HC Deb 06 March 1978 vol 945 cc992-1106

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

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Secretary of State I would remind hon. Members that this is a short debate. Therefore, I want the House to know that I propose to give a clear priority to those hon. Members who represent the Province of Ulster directly in this House.

I hope the House will allow me to put on record my deep gratitude to the Northern Ireland Office, to right hon. and hon. Members from Northern Ireland and to the people of Northern Ireland for their courtesy to me when I visited them at the weekend.

4.18 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Roy Mason)

It is only a short time since I made a statement to the House about the tragic death of 12 people in a cowardly and murderous attack on the La Mon House restaurant. Since then four members of the security forces have been killed by the terrorists. It is understandable that these deaths should lead to condemnation, dismay and concern throughout the community. I myself in my statement on the La Mon House disaster expressed my deep revulsion. But despite the emotions raised there was an overriding restraint in word and deed on the part of all responsible people, especially in the Province of Northern Ireland.

The Provisional IRA has conspicuously failed in carrying out these attacks to create sectarian strife and I hope that the community will continue to show the good sense to resist any such efforts to turn neighbour against neighbour.

There has been a magnificent response to the fund set up by the Castlereagh District Council for the relief of the victims of that tragedy. I can reassure the House that there will be no reductions in the amount of compensation paid to people who benefit from the compassion and generosity of their fellow citizens.

I quite understand how incidents such as these unsettle the community and cause some people to question the adequacy of our security policy. I am never complacent about the security situation and for me there can never be an acceptable level of violence. But I believe that we must exercise reason, retrain from ill-considered reaction, and maintain the consistent security policy necessary to ensure that that relentless pressure is brought to bear against the terrorists.

It is of the utmost importance that the level of activity on the part of the security forces should be sustained at the highest level and that the rate of attrition against criminals should be vigorously maintained. I have warned on a number of occasions, and I take this opportunity of warning again, that, although the tide of public opinion has turned against terrorists, we have to be aware that they retain the capacity to indulge in acts of indiscriminate violence.

Tragic incidents of this sort can obscure, and are sometimes intended to obscure, the general picture in Northern Ireland. The level of violence was reduced in the latter half of last year. The number of casualties, the number of bomb incidents and the number of shootings and woundings had shown a marked reduction. This was an encouraging trend and was widely welcomed. But there could be no question of the Government responding by slackening their effort against the terrorists. Indeed, the reverse is true. Substantial efforts have been made, and will continue to be made, to intensify our security effort. Much has been done, and I shall have more to say about that later.

A run of terrorist incidents tends to obscure the fact that over the past two years the security forces have made real inroads into the terrorists' resources. In 1976, some 1,200 terrorists were charged; in 1977 it was more than 1,400. In 1976, some 1,200 terrorists were convicted of terrorist offences; in 1977, it was 1,100. Of those, nearly 1,000 received prison sentences, 86 of them for life and 266 more for 10 years or more. This is a demonstration to all terrorists of the relentless pressure of the forces of law and order and the legal process.

In spite of this, it is almost inevitable that from time to time, and particularly in the light of the recent incident, some people should demand the introduction of more Draconian measures to deal with terrorism. I fully understand the emotion which lies behind such demands, but I believe that the great majority of the community in Northern Ireland recognise and accept the need to act through the due process of law. It is for the Parliament of the United Kingdom to determine what is the law. It is for the courts, where necessary, to interpret it. That has been the basis of our security policy and the record of the past year, in particular in terms of criminals brought before the courts and convicted on proper evidence, is in my view complete justification for our belief that this is the right way forward.

It is the way which shows criminals being treated as criminals, for everyone to see, not least the criminals themselves. It is the way which has driven a wedge between those criminals and the community, so that they are denied the popular support for which they crave. During 1977, there were no fewer than 128 cases of people having their kneecaps shot through. These are deeds of desperation by men who have to resort to a policy of persecution of their own people—with the naked threat "stand by us or else".

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the lack of popular support for the Provisional IRA, but is he not aware that, strange as it may seem, about 2,000 people turned out for the funeral of a Provisional IRA terrorist who was shot by the Army recently and that a representative of the SDLP demanded an inquiry into the shooting as human life was sacred? Is that not a demonstration of popular support?

Mr. Mason

There were a number of factors involved. When there is a death in a family in a close-knit community, many people feel emotionally moved and wish to be involved and to pay their last respects. It is also a fact that there is intimidation in some of these small communities and people would be expected to be seen at the funeral; otherwise they might be made to suffer.

In Northern Ireland the security policy within which the forces of law and order operate is not something conjured out of the air. It is arrived at, after detailed advice from, and consultations with, the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the General Officer Commanding, with their highly skilled and professional staffs. Our policy in Northern Ireland is an agreed policy and there is no question of political restraint or inhibition on the operational activities of the RUC or of the Army—including the UDR—who are supporting the police in their task of upholding the law.

Within this policy, the methods and tactics of the security forces are continually kept under review. The techniques that were needed to control large, aggressive crowds on the streets are not the ones to deal with smaller terrorist groups who have lost support from the community. Much of the energy of the security forces is now directed to getting information which can be used as evidence in court to send terrorists to gaol. This requires the closest relationships between the police and the Army in the area of intelligence. These links have been developed and are being further strengthened.

The other major objective is preventive. As long as the terrorists remain at large, measures must be taken by vehicle checks and by the use of other measures not necessarily apparent to the public. I can assure the House that great effort is put into this and that has a considerable deterrent effect. Like intelligence, it requires a high degree of co-operation among the various arms of the security forces if there is not to be wasted effort. And of course, the maximum use of intelligence itself has to be applied in this operational area. Both at the top and and at the various command levels the most patient attention has been and is being given to improving the security force links. This is the very fabric of success in anti-terrorist operations.

There is much else besides which we have been doing to intensify the pressure on the terrorists by further strengthening the security forces. The strength of the RUC is steadily increasing and 1976 had been the best year ever for recruiting. That record was beaten comfortably in 1977. There could be no better evidence of the determination of the Northern Ireland community to resist the threat in its midst.

Further progress has been made to ensure that the RUC has the equipment which it needs. A total of 463 of the 1,000 M1 carbines are now in service and other weapon requirements are being considered. We have already seen the effectiveness of the steel-reinforced Hotspur Land Rover in its defence against high-velocity weapons. There are now several of these hardened Land Rovers in each of the more exposed police divisions. A further 50 have been ordered, and we are putting all our weight behind their early delivery.

In order that the RUC should be in the best possible position to fulfil its leading role, I have strengthened its command structure by authorising the establishment of an extra 32 senior posts. These relate especially to the border divisions, but also elsewhere in the Province where the direction of operations required reinforcement.

I informed the House in December that a further resident battalion would be added to the garrison in Northern Ireland during 1978. This unit will be arriving in September. I am in no doubt about the operational value of resident units; they are able to achieve a greater measure of continuity and experience than is possible for a unit on the four-month operational quota.

Progress has been maintained in building up the capability to undertake covert operations. As well as the SAS, which is operating throughout the Province, every major unit now has an impressive measure of skill in covert surveillance, and that is by no means the limit of what can be done and is being done in this very important field.

Nor is there any lack of resolve to apply the normal police practice of taking in and questioning suspects when there are good operational reasons for doing so. At the end of last year, the RUC twice arrested substantial groups of people whom they believed might be able to assist them with their inquiries into subversive activities, and those investigations continue.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a strong body of opinion that people who have been taken into custody or have served prison sentences and been released on parole are becoming involved in terrorism again? Could he also comment on the belief that people released from Long Kesh have been involved in atrocities?

Mr. Mason

There are cases, of course, of reinvolvement, but I am advised that the percentage of those is small. Secondly, if they are reinvolved they must be aware that, apart from the sentence that they receive, they have added on the total remission from their previous sentences, which acts also as a deterrent.

In the wake of the La Mon House outrage a total of 43 persons were arrested for interview. As a result of these interviews nine people have been charged with offences ranging from murder to membership of an illegal organisation.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Will the Minister tell us whether any of those persons have been charged with the actual La Mon House massacre?

Mr. Mason

I was going to say to the House and to the hon. Gentleman that none of those charges relates to the La Mon House bombing, but intensive investigations are continuing with a view to bringing those responsible before the courts. I have already referred to the restraint shown by the vast majority of the community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

Does the Secretary of State not agree that the worst part of this matter is that no member of the Northern Ireland community has come forward to say anything about the perpetrators of the La Mon House outrage?

Mr. Mason

I do not know to what extent the information had been given to the Chief Constable flowing from the La Mon House massacre. Undoubtedly, because of the special campaign that the RUC carried out, a tremendous amount of information was produced. It is doubtful whether the persons concerned remain within the Province. Because of the pressure that was brought to bear, they could easily have escaped across the border.

I have referred to the restraint shown by the vast majority of the community in Northern Ireland. That restraint, which deserves the highest praise, is an important factor in enabling the security forces to get an with the task of preventing violence and tracing those responsible for criminal acts.

The restraint of the community also demonstrates to the Provisional IRA that it is not succeeding in its attempts to disrupt the gradual return to normal life in the Province. But I would echo the words of the Chief Constable. Passive restraint by itself is not enough, and any Government and any police force have the right to expect the wholehearted cooperation of all sections of the community in their fight against the criminals.

There are still a number of people who call for the reintroduction of capital punishment in the wake of the La Mon House massacre or detention or both. I think, therefore, that it is right that I should indicate to the House my views on these issues. Neither step commends itself to me. Such measures have in the past proved more of a hindrance than a help in the maintenance of the law. I will not encourage the reintroduction of capital punishment in Northern Ireland. There is no evidence to suggest that hanging would be a deterrent and the serious risk of creating martyrs out of both Republican and Loyalist para-militaries should not be underrated. It could be said that to fight and die for a cause is better than languishing in goal for life with no prospect, if it is a life sentence, of remission, and as far as I am concerned—this is true of Her Majesty's Government and the Opposition—no chance of amnesty, either.

I have retained, but I hope I shall never have to use, the powers of detention. There are sound practical arguments against the exercise of these powers. The Provisional IRA and other paramilitary organisations and the like would like nothing better than to be able to claim that they were being treated like political prisoners. The whole nature of their campaign and support for it could change radically if they were able to politicise themselves in this way. In addition, I believe the introduction of detention, however limited, would alienate large sections of the community, which would lead in turn to a deterioration in the relationship between them and the forces of law and order.

No police service can function adequately within a hostile community. The policeman on his beat or on his regular patrol relies heavily upon his knowledge of the local scene and upon his relationship with the local community to carry out his task of serving that community.

I have no doubt whatever that the use of the due process of law, the arresting, charging and convicting through the courts of those guilty of terrorist acts and the strict observance of the law by those responsible for its implementation, are the only way to restore and maintain respect for the rule of law itself.

Having said that, let me make it quite clear that those who are convicted will serve their sentences. I have said repeatedly before, and I underline it in this House, that there will be no amnesty in Northern Ireland. Those who seek to subvert the democratic process in Northern Ireland by acts of criminal violence will pay the full penalty of the law.

There are those who seek to have themselves regarded, despite their commission of very serious crimes, as political prisoners. They refuse to conform to prison rules, in many cases under the influence or instructions of others who cynically plan crime but keep their hands clean and stay out of prison. Those people within prison who fail to conform are simply sentencing themselves to longer gaol terms. For each day they protest, they lose a full day's remission and, if they go on long enough, they lose all their remission—and all to no purpose, because their hopes of earlier release through amnesty will never be realised.

Any review of the security situation in Northern Ireland must take account of the significance of the Republic in geographical, security and political terms. It remains essential that we should engage the co-operation of the authorities in the Irish Republic in countering the terrorism of the IRA. Mr. Lynch justly said on 18th February that it was the duty of all people on both sides of the border to root out this terrible evil of Provisional IRA terrorism. In our contacts with Irish Ministers and officials we continue to stress our view of the situation and to discuss ways of going about this urgent task together.

I should pay tribute to the efforts of the Southern authorities in largely putting a stop to the leakage of commercial explosive from factories and other sources in the Republic moving into the hands of terrorists. The terrorists themselves do not regard the border as a boundary. There are groups who spend most of their time south of the border and make frequent rapid forays into the North to attack the security forces and escape back again.

But the border is more than a base line for local incidents, for there are other groups who spend more protracted periods, generally deeper into the heart of Northern Ireland, attacking where they can and often living rough, eventually withdrawing for recuperation and resupply to the other side of the border. We also know of cases where terrorists wounded in the North—and not necessarily close to the border—have gone South for medical treatment. Much of the home-made explosive which the Provisionals have been forced to use comes from sources in the Republic, and many of their weapons come through the Republic.

I give these examples to show that cross-border terrorism is not simply a matter of the odd instance of shooting across the border but an ingredient in some way or other of the bulk of the terrorist violence that goes on in the North—and, for that matter, in the South. As I said, the terrorist is not concerned with boundaries.

Mr. John Watkinson (Gloucestershire, West)

Will my right hon. Friend enlarge upon the statement that Mr. Lynch made recently in which he said: The border is not a major security problem now. About 2 per cent. of violence in the North has any direct connection with it. This is not my assessment but that which was officially supplied by the British authorities."?

Mr. Mason

I can first inform my hon. Friend and the House that authorities in the Republic have been fully informed that the 2 per cent. figure to which Mr. Lynch referred is wrong. I also stated that quite clearly in the statement that I made recently in the House. On a very narrow definition of an incident of shots across the border or of a terrorist being captured or injured on the border, it would be a small percentage, but the use of the border for terrorist activities in the North shows a very much higher percentage.

Where the cross-border terrorist has been identified, we shall use to the full the extra-territorial jurisdiction provisions which we have negotiated in the absence of normal extradition arrangements, but the main task of surveillance, prevention and detection must depend on practical co-operation between the two police forces. An encouraging measure of progress has been made in establishing both the machinery and the practice of co-operation between the RUC and the Garda, and every effort needs to be made to develop it further.

The emphasis in what I have been saying has been upon security. But in relation to Northern Ireland, I have emphasised particularly that the problem is not only one of security. In a complex and evolving situation it is impossible to deal with the components of the problem as if they had clear and defined limits. Northern Ireland presents a mixture of social, economic political and security considerations which are difficult to disentangle.

On security, we control policy and we can also intensify our efforts and make tactical changes when necessary. On the economy, much is in our hands and we have done much to soften the impact on the Province of difficult economic circumstances. We have also been doing much to improve the conditions of areas of special need.

But in the matter of politics we are to a much greater extent dependent on the attitudes of the major parties within Northern Ireland. As the House will be aware, at the end of last year I judged it right to ask those parties to discuss with me and my officials a framework within which I believe that political progress can be made. Preliminary talks have taken place and I and my officials are ready to resume the talks. The road is clear, provided there is a willingness amongst the parties to make progress.

I realise that the parties may feel that progress is difficult at the present time. Certainly the atmosphere in Northern Ireland has changed markedly since the spectre of British withdrawal has been raised again. The prospect of a General Election in the United Kingdom tends to lead the political parties in Northern Ireland to think more about their long-term aspirations and party groupings and less about the prospects for political movement in the near future. In addition, any worries about the security situation leads to strains within the community which make party political talks even more difficult.

I am disappointed that these fears and misapprehensions have apparently created road blocks on the path to progress, because I was hopeful at the end of last year that we could move forward. I still believe that to be possible if the political parties are prepared to talk again.

There may be a danger that some people will be tempted to use the present situation as an excuse to step outside accepted political and democratic channels in an attempt to bring pressure on the Government and Parliament to accept one solution or another. I do not believe that any of us in this House would condone that.

That brings me back to the Provisional IRA whose aim is to create anarchy and the demise of democratic government north and south of the border in Ireland. It is very important that we should get the activities and potential into clear perspective. The Provisional IRA has regrouped in the face of the attrition of the last year and a hard core of callous activists seem to be prepared to go on with their senseless acts against the community. But the Provisional IRA is operating in isolation, hated and shunned by the vast majority of the people of the Province who have totally rejected its philosophy and tactics. The plain fact is that it is on the road to nowhere. It must now realise that the Government will not compromise with it and that no right-thinking person supports it or even regards it as having any genuine political aims.

Therefore, to the people of Northern Ireland let me stress that there is no acceptable level of violence. There will be no amnesty. Terrorists will be treated as criminals, relentlessly pursued and brought to justice. The Government have the resolution, the determination and the will to stamp out violence and bring back peace to Northern Ireland. In this task I know that we can rely on the courage, resilience and support of the people of Northern Ireland.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. Airey Neave (Abingdon)

I am sure that the House will be grateful to the Secretary of State for his account of the situation in Northern Ireland. We welcome his intention to intensify the work of the security forces. We also welcome the continued training of the security forces on covert surveillance, as he described it, though we intend to press the Government on a number of issues in that connection.

We wish the Chief Constable success in his investigation into the cowardly and disgraceful La Mon House massacre, to which the Secretary of State referred in the House on 20th February. As he said, passive restraint is not enough.

I am glad that there is to be no chance of an amnesty under this Government or, as the Secretary of State said, under a Conservative Government. That should be repeated every time we discuss security. I am also glad that these criminals will have to pay the full penalty of the law for what they have done.

Mr. Kilfedder

Were not such assurances given from these Dispatch Boxes to the unfortunate people of Kenya who were humiliated by the Mau-Mau? But subsequently those evil men were welcomed by politicians here who had earlier condemned them, and they were given an amnesty.

Mr. Neave

The hon. Gentleman is extremely voluble about these matters. I shall not talk about the Mau-Mau. I am on Northern Ireland now.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am talking about Northern Ireland.

Mr. Neave

The House will welcome what the Secretary of State said about cross-border terrorism. I hope that he will speak frankly to Mr. Jack Lynch about these matters in the near future. I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman said that the 2 per cent. figure to which Mr. Lynch referred was wrong. The border is widely used to bring misery and death to Northern Ireland on numerous occasions. I should like to refer to the economy, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, in the debate later today on the Appropriation Order.

We should like to discuss with the Secretary of State political developments in Northern Ireland and, in particular, our scheme for a locally elected body when we have an opportunity in the near future.

The Secretary of State recorded the achievements of the security forces in 1976 and 1977. The Provisional IRA regard the latest killings, according to its newspaper the Republican News, as its answer to the right hon. Gentleman and as its particular brand of comment on the policy of Mr. Lynch. But, as the Secretary of State said, the IRA has failed to create sectarian strife. We must keep it that way.

I think that we need a fresh initiative. We need to go over to the offensive to a greater extent than we have done before, even though we use civilised methods of justice. I confirm the Opposition's view on that matter.

We have tried most things in Northern Ireland in the last eight years. We owe a great deal to the peace campaign and the community work that it has done. But there is one fundamental task in Northern Ireland—to prevent terrorism escalating into full-scale civil war. So far we have been able to do that. With the aid of the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the RUC, we have managed to contain the situation. But I ask whether the present low-intensity operations are any longer adequate to deal with what faces us now in Northern Ireland. The Provisionals now have access to sophisticated weaponry. We need to consider whether we should deal with them in kind.

Wild talk advocating British withdrawal is effectively disposed of in a leading article in The Times today, as are the confused discussions about Irish unity. The writer of the article states: It is extraordinary that any Irishman should so misread his own history as to suppose that one million people in Ulster would automatically be reconciled to the inevitability of Irish reunification by one word from a British Government. It is the British presence in Northern Ireland, on the contrary, in the face of many sacrifices by our soldiers and police, which has saved the Republic from being drawn into conflict in the North. These soldiers are not thanked by Dublin. I hope that they will be one day. It is this that makes the savage criticism of the security forces by Dublin politicians and the Irish Press so hard to bear. It is this which makes it far harder to achieve that which the Government and the Opposition wish to achieve—the elected local body which was referred to in the London talks in September which Mr. Lynch attended. I do not despair of finding an answer.

For the Republic, peace in Ireland depends on the ordinary soldier and policeman serving in the North and upon the greater willingness of the three major politicial parties in Dublin to assist the Secretary of State in bringing to justice the murderers who find refuge in their territory.

As I say, I hope that the Secretary of State will speak frankly to Mr. Lynch. I am sure that the Secretary of State, like myself, wishes to see an improvement in Anglo-Irish relations, but there must be a two-way approach to the problem, and that generally concerns the situation on the border.

Today we should remember Rifleman Nicholas Smith, aged 20, who was killed near Crossmaglen by a booby-trap on Saturday. Without him and his friends, as the Daily Express remarks today. Northern Ireland would face more terrible dangers ". Rifleman Smith died to preserve the liberties of Ireland, not only of the North.

I said that a new initiative is now needed. I hope that we shall hear from the Secretary of State more about the new role of the security forces. He said that this was being kept under review. I am not clear what is the Government's policy towards terrorism as such. Are low intensity operations enough? It is difficult for an Opposition, especially when a fundamentally bipartisan approach is taken, to spell out the details.

We must increase further the Army's anti-terrorist role. We know the difficulties involved in using the Army as a substitute police force and trying to defeat ruthless armed insurgents according to civilised rules which the terrorists do not acknowledge. All this has to be done under the spotlight of national and international television, which generally gives publicity to those whose main interest is to take human life, in a most cowardly way.

I do not believe that the Army should function strictly as a constabulary in khaki. In asking for more offensive tactics, I do not disagree with Northern Ireland Members about the role of local forces, as The Guardian correspondent said on the "Today" programme this morning. The UDR and the RUC clearly remain an essential key to maintaining order. But the role of the security forces in general has to be reassessed, especially in the light of the new weapons used by the Provisional IRA.

The guerrilla war in Northern Ireland should be fought with guerrilla tactics, although these differ between rural and urban areas. This has not been seen as far as I should like it to be a specialist job for the Army in giving support to the UDR and RUC.

