kingdom, and she spent a good deal of her time with the RUC at its training base in Enniskillen because she wanted to be there to show what respect she has for the RUC. I do not believe that there was any other motive.
§ Mr. Farr
I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman in a minute.
As for the hon. Gentleman's complaint about the RUC, he must have forgotten that only about a week ago in the House the Secretary of State pointed out that there was a proper procedure in Northern Ireland for complaints against the police, as there is in other parts of the United Kingdom. That procedure has been followed in Northern Ireland on far fewer occasions than in the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Farr
What the hon. Gentleman does not realise is that he spends so much time directly criticising or indirecting suggesting criticisms of the RUC and the other forces of law and order, and of the Government, suggesting that they have some ulterior motive, that one tends to expect it from him, and I was pointing out that it must be difficult to create the atmosphere of trust which is essential if progress is to be made.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) referred to the proposals, announced earlier this week, for the reform of criminal penalties. He seemed to be worried that there might be a risk of these changes in sentencing being spread to Northern Ireland. I can tell him that this change in sentencing policy has not yet taken place in the rest of the United Kingdom and that a great many of us will have something to say before some of those ridiculous proposals are put into effect.
I think that most of us agree that direct rule, whether we like it or not, is an effective form of government, but at the same time most, if not all, of us agree that we should continue it in its present form for no longer than is necessary and that as soon as possible an accepted form of what I would call partly devolved government should be acted upon.
The right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig), who made a most interesting speech, put it in his knowledgeable way that we should either definitely have direct rule or we definitely should not. There is an alternative. Possibly, at a fairly early date while direct rule continues, we could blur its edges and give more local representation to the people and a bigger say in the conduct of their own affairs. I do not believe, in other words, that the choice is either direct rule or not. I believe that a step can be taken at an early date towards changing the situation.
The need for us to move towards a partly devolved form of government for Northern Ireland is much more pressing while Northern Ireland is inadequately represented at Westminster. A Question that I put down the other day highlighted the fact, and the Government are well aware of the situation. Earlier this 1791 year, Mr. Speaker's Conference recommended an increase in the number of Northern Ireland Members from the present 12 to 17. It did so by 22 votes to one.
Why have the Government not acted to implement that recommendation? Do they intend to act on it, or are they going to leave this necessary action to the next Government? It is important that we should know today. It is four and a half months since Mr. Speaker's Conference made its recommendation. It is not quite true to say that the Government have said nothing, because reluctantly, through the Leader of the House every Thursday, almost since the Conference reported, they have had to say something about the prospects of bringing forward a Bill to implement the recommendation so that it could be subject to public discussion before starting its passage through Parliament.
The sort of thing that happens is what happened yesterday, as I believe it has happened every Thursday since 18th February. One of my hon. Friends asked the Leader of the House when he intended to publish the Bill giving increased parliamentary representation to Northern Ireland. You will note, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend did not ask when the Leader of the House intended to proceed with it but simply when it would be published. All that the Leader of the House said, as he has said before, was:I do not think that we shall be able to carry through that measure in this Session. but I shall consider further its publication."—[Official Report, 29th June 1978 Vol. 942, c. 1585.]It does not tell us very much, and I think that when the Minister replies today he should seize this useful opportunity to explain to the House what his intentions are. I think that a great step forward politically would be taken if Northern Ireland had its proper representation in this place at the earliest possible date.
I do not believe a change to a totally devolved form of government, as has been advocated by some of the speakers from Northern Ireland, to be fully desirable or, indeed, possible at this moment, but I suggest to the House and to the Minister that we can surely make progress towards what I would call whittling away the structure of direct rule as we have it. At the moment, as is laid down in Schedule 1792 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974, Northern Ireland is totally governed by direct rule.
But, as I have said, cannot we whittle away at the completeness of this direct rule? Cannot we give more responsibilities to the many very able district councillors and their officers, enabling them to be more involved in decision-making in Northern Ireland? Cannot we, for instance, in some way involve the county councils more? Instead of facing towards a complete change with the abandonment of direct rule, cannot we be working towards the establishment of and elections for one, two or three what I would call area councils, covering the whole of Northern Ireland, and devolve to them some of the decision-making that is contained in Schedule 1?
I believe that direct government is working well, but it is an unacceptable form of government in its present form. However well it may be working, it can be only of a temporary nature. The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on the improvement in the security situation. I would say that the time is now ripe for a slackening of what I would call the Whitehall grip. It can be done in two ways, as I have explained. The first is by increasing, at a very early date, the the Northern Ireland representation to its proper level at Westminster. The second is by giving to those very able local representatives in Northern Ireland a much bigger say in the government of their country.
§ 3.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)
If anyone had any doubts over the past few weeks that the emergency legislation that we are renewing today is necessary, the events in my constituency in the past fortnight should have convinced him of its necessity.
I make no apology for referring to South Armagh in the debate. It has already been referred to by the Secretary of State, by the Shadow Secretary of State, and by one or other Members. I do so not only to emphasise the necessity for this legislation but to give a warning of the danger of moving too quickly on the security front, particularly when we think that an improvement is beginning to appear, and that we are thereby free to do other things.
1793 I should like briefly to look back over the past couple of years, because a lesson can be learnt from that period. At the beginning of 1976, confronted with a series of appalling sectarian murders in South Armagh, a leading article in a prominent London newspaper described South Armagh as:The flaming torch of Irish Republicanism".It was suggested that this torch, which had burned brightly for five years, would continue to burn and that unless it could be extinguished there would be no end to the terrorist campaign. A British officer, writing in The Guardian stated:The appalling truth is that the British Army have never successfully ambushed an IRA patrol or meeting in South Armagh, or even inflicted a significant number of casualties on those regularly attacking the platoons and company outposts … the IRA hold the initiative".The IRA itself was keen to foster this thinking. It was saying such things asThe British admit that they have been losing heavily. The IRA has the support of the overwhelming majority of the local people — in a straight fight in South Armagh between themselves and the Provisionals, the British have consistently been beaten hands down.Luckily, at the beginning of 1976, the then Prime Minister decided to try to extinguish that flaming torch. By introducing the SAS, he succeeded. The reality is that for a period of two years, from early 1976 to the beginning of this year, there was relative peace in that area. There was certainly an end to the sectarian murders on anything like the scale which we had experienced. In the guise of the SAS, the British Army managed to ambush IRA patrols, although, I admit, not many. It killed the leaders of one or two so-called units. The local population appeared to be freeing itself from the shackles which had been imposed upon it by the Provisionals. Policing was returning to normal.
I was pleased to note that in South Armagh the police stations at Forkhill, Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton have now been substantially reinforced. An inspector is in charge of each one, and each has two sergeants and a substantial number of police constables, all of them engaged in normal policing activities. But they can perform the normal policing 1794 activities only if an organisation such as the SAS is there to keep the murderers at bay and to give them the opportunity of regaining the confidence of the community and again taking control.
However, by the beginning of this year, one sensed that the tentacles were being pushed out slowly. Initially there were ambushes across the border. Then hijackings took place just inside the border. I am referring to incidents at Forkhill, Jonesborough and Crossmaglen. A soldier, the first in about 18 months, was killed at Crossmaglen. That is not generally appreciated, but it happened in February of this year. IRA road blocks started to appear. This was again confirmed to me personally yesterday when I discussed the matter with the local police in the South Armagh area. I shall be giving more information to senior police officers this weekend.
Then, of course, there was the situation of a fortnight ago when two terrorists were able, with confidence, to lie in wait in a ditch behind a hedge for a period of perhaps four hours or six hours, eat a packed lunch and then brutally kill one policeman and seriously wound another as they were going about normal patrolling duties.
One cannot help but feel that those tentacles, which were being slowly pushed up from the South, were trying to determine whether or not the threat that had existed in the South Armagh area for two years—the threat of the SAS ambushing them—was still there. Having decided that it was not there, and having been told by the Secretary of State and others that the SAS was being deployed in the South Derry area and in Belfast, the IRA decided that it was once again safe to take over its own countryside.
That is why I say to the Secretary of State that when there is a period of relative peace, especially in an area such as South Armagh, that is the time to be cautious and not rush in too soon, otherwise all the good work which has been done can be destroyed. Without that shield, policing cannot go on the scale that we require and we cannot expect young policemen and others to take the risks there to which they are exposed.
The position is deteriorating even further in South Armagh for the ordinary Catholic community there. In less than 1795 10 months, three Roman Catholics have been killed there. They have not been killed by Protestant murder gangs or by the so-called British war machine; they have been killed by the Provisionals themselves. In two instances—in Mr. Martin's case and in the case of Mr. McEntee last weekend—they were killed because they were considered to be informers, and in another instance earlier this month the victim was apparently a renegade IRA man who had been talking. But whatever the reason, in the words of Archbishop O'Fiach himself a few days ago,There are people in South Armagh seting themselves up as judges and executioners, and let no one suggest that these crimes have anything to do with patriotism.".It is a pity that his predecessor did not take a stronger line in preceding years. The tragedy is that some people in South Armagh are now paying the price for others in the community who chose to ride on a tiger's back.
