§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James Prior)
I beg to move,That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) Order 1982, which was laid before this House on 8th June, be approved.It might be for the convenience of the House if we were to take the two orders together.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St, Pancras, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have tabled an amendment to the Secretary of State's proposed motion. May I ask your guidance on whether the amendment is to be called or whether it is in order to discuss it?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
I apologise. I should have told the House that Mr. Speaker has not selected the hon. Member's amendment; he may refer to the general matter but not speak to the amendment.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not generally known to be awkward on such an occasion, but the intention was that I should deal with the first order and my deputy would deal with the second. I should prefer to proceed that way. We are debating a change of policy.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
We can take the two orders together only if the House unanimously agrees, and it seems that is not so.
§ Mr. Prior
I believe that progress on the political front has an important contribution to make in diminishing the tensions in Northern Ireland on which the terrorists feed. They do not want greater stability and will try to obstruct progress towards it. We must maintain our relentless pressure on their criminal activities. It is in that spirit that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act has to be renewed, and I invite the House to do so now.
I start by expressing the House's and country's gratitude to, and praise for, the courageous men and women under the command of the Chief Constable and the GOC. I record our sincere sympathy for the relatives and friends of those who have died in the performance of their duty. I have in mind not only the Regular Army, the UDR and the RUC but the RUC Reserve. All of them face exceptional hazards in the course of their duties, and perhaps even more so while off duty. We appreciate and respect the courage and devotion to duty shown by them all and by their families. In the past few weeks when our minds and attention have been elsewhere, and where there has equally been a tragic loss of life, it may have been too easy to forget the number of men and women who have laid down their lives in the service of freedom in Northern Ireland.
The task of the Armed Forces—in support of the civil power—is to defend the people against the cowardly attacks of terrorists. They need special qualities of discipline and self-control in the painstaking task of supporting the police in applying the ordinary law of the land. The aim of our security policy is simply and easily stated. It is to eliminate terrorism and extend normal policing throughout Northern Ireland. That means 942 arresting offenders, bringing cogent evidence to the courts, and winning convictions in open court. That is a policeman's job.
The primary role in security policy in Northern Ireland must be for the RUC, and it is well manned and equipped to undertake it. The past 10 years have seen a steady development in its professionalism and expertise in response to the burdens that have been placed upon it. It is not a matter of numbers alone—although its strength has increased from 4,115 in 1972 to 7,511 today. This development reflects the quality of the men it is recruiting—for it is a young force—and the quality of the leadership at the top, currently in the capable hands of Sir John Hermon.
From all that I have seen, I believe that the quality of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is as high as that of any police force in the British Isles, and that some of the young men going into it are of exceptional quality.
On my arrival in Northern Ireland, I was enormously impressed and reassured by the daily evidence of the close teamwork between the Chief Constable and General Sir Richard Lawson, the GOC. That continues under General Lawson's successor, and there is a profound confidence between the RUC and the Army in Northern Ireland, carrying out their complementary tasks, aimed at achieving security for the people of the Province. I should like to pay a special tribute to the work of General Sir Richard Lawson, who was a fine general and did a remarkably good job in Northern Ireland.
The security we all seek in Northern Ireland is the freedom to go about our daily lives in peace, free from the threat of violent attack. That requires us to maintain and strengthen confidence throughout the whole community in the ability of the police and the courts to act impartially and fairly to enforce the law and administer justice. No one recognises more clearly than the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding that they must not only enforce the law but be seen to uphold it.
The police and the Army in Northern Ireland are frequently asked to make agonising decisions—sometimes life or death decisions—in difficult and dangerous situations. They have to do so in the knowledge that not only will they be answerable to the law for those decisions, but that an error of judgment or a rash decision on their part may exacerbate community tensions and generate support for the advocates of extremism and violence.
I can understand the frustration that leads to pressures for superficially quick and easy solutions, but we cannot flout the law we are trying to uphold. We should not ignore the results which the security forces are achieving.
During 1981, 557 people were convicted of scheduled offences on indictment and 90 of them received sentences of 10 years' imprisonment or more. Up to 14 June this year, charges had been laid in respect of 384 serious terrrorist offences, 31 of which were for murder and 54 for attempted murder. That record has been matched by a slight abatement in the level of violence and fits a long-term trend that is broadly positive. But I must remind the House that 1981 was a year in which society in the Province came close to the brink. Despite all the provocations and anguish of that year, the vast majority of both sides of the community demonstrated once again their rejection of violence.