The future lies in putting extreme pressure on the terrorists through troops who are trained, as they are being trained, to pick off the gangsters on their escape routes, at their arms caches and in their safe houses. There may be 100 or 200 really hard men, now well armed, who are known to our intelligence services. It is these people whom we have to get, and only special service troops can do it.

The Secretary of State should not be deterred by comments on the BBC news on Saturday about the possible retaliation by the terrorists for operations by the SAS Regiment. If the Secretary of State is deterred, he will never achieve results against a formidable threat. That is not to say that he should not endeavour to arrest these terrorists and bring them before the courts as he has in the past, but in 1977, when good results were obtained, he was not dealing with people armed with the M60 machine gun.

I suggest that there should be increased offensive under-cover operations. According to the latest Defence Estimates, a full squadron of the SAS is operating in Northern Ireland. It should be reinforced partly by training other units. It should comprise a new anti-terrorist force to be stationed in Northern Ireland until peace is restored. That was what the Secretary of State said in his speech.

I hope that the objections of past years to such a force in Army circles will be reconsidered. We have in mind the safety of people in Northern Ireland, and they want to see us go and get these murderers and bring them to peace.

Mr. Tom Litterick (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I know that the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) does not want to be misunderstood. I have been listening carefully and I had the impression that he was suggesting a "shoot on sight" policy based on ID photographs handed to security troops. Is that what the hon. Member is advocating?

Mr. Neave

I said nothing about shooting on sight. The right way to catch these men is at safe houses, at their arms caches and on their escape routes. That is what the Army is doing. I said nothing about a "shoot on sight" policy.

I quote from a leading article in today's Daily Telegraph. It states: The very least that is now required is the continual and conspicuous presence of security forces in IRA strongholds. That is my answer to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick). The article continues: plus thorough and even random searches in these areas. That should be possible.

Mr. Mason

It is not possible to give the House all the information. If I did, I should deprive other hon. Members from taking part in the debate. A lot of searching goes on. In the first two months of this year, the Army carried out 4,686 planned searches of occupied and unoccupied premises. It found 45 weapons, 6,000 rounds of ammunition and over 100 lbs. of explosives. Therefore, searching is going on.

Mr. Neave

One of the intentions of these debates is to reassure the people of Northern Ireland about these searches. The searches should be conducted so as to make the future task of the RUC easier. The next and perhaps the most important immediate job is to find and capture from the Provisional IRA these M60 machine guns and the improved explosives that are in its possession.

The Secretary of State warned the House and the country to expect further outbursts of terrorist violence this year. He said: Inevitably there will be occasional shows of strength but the general and accepted view in Northern Ireland is that this cannot be sustained".—[Official Report, 8th December 1977; Vol. 940, c. 1686.] It could be that the intensification of violence which has occurred since the start of the year represents no more than a temporary setback and no more than a temporary lull which descended during the latter part of 1977. However, there are powerful reasons for believing that the terrible events of recent weeks indicate that a new and highly dangerous phase in the terrorist campaign has begun. We must recognise this as a possibility.

One of the most powerful reasons for deep anxiety is the arrival in Ireland of the American-made M60 machine gun, which has added a new dimension to the security problem. The Secretary of State recognised this last Question Time. The M60 is a particularly lethal weapon. It is capable of firing 550 rounds a minute. It is generally accepted that the IRA has at least six of these weapons and probably more than that. Last week a soldier was shot by an M60 in Belfast. According to The Economist, an M60 was fired at the helicopter in which the officer was travelling on 12th February. I hope that the Minister will tell us more about that incident, although I understand that security matters are involved. At the moment the British Army does not have this weapon, but our NATO allies are equipped with it. It could be made available to the security forces in Northern Ireland.

The Times this morning—perhaps the Minister of State can comment on this, because I do not know whether it is correct—claims that the use of the M60 has upset the balance of weaponry between the security forces and the terrorists in Northern Ireland. There has been a great deal of speculation about the route by which the M60 reached the IRA. It seems probable that Antwerp and Dublin form links in a chain connecting the IRA with subversive forces in the Middle East. Another possibility is that a Northern Ireland port was used. This was a suggestion from the Repubic itself. What is clear is that a new arms route has been established which must be discovered and destroyed. In addition, the training grounds where the terrorists have gained proficiency in the use of these new weapons must be located. I am told from Dublin sources that they are not in the Republic. If they are not there, where are they? I hope that the Minister of State will comment on this.

Here, as in other security problems, patient and skilled intelligence work is required on the part of our security forces. We have to face the prospect that, at the moment, an Army patrol on the streets of Belfast could be fired on and several men killed, instead of only one as happened the other day, by a burst of fire from an M60. The M60 has obviously stirred the hopes of victory of the IRA. Those who read the Republican News will have seen pictures of the M60 with the proud caption, which we have heard before from other sources: Political power grows from the barrel of a gun. Evidently that is what the IRA feels about its new-found armoury. It has given some confidence, which also stems from the fact it has new, tightly organised cells, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. These almost certainly lie on the Republic side of the border, as the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker)—an expert on the border situation—said in the House on 20th February. There have been reports that around 100 Provisionals stand poised to cross the border at a moment's notice.

Great concern was expressed when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement at La Mon House about the role of the UDR now that the security situation has worsened. At the moment, it provides the main military support for the police in 11 RUC divisions. There are some in Northern Ireland who feel that the Government should ultimately review their policy of transferring the main burden of responsibility from the Army to the UDR. One can agree with that principle, but this must surely be related to the actual threat which we face in an area.

I have already called on the Secretary of State to give serious attention to the request for a revision of strategy, at least in the short term, so that the lives of members of the UDR are not placed in greater jeopardy than is absolutely essential. In view of the suggestions made in the BBC "Today" broadcast this morning, we reaffirm our strongly held belief that the UDR and police must form the backbone of security in Northern Ireland.

The latest security statistics must heighten anxiety and increase fears that the IRA's latest offensive is no mere flash in the pan. The death toll for the year so far now stands at 25, exceeding the total for the whole of the past five months of last year. Must there not be some serious doubt about whether the tide has really turned? The right hon. Gentleman used that phrase. I think it is rather unwise to use it at the present stage.

We agree with the Secretary of State that it would not be appropriate to re- introduce detention at this stage. The arguments for and against this method are well known. They have been rehearsed on many occasions, not only in recent years but over the last century. I shall not repeat them. I would much rather see the right hon. Gentleman and his military colleagues make a sweeping attack on known terrorists in their lairs and secure a change of attitude on the part of the Administration of Mr. Lynch. If the right hon. Gentleman requires additional powers at any time to crush terrorism or to make changes in the law, he will no doubt come to the House, when they can be debated and fully considered. He could surely explore the possibility of mandatory sentences for the most serious terrorist crimes.

I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman quash the rumours that are rife in Northern Ireland about a rather relaxed attitude to remission. He publicised some of the details about terrorists released on remission. In answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), the right hon. Gentleman said that the percentage was small. No doubt hon. Members will wish to continue to press this point.

I conclude with a reference to the Provisional Sinn Fein. This organisation and the Provisional IRA are now so closely associated that they are virtually indistinguishable. Many people are bound to feel, as the Secretary of State realises, that the Provisional Sinn Fein should be treated in exactly the same way as the Provisional IRA. So far, it has not been proscribed to allow Republican elements in Northern Ireland to take part in politics and contest elections under its auspices. But Republicans have other organisations. They have not in recent years fought elections on the Sinn Fein platform.

The Government should explain fully why the Provisional Sinn Fein is allowed to go on affronting virtually the whole community in Northern Ireland by its very existence, as a lawful party dedicated to overthrowing the State, with access to radio and television to help it in publicity for its subversion. This does not make sense to the ordinary citizen. The Government must make an early decision. It is surely crazy to allow spokesmen for terrorists, out to destroy the State, to enjoy all the advantages of broadcasting their message of hatred to inspire a group of militants to commit murder.

After eight years of bloodshed, for God's sake let us have some realism about this. We should like to hear from the Minister of State, in reply, whether the Government consider the Provisional Sinn Fein to be a legitimate political party or, as Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien has said, a public relations agency for a murder gang". If liberty is to survive in Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom must go over to the attack. If the Government can will the means, I believe that the people will support them.

5.6 p.m.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

I wonder whether I might be permitted to say how much satisfaction has been given to the people of Northern Ireland of all shades of opinion by your visit, Mr. Speaker, to the Province last weekend. Hitherto they had not shared in the privilege which is ours, namely, of experiencing at first hand those qualities of yours which enable you to raise the minds of men to higher things. Your warm-hearted sincerity in the course of your visit evoked a ready response. You have left a lasting impression on the minds of all the people of Northern Ireland and have provided them with much-needed reassurance.

In my first speech in this House on 15th February 1971 I said that in Northern Ireland we are now seeing for the first time in Western Europe a demonstration of urban guerrilla warfare."—[Official Report, 15th February 1971; Vol. 811, c. 1223.] At that time it was not particularly fashionable to take seriously anything said by Ulster Unionists because the publicity industry had gone to far too much trouble to produce all manner of reasons and explanations to permit those explanations to be upset by untidy influences like the truth. The industry had convinced itself and others that the causes of the unrest, as it was then called, were bad housing, unemployment and the denial of local government votes to non-ratepayers.

By 1972 the publicity industry had persuaded the British Government and Parliament to take control so that violence would be automatically ended. I well remember the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) asking a leading member of the Administration at that time what was the object of the exercise. The reply was not, as might be imagined, to provide better government, since no fault could be found in the former system. Instead the hon. Member was told that the object was to end the violence.

The abolition of Stormont was regarded by the IRA as a back-dated award which did absolutely nothing to placate it. The creation of a power-sharing Executive in due course coincided with an increase in terrorist activity.

By 1975 the original theories about the cause of violence looked a little tattered and it became necessary to produce and invent new ones. The favoured choice was the denial of unification of Ireland. This, believe it or not, has survived well into the present term of office of the Lynch Government. Indeed, it was given a great degree of credibility by Mr. Lynch and certain incautious clerics.

It was not until the past few weeks that the real nature and the true objectives of the Provisional IRA became brutally plain even to many former sympathisers. At long last it has been recognised and realised that a united Ireland as envisaged by the Provisional IRA would be a very different thing from the sentimental dreams of many and various friends of Ireland. The Provisional IRA would not stop at removing democratic government from the North. Within a year it would remove every vestige of parliamentary government from Dublin as well. It makes no attempt to conceal its aims and anyone in the House who refuses to face the facts condemns the whole of Ireland and its people to untold suffering and misery.

If any lingering doubts have remained, they should have been dispelled by yesterday's condemnation of the Provisional IRA by the president of the Official Sinn Fein, who is not any kind of Castle Catholic. His statement reads as follows: It was all of Ireland which was shaken. The Provos are engaged in a war against the Irish people. On the previous Sunday thousands of Roman Catholics responded to the call of their bishops for special prayers and a resolve to end' the killing. In this they were joined by the Protestant churches in Northern Ireland, but the Provisional IRA contemptuously rejected the pleas and ensured that on that very day violence continued and was increased and stepped up in the course of the succeeding week.

The parting of the ways must surely now have come. The Provisional IRA, as the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) said, is now seen to be the enemy of all political and religious institutions throughout the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. In the British Isles, the full weight of security forces and the instruments of law enforcement must be mobilised if both islands are to be spared further acts of brutality and villainy. From now on there must be no hiding place and no breathing space for thugs whose declared aim is the destruction of civilisation itself.

It follows that there must be no holding back on the part of the Government of the Irish Republic. In the face of the common danger they must step up co-operation with the security forces of the United Kingdom. Secondly, terrorists must be treated as the criminals they are and their extradition granted as automatically as would be the case elsewhere in Western Europe.

Her Majesty's Government are not without the weapons to influence the Government of the Irish Republic in this matter, and responsible Irish citizens in Great Britain must do all they can to persuade the Dublin Government that such a course would be in their common interest.

During exchanges in the House which followed the Secretary of State's statement on the Le Mon bombing the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) spoke of the great need to get terrorists into court on criminal charges and put them behind bars. I am sure I speak for all right hon. and hon. Members when I endorse the hon. Member's sentiment and equally so when I pay tribute to the growing success of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in bringing cases before the courts.

However, it is in this respect that I wish to draw attention to an area of very grave concern in Northern Ireland. A belief of many in the Province and to which I myself subscribe is that sentences imposed on many of those brought before the courts neither fit the crime for which they are convicted nor serve to deter others from engaging in terrorist and criminal activity.

First, it is my contention that persons convicted in connection with the present insurrection should be denied any remission of sentence. I am well aware of the views and arguments on this subject which pertain in enlightened society. Sooner or later, however, it must be understood that such views and arguments are without relevance in the context of Northern Ireland.

If the resolve of Government to defeat this conspiracy is to be demonstrated and if the effort and the lives of the security forces are not to be wasted, those convicted by the courts must be subject to sentences of the utmost severity and they must be brought to know that the sentence passed by the courts is the sentence that they will serve.

To that end I would further suggest that the time has now come for the Government to have regard to the spirit of judgments passed by members of the judiciary in Northern Ireland, to strengthen the hands of the courts, and to introduce forthwith mandatory minimum prison sentences for all terrorist and terrorist-related offences.

Given the circumstances prevailing in our Province, I feel justified in saying that the present provisions for the treatment of offenders are utterly absurd. Certainly nothing could be more absurd than the position of those convicted of the worst crime in the book, namely, murder. Such persons, excluding those sentenced to a recommended minimum sentence, may, as I understand it, have their sentences reviewed after seven years, and certainly after nine years. So it is that many in this category are released after periods in prison which bear absolutely no relation to the terms of the sentence passed by the court, namely, life imprisonment.

Again I am aware of the thinking and the theory in these matters which presently pertains, and again I must repeat that, whatever the merits of such provisions and ideals in normal circumstances, against the background and the circumstances in Northern Ireland they are not merely absurd but positively dangerous.

Those charged with murder in Northern Ireland know well the difference between "life" and "recommended" sentences. It is the desire to get away with a life sentence rather than any sense of guilt or remorse which is the explanation for the ever-increasing numbers of guilty pleas now being entered.

I use the term "get away with a life sentence" quite deliberately, for I want the House clearly to understand that in many instances for a man to receive a life sentence is regarded both by him and the organisation to which he belongs as something of a victory. This may appear to be a rather preposterous assertion, but I say respectfully that only those who come from Northern Ireland have a real opportunity to know and comprehend the minds of these people and their associates.

I believe that the death sentence as the penalty for murder is justified, although I do not expect that the House is yet prepared to bow to that belief. Accordingly, I content myself at this stage with arguing that prison sentences should serve to punish and to offer a severe warning to those tempted to follow the criminal path.

I say that "life" should mean life and that any minimum or recommended sentence should cease to exist as a mere option or possibility. Legislation must be enacted which will bear forth the message to all who murder or contemplate murder that they will be apprehended and put away for a very long time.

There is a related matter which I believe supports my case and to which I want briefly to refer—that is, the issue of an amnesty for terrorists. We have heard the Secretary of State declare on numerous occasions—we welcome his reassertion today—that there will be no such amnesty. I believe that he means it. Similarly, we have heard the Front Bench spokesman for the Opposition commit any future Conservative Government to that policy, and I believe that they mean it.

Unfortunately, we must report to the House that the terrorists in Northern Ireland still do not believe it, and that not only those already convicted but those who continue to involve themselves with terrorist organisations are convinced that, at some future date, political policies will once more change and perhaps a Secretary of State of the future will meet their demands. I have had that view confirmed to me by numerous people in Northern Ireland and, in particular, by members of the legal profession, who are in a position to know. I urge that upon the House today as proof that mere words and solemn assurances are not enough and that tangible evidence of the Government's determination must be forthcoming if the terrorists are to get the message.

I believe that, within the framework which I have outlined, there exists the potential to lay finally to rest the notion of an amnesty and to do that which is required in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Kilfedder

The hon. Member talks of the terrorists in Northern Ireland getting the message. Here we are debating security and the death and mutilation of many people in our Province—we are speaking of the agony of the Ulster people—yet there are only 20 Members present, apart from Northern Ireland Members. Surely, if we wanted to get our message across to the terrorists of Northern Ireland, the House should have been packed—as it normally is when we discuss race, nationalization and other matters—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman hopes to catch my eye, I know, as do many other hon. Members. He could have made that point in his speech, if he is called.

Mr. Molyneaux

I hope Mr. Speaker, that you will accept that the hon. Member for Down, North has not and nor have I any responsibility in that matter. Indeed, on many occasions when matters of world-wide importance in foreign affairs have been under debate the number has been even smaller.

I turn briefly now to the balance of security forces within Northern Ireland. We believe that the Government are correct in aiming and planning for the defence of Ulster to be once again the responsibility of Ulstermen. That has been the advice consistently given by Ulster Unionists over the past eight years. Ten Ulster Members were elected to the House in 1974 on a manifesto advocating that very course in terms of security policy and in terms of manpower.

We would encourage Her Majesty's Government to press on with the expansion of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its reserve, and in that we join the Opposition spokesman in pressing for the speedy delivery of the necessary arms and equipment. We urge the Government to press on, too, with increasing the strength of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and particularly its full-time element.

Moreover, there ought to be a continuation of the deployment of long-stay specialist Army units in preference to the larger units of short-stay formations which represent the most wasteful and least effective element of the Army commitment. In saying that, we wish in no way to detract from our admiration of the courage and sacrifice shown by many of those short-stay elements.

In short, every effort must be made to increase the effectiveness of the indigenous forces and to provide them with the necessary back-up Army specialist and antiterrorist formations.

All of us have a part to play in ensuring that we are all pulling in the right direction. The Government, the security forces and the political parties must cooperate to achieve and create the confidence, steadiness and stability which are, after all, the conditions most feared by terrorists the world over. Above all there must be what The Times today referred to as the denial to the IRA of any political success or prospect of success. Linked to that is the need for the denial of even a shred of evidence of sympathy or support. This House can speak with one voice. I trust that right hon. and hon. Members will avail themselves of the opportunity provided by this debate to make clear the attitude of the entire British people.

5.25 p.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I join in what has been said by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) about your visit to our beloved Province over the weekend, Mr. Speaker. To that part of his speech I can say "Amen".

I assure the House that those in Northern Ireland who expected the Secretary of State to tell us something of the action which he intended to take in the terrible situation which has arisen and is continuing in our Province had their hopes dashed by his speech this afternoon. I did not get much encouragement, either, from the speech of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), who opened from the Opposition Front Bench.

I am not particularly interested in what editorial writers say about Northern Ireland. I am interested in preserving the lives of the people of Northern Ireland. The House may not like it, the Secretary of State may not like it and the official Opposition may not like it, but it is a fact that the present security policies in Northern Ireland have failed. We need to grasp that fact.

It is all very well for the Secretary of State to give us statistics, to tell us what matters have been attended to, to tell us that we must keep on a certain course and to reiterate his opinion that the tide has turned, but there are many broken and anguished hearts in Northern Ireland at this moment, and I hope that the Minister who replies to the debate will not again tell the people and the representatives of Northern Ireland that he and his colleagues understand our emotions and the reasons why we say what we do.

We have to speak out. It is our duty to speak out. We expect an answer to our argument. We do not wish to be waved off with a gesture of the hand and the idea that Ministers expect those of us from Northern Ireland to say what we do because of the emotion which is in our hearts. These things have to be said, and they call for an answer.

In Northern Ireland today the continuation of killings and the escalation of burnings and beating-up are proof for all to see that the scourge of terrorism is greater than ever and, indeed, because of certain happenings in our Province, is at this moment gaining tragic momentum.

An anguished cry goes up from Ulster. It goes up from all of us who have sat in the homes of people tragically bereaved and have tried to bring some words of comfort and help to those whose hearts are broken, to those who have been left fatherless or have lost their life partners because of the recent series of events. We know that, unless the House does something effective and the Secretary of State gives us actions instead of words, the situation will inevitably grow worse.

It is good that people should restrain themselves, but let neither the Government nor the House imagine that the restraint of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland in the face of recent tragedies and massacres means that they are not deeply moved and do not feel that adequate action should be taken.

This House has viewed the situation in Northern Ireland in different ways at different times. The House and the Secretary of State are reaping the sowings of the past. Some were the sowings, of course, of the previous Administration. They cannot, Pilate-like, wash their hands and pretend that they do not bear a responsibility. There was a time, as the hon. Member for Antrim, South has said, when the words of any Unionist in this House were brushed aside as not worth the notice of the House.

But now the circle has been completed and the House realises that there is an Irish Republican Army. I remember a time when it was denied in this House. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that the IRA was "a myth invented by the Unionist Party". The IRA has always existed in Northern Ireland. All that was needed was some trouble to give it another latchhold on the community.

The party to which the Prime Minister of the Republic belongs bears a strong and guilty responsibility for the spawning of the Provisional IRA. It is not just I who say that. One has only to read what Neil Blaney said, one of the midwives when the womb of the Fianna Fail Party brought forth the hideous child of the IRA. In the Dail he said that there were people trying to wash their hands of circumstances that they had helped to bring about. So it is no wonder that Mr. Lynch will not give us much help here.

We might appeal to the Dublin Government to sign the Council of Europe convention on terrorism, but they will not do so. I have little hope that the present United Kingdom Government or even a Conservative Government will be prepared to put economic sanctions on the Republic, but one thing that is within the Government's power is to put a tighter seal on the border.

A friend of mine who is a business man needed a large metal part from a Dublin agent for one of his machines that had broken down. When contacted, the Dublic agent said, "We have the part. We will send a man to Dundalk. You send a vehicle there. We shall meet in the car park and pass over this part." That business man went to Dundalk. This is nothing to laugh about. The piece of machinery could have been a weapon of death intended to make more blood flow in Northern Ireland.

