§ 10.14 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Alison)
I beg to move,That the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Amendment) Order 1979 (S.I, 1979, No. 746), a copy of which was laid before this House on 2 July, be approved.It may be for the convenience of the House, Mr. Speaker, if we consider at the same time the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Amendment) Order 1979.
§ Mr. Alison
The effect of these orders is to proscribe the Irish National Libertion Army throughout the United Kingdom. It is a step which has been taken only after the most careful consideration. In this country we have a tradition of free expression of political views, and there is certainly no desire on the part of this Government to punish or penalise people for their legitimate expression of political opinions. It is open to political movements throughout the United Kingdom to test their popular support at elections, although I am bound to add that certain movements in Northern Ireland have singularly failed to put their policies to the electoral test—no doubt because they know that they will obtain only a derisory response. But if, rather than devote itself to the lawful expression of political views, a movement puts its faith in the commission of violent terrorist acts, action must be taken.
The Irish National Liberation Army, so-called, has been referred to as the "military wing" of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, a political group which broke away from the official Sinn Fein in 1974. What is clear, from its own admission as well as other evidence, is that the INLA is involved in the commission of terrorist acts. Besides the dreadful murder of our former colleague, Airey Neave, the INLA has admitted guilt for a number of other terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland, including attacks on members of the security forces and attacks on commercial property. In these incidents a soldier in the Ulster 742 Defence Regiment, a woman prison officer, and a member of the RUC Reserve have been killed. From these acts it is also clear that the word "army" in the title of the Irish National Liberation Army—as in the case of the Provisional IRA—is a grossly misleading misnomer. What we are dealing with is a squalid criminal conspiracy.
It is against this background of admitted participation in terrorist acts that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Home Secretary considered whether the organisation should be proscribed. In doing so, I know that both my right hon. Friends were concerned that proscription might merely afford the organisation a gratuitous status to which it could otherwise only pretend—a sort of spurious glamour which might be bestowed upon it simply by the act of proscription.
There is no doubt, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland explained to the House on 2 July, that the INLA is a much smaller organisation than the Provisional IRA and is of much less significance, at least in numerical terms. This is the case both in Northern Ireland and in Great Britain, and there is always the risk that the members of a small organisation such as this will draw some encouragement, in a perverse way, by being designated as outlaws. But my right hon. Friends were persuaded that proscription was the correct course by two weighty considerations.
First, it is an affront to public sensibilities for the law to countenance an organisation openly and avowedly dedicated to criminal violence and the overthrow of civil authorities. The murderous acts for which this organisation has claimed responsibility have, I believe, sickened the overwhelming mass of our society. Public confidence in civil order and in the rule of law is undermined when such an organisation, with such openly avowed and flaunted objectives, can exist with no legal impediment.
Second, the Government believe that proscription would damage the organisation's structure and effectiveness. It may be helpful to remind the House that the effect of proscription is not only to make it an offence to belong or to profess to belong to a proscribed organisation. It is also an offence to solicit or invite 743 financial support for it, or knowingly to make or receive financial contributions on behalf of the organisation.
This liability to arrest and possible conviction puts pressure on the less committed INLA members and is a constraint on the activists, but neither the police nor the Government claim that proscription enables immediate and substantial inroads to be made into the process of destroying the organisation. The groups with whom we are concerned in this context are not likely to issue membership cards or keep records of those who have paid their subscriptions, and the onus is on the police and prosecuting authorities to bring evidence before the courts. The proper judicial processes continue to apply, and a successful prosecution cannot be based on mere gossip or information. It is nevertheless the case that in Northern Ireland at least a number of convictions have been obtained in respect of membership of proscribed organisations in the past—50 in the first five months of this year—and many of them were associated with charges for other substantive terrorist-type offences.
The considered advice of the security forces—the police and the Army—in Northern Ireland, and of the police in Great Britain, is that proscription is a useful operational weapon against the INLA. The organisation, by its own account, is one dedicated to indiscriminate murder and destruction, and it is essential to use all available powers to bring its members to justice before the law. Hence the two orders.
§ 10.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)
On behalf of the Opposition, I welcome the orders before the House. In supporting the inclusion of the Irish National Liberation Army in the appropriate orders, I do so mindful of the cherished commitment of this House to the principle of liberty for the individual within society. But we in Opposition, as in Government, recognise the clear distinction between political and criminal acts. Clearly, the activities of the Irish National Liberation Army fall very much in the latter category. They do so by its own admission.
As the Minister rightly pointed out, it would be wrong of this House to iso- 744 late one act alone as the reason for proscription. The tragic, untimely and futile death of Airey Neave rightly shocked the Members of this House and the public at large, and must have weighed very heavily in the minds of those Ministers who are responsible for proposing these amended orders tonight. But the Irish National Liberation Army has been responsible for many other acts which have been equally horrible. On the Labour Benches we recognise, however, that the Government took this step after the most careful of examinations. Although it might be thought that we are giving to these terrorists extra publicity by this act of proscription, we nevertheless recognise that when it passes these orders tonight the House will carry with it the overwhelming support of the people in the United Kingdom.
I conclude, Mr. Speaker, by saying that if my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) catches your eye later, he would like to make a particular point in relation to the Ulster Volunteer Force within the context of Great Britain. Suffice it for me to say that we commend the order to the House tonight.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
It is somewhat ironic that these orders should be debated on the same day as the publication of an article in The Guardian by Peter Jenkins. The writer obviously fears that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland may be sucked into the same bog as other good men before him. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be spared that fate.