In the period up to the end of May this year there were 168 shooting incidents in the Province and 106 bomb explosions. The weight of explosives used so far this year 943 has been 5,834 lbs. Fourteen members of the security forces and 22 civilians have been killed this year, compared with 17 members of the security forces and 32 civilians in the last six months of 1981. Physical injuries during the first five months of this year have numbered 246, compared with 624 in the period from July to December last year. Large quantities of ammunition and detonators have again been found and 176 firearms have been recovered. All this reminds us—if we needed reminding—not to relax our vigilance or in any way to become complacent about the security situation. I point with caution to some improvements, but that is a dreadful toll. I know that hon. Members—particularly those with Northern Ireland seats—will be emphasing that when they speak in the debate. We need to maintain the utmost pressure on the terrorists. There can be no question, in present circumstances, of doing away with essential emergency provisions, and I ask the House to renew them, but it is right that we should look at such exceptional powers with the greatest care.
I emphasise again that the success of our security policy depends upon commanding the support of the community. The present provisions—although we have been able to drop the provision for detention—have been in force now for many years. In 1975, Lord Gardiner conducted a review of the Act as it was then, and the resulting arrangements are now incorporated in the present Act, but I believe that our debates on renewal of the Act should be informed by a further independent review.
As I have explained, I do not think that the situation in Northern Ireland is such that any hon. Member could argue that emergency provisions are no longer required. But there should be a review that will enable this House to take a balanced judgment on whether each provision of the Act is still strictly necessary and whether any provisions need specific amendments. In any event, it is right for the House, in dealing with Acts of this nature, to have reviews from time to time. These are serious matters and it is in the interests of those of us who believe that the Act is absolutely essential that we should still carry the conviction of the House and of the country by being prepared to submit the Act to periodic reviews.
At this point it would be appropriate if I mentioned the amendment in the names of the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) and his hon. Friends. I shall make known to this House the terms of reference of the review and its composition in due course. Given the nature of the subject, I intend that a senior legal figure should take a leading part in it, but I am not in a position to discuss particular names this evening. That may go some way to meet the hon. Gentlemen, but it would be unrealistic to adopt their timetable of six months.
The review of the Emergency Provisions Act must be related to the Prevention of Terrorism Act and to the conclusions that will result from Lord Jellicoe's review of the latter Act. The purpose of the review that I shall set up will be to check that the additional powers given to the security forces in Northern Ireland to protect persons and property against terrorists are still serving their purpose effectively, but with the minimum impact on the ordinary civil liberties of the subject. There will be no unnecessary delay in the conduct of either review, but the process cannot be hurried unreasonably.
I understand that Lord Jellicoe is unlikely to be able to report to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary before the end of this year, and I would expect those reviewing 944 the Emergency Provisions Act to find that some aspects of their work really cannot be brought to a conclusion before the outcome of Lord Jellicoe's review is known, because the relationship between some parts of the two Acts and the way they are used by the security forces in Northern Ireland means that they must be considered together.
I realise that hon. Gentlemen are asking for the review of the Emergency Provisions Act to be completed before its next renewal date in December. I am afraid that there are cogent practical reasons why that cannot be done.
I have been extremely impressed by the thoroughness with which Lord Jellicoe is undertaking his task. He has been in Northern Ireland for three days this week, or during the course of the weekend, apart from his previous visit, and I believe that he is going back again.
For the present, I must say frankly that the security situation does not permit me to recommend that any elements of the Emergency Provisions Act should be allowed to lapse—and when we are renewing the Act, the question of amendment cannot arise. I hope that the House welcomes my intention to arrange a thorough and independent review of the Act's effectiveness. We all look forward to the day when such provisions are not required, but that day is not yet.
I know that a number of matters will be raised during the debate, because there are various conflicting points of view in the House.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Will the Secretary of State say when he thinks his review will commence?