My friend arrived at the Dundalk car park, met the agent and took delivery of the piece of machinery. His car was not stopped on its way to the border, at the border or on the way back. Yet it could have gone there to receive a machine gun. The Government can at least do something more to seal off the northern side of the border more effectively. It can be done, it needs to be done and it must be done.

The Secretary of State has told us of the explosives which are coming into the North of Ireland. Although commercial explosives are not being used, no one should minimise the strength of the fire bomb that the IRA has developed. This new type of fire bomb, the size of a fist, when hung on the grille of the La Mon Restaurant threw a sheet of flame 50 feet. Everything that it touched blazed up immediately. Senior police officers and those responsible for the fire authority to whom I have spoken say that, even if a fire engine is standing by, it is almost impossible to put out that type of fire.

Mrs. Knight Can the hon. Gentleman tell the House anything about the proposals for the use of Lexan plastic which would stop the spread of fire from these meat hook bombs by covering windows where there are grilles, or about the use of Macralon in an attempt to make it more difficult to place the bombs, thereby aiding security?

Rev. Ian Paisley

I cannot help the hon. Lady but I know that it would be very difficult and expensive for commercial firms to safeguard their premises against this type of bomb.

The situation is continuing. We feel very deeply about what has happened. There are certain underlying facts and I want to mention one which shows why the people of Northern Ireland feel as they do. Part of the Shankill Road and Upper Shankill adjoins the Falls Road and the Springfield Road. In that area there is a peace line dividing those two interface communities. There have been continual attacks across the Springfield Road and into the Shankill Road area. UDR members have been murdered.

In a school in that area, once well attended, seven classrooms are now never opened. It has 106 pupils where it used to have about 250. It is a State school attended by the Protestant community. There is a determined effort to push the Protestants, especially those with families, completely out of the area. On a Friday recently, members of the IRA walked into that school while it was in operation and planted a bomb. Fortunately, it was a hoax bomb, but it could have been real. That was done to put further pressure on the parents, especially the mothers.

There is now a proposal on the Housing Executive's drawing board that the peace line should be pulled back 150 yards into the Protestant area—that there should be a retreat to that extent. One can pinpoint the progress of the bombings in that area. It is not random bombing; they are not random killings. This is a carefully planned campaign, on an overall policy basis, to reach the final objective of the terrorists.

I was asked to go to that area to meet the representatives of the people and the police. I met them in a community centre in Ainsworth Avenue. The police inspector told me "I have one Land Rover. I don't have a carbine weapon. I have a Sterling sub-machine gun. I have only four men, and I have 30,000 Protestants in my area to look after." I was amazed by that statement and asked that there might be a meeting with the assistant chief constable, Mr. Chesney, who is in charge of the area, members of the UDR and the Army, to see what could be done.

We had a meeting the next day at 9.30 a.m. in the police headquarters in Ladas Drive, Belfast. There were present the assistant chief constable, the inspector who had been at the first meeting, a UDR major and representatives of the Army. The matter was put to Assistant Chief Constable Chesney, and the inspector backed us up. He said "That's right, sir." I turned to the UDR major and asked "Have you men available?" He replied "Yes. I have 50 men available." I asked "Why cannot you assist the police?" The Secretary of State has told us today that the UDR can assist the police. The major said "Are you not aware that my men axe not permitted on the Springfield Road? That is banned territory as far as we are concerned."

As long as that situation continues, we cannot expect even to inspire confidence. UDR men are shot, and that major told me "I have advised my men to leave that district, for they are at great risk." When the ordinary people see the UDR men and members of the security forces leaving such an area they, too, will begin to leave it, and that is what is happening. That is like a microcosm. It is only part of what is happening in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State wrote to me on the issue. His letter was far from helpful, because he had no encouragement to give to the people concerned that any help would be coming to them. This puts fear into the community.

The Secretary of State needs to take several matters into consideration. First, there is the question of manpower. There is no doubt that it would be the ideal if the Ulster people recruited to the police and to the UDR could be the spearhead in the attack on the terrorists. But that cannot be at present, because the UDR is not permitted to operate in the very areas that it needs to operate in, the areas in which the terrorists hide, where they make their bombs, from which they come and to which they return to find sanctuary after they have done their murderous work.

Many comments have been made in the House about the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Many things were said about it in days when it was a despised force. But it should be remembered that it is the only force that has borne the heat of the day against the terrorists.

I was in the home of a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) the other day and heard a child of eight months crying for a father who will never return, two other young children weeping for their daddy and a little boy saying, with tears down his face, "He'll never take me fishing again." When you hear that, Mr. Speaker, you know the extent to which the terrorist problem exists in Northern Ireland and the extent to which it must be faced.

The manpower position is serious. I disagree with the hon. Member for Antrim, South. Because we do not have the armaments in the hands of the police and the UDR, we need in Northern Ireland more troops who have those arms. That is essential. Think of it, Mr. Speaker. There are men in Northern Ireland, policemen and reserve men, going out in cars that might as well be made of papier mâché. IRA weapons can penetrate those vehicles, and then those inside them will be added to the list of those who have fallen prey to the Irish Republican Army.

I wonder why armaments for the RUC have taken so long to be forthcoming. Pleas have been made about the matter in debate after debate. I also wonder why the UDR full-time strength was not brought up more quickly. I think that it was almost a year before any action was taken on pleas from the United Ulster Unionist Bench about the full-time members of the UDR.

Manpower is an essential. We need more troops. I need not remind the Secretary of State that he had plenty of troops available when some of us felt that action needed to be taken. He was able to move many troops into the very centre of my constituency—enough to clean up the IRA in two or three weeks. But after that episode was over they all came out.

The right hon. Gentleman told us today that we might have full-time troops in September. I think that that was the month he gave. What will happen until September? What will happen before these resident troops are available in Northern Ireland? We need manpower now to deal with the enemy who is creating such havoc in our midst.

What about the armaments? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us today that he will have the guns available? We know of the difficulties with the guns, how there were defects in the first batch to be brought in and how they had to be sent away again. We know that whole saga. Why is it that when weapons are needed to fight the IRA the IRA always has better weapons than our men? Our men who are fighting the IRA should have the best weapons. They should be at an advantage, not a disadvantage, as they have been in Northern Ireland.

Then there is the question of the deployment of the troops. The largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland is the Irish Presbysterian Church. I am sure that the Secretary of State has carefully studied its Press release in which is said that it was all very well to make an effort after a serious incident but asked whether the effort could be made to prevent such an incident.

When I interrupted the Secretary of State today he told us that, I think, 43 people had been taken in during the latest round-up. None of them had anything to do with the La Mon massacre. Why were those people not brought in before and dealt with before? Why were they not faced before with the crimes of which they are now accused? Does it take the massacre at La Mon to stir up the Secretary of State and the security forces to do these things? Those are the questions the ordinary man in the street is asking, and he wants answers today. He wants to know what the House will do about the matter.

I return to the deployment of troops. Will they go into the areas that I have described? Is the low profile to be continued or will there be a declaration of war, a declaration that the people concerned will be put down, that they will be hunted down and dealt with?

This House seems to be very lenient with the killers. I have heard it said over and over again that it would not do to have martyrs. Two IRA men died on hunger strike in British gaols. I never hear their names mentioned. I have never heard anything about them since. They are long since forgotten.

But there are martyrs almost daily in Northern Ireland—the innocent. In the term "innocent" I include the police and the soldiers who are doing their lawful tasks. Let no one say that a civilian is innocent but that a boy in khaki is not. He is doing a legitimate task of protecting society and preserving law and order. These are the people who are the martyrs, not those who gun them down.

As I have said, this House does not seem to be so concerned about those who are killed, but it is very concerned about the killers. The Secretary of State cannot get away from the strong majority of feeling in Northern Ireland about capital punishment, even among people who, in an ordinary society, would have conscientious objection to it. But today the feeling is that either the Province survives and these killers are hanged, or these people are not hanged and the Province will not survive. That is the question.

This is a life and death struggle. I believe in the principle Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed. When we depart from Divine law, we sow seeds of anarchy. If anyone should say that what I have quoted is Old Testament, I turn now to the New Testament, to the greatest apostle, St. Paul: …if… I have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die. He evidently believed that to kill a human being deserved the death of the killer.

I hope that there will be no misunderstanding. Let it be emphasised here today that unless the Government move on this issue there will be a loud and increasing cry from all sections of the community. The Secretary of State has often said that the people of Northern Ireland can speak for themselves. Is he prepared to put this issue to a referendum? Is he prepared for the people of Northern Ireland to say "Yes" or "No" on the issue? It seems to many people that the Secretary of State clamps down on every suggestion put by the people of Northern Ireland about these matters.

Can this situation go on? Can Northern Ireland continue on the road that it is on? How long can its people take what they have been forced to take and stomach what they have been forced to stomach? This House should be warned that there is a breaking point, that the people cannot go on taking what they have been taking.

For Northern Ireland this House is the only elected assembly where the voice of the people can be heard. I trust that the voice of the people will be heard and heeded today, for if it is not heard and heeded and action is not taken a far worse situation could arise which could fan flames that this House could never control. The situation is as serious as that, and I trust that today we will hear something from the Government that will show that they will at least rethink the policies which I believe have been destructive and have led to the terrible situation that has arisen in our beloved Province.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

We have known for over a week that this debate was to take place on security in Northern Ireland. I have told those who have questioned me on the subject that I did not believe that it would achieve anything because we can all engage in recriminations about the security situation as it has been in Northern Ireland for so many years. I believe that a debate like this, related to security, to who has the most arms, who has the greatest fire power and who has the greater number of men under arms, will in no way bring to an end the tragedy in the island of Ireland. It is because of the political problem in Ireland that we have the security problem.

If the Government were to swamp Northern Ireland with thousands upon thousands of troops, armed with all sorts of new and sophisticated weaponry, they would still, at the end of the day, when all the killings had taken place, when all the prisoners had gone to prison, when all the graves had been filled, be left with the intractable problem which has been with us so long in Anglo-Irish relations.

Therefore, in discussing the security problem, let us be ever mindful that before that problem can be solved, before the killing can be brought to an end, some attempt must be made to look at the political dilemma which faces us all in relation to the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.

We all remember La Mon House a fortnight ago—that terrible tragedy of the incineration of so many innocent young people. Yet that was only one tragedy. I remember McGurk's Bar in my constituency, where 16 people were killed—the greatest number of deaths in any incident in Northern Ireland. I remember "Bloody Sunday" when 13 people were killed in Derry by the British Army. I remember Dungiven and Coleraine and all the other places where innocent people have lost their lives. I remember the single instances in which only one life has been lost—it could have been that of an old man, an old woman or a young baby in arms.

So it is with a certain amount of emotion that Members from Northern Ireland see the security problem. I say again what I have said so many times in the House. I want to see the border in Ireland abolished. I want to see a 32-county island of Ireland. I may add that I want to see a Socialist Ireland and not a Communist Ireland.

But, having said that, I repeat that I despise every action by the Provisional IRA. I believe that these men have besmirched the name of Irish Republicanism. I do not believe that they can in any way attribute their actions to idealism or patriotism. I believe that their actions in the past and those in which they are engaged today will put back the day that I long for so much, when Ireland will be able to govern itself, living on the most friendly and harmonious terms with the people here in the larger island of Great Britain. I have never believed that in loving Ireland it is necessary to dislike or show any hostility to England. I have the greatest admiration for the peoples of England, Scotland and Wales.

I believe that in a debate such as this we should not merely be looking to more sophisticated weapons and a greater number of deaths among those opposed to us. I listened with fear and trembling to the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), who is the Conservative Party's spokesman on Northern Ireland. I fear the day when he will have anything to do with setting out policy in Northern Ireland. He has advocated here today that we should make representations to our American allies so that they will be able to supply us liberally with the M60, a gun which can fire 550 rounds a minute. What would the hon. Gentleman do with one of those guns—or with two or three of them?

How can such weaponry be used in the circumstances which exist in Northern Ireland? I understand that the IRA used this weapon in the killing of a young British soldier in north Belfast. He could have been killed quite as readily with an ordinary rifle or a revolver. The building up of such weaponry is an indication of the kind of thinking which exists among those who believe that there is a military solution.

I objected from this Bench when the SAS was brought into Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), who was then Prime Minister, voiced the opinion of many people in the House when he took offence at my objection to the SAS coming into Northern Ireland. I still have that objection. I do not believe that peace in Ireland will ever be brought about by military means and the presence of members of the British Army.

But let me say now that I do not listen any longer to criticisms made by the Provisional IRA of members of the SAS because they operate in a covert way and disguise themselves when they are in action. The IRA did exactly the same thing last Friday when its members went into the student rag week parade in Donegal Street disguised as Arabs and then pulled out their weapons and killed a young soldier and a young innocent girl on the streets of my native city. I do not support the activities of the SAS, but much less do I give any credence or support to the IRA when it complains that other people are using the same tactics as it uses.

I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), who advocated that the Government should take economic sanctions or some other form of sanctions against the Government of the Irish Republic in order to pressurise them or force them into taking whatever action he thinks it is possible for them to take to bring to an end the troubles in Northern Ireland. I am not a supporter of the present Irish Government, and I am not a supporter of the Fianna Fail Party, but I resent attempts being made, by people who should know better, to lay all the blame on the people of the Irish Republic and on the Irish Government for what is happening in Northern Ireland.

The best way that I can illustrate my feeling is to ask hon. Members to look at Long Kesh, to look at the Crumlin Road and to look at the prison in Armagh. Of all the people who would call themselves political prisoners, and of all those who have been engaged in IRA and terrorist activities, there are very few who were born in what is now the Republic of Ireland. One could count on one hand those who were born in the Republic of Ireland. Therefore, there is no cross-border attack on the constitution of Northern Ireland. Those who are in prison were born and bred and have lived their lives within the confines of the Six Counties. It is people such as they who are igniting the fuses on the petrol bombs and pulling the triggers on the M60s. It is not being done by anyone from the 26-county Republic of Ireland.

I am fully prepared to accept that the overwhelming majority of the people in the 26 counties want to see a united Ireland. I want to see it myself. But I do not believe that it will ever be brought about by bombing and killing and trying to coerce the majority population of Northern Ireland. I heard the espousals of faith in the security forces made here this afternoon. I find them just a little sickening.

It does not take a very long memory to go back to May 1977. It was not the IRA then which was laying down a challenge to the security forces. It was not the IRA or the Republicans in the minority community in Northern Ireland who were blockading the roads and castigating, with all their vehemence, members of the security forces, including the UDR and the police. No, it was people who were ably led at that time by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and another of his colleagues in Northern Ireland. It was those people who were causing such disruption, standing in open defiance of the will not only of the Government here but of this Parliament.

A bus driver named Bradshaw was shot dead at the wheel of his bus because he was trying to go to his work in defiance of the strikers. He was not shot by Republicans or members of the IRA. They were terrorists, maybe, but certainly not from the Republican side. We have heard the hon. Member for Antrim, North telling us this afternoon that he wants to see the UDR men going into all the Catholic ghettos and kicking the terrorists out of them. The life of the UDR man who gave his life on that occasion was taken not by a Republican or by an IRA terrorist but by a Loyalist.

We heard from the hon. Member for Antrim, North that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sent thousands of troops into Ballymena on that occasion to try to prevent the hon. Gentleman from sealing off the whole town. One night last week on television, I heard the most contradictory statements to which I have ever listened. As the hon. Gentleman was going into the court, with the television cameras fully on him, I heard him say "I am going into this court with an easy conscience. We were not doing anything in a terrorist sense. We were only making a peaceful protest. We were not wrecking anything. We are law-abiding people." Inside the court, however, the hon. Gentleman's defence lawyer told the magistrate that his client had made a deal with the RUC to have himself arrested and so prevent his supporters from tearing the town apart. That was the hon. Gentleman's defence in the court. He actually made a deal with the RUC to have himself arrested so that his supporters, who were engaged in a peaceful protest to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the security situation in Northern Ireland, would not wreck and tear the heart out of Ballymena.

I say to my right hon. Friend—if it is necessary to say it to him—that there are all sorts of terrorists in Northern Ireland. They are not confined to one section of the community.

There are people here who would criticise the party which I lead on the ground that we do not—or allegedly do not—give full support to every single member of the security forces. I think that the reasons which we have advanced in the past should be completely acceptable to any reasonable persons. I do not condemn every single member of the UDR. Many of them are decent, honourable men, trying to do what they can for what they regard as their country. But far too many members of the UDR have been found to be members of subversive organisations while at the same time wearing the uniform of a member of the security forces.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

How many?

Mr. Fitt

One would be far too many. I remember that in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) an illegal platoon of the UDR set out to kill innocent people, the members of the Miami Show Band. It is fortunate that they are now serving terms of imprisonment.

There is one issue on which I find myself totally in agreement with the hon. Member for Antrim, South. Although I said at Stormont on each and every occasion when the matter was brought forward that I opposed the death penalty—I have taken the same view in this place—I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman that, when a person is sentenced to life imprisonment for the taking of another life, it must be actual life imprisonment. There must be no question of political status or the halving of a political sentence. I regard the sanctity of human life to such an extent that any person who wantonly takes another's life should be kept away from society for the remaining years of his or her life. However, in no circumstances shall I support the reintroduction of the death penalty, either in Northern Ireland or in any other part of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South said—I think I have his words correctly—that this country is not without weapons to influence the Government of the Republic to take certain action on the border. I ask him "Such as?" What weapons has the hon. Gentleman in mind when he puts forward that proposition? Is he saying that some form of sanction or other action should be directed against the million Irish people, or those of Irish extraction, living in this country? Many of those people were born in this country. They have committed no offence except that they are either Irish or the children of Irish parents. We have heard it said "Stop the bloodshed".

We have heard it said by the hon. Member for Abingdon that there may be an occasion in future when consideration will be given to the credentials of British and Irish citizenship. I take that as an implied threat. The hon. Gentleman may say that that is not so, but that is how I take it. Apart from those in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, many of those who would be most affected by such a course—those who are living here—take the hon. Gentleman's words as an implied threat. It causes them to think that action will be taken against innocent citizens living in this country if the Government of the Republic do not fall into line with the wishes of a Conservative Government.

I do not believe that that will ever happen. Ordinary decent British people would not tolerate such an attitude. I ask the hon. Gentleman what other things he has in mind. There is the ridiculous proposition put forward by the right hon. Member for Down, South that we should stop the circulation of Irish money in the North of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should not allow Irish currency to flow freely over the border. Again, I do not believe that that is an argument that would hold much sway with those in Ireland. They are quite happy about the use of Irish money. That was evident last Saturday when everyone went to the rugby match. They were quite happy to accept either English or Irish money. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman makes a tenable proposition.

It seems that there is a wish on the part of some to create emotion and to make people feel foreign. That is the whole purpose of the exercise. It is designed to make people feel uneasy, to make them feel that they have no right in their own country. It is wished to make them feel that proposals may be put forward that would exclude them from living the normal everyday life to which they are entitled.

I accept that the hon. Member for Antrim, South did not say "sanctions" but he said that this country is not without weapons and that influence could be used. I hope that the Conservative spokesman or my right hon. Friend will be a little more explicit and will tell the House what he believes to be the thinking behind the hon. Gentleman's observations.

I have already said why there is not 100 per cent. support for the UDR. The same situation existed with the RUC although I now find the RUC to be the most acceptable force in Northern Ireland. I have no hesitation in saying that. I have spoken to many of my constituents and I find that there has been a dramatic change in the way that the force is seen by the Catholic population. That change has taken place since 1969. That is not to say there is full-hearted 100 per cent. acceptance.

There is reason for doubt when the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) can say in court that he made a deal with a senior member of the RUC—I understand that his name is Superintendent James O'Hara, which would lead me to believe that he is not a member of an Orange Lodge—to have himself arrested.

I do not believe that it was necessary to make deals with the hon. Gentleman. He was breaking the law. The magistrate said that it would be unsafe to convict. It may be that the magistrate was frightened of not getting home for his tea that night. The man was breaking the law. Everyone in Northern Ireland believed that he was breaking the law. Such a decision calls into question the impartiality of the courts. That is an even more serious situation.

There was the occasion when many farmers illegally blocked the road at Toome Bridge. Many neutral persons were provoked into taking action against the farmers. They were all taken to court, including the farmers, and the majority were found guilty of an offence. Those who were found guilty of throwing their machines into the River Bann were found guilty. However, those who organised the strike and who were involved from its inception—they organised it, we saw them on television every night and heard them making statements to the Press—left court without conviction. The magistrate said that it would be unsafe to convict.

We have had the UDR and the police and now we have the courts. The impartiality of the courts is being called into question.

Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)

Before the hon. Gentleman casts aspersions on the integrity of the courts, it is as well to consider what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) was charged with. He was charged with obstructing the police in the course of their duty. The court had information which indicated that the hon. Gentleman was co-operating with the police. I ask the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to be careful before he drags the courts into the political arena.

Mr. Fitt

It seems from what the right hon. Gentleman has just said that the hon. Gentleman was charged with the wrong offence. I hope that the people of Northern Ireland take note of that, as the House will have taken note. That is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said—namely, that the hon. Gentleman was charged with the wrong offence. If he had been brought before the court on another charge, it is possible that there would have been a different verdict.

A debate on security in isolation from all the other political factors does not achieve anything. In an intervention, the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) asked whether it had been brought to my right hon. Friend's notice that 2,000 people were at the funeral of a young IRA man who had been shot by the British Army in County Tyrone. It was a valid point to bring to the notice of the House. Who constituted the 2,000? There would be the young man's relatives, his relations and those who lived in the adjoining countryside. There would be those who believe in the ideals that allegedly brought him to his death. That is an important factor.

That should illustrate to my right hon. Friend that there is no simple, easy military solution. The solution does not lie in killing one IRA man or in killing one subversive after another. That much is clear if the death of such a person can arouse great emotion and cause 2,000 to attend a funeral. I am quite certain that not all those people at that funeral believed in violence. They were not all gunmen. They did not believe that one could coerce Northern Ireland into a united Ireland.