Mr. Jenkins would appear to have fallen victim of the bog himself because of the error of believing that a structure can be devised to placate the terrorists and end the violence. The longer he and others strain their eyes searching for that somewhat elusive objective, the deeper they will be plunged into the slough of despond.
The necessity for these two orders should expose the fallacy of the concept of a political solution—a concept that conjures up some form of contrived device to set limits on democracy and to ensure that all comers will be guaranteed a right to stop the administrative 745 machine dead in its tracks and prevent progress if they so desire.
Let us suppose that the 1973 power-sharing experiment had continued to exist. What could have been in it for the Provisional IRA? There was nothing in it for the IRA. Let us suppose that the power-sharing Executive had, at the time, come to the conclusion that the participation of the SDLP was not enough to end the violence and that an allocation of seats to the IRA—through election, of course—was the only hope of success. The moment that the Provisional IRA became part of the Establishment and stopped fighting, it would have been overtaken on the right by the so-called Irish National Liberation Army, precisely as it had overtaken and destroyed the official IRA when it turned political.
These two orders should convince the most ardent power sharer that the solution, and the inclusion in that solution of terrorist groups, will not buy off groups such as that named in these orders—the Irish National Liberation Army—the objective of which is not concealed. The objective of the INLA is liberation from Atkins' rule in the North and Lynch law in the South. It will not be bribed by offers of seats in the Cabinet or the Executive.
Proscribing an organisation is of very little value in itself. That has a purpose only if it gives expression to the resolve of Government, Parliament and the nation to defeat the terrorism. We must accept, for the time being, the House of Commons' decision on capital punishment, but Parliament has a duty to ensure that alternative punishment is of equal deterrent value.
In addition to measures which will, I hope, be taken by the Government and Parliament in the United Kingdom, there must be corresponding action by the Government of the Irish Republic. On 13 July Mr. Lynch said:There need be no doubt about the determination of the Irish Government to employ the full resources of security and of the law available to us in pursuing those who engage in this campaign of violence.In the same speech Mr. Lynch announced that the Republic would be participating in the new EEC agreement which would allow the convention on 746 the suppression of terrorism to be applied between member States of the EEC. He explained in some detail that that device was necessary because the Republic could not ratify the European convention for what he called constitutional reasons. In that, however, he was mistaken.
I am aware of the many demands on Mr. Lynch's time, not least the burden of the presidency of the EEC Council of Ministers, and have devoted a little time to studying his problem. I am happy to tell Mr. Lynch that he was badly advised and that there is no real constitutional bar to the Republic's agreeing to the terms of the convention or to extradition. Article 28(3)(3) of the Republic's constitution makes special provision for measures necessary in times of national emergency—measures that, incidentally, are immune to appeal to the constitution. As a state of emergency was approved on 31 August 1976 to permit, for example, seven-day detention, the way is clear for the Dublin Government to proceed.
In our view, the threat is not merely to Northern Ireland; it is a threat to the whole of the British Isles. In so far as these two orders assist in removing that threat, we suggest that they are worthy of the approval and endorsement of the House.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Win. Ross (Londonderry)
I believe that these orders are a further attempt to control the gunmen. As my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said, there is no doubt that they will help a little. People in Northern Ireland, however, will be wondering—and some of them have expressed their wonderment to me—that it took so long before the organisation was proscribed. One or two people have gone as far as to say that it is a method of salving the consciences of many right hon. and hon. Members because of the explosion that took place within the precincts of this Palace. That belief is more widely held in Northern Ireland than the House may wish to accept. That sort of remark has been made to me on a number of occasions, and it is not a happy situation when people in Northern Ireland are forced to think in that way.
There are various ways of controlling a geographic area. It can be done by the 747 military, where the Army has the freedom, manpower and firepower to move through and hold an area against armed attack. The Army is able to do that in any part of Northern Ireland. There is also the ability of the police to control the area, to issue summonses and to have those summonses executed in court. That is being done in a way that was not possible when the Conservatives last left office. At the end of the day, however, if the people living in the controlled area do not feel safe, the measures cannot be said to be effective. It is necessary completely to deny the area to the terrorist and to prevent any raid by the INLA or other terrorist organisation succeeding in its objective.
Unless one has been on guard duty, one cannot appreciate how dull and frustrating it is. It is weary work. Often those on static guard duty who only move at specific times feel themselves to be little more than targets for the gunmen. Guard duty properly carried out, however, denies the terrorist entry across the border to Northern Ireland and exit after attempting or carrying out his evil work.
I hope that the Government will not stop at tonight's order. We must remember that there is an increasing expertise and co-operation among terrorist groups outwith the United Kingdom. There are a number of pointers to the co-ordination of activities and to the way in which they obtain information.
The Minister will have seen the report in the Irish independent of 20 June, which described how two persons from the Creggan and Londonderry were remanded by the special criminal court in Dublin, charged with possession of explosives. They were members of the Provisional IRA. They had with them a number of timing devices and electric detonators. The timing devices were mercury tilt switches—an invention of the INLA which PIRA had not used widely. In this case there was co-operation and a traffic involving the weapons of murder between the two groups. That makes one wonder how far apart they are. They appear to have found a source of commercial explosives. The same men had with them 20 lb of gelatine and 15 lb of Frangex.
748 The commercial explosive was manufactured in the Republic. I have no doubt that the police, both north and south of the border, know where it was made. I hope that the Minister will bring that to the attention of Mr. Lynch so that the Garda can find out how this large quantity of explosive came into the hands of this dangerous terrorist organisation.