§ Mr. Prior
I do not want to be specific, but I imagine that it will commence some time in the early autumn. That would enable the review to be well under way by the time Lord Jellicoe is in a position to report, and the findings of that report could be taken into account before the final decisions are taken on the review that I have announced. So I expect to set up the review in September or October.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)
If the Secretary of State cannot give us details of the remit and terms of reference at this stage, and will report to us later, according to what he said earlier, will he tell us now, in general terms, whether the way in which Lord Jellicoe is conducting his review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act will be emulated in this further review? He is receiving evidence and making inquiries from a variety of sources, not simply the authorities in Northern Ireland or here. Will the review of the emergency provisions legislation follow similar lines?
§ Mr. Prior
I cannot commit anyone who is undertaking a review, but I hope that the person whom we are likely to appoint—I have no idea yet who it will be—will carry out a very full review. We have nothing to hide. I want a proper review. Therefore, I shall expect the person to carry it out in exactly the same way as Lord Jellicoe set about his task. Anything less than that would not he worthwhile.
§ Mr. Stallard
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. Did I understand him to say that he would not recommend any changes in the Act as a result of the review?
§ Mr. Prior
I said that I could not recommend any changes tonight. It would be entirely a matter for the House of Commons and the Government to consider, once the review has taken place and once we know what the 945 review contains. All I am saying now is that at this stage the Act should be renewed. In my opinion, that is essential. There are different views in the House of Commons, and I try to meet those views, because I recognise the anxiety, on perfectly reasonable and libertarian grounds, that the House should not go on passing legislation year after year without reviews to see whether the powers are absolutely necessary. The defeat of terrorism is of the utmost importance, and we need the powers if we are to make the maximum effort. Nothing can be done at this stage, other than the review that I have promised, to change in any way the effectiveness of the Act.
§ Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)
I very much welcome the Secretary of State's statement, and I am entirely satisfied with the review that is to be set up and its time scale. However, will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether it is likely that the terms of reference will be similar to those of the Gardiner review in 1975?
§ Mr. Prior
I have come to no firm decisions about the terms of reference, but I have no reason to believe that they would be different from those for Lord Gardiner. However, I should like to consider the matter, and perhaps my hon. Friend will say a word on that subject when he replies to the debate.
In conclusion, I know that there are different views in the House about the way in which the Act is operated and about some of the activities that we consider are necessary if we are to defeat the activities of terrorists and to keep order and discipline in Northern Ireland. I have complete confidence in the police and the security forces. I talk to them constantly. I try to put a political impact into their activities, and accept their professionalism in carrying out their duties. I am always willing to report to the House on the occasions when a problem arouses anxiety in the House. For the moment I have announced the review, and I have told the House when I think that it will take place. It is on that basis that I invite the House to renew the Act's provisions and those in the interim period extension order.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but some hon. Members were not present when I announced that the two orders were being taken separately.
§ Mr. Concannon
I think that the House now realises the wisdom of my request that we should take the two orders separately. I understood from the answer to my written question of 26 May that the Secretary of State would set up an independent review of the operations of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. Basically, I wanted two separate debates, so that the House could apply its mind to the emergency provisions, and then debate the other order later.
I agree with the Secretary of State's praise of the security forces and many other people in Northern Ireland, including those who go about their everyday business, for their efforts to keep the Province in as good order as possible. I agree, too, with what he said about the achievements of all the security forces and not just of the 946 Armed Forces in their efforts in that country. This worried me somewhat in the context of what has happened in the Falkland Islands. I do not want what I say to be taken as a slight on the troops or anything that happened in the Falkland Islands. Our forces did exceptionally well when they were called upon to go into action. It is, however, my hope that our forces involved in the long grind in Northern Ireland will not be forgotten. I should like to think that the expressions sent to our forces in the South Atlantic apply equally to those serving in Northern Ireland.
This is the fifth time that the Opposition have asked for a review of the workings of the Act. This is Labour Party policy. I shall, however, resist the natural temptation to make that request again now. We consider the Government's decision to be wise and a victory for common sense. It is common sense in terms of justice and is in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. I should like to thank the Secretary of State for responding to the propositions that we have put to him in previous debates. I hope that the Minister who replies to the debate will be able to say something about the remit. I should be happy if it was basically the same as that which led to the Gardiner report. If that happened, the problems mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) would disappear.
I would expect the review to be conducted with the same thoroughness as that in which Lord Jellicoe is involved. I would not like matters to be rushed. As one of the recipients of the Gardiner report, I know how long it took and how thorough it was. I know that we as Ministers looked forward to it to help us to sort out what had become obnoxious or no longer relevant. I hope that this review will be equally useful in respect of law that has been on the statute book for nearly a decade.