But it was very unfair, in human charity to say the least, for the Leader of the official Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, Mr. West, to lay great emphasis on the fact that that young boy who was shot for being a member of the IRA was a nephew of one of the members of my own political party.

No one in Northern Ireland can be responsible for what his nephews or nieces do. No one can be responsible for what his sons or daughters do in the terrible situation of Northern Ireland. I know of many mothers and fathers in Northern Ireland who have been absolutely broken-hearted at finding out that their children were caught up in the web of violence. That applies not only to the Catholic minority or to the Republican population but to the Loyalist population as well. Therefore, it is very unfair for any person to cast aspersions on either the political sincerity of the SDLP or any of its members because one of them happened to be related to a young man who was shot for his beliefs.

This debate tonight will not achieve anything. I know that my right hon. Friend cannot come along to the Dispatch Box and tell us what action he has taken with regard to security, because if he did it would be read in the newspapers and people would know what had been said. Those guilty of such acts would be forewarned and, therefore, forearmed. I believe that, of necessity, security must be kept as secret as possible.

I cannot emphasise too much that there is no military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. A political solution must be found. That will not be easy. It will be very difficult. But it will be less difficult than trying to find a solution brought about by force of arms.

Therefore, while we all deplore the vicious and ruthless atrocities that have taken place—not only over the past fortnight but throughout all the years since the outbreak of violence—I believe that my right hon. Friend must persist. He may not often find members of my party to be the most co-operative people in Northern Ireland, but he must continue to seek to find political answers to political problems rather than rely on weaponry to bring about a military solution.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like you to give a ruling to the House. Is it in order for an hon. Member of the House to challenge the integrity of another hon. Member and to accuse him of being guilty of a crime for which he has been tried in the courts and found not guilty?

I have desisted until this moment. I appeal to you to give a ruling on this matter since it refers to the integrity of every hon. Member of this House. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) saw fit to give a garbled account of proceedings that took place last week and accused me of intimidating the magistrate—who found me not guilty—because he might not get out of his court room.

Mr. John Ellis (Brigg and Scunthorpe)

Sit down.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I shall not sit down for the hon. Gentleman, but I shall sit down for Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

The hon. Gentleman must get accustomed to the fact that certain things are said in this House to which he must listen in peace.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are you ruling that an hon. Member can challenge the integrity of another hon. Member on a matter which can cause that hon. Member to have court proceedings brought against him? Are you saying that it is in order for such an accusation to be made? Is that what I take from your reply?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

That was not what I was trying to say.

6.26 p.m.

Mr. John Carson (Belfast, North)

In participating in this debate I remind the House of the constructive role that my colleagues and I have played and of our resolve to continue to play that role with regard to the dangerous and volatile situation in Northern Ireland. I also make clear that my criticisms of the Government do not stem from any desire to be negative, destructive or to win a few cheap headlines in Northern Ireland.

Unfortunately, the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), who has now left the Chamber, did try to make cheap headlines out of some of the tragedies that have occurred in Northern Ireland over the past few weeks. He has levelled all sorts of criticisms at my colleagues and me with regard to our determination to see security brought into its proper line in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Down, North was only concerned about the tragedy of La Mon. Four people from my constituency died in La Mon and two are still seriously ill in hospital as a result of the cowardly attack by the Provisional IRA. The people of Northern Ireland, rightly so, are asking themselves the question—

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carson

No, I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the hon. Gentleman either give way or shut up?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. If the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) does not give way, the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) must resume his seat.

Mr. Kilfedder

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I hope that it is a point of order.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is it not a convention of the House that if an hon. Member launches an attack on another hon. Member which is totally untrue, he gives way to the person he is attacking? If that convention is not being—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is entirely for the discretion of the hon. Member whether he gives way or not.

Mr. Carson

I should like to continue.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Carson

I shall not give way. The hon. Member for Down, North claims that he is concerned about security in Northern Ireland, but how many meetings has he had with the divisional commander for the area of North Down? How many times has he met the Secretary of State over the past 12 months to discuss security in Northern Ireland? How many times has he availed himself of the opportunity of meeting people in his constituency to talk about the deteriorating situation in Northern Ireland? How many times has he taken the trouble to visit the UDR, which operates freely in North Down? Indeed, the very day that the La Mon tragedy took place the UDR was operating quite freely in the North Down area.

Many people are asking what party the hon. Member for Down, North represents. The Home Secretary has rightly said that the hon. Gentleman should fully understand this because he was born and bred in the Republic of Ireland. Indeed, he is a member—

Mr. Kilfedder


Mr. Carson

—of the Fianna Gael Party.

Mr. Kilfedder

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This person—this hon. Gentleman—is continuing to make unfounded allegations against me. I demand that he gives way. I demand that he repeats those allegations outside this House so that I can take action against him. Otherwise he should shut up.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It may well be that if the hon. Gentleman wishes he will catch the eye of an occupant of the Chair in due course.

Mr. Kilfedder

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I call upon the hon. Gentleman to promise to repeat his allegations outside this House so that I can take action against him.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

What happens outside the House has nothing to do with the Chair.

Mr. Carson

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has been known to be a member of the Fianna Gael Party in the Republic and I have never yet read in any Hansard or any other record of his resigning from that party. The people of Northern Ireland are asking what party he represents. He claims that he belongs to the Unionist Party at Westminster, but at the moment he is not interested in this debate or in the welfare of the people of Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Down, North once represented West Belfast and was rejected by the people of Armagh. If he had seen some of the tragedies that have taken place in my constituency and in the constituencies of my hon. Friends, perhaps he would have been more concerned over the years in making repeated requests for debates and in seeing Ministers, chiefs of police and Army chiefs about security in Northern Ireland.

I am sure that none of us has any desire to make the position of the Secretary of State more difficult. In some areas in Northern Ireland the Secretary of State is called "Stone Mason" and "Bloody Mason". The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman's appointment and some people have been calling for him to go. I am not among them. I am satisfied that we have a good Secretary of State representing this House and the Government who dictate security policy for Northern Ireland.

Although I am not satisfied with security and I intend to level criticisms at the Government about certain aspects of security, I want to make clear that I am not levelling any criticism against the Secretary of State. I am sure that he understands that it is an essential part of our duty to advise him of the feelings and attitudes of those who send us here. I am sure the House will understand that, at this time, their feelings are great anger, frustration and dismay.

Only a few months ago, the people of Northern Ireland were being told that terrorism was on the run and that the war was almost over. Whether official statements reflected the real situation which existed at the turn of the year—and I believe they did not—circumstances have clearly changed. There is now a growing belief in Northern Ireland that events have turned full circle and we now stand poised for a resurgence of IRA violence and agitation.

The murders at La Mon and of civilians and members of the security forces are indicative of the IRA's intention and ability to intensify its armed rebellion against the people of Northern Ireland.

On behalf of myself and my colleagues, I should like to offer my sympathy and condolences to the families of the three young soldiers and the young civilian searcher who have lost their lives so tragically over the past five or six days as a result of brutal and cowardly attacks by the Provisional IRA.

There can be no doubt that the IRA has drawn comfort and encouragement from the Government of the Irish Republic. In the eyes of all decent people in Northern Ireland, Jack Lynch stands condemned alongside the Provisional IRA. His talk of British withdrawal from Ulster has refuelled the fires of violent republicanism in recent weeks. It must be said that he is not without blame for the bloodshed we have witnessed.

There has been talk recently about people who have been involved in politics coming on to the streets again. I should like an assurance from the Secretary of State today that he will not permit a return to street politics in Northern Ireland and the sort of agitation and political subversion which, in 1968 and 1969, paved the way for the present terrorist campaign. Will he assure the House that, whatever pressure is placed upon him in the weeks and months to come, he will not abdicate his authority to enforce the law and protect the people in Northern Ireland? In particular, will he reaffirm his support for and faith in the security forces in their struggle against the terrorists? In the process, will he make it clear that, in no circumstances, will political considerations be permitted to impede the security forces in their pursuit of total victory over those engaged in this rebellion?

In the case of my constituency, I am anxious that the Secretary of State should avail himself of an early opportunity to demonstrate this resolution and make urgent changes in the present security arrangements. In particular, I wish to see the UDR introduced to all areas in North Belfast. We have been assured by Ministers that there is no area in which the UDR cannot go. In my constituency there are many areas in which the UDR is not permitted, as part of the British Army, to carry out its duties.

The Secretary of State has also said that those areas not open to the UDR are being patrolled by members of the Army. But the Army is not patrolling these areas in North Belfast either in strength. We have repeatedly met Army commanders and they have said that in the whole of North Belfast and its 17 interface areas they have not the men to patrol the streets as they would like. In some instances, I have seen, in areas which are very hostile towards the security forces, only three soldiers patrolling the streets at night. The commander has told us that he does not have the men to carry out the duties that he would like to be carried out.

The Secretary of State has paid tribute to the UDR and spoken of its excellent work in Northern Ireland. Surely the UDR can carry out this work in the whole of North Belfast and in the other areas where the UDR is not allowed to serve at present.

There is another matter affecting the UDR which is causing me concern. The 10th Battalion UDR in my constituency is under tremendous pressure. Some hon. Members may not appreciate the pressures on UDR men, not only in their places of employment, but at home. When there is a knock on the door, they have to be careful how they open it and they have to protect their families and children.

Recently, the SIB has been taking members of the 10th Battalion to Lisburn and subjecting them to intense interrogation for six or seven hours without allowing them even a drink of water. I hope that the Secretary of State will investigate what is going on and will write to me to explain why members of the UDR who, after a hard day at work and having had time to grab only a quick meal before reporting to their unit, are being put through this intensive interrogation at Lisburn.

I should like to mention the RUC. I have mentioned the RUC repeatedly in the House before. The Minister has said that there are certain matters that we cannot discuss for security reasons. We represent the people of Northern Ireland and we are entitled to know what is happening about the supply of equipment and weapons to the RUC.

Very often, even by written request, when we ask the Minister with responsibility for the police for information, he just waves his hands and says "I cannot tell you." We are entitled, representing policemen, UDR men and large constituencies in Northern Ireland, to know what is happening about the equipment of the RUC. We have been told today by the Secretary of State that vehicles are being supplied to the RUC and that it has sufficient weapons, But that is not the story of the men on the ground. I am one of those politicians who spend a lot of time on the ground. I know my constituents and I know every street and road. I make it my business to talk not only to the chief constable but to the constable in the street, who has to live 24 hours a day with the threat of the terrorist hanging over his head.

If the proper vehicles had been provided for the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross), the young constable Simpson might not have been dead today. Londonderry is vulnerable to terrorist attack. It has come under constant attack from the IRA. Yet young policemen going around that area with insufficient vehicles, in the face of the IRA, are being mown down.

The Minister may say that it is the fault of the makers. Let me tell the Minister that when this great country of ours, Britain, of which I am proud to be a part, was at war with Germany, whenever the arms and aircraft were needed to fight Germany it did not say "Stop the war. We have not got the equipment." We have a war in Northern Ireland, and it is time that the Government pulled out the stops and put the pressure on the people to supply vehicles and weapons to the RUC and thus save the lives of men who are so devoutly standing day after day and night after night trying to protect the people of Northern Ireland.

I should like to remind the Minister that whenever any full-time members of the UDR were brought in they were not supplied with additional vehicles either. Out of one company with 31 vehicles, quite recently only 19 vehicles were allowed to go out on the road one night because there were no additional vehicles. If the Government and the House want peace—I know that hon. Members representing Northern Ireland long for peace—we must supply the necessary weapons and the vehicles. If the police are playing the main role supported by the Army, they should be given the vehicles and the equipment that they need. The UDR in many areas is a back-up force for the RUC. The Minister should give it the additional vehicles needed to carry out its duties.

My hon. Friends are longing to speak. There is much more that they can say about the security situation. These are matters that I feel about. I am moved as I go round my constituency. Perhaps no constituency in Northern Ireland has suffered more than mine. I have led deputation after deputation, as the Minister knows full well, about the situation in Northern Ireland. I have sat in divisional commanders' offices. I have met the Chief Constable. I am concerned about the lives that are being lost. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has mentioned the cries of a little boy for his daddy over the La Mon tragedy. I visited the home in my constituency of a little girl of three years of age with golden locks down to her shoulders. For two days she had not even spoken. When I went to the house she was biting her hand. She broke down and cried. She said "When is my mummy coming home?" That is only one incident.

In nine years I have visited many homes. I have seen children crying for mothers and for fathers. I have seen wives crying for husbands and mothers crying for sons. At this late hour I appeal to the Government to assist the forces of law and order, even to give new legislative powers to the forces who are prepared to enforce law and order, so that very soon the people who are perpetrating the violence, the Provisional IRA, will be dealt with in a speedy way.

An appeal has been made by the Secretary of State from the Dispatch Box on more than one occasion for restraint from retaliation. But we have the right to demand that terrorism also must be not only restrained but eliminated. I echo the words of the Secretary of State when he said today "for us there can be no acceptable level of violence."

6.46 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) has achieved one result in the Chamber this afternoon. He has driven out what few Members were in it, and that is a shame. It is a shame also that he should have besmirched his speech—whoever pepared it is equally responsible—and besmirched the whole subject of security with a shameful personal attack on myself that is totally without foundation.

The hon. Member has said, on behalf of his Powell group of six Unionist MPs and it has often been repeated in debates on security in the years gone by, that it is not their desire to make more difficult the position of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I condemn that kind of remark which condemns the Ulster people to the sort of horror and agony which they have been suffering for nine long years.

We have heard talk by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) of castle Catholics. I think that we have here today pliant Protestants who prostitute themselves to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and this Labour Government. It has not gone without notice that the hon. Member who made that personal attack on myself, who has been a scourge on the Government, has received the honour of High Sheriff of Belfast from the hands of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. This is one of the honours which has gone to that group for distorting the voice of the Ulster people in this Chamber.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Member make it clear to the House that he is a member of the same official Unionist Party as the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) and that the founding father of Northern Ireland, Lord Carson, was born and educated in the South of Ireland? The remark that he made was first made by a nationalist inside the privilege of Stormont. Will he invite the hon. Member to repeat those remarks outside the House?

Mr. Kilfedder

I am grateful for what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has said. He has stated, as is the case, that one of Ulster's great sons, Edward Carson, was born in the South of Ireland. I had not heard it suggested until this moment that it was a crime for a Protestant to come from the South.

That is the narrow parochial attitude of the hon. Member and his colleagues. Of course, in their constituency work they get into a fervour about the Irish Republic and the Tricolour. Yet the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), who can go to the Eire Embassy in London and fill his belly full of alcohol, can go to his constituency and say how strongly he feels against the Irish Republic. Indeed, the hon. Member—he has not denied this—travelled to this House from the Eire Embassy in an Eire Embassy limousine with the Tricolour flying in front.

The matter does not stop there. When I have attacked the Government and their predecessors for failing to protect life and limb in Northern Ireland, what has happened? The Powell group of six behind me—this is borne out by other hon. Members—have attacked me and cheered on the Ministers whom I was attacking in the name of the people of Northern Ireland.

What happened in the debate on security last summer? The Powell group of six Unionist MPs put down a motion which I ridiculed. That was because I felt that a deal had been done—it was not denied by the Government spokesman—between the group of six and the Government to put down so weak a motion on security that the Government would accept it. The Minister of State smiled when I made that accusation. It was not challenged or denied.

The group of six hon. Members behind me, who exude the feeling of being good people, were saying as I was speaking—of course, they did not speak loud enough for Mr. Speaker to hear—"bastard". They cannot deny it. The hon. Members for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) and Armagh went further than that. Indeed, the hon. Member for Belfast, South punched me in the chest in the Members' Lobby immediately afterwards.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)

Order. What happened outside the Chamber is not a matter for the Chair. But, whatever was said, the expression was not in good parliamentary taste and it should not be repeated.

Mr. Kilfedder

The Chairman—

Mr. McCusker

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to state that that remark was not made by either me or my colleague the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford).

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I hope that the matter can now be left.

Mr. Kilfedder

That remark can be vouched for by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). Indeed, the Chief Whip of the Liberal Party was so incensed that he complained to the leader of the Powell group of six. I finish this nasty little episode now, but I shall deal with it in some detail before and during the General Election. Therefore, let them be warned.

After the La Mon House massacre, I came to this House to seek an emergency debate on the horror of what had happened when those people were burned alive and cruelly inflicted with injuries I wanted to debate that atrocity and security in Northern Ireland.

What did the Powell group of six Unionist MPs say to the Press? The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that they did not agree with an emergency debate on the La Mon House massacre in the circumstances. I was demanding a debate in the names of the Ulster people and expressing their anguish and cry for such a debate. Yet the Powell group of six did not want a debate and would not support my motion. They retrain silent, even as I say this now.

The Powell group of six, in collusion with the Government, have managed to get a debate on security in Northern Ireland on a Monday together with other Northern Ireland business. A complete day is being devoted to Northern Ireland business. As a result, there are not many Members present. As I said earlier, at most there were 20 Members apart from Northern Ireland Members, except at the very beginning when the Secretary of State made his opening speech.

The Ulster people were led to believe that this would be a great debate and that the walls of this Chamber would reverberate with their cry for law and order and action. In a sense, I am glad that they are not here to see the empty Benches and to listen to that nasty attack on me by that nasty man the hon. Member for Belfast, North.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman—indeed, all right hon. and hon. Members—whatever provocation may have been offered, must keep away from personalities.

Mr. Kilfedder

I shall leave that matter for the time being, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves his tirade, I should like to put one matter right for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Unfortunately he is not here, or he would put it right. The right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) was not made High Sheriff by the Secretary of State. I should have thought that his appointment was made by his colleagues on the Belfast Council.

Mr. Kilfedder

If the Minister of State looks into the matter he will find that the appointment falls within the control of the Secretary of State. The Belfast Council may make a recommendation, but the appointment comes from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

It is sad that I have to begin my speech today by replying to the unwarranted attack made upon me by the Powell group of six. This morning, before leaving for the airport, I called at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald, to see the victims of the La Mon House atrocity. Whoever wrote the speech for the hon. Member for Belfast, North wishes perhaps to destroy those who would try to expose what the Powell group of six are doing in the names, but not at the wish, of the Ulster people. I have been round my constituency and outside it. I know what is going on. Indeed, my cousin and his wife were the victims of a bomb attack near the border a few years ago. He had a remarkable escape, but she was killed by the IRA. She was killed because she happened to share the same name as myself. I did not expect, nor did I receive any sympathy from the group of six MPs behind me.

This morning I went again to the Ulster Hospital. I wish that Members could see those shattered young men and women. Some are terribly burned and are often in agony. Others have lost dear ones in that bomb outrage. If all hon. Members—in particular members of the Government—could see and speak to those people, they might have a better appreciation of the horror that the Government and their predecessors have allowed to exist for far too long. The message that I carry from those victims to this Government and this nation is simple and clear. It is "Destroy the Provisional IRA or shut up."

The people of Northern Ireland and I have had enough of successive Governments making nauseating statements, adopting nauseating postures of sympathy and engaging in a semblance of activity. That is of no use to those who have died and to those who have been mutilated. It is no protection to those who tonight and every night face death. The IRA must be destroyed.

Since 1969 the House has been repeatedly told that the actions of the security forces are dependent on the level of violence. At the weekend I received from a constituent a letter which had been sent to him on behalf of Lord Donaldson, who at the time was Minister of State. The letter, which is dated 20th May 1976, contains this simple statement: The Secretary of State has explained to Parliament on a number of occasions that the activities of the security forces have continued to be related to the level of violence at any particular time and in any particular area. The then Secretary of State, the present Home Secretary, like the hon. Member for Belfast, North and his colleagues, are good at smears but poor at action.

The application of that principle—I should describe it as a betrayal of law- abiding people—means that the Army generally plays a basically defensive role on the instructions of the Government. It generally waits for something to happen and then responds to the incident or atrocity, as it did to the La Mon House slaughter, the shooting of the soldier and the murder of the civilian searcher at the street barrier in Belfast on Friday. There was one notable exception to that inactivity and the failure to root out and destroy. That was when the SAS shot dead a Provisional IRA terrorist in the Ardboe area recently.

I do not know whether it is true, but I have been told, and I fear, that an inquiry has already begun on the instructions of the Government. But what happens when the terrorists are given a taste of the terror that they mete out at random on innocent people? First, the Provisional IRA described the shooting as "murder" and said that the SAS patrol could have arrested the dead man because he raised his hands in the air to show that he was giving himself up. Imagine that. I do not accept the allegation that he had raised his hands in surrender. Imagine an IRA man holding his hands in the air when caught red-handed with bombs with which to destroy and kill. The Provisional IRA men gave none of the victims at La Mon House the opportunity of raising his hands in surrender or to avoid death or injury. Nor was that opportunity given to the young soldier or the woman civilian searcher who was shot dead in Belfast on Friday. They did not tell them to raise their hands or be shot.

No. Cruelly, cowardly and fiendishly they went about as students throwing flour until they were beside them and shot them dead. Does that warrant the sort of policy that this Government have been pursuing for so long? Does that warrant their waiting to react to violence and to the level of violence? I would say "No".

Rev. Ian Paisley

The reason why Miss Spence was shot was that she put herself before another member of the security forces. She was shot because she sought to shield a young British soldier from death.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am grateful for the hon. Member's intervention, because it proves what the Ulster people have to put up with. The Provisional IRA men want to play at war and be live heroes. They do not want to be dead heroes. That is the message that I received from that incident. They want to kill and mutilate, but they do not want to be killed and mutilated in return. That is why there is an absolute necessity to introduce the death penalty to bring this terror to an end. It is the only way that it can be brought to an end. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Antrim, North for his shout of agreement, but I do not hear much response from the group of six.