I turn to the question of the reorganisation of terrorist groups not only within Northern Ireland but outwith it. We know of the complete reorganisation into tight cell structures of the body that we are discussing and other terrorist organisations. They are being strengthened by an increasing number of highly skilled terrorists trained in the compounds of the Maze prison and elsewhere. In a matter of days of being released some of them reappear in County Donegal and other border counties. Their rehabilitation is not successful.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Many hon. Members who have been to the Maze are appalled at the training that goes on. What does the hon. Gentleman think should be done about it?
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman's comment is valid. The training takes place because of political status which was foolishly granted by the House. I hope that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) voted against it.
It is clear to those who question the terrorists when they are picked up that they have been carefully lectured by people who know the law on how to behave. They know that they can be condemned and imprisoned by the statements that they make. Therefore, they keep silent. Their training in dealing with interrogation has improved vastly in the past few years and it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure convictions.
It is time that the House considered going further and looking again at the shortcomings in the law which will remain after the orders before us have filled one gap. For example, the 1978 principal Act makes it illegal for a person to have a radio transmitter, but it is not illegal for someone to have a radio receiver. Indeed, such a law would be unenforceable, but hon. Members may be interested to learn that some receivers are 749 capable of being tied in to the security forces' networks. They are widely used by members of the IRA and their sympathisers.
Then we have the situation of a group of gunmen being charged with murder or another serious crime and, when the court proceedings draw near, one admits to pulling the trigger and gets life imprisonment while the rest of the gang say that they did not knowingly consent to the act, or were acting under duress, and they get off with much lighter sentences. It is clear that there are gaps and loopholes that need to be reconsidered. Perhaps we should have a word with the Director of Public Prosecutions, who often seems prepared to accept the sort of excuses to which I have referred. I wonder why.
The gaps can best be closed not only by orders such as those before us but by providing for fairly long terms of imprisonment for membership of proscribed organisations, for selective detention and for extradition. At the end of the day, extradition is the one thing which would render so much else unnecessary.
It seems to the people of Northern Ireland that we have far too often been binding our hands in our efforts to defend life while the IRA's hands are being continually loosened and made more available for murder. It is time that we faced the facts of life and fought the war as though we meant to win it and not as though we were trying to hold a line that is continually moving.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)
I welcome the orders and should like to talk about co-operation across the border. Two main issues currently bedevil Anglo-Irish relations—Britain's inability to get hold of suspected terrorists from the Republic and the general attitude of the Government in the South towards cross-border co-operation.
It is obvious that the length and nature of the border make it impossible to close it completely to unauthorised movements. That makes effective patrolling on both sides all the more important if the security forces in the North are to get on top of the IRA. In particular, the security situation in South Armagh must depend on close and effective co-operation between North and South.
750 There have been hundreds of reports of individuals and groups of armed terrorists escaping to the Republic after attacking British soldiers with rifles, mortars and, more recently, bombs detonated electronically from the South.
We have been told by successive Governments that co-operation is good and is improving, but I find it incredible that after 11 years of terrorist warfare in the North we have not achieved more satisfactory co-operation between North and South. After all, we are two friendly countries, both members of the EEC and both dedicated to the eradication of terrorism. I have no doubt that the Provisional IRA poses a greater threat to the Government in the South than to our Government.
It seems obvious that better arrangements could, and must, be made. I am amazed to find that each year the authorities in the South complain about over-flying by British Army helicopters. In 1974 there were 28 complaints of such incursions; in 1975, there were 19 complaints; in 1976, 22; in 1977, 10; and in 1978, eight. Surely, those silly complaints are not necessary. I do not understand why there are not direct military links between the respective military forces on either side of the border. If there is a shooting incident, the British Army has to contact the RUC which in turn contacts the Garda. Only after the Garda contacts the soldiers in the South are those soldiers allowed to take action. That is an absurd situation when a few minutes can make all the difference between catching a terrorist or not and preventing a shooting incident. It is totally unsatisfactory.
Why cannot joint patrols operate on both sides of the border? Why cannot liaison visits take place between the two armies? We are told that the constitutional arrangements of the army in the South render such proposals inconceivable, but is it not time that the Government looked at the matter again, had a stiff word with the authorities in the South and made sure that from now on we do not merely pay lip service to co-operation but achieve far more effective liaison than has existed in the past? If this does not happen, the lives of British soldiers will continue to be lost unnecessarily, and Anglo-Irish relations will continue to be bedevilled.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
I listened with regret to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend). I felt that he was unaware of the nature of the co-operation, the nature of the problem and the constitutional matters affecting cross-border co-operation. After the strong statements by the Secretary of State and by his counterpart in the Republic about the co-operation that exists—although no one would argue that it is perfect—the hon. Gentleman's call for a "stiff word" to be addressed to the authorities in the South, like the headmaster of a school telling a little boy to improve his conduct, is a strange way to seek such co-operation.
This is a most regrettable occasion. We are going through a ritual denunciation of a terrorist organisation. We are passing two orders that will go through the House unopposed saying that this organisation should be proscribed. What will that mean? What positive, purposeful, courageous act are we taking that will somehow weaken this terrible organisation? I put it to the House that the answer is "None at all."
I regret very much the circumstances that have led to the introduction of these orders. But what has been the effect of proscribing the Provisional IRA? Have the successes achieved against the Provisional IRA been the result of proscription? I would suggest that success has been the result of good police work, good intelligence and proper police equipment.