I want to make a plea today. I do not make it as a dramatic plea. I do not even ask for a dramatic intervention. I am not even looking for a headline. I am saying to the Minister "For goodness' sake put the sort of resources which are required back into South Armagh. Put in those people who have been most unobtrusive." The men of the SAS, with the exception of the one incident that was used by the Republic for its own propaganda purposes, have never trodden on anyone's toes in South Armagh except the terrorists'. They have been the most undramatic and yet the most effective weapon against terrorism. I believe that they must be deployed there again in something like the numbers that we require, otherwise public confidence will not be restored.
We were told in the statement on the Defence Estimates in February of this year that there was one squadron of the SAS in Northern Ireland. If that squadron is so scattered throughout the Province that it is operating throughout the Six Counties and in Belfast I do not believe that there are enough men to do an effective job in any one area. If that is so, I hope that some consideration will be given to deploying more of them.
I want now to appeal to a spark of decency which, although it does not exist among the Provisionals, undoubtedly exists in parts of the community in which 1796 the Provisionals operate. I make my appeal deliberately on this basis. Throughout history, no community more than the Irish Catholic community, especially the Republican section of it, has cherished the right to honour and to bury its dead. This House has acknowledged it. In the 1960s, authority was given to return the remains of Roger Casement to be honoured and buried according to that tradition. In the 1960s, we also returned the remains of the murderers of Sir Henry Wilson to be honoured and buried according to that tradition. I say to the IRA and to the community in which its members mix: "Are you prepared to deny your neighbours, even neighbours whom you choose to call your enemies, what you yourselves cherish most?"
They ought to see Mrs. Turbitt and her four children, who just do not know what to do. They do not know whether there are any ends to pick up in order for them to start over again. They do not know which way to turn. Have the members of the IRA and the community in which they live any right to torture those innocent people, perhaps in the way that they tortured that husband and father? I hope that it will not be too long before the body of Constable Turbitt is returned for the Christian burial that he deserves.
In a more general sense, looking across the Province I cannot help feeling that we are back to 1968. Once again, the attack is being generated against the RUC. But after 10 years we have the laws. They are much stronger laws than the old special powers. We have the organisation that is necessary not only to control terrorism but to defeat it. If anyone doubts that that is the case he should read a little more of the document that was referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), which was found on the person of Seamus Twomey and which stated such things asThe 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.These people did not waste their time making allegations in their paper about brutality by the RUC. They said that the way to deal with the situation was to 1797 train the guilty men not to admit their guilt. The document continued:Anti-interrogation Lectures must be given in conjunction with indoctrination Lectures. The ideal outcome should be that no Volunteer should be charged unless caught red-handed.The whole case presented here showed that particularly over the past year the IRA has been suffering at the hands of the RUC, which has been using laws properly designed to combat terrorism.
The assault upon the police is led by predictable people, Fathers Faul and Murray. One has only to read some of their other publications to appreciate their motivation. I have no doubt, as I am sure the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has no doubt, that these men were instrumental in presenting the case to Amnesty International. All sorts of other Provisional sympathisers are also involved. My only regret is that a reputable body such as Amnesty International should have allowed itself to be duped in the way in which it was.
I am not one to praise any Irish Republican Government Minister, but I recall Mr. Patrick Cooney's words when he was answering the demands for an inquiry. He said that we should remember who are the people who are making these allegations—child murderers, gangsters and extortioners.
Mr. Cluskey, the leader of the Irish Labour Party, said that they had imposed on the people of the Irish Republic a sense of national shame by the character and nature of the violence in which they were engaged.
When we were confronted with the request by Amnesty International it might well have been better if we had adopted the attitude taken by the Republic. Who has gained out of this situation? The Republic refused, and took the criticism there and then. We accepted that there should be an inquiry, and thought that we were doing the right thing. We shall now have to live with this report, as we have had to live with so many others, with it hanging round our necks like an albatross for years to come. I suppose that the Chief Constable and the Government had to respond in the way that they did.
I am like many other people in Northern Ireland, except that in my con- 1798 stituency more than 300 people have been murdered over the last 10 years. I suppose that it is a heresy to say it here, but I must ask myself whether it matters very much how one gets the guilty man to admit his guilt. We are not talking here of innocent men signing confessions. Many of the people who made complaints about brutality involved in the signing of certain confessions do not, when they go into Long Kesh, start a campaign to prove their innocence. They are hardly through the gates before they put on the blanket and join their colleagues in the protests. They accept their guilt.
If it were proved to me that innocent people were being coerced into signing confessions I should be a great deal more sympathetic, but when I think of the nature of some of the crimes I cannot help reflecting that it would take tremendous torture upon me to get me to sign a confession that I had murdered six or eight or 10 people, or that I engaged in some of the offences to which these people have admitted guilt. I say that as someone who is reacting emotionally to the situation that I have described, but that is certainly the view held by many people in Northern Ireland.
I conclude by congratulating the Secretary of State on the first attitude of leadership displayed by, perhaps, any political leader in Northern Ireland for 10 years, and that includes some Stormont political leaders. Confronted in Larne last week with the fact that his security forces had killed four people—three terrorists and one innocent person—the right hon. Gentleman, instead of running away, did what any leader should do. In so many words he said "Yes, I accept the consequences of the action of my men". I am sure that that reverberated throughout the security forces in Northern Ireland. I am sure that they will react accordingly in days to come.
As has been said, the people of Northern Ireland are themselves responding generally to the leadership that the Secretary of State has given us during the past two years. It may be that he will give it to us for rather longer than some imagine.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)
We should not pass over lightly the determination that has been exhibited by the 1799 Secretary of State in support of the security forces. That point was amply ventilated by my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) in his excellent speech. Nor should we pass over churlishly the contribution to the economy of Northern Ireland that has been made by the efforts and industry of the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office—the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon).
Having said that, I reserve the right in an important debate such as this to make strong but, I hope, constructive criticisms of Her Majesty's Government. In doing so I wish it to be understood that I am not making personal attacks. It is necessary to represent the views and expressions of the people of Northern Ireland in a debate that involves security, the economy and social legislation.
I was disappointed to hear once again the oft-used phrase "acceptance by both sections of the community" when the Secretary of State was trying to convince us that he could not proceed with any constitutional settlement until such a situation obtained. What does he mean by "acceptance of both sections of the community"? What does "section" mean? I put it to the House that the phrase as used is nonsense. It does not mean what successive British Government would like the public to think it means, namely, the religious communities. That is not what the right hon. Gentleman meant, nor is it, I fear, what he will ever mean.
The previous Conservative Government and the present Government are not interested in getting a consensus between Roman Catholics and Protestants; they are interested in getting a consensus between Republicans and Unionists, and that is a political blasphemy in a House that is committed to one-party rule at any given time in the United Kingdom.
I wish that every English politician would take the time and trouble to read a pamphlet written by an eminent member of the judiciary and a former senator in the Northern Ireland Senate, Senator Walmsley. In a concise and cogent document he made an irrefutable case that many Roman Catholics supported the Union. Many Roman Catholics were Unionists.
When Secretaries of State talk about a consensus they wish us to believe that 1800 they are interested in Roman Catholics and Protestants coming to an agreement, but they are talking nonsense, and it will rebound on them. They really mean that they are looking for a consensus between two diametrically opposed political philosophies. They want to involve in government the Republicans who are committed to the cessation of British rule in Northern Ireland and Unionists who are committed to the maintenance of that rule in Northern Ireland.
In defence of that nonsense we hear that we have had one-party government for too long in Northern Ireland. We have had one-party government in various parts of the United Kingdom. In Newcastle, for example, there has been one-party government for 35 years. There has been no change in the Labour control of that area. Why should that be so? Because it is the will of people of that part of the United Kingdom. Secondly, the Labour Party gives unequivocal support to the sovereignty of Her Majesty. Therefore, no one has any gripe about one-party ascendency in that part of the kingdom.
That argument cannot be used in Northern Ireland. The British Government, as was said by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), will not take an initiative unless involved in a consensus government of one kind or another, there are those who exist to destroy Northern Ireland and to bring about its cessation as part of the United Kingdom.
Today we are talking about direct rule. But what does "direct rule" imply? It infers parity systems, parity procedures and parity laws. Northern Ireland has nothing of the kind, particularly when it comes to the future possible method of governing the Province. We have the commitment to the philosophical and political nonsense of Southerners—Republicans—in government with Unionists and members of Great Britain. When will the Secretary of State depart from that utter nonsense and commit himself to a system of government that is in line with that obtaining in the rest of the United Kingdom?