Immediately after that shooting, Mr. Austin Currie, the Chief Whip of the SDLP, said that human life was still sacred in Northern Ireland and he wanted an inquiry. Who is to conduct an inquiry on behalf of those who have been slaughtered and tortured? Human life will be respected only when the reality of death is applied to the persons of the Provisional IRA who murder.

The troops in Northern Ireland have a tough and difficult role to perform. They have shown remarkable courage and restraint. Several hundred soldiers have been murdered on duty in what the former Home Secretary described as the war against the IRA. But it is a strange, one-sided war in which the only people who are fighting all out are the Provisional IRA—the enemy. I do not know whether there would have been less loss of soldiers' lives if there had been more decisive political direction of the security forces. I think so. But I am convinced that fewer civilians would have been murdered and far less destruction and mutilation caused if the Army had been allowed to root out and destroy the Provisional IRA rather than simply reacting to violence.

We need more Regular troops in Northern Ireland. There are about 13.500 troops in the Province at present. However, I dispute whether even half of them are actively involved in anti-terrorist activities at any one time. We need more troops. Here I disagree with the hon. Member for Antrim, South, who was reported by a Lobby correspondent shortly after the La Mon House atrocity as saying that he and his six Unionist colleagues did not want any more military activity in Northern Ireland. He went on to deny the need for more Regular troops in the Province. I say that that is the wrong attitude. It is a foolish attitude which will result in more people dying in Northern Ireland.

In my opinion, the Regular troops should be operating in Ulster in such strength that they can swamp and smother every area from which the gunmen and bombers operate. That is the only way to stop them. The Government make all sorts of excuses for not doing this. But we have had nine years of terror which has cost the lives of over 1,800 civilians, soldiers and policemen—the equivalent of 63,000 dead in Great Britain. More troops are needed in the Province to protect life and limb by putting maximum restrictions on the movement of terrorists. The Government are frightened of what world opinion would be if the troops went all out against the IRA.

What a difference there would be if the IRA were operating, slaughtering and bombing shops, factories, homes, men and women and schoolchildren in any part of England—for example, in the Secretary of State's constituency. If that had been going on systematically, not for nine years but for nine weeks, we should have more of those Draconian measures that the former Home Secretary who is now in the EEC introduced to protect England and to send to Northern Ireland persons thought to be associated with terrorist organisations.

Some of the increased number of Regular troops would have to be made up from specialist units. We are told that the SAS has had success in South Armagh and in Republican areas on the west shore of Lough Neagh. We are told that these soldiers operate in and out of uniform. Is it not time that the Ulster Defence Regiment also operated in and out of uniform and had specially trained units able to strike back at the enemy in the same way as the SAS? The UDR could find out information which would put these men behind bars. The great advantage of the UDR is that it is made up of locally recruited men and women. They know the area.

I do not want to hear any more of these nauseating statements that we have heard from Government spokesmen and others to the effect that, although Northern Ireland is a financial drain on the United Kingdom, the Government are still prepared to bear that burden. The real burden is being borne by the decent, law-abiding people of Ulster They are paying the price in blood, tears and anguish. No amount of money and compensation can substitute for that. There are millions of pounds spent on compensation for factories and shops which have been destroyed by the IRA. All this talk about the enforcement of law and order is a sad mockery when the Government are not prepared to take the necessary measures to root out and destroy the Provisional IRA.

For nine years the terrorists have defeated this Government and their predecessors. For nine years the law-abiding Ulster people have been deprived of their human and civil rights. Unless the Government crush the Provisional IRA terrorists, they will burn and destroy all the houses, factories, hotels, shops, houses and all the other buildings in Northern Ireland.

What is the score today? There have been 1,800 lives lost and 10 times that number injured, most of them badly mutilated. What is the cost? It is about £200 million to £250 million. Enough money has been paid out in compensation to have transformed the entire social life of the Ulster people. If that £250 million could have been utilised for the good of the Ulster people, it could have ensured a decent home for every family, particularly for the young people who are desperately in need of homes and who have to join a long housing waiting list. The money could have provided desperately needed jobs. We have twice the national average rate of unemployment. The money that has been paid out could have guaranteed a better future for the next generation.

What do the Government do in the face of a terrorism which is more evil than that experienced in any other part of the world? This is a terrorism which wages war against innocent, defenceless men, women and children, killing them without compassion, attacking school buses and the car in which a father was asking his two children to school. This is a terrorism which destroys property in Northern Ireland, thereby creating unemployment. It is a terrorism which bombs places of entertainment and recreation frequented by ordinary Ulstermen and women.

The supine attitude of the Government has engulfed the innocent people of Northern Ireland in a torrent of blood. I indict the Government in the name of the Ulster people. The Dublin Government brought half a dozen cases of alleged torture to the International Court. Tens of thousands of pounds were paid to so-called victims who today walk the streets with their families and lead normal lives. But who will charge the Provisional IRA with torture, with the ghastly burning of the victims of the La Mon House restaurant massacre? Who will charge the Provisional IRA with all the other mutilations, agonies and deaths from which Northern Ireland has suffered in nine long and bitter years?

Will the Dublin Government bring those Irishmen who have tortured and maimed innocent Ulster people before the International Court? Or is that accepted by Dublin as a good political offence for which there is no extradition? What goes on behind the scenes while all this slaughter and misery takes place in Ulster? Mr. Ford, the chief political adviser to the Secretary of State, makes his customary visits to Dublin. What does he talk about? I do not know. The House does not know and neither do the Ulster people. It seems that he talks about things which are not acceptable to the Ulster people. What he ought to talk about to the Dublin Government is the need for army-to-army co-operation, not just police co-operation. That is essential if we are to defeat the terrorists in the border areas, particularly in South Armagh.

The Government could have forced the Eire Government by now into signing the European agreement concerning the extradition of terrorists. Apart from Malta, Eire is the only country which, in refusing to sign the agreement, has shown itself prepared to harbour terrorists. I understand that one of the murderers of my cousin's wife is now in a safe sanctuary in the Republic. That unfortunate mother of a family was murdered. Her murderer is in the South. She was not involved with politics, and she got on well with her neighbours of all religions. Yet she was destroyed. The Irish Government have said emphatically that the murderers cannot be extradited from Southern Ireland because it is a political offence.

I say to the Government and I say to the Irish Republic that, if they allow the violence and the horror in Northern Ireland to continue beyond this year, they will stand condemned. The Government will have failed to defend the Ulster people. They will have lied to the Ulster people and their time will have run out. The Ulster people have suffered so much that they cannot take any more.

I would have thought—since the United Kingdom is a member of NATO, and since NATO is supposed to exist to resist attack from Russia and other Communist countries—that NATO would realise that it must not simply defend the front or the sides of its house but must watch what is going on at its back door. NATO ought to heed the bloody conflict that is taking place in Northern Ireland. The House can rest assured that the Soviet Union has not left Northern Ireland out of its reckoning. It makes use of every troubled part of the world. We have seen how the Soviet Union has acted, directly and indirectly, in Angola and the Horn of Africa. It seems that NATO is blind to what is happening at its back door. If Ulster falls, it might be too late for NATO to think about protecting its back door. The Government should force NATO to recognise that the United Kingdom has to wipe the terrorists off the face of Northern Ireland.

I am sorry to have taken so long. I had not intended to speak at such length. Unfortunately, the cacophony at the beginning of my speech warranted a reply. It was short compared with what I will give later. I wish to say that I deny what has been said by the hon. Member for Belfast, North. No matter what he and his colleagues say, they will get their message and their reckoning in a time that is not far off.

7.19 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

I shall not enter into the argument between the hon. Members for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). They can work that difference out to their own satisfaction. However, I was naturally intrigued by the reference to the gang of six—one for each county, apparently, and two better than the Chinese.

This is a very important debate on a very serious subject. As was demon- Member for Down, North, for Belfast, North and for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), it is a subject that touches upon raw nerves and strong emotions. The situation is not made easier by the fact that the community in Northern Ireland is very small and so many of those who have been killed or maimed have been known to their Members of Parliament.

If the policy outlined in the speeches of some Northern Ireland Members, and, indeed, in the speeches of some Tory Members, were to be followed, we should intensify and worsen the problem. What is meant when it is suggested that more deliberate, more purposeful, more force-full policies should be pursued and that the enemy should be rooted out, destroyed and smothered on every acre? Does that mean that we are to adopt a policy of punishing—of smothering—whole communities for the actions of individuals, a policy of creating a pool in which terrorists can again swim? Is that what is meant by intensification of effort? Is that the policy which is wanted?

If that is the policy which is wanted, it will not root out and destroy the enemy. It will gain for him sympathy and support and enable him to swim again. However, it is the policy which has been advocated in some of the speeches we have heard. It is an understandable reaction to the horror that took place in Belfast a fortnight or so ago.

I do not believe that that is the right policy. I do not believe that it is right to talk about security as though it were a concept isolated upon the shelf, as it were, to be taken down rather like a book with the comment "This situation demands an intensification of security." Security is not like that. It is only part of the overall picture, a part which immediately comes to mind on the occurrence of another shooting, another killing or another massacre.

There is another part of the picture. I refer to the economic and social structure in which the atrocities occur. There is the political situation. There are the institutions which exist or do not exist.

We must try to view this problem not merely in terms of an immediate response to a challenge, important though that is, but in terms of trying to reach a solution which will commend itself to all those involved. I do not believe that all those flooded with soldiers, more and more people in prison and an intensification and rooting out and destroying of the enemy. That policy alone will not bring the peace we all desire.

Another policy—the one the Secretary of State has been following—is that of using the police and the Army, of using careful police methods, the painful, time-consuming, laborious task of bringing people to justice in the courts. That policy cannot excite sympathy in people wanting immediate action. It does not bring immediate results, with one massacre and 12 people hanging from lamp posts, for example, as a sort of lynch law. However, it is the policy which must be followed and sustained because it depends upon the rule of law. It is a policy concerned to prevent there ever being an opportunity for sympathy to be felt for those put on trial and convicted of the terrible crimes that are perpetrated in Northern Ireland.

Hon. Members know where I stand on general questions relating to Northern Ireland. I doubt whether I have had one letter complaining about those who are at present in Long Kesh claiming alleged political status. A number of people have tried to raise the issue in various ways, but I have not received one letter from anyone in the Six Counties who is concerned about the general situation there. When we were following a policy of internment, when we had a more robust, more purposeful, a "root out and destroy" type of policy, my mail bags were full of complaints that people were wrongly interned and were being ill treated. I have had sufficient experience in these matters over the years to know that if such a complaint is not being made, there is not much sympathy from whatever community for those so held.

If we were to start on a policy of intensification of security measures, if we were to return to the high profile, the mass searches, the destruction of property, the tearing up of floor boards, the breaking of statues, the pulling out of fireplaces, requiring people to sign a slip of paper stating that they have no complaints, the important gains which have been made—for instance, the respect which the Royal Ulster Constabulary is now gaining and about which the hon. Member for Belfast, West has spoken—could quickly be lost. Despite the deeply felt emotions, hon. Members should consider carefully whether some of the policies they advocate should be implemented.

There are other matters—the armies of the UDR, the armies of the RUC and so on—on which we can all agree. The police force must be properly armed and protected. I am not convinced that matching arm with arm will necessarily do the job. For example, if high-velocity machine guns were issued, it is probable that they would not be used because of the danger that one slip on the trigger in a crowded area could result in terrible tragedy. One must be sensible in seeking a solution.

If, however, it be wrong to think in terms of just a policy for security—as I say, I believe it to be more than that—one must pay proper attention to and give support to what the Government have sought to achieve in economic policy, in their efforts to maintain the shaky financial foundations of the Province and to bring more industry there.

However, there are some ways in which I believe that the whole picture has not been helped. If I may put it in this way, I believe that there has been a policy of drift.

When direct rule was imposed, it was to be seen as a policy of holding the balance among all the interests in the community. That, I believe, was the Government's intention. However, what has happened—I think that this has a bearing on the security issue—has been a drift in Government policy, part accidental, part perhaps deliberate, but nevertheless a drift.

For example, we have had Mr. Speaker's conference on electoral change and increased representation in Northern Ireland bringing out its recommendation. That report will come before the House and it will inevitably be passed, making a fundamental change in the constitutional position as established in 1920, without any real debate on the issues involved. It is part of the drift towards integration which some hon. Members opposite want.

We have had speeches from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches with talk about giving more power back to local government now that they cannot get a devolved Government. Again, this is part of the drift towards integration. My fear is that, if we get another hung Parliament or another dangerous situation, local government will be dangled before the Ulster Unionists as another little bait at which they can nibble, as something which they deserve, as was done with the extra seats in the Six Counties.

There is this shift into integration, a drift by the Government basing their decisions on what is happening in Britain and not on what is good for Northern Ireland. This is a bad policy, a policy which has not been thought out, because it may well be that the casualties of policies in Britain are the people in Northern Ireland. We had that when the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) called his General Election and the power-sharing Executive failed. We had it when my right hon. Friend dangled the bait of talks on increased representation in April when this Government were tottering. Shall we have it again over local government?

I am the first Member representing an English constituency to speak in this debate. My fear is that, if we have a policy of drift continuing, if we have integration, if we have security not being seen in its whole political and economic context, there will be more people with sons serving in Northern Ireland coming to my surgery and asking "What are they doing there? Everybody in the club says that we should have no part in it".

It is a difficult job—in my case, perhaps especially difficult—to persuade people that while the Six Counties are part of the United Kingdom, our fellow citizens there are entitles to the protection of the British Army. It is difficult to explain that to them, and it is difficult also to explain why, if that be the case, the wishes of this Parliament are sometimes not observed by the majority in Northern Ireland.

If security is to be seen in its whole context, there is a need also in the political context for magnanimity and concession from the majority in the Six Counties if we are to create a situation in which terrorists will get no succour, whether from the Loyalist or the nationalist community, and in which the men who represent local parties in the Six Counties can recognise the dignity, the rights and the claims of one another for a sharing and a concern in the Government—a devolved Government, not a sovereign Government.

That is the real question which we should have been debating tonight. It is sad that the only opportunity which we can so often have of talking about political developments rather than specific items appearing on the Order Paper comes when there is a massacre such as that at La Mon House, with British troops being shot and killed and families, from whatever side of the political divide they may happen to come, being bereaved, with guns shooting out over open graves and with widows and children left in suffering and misery.

7.35 p.m.

Mr. McCusker (Armagh)

When the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) said that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) had emptied the Chamber, I echoed his regret until I heard the outpouring of hate and abuse and misrepresentation in which the hon. Member then indulged. I am sorry that I have to extend the matter somewhat because I wish to enter a denial and put on record the truth in reply to the allegations which he made. I extend to the hon. Member the same invitation as he extended to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North, if he cares to take it up.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) is here, because he has been able to assure me that at no time did he tell the hon. Member for Down, North that I hurled such a term as was alleged from the Benches or in a Lobby at the hon. Member. I have stated that before, and I state it again now.

I wish also to rebut the allegation which the hon. Member for Down, North made and which was carried in the journal of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that I had been taken between this building and the Irish Embassy in an official car bearing the Irish Tricolour. In fact, I have never been so carried.

Mr. John Ellis

Does it matter?

Mr. McCusker

Unfortunately, these things do matter in Northern Ireland. They must not be allowed to go unchecked and not denied. I am putting the record straight now, and I put that side by side with the other allegation which was made.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North is a fair man. His journal carried a copy of a letter which his party sent to me in July or August of last year, and in that letter allegations were made against me. I replied very plainly to it and clearly set out the position. I do not believe that my reply was ever published, although the original letter was published. I ask the hon. Member for Antrim, North to ensure fair play by now printing my letter in order to put the record straight.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The allegation was carried in the Fortnight magazine and it was quoted in a letter—I did not see the letter—and if the hon. Member wants his letter to be printed, that will certainly be done if he gives me a copy.

Mr. McCusker

The letter was sent to the chairman of the County Armagh Democratic Unionist Party, and as he had the original letter I hope that he will be able to give the hon. Member a copy and ensure that the reply is printed.

I do not deny that I visited the Irish Embassay or had dealings with the Irish Embassy. That is how I deal with a foreign Government. When I have constituency problems involving the payment of monetary compensatory amounts or the difficulties which food producers and growers have in their trade with the Irish Republic, I go to the Irish Embassy and sort out those problems there, as I should go to the embassy of any other foreign country. That is how I do my business, and I am not ashamed of it. I tell my constituents in County Armagh who have repeated that allegation that that was the sole purpose of most of my visits, although I do not deny that I have also attended one social occasion there.

I hope that what I have said will set the record straight and end what has been an unfortunate interlude in the debate which, as the hon. Member for Down, North said—I accept this from him—may well be out of touch with the reality of the La Mon disaster.

In the years 1975 and 1976 over 50 of my constituents were murdered, and murdered in the most ferocious and horrible circumstances. If I had not tried to exercise some restraint and make a positive contribution in debates here, which, I hope, led to an improvement in the security tactics in Armagh, we might not have had the relatively changed situation that we now have there. Emotional outbursts and attacks on fellow Unionists, despite the provocation, will not improve that situation.

On reflection, with his experience, background and education, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concede that he should have known better than to react as he has done tonight to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North. My hon. Friend emphasised that he was speaking personally. In some things that he said he could have been representing my views, and in others he was not.

Mr. Kilfedder

I deprecate this matter, which was brought into the debate by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). I am prepared to accept what the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) said about the Eire Embassy. As I said, I was repeating what was stated in a paper. I accept what he says. I do not wish this ugly argument to go on. It does no good to Northern Ireland.

Mr. McCusker

I echo that.

With the benefit of a little hindsight, Mr. Speaker, and from your short experience of Northern Ireland over the past weekend, you will know that it is now possible for the Ulster people to view 1977 free of their rose-tinted spectacles, and for others to do the same. Those glasses have been savagely knocked aside—more brutally and quickly than we perhaps expected—and ground under the heel of the Provisional IRA.

In 1977, 11 of my constituents—11 too many—were murdered, as distinct from 50 in the previous year. But that did not herald the dawning of a day of victory and an era of peace for all the decent people of Northern Ireland. At best, it was an indication that the initiative could be seized and that ground could be gained from the terrorists. Experience of the past few weeks has shown how foolish it was to consider that the seizure of the initiative could be more than a short-term advantage, if, given the opportunity and the conditions, the experienced terrorists will soon be back on top again dictating the terms to which the police and the Army can only react. That is precisely what I believe happened. We gained an initiative. We took advantage of a series of circumstances which existed in Northern Ireland last year. For perhaps the first time in nine years we gained an initiative and made some inroads into the terrorists. But we were unable to sustain that, and in the first couple of months of this year the terrorists have been dictating the terms once again.

It is therefore important to try to analyse the situation and to determine what factors have reversed the trend of 1977. As I see it—I judge from the Secretary of State's speech that he sees it almost the same way—there were external and internal factors. Having failed to deal with them, the Provisional ERA has rebuilt its superiority on those particular factors.

The first of the external factors has already been quoted—the attitude of the Government of the Republic, particularly the Prime Minister, Jack Lynch. His words in early January must have been music to Provisional ears. I pay tribute here to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who said that his political belief and ambition was a united Ireland. That is a legitimate political aspiration which I would not deny to any man in Northern Ireland or Southern Ireland.

But Jack Lynch was saying more than that. He was asking that this Government take unilateral action and make a declaration of withdrawal. In his own words, he was proclaiming the legitimacy of the same basic objective as the Provisionals. He perhaps found their methods distasteful, but, after all, an amnesty would be considered eventually.

That was not the language or the attitude of the previous Government of the Republic. The Provisionals had not heard language like that for four years. With their forces depleted, with Northern community rejection and Southern apathy, their batteries were surely charged with some good old-fashioned republicanism, with the compliments of Leinster House in Dublin.

The second external factor is linked with the first—the failure of the security forces in the Republic to prevent terrorists from using their territory as a base from which to launch attacks on Northern Ireland. I do not blame Dublin for using the 2 per cent. statistic to dodge this issue. That mechanism, agreed between the Northern Ireland Office and the Dublin Government for the exchange of information, should never have been introduced by the Secretary of State unless it was intended to bombard the Government of the Republic into accepting the need for an extradition treaty.

The Republic is being used, and on a growing scale, as a base and a sanctuary by the Provisional IRA. I do not intend to bore the House with the details—they are well known and documented and the Secretary of State has already referred to them—but it is interesting that, in a court last week, a senior police officer stated that the Provisional unit based in Keady, in my constituency, had been broken up but that it had re-formed and was operating from across the border in Castle Blayney. No one now needs to guess who was responsible for the serious gun battle between the Provisionals and the Army on the borders of my constituency last night.

I have referred previously to the fact that the Army knows of the existence of other so-called active service units of the Provisional IRA operating from the Republic. Hon. Members on both sides who have visited Bessbrook Army base will have seen the map displayed there pinpointing their existence. Those units are obviously not under canvas ready to mount their next operation, but the existence of the localities and the places where they group to mount their operations are known. If we know that, the Dublin authorities know it. When those authorities, and the Gardai and the Irish Army, harry those people until there is no hiding place left for them I will begin to accept their oft-repeated assurances.

The only real answer, as was said several years ago, is an extradition treaty. For once, international and European opinion is on our side. Despite what the hon. Member for Belfast, West said, Her Majesty's Government should exert the maximum pressure—I will not argue its precise form, but we must have some diplomatic pressure—to expose the hypocrisy of the excuse of political offences when applied to murders like those at La Mon and to show it up for what it is, political expediency. If the Government of Eire are prepared to take full advantage of membership of the EEC, surely we can show them up for the hypocrites they are and insist that they sign the convention.