I accept the Secretary of State's point that legislation such as this should perhaps undergo periodic review. Hon. Members review these matters every six months when they have to be renewed, but there is need for wider experience and expertise to be applied to this task. We have long had reason to believe that the emergency powers of arrest, interrogation and trial encompassed in the Diplock process are a continuing source of grievance and friction. These powers suspend the normal course of common law for those accused or suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. They impinge on fundamental civil liberties and on the legal rights of many not involved in terrorist activities. Where such unusual and overbearing powers are adopted by the State, it should always be the duty of the State, through the Government, to justify the continuation of such powers and processes. We see the review announced by the Secretary of State in that light. It is overdue but still welcome.
The Opposition have put the case for an inquiry over the past two years only to be told by successive Ministers that the six-monthly renewal debate in Parliament, coupled with the Government's monitoring of the situation, is adequate for review purposes. We have often argued that such a state of affairs is not enough. The emergency provisions legislation is complex and extraordinary. To be properly justified in renewing it twice a year we need thorough information to ensure that the powers that it contains are being used for the purposes intended by Parliament. We also need to know whether all the powers are still necessary to cope with changed 947 circumstances. If a certain power is no longer necessary, it should be done away with immediately and we should revert to normal common law processes.
Lord Gardiner's report said about the temporary nature of the Emergency Provisions Act:Emergency powers should be limited in both scope and duration".Later, in paragraph 21, the report says of such powers:Though there are times when they are necessary for the preservation of human life, they can, if prolonged, damage the fabric of the community, and they do not provide lasting solutions.The Opposition hope that the forthcoming inquiry will adopt its brief in the spirit of the Gardiner report. My copy of the Labour Party policy document is becoming quite battered—[Interruption.]—but only through use. I am gradually reading its contents into Hansard. On page 12, the document says:Our aim is to achieve a reasonable balance between the maintenance of law and order and the protection of civil rights. There is, in our view, a strong case for fundamental review of the operation of the Act with a view to changing some of its operations and to provide for its ultimate replacement. We therefore recommend that the next Labour Government carries out such a review and legislates accordingly.On page 30, the document states:We recommend that the review of the Act be given high priority.In the short time that has to elapse before the Labour Party takes office a thorough review will be taking place for which we can thank a change of mind by the Secretary of State.
It is not for the Opposition to tell the inquiry how to conduct its review of the Act. There are, however, areas of concern that we believe should be examined in detail. They have already been referred to by Opposition Members, by the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights and by the National Council for Civil Liberties. It would be most helpful to have an independent assessment of the need for section 11 of the Act which enables the police to arrest anyone whom they suspect of being a terrorist.
It would appear that there is no need for the police actually to suspect a person of involvement in an offence in order to make a valid arrest under section 11. An arrest can be made simply as a first step in the investigation into whether an individual is, or has been, involved in terrorism. We need to know how essential is this power of arrest in present circumstances and also how many arrests made under section 11 could be made under common law powers. We need to guard against extraordinary powers being used as though they had become normal police work.
Another area where we would value independent adjudication concerns the powers of detection and interrogation accorded to the police under this Act. It would be helpful to know whether the power to detain suspects for three days is essential and whether the same number of confessions and convictions would not be forthcoming if the detention period before charging was shortened. The rule on admissibility of confessions under this legislation has given rise to much controversy. It is an area that should concern all hon. Members. We must always endeavour to ensure that no confession is given out of fear of prejudice or as a result of some hope of advantage held out by a person in authority.
Section 8(2) may not fully protect the accused. There is a strong case, acknowledged in the House in previous 948 debates, for the wording of this section to be tightened. Many would argue that the major feature of the Emergency Provisions Act is that it permits one-judge, no-jury courts to deal with terrorist offences. On this matter, paragraph 26 of the Gardiner report reads:We believe that trial by jury is the best form of trial for serious cases, and that it should be restored in Northern Ireland as soon as this becomes possible.The report concluded that no change should be made in this area but the time might now be ripe to have a panel of lay assessors or a group of three judges sitting together.