Scotland, as we have been reminded on a number of occasions, will get its Assembly on the basis of a 40 per cent. acceptance. The Scottish people have it both ways. Good luck to them. But in 1801 this respect Northern Ireland has been disadvantaged in every way. If that same criterion were applied to Northern Ireland—40 per cent.—we would have no difficulty in convincing the British Government that we want the British procedures and methods of government. If Scotland rejects the 40 per cent., the majority will will have been honoured and acknowledged. That, conversely, is what we are asking: that the majority will should be honoured and acknowledged.
§ Mr. Powell
My hon. Friend should remember that that is 40 per cent. voting. It is not just 40 per cent. voting for, but 40 per cent. voting for and against. I think that point strengthens his argument.
§ Mr. Bradford
That is absolutely true. It strengthens the point that I am trying to make. The Province has been disadvantaged in every way, even in the face of this wonderful carrot that is being dangled before Scotland at present.
I want to pass on quickly to make some points about industry. This afternoon we heard some very depressing and benighted comments about industry in Northern Ireland. I believe that there are many reasons for being optimistic. There are many bright notes to be sounded for the Province.
We in the Province have not been without some of the most adventurous and specialised entrepreneurs and inventors. For example, we brought into being the defibrillator, which is a miniature heart machine. We prototyped thermal aggregates, which, by law I think, will be compulsorily used in building in future. Many of these things have been prototyped in Northern Ireland. Yet we often inadvertently sell the Province short.
We have the best industrial relations in the whole kingdom. Up to the moment when thuggery, vandalism and terrorism destroyed it, our productivity rate was three times that of any other part of the kingdom.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
Will the hon. Gentleman also include in his list probably the finest agricultural set-up for small farms in the whole of Europe?
§ Mr. Bradford
I accept that point. I am grateful that it comes from someone 1802 who is totally au fait with agriculture. There is very little agriculture in Belfast, except for a few political goats. I take the point, and I am glad that the hon. Member made it.
However, it is true that we have twice the unemployment rate of the rest of the Kingdom. Unfortunately, since the inception of direct rule we have lost over 20,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. But I believe that the Secretary of State sounded the correct note without any insiduous reason for doing so—and I thank him for his strenuous efforts in that respect—when he said that when West Belfast starts tidying itself up, in terms of terrorism, it can expect people to come in with factories. Who will come in with a factory when there is acquiescence in, if not overt support, for the IRA? There are many reasons why we are in a depressed state, but we shall not be so for ever.
If the Secretary of State continues his effort to bring industry to the Province, I have no doubt that the people of Northern Ireland will continue to contribute and respond in the way in which they have in the past.
I make two criticisms of the Government's handling of the economic situation. First, inadvertently or otherwise, the local enterprise development unit now seems to be a Government agency for those who live west of the Bann. I plead with the Government not to perpetuate that impression. There are entrepreneurs in the Belfast area.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) was right to say that if Belfast is neglected in comparison with all the other areas in the periphery of the Province, that moribund policy will come home to roost. When LEDU is confronted by those in the Belfast area and asked for help, I plead with the Secretary of State to encourage that agency to respond more favourably than it has in the past.
My second criticism involves the role of the Northern Ireland Development Association. I appreciate the difficulties that the association and the Minister have experienced. I hope that the mistakes made before the Secretary of State's incumbency will not cause the Government to be too cautious when new projects are brought to their attention.
1803 I include a bright and realistic note. There is the will, the drive, the expertise and Northern Ireland's history. We want the defeat of the terrorist. We want the defeat of the person who knows that one of the best ways of destroying a State is not only to destroy its Government and security forces but to wreak havoc in the economy of that State. If we cease to endeavour to buy peace, and deal with terrorists as they should be dealt with, the economy of Northern Ireland will look after itself.
I turn to the security issue. I was delighted to hear an hon. Member return to the theme of banning the Provisional Sinn Fein. It is not a bona fide political organisation. It has no policy on housing, agriculture, industry, or any of the normal political issues. The documentation of its policy was found in its offices on the Falls Road. Its policy involves subversion; it is anti-police force; it is for bombing, and the kind of indoctrination to which my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) referred. It has policies on all the destructive, jaundiced pursuits, but nothing on legitimate politics.
What reason can be advanced for allowing this group to remain unmolested in society? What single reason can be advanced for that kind of acquiescence? If there is concern about reaction, one must remember that we saw on television those who were prepared to walk behind three leading IRA officers when they were being buried. One will get that reaction whatever one does or does not do. There is that in-built stupidity in Northern Ireland. But let us not fail to do our duty by leaving the Provisional Sinn Fein untouched in the Province.
I move on to the sanctions that must he taken against the Republic of Ireland if it continues to aid and abet the terrorists. The fact that it is doing so is beyond doubt and question. No one can gainsay it. It is giving these people succour. It knows that hundreds of them mill around the Monaghan border and the Donegal border, and even the centre of Dublin itself, yet no real action is taken against them. The Republic refuses to sign the conventions on human rights, and so on.
I believe that some Government—I would to God it were our present Gov- 1804 ernment; and I am sorry that more senior Opposition Members are not present today—will have to start talking to Irishmen on this side of the Border. We can take certain sanctions in terms of currency. We can have the guts and courage to deal with that illegal tender which is currency in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, but not here. We can take economic sanctions, and we can impose sanctions concerning the franchise against Irish people who live here.
I do not want any of those things necessarily to happen. But if the southern Government continue, by their ineptness, to assist terrorism, we must do something. We should look, therefore, at the franchise, at the currency and at possible economic sanctions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) mentioned the psychological war that is being waged in Northern Ireland. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the situation of the Royal Victoria Hospital. I shall not make that the main subject of my speech this afternoon. I shall do so on another occasion. But I want to make two or three points about it in passing.
First, the security staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital could not see three 12 ft. by 8 It. cash-and-carry lorries being stolen from the hospital, but they could see three soldiers each carrying a 1 ft. square parcel, which they had legitimately bought in the canteen, containing beer and sandwiches, which they intended to eat in their barracks. The security staff sent for the police when three small parcels were being carried through the hospital, but did nothing when the three large cash-and-carry containers were being stolen from the hospital, full of groceries and meat, which were later sold on the Falls Road.
The security staff could take no action at all when gunmen came into the hospital and shot down members of the part-time security forces, but they intercepted one or two nurses coming from a party, beat them up, and sent for the security forces to charge them.
If the ethos created by those kinds of prejudiced instances do not convince us that there is something wrong there, and that a psychological battle is going on there, what will?
1805 The assistant chief security officer tells us "I have got two recommendations for my service". The man who helped the IRA—Devine—escaped from the hospital. This man, who says "I have got two recommendations", got them from people who were not even there. One asks how this could be. How could such documents be signed by members of the administration? I shall say how it could be done. One just speaks to some of the administrators, and they say, " For God's sake, keep your mouth shut, because we have got to come in and go out of here and stay alive".
If the Secretary of State will accept the word of a chief surgeon—the word of one member from three sections of the staff, and act upon that information, those people can be in his office at any time that suits him. Some people say "Why not take it to the courts?" The trouble is that people could be shot dead a day, two days, or three days after a court case. Such is the insidious situation at the hospital that the IRA cannot afford to leave it untouched, and leave witnesses untouched.
On the subject of security, I move finally to the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment. My constituency of Belfast, South is encased by Provo territory. There is the Twinbrook area, in which the Provos are in total control. The Housing Executive can do nothing there unless the Provos let its representatives in. Unfortunately, the security forces are limited in their operation. There is the whole of Andersonstown. There are the markets. Even in the so-called "gin-andtonic" belt there are leading members of the IRA. So my constituency is absolutely encased by Provo territory.
Now and again these people come out of their hidey-holes and go in and destroy businesses. Then they sneak out again and hide away for a little longer. What is required is that the UDR, whose members are in abundance in that area, should be allowed into Twinbrook, Anderstonstown, and so on. Its members are not allowed in. I can prove that they are not allowed in. The policeman who was shot in Lisburn was shot by four men who moved around in a car for one and a half hours, up and down the Ml, off the Ml, and back on to it again. On a number of occasions UDR members were in a 1806 position to apprehend those in that car, but did not do so. They were not allowed to do so. My information on that point comes directly from the RUC. They were not allowed to take action. If the car and its occupants had been apprehended by the UDR, or, indeed, by the police, a Lisburn policeman would still have been alive today.
The UDR must be allowed to go into every area. No decent, respectable Roman Catholic will thank this Government for keeping the UDR out, because the Roman Catholics have suffered from the IRA, perhaps, far more than the Protestant community have, because they have to live with them. They have to pay their subs to them. Pensioners must pay 50p a week to this organisation. So no decent, respectable Roman Catholic in the Province—of whom there are many —will thank this Government or any other for not allowing the UDR or any other regiment to go in and, together with the RUC, properly to police the green Republican areas.