The first of the internal factors is the failure to deal with those who plan and orchestrate the violence. Those people were referred to as the "godfathers" by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). I congratulate him on having consistently brought this point to our attention when some of us were perhaps slackening. These people form the vital component, just like the detonators in the bombs, the volunteers and the materials for terrorism which will always be available in Northern Ireland if one has the money for the materials and the history to generate the volunteers. So long as these men are at large, so long will the campaign continue. The Secretary of State knows of their existence and he knows that the police had the right men a few weeks ago.

The document I now propose to refer to did not come from any police officer or member of the security forces. It came from a journalist who has the information. I was going to read out the names, but it has been put to me that it would not be in the best interests of all concerned. I am speaking now not from personal considerations but in the long-term interests of nailing these people.

These are some of the people who were picked up and who were known to be the men because they had been named in statement after statement by young fools who were sucked into the net and used by them. The first is Mr. R—that is the initial letter of his second name—not well known to the public, but the Provos top weapons expert in Belfast. Ironically, he received most of his training when he served as a member of the UDR in 1970–71. I wonder whether he was one of the people about whom the hon. Member for Belfast, West talked. The next is Mr. McC, an ex-internee and a sniper during the early years of the troubles. Incidentally, I did not mean to give the first names. The next is Mr. C from Monagh Road, member of a veteran Republican family and now on the brigade staff of the IRA.

So the list goes on. These are people who have learned how to avoid crossing the line into criminal and terrorist activity but who can send in young men and use them for their evil intent. These people must be hunted, and if the existing law cannot deal with them we must ask the Secretary of State to consider whether new laws could be devised that would deal with them.

If they are outside normal law, perhaps we need abnormal law. We have an abnormal situation in Northern Ireland. If the Secretary of State says that he is not prepared to do that, but he knows that they are the men responsible, he must swallow hard and deal with them by the means available to him. If he does not want to intern them—and I should be reluctant to do that if I were he—he should look very hard at trying to devise another system of handling them. If we do not get them this time, we shall not get them next time. If we cannot get them on La Mon and other issues, they have learnt just a bit more from their seven days' experience on this occasion and they will be harder to trip up when they are lifted again.

Many of these shadowy figures are involved in the seamy activities of the Provisionals' front organisations, which should be tackled. Everyone knows that these activities—I think they are called legitimate business activities—were built on extortion, corruption and the proceeds of robbery carried out by terrorists. If we can set up teams of detectives to investigate other organisations, why do we not set up teams of detectives to investigate these instead of having the Housing Executive pouring its funds into them to give them a veneer of respectability and enhance their reputation?

In the United States 30 or 40 years ago the authorities could not get the Mafia for murder but got Mafia members for income tax evasion. If we cannot catch these people for murder, cannot we gel them for some other offence and tackle these organisations vigorously, trying to establish how the Provisionals ever came into possession of them?

There is also the Provisional Sinn Fein a so-called legitimate political organisation. It never fights elections. It has none of the manifestations of a normal political party. In fact, it is not a political party. It is the propaganda mouthpiece of the IRA, and it is an affront to the people of Northern Ireland. It makes a mockery of the activities of the Army, the police and the Secretary of State.

That is why people believe that the Army is fighting with one hand tied behind its back, that comment is frequently made in Northern Ireland. One tries to explain that that is not so and then people start telling one of the things that indicate to them why it is.

Let us deal with the Provisional Sinn Fein in the way in which we deal with the Provisional IRA. They are one and the same thing. If this war is to be won, we must fight it with all the means at our disposal and show that we have the will to win.

I turn finally to the issue touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux)—the matter or sentences. Like most people in Northern Ireland—and I make no apology for this—I am not concerned with arguing the merits of a deterrent. I believe that people who inflict on any society what terrorists have for too long inflicted on Northern Ireland should be punished accordingly. It is interpreted as lack of determination when our courts sentence people to eight, 10 or 20 years and those people are automatically released after half that time.

The Minister of State will remember that we were assured when the 50 per cent. remission was introduced that anyone who was granted the remission would be liable to serve all or part of the remainder if he was subsequently convicted of an imprisonable offence in addition to the new sentence imposed for the fresh offence. If that was the price to get rid of political status, many of us were prepared at the time to agree with it, but I think now, in retrospect, that it was too heavy a price. As that assurance was given, there may well have been a realistic deterrent attached to it. But for the period for which I have statistics, the period until September 1977, 33 people who were released on 50 per cent. remission were reconvicted, and 16 of them were sentenced to imprisonment, nine for scheduled offences, serious terrorist offences. In none of the nine did the courts make use of its power to order all or part of the balance of the original sentence to be served.

In view of the assurances given to us at the time, I ask the Secretary of State to examine the matter carefully and look into whatever mechanism is necessary to bring this information to the attention of the courts when they are imposing sentences. Otherwise, remission makes a mockery of the whole system.

When referring to the number of security forces deployed in Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State translated it into Great Britain terms and said that it would be the equivalent of 1.2 million. He rightly did that in order to impress us with the scale of the operation. I also want to translate a Northern Ireland statistic into Great Britain terms—not the overriding statistic, which would be almost too big to comprehend, but the number of policemen killed. In Great Britain terms it would be 4,500.

Would the Secretary of State honestly suggest that if 4,500 policemen, or even a fraction of that number, were killed in Great Britain we would be arguing the merits of capital punishment? He could not in all honesty say that if there were even, say, 1,000 policemen killed in this country in a period of nine years the authorities would not be hanging the murderers as often as they could catch them.

Many people in Northern Ireland consider that capital punishment is the only fate the killers deserve. What possible glamour or martyrdom can be attached to the memory of men who killed babies, children or cripples? I say sincerely, and not for cheap publicity or any other such reason, that by refusing to deal with the terrorists as they deserve to be dealt with the House is once again running away from its responsibilities.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) has made a powerful contribution to what has inevitably been a sad, at times heated and at times emotional debate. The debate is made sadder than it might have been for me because I was once a Green Jacket and the Royal Green Jackets are, alas, the only regiment in the British Army now to have lost two commanding officers killed in action in Northern Ireland. At the same time, we mourn the death of Rifleman Nicholas Smith at the weekend.

It is perhaps worth noting that before Christmas the Second Battalion of the Green Jackets was providing fire protection in a part of London where many Members have their homes.

I have also been concerned about the debate because the Secretary of State felt it necessary once again to say that the tide of public opinion was turning against the terrorists. I have attended most of the debates on Northern Ireland security and most of the Northern Ireland Office Question Times over the last eight years, and I suppose that I must have heard from successive Ministers the phrase "The tide of public opinion has turned against the terrorists" more than 50 times. Every time it is used by a Minister, it does not strike a happy note in my book. It merely reminds me of the substantial number of false dawns that we have seen in the past.

At this late hour, I want to make only two brief points. First, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have at various times agreed that it is right that no British Service man serving in Northern Ireland should suffer a financial penalty for so doing. But, alas, it is still the case that many soldiers who are going to Northern Ireland, particularly those on emergency tours from Germany, suffer very substantial financial penalties.

When I was in Northern Ireland recently with my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), we met a substantial number of soldiers who were losing more than £10 a week as a result of serving in Northern Ireland and losing various allowances thereby. It does not seem unreasonable, therefore, to increase the payment made to British service men for the tours they do in Northern Ireland from 50p a day to £10 a week. At least, one would then be reasonably sure that very few Service men were suffering financial loss.

The cost would be, on the present level of troop involvement, some £7 million a year. But the cost overrun on two computer contracts that have gone wrong amounts to some £10 million in the Defence Estimates this year, so I do not believe that that sum would be beyond our capacity to pay—and, as I have said, both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have accepted the proposition that it is wrong that a British Service man moving to dangerous and uncomfortable duty in Northern Ireland should also suffer a financial penalty as a result.

My second point is on a statistic that the Secretary of State did not give us. He referred to the increases in recruitment for both the RUC and the UDR and to the substantial increase in the number of convictions. But he did not tell us anything about the number of members of the minority community who are joining the security forces.

I fully appreciate the immense pressure that there is on those members of the minority community who are serving in the RUC and the UDR. The smaller the number, the greater the pressure; the more they stand out, the more they are isolated within their own community. I can well understand the attitude of the Secretary of State in the last few months while the tide of violence seemed to be receding and while the amount of information coming in which enabled the courts to convict terrorists was growing.

But, as the Chief Constable has said, information is not enough. What is needed is the involvement of the minority community in the security of the Province. I have no doubt that the greatest single improvement in the security situation that could come about would be created not by sending more troops from the rest of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland but by a really substantial recruitment of members of the minority community into the RUC and the UDR.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) made a most unfair and generalised criticism of the UDR, but even he was ready to admit that the reputation of the RUC within the Roman Catholic community had very substantially improved in recent months. There has been no lead, however, from the SDLP to the members of the minority community to involve themselves directly in the battle against terrorism.

I should like to know what pressures have been put on by the Secretary of State in the discussions about power sharing, about a new constitution and about a new political framework to try to get a fair cross-section of the minority community into the security forces. We have at various times heard a great deal about power sharing, but if we are ever to get peace in Northern Ireland we have to talk a great deal more about security sharing as well.

8.8 p.m.

Mr. Robert J. Bradford (Belfast, South)

Whilst every Member in the Chamber feels exceedingly troubled about this subject, it must be stated that we do not expect the Secretary of State or the Minister of State to become clairvoyant in a very difficult situation. There are things which, because of the very nature of urban terrorism, they simply cannot do. One appreciates that. They cannot possibly know where terrorism will evidence itself next or how intensely.

We would be less than fair if we created the impression that there was total lack of concern on the part of Her Majesty's Government. Having said that, it is important to stress that, where reaction can and must be forthcoming in response to the dreadful acts of the terrorists, the Government must pursue every possible way of reacting so that terrorism may be eradicated. The reaction must be full and it must be ruthless.

We expect at least four courses of action. First, we expect her Majesty's Government to put pressure on the Government of the South of Ireland to bring about extradition. It has been said—indeed, I said it in the very early hours of this morning—that the South is enjoying all the benefits of living in the twentieth century. The South is taking advantage of membership of all the conventions, assemblies, communities and so on which exist in the European context, but it manifestly refuses to accept its responsibilities in living in the twentieth century. It still has its dreadful nineteenth-century entrenched reaction and attitude to the United Kingdom, and, indeed, to Northern Ireland.

That attitude is exhibited in the refusal to sign the European treaty which would bring about the extradition of political prisoners. I care not how Her Majesty's Government enforce extradition. It is no longer a question of an optional extra. It is an entirely necessary pursuit in the face of the fact that we know that there are pockets of terrorists who are not being encountered by the police or the army of the Republic. It really must be regarded as an essential part of Her Majesty's Government's policy to pursue extradition from the South.

It has been said that terrorists do not recognise the border. That is not true. They recognise it when it suits their own purposes. I take no great pleasure in suggesting this, but if terrorists, when it suits their purpose, refuse to recognise the border, I hope that by some method or other the SAS will also not feel limited or confined by a geographical line. If we cannot root out these terrorists by agreement with the Government in the South, those whose task it is to work in a covert manner should not be over-anxious to recognise the existence of the border.

Secondly, we expect Her Majesty's Government to make every attempt to apprehend terrorists before dreadful deeds such as that at La Mon House take place. I shall not expand on that incident at length, because it has been adequately dealt with by my colleagues on this Bench.

I return to the possibility of proscribing the Provisional Sinn Fein. I do not let the president of Official Sinn Fein easily off the hook, because that man did not dissociate himself from the violent statements by his political allies when they talked about sending British soldiers back in boxes. He did not protest when young British soldiers were threatened by this kind of violent speech in Dublin and in Belfast. He may have made some comment about the Provisional IRA fighting against the Irish people and hurting the Irish people, but the attitude of those who share this Bench is that we do not distinguish members of the United Kingdom who live on the mainland and who wear the uniform of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.

If the president of Official Sinn Fein still regards those men as legitimate targets—and he does—and if the Provisional Sinn Fein still regards them as traditional targets—and it does—it is incumbent upon the Government to take the necessary action to proscribe these organisations and to bring their members to the courts. I believe that by doing so we would be meeting at least in part, the absolute necessity to apprehend terrorists before the dreadful deeds are committed.

The Provisional and Official Sinn Fein have long since forfeited their right to be thought of as political groupings or parties. They have no policy on housing except that Protestant houses have to be up in the air. They have no policy on industry except that it should be completely destroyed. They are following systematically the threefold policy of international Marxism—the destruction of the Government, the destruction of the credibility of the security forces and the destruction of the economy. The Provisional Sinn Fein follows that policy to a T, as does the Official Sinn Fein. Therefore, the Government really must look at the possibility of apprehending the strategists who masquerade behind a political label. They are there, and they can and ought to be apprehended.

I live not one and a half miles from the Twinbrook area. I live within a stone's throw of Andersonstown. The Army, the police and the UDI know these men, who are hiding behind the political label and are as guilty as sin. We cannot afford another La Mon House incident, and one of the ways of removing that possibility is to haul in those who can possibly be arrested once we remove this charade of a political label.

Thirdly, we expect the Secretary of State to tell the General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland that all his attempts will be supported in this House, whatever inconvenience his policy causes in minority areas or, for that matter, in majority areas. I am quite tired of hearing it said that we must balance a reaction which might ensue from the minority against the worthwhileness of adopting a policy of truly policing the minority areas with the police and the UDI.

I am not a military strategist and I do not pretend to have slick or easy answers, but the present policies have failed. That is quite clear. The past policies have failed. That is easy to see. What is now so wrong with allowing the UDI and the police into those areas? We do not ask that they should bludgeon insensitively every person who lives there, or that they should act with dreadful indiscretion, but there are those who, because they are allowed to move freely, can both plan and initiate the dreadful bombings.

I believe that the people in the minority community have reached the point where they would co-operate with the UDR and the RUC. I believe it because it has been expressed clearly to me by members of the minority community.

There is another aspect to the guidance which the GOC must now give. I accept that, technically speaking, the present Secretary of State and, perhaps, his predecessors have never at any stage directly determined security policy. I must also say that there are those who believe that certain past GOCs have been placed in positions of authority in Northern Ireland because their own political ideas were well known and because they would not in any way conflict with those of the Government of the day.

I hope that the present Secretary of State has long since relinquished any thoughts of military neutrality in Northern Ireland and of balancing off military strategy against political reaction. I hope that he has long since left those thoughts aside and that the present GOC has been appointed knowing that that is the mind of the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. If that is not the case, and if the GOC does not encourage the UDI to operate fully and without any undue regard for the rights of terrorists, the morale of the UDR will very soon diminish. It is not at a high point at the moment. It is certainly not low, but it is not as high as it might be. The UDR will become an effective organisation and fighting unit only if the GOC makes it abundantly clear that from now on it can operate in every area of Belfast.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) is right. I was told categorically from colonel level down that the UDR must not and is not permitted to operate. I do not know how we get through to the GOC that that situation must not obtain much longer. However, the message must get through, and it must be got through by the Secretary of State.

The same goes for the RUC. It operates in most areas of Northern Ireland, but we cannot ask it to operate unless it is armed and equipped to do so. We have been told that only 30 of the 80 armoured vehicles are at present available to the RUC. Why has there been such a dreadful delay in making available the other 50 vehicles? I do not know, but is it possible that in Londonderry an armoured vehicle might have saved the life of a policeman? I do not know, and I am asking the question, but, if that might be so, why has there been such great delay in putting into operation the other 50 vehicles?

I listened with interest to the Secretary of State when he said that about 1,063 M1 carbines are available to the police. I find that interesting in view of a statistic that I received not long ago. It was suggested that the number of M1 carbines available was nearer 300 than 1,063. It may be that there are two sorts of weapon. It may be that one is a rather newer model than the other. However, we need the most up-to-date weaponry. If the figure that I was given is correct, it is rather a paltry number of sophisticated weapons to be placed at the disposal of over 5,500 policemen.

Mr. Concannon

The figure was 463.

Mr. Bradford

It was my fault for not picking up the correct figure. However, it is a paltry figure when we bear in mind that there are over 5,500 policemen and approximately 450 weapons available to them.

I turn to the final point of my short contribution—namely, the vexed issue of the death penalty. I can sense the difficulties that are entertained by those who oppose it. There are the vexed issues of hostages being taken and young people being asked to do the dastardly deeds that those over 18 would have done prior to hanging being introduced. I accept that, but I still have two great difficulties.

One difficulty is that society must have such a sufficiently elevated opinion and value of human nature as not to settle for less than a commensurate type of punishment for a dastardly crime. A society which does not take that sort of view of human life and human personality is not a civilised society. I am concerned not about terrorists but about punishment.

The second difficulty is the question of timing. The application of the death penalty is the important factor in the situation in which hostages may be taken. It is not for me to do the Government's thinking for them. However, I look back to the time when we had a full House and when among it was one man who has a tenuous link with subversive organisations. He was here to vote against capital punishment. I am quite certain that terrorists conveyed the message that it was one reaction from the Government that they would not want.

I acknowledge that the nature of applying capital punishment to terrorists and the timing of it might exercise the Government's mind. I am not especially desiring hanging, but, if a man is caught with a bomb or is apprehended after being responsible for blowing up a young girl or a young child, let us not waste any time in disposing of that man. Let us not give the organisation to which he belongs the opportunity to take hostages. If hostages are taken afterwards, I take no unholy delight in saying that we may have to reach the stage when the war of attrition exercises the mind of the House and one hostage dead means two IRA men dead. Let hon. Members put their figure on it, but something has to be done in Northern Ireland, and done very quickly, if we are to avert a great tragedy.

Mr. Speaker

I appeal for the cooperation of the House. I hope that the first of those who are to reply will begin at 10 minutes past nine o'clock. I deliberately do not ask hon. Members to be brief in view of the seriousness of the subject. However, if everyone is to speak who has been rising to participate, it will he a great help if we have speeches which last about 10 minutes, although the House knows that I cannot control the length of speeches.

8.25 p.m.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I shall try to be brief. I am usually brief in these debates. Those who participate know one another and we know who wish to speak. I am sure that hon. Members will pay tribute to the fact that I always stay in the Chamber throughout Northern Ireland Questions. I only wish that more of my colleagues were present to hear these debates.

I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State resisting the temptation held out by some hon. Members to introduce even more Draconian measures in Northern Ireland. Nothing would be more fatal. In debating security we need some insight into the word "security". I have the impression that we are not merely debating putting guns into the hands of people and sensing security from that aspect alone. We want to make the lives of the people of Northern Ireland more secure. There are many ways of doing that. It does not necessarily follow that to take more soldiers from here to Northern Ireland is one of the ways of making the people more secure. I may be wrong, but I consider that there are sufficient soldiers in Northern Ireland.

I do not believe that capital punishment would have any effect other than deepening the situation. It would inevitably mean that there would be hostages. It would inevitably mean a deepening or intensification of the struggle. It would mean more killings. It would mean more striking back more regularly. It would mean all that such a measure implies.

I know that hon. Members from Northern Ireland are bearing all the frustrations of living in that area. I am sure that they will remember that on the last occasion that I spoke in a Northern Ireland debate I paid tribute to them and said that I did not want in any way to be paternalistic as I did not live in the area. I repeat that. The tensions under which hon. Members from Northern Ireland are living were borne out tonight in the internecine squabble that broke out. That is natural in the circumstances. I do not wish to exploit it or to go into it.

I believe that the failure to solve the problem in Northern Ireland over the past eight or nine years has caused great frustration amongst us all, and frustration is a bad guide when deciding what one should do. Even though it is there, and it is real, to me it is a guide which regularly results in demands which otherwise would not be made. I believe that the demands for capital punishment, for more soldiers to be sent to the Province, and so on, represent that kind of demand.

We all know that security is necessary. Heaven forfend that I should in any way convey the impression that I do not believe in security as much as does anybody else, but security is only part of the answer. Hon. Members have often said that I always try to politicise the debates. I do, because I believe that the politicisation of these debates in the correct direction would do away with the feeling of frustration suffered by us all. I was sad when I ruminated about the contribution of the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and realised that there was literally no politics in anything that he said, because politics is the answer. The answer is not more guns.

I said last time that anybody who thinks that we shall solve this problem by dealing only with security is living in a dream world. There was a kind of euphoria about the previous debate because for a long time there had not been any killings. I cannot remember my exact words, but hon. Gentlemen opposite nodded in agreement when I said that unless a political solution was at least beginning to be seen, the killing would start again—and it has started again—because people could not see an end to the problem. They cannot see any opening, any light at all in what is going on. We thought that the problem was decreasing. There was a lull, but problems are now arising again.

Security is only part of the answer. After the best part of 10 years no solution to this terrible, intractable problem is even remotely visible. Later this evening we shall discuss appropriation measures and pass them. They are necessary because the money is needed for education, agriculture, and so on. Those are all aspects of security. Money to give people a decent life, a decent education, better food, and so on, is money spent on aspects of security that need to be discussed.

However, a great deal depends upon hon. Gentlemen opposite from the majority community. Whether or not they like it, the minority community feels just as insecure as they do, and some extension across the two communities is the answer to security. I have said time and again that until people feel secure with one another, the problem will not be solved. I do not think that we can measure security in terms of whether Catholics join the RUC or one of the other establishments. That is not the answer. People will feel secure only when they do not see the need to join such organisations. I feel that we are failing the people there, and failing one another. It is only when people feel secure with one another that terrorism will be defeated.

What is needed is concrete proof that steps are being taken so that communalist politics, as they used to exist in India when I was there years ago, disappear and are replaced by community politics across the two communities. If we do not find that key we shall for years be discussing security and asking for it in Northern Ireland. I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to raise their voices in their community so that there is an extension of democracy from the two sides of the divide. If that can be achieved there will be less of a demand for guns.

The Times was quoted earlier today as having said "Dublin loses patience". That is printed in the biggest letters that The Times uses when it is really excited. I have written at the side "Not only Dublin loses its patience, but hon. Gentlemen are losing theirs". I tend to lose my patience, and the minority community is losing its patience, too. We must ask why we are all losing our patience. The answer is that we can see no end to the difficulty.