The Minister of State said that there were two strong reasons for introducing the order, the first being that it must not appear that the law countenanced such an organisation. Did anyone ever really think that the law countenanced an institution such as the INLA, or that, somehow, the common law of this country slapped these people on the back and said "Well done. Good lads"? Of course not. It is utter and complete rubbish. It would no more countenance them and what they are doing than it would the rapist, the burglar or the murderer.
The way in which these things are proscribed is by proscribing the nature of the action and making that a criminal offence, and not by giving the spurious glamour provided by the idea that at last 752 the Mother of Parliaments has realised this threat and has therefore found it necessary to proscribe the organisation.
Then we have the second argument, which is that this act of proscription will somehow weaken the structure and effectiveness of the INLA. Again, I put it to the House that that is a load of rubbish. What will weaken the organisation is the methods about which I spoke earlier. The INLA under any other name would be just as evil and just as terrorist. Merely to proscribe it again in this way, to suggest that, somehow, some weak soul will be frightened away by the action of proscription, is quite wrong.
In any event, there exists under the law at present and the emergency powers offences of collecting and subscribing to certain organisations or conspiracy to help them in this way.
That was a weak argument. What we are really saying when we proscribe the INLA is "We do not like the organisation, and the way in which we can show that we do not like it is by putting it on a list of proscribed organisations. We will put it there with the Provisional IRA and any other organisations that might come along, Perhaps, just occasionally, we might get someone on the sole charge of being a member of the INLA."
It was significant that the Minister said that this year 50 people had been charged with membership of the Provisional IRA, along with other serious crimes. What we really want to know is how many people were convicted of the crime of merely being a member of a proscribed organisation. That might put into perspective the degree to which proscription is really effective.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) spoke about the House taking a vote on the question of political status. A vote on that matter was never taken in the House; it was a decision taken by the Secretary of State in his executive role. At the time, it was felt to be right. In the circumstances of the time, I think that it was right, against the background of the foisted charges and the indiscriminate use of internment. It was a right decision for the Secretary of State to make at that time.
The sad thing about the whole of this debate, however, was the opening statement made by the acting Leader of the 753 Official Unionist Party—that there will never be a political solution. He suggested that it was the Provisional IRA that had brought down the power-sharing Executive. The PIRA had its part to play. But there are hon. Members of this House who fought the general election in October 1974 not over wages policy or the question of the miners but under such posters as "Dublin is but a Sunningdale away." There are hon. Members of this House who actively encouraged the Ulster workers' stoppage. It is fair to say now that one group had egged on the other group. But for the Official Unionists to say that there can be no political solution when they have refused all the time, in a subordinate part of the United Kingdom, whether at local government or at Six Counties level, to countenance any of the types of solution that this House and succeeding Secretaries of State have advanced, is one of the major reasons why these orders are being discussed tonight.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Davidson (Accrington)
I share the doubts expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) about the value of proscribing an organisation and the effectiveness of proscription on an organisation. I have no doubt that the abhorrence felt at having to proscribe an organisation is indicated by the fact that this is only the second such organisation to be proscribed under this legislation.
I am in no way suggesting that the Secretary of State did not have good reasons for including this organisation on the list, but I would like to ask him something that intrigues me and has mystified one or two other people. Why has the UVF, for instance, not been included? I do not expect the right hon. Gentleman to go into details tonight, but I am concerned that an organisation which, according to a judge in Scotland, has wreaked such havoc and is such a dangerous organisation has not been included.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the organisation mentioned in these orders is clay the second to have been proscribed under the governing statutes. With great 754 respect, that is not correct. One of the two statutes is the Northern Ireland statute, and under that there are already seven proscribed organisations, including the UVF, to which he referred.
§ Mr. Davidson
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for correcting me. I did not mean to give that impression. I was speaking purely on the order applying to the United Kingdom. Had I had the ability to speak as knowledgeably as the right hon. Gentleman, I would have done so. I am intrigued to know why the UVF has not been listed if it is a dangerous organisation and is responsible for acts of violence. Perhaps the Minister would enlighten me on that.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I regret the opening remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), in which he said that one act alone, namely, the killing of Airey Neave, was responsible for the orders being laid before the House. If there is to be proscription of an organisation I would hope that it would not relate only to the death of one individual. Whilst the INLA may be very small in numbers, it has been ruthless in its activities both in this part of the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Pendry
When the hon. Member reads Hansard, he will find that I said exactly the opposite. Therefore, he agrees with me.
§ Mr. Fitt
I had taken a note that it was one act alone. It may be that that was allied to other acts committed by the INLA. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson). If there are to be proscriptions, the UVF and UDA should also be included. Those two organisations have been engaged in terrorist activity over a number of years. A judge in Scotland sentenced members of those organisations to many years of imprisonment. He invited the Government to take cognisance of his remarks and to say that the members of the organisations were engaged in the trafficking of illegal arms and explosives which were to be used in Northern Ireland. However, if we are to believe the cries of loyalists from Belfast, those arms, whether guns, rifles or explosives, were not going to be used against the security forces. They were going to be 755 used against the Catholic population in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) referred to the trafficking of arms over the border between the North and the South. He should also take account of what is going on between one part of the United Kingdom and another.