Some weeks ago I was very pleased to hear that the leisure centres in Northern Ireland would not be granted drinking licences. My party has contended for that. We believe that what the Province needs least of all is more opportunities for drinking, particularly amongst young people, and I believe that it would have been a preponderance of young people who would have used leisure centres. We are grateful to the Under-Secretary of State, who listened to us on this subject with great sympathy, for accepting the views of the United Ulster Unionist Party on this point.
I regret, however, that the same cannot be said about the proposal to move over to comprehensive education. If there were to be just one reason for rejecting direct rule by a vast number of people in Northern Ireland at present, it perhaps would not be the security situation, much as we are concerned about that; it would not be the economy, much as we are concerned about that; it would be the imposition of comprehensive education.
The tragedy is that there is no reason for the change to comprehensive education. The record of our grammar school system—indeed, the record of our secondary school system—is such as to be the 1807 envy of the rest of the United Kingdom, with, perhaps, the exception of Scotland. As for England, if the rate of O level and A level passes in Northern Ireland were compared with any corresponding area in England and Wales there would be a startling reaction. A few questions would be asked about the way in which we obtain the results. The answer would not be difficult to give. It lies in allowing the nation to produce the best possible system and not having to conform to any Government imposition.
Comprehensive education, whatever its legal merits, means uniformity; it means conformity; and it means the lowest common denominator, because human nature is human nature.
If we allow our education system in Northern Ireland to remain intact, until we get a Parliament back, the people of Northern Ireland, I believe, will be prepared to entertain, reluctantly, even direct rule, but if there is one way of putting a nail in the coffin of direct rule it is to proceed with the imposition of comprehensive education.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Mr. John Carson (Belfast, North)
Many hon. Members have already dealt in some detail with the principles and issues underlying the continued unrest in Northern Ireland, and I therefore propose to draw attention to some of the details of the security situation. Together with my right hon. and hon. Friends, I add my tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to the members of the security forces and the reserve police for the work they have carried out in Northern Ireland over the past several years in conditions of extreme danger and difficulty. Over the years, many of them have made the supreme sacrifice in protecting property, homes and lives.
The Secretary of State spoke of the RUC being supplied with sufficient vehicles. I suppose that, for security reasons, he could not from the Dispatch Box give the number of vehicles, but I recall occasions in the House when there was the reference to the number of proper vehicles which the RUC should have, as well as the number that was being supplied. But, for some reason—I believe that the Secretary of State did not want to give it—the requirements laid down by the Police Authority have not been 1808 met by those responsible for supplying vehicles.
It is high time that something was done. A short time ago the Secretary of State made a statement in which he said that the RUC was now playing a primary role in the security of Northern Ireland, with the Army and the UDR as a backup force, and he spoke of the extent to which the Army was willing to come fully under police direction and the extent to which it was readily available as it should be as a back-up force to the RUC.
Yet we find—I have heard this on more than one occasion—that, while the police are assured of the back-up of the security forces of the British Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment, if they had the proper vehicles in areas around Northern Ireland we could speak today in the knowledge that the number of RUC dead would not be so high. The Government should have pulled their fingers out and pushed the firms supplying the vehicles so that they were more speedily available to the RUC to meet its requirements.
I draw attention also to the work of the UDR. The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) asked the Secretary of State about its radio equipment. It is high time the Government realised that in Northern Ireland we are fighting a war against wicked, vicious Provisional IRA men, who will stop at nothing to kill members of the sescurity forces. Even innocent, defenceless civilians have died at their hands. My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) has given a typical example of the viciousness of the terrorists in Northern Ireland in telling us of an ex-postmaster who spoke out against them and who was knee-capped, hooded and shot through the head.
I appeal to the Government to introduce the necessary legislation and to make every possible effort to defeat the terrorists. I remind them that they are the Government of the United Kingdom, and they should spare no effort in supplying the necessary vehicles, weapons and radio equipment to the RUC and the UDR. They have met deputations at the House and have said that the supplying firms cannot supply the steel and that there is not enough radio equipment.
It would have been a sad day for this great country if during the war, when it 1809 was involved in a fight for freedom, it had had to tell the enemy "We haven't got the proper weapons. We would like to have the vehicles to fight you. Can you stop fighting until we have the proper equipment?" Every effort was made in those days. Every man put his hand to the plough and every Government official did the job properly to see that the British Army was well equipped. The job was done, and victory was attained only in that way.
I tell both sides of the House that we want to defeat the terrorists in Northern Ireland. We want to see an end to the years of violence, bloodshed and death, with people lying in hospital for years, having been mutilated by the enemies of Ulster. If we are to do that, the Government must face up to their responsibility. They must see that the firms concerned with supplying vehicles and radio equipment to the UDR and RUC do so. They must leave no stone unturned until the UDR and RUC is fully equipped and supplied to fight the enemy that seeks to destroy Ulster and its people, to destroy that part of Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom.
The number of vehicles for the UDR has not been increased, although we have heard from Ministers of an increase in the UDR's full-time personnel. Incidentally, I emphasise that my colleagues and I hope that even members of the minority, the Roman Catholic people, will be encouraged by their political leaders, Church leaders and others throughout the community to play a full role in the security of Northern Ireland in serving the interests of peace, trying to protect life and property and helping in a united body, as members of Her Majesty's forces in bringing violence to an end.
I have it on good authority that vehicles for the UDR are in very short supply and that full-time companies formed in my constituency and around Belfast want to become operational but do not have the necessary vehicles. I felt rather embarrassed the other day when a large procession took place in Belfast. The Army was there with modern equipment but the UDR men were in minibuses. Some even clambered out of a Bedford van. Yet these men are there to carry out security in Northern Ireland. 1810 It is very sad. It is deplorable that men who are prepared, after a hard day's work, to leave the comfort of their homes, and at risk to their families and to their own lives, to protect the security of Northern Ireland—doing so with very small financial reward—should have to use substandard equipment instead of modern equipment such as that used by the British Army.
It is time that the Government stopped inventing excuses, came clean and told us what they intend for the UDR. Many members of the UDR, of the RUC and of the reserve police have made the supreme sacrifice in these last 10 years—too many of them for the rest to he bullied and dealt with in this way.
After so many members of the security forces have laid down their lives for the peace and security of Northern Ireland, the Government should take the necessary steps to equip the police with proper vehicles. Then, the Secretary of State would not have to apologise for being unable to mention such equipment for security reasons but would be able to say that the requirements of the security forces for vehicles had been met and that the right equipment had been supplied to the UDR, so that the security forces had the weapons and equipment that they needed to defeat the Provisional IRA, which is the enemy of Ulster and this country.
In the last debate I drew attention to the security barriers in town and city centres. I have not changed my views. Barriers offer no deterrent to the Provisional IRA and only frustrate law-abiding citizens. I have appealed before to Ministers to take away the barriers in the centre of Belfast, which are serving no purpose. In the country towns where the barriers have been removed—I say this with caution—there has been no difference in the security situation, and the people are able to move more freely. This creates the sense of normality that people are longing for.
I want to draw the Minister's attention to the unfairness in the provision of grants for certain types of business but not for others. In the centre of Belfast, the very large employers have the luxury of security barriers manned by members of the security forces and of security staff, at a cost of many millions of 1811 pounds of public money a year. They have the extra luxury of grants for fire-watching, and there is a large grant towards having security people on the doors. Now there is a scheme to give them grants to paint their premises inside and out.
I ask the Secretary of State whether it is fair to give security, finance and a degree of luxury to the large multiple stores in the city centre when small shopkeepers around the outskirts of Belfast and in the suburban areas have no security and no luxuries. It is clear from the legislation that unless they employ 10 or more persons they cannot get a fire-watcher's grant or any grant towards security. The money which is being granted at the present time for a facelift in Northern Ireland does not apply to certain places outside the city centre.
I can give the Minister an example of some of the things that are happening in my constituency. We have an area called Duncairn Gardens. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will, I think, support me in saying that it has had more bombs than any other part of Belfast. Practically every shop in Dun-cairn Gardens has been wiped out. People have died there night after night. People have been mutilated. People have been intimidated to leave their homes. Night after night, the people in that area have to take it in turns to sit in their sitting rooms in case fire bombs are thrown through the window by the intimidation gangs who are trying to force them to leave their homes.
Those people in the Duncairn Gardens area have to pay the same rates, the same salaries to their staff and the same rates for electricity and for gas and have to meet all the same sorts of expenses as those in the Belfast city centre, yet over the past seven years they have had nothing hut bomb after bomb, shooting after shooting and death after death. They have had people injured day after day and people intimidated in their homes, but they do not qualify for any of the luxury grants afforded to those in the centre of Belfast. They have no security gates, no grants towards fire-watchers and no grants towards security people. But they have to face intimidation day after day in trying to survive and make a living.
1812 The Government claim to be the supporters of the small people who try to survive. They are the supporters of the working-class people. It may appeal to the Government that I am speaking on behalf of working-class people, young people who have started a little business and who are trying to survive. Yet the Government seem to be giving all the cream of the cake to the large city centre stores.