We seldom discuss the politics of the situation. We talk merely about security. The Times said: The House of Commons returns today with blighted hopes to the subject of security policy in Northern Ireland… It is neither surprising nor a matter for despair that the IRA has managed to raise its rate of striking after a longish period of Jecline and has retained its ability to kill soldiers"— and so on. The Times puts it neatly, and it tries to give us some hope.

We know that the Republic has reassessed and is reassessing its political life. Before the elections took place last year people said that this issue was not deeply felt in the Republic. But the party that was triumphant made Northern Ireland one of its main political platforms in its policy statement. It is revealed to me that both parties in the South have reassessed the situation. I do not know what Conor Cruise O'Brien would say, but The Times states that Garret Fitzgerald is tentatively taking a new approach and moving slightly towards Fianna Fail. A reassessment has gone on. It is political. We must take that into account.

I have never said that this would be easy. But some political movement has to take place. Security cannot be discussed in vacuo away from the politics of the situation. But in Ireland at present, and in Northern Ireland in particular, practically no political movement is taking place. It is because of the lack of political movement that one is having to re-discuss security. Until that political movement begins to take place, and until we can share one another's attitudes and lean on one another's conviction to try to solve the problem, that frustration will exist. Any lack of democracy will mean more terrorism.

Therefore, we must discuss how we can democratise the two sides of the Northern Ireland community. The answer lies not merely in discussing security nor in demands for more arrests, more soldiers or such matters as capital punishment. It lies in a new approach on behalf of the two communities in Northern Ireland. It lies with those people on both sides of the divide who are trying to expand democracy, so that both communities will recognise that the fighting can stop. The answer does not lie in our talking about guns, arrests, capital punishment and the like.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. Wm. Ross (Londonderry)

It is well known that many hon. Members have had the privilege and the burden of commanding men in time of war. Indeed, there are hon. Members among those from Northern Ireland who have served during times of war and commanded men. I once had charge of seven men, nearly as far down the chain of command as one can go. It is a sobering burden when one commands men in any faction of the security forces in Northern Ireland. I served with the old B Specials. There was always a chance that one of my men would be killed. Because of that, I always took the best care of their lives as I possibly could.

When one looks at security activity over the last year—I have looked at it fairly because of my own experience, even at that level—one sees that there was an initial success. Public reaction to that success was extremely favourable. There was no complaint at all except from the fellow travellers of the IRA and those do-gooders who do not have to attend funerals of policemen, as I had to do on Friday.

In his opening speech the Secretary of State talked about the number of people who have been brought before the courts and who have been imprisoned. The figure was almost 2,000. I believe it is fair to say that the vast majority were members of the IRA.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that in 1969 the IRA was at best a very weak force. Like myself, other hon. Members may not take very much comfort from the fact that nearly 2,000 people have gone to prison. We must also ask what has happened in that intervening period which has allowed that force to grow to such an extent that it can withstand a loss of nearly 2,000 people in two years and still sustain the campaign that it has been carrying out over the last month or six weeks. The principal reasons have been the policies of the two Front Benches in this House. That is something that we should not be too willing to forget.

I believe that the IRA's losses in the past year have been mainly in the second and third ranks. The outer layers were decimated, but the most dangerous men are still at large. What was the IRA's reaction to the successes of the security forces? The hard core of the IRA, having remained untouched, tightened up the organisation and has spent the last few months reorganising, retraining and bringing in new blood.

What can be done to take the initiative from the terrorists and put it back into the hands of the security forces? I do not want to repeat the many wise remarks that have been made so far. The Government's options are few. Leaving aside capital punishment, they could intern, change the law to tilt it firmly and decisively against the terrorist, tighten up existing procedures and try to get the best possible deal out of them or do nothing.

I doubt whether they would intern and I doubt that they would do nothing. I also doubt that they are prepared to change the law in a meaningful way. They will probably get the best they can out of existing legislation.

I should be failing in my duty as a representative from Northern Ireland if I said that I thought that this action would be enough. I do not believe that it would be. The enemy is clearly outwith the capabilities of existing laws. He has their measure and knows how to get round them.

We should look at the effects of a further run of IRA successes on the morale not only of the security forces but of the citizens of Northern Ireland who are being slaughtered. Hon. Members will know how difficult it is to pin down a mobile force of three or four men—the sort of active service units that are bombing, shooting and killing. I am aware of the problems of trying to get men and vehicles in and out quickly, and when I hear the comments of some people, I wonder how much thought these critics of the security forces have given to this problem.

I speak not as one who takes only an academic interest but as one who worked on the ground for years, who did the job in his area and who knows the problem better than any other hon. Member from Northern Ireland. I say that not to belittle my hon. Friends, but because it is a fact. I am open to correction if any hon. Member wishes to correct me. Even with the most sophisticated means available to the security forces, it is exceedingly difficult to pin down highly trained groups of men. But they must be caught, because until they are imprisoned or killed, the murders will continue.

The Secretary of State indicated that many of the raids into Northern Ireland have been organised from the South. I know from my inquiries and understanding of the situation that this is so. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us where the machine guns originated and, most important, how they got into Ulster? Can he also say what he is doing about the Hotspur, which is an essential vehicle for the police? Can he assure us that he is satisfied with the standard and frequency of weapons training for the police and the military?

Has the RUC had explained to it the capabilities of the M1 carbine? Have the men on the ground who have to use this weapon been told why it was bought for them? Have the members of the RUC ever been lectured on ballistics? Have they ever been told the advantages and disadvantages of the high-velocity light bullet? Have they been told the advantages and disadvantages of the SLR? Do they understand these things? I believe that if the men on the ground understood such things, if they were told the reasons why such weapons were in their hands, there might be fewer complaints from that quarter.

I am a sportsman and have always taken an interest in firearms. I understand why these weapons have been given to the police and why different weapons have been given to the Army. I understand, in a way that most people do not, the capability that is in the hands of the police if they are properly trained to use weapons correctly. If men are to use weapons properly, they must handle them every day. Having 463 weapons issued is not enough. Unless the men who have to handle these weapons are trained and use them regularly—at least once a month on the range and between times in the barracks—they will get themselves killed. It is a fact of life that, if men are to be given weapons, they must be trained in their use.

Have the members of the security forces, principally the police, had explained to them the strategy and thinking behind what they are doing on the streets? Have they been taken into the confidence of their senior officers? Do they know why they are doing what they are doing? This trustworthy body of men should be given a better understanding than they seem to have of the reasons for their present actions.

When will the Secretary of State give us his opinion on the possible use of the plastic sheet mentioned by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight)? I understand that this matter has been brought to the notice of the Northern Ireland Office. I understand that there have been one or two cases in which this substance has been used and in which it was very effective against the Hook bomb. May we have a decision on that matter as soon as possible?

Will the Secretary of State also be more willing in future to take action against people who make unfounded allegations about the security forces and waste the time of the police? This scandal in Northern Ireland must not be allowed to continue. Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the present policy adopted by the security forces of patrolling in hard areas?

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) said that he wanted Northern Ireland swamped. I think that that is perhaps the wrong way to put the matter. But there are areas where the security forces do not go with any frequency or regularity. It is those areas in which the myth of IRA invincibility is strongest. If we are to remove that myth, the security forces of the Crown must be on the streets by day and by night regularly.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Or irregularly.

Mr. Ross

Or, as my right hon. Friend said, irregularly. It is unwise to be regular. But the security forces certainly should be there. They should be there often. If that is done, the IRA will then be faced with the choice to quit or to fight. Hon. Members know that the fanatics that we are up against have to be put out of business one way or the other.

The present policy and attitude to security in Northern Ireland has taken us as far as it is possible for that policy and attitude to take us. If any further advance is to be made, there must be a change of policy. As I have said, I believe that there are two options. I wonder which one the Government will take.

On the death penalty, there is a hope in the IRA of victory and of an amnesty. While one is alive, one can have that hope, but if one is hanged, one cannot possibly have it.

8.50 p.m.

Mr. William Craig (Belfast, East)

In speaking at the end of a most interesting debate, it is almost beyond the wit of anyone to add a new factor. I do not want to weary hon. Members by indulging in a speech of repetition. However, one matter which has not been stressed enough as yet is that a community which has suffered as much as Northern Ireland needs to be well led and to have decisive Government.

It is interesting to watch two conflicting viewpoints. There are those who say that we must not acknowledge any success on the part of the security forces, for a variety of reasons. Others, who have got into the habit of carping criticism, survive on the politics of protest and complaint. But then there are those who say the same thing for a different reason. They say it out of fear of retaliation—that if they proclaim too much about success against the IRA, the IRA, in its own interests, will have to prove those claims wrong with retaliatory outrages. I can understand that fear, but I know that, if we are to win the war, the sooner the enemy knows that he is losing, the better for everyone concerned.

I shall not dwell on the technical aspects of security tonight. I should like to touch on one matter which is not sufficiently talked about—namely, robbing the IRA of its credibility and showing it and its supporters how futile the whole situation is. This is the only aspect where politics comes in. Let no one believe that any political settlement tomorrow would end IRA violence. It is motivated basically by skilled revolutionary Socialists who want to establish an all-Ireland Socialist republic. They would not be satisfied with any proposition for a mere unification of Ireland in a normal democratic sense. Even to talk about the unification of Ireland at this time is totally unrealistic and can only aid the violent campaign of the IRA.

I was appalled and shocked that the present Prime Minister of the Irish Republic should find it in himself to say that peace in Ireland could be obtained only by British withdrawal. It is easy for people to forget the realities. He seems to have forgotten the passive reaction to the conspiracy which centred around the 1973 political settlement and the so-called Council of Ireland. The swift and peaceful reaction to that proposition should not be forgotten when people use extravagant language and say that now is the time to talk about British withdrawal.

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that to be so and have on many occasions said that it will not change without the consent of the majority in Northern Ireland for such a change. That is fine as far as it goes. But when we look at it from the revolutionary's point of view, in reality there is in that statement no real commitment to maintain the Union in the sense that hon. Members talked about the integrity of the Union when debating the Scotland Bill. There is in their eyes a legitimate question mark over the future constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

There is very much a question mark not only in their eyes but in many other people's eyes about the future form of government of the Province. Northern Ireland is not only failing to be defended as part of the Union, but it is being denied the quality of democracy that is inherent in being part of the United Kingdom. The sooner we start to deal with Northern Ireland within the standards that prevail throughout the United Kingdom, the sooner we shall convince the IRA of the futility of its campaign.

There are two realities involved in constitutional development, and the Government have the major responsibility for this. They have to set the stage for it. It is no use their saying that Ulster politicians should talk it out. Two things could happen. One either has a devolved Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland or one has something which is called integration. There is no half-way house between those two situations.

If the Government believe, as do most Northern Ireland politicians, that devolution is the best answer, let them approach the matter in a sane and realistic way. I was happy to see that the Secretary of State has put on record that it is no longer the Government's intention to resurrect the power-sharing policy. The Opposition Front Bench has put it more brutally by saying that power sharing is dead. That is a fact of life.

How do we make progress from there? I was a little disappointed with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). He appreciates that this is a political problem, but can he expect to make progress when his party talks about the unification of Ireland rather than about the best way of government in Northern Ireland inside the United Kingdom? The possibility of unification of Ireland in the foreseeable future is so remote that it is not worth talking about. If there is to be devolution, it must be within the concept of majority rule. We cannot get away from that fundamental of democracy. Let us recognise that when talking about devolution.

Time is not on the side of the peace-loving people of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. Time is not on our side, politically, socially or economically. If the Government are not prepared to take a major role in reaching a decision on devolution, they must quickly decide that it is not on and they must start the process of what is described as integration.

Only with the removal of the uncertainty about Ulster's constitutional future will the terrorists be convinced that their campaign can never succeed. In the meantime, if we cannot tackle the major question we can get on with some of the things which show that a genuine attempt is being made.

Most people in Northern Ireland were happy to see the Speaker's Conference recommend an increase in their representation. Let us see Parliament get on with it. Let us see it show a little extra speed and haste in dealing with that matter. That would be a measure of intent and would help to destroy some of the illusions that motivate the IRA. The same could be done in local government. I am not suggesting that these steps are the answer to the problem, but they would be useful and should not be shirked. We must show that terrorism cannot win the day.

I pay tribute to the many in the Army and the police who have endured so much. I sympathise with the families of those who have paid the supreme sacrifice. I admire and rejoice in the quality of the Ulster people themselves. No one could have endured so much for so long in any finer way. When we have that quality on which to base our campaign and our policies, there can be no excuse for this period of eight years. It has gone on too long.

I say to the Government that we should show by actions rather than words that violence will not disturb our constitution and that violence will not rob our citizens of their normal democratic rights as citizens of the United Kingdom. Once that is proven, I am sure that there will be a worthwhile response.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (New-bury) rose

Mr. Speaker

May I remind the hon. Member that the speeches in reply are to begin at 10 minutes past nine?

Mr. McNair-Wilson

I shall do my best to complete my speech by them, Mr. Speaker.

If there is one thing that has come out of this debate it is that any euphoria that we may have felt in December of last year was premature. We must recognise that this year may be as violent as any we have seen. Yet I suspect that if we were to reread the Secretary of State's speech of December we should notice that he warned us that there would be bouts of violence and that we should not expect the tide to turn to a point where we would see nothing but a recession of that violence and a return to a pacific society.

I have listened with great care to the speeches in this debate. I have been impressed by the restraint that has been shown. When we realise that the amount of killing that has taken place in Northern Ireland in the past eight years, if translated to a United Kingdom figure, would amount to 63,000 people, we get some idea of the scale of the slaughter that has taken place in the Six Counties. If I were a Member from the Six Counties, my blood would be boiling and I would be doing my best to try to keep myself in check.

Perhaps I can add my sympathy to the relations of those killed, particularly in the past three months. One is bound to think of the appalling tragedy of the La Mon restaurant. Last week, in St. Anne's Cathedral, the Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Kenneth Newman, said, among other things, in an impressive talk, that the local community in Northern Ireland must not "demand that the police alone should solve the problems of the community".

In those words I think he was exhorting the community and pleading with the politicians to recognise that, if all is to be placed upon the effectiveness of the RUC without the help of the community as a whole, if the view is to be taken that "the police are there to protect us, let them get on with it", the police could not do that job. I found myself in agreement with some of the remarks made on the Labour Benches in this connection. It is a pity that we have not heard from the Secretary of State this afternoon, although we did hear from him in December, about the effectiveness of bringing both sides of the community into some sort of relationship with the police to help them in their task.

The promise originally held out when the UDR was set up was that it would be a community force. This aim seems not to have been realised, and yet little is said about that. Why is recruiting failing to draw from the minority as well as the majority? It may be that the intimidation, the kneecapping and so on, is still so great that the minority will not put their trust in joining the UDR or seeking protection from the RUC. It seems that until some trust can be built up across the divide the Ulster Constabulary and its chief constable may well continue arguing that the police are being asked to do a job without the support which they ought to be able to expect. That that support can be forthcoming has been proved by the peace movement in which both sides of the community found common cause and acted together in the interests of the community.

I see the chief constable's words as a plea to the politicians to take an initiative, and I say to the Secretary of State that, although it does not follow that there is a political approach that will command general assent in Ulster, it is the remark able achievement of this Government to attempt to rule with the full support of neither community and the distrust of both. The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is a harsh judgment, but surely the effect of all the comings and goings, the gatherings together of political leaders, and the throwing up of hands at the end and saying "There you are, they have been to see me, I cannot get them to find common ground" is to create a community which docs not have any hope of looking forward to some form of devolved administration, as the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) said.

By keeping that community without an administration that it can trust and an administration which is its own we are keeping Northern Ireland in a very special category, and that cannot help to build up the necessary trust without which that community cannot be formed. So I do not believe that it is enough to say that the Secretary of State cannot find the agreement he looks for and therefore there is not very much more that he can do about it.

Secondly, I want to take up the Secretary of State's comments when his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Watkinson) asked him about the statement by Mr. Lynch, the Prime Minister of the Republic, that only 2 per cent. of the violence in the North has any direct connection with the border. If Mr. Lynch is wrong—he is the Prime Minister of the Republic and he, as the hon. Gentleman said, claims that that statement was officially supplied by the British authorities—what does the Secretary of State think is the true amount of violence coming across the border?

My hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) gave us all cause to think about the new danger posed by the possession by the IRA of the M60 machine gun. As many hon. Members have said, those machine guns had to get to Northern Ireland from somewhere. The probability is that they crossed the border with their ammunition. If the Prime Minister of Eire is to be believed, when he saw the Prime Minister of this country in September—I read from Mr. Lynch's speech— Mr. Callaghan expressed satisfaction at the degree of co-operation between the forces responsible for security under present arrangements. And we have had no complaints since which would indicate any change in the degree or effectiveness of this co-operation. Has the situation changed since September? If so, have the British Government told the Government of the Republic that they are now unhappy about the border situation and that they are concened about the increasing flow of arms and ammunition and, conceivably, men from the South? Can the Secretary of State or the Minister of State give some assurance to the House that the border problem is being looked at with fresh eyes? Goodness knows, it has been raised many times in the Chamber in the past eight years, and we have been told that it is a 300-mile border, that there are so many crossings that the difficulty that would be imposed on the security forces in closing those crossings makes the border a subject better left to one side. We cannot go on in that way when we now know that the IRA is getting arms and ammunition with the capability of the M60. I therefore press the Minister to say something more about the surveillance which is currently taking place on the border.

The Secretary of State laid some stress on the extra-territorial legislation which he thought would have some effect on the pursuit of terrorists on either side of the border. That will not be enough to stop the flow of arms, of men and of stable door we shall in effect live in a ammunition. Until we have closed that world where the terrorist can find a haven—whether or not it be a safe one—in which he can regroup from which he can return and from which he can commit crimes of the type we are debating tonight.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

I was inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that it was unlikely from the outset that this debate would produce anything radically new. But a debate is justified, and is often necessary, even when one may know in advance that there is nothing of that kind to be said, and after the recrudescence of terror in the past two months, and its culmination in the past two weeks, it would have been unthinkable that the House should not provide the means for the expression of the bewilderment, frustration and anger of those against whom that violence has been directed. I do not think that anyone need apologise that the debate has, indeed, contained all those ingredients.

But something new—new in kind—was not to be expected. Indeed, it would be disgraceful as well as improbable if, after years of terror in Northern Ireland, we were suddenly to discover that there were ready-made novel methods which had previously been not attempted or ignored. So we are not likely to find more than new emphasis upon old methods and old truths, and also to be confronted with one of the inherent frustrations of this subject, namely, that on any issue which is put to the Government in the whole security field it will be impossible for them, in the public interest, to be entirely candid and complete in their replies to the House. In a sense, therefore, we are fighting on two fronts in a debate in the House.

Having listened to the whole debate, I think that there have been three emphases which were new in intensity The first was upon armament, the second was upon deployment, and the third was upon the Republic as the base of terrorism.

On armament, the M60 and some of the new terror weapons have been frequently mentioned. But it would be a fallacy to suppose that the armament of the security forces has to match in kind the armament of the terrorists. It is no more logical to say that, because the terrorists have the M60, the police and the Army ought therefore to use the M60 than it would be to say that, because they have bombs, the police ought therefore to have bombs, mortars and grenades.

What the security forces must have are the best weapons we can give them for the role which, as security forces, they play. That largely centres upon weapons—wise words on that subject fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross)—and upon vehicles. There is, I believe, no doubt that there has in the past—perhaps up to the immediate past—been delay and a lack of urgency in meeting the hold ups in the supply of armaments to the security forces.

The Secretary of State led the House to believe—I am sure that this is the intention—that those delays will be overcome, even if unorthodox methods such as were constantly used between 1939 and 1945 are employed to ensure that there is no hold-up in the supply to the security forces of what they need.

I come next to deployment. The Secretary of State said that "there is no question of political restraint or inhibitions upon the operations of the security forces." I took his words down, and I believe them. Indeed, I cannot imagine that any Government would deliberately hamper themselves—for it is themselves—in the conduct of these operations. But the Secretary of State knows that he has a great obstacle here to overcome. That is the widespread belief in the Province that what he asserts, and what I believe to be true, is not true. Every day one meets this assertion backed up by apparent instances in which the security forces have not been permitted, for one reason or another, to be present or to be used where they were needed.

I do not believe that this is a matter of lack of total forces—merely to say that we need more forces in total is to miss the essence of the problem—but there have been examples enough given in the debate to entitle one to say that the forces which we have are still not being deployed where they are most needed. In one instance after another given in the debate, the deficiency of forces at the point of need was not the index of an overall deficiency in Northern Ireland but the evidence of an inflexibility which still has to be overcome in providing what is needed—and it may not be very much— at the place and the time that it is needed.

I come, thirdly, to the Republic and its role in all this. The words which fell from the Secretary of State this afternoon were the most impressive which have ever been used from the Government Front Bench on this subject. He made no secret of the fact that the attack which is being made upon the people of Northern Ireland has its base in the Republic and that the security which is afforded south of the frontier to those who carry out these deeds—whether or not they are citizens of the United Kingdom or of the Republic—is a vital element in their success.

Having once stated that, the Government cannot, and I believe will not, just leave the matter there. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) was certainly not talking about sanctions or reprisals when he took the next step in logic from what the right hon. Gentleman had said. We ought to know by now, at this time of day, that sanctions and reprisals do not work and are often counter-productive. Nor would we expect the Secretary of State and the Government to disclose in this debate the methods by which the implications of what the Secretary of State said can best be brought home to the Republic and how, within what is possible, the disadvantages under which the security forces labour can be remedied.