It is now eight years since we had a thorough independent assessment of the relative necessity for no-jury courts. Undoubtedly the situation has changed in that time. The House may wish to consider amending such an exceptional and draconian judicial method. Labour's policy document says on page 21 about the Diplock courts thatwe do not see any prospect of a return to ordinary trial by jury, so long as paramilitary and terrorist activity continues on the present scale, and witnesses and jury members are subject to intimidation and violence.I should like to stress the frequency of intimidation and violence for the benefit of those who are not familiar with it. During the debate on the Emergency Provisions Act on 2 July 1981 I quoted paragraph 27 of the Gardiner report. It said:we were given details of 482 instances between 1st January 1972 and 31st August 1974 in which civilian witnesses to murder and other terrorist offences were either too afraid to make any statement at all, or, having made a statement implicating an individual, were so afraid that they refused in any circumstances to give evidence in court. It is reasonable to assume that juries would be equally open to intimidation.Perhaps the Secretary of State could update that information. Is intimidation still that rife? Judging by recent events, it is. Nevertheless, it would be worth the Minister stating the figures again. The period covered by the Gardiner report was only nine months, yet there were 482 instances of intimidation, threats and coercion that stopped witnesses going to court.
One way to return to jury trial would be to deschedule some offences that are now referred to Diplock courts. One yardstick that has been suggested is that of the five-year sentence. I shall look forward to the review making some recommendations on that matter. It is hard to imagine that all the present scheduled offences are committed with the aims of terrorism in mind. That may have been the case when the provisions were first placed on the statute book, but it is hard to believe that now.
We must guard against extraordinary judicial processes being applied to those who are accused of committing crimes that have no terrorist or political motive. We should take care not to include what we used to call the ODC—the ordinary decent criminal. We used that phrase to separate such people from terrorists. When such people are regularly charged under emergency provision, those provisions become sucked into the system. That is a dangerous path to tread.
The Opposition hope that those matters will be considered by the review. Expert though Parliament may claim to be on many subjects, there are times when we should take note of an independent assessment of how legislation operates on a day-to-day basis. The last Labour Administration were grateful for the Gardiner report and we acted upon much of it, especially with regard to 949 emergency legislation. It would be no bad thing if emergency legislation that affected both the mainland and Northern Ireland were reviewed regularly.
The Opposition have spent much time and energy during the past two years persuading the Government to set up the inquiry. We make no complaint about that. Such is the role of an Opposition. As the apparent need for this legislation extends beyond the first decade, there is a need for it to be reviewed more regularly. We welcome the Government's decision to set up the inquiry. We sincerely hope that the House will know its findings as soon as is practicable. I should not like to specify a time; I want the review to be thorough.
Although the Opposition will not divide the House on the present extension, when the next review arrives we shall require an updating of the review and of its character. If we wish to add to the review, I hope that as individuals and as the Labour Party we and other organisations will explore the matter, as is now being done under the Jellicoe review. I hope that the review will guide the House and that the Government will explain their reasons for accepting or rejecting it. I am aware of the difficulties involved, but I hope that we shall have a good debate and come to a conclusion.
The Opposition will not divide the House on the order. My party's policy is that, unfortunate though the emergency provisions are, they are still necessary. We are thankful that the Secretary of State has seen fit to afford us the review. We look forward to dealing with it as soon as possible.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I am glad to follow the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), who always speaks on matters of security with knowledge, wisdom and patriotism. We are all glad to hear from him that the Opposition will not divide the House on the motion. There should be the utmost national unity when we are dealing with a national emergency.
This is a melancholy occasion. These debates come round year after year. The emergency that requires the powers has lasted longer than both world wars put together. Perhaps I may link the present debate with a previous one. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the introduction of a political impact to the security effort. It has been the conviction of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself that half the battle against terrorism will have been won when the Union has been placed beyond doubt and the terrorists know that success cannot be achieved because the will of the people of Northern Ireland will be honoured and maintained.
I deplore the necessity for the powers. I fully agree with the right hon. Member for Mansfield and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that we should be jealous of entrusting the Executive with such powers. That is why I welcome the review. We must not take it for granted that the powers must remain in their present form all the time. We must ensure that they are not kept for a minute longer than is necessary, but who can doubt that without the powers few terrorists would be convicted?
The Prevention of Terrorism Act, which is in use on both sides of the water, is also important. Those measures contain powers that we reluctantly give to the Government. They are hateful powers, but they are 950 necessary and the infringement of the liberties of some is sometimes the price that must be paid for the lives of many.