I appeal to the Secretary of State to take the first step in trying to bring normality back to the centre of Belfast and in trying to let the people come back into the centre of the town. I hope that he will give some support to the people by having the security gates removed. The grants given to the large stores are sufficient, securitywise. The Provisional IRA has proved time and time again, as the Minister knows very well, that these barriers are no deterrent to it if it wants to go inside, plant its bombs and do the foul deeds which it has done so often over the past number of years.
Housing is a big subject and I shall not elaborate on it today. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) pointed out that at the Dispatch Box last week the Minister responsible for housing in Northern Ireland, when it was suggested that local government could not be given more power because the Protestants would be in the majority, very quickly replied—I am sorry that it was cut out of Hansard—"Exactly". That is why he will not give power to councils in Northern Ireland.
I think that the Minister responsible for housing should be condemned by the whole House for making such a statement at the Dispatch Box. He has not only made that statement: he has proved it in my constituency. He has tried to put the blame on the Minister of State by saying that he has given 17 acres in the lower Oldpark Road area. I am sure that the Minister of State, who has done everything possible to bring industries to Northern Ireland, and in many ways has been successful, has enough headaches without taking on some of the housing Minister's headaches in order to try to relieve the housing Minister of some of his responsibilities to the people of Northern Ireland.
In the Oldpark Road area, the Housing Executive gave an undertaking that 1813 the people in RDA2 would be rehoused. The Government have broken that promise. In a biased effort to divide and break up Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, the Minister in charge of housing has tried to put factories on those 17 acres, whereas houses are badly needed for the working-class people who once lived in that area. Only a stone's throw from that area there are several large factories. There is Edenderry Mill, Ewart's Mill and a large factory in the Flax Street area which could not be let to anyone. It had to be given away as a community centre because no one wanted it. There are large factories throughout the city of Belfast for which tenants cannot be found. If there are no employers, there will be no employees, yet the Minister in charge of housing, in a letter, makes the lame excuse:I am sure you will agree that we need industry".The Minister of State has toured America and other countries in an effort to try to attract industry to Northern Ireland, but he is finding it impossible to reduce the vast number of unemployed. On more than one occasion the hon. Member for Belfast, West has referred to the large number of unemployed in his constituency. There are large numbers of unemployed in my own constituency of Belfast, North. I am sure that my hon. Friends can also say that there are large numbers of unemployed in their constituencies, yet the Minister makes a lame excuse simply to be biased towards Protestant people in the Shankill and Oldpark Roads. In a bid to split up the community, he is trying to attract small industrial units to RDA2.
I have had a meeting with the Oldpark Road action group. I can tell the Government that Roman Catholics as well as Protestants have said that they will not have factories on the 17 acres of RDA2. They want housing. I hope that the Government will take that advice and not use the land as a green field site, or whatever else, which cannot be made use of.
I hope that the Government will take heed of the people of Northern Ireland who have walked the streets, seen people die, watched the operations of the security forces and seen people move out of the district for fear of being intimidated, shot 1814 or mutilated. I hope that the Government will introduce the powers needed by the RUC, the reserve police and the UDR in order to defeat the terrorists. I am sorry that the Minister responsible for housing is not present. I hope that he will get the message that the people of the Shankill and Oldpark districts will not be divided and that those Protestant areas will stay that way. No Minister in this House, irrespective of party, will ever be successful in dividing those districts.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
It would be a pity if, as this debate comes to an end, an acknowledgement were not made—and I do make it—of the admirable survey with which it was introduced by the Secretary of State. Admittedly, he had the advantage over those who introduced similar surveys in previous years, that in more than one direction there was genuine, perceptible progress, which he could record. Nevertheless, it was an introduction which will bear study. It was one which was extremely carefully expressed in order to give a balanced view of the past and the coming year from the point of view both of the emergency provisions and of the constitutional arrangements under which Northern Ireland exists.
It is said that a week is a long time in politics. If a week is a long time, I remind the House that it is six years since the perpetration of that thoughtless act in 1972 which swept away the constitutional arrangements which had existed in Northern Ireland for 50 years and inaugurated the system under which, broadly speaking, we still live today, a form of government unknown to any other part of the United Kingdom, under which no other part of the United Kingdom could imagine itself being governed.
As the years go by, I find no reason to repent having on that occasion voted against that step. But very different are the expectations, and very different is the setting in which today, six years later, we address ourselves to what is judiciously described in the title of the order as the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension). Very different is the background against which we address ourselves to that today from all that we were living with six years ago.
1815 Six years ago, it was anticipated that an entirely new constitutional regime would shortly be introduced and that all things would be made new. Green Papers Papers, White Papers, and pieces of legislation would tumble out one after another in the following 12 or 15 months. It was, indeed, to be in the very narrowest sense of the term an "interim" period. However, as the years have gone by, all concerned have realised that both the return of normality to Northern Ireland in a physical sense and the substitution of more acceptable constitutional arrangements for those which are called "direct rule" would require time and that quality of which, fortunately, Northern Ireland people have never been short—fortunately, for they have needed a great deal of it—namely, patience.
We all use this expression "direct rule", which is more convenient than the expression on the Order Paper; but it is worth while reminding ourselves what are the special characteristics of direct rule. Direct rule does not mean being governed as part of the United Kingdom. Cornwall or Wolverhampton are not under direct rule, in the sense in which we use the term in this debate.
There are two characteristics which distinguish this direct rule from the arrangements in all other parts of the United Kingdom. The first is legislative, and the second is administrative. Northern Ireland can be and often is legislated for by Order in Council, whereas the rest of the United Kingdom is legislated for in the normal way in this House. The second difference is that the Province is destitute of almost every vestige of democratic control over its administration, short of the control which is exercised through this House.
It is these two characteristics which are resented by almost all the people of Northern Ireland when they refer to direct rule somewhat contemptuously as "colonial rule"—the fact that they are neither legislated for nor administered as are their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom. This resentment has been—and still is—exacerbated by the fact that their own part of the United Kingdom is grossly under-represented in this House—the sole place where they enjoy representation through directly elected representatives.
1816 We on the Ulster Unionist Bench would be unjustified in giving our acquiescence to the continuance from year to year of these circumstances unless we could discern that there was progress, albeit gradual, towards the removal of these undoubted and essentially intolerable grievances. That we can do here, on 30th June 1978. First, as regards representation in this House, since the similar order was presented last year we now have a commitment binding upon both Front Benches that in the next Session of Parliament, whether it be this Parliament or another, the necessary legislation for giving fair and full representation to Northern Ireland will be put into law. So far as we know—certainly it has the necessary authority—the Boundary Commission is already at work in preparation for that.
To that extent the factor which exacerbated the grievance of direct rule is on its way to removal, and is assured of being removed.
§ Mr. Powell
We have naturally studied very jealously the words which have been used. I am relying upon words which were used by the Prime Minister and which contained the commitment—and I have received from the Government Front Bench the normal form of assent to what I said just now—in the form in which I have repeated it.
We now look to see in what respect the people of Northern Ireland can record at any rate some amelioration of the two essential vices of direct rule. It will be noted that I have not included with those two vices a third, namely, the absence of devolution in the sense in which devolution is being sought to be applied to Scotland and Wales. I do that for a very simple reason. There is a claim of right, arising out of being part of the United Kingdom, to be legislated for in this House and to enjoy democratic control over local administration. That is a claim which is indefeasible, because 1817 it arises out of the very fact of being part of the United Kingdom.
There is also a claim but not a claim of right—to devolution; and should it prove possible without damage to the integrity and structure of the United Kingdom for devolution to be brought into being and made to work in Scotland and Wales, the province of Northern Ireland would have an equal claim to the application of the same principles upon the same basis. But we are concerned, in renewing direct rule, with those matters which are denied to us but are fully enjoyed by the rest of the kingdom. So I address myself to the two matters of legislation and administration.
On legislation, we are further on than we were a year ago. It is true that two years ago the previous Secretary of State said that the Government were glad to "accept … in principle" the suggestion that theyshould more frequently apply Great Britain Bills to Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, 2nd July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 811]—the only method which enables representatives of Northern Ireland to participate on an equal footing with the representatives of other parts of the kingdom.
We have now gone further than that; for we have the commitment from the Secretary of State, and I have quoted it in his words, that the Government will "continue to use" the method of United Kingdom Billwhenever it appears to be practicable and desirable".—[Official Report, 23rd May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 1432.]That means that there is now an onus of proof, in cases where that method is not used, to justify its not being accepted as the method of choice, since no one in this House can deny that legislation by Bill is the proper way to make or to change the law.
Of course we acknowledge—we are bound to acknowledge—that we have not yet reached the point at which Northern Ireland can be legislated for in all respects in common with the rest of the United Kingdom. Over that considerable area in which the law of Northern Ireland still requires to be brought into conformity with that in Great Britain, we must accept that this can in practice be accomplished only by the method of Order in 1818 Council that has been used hitherto. We say however that wherever we are dealing with further advances in the law, wherever the law of Great Britain is being amended or reformed, prima facie the law of Northern Ireland should be brought into that legislation from the outset.