I would like to approach the matter from a different point of view. Name after name and sets of initials after sets of initials could be added to the proscription lists. Newly appointed Conservative Ministers will be well aware of the legion number of organisations in Northern Ireland which all claim to have been responsible for a certain act. When explosions and killings take place in Belfast, there is a mad scramble to the telephone to claim responsibility. In the case of Airey Neave, our late colleague, the Provisional IRA claimed responsibility but, immediately after that, the INLA claimed the same responsibility. When it appeared that the INLA had more claim for the credit of that dastardly act, the Provisional IRA faded from the picture because, clearly, it was telling lies.
The INLA is not an endemic Irish organisation. It has world-wide, possibly Communist or Marxist, connections, whereas the Provisional IRA is Irish-based, although it seeks outside assistance for the importation of arms and the expertise in the commission of acts of terrorism. The INLA has supporters in this country who are not Irishmen concerned for a united Ireland but people engaged in terrorism for its own sake. That sort of thing happens all over the world and it is worrying. Therefore, I am not certain whether adding this organisation to the proscribed list will be useful.
There has to be a reason for terrorism. Organisations do not spring up overnight, give themselves a set of initials and say that they will kill for killing's sake and bomb for bombing's sake. The organisations believe that their existence has some justification, whether or not we in this island or in this House believe that to be the case. The history of Ireland provides justification—I do not subscribe to it—for dastardly activities. It is said that the INLA has a small grouping in Belfast 756 and it is relatively unknown. Whether or not that is right, its members can kill. If we are to believe their claims, they did kill one of our late colleagues—Airey Neave.
Even that small grouping, based as it allegedly is in Divis Tower, in my constituency, could not exist unless it had the support of people who were protecting it. The Provisional IRA could not exist unless it had the support of a protective community. One must then ask whether there is a military solution. Is it possible to arrest all the Provisional IRA men and the INLA men and put them in prison? I do not think so. I have said so for year after year in debate after debate. We must look for the real reason for the existence of these organisations.
My hon. Friends will have heard the Official Unionist Members and the Democratic Unionist Members repeatedly charging me on the Floor of the House with not giving support to the RUC. They have tried to imply that in some way the reservations and suspicions that I have about some members of the RUC—I have never condemned every member of that organisation—reservations that are shared by my party and the minority population in Northern Ireland, are not genuine and sincere. Once a significant section of the population withholds support from the RUC, terrorist organisations are able to exist.
Why does the Catholic population withhold its support from what people refer to as the forces of law and order? I have already spoken to the Secretary of State—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)
I remind the House that this is a very narrow debate on the question whether this organisation should be proscribed. It is not a general debate on terrorism in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Fitt
I accept the restriction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but if the Government are seeking to ban an organisation it is valid to ask why that organisation exists.
The only way to put such an organisation out of existence is to get the overwhelming support of the population in Northern Ireland to support the security forces. It would then not protect an organisation such as this.
757 There was recently a commemorative service in Belfast for RUC members who had lost their lives over the past decade. A member of the Royal Family was in attendance to unveil a plaque. A Catholic priest was there to associate himself, on behalf of the Catholic community, with the service. A few days after that service had taken place, a letter appeared in the Lurgan Mail—on 5 July 1979. It read as follows. It was a letter to the editor, and the headline wasPresence of priest was an insult'".and it went on:Robert J. Dodds, Sergeant, RUC, writes:Dear Sir, As a long serving member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary I feel I must protest in the strongest possible terms at the presence of a Roman Catholic Priest at the religious Service at Police Headquarters on Friday. The presence of this representative of the Church of Rome at this service is indeed an insult to the men killed or butchered in the campaign of violence. This priest and many others have had the opportunity to speak out and take positive action against the terrorists who are in the main adherents to that faith, the church have given them Absolution, concealed them and their confessions and indeed have hidden their weapons in the grounds and buildings of the Chapels.The next part is interesting. Hon. Members should take note of it.The chapter and verse in Holy Scripture which would appear to be appropriate is Revelation, chapter 17, verse 6:'And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration'.That is a surgeon in the RUC, and the Catholic population in Northern Ireland are supposed to have faith in people like that. I understand, by the way, that he is an adherent of the Free Presbyterian Church. If that is the twisted mentality in that man's religious belief, how in the name of God can one expect the minority population to have faith in so-called supporters of the law?
I should be the last to suggest that anyone should be dismissed from any job, but that man has no right to serve—
§ Mr. Fitt
I think it appropriate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to bring to the attention of the House the reason why there is an INLA. Let me just say this in conclusion. For years and years, at election after elec- 758 tion, in the party which I have the honour to represent both in Northern Ireland and in this House, we have striven to prevent the Catholic population, the minority population in Northern Ireland, from in any way giving support, overt or covert, to terrorist organisations. We have done this at considerable risk to ourselves. We have been castigated as traitors. We have been maligned as pro-British. We have been told that under cover we are in fact giving support to organisations such as the INLA and the Provisional IRA.
I am prepared to withstand criticism of that sort because in my conscience I know that I am doing no such thing. But I must say something else, in the knowledge of its seriousness, and I do so in the presence of the Secretary of State. In Belfast there are many thousands of Catholics—people who voted for me and for my colleagues in the recent elections, and people who have at all times supported those who have been opposed to violence—but there are at this moment people within the Catholic community who are saying "Perhaps the IRA have something going for them. Perhaps they are not all the time wrong. Perhaps they are something that is necessary to protect us from extremists"—extremists such as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
Without in any way wishing to exacerbate an already tense situation, I must say that the attitude of the hon. Member for Antrim, North over the proposed visit of the Pope to Ireland—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman dealt with that point the other night. It is no part of the present debate, and I hope that he will not keep referring to those matters.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I cannot help but think that it is impossible for us merely to say that we agree with the proscription without discussing at least some of the political background of the case. It is impossible for us to debate it unless we are allowed some movement towards the political surroundings of what we are discussing.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
With the greatest respect, I must point out that I have allowed considerable latitude, well outside the bounds of the debate.