In one of yesterday's debates, I alluded to border security in county Fermanagh and county Armagh. We shall not hear anything about the security of county Fermanagh from the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron).
That constituency is virtually disenfranchised. Its Member of Parliament makes speeches extolling the armed struggle of the Republican movement. I hope, however, that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), will seek to catch the eye of the Chair as in him all the people of that constituency, Protestant and Catholic, have a champion and one who shares their dangers. I recall, sometimes with a shudder, the calm manner in which he put me into his motor car one sunny Sunday afternoon and said "We are going to Crossmaglen", and we did.
I referred yesterday to some disturbing reports about the border, particularly in Fermanagh and Armagh, and I quoted my noble Friend Lord Brookeborough. I drew attention to the removal of Gardai manning the border posts and their transfer to Dublin to combat the wave of violent crime that afflicts that city and the robberies and assaults that are unfortunately commonplace in the capital of the Republic.
I also quoted my favourite Ulster newspaper, the Impartial Reporter & Farmers' Journal, which circulates on both sides of the border. I know that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) does not approve of it, but it gives a very fair crack of the whip to all opinions and all sections of the community. In its leading article on 24 June, it said:It is clear for anyone who crosses the border from Fermanagh to see that the permanent army Gardai posts have been removed completely. However, at other checkpoints they have been maintained.As we do not receive any reports from the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone who represents that area, I have tried to inform myself about the situation. I gather that it is not now so bad as was portrayed in that editorial and that either there was no movement of police to the extent that was reported or there has been a return of Gardai to the border areas facing county Fermanagh and county Armagh. That is a relief, because it was disturbing to hear of any lessening of co-operation between the RUC and the Garda Siochana, as one of the cheering aspects of this gloomy situation has been the excellent relations between them. That, of course, is much to the credit of Sir John Hermon to whom my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State paid tribute, but also to the Commissioner in Dublin.
We do not have extradition. We have only a second-best extradition through the criminal justice legislation passed by this Parliament and the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act passed by the other Parliament. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will say something about the working of that legislation as I understand that there is some slightly more cheering news in that regard. There is also a very important case before the courts in the Republic which may have a helpful bearing on the working of that legislation—in the absence of the extradition that we should have if only the Republic were governed by men who had, perhaps, the strength to implement the international obligations of their country.
951 The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) said yesterday:We tend to refer only to the Provisional IRA. We forget that there are paramilitary groups on both sides. They are both responsible for a terrifying number of deaths and acts of destruction. To fail to notice that is to demonstrate unacceptable partisanship."—[Official Report, 29 June 1982; Vol. 26, c. 758–9.]I was rather surprised by those words as it has not been my impression that Unionists, and certainly not Conservatives and Unionists in this Parliament, have been slow to condemn the vile deeds of those who do them under the cloak of the Union Flag. There has been no disposition to refrain from condemning such people. I remember my own words at the time of the murder of the show band people from south of the border. In so many cases, Unionists in the Province have denounced the foul deeds of paramilitary organisations which claim and disgrace the name of loyalism.
As the Catholic grandson of a Presbyterian in the constituency now represented by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I venture to quote a few words from a resolution passed by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland a few days ago:Those who take the law into their own hands, whether in a self-chosen campaign of terrorism by the Provisional IRA and other illegal organisations or in self-appointed counter-terrorist organisations like the Third Force, with its death threats against those who attack members of the Protestant community, however justified the frustration and dissatisfaction with the Government's policy of dealing with the IRA, or in so-called punishment shootings of any kind, are public enemies without regard to civil or human rights, to be repudiated and brought to justice by all who seek the peace of this Province, nation and land".I hope that the House will forgive my quoting those words, but what I wanted to say has been put so much better in that resolution of the Presbyterian General Assembly.