That brings me to a matter discussed on 23rd May in, of all places, the concluding stages of the Home Purchase Assistance and Housing Corporation Guarantee Bill, but on which we believe that further progress can be made. In that Bill a new method of bringing Northern Ireland within the scope of United Kingdom legislation was applied, I think for the first time, though it had been adumbrated by the previous Secretary of State and is now in operation in other legislation going through Parliament. I refer to the introduction into a Bill of a clause enabling it to be applied to Northern Ireland by an order made under the 1974 Act—the Act that we are now extending by this order—with the difference, however, that such orders will be subject not to the affirmative but to the negative procedure.
It might seem strange that so apparently contorted a method should be adopted. It is a method to which we take exception on two grounds. First, the safeguard of affirmative procedure in the 1974 Act is clearly important. After all, if part of the United Kingdom is to be legislated for by a mere order, at least we must cling to the safeguard that that order must be affirmed by Parliament. So although we accept that the intention is to use this proposed method only, as it were, to rubber-stamp for Northern Ireland what has passed the House of Commons for Great Britain, nevertheless, the introduction of negative procedure in replacement of affirmative proceduce is objectionable.
Our second objection is that we do not see why it should be necessary to use the 1974 Act interim period procedure even where it is admitted in a particular case that a Statutory Instrument is the most convenient vehicle of detailed application of a United Kingdom statute to Northern Ireland.
Those are the two objections that we see. They were raised in the debate on 23rd May and discussion on them has 1819 continued since then between Ministers and my right hon. and hon. Friends. We should now be able to go further. In replying to the debate on 23rd May the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland explained that it was necessary, in the case of a Statutory Instrument applying a United Kingdom Bill to Northern Ireland, thatIt must authorise the making of subordinate legislation and must amend existing legislation … It is true that the … Bill could he drafted in such a way as to give an Order in Council made under it all the necessary attributes. But the resulting clauses would greatly lengthen and complicate the Bill."—[Official Report, 23rd May 1978; Vol. 950, c. 1429.]This difficulty is misconceived. It is common practice to authorise the amendment of existing legislation by a Statutory Instrument made under the provisions of an Act of Parliament. I shall not trouble the House with numerous examples, but take one from recent legislation under this Government, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, where section 15(3) provides that Health and Safety Regulations—that is, regulations made under that Act—may repeal or modify any of the existing statutory provisions".So there is no force in the objection that it is either complicated or unprecedented for Statutory Instruments, made by virtue of United Kingdom legislation, to modify, repeal or amend existing statutes; and that must and does include statutes of Northern Ireland.
Another point sometimes made is that it is desirable for the Northern Ireland statute book, as it is called, to be kept intact. It is true that Her Majesty's Stationery Office continues to print those Orders in Council which apply to Northern Ireland in a series uniform with the former statutes of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. But there would be no more difficulty in including Statutory Instruments made under United Kingdom legislation in that series—indeed, I think that they should be so included—than in including Statutory Instruments made under the 1974 Act, as happens now. The Government should consider this matter again.
I believe we have made out our case that it should be possible in all new legislation to legislate for the United Kingdom as a whole and to apply that 1820 legislation to Northern Ireland in the normal way either by an application clause in the legislation—that will often by no means be cumbrous—or by a Statutory Instrument made under that legislation itself by virtue of the powers which it confers.
On that basis, and on the basis that the Government have offered to consult Northern Ireland Members whenever it appears that statutes should be applied to Northern Ireland and that a new statute might be applied to Northern Ireland in the form of United Kingdom legislation, I believe we can make progress in removing from Northern Ireland the stigma of being the one part of the United Kingdom legislated for by Order in Council and not by proper Act of Parliament.
I turn to the other vice of "direct rule", the deficiency of democratic control over local administration. The Secretary of State in his introductory speech used words—I hope that I took them down correctly—which I thought were important and deserved more attention than they have hitherto been given in the debate. He said that he would not only take opportunities to introduce democratic control by the existing district authorities into individual Bills as they came up but to consider "whether the right principles were being applied in allocating functions and responsibilities between the district councils and the regional government."
At the moment we are grossly under-using the district councils in Northern Ireland. These bodies function as effectively as the corresponding local authorities in this country. In my constituency there are three district councils. One has a strong Unionist majority, another is almost fifty-fifty and the third has a strong SDLP majority. However, all three behave for all the world exactly as politically divided local authorities would behave in Great Britain. If one wants to see partnership between the two parts of the community in operation, one has only to observe the functioning of the district councils in Northern Ireland. It is happening there. So we are wasting and under-using an important resource both in the political and in the administrative sense. I mention that second aspect, because it is intolerably clumsy for almost the entire administration of Northern Ireland 1821 to be conducted upon the sole democratic responsibility of the Government to this House.
The Secretary of State is to be congratulated on his openness of mind in saying that he really thinks that the time has come for asking whether the boundary between what the district councils do and, on the other hand, what he and his Ministers do is drawn in the right place: and I wish to make a few suggestions to the Secretary of State about directions in which he might look in the course of his consideration. I do not expect the Minister, when he replies, to give an off-the-cuff reaction. After all, I can hardly expect the Secretary of State at the start of a study to give us at the same time his conclusions. I simply want to feed in some material for his consideration.
I do this in complete accord with the policy of the Ulster Unionist Party, which, when it put forward as an urgent requirement the restoration of local government to the Province at a higher level—at what is called the upper tier—expressly said that it believed that many management aspects of those functions should be delegated to the district councils. Just so, I am asking the Secretary of State to accept that there are many functions which could with advantage be, and should be, delegated to the district councils. I see that I have the approval of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr). Indeed, in this respect I find myself rather nearer to his point of view than to that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). The right hon. Member for Belfast, East and others said—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South, (Mr. Molyneaux) also said something to the same effect—that we must make up our minds once and for all whether it is to be devolution or whether it is to be integration.
I believe that that is much too sudden, much too definite, much too little evolutionary a way to approach this question. Personally I believe that the process of "chipping away," as the hon. Member for Harborough called it, at the iniquities of direct rule is likely in the end to result in a greater consensus and in a more satisfactory and stable outcome. So I make my suggestions, as briefly as 1822 possible, to the Secretary of State for material which he might feed into his consideration of the right principles to apply in deciding what district councils can do.
First, I refer to environmental matters such as local roads—I am not talking about trunk roads or motorways—and local drainage. I say, not for the first time in the House, that it is total insanity that the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, in order to have the drainage or paving of a road outside their houses dealt with, should have no other democratic recourse than to a Member of Parliament acting through an Under-Secretary of State in Whitehall. I should have thought that the experience of the four hon. Members of the team to which the Secretary of State referred is such that they would, in their hearts, heartily approve what I have just said. So there are two areas for delegation. There is already, on the ground in the various districts, the staff to do the job—the very same people who have been doing the job year in and year out. What can possibly be wrong with a district council deciding, within a total allocation of money, whether road A or road B ought to have priority for repair and improvement, or whether the drainage in road C ought not to be improved before that in road D?
I am not complaining, because it is our duty while the present system lasts, but it is monstrous that, week by week, Members of Parliament should have to verify personally the circumstances of the drainage or condition of a road surface so that they can then write to the Under-Secretary, and eventually attention gets paid to what they have brought forward. It simply is the negation of sensible administration.
Those environmental matters which I mention are matters with either negligible political content or none whatever. I really do not think that we are steering into the eye of a communal storm by making the suggestions which I have been putting forward.
I move on to only slightly more sensitive ground when I say that there is an area, though it needs to be carefully delineated, in planning administration, where the district councils ought to be more than consultative. What was my delight when I read in the Cockcroft 1823 Report, the background of which we shall have the opportunity to debate more fully on Monday, thatthere should be a statutory requirement for the Department to recognise that councillors should have more than a consultative role.The right hon. Gentleman would do well to take that into account when he is considering the principles on which his line should be drawn. Personally, I think that very often the application of general planning policy—the application of what I hope will be an improved planning policy—is something which can be, not merely safely and properly but with much greater efficiency, justice and uniformity of application left to the representatives of the local community than it can be discharged by a bureaucratic authority with an occasional push or pull from a Minister and a Member of Parliament.
There is then the whole area of—forgive me; I was going to say "policing", but that could be misunderstood—the whole area of different types of control which in Great Britain are functions of the lower tier of local authorities and could be perfectly well discharged by the lower tier in Northern Ireland. I have in mind, for example, the administration of the Shops Acts and the laws governing weights and measures, Recently the matter of the control of dogs has been causing great perturbation in both the urban and the rural areas of Northern Ireland. Now, in Great Britain, there is both a financial and an administrative function for local authorities in that matter. It could very properly be discharged in Northern Ireland by the corresponding local authorities—the district councils.
The hon. Member does not like that?