§ Mr. Fitt
I can only refer again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the restrictions on a debate such as this. We have only one and a half hours. Many Members from Northern Ireland and, I hope, many Members from other parts of the United Kingdom wish to take part.
I had already concluded what I have to say, and I have no wish to go on. There are many reasons why the adding of this name to the list of proscribed organisations will not lead to the ending of the INLA. It is the political undertones and the background to the situation in Northern Ireland which gave birth to these organisations. Unless that problem is settled, those organisations will continue to exist and continue to murder. I repeat in my concluding words that the atmosphere in Northern Ireland, because of what happened last week—
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I am sure that the House is sorry to learn that the hon. Gentleman is about to conclude. Before he does so, will he clear up what appears to be a contradiction? It is a contradiction that is appearing in his concluding words. He said at the beginning of his speech—with respect, he said correctly—that the INLA in Great Britain is supported by those who are concerned or interested not in what happens in Northern Ireland, or in Ireland, but in terrorism for its own sake. How can he reconcile that with the conclusion to which he is now coming?
§ Mr. Fitt
I am saying that those who support the INLA in England, Scotland and Wales are not interested in a united Ireland. I agree that the INLA is a small organisation, but in the island of Ireland it was formed because of the present poltical situation. I do not find that hard to explain.
In the general election 137,000 voted for SDLP candidates and 140,000 voted for our European candidate. Those electors have so far eschewed violence, but they are being driven into the camp of violence by the attitude expressed by the hon. Member for Antrim, North.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
We are discussing the banning of an organisa- 760 tion. I have taken part in similar debates that led to the proscription of certain organisations. Let the House face the fact that while it is all very well for us to name an organisation and proscribe it, that is little help in getting to grips with its members. The debate and the proscription will be little help in bringing members of the organisation to trial.
We are told repeatedly that there are many members of the Provisional IRA on the list in Belfast. We are also told about "godfathers" of the Provisional IRA. We understand that they are known to the authorities. However, it seems that godfathers cannot be arrested and cannot be brought to court. If the Provisional IRA is a proscribed organisation and if the godfathers or the leadership are known, why can they not be brought to court and charged with membership of the Provisional IRA if proscription is an effectual instrument? I believe that it is not effectual.
I am not opposed to the proscribing of an organisation that the House, in its wisdom or otherwise, wishes to proscribe. However, let none of us think that because the order is passed we shall put any brakes on any terrorist organisations. They will continue to carry out their work. The INLA will probably glory in the fact that it is proscribed. We should be told by the Minister what effective steps can be taken under the order to deal with the membership of the INLA. When it is proscribed, its members will be violating the law because they will be members of an illegal organisation. Can they be brought to trial? Can charges against them be brought and made to stick? That is the great obstacle to making the order effective. It is useless for us to pass legislation that is not effective.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
Is my hon. Friend aware that a number of people were charged with being members of proscribed organisations, and that 40 per cent. of those that were found guilty walked free from the court room?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am aware that non-custodial sentences were passed on 40 per cent. of those who were brought before the courts for terrorist offences and found guilty.
If any Government are to make effectual their anti-terrorist legislation, 761 another step must be taken. Can a person remain silent when it is put to him in a court of law "Are you or are you not a member" of a particular proscribed organisation? If he is not prepared to answer, that should be part of the case against him. My legal friends tell me that that would be a possible way of making such a law effectual.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) had many remarks to pass and he had a letter to read from a certain individual. I, too, read the press. I remember that when Her Majesty the Queen was coming to Northern Ireland the hon. Gentleman told us that she should not come—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I know that this is a sore point with the hon. Gentleman. He said that she should not come, because if she did it would stir up—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I have before me a newspaper cutting that has everything to do with what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. He has been trying to tell the House something about the Roman Catholic population, for which he supposedly speaks. I do not believe that he speaks for the total Roman Catholic population.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I do not often read the Belfast Telegraph, because it is not an accurate newspaper. I am not a bit afraid of it, because it is a newspaper that discriminates against the Protestant people of the Province. I shall illustrate that quite simply. That newspaper—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It has nothing to do with the order. Will the hon. Gentleman please refer to it? Otherwise, I must ask him to resume his seat.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you are calling me to order, I think that you should also call the hon. Member for Belfast, West to order.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
It has been alleged in the House by the hon. Gentleman—and I think that this has to do with the order, in that the order seeks to deal with civil and other commotion in connection with terrorism—that I am in some way responsible for terrorism. As he has made that accusation, I think that I am entitled to answer it.
In the Belfast News Letter today we have a challenge that the Minister had better heed. It goes right to the heart of the seriousness of the situation in Northern Ireland. There is a certain Roman Catholic priest in the constituency of the hon. Member for Belfast, West—I refer to Des Wilson—who—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman can relate this Roman Catholic priest to what is in the order, I shall allow him to make his point, but he must remember that other hon. Members are seeking to speak and that the debate is due to finish in about 20 minutes. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will remember that.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I shall do my best to remember that, but when accusations are made in the House and I am attacked personally I think that I am entitled to reply. I am trying, within the terms of the order, to do just that. It is unfair that a Member of the House should be allowed to make wild accusations about another Member, who, when he rises to reply, finds himself unable to reply to those accusations. I know that we are limited by the terms of the order.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am not interested in what the newspapers say about me, but I am interested in what this priest said. I am sure that the House will be interested in what his priest said, and Front Bench Members had better pay heed to what he said.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. If this relates to the order that we are discussing, yes. If not, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.