The Presbyterian General Assembly also paid tribute to the RUC, as we would all wish to do, congratulating it on attaining its diamond jubilee and expressing appreciation ofall that it had done to promote better community relations and to protect all, irrespective of creed or party, who are threatened by terrorist attack".The resolution commends the RUC forthe strength and courage shown in the face of vilification, provocation and violence to which they have so often been subjected".That comes from a Church not many of whose members, I believe, support the Republican cause, whatever the Presbyterians may have done at the end of the eighteenth century. I only wish that words like that could also come, perhaps, from the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
When we pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary we should add our thanks to the other branches of the security forces—the Regular Army and the Ulster Defence Regiment—whose members have suffered so cruelly over recent months. They have been picked off in their homes and at their places of work. We mourn those who have died in the South Atlantic and we think of the bereaved and those who have suffered. But in sheer numbers that is almost nothing compared with the toll taken, not in defence of a distant British territory, but of part of our homeland across that narrow strip of sea.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)
I have been a Member of the House for eight and a half years. In 952 common with many hon. Members present tonight I have regularly participated in this renewal ritual. From time to time I have tried to inject life into the debate by displaying the emotions and the anger that daily I live with. It has been suggested that if I endeavoured to stay cool that would shatter some people. However, I doubt whether it is possible for me to stay cool in view of the security situation in Northern Ireland, let alone in my constituency.
I hope that those who question the need for this legislation will remember the statistics. In six months there have been 168 shootings, 106 explosions using over 5,000 lbs. of explosive, and 36 people have been murdered. That is equivalent to 1,500 being murdered in Great Britain during the first six months of this year.
I was in the House when, as a result of about 24 people being killed, legislation was put through within 24 hours. That legislation put to shame some of the other legislation on Northern Ireland at that time. I hope that hon. Members who question the need for this legislation will remember that. Those same hon. Members might also suggest other means of doing what the Secretary of State stated was his intention—to guarantee people the right to freedom and life as they go about their daily business.
I make no apology for the emotion and anger that I have expressed in our debates. I want to put flesh and blood on the statistics because it is important that hon. Members should understand what we in the Province have experienced.
It has been a good six months in County Armagh. Only four of my constituents have been murdered. I shall tell the House something about them. The first was a young man called Seamus Morgan. He was from Dungannon and the Roman Catholic father of four children. The IRA dumped him outside Fork Hill. They interrogated him, decided that he was an informer and punished him accordingly. He left a widow and four young children.
The second was a young man in his twenties from Bessbrook. His wife and young child accompanied him to work and as he said goodbye outside a public building in Newry a terrorist drew up on a motorbike, stepped off the motorbike, and blew the young man's brains out. He left a widow and young child, both of whom had witnessed the murder of their loved one.
The third person to be murdered was William Morrison, an innocent, 40-year-old single farmer who lived with his mother who was over 80 years old. In the early hours of the morning he had gone to fetch some milk to make breakfast for his aged mother and himself. He had never been a member of the security forces. He was gunned down with the two pails of milk in his hands. He was confronted by three freedom fighters armed with Armalite rifles. They put several bullets into him and then walked up to where he lay and finished him off. And so it goes on. Those are just three of the incidents.
Let me say something of the ragged flesh and the shattered bones. In the first six months of this year two of my constituents were left without both their legs, the last only a matter of days ago. I give these examples to the House because it is important that everyone here should bear in mind what I must bear in mind. If I ever become complacent about those statistics, or stop feeling angry or sad when I have to visit houses to say things that will console people who are inconsolable, I shall be accepting a level of violence that no other hon. Member would accept in his constituency. If that day comes, it will be time for me to quit.
953 There is a tendency for hon. Members to express horror at individual incidents or at various terrorist attacks, and then shut their minds until the next one comes along. There is a danger there for me as well. If I am preoccupied with this subject, I apologise—if that is necessary—but it is essential that I remain preoccupied and bring these matters to the attention of the House.
Unemployment, inflation, poverty and all the problems of the farming community are important issues in Northern Ireland, just as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom, but there is nothing more important than the right to life. All other issues pale into insignificance if when we go to bed at night we do not know whether we shall have another day in front of us.
The Secretary of State will remember that I brought a delegation to see him a few days ago. The members were not specially chosen. There were four men. Two of them had recently lost a brother and a third had lost his brother-in-law. They were typical members of other delegations that have come from my constituency to meet other Secretaries of State. I am now informed that some of the neighbours of those men have been warned that they are next. When I receive a message like that, what can I say? I have to tell them that there is nothing that I can do. I cannot arrange for them to have individual protection. The Government cannot do that. The members of this small community in my constituency have all the experience in the world to prove that more of their neighbours will die within the next few months.