§ The Minister of State, Department of Prices and Consumer Protection (Mr. John Fraser)
Weights and measures matters are administered by county authorities.
§ Mr. Powell
Ah, yes, but we do not have county councils in Northern Ireland. I quite thought I must have made some more serious mistake than that. Here again, the Secretary of State will no doubt consider whether this is a portentous function which in the circumstances of Northern Ireland ought to be reserved to a grand upper tier or devolved 1824 Administration, or whether we could actually allow the district councils to have some responsibility for weights and measures.
There is in the right hon. Gentleman's approach a virtue which I believe we should seek wherever possible in dealing with constitutional matters in Northern Ireland. The virtue is that of closing no options. The approach does nothing to close the option of an upper tier of local government, because, if there is to be an upper tier, these matters will still have to be dealt with by a lower tier. It does not close the option of a devolved Administration, because in parts of Great Britain where there is to be devolved Administration it has been no obstacle that there was already both an upper and a lower tier of administration.
So these are ways by which we can progressively bring back—I think I am using the Secretary of State's own words—democratic responsibility in the Province, can diminish and eventually extinguish the evils of direct rule, without at any stage necessarily and avoidably foreclosing the options for the future. From that point of view we can renew the order today with the sense of some progress having been made in the past 12 months and more lying ahead.
1 will detain the House and the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), who is to wind up for the Opposition for only one minute more, because it would be wrong not to refer at all to security when the other Act we are renewing is the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. I want to say simply that in that matter this has been an important debate and that the Government, after this debate, ought to take the report away and study sentence by sentence what hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies have said; for behind what they have said—I have in mind particularly the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) and, especially, my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker)—there lies personal experience of the realities; and woe betide the management of security policy if it gets away from the realities as they actually are on the ground.
That, I believe, has been the contribution which this debate has made once 1825 more to the maintenance of a security policy which—under whatever qualifications we may attach—is showing progress. But in the last resort that progress has, and can have, one basis only. That is the fact, now acknowledged, that force cannot and will not determine the future of Northern Ireland. It is only a tragedy that that truth, now so evident to everyone else, is not yet recognised by those who continue to pursue violence. That is what somehow makes these later deaths, which come at a time when the hopelessness of violence is self-evident, more tragic than those which went before in the years when it was still not certain, as it is certain today, that violence would not have its way.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
At the beginning of his own remarkable speech, the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) spoke of the Secretary of State's opening speech as being an admirable survey of the past year. I join the right hon. Gentleman in praising the Secretary of State's speech. It was robust and forthright, and when he said that he had no intention of parleying with terrorists or murderers one could only wish that every Minister in this Government was so determined to follow the line which he has admirably set.
I think that the Secretary of State slightly undervalued the constitutional changes which have been foreshadowed in the past year. As the right hon. Member for Down, South reminded us, we have had the Speaker's Conference on increasing the representation for Northern Ireland, which has made substantial recommendations. The reason why the Government chose to call that Speaker's Conference may have been the eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues from Northern Ireland, but I note that a mere two years ago the then Secretary of State, now Home Secretary, argued that it would fly in the face of Irish history to increase the representation from Northern Ireland. I suspect that the change of heart which has been brought about is not entirely unconnected with the fact that certain spectacular Conservative by-election victories have whittled away the Government's overall majority in the House.
1826 I attach importance also to the Secretary of State's words about local government and his reference to the survey which he intends to make on the question of the district councils. Exactly how important that will be remains to be seen, but I note the Secretary of State's awareness of the importance of local government. As the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and the right hon. Member for Down, South reminded us, Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which does not have an adequate local government structure. I note also that the Government's change of emphasis—shall we say—follows proposals made by my own party. It will not be the first time that Ministers in the present Government have followed the lead given by the Conservative Party.
Naturally, most of the debate has turned on the question of security, and it was only right that so many hon. Members—notably the Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Armagh (Mr. McCusker)—should refer to the British Army's contribution. There are still 13,000 Service men there, and I am delighted that the Northern Ireland pay supplement has been doubled. We have pressed for this over a considerable period. It should be noted, however, that a substantial number of soldiers serving on emergency tours in Northern Ireland are still receiving a salary lower than that which they would have if they were with their units in Germany. In my view, no Service men should be asked to take a cut in pay as a result of moving on an emergency tour to Northern Ireland.
I was glad that it was an English Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), who referred in particular to the gains in expertise, skill and equipment of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I hope that the Minister will bear in mind my hon. Friend's remarks about the training bounty and about the radio sets for the UDR.
Having also visited our forces in Northern Ireland, and the UDR in particular, I believe that one of the most notable developments in the past year has been the success of the 14 platoons, the permanent cadre, of the UDR. We had pressed the Government to introduce 1827 this full-time element. We are glad that it has worked, and we hope that it can be built upon.
Many hon. Members have paid substantial tributes to the RUC, but perhaps the greatest tribute to it in recent months was paid not by any hon. Member but by Mr. Seamus Twomey in the document to which the hon. Member for Armagh referred. When we consider whether we should continue the emergency provisions, it is worth noting that in that document, meant for the IRA's internal consumption, Mr. Twomey referred to the effectiveness of the three-day and seven-day detention orders. He also referred to the immense success the RUC interrogators had had as a result of the psychological pressures they had been able to exert. Again, I note, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), that that was an internal document meant for IRA consumption, and there was no allegation that the interrogators were beating confessions out of the men and women who were being questioned.
Naturally, the Amnesty International report has had a divided reception in the House. I am glad that there is to be an independent inquiry under His Honour Judge Bennett. I note that the terms of reference call upon the judge and his colleaguesTo examine police procedures and practice in Northern Ireland relating to the interrogation of persons suspected of scheduled offencesand that they are then meant to go onto examine the operation of the present procedures for dealing with complaints".As the Secretary of State knows, I am concerned that the investigation will take a substantial time and that during it Amnesty International's charges will lie on the table relatively unanswered and the myth of mistreatment will go substantially unchallenged. I hope that the Secretary of State will call upon the judge and his colleagues to produce as quickly as possible an interim report in which they can look at the rules governing interrogation, pass judgment on them and then go on to consider whether the procedures for dealing with complaints that the rules have been broken are adequate. I think that in this way a certain number of the apprehensions that have been aroused could be quite quickly dealt with. I am anxious lest the report should take 1828 many months to prepare adequately and that the charges should not receive official rebuttal before the full report is ready.
The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the discussions that he has had with some Ministers in the Republic of Ireland. I have referred to the arrest of Mr. Seamus Twomey. My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon has referred to the difficulties, which we all know and recognise, of dealing with the "godfathers" of crime, the organisers of the IRA outrages. It seems that in the Republic they are able to deal with these "godfathers" rather better than we are. They hit the leadership of the IRA hard, and these men spend a substantial period of time in prison. It is the lesser terrorists who seem there to go free.
That cause us all substantial concern. Earlier this year I met a member of the RUC who had lost a hand, an eye and a leg as a result of a bomb outrage. We know who committed that outrage. He is living free across the border and cannot, it seems, be arrested. I hope, therefore, that the Secretary of State, in his contacts with the Dublin Government, will redouble his pressure on Ministers there to try to ensure that those men who commit crimes in the North, if they cannot be extradited, can at least be brought to book in the South.
In the corresponding debate last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who is in Northern Ireland today, said:If there be an 'Irish dimension' to the question of Ulster, let it be that of a united front in the defence of democracy against a murderous clique rejected by people throughout the whole of the island of Ireland."—[Official Report, 30th June 1977; Vol. 934, c. 707.]
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)
I understand that the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has had to cut his speech rather short. He will understand that I shall not be able to take up all the many points raised in the debate, important as all of them are, but my right hon. Friend the Seretary of State gave a very full exposition of the situation in Northern Ireland, covering most aspects. I shall therefore need only to pick up certain points. Two of the main 1829 aspects were direct rule and the Amnesty International report, which one imagined would figure fully in the debate.
We have had a thorough and well-informed debate on matters of great concern to the 1½ million people who live in Northern Ireland. Very properly, the major role in the debate has been played by hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies. I shall try to answer as many as possible of the points raised and my colleagues and I will give careful attention to all the others. There are to be two more debates next week, one on Monday and another on Friday. Knowing the ingenuity of the Members from Northern Ireland, I am sure that they will get some of these matters before my colleagues again.
Hon. Members will appreciate that there will not necessarily be agreement from the Government Benches to all that has been said. In some instances, I do not suppose that anyone would expect me, for security reasons, to give the full reply that one would normally want to give, but I undertake to look at everything that has been said. Those questions which have not been answered from the Dispatch Box will be dealt with, and I shall write to hon. Members where appropriate.