I am not talking about extradition. I am not talking about European treaties. I am not talking about things which we as politicians know, whether we deplore it or not, are arguably beyond the reach of fellow politicians in the Republic. I am talking about methods which are available in the course of diplomacy, in the course of relations between Government and Government—and between two Governments who, to a large extent, have the same interest in overcoming the IRA, which is the enemy of both of them. I think that we are entitled to deduce from what the Secretary of State said that this is indeed going to happen and that that element, not least as a result of the last few weeks, will receive much more attention.

In the short run, the terrorist always has the initiative, because he controls the place and the time of striking. It is useless to imagine that the urban guerrilla in any of his manifestations can be dealt with by eliminating all possible terrorists, by covering all possible routes, by being in all places at the same time. That is a counsel of madness. There is only one sure answer to terrorism, and that is certainly—or rather, two kinds of certainty, a subordinate certainty and a superior certainty.

The subordinate certainty is the certainty that, sooner or later—it may be very much later—the terrorist will be apprehended, tried, convicted and punished, as I believe that those responsible for the La Mon House outrage will—I do not know whether it will be this year or next year or, as in some recent cases, five years later—be apprehended, convicted and punished.

That brings up another theme which has run through this debate, that of sentencing. The Government should take away from this debate the conviction that the whole matter of sentencing in Northern Ireland must receive their urgent attention. Of course, the Minister of State will say, and we all accept, that sentencing is a matter for the courts. But it is also a matter of Government policy—not what happens in any particular case but in general. The management of sentences—remission of sentence, parole and all the rest—is a matter for Government, and a legitimate matter for Government.

At present, conviction that the sentence will be served, that a genuine, appropriate sentence will be served, is not present in the strength in which it should be. Nobody could do more than the Secretary of State has done in disavowing the possibility of an amnesty. Indeed, I almost shuddered when he used the word "never" in that connection this afternoon, knowing how dangerous a word that that is for the politician. Still, I do not think that anyone seriously supposes that either side of the House contemplates those who have been convicted and imprisoned for these offences over the years ever receiving an amnesty from any Government in this country or any Government in control as long as Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.

Yet by those very last words I have indicated that the subordinate certainty—the certainty of not getting away with it in the long run—is dependent upon there being a long run. It is dependent upon the certainty that in the end the terrorist cannot attain his objectives, that he is bound to lose sooner or later and that therefore all the risk, all the sacrifice, is in vain.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hills-borough (Mr. Flannery), whose contributions, I may assure him, are always welcomed by my hon. Friends and myself because of the involvement in Northern Ireland which is so clear in what he says, is right when he asserts that this certainty is a matter of politics. Where, with respect, he is mistaken is in supposing that it is in arriving at what is called a solution, a new constitution, a compromise, an outcome to the talks of the Secretary of State, that the political certainty lies.

That sort of solution is not of the slightest interest to the IRA. If the right hon. Gentleman were to call the parties together at Stormont at the end of this week and put his proposals in front of them, and if they were to shake hands and agree to everything on the paper, the IRA's campaign would go on. Indeed, I should be prepared to argue that it would go on with still more vigour.

So wherein does certainty lie? It lies in a very simple fact, a fact which depends on the commitment of this House, both sides of this House, to Northern Ireland's belonging to the United Kingdom so long as the majority of its people so desire. That is the basis; but what is built upon that is the determination of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland—and when I say "the majority" of the people of Northern Ireland I include much more than is implied by the usual meaning of the word "majority"—that terror will not budge them, will not get its way.

When the IRA looks back—if it has the eyes and the brains to do so—upon the past eight years, it will see that the Union is stronger now than it was when the troubles started, and that every apparent success that the IRA has had has only had the effect of reinforcing the Union.

It has been said in the debate—this is the last thing I want to say, but the hardest thing I have to say—by at least one Member, and one hears it in Northern Ireland, that there is a limit to what the people of Northern Ireland can take. But the fact is—and the IRA had better understand it—that there is no limit to what the people of Northern Ireland in order to save what they hold to be dearer than life itself will not endure if they have to. That this should be understood, is the best guarantee that they will have to endure it for the shortest possible time.

It is no use making appeals to the IRA and explaining that it is wicked to kill women and children. The IRA knows what it is doing. It is the very essence of the terrorist to do that sort of thing and to do it deliberately. That is not the message needed by the IRA. What the IRA has to be told is that it will get nowhere, that, however long it goes on, however frequently it repeats these atrocities, at the end it will be further from its professed objectives than when it started. That is the only message that is worth sending to the IRA.

9.26 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davisou (Epping Forest)

Northern Ireland Members have expressed the horror felt in their constituencies and felt by the whole House at this new dire phase of the Provisional IRA terrorism, which some thought had died away.

The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) is one of those who never made that mistake. I remember sitting on this Bench before the evenings drew in and listening to him warn the House of a long, hard winter ahead. This evening he did not say "I told you so", but he spoke of ways in which he thought that the security forces could seize the initiative. So did my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). Both made important suggestions to this end, as did the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross), who also asked some pertinent questions.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) did not need to tell Members on this side of the House who have some experience of counter-insurgency of the danger of over-reaction to terrorist outrage. But there is also the danger of inertia. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central himself spoke of drift. When he says or gives the impression that he does not want intensified military activity, he appears to be at variance with the Secretary of State.

Mr. McNamara

My comment upon drift was in terms of a comment upon political attitudes—drift towards integration. It was not concerned with drift in the sense that my right hon. Friend was pursuing a vigorous policy to root out terrorism wherever it came from. I was commending him on the fact that he did not over-react to the situation and thereby worsen it.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman, but he did say that intensified military activity was not needed in this situation. I hope that he will take that up with Ministers.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—and how I personally welcome his strong words about the sanctity of the Union—drew attention both to delays in the supply of what is needed for the security forces, or some of the items needed by the security forces, and to deficiencies in the deployment of the troops. I hope that we shall get assurances on both these matters from the Minister of State when he replies.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) spoke, as did other hon. Gentlemen, about the Ulster Defence Regiment. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) asserted that there is banned territory—a new term for "no-go area"—for the Ulster Defence Regiment. I have heard this said. Is it true? I hope that we shall hear something from the Minister of State.

The deplorable strike with which the hon. Member for Antrim, North was connected did something for law and order. It proved that the UDS is indeed a non-sectarian and dependable force. It was called out, it stood to arms and it did its duty, which is mortifying for IRA propagandists, whose purpose is to decry and besmirch all that is loyal and true as biased and bigoted.

I share the disappointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) that there is not a larger proportion of Roman Catholics today serving in the UDI. The terrorists have used murder and threats with the object of terrifying Catholics into seeking discharge, and with some success. For family reasons, a number of Catholics have felt bound to leave. They have handed in their arms sorrowfully, and to the regret of their Protestant comrades. I can testify to this from my own tours and visits to UDR battalions.

The IRA ploy is, quite simply, not merely to drive good soldiers out of the regiment but, having done so, to say "There you have it, a sectarian force, no Catholics, all Protestants, the storm-troopers of Protestant ascendancy—the B Specials come again." But the psychological warfare, in which the terrorists are skilled, has not succeeded in this case.

Regular Army officers are not usually averse from criticising irregular corps, but the Regular Army today trusts and respects the UDR. I hope that if there are still any deficiencies in radio or other equipment, these will become grievances of the past. I also trust that the full-time element is growing fast. Yes, the Catholic proportion is regrettably small. All who join this regiment are brave men and brave women, but the Catholics who enlist need a double dose of courage. They receive scant encouragement from those who claim to speak for them in Church and State. Let anyone who alleges that the UDR is sectarian in its composition help to enlist more Roman Catholics.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West has assailed the Provisionals furiously in the debate, and I honour him for that, but if he is dissatisfied, as I am, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham is dissatisfied, with the strength of the Roman Catholics in the regiment, let him for goodness sake help to recruit more men and women of that persuasion. I should be glad to share a recruiting-platform with the hon. Gentleman and other minority leaders, and I dare say that my hon. Friend the Member for Becken ham would join us in an ecumenical spirit.

Will the Minister of State please address himself to the misgivings to which the hon. Member for Antrim, North gave voice about the surveillance of cross-border traffic?

There has been discussion of the new and deadly weapons that the IRA now has. The IRA, having such weapons, is in a better position to hit targets within Northern Ireland from deep in the territory of the Republic. The full co-operation of the security forces of the Republic with those of the United Kingdom has become the more necessary. As the right hon. Member for Down, South and others have observed, the two sovereign States have a common terrorist enemy. Mr. Lynch remarked at the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis on 18th February: We have not escaped. The burden for this small island is immense. Indeed, we have not escaped. The burden is immense. Tourism is deterred. Investors are deterred by terrorism.

The all-Ireland aim of the IRA is to engulf the entire island in revolution and destruction. It is true that the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic have a common interest in the destruction of a common foe. It makes no sense that the Irish Republic should allow its soil to be used for armed attack across the international frontier contrary to international law and for the arming, training and recuperation of a force bent on the destruction of its own authority and constitution. I thought that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), made that point to perfection.

So the troubles have lasted eight to nine years. As the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) said, they have lasted far too long. However, we must be prepared to go on. As the right hon. Member for Down, South said, it is the lingering hope that perhaps we might weaken that enables the terrorists to continue.

We are entitled to ask, as the hon. Members for Belfast, North and Belfast, South said, why Dublin has so far declined to join its partners in the acceptance of the European convention on terrorism. We are entitled to ask why there is still no efficacious substitute for extradition, to which there are constitutional obstacles. So far as I know, the Criminal Jurisdiction Act of this Parliament and the corresponding Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of the Irish Parliament have not brought one terrorist to reckoning. Of course, that legislation is not retrospective. I shall be glad to know whether there is any prospect of its having any effect upon the reduction of terrorism.

The Taoiseach, in the speech to which I have referred, said: I want to report that we as a Government will employ the full resources of security and of the law available to us in pursuing and bringing to justice those who engage in violence and embark on a course of savagery like blowing innocent children to bits on their way to school. Mr. Lynch went on roundly to condemn the atrocities committed near Cumber. We are glad of these words. However, one must say—I hope that the Secretary of State and the Foreign Office will say it—that, when the Irish Prime Minister speaks of the law available to us", the law still seems wholly insufficient for the discharge of the Republic's international obligations to its neighbour.

At least we might be spared pronouncements by politicians in the Republic that only encourage the Provisional IRA to persevere, as the Secretary of State said in his opening speech, by resurrecting the spectre of British withdrawal and impeding the constructive political discussion in the Province that the hon. Member for Hillsborough wishes to see.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North spoke of the dreams of Sinn Fein and the IRA. Their dream of Ireland is very different from that of most Irish politicians. They share, unfortunately, with a number of Irish politicians the aim of ousting British troops and British sovereignty.

The IRA will not have been discouraged by recent canvassing on both sides of the border of the idea of a federal Ireland. There is nothing new in that. It is not fresh bait to catch Northern Unionists. As the hon. Member for Antrim, North well knows, the idea was once worked on, for example, by Mr. Desmond Boal. It is founded on a false premise.

The argument seems to me to go like this: many Northern Protestants regard the Parliament in Dublin as a Catholic Parliament for a Catholic people, and they fear that within a unitary Irish State they would be compelled to accept social legislation and restrictions on private conduct which they would find irksome or repugnant. But, if such matters were the concern of a new Stormont Assembly connected not with London but with Dublin, they would cheerfully bid the Brits goodbye, haul down the Union flag and run up the Tricolour. In other words, there would be no need of British rule if Rome rule could be prevented.

That premise is false. Ulster loyalty is not a negative sentiment of that kind. Allegiance to the Crown and fidelity to the Union run deep in most Protestants in the North, and in more Catholics than is often admitted. It derives in part from the distinct personality of Ulster expressed politically in six of the nine counties of the historic Province now within Northern Ireland. It descends, too, from a proud history. In the Republic, politicians and parties may feel it necessary to prove their Republican virility and show themselves more nationalist than thou, but demands for a British intent to quit, like ill-judged hints of amnesty, are the very stuff of IRA propaganda.

There has been quotation in this debate of The Times leading article. The Times says: There is not the faintest prospect of a transformation of opposed allegiances so long as violent subversion ravages the land. We heard again from the hon. Member for Belfast, West. Sometimes he is here, and sometimes he is not. He is not present at the moment, but he used again the cliche that no military solution will suffice. It is equally true that there can be no lasting political solution without the re-establishment by the security forces of peace and order, and that is why we on this side of the House welcome the presence at this debate of the Secretary of State for Defence and his Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army. They will have heard the powerful words of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham about the hardships of those who serve in Northern Ireland and who are better praised than paid.

The Times leader which I have quoted is entitled "Dublin Loses Patience". None of us in these islands should lose patience. We must uphold the Union. We must work together. We have a common travel area in these islands. We have virtually common citizenship, albeit not reciprocal. Surely what we need is a common security area so that in these islands the terrorist may find no harbour, no hiding place, no breathing space, to use the vivid phrase of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. The honour and interests of all Irishmen require it.

9.43 p.m.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)

From the speeches that we have heard today, and from the debate, being held as it is after the massacre at the La Mon House, and bearing in mind the other deeds that have been perpetrated against the security forces in which innocent civilians have been involved, as they are bound to be when bombs, bullets and fire bombs are being used, it is evident that there is great concern about the problems of Northern Ireland.

It is only natural that some of the emotions and frustrations of people have shown in today's debate. At one time I thought that the debate was getting a little out of hand, but with its good sense, the House resumed its normal course of a serious consideration of the issues involved.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) forcefully reminded us that the politics and economics of Northern Ireland are part and parcel of the security set-up. There have been some telling speeches today. The Secretary of State particularly went through all aspects of security and told the House what was happening about security policy and the future as he sees it. I should like to go through the points that have been made in the debate and to try to answer as many as I can.

One thing that puzzled me at the outset—this was mentioned by both the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—was the talk about low intensity operations and a low profile. I hope no one is suggesting that the security forces have been holding back or taking it easy. I can assure the House that before, during and since the firemen's stoppage the police and soldiers have been fully occupied in both offensive and preventative operations. I can assure the House that but for these efforts the terrorists would have had much more scope than they have had.

I am also glad that just about every hon. Member accepted the fact that the answers do not lie in large injections of additional regular troops. The hon. Member for Antrim, North misunderstood what my right hon. Friend said about the extra resident battalion. The hon. Gentleman asked what would happen until it arrived in September. The answer is that the new resident battalion will replace one of the four-month units. There is no question of any gap between now and September.

My right hon. Friend was making the point that, unit for unit, there are certain operational advantages in a residential unit. All of us who have been in Northern Ireland for any length of time know the limitations of the four-month enrolment of troops. But a regiment which is there for 18 months gains a lot of knowhow on the ground and can keep up its effort without any interruption. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that point.

Mr. Kilfedder

The point the people of Northern Ireland make—as did some of the people I saw in hospital this morning—was that if the troops in Northern Ireland swamped those areas in which the terrorists emerge to perpetrate these atrocities, those atrocities would not occur, certainly not with such frequency. I hope that the Minister will bear that point in mind.

Mr. Concannon

One can argue that that would happen if one swamped an area with troops. But I would merely say that what matters is not the quantity but the quality of troops. That is what we must concentrate upon, and that is what we have been concentrating upon.

Mention was also made of the special role of the troops in Northern Ireland. But, to use a phrase contained in several speeches, in certain areas on the political front we cannot force other Governments to do certain things. I believe that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) recognised that.

In certain respects we have this problem with regard to the law in the South. One has only to take the existing extradition by warrant procedure which has not been effective in cases of terrorist offences. Irish law provides immunity from extradition for any offender who can demonstrate that his crime was a "political offence" or "connected with a political offence". During the current campaign there have been more than 20 notable cases of appeals against extradition being allowed on political grounds. The Irish extradition provisions as they relate to terrorist offences have never been helpful to us, but the RUC pursues fugitive terrorists by way of the extradition by warrant process. It is always possible that the Irish courts will grant extradition. There is no problem with non-terrorist criminals. Four of them were extradited in 1976 and three in 1977.

We still hope that the Irish Government will sign and ratify the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, but in the absence of an effective system of extraditing terrorists from the Republic our mutual criminal jurisdiction legislation is the next best thing, though it applies only to offences committed after 1st June 1976 when it came into force.

Mr. McNamara

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the backing of warrants, pursued by the Irish Government, brings people before the courts, that the independent judiciary decides whether a man has committed a political offence and that it is not a lack of will on the part of the Irish Government?

Mr. Concannon

It is the law of the South which allows this and the courts adjudicate on that law. Prosecution under legislation is a matter for the legal authorities in whose jurisdiction the suspect is located. The Government are satisfied that the RUC and the Gardai will co operate to make full use of it if suitable cases emerge.

Given the nature of the border, and everyone understands the problems involved, the permanent vehicle checkpoints can be and have been passed by those who have reason to fear them. The security forces have applied a more flexible policy to the checking of vehicles at the permanent checkpoints and are concentrating more on snap checks all along the border.

The references by Mr. Jack Lynch to only 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. of incidents in Northern Ireland originating from the Republic are misleading. Information is passed to the South whenever there is clear and direct evidence that an incident was cross-border—this is usually when gunmen are seen crossing the border or when detonator wires are left lying across the border. Such incidents may represent only a small proportion of the total violence in Northern Ireland, but they are only a small percentage of the incidents where all the indications are that there was a cross-border element, and we have made clear to the Irish Government that we do not agree with their figure of 2 per cent.

I can assure the House that co operation between the RUC and the Gardai continues to develop in a number of operational areas. Joint action continues to hinder the movement of arms and money into the hands of terrorists. There will always be room for improvement and we shall continue to seek closer co-operation between the forces on both sides of the border.

The hon. Member for Abingdon and others asked about proscription of the Provisional Sinn Fein. It was proscribed from May 1973 until July 1974 under Section 19 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, but the Government have been concerned recently to observe the principle that people should be penalised for the crimes that they commit and not for the motives behind them.

It is right that Provisional Sinn Fein should be able to reflect the shade of political opinion which it reflects at present, but that is not to suggest that if a direct connection between the Provisional IRA and Provisional Sinn Fein is established action should be inhibited. There are limits to the freedom of speech and writing, and when individual members of Provisional Sinn Fein also belong to illegal organisations such as Provisional IRA they should be proceeded against. In view of what has been said in the debate, I can assure hon. Members that we shall keep the situation under review.

The hon. Member for Abingdon also asked about the recent Army helicopter crash and mentioned the Provisional IRA's claim that it had shot down the helicopter with an M60. Inquiries into the incident are continuing, but there is certainly no evidence to confirm that the crash was caused by fire from an M60 or any other firearm.

That brings me to a point that was touched upon by many hon. Members. The hon. Member for Abingdon suggested that the M60 machine gun has revolutionised the situation in Northern Ireland. Certainly my right hon. Friend and I take this new threat extremely seriously, as we have made clear. But I suggest that it is a mistake to believe that any weapon makes a decisive difference to the terrorist's position, whether it be the RPG7 rocket, the M60, or whatever. What counts most in the end is not the fire power which the terrorists can bring to bear, or even the viciousness with which they are prepared to use it, but the weight of opinion, condemnation and rejection which is brought to bear on the terrorists. That is still the crucial factor, as my right hon. Friend pointed out when he quoted the wise words of the chief constable.

It cannot be said too often that the effectiveness of the terrorists is largely governed by the attitude of the whole community. The security forces are aware of the threat posed by this weapon in the hands of the terrorists. Its use has been identified on two occasions in Belfast and on two occasions in Londonderry. In one of the attacks in Belfast a soldier was shot dead. Searches have already resulted in the discovery of three belts of ammunition, and searching continues to locate the weapon or weapons. As a result of the demonstration in Londonderry on 29th January, a man has been charged with the possession of the weapon.

The question of police arms and equipment cropped up in a few speeches. My right hon. Friend spoke of the usefulness of the Hotspur reinforced Land Rovers and made clear that we are pressing on with a further addition to the fleet. He also referred to the M1 carbines in service with the RUC. I would only add that the selection of police equipment is a matter for the police. It is for the chief constable to assess the needs of the force. He is advised by a working party on which the Police Federation is represented. These were the ways in which the police decided that the M1 carbine was the right weapon for them. We should perhaps hesitate before claiming that our judgment is possibly better than theirs.

Mr. Carson

Is the Minister of State aware that the Police Federation has made repeated representations to the police authority? It seems that the message is coming through from the chief constable and the Police Federation to the police authority. Is he aware that, whenever this happens, it promises that, when matters return to normal, these vehicles and weapons, which are needed now, will be provided?

Mr. Concannon

The vehicle fleet, which forms an essential part of the RUC operations against the terrorist, continues to grow at the rate of 100 a year. The eventual target of 1,400 of all types of vehicles should be reached by the end of 1979. Twenty-eight Land Rovers have been or are in the process of being equipped with special steel protection. Ninety more are due to be similarly kitted out, 50 by local firms in Northern Ireland.

Reviews are regularly undertaken to ensure that the RUC is equipped with the weapons best suited to its needs. The delivery of the 1,000 M1 carbines is now completed. The weapon is being issued as members of the force are trained in its use.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Northern Ireland Office is responsible for responding to the wishes of the chief constable or whether the responsibility is firmly in the hands of the police authority? I find myself in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson). The police authority tells us that it cannot get the stuff and blames the Minister. Then, when we go to the Government, they say that that is a matter for the police authority. We need to know who is responsible.

Mr. Concannon

The decision on the kinds of weapons and vehicles required is for the police and the police authority. Once they have decided, they cannot, of course, be manufactured overnight. There has been a problem in getting them to the Province. Once the decision has been taken, it will be up to us to ensure that the various licensing and other procedures that have to be gone through in the Northern Ireland Office are carried out expeditiously. The decision on policy and on what weapons are required is for the police and the police authority combined.

There has been talk about limitation on UDR employment or deployment. It is fair to stress—and I stress again—that the UDR is part of the British Army. The UDR plays an extremely important role in security—

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.