§ Mr. Dalyell
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do not hon. Members from other parts of the United Kingdom at least have some moral right to take part in this debate? After all, there has been a trial in Scotland which raised problems precisely on the order, and the judge made certain recommendations to the Government. Some of us would like to ask Ministers about this deeply serious subject, which is apposite to the order, rather than all this irrelevant feuding between Northern Ireland Members.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
On that point of order, I should point out that this debate is due to finish in about 16 minutes and the two Front Benches would like to reply. I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will bear that in mind. We have had debates on Northern Ireland on two or three occasions this week. Other hon. Members are entitled to a hearing.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I have never tried to take time from other hon. Members. Let them look at the record. The hon. Member for Belfast, West hogged almost an hour in one of the debates to which you referred, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
We are concerned with the prevention and suppression of terrorism. How are we to prevent what the hon. Member for Belfast, West calls terrorism if, as he said, the Irish Republican Army is now being looked to by the Catholic population? How will this order prevent it? This priest tells us in the local paper today that there will be a confrontation between the Pope and evangelical Protestantism and that it is important that evangelical Protestantism does not win. That gauntlet is thrown down to the Protestant people of Northern Ireland, and I am happy to take it up. Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster will win. We are not going to be put down by threats by the hon. Member for Belfast, West or anybody else.
We in Northern Ireland have a difficult terrorist problem. The House knows that Protestant paramilitary groups have committed serious crimes. I have condemned them and been condemned by them. In fact, one of them attacked my home, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West knows. It was carried in the press. I have condemned what Protestant paramilitaries have done. No one could con- 764 done what they have done. But the present trouble in Northern Ireland is coming not from Protestant paramilitaries but from the Provisional IRA.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not give way on that point, because it has nothing to do with the order.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I call attention to the fact that the House may want to know what the [...]. Gentleman has to say about me which he is not prepared to repeat in the House. Let hon. Members read the Daily Telegraph and they will find out. We know why. It is because he went to support Republicans for a place in the Government of Northern Ireland and got short shift there.
Let me conclude—perhaps this will make you happy, Mr. Deputy Speaker—by saying that it is the Provisional IRA, the INLA, and the Republican paramilitaries who at the moment are carrying out the campaign of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. Let the House not be misled by what the hon. Member for Belfast West, has said.
§ 11.31 p.m.
§ Mr. George Cunningham (Islington, South and Finsbury)
I think that one conclusion that we all share, probably, is that, in retrospect, it is a pity that we have taken these two orders together. We could have had more time to deal with the two rather separate things if we had taken them apart. But that is a lesson that we have learnt in the light of experience.
I want to address my remarks to the second of the orders, relating to Great Britain only and the proscription of the INLA in Great Britain. This is only the second organisation to be proscribed under the Act. The IRA was proscribed in the Act itself as long ago as 1974. No other organisation has been proscribed under the Act since then.
Therefore it is an important step that we are taking. I recall the words of Mr. 765 Roy Jenkins, then the Home Secretary, in November 1974, when he said:the proscribing of named organisations is for us a wholly exceptional measure and can be justified only by a wholly exceptional situation—a clear and present danger … such as now confronts us.We should therefore always very carefully examine any case stated for the proscription of an organisation.
Something else recognised in all parts of the House in 1974, when the parent legislation was passed, was that the proscribing of an organisation does not in itself solve any security problem. Once again, Mr. Jenkins said:I have never claimed, and I do not claim now, that proscription of the IRA will of itself reduce terrorist outrages. But the public should no longer have to endure the affront of public demonstrations in support of that body.There were some other references in that debate which went further and suggested that proscription might actually make the task of the police more difficult but that a balance had to be struck between that consideration and the need to avoid an affront to the public caused by the open display of support for bodies publicly committed to terrorism.
Those cautionary thoughts were then expressed on both sides of the House, and they are worth recalling now. They were expressed in the immediate aftermath of the Birmingham bombings, and it is right that they should be recalled in the aftermath of the cowardly outrage of the murder of Airey Neave.
There is a danger that we shall react to such events with actions which seem to help in the fight against terrorism but which may not be as practically useful as they seem on the surface. In this difficult and dangerous field we must eschew gestures, because gestures are not only ineffective in themselves but can distract us from seeking truly effective actions.
I note that the Government made the order under what might be called the urgency procedure—that is, making the order, bringing it into effect and then submitting it to the House for approval afterwards. Therefore I ask the Minister to explain to us what the case is for making the order and for making it under the urgency procedure in practical terms.
766 In assessing the value of proscription, one factor—I fully accept that it is only one—is the number of prosecutions and convictions which have been brought under the proscription provision of the Act as it is. The Home Office has published figures on this, and I see that in the five-and-a-half-year period since the first Act was passed only seven people have been charged with an offence specifically arising from proscription. Of those, two were found guilty and five were acquitted. None was charged with belonging to the IRA, or with arranging or addressing a meeting. All were charged under section 1(1)(b) with soliciting or receiving money for the IRA.