My right hon. Friend, in opening, repeated the fundamental principles on which Government policy is based. These principles are widely supported in the House. In a nutshell, they concern Northern Ireland's status within the United Kingdom and the need for future forms of devolved government to command widespread confidence and support. These principles are not new, but they are not any worse for that. No one in the House or outside it should make the mistake of thinking that principles become less valid for being often repeated. The Government's policy is founded on reality and fairness, and we shall not be pushed or pulled, by pressures of any sort, into ignoring reality or legislating unfairness.
As my right hon. Friend said, the Government recognise that there is a real need to return to the control of locally elected representatives the bulk of the administration of Northern Ireland. Such a goal is realisable in a variety of detailed ways. My right hon. Friend has 1830 made it clear that he is not committed to any particular set of arrangements. But no system will work without political agreement, freely negotiated, in Northern Ireland. Any new arrangement must be made acceptable to a majority in both parts of the community. If it is rejected by one or the other, it will not survive. This is not abstract political theory but a matter of hard fact. That is the main weakness at the heart of certain proposals for the creation of an upper tier of local government, but there are also practical objections.
The Review Body on Local Government in Northern Ireland, under the chairmanship of Sir Patrick Macrory, published its report in 1970. It said that Northern Ireland needed only one regional body to administer the major local government services. It also concluded that it would be convenient if that body were also the regional Parliament.
As the House will know, the structure of local government was reformed in this way and, since October 1973, Northern Ireland Departments, either directly or through area boards, have been responsible for the administration of some services which elsewhere in Great Britain are the responsibility of local authorities. We believe that Macrory was right to conclude that only one body was necessary at this level. Since it is intended, one day, to have devolved government back in Northern Ireland, I do not think it would make any sense at all now to create three or four new councils.
My experience of Northern Ireland is not as deep as that of Opposition Members present, but since 1974 I have covered a lot of ground. I am now in my fifth year, and I certainly understand some of the problems better than when I went over to the Province in 1974. I think that the right approach is to take account of the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, to allow the existing administrative structure to get on with its job, with whatever minor improvements can be incorporated, and at the same time to give every encouragement to the parties to reach agreement on a new form of government which recognises that both majorities and minorities have rights, and which allows the elected representatives of both communities to participate on a fair basis.
§ Mr. Bradford
I know that the Minister is pressed for time but I should like to put a question to him, if I may. The minority community having been hauled on to the streets by the Civil Rights movement, and having been hauled on to the streets and given all kinds of bogus promises by the SDLP, does not the Minister agree that the minority community, more than anyone else, is awaiting constructive initiatives from the British Government, such as applying an upper tier of local government, which has been tried on this side of the channel and which, by definition, is partnership?
§ Mr. Concannon
We are looking for some way of participating in fairness. If any scheme is turned down or is not acceptable to a majority of the minority, it will not work. I do not want to go back into history. I would much sooner look forward. However, we must all accept that there is a sizeable minority in Northern Ireland which, whether we like it or not and whether it is right or wrong, believes that it was treated unjustly and as second-class citizens. I am not saying that that happened, but the people concerned think that it happened.
In his five-point plan my right hon. Friend is trying to underline the Government's further efforts to reach agreement in the best interests of the whole of the people in the Province.
We shall take note of the points made by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I endorse some of the points that he made. During the time that I have been concerned with environment, I have spent a lot of time trying to get an old lady's ballcock repaired somewhere in South Tyrone. In the end I said "If it is not repaired, I shall hop in my car and do it myself. It will be cheaper." Those are the kind of points which I think the right hon. Gentleman was putting forward.
However, the right hon. Gentleman knows that it is not as simple as putting matters back into local government hands. We, as Ministers, accept that we are the only people to whom Members of Parliament can bring their problems. We must do our duty of signing letters and looking into the complaints of Members of Parliament. As I said, we shall take note of the points made by the right hon. Gentleman and look at them.
1832 Several hon. Members mentioned the Amnesty International report. Seemingly, some of my hon. Friends felt that we were not treating this report seriously enough. That is quite misleading. We are treating the report responsibly, but we do not accept that the incomplete and unsubstantiated evidence in it justifies the firmness of its conclusions. It points to a need for an investigation, but certainly does not prove a great deal.
The positive nature of the Government's response shows our continuing concern for human rights, while dealing with the problems of violence and the terrorist campaign. Terrorism involves a dilemma for all democratic Governments. The need is to strike a balance between combating terrorist activity and maintaining the liberties of a free society. Basically, what we are talking about today is restricting some of those freedoms to the benefit of the whole of Northern Ireland.
We therefore take most seriously, as does the Chief Constable, any criticism of existing procedures or allegations of maltreatment of persons in police custody. We are doing all in our power to see that such compaints are thoroughly and swiftly investigated. That is why we are particularly disappointed that Amnesty International has refused to make available to the Director of Public Prosecutions the material relevant to its complaints. We cannot deal with anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) asked "Why not a public inquiry?". I do not know whether I need rehearse the arguments. My right hon. Friend has done so time and time again. I think that the arguments are accepted by the great majority of the House. At this moment I do not think that it makes sense to cut across all our existing procedures, certainly before one part of them is thoroughly and impartially examined.
The letter sent by Amnesty International to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West must have had a remarkable circulation. The Amnesty report makes it clear that 78 cases were considered where there were allegations of maltreatment by the police. In 39 cases, the mission interviewed the persons concerned but no corroborative medical 1833 evidence was submitted. In 26 cases, the mission received documentary medical evidence but was unable to interview the persons concerned. In 13 cases, the mission both interviewed the persons concerned and considered medical evidence. The Amnesty mission itself carried out medical examinations of some sort of five individuals out of the total of 78 cases. Thus, the amount of evidence available to Amnesty varied appreciably from case to case.
We were conscious that in many instances other evidence existed, and our aim was to ensure that the proper legal authority should be able to look at the whole picture. After all, evidence of injury is not evidence of how that injury was caused. We all hear rumours from Northern Ireland about various incideris, and we who live and work in Northern Ireland know about some of the intimidation and so on that goes on. I wish only that Amnesty had taken a little more careful note of some of the matters that my right hon. Friend put to it. That is why we regret Amnesty's refusal to identify cases in confidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions. As my right hon. Friend said, he wants to get at the truth. We cannot get at the truth with the Amnesty report as it is at the moment.
The Bennett inquiry, which has already begun and had its first meeting, will see whatever papers are necessary in the discharge of its remit, but I must remind the House that its function is not to adjudicate on individual cases. Allegations of criminal offences can be dealt with only by the due process of law.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West suggested that proceedings for damages in respect of ill-treatment could be brought only against named members of the RUC. I should have thought that Section 14 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act was quite explicit in laying down that proceedings may be taken against the Chief Constable in respect of torts committed by members of the police force. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand when I say that the police refuse to give names of individual officers in Northern Ireland, for obvious reasons. But, of course, it is possible, and the correct wriy of pursuing any civil claim is 1834 to proceed against the Chief Constable in respect of his employee.
Two or three hon. Members referred to Provisional Sinn Fein. It has never been the desire of the Government to punish people for their political views, provided that the laws of libel, incitement, and so on are observed. It is right that the Provisional Sinn Fein should be able to reflect the shade of political opinion which it represents. This has the advantage of illustrating the extreme paucity of its public support. The more that we make it go political and face the ballot box, the better.
This is not to suggest, however, that if a direct connection between PIRA crimes and PSF is established, action should be inhibited. Recently, members of that movement have been arrested for offences including membership of the PIRA and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. I should emphasise that this is not an attempt to prohibit free speech. It is another example of our avowed policy to proceed against the men of violence and their supporters by the application of the rule of law.
The Bill to implement the recommendations of the Speaker's Conference will be introduced as parliamentary circumstances permit. It will be published, as virtually all Bills are, at the time of First Reading. No useful purpose would be served by publishing it before then. Whether it is introduced in this Session or the next will make little difference in practice. The new constitution would not come into existence before the next General Election, even if the Bill were passed tomorrow.
I am afraid that time is beating me. I should like to have discussed the UDR, the RUC, and so on. Perhaps I might just say, on the first motion, that we try to apply direct rule with as much care as possible. I think that that is accepted by everyone in the House. As for the emergency, I think that the speeches by hon. Members today fully recognise that the motion to extend the emergency powers should be passed.
Finally, I should like to add my thanks and those of my colleagues to the Armed Forces, the police, the prison service and, not least, the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland who, in the circumstances, are the real losers.
§ Question put:—
|Division. No. 241||AYES||5.30p.m.|
|Anderson, Donald||English, Michael||Perry, Ernest|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)|
|Carter, Ray||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Goodhart, Philip||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hodgson, Robin||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon John||Janner, Greville||Tuck, Raphael|
|Cryer, Bob||Kaufman, Gerald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Kerr, Russell||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Wrigglesworth, Alan|
|Dormand, J. D.||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Mills, Peter||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Dunn, James A.||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Mr. A. W. Stallard and|
|Eadie, Alex||Pavitt, Laurie||Mr. Ted Graham.|
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. James Kilfedder and|
|Rev. Ian Paisley.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.