It is almost certain that if that section had not existed those same people could have been charged for the same actions under section 10 of the Act, which deals with soliciting or receiving money intending it to be applied for a terrorist purpose. It looks, therefore, as if the proscription offences might not have been a significant addition to the practical armoury of society against terrorists in Great Britain. I should be grateful for the Minister's comment upon that.
My final point is that with these orders we shall have proscribed two Republican organisations but no Protestant organisation in Great Britain. I repeat that I am talking about the position in Great Britain, not that in Northern Ireland. The then Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins, said in 1974 that he believed that it would prove necessary to add to the list of proscribed organisations and that he had power to do so. He said:I shall not hesitate to use that power in what I might describe as an even-handed way. There will he no question of proceeding against one side rather than the other."—[Official Report, 28 November 1974: Vol. 882, c. 835–6: 944.]I do not say to the Minister that, when he suggests a Catholic organisation should be proscribed, he should immediately hunt round for a Protestant one, to proscribe that as well. I realise that in Northern Ireland this imbalance does not apply. Particularly in the light of the activities in Scotland of the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association, as revealed in two well-publicised cases in the last few months, the Minister does need to explain why he thinks that there is a case for proscribing the INLA but not the UVF or the UDA.
767 In sentencing nine members of the UVF in Glasgow, the judge, Lord Ross, said recently:No judge wishes to trespass into the political field—I raise my eyebrows at that—but I would suggest that Crown counsel might draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the details of this case with a view to considering whether the UVF should not be added to the list of proscribed organisations under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.I am not suggesting that after such an invitation the Government should rush in and proscribe. That would be a denial of the cautious approach to proscription which I have suggested earlier. But there is cause for concern when an organisation like the UVF, whose members have been proved to have committed bombings and murderous assaults, should be left unproscribed when the House is adding new organisations to the banned list.
The sympathy of all hon. Members of this House goes out to those who have suffered from the criminal and morally degenerate activities of terrorists and, above all, to the people of Northern Ireland, who have suffered them so severely and for so long. With that sympathy goes a determination to take all possible practical action to catch and keep behind bars the moral defectives who commit these atrocities. In taking such practical action the Government will have the full support of the Opposition.
§ 11.37 p.m.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Leon Britton)
I deal first with the point raised by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) about the urgency procedure, and why we are operating under it. It is simply so that, having reached the judgment that it is right to seek to proscribe this organisation both in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we can do it as quickly as possible. If we had operated in the other way there would have been a delay of perhaps three weeks.
I entirely accept the philosophy generally expounded by the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury, which is that one should not rush into these matters and that passing orders of this kind is a serious step and should not be done as a spasm reaction but only after 768 the most careful consideration. It is in that spirit that we put these orders before the House. I suggest that we have to consider the circumstances in which terrorism arises. It does not mean that because, in these orders, we are not pretending to be dealing with root causes, the sort of action being taken ought not to be taken.
I do not accept the view that has been put forward that action of this kind does not put any brakes on the organisation proscribed. It is wrong, on the one hand, to pretend—and no one has so pretended—that proscription will stop the organisation dead in its tracks. On the other hand, it is equally an exaggeration in the other direction to say that it makes no difference at all. In response to what the hon. Member has said, I say that I do not believe that the extent to which a measure of this kind impedes the operation of a proscribed organisation can be gauged by the number of prosecutions that are brought. I say that because, on a purely commonsense basis, if one does not allow the organisation to operate in a public way, if one makes it an offence to collect funds for the organisation, and matters of that kind, one will at least make it more difficult for the organisation to operate.
One of the essential features for any such organisation to operate is communication and expression in a public or semipublic way. I do not believe that one can put figures to it, but I think that there is reason to believe that proscription of this kind acts, in some senses, as a brake on organisations as well as reflecting in a proper way our absolute abhorrence of what they do and the methods that they apply.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, South)rose—
§ Mr. Brittan
There is not time for me to give way, because I want to deal with the important point that has been made about the desirability of operating in an even-handed way in dealing with terrorist organisations, whatever their professed aims.
The fact that in Northern Ireland the list of proscribed organisations includes the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Freedom Fighters shows that successive Governments have not been inhibited in 769 any way from acting against organisations that seem to merit action of this kind.
The Scottish case is a recent one, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is keeping the situation under close review in the light of those prosecutions. It is also fair to point out, on a practical basis, that we have reason to believe that those prosecutions dealt a body blow to the operations of the organisations concerned, and that factor ought to be taken into consideration. There is no question of my right hon. Friend's looking at the activities of those organisations in any way differently from the way in which he has considered the organisation with which we are concerned this evening.
Reference has been made to the difficulty of proving membership of a proscribed organisation. That is a real evidential difficulty. I am not sure that there is anything that can be done that would fall short of a major alteration of the whole of our criminal procedure, with far-reaching implications in both Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that is not something on which one would embark lightly.
I revert to the point that I made earlier. The important thing is not the number of prosecutions but the inhibiting effect of the existence of the law on the statute book. I deliberately talk in terms of the inhibiting effect rather than deter- 770 rent, because the people concerned are not deterred from engaging in terrorism. They are merely forced to act in a more covert way, concealing their tracks, and because of that they are not able to secure support quite as readily as they otherwise would.
For those reasons I hope that the House will be satisfied that we have not rushed into this. It has been a measured and considered judgment. We reserve the right to look at other organisations, according to how they behave and what they do—
§ It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted Business).
§ Question agreed to.