What is the crime that these men have committed? The community has never been guilty of retaliation, and I shall give proof of that later in my speech. The community poses no threat to anyone. Its offence is that it gives its allegiance to the British Crown and that it holds a part of the frontier against a Republican enemy. That is a good enough reason for its members to be killed.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) is not in the Chamber at the moment. On the last occasion that we debated these matters he said:I feel an increasing resentment that the English people and English Members should be involved in an internecine tribal war."—[Official Report, 15 December, 1981; Vol. 14, c. 273.]I hope that the hon. Gentleman has learnt something since he began attending the debates. He was at our debate last night and here when this debate began. His statement was one of the most gross misrepresentations that I have ever heard. It displayed an appalling ignorance that I hope he is now in a position to correct.
I do not seek to convince anyone that there is no terrorism from the so-called Loyalist side of the community. I join with the hon. Member for Antrim, North, (Rev. Ian Paisley) in damning the so-called Loyalist organisation in its latest exploit of blowing up the wall of a Roman Catholic chapel. If that is all it can offer to Northern Ireland, heaven help us all. I accept that between 1972 and 1976 when law and order virtually broke down in the Province there was terrorism from the Loyalist community on a scale that almost matched Republican terrorism.
There is no doubt in my mind, however, that during the past five years the level of terrorism from that side of the community has been minimal. It is certainly in single percentage figures. I wish that it were nil. Not only do I brand 954 the people concerned for the obscenity of their acts, but, in purely political terms, they give the enemies of Northern Ireland many excuses to talk about tit-for-tat in the Province. It also allows people such as the hon. Member for Cambridge, who claims to have some knowledge of the Province, to make comments such as the one to which I have already referred.
As part of the preparation of a case to the European Court of Human Rights, research was carried out for me along the border area for which I have some responsibility. It was carried out by academics and people who can substantiate their work. It showed that between 1978 and mid–1981, 69 murders were committed in the South Armagh-South Tyrone-Fermanagh area. Of the total, 51 were Protestant and 18 Roman Catholic. The most important statistic was that 67 of those 69 people were killed by the IRA. The other two were terrorists who had been apprehended in the commission of their crime.
The people about whom I am talking have not retaliated in the face of that assault or posed a threat. Their only offence is that they give their allegiance to the Crown and to this House.
What are we offered? We are offered the Northern Ireland Bill. The Secretary of State hopes that it will diminish tension. I am glad that he did not suggest that it would end terrorism or be able to cope with the terrorist campaign. I also hope that it will diminish tension, although I have certain reservations about that.
I suppose that the Bill is regarded as part of the campaign to win the confidence of the Roman Catholic community so that it will reject the men of violence. I have never believed that the whole Roman Catholic community supports the men of violence, and I believe that the people whom we are seeking to win over have already been won over. I believe, however, that there remain a substantial number of people within the 500,000-strong Roman Catholic community who offer active support to terrorists. We shall never win their hearts and minds.
The only thing of which I can be certain is that, if I am lucky enough to be here in six months time, I shall be giving the House yet another catalogue of death and violence. I do not need to guess at that fact, because that was said a few days ago by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron). At the annual Provisional Republican ceremonies commemorating Wolfe Tone at Bodenstown, County Kildare, the hon. Gentleman said:Our message to you is that the armed struggle of the Irish people…will continue…we shall resist to the death should it take another 25 years … The Republican movement, therefore, wishes to affirm that the armed struggle will continue because it is central to the success of the whole campaign of resistance … The IRA's military struggle was 'the only guarantee of success and it will demonstrate that there will be no compromise over our declared demands'.A man elected to this House is saying to the murderers of Seamus Morgan, Willie Morrison and all the others "Go out and murder some more. It does not matter whether they are Catholic or Protestant. If they get in your way or if they obstruct your ultimate objective, destroy them by whatever means you can".
I welcome the Secretary of State's comments on the necessity for this legislation. He does not need to convince me of that, but it is not enough to say that at present there is no possibility of amending the orders. I told the right 955 hon. Gentleman six months ago that he was offering us no hope. What he said tonight offers no further hope. All I know is that this year and next I shall attend more funerals.
Let me repeat some of the suggestions that I have made in the past. I am not demanding the death penalty, although I read with interest what a senior police officer on the mainland said about politicians who voted against it but were were guarded by people who were told to shoot their assailants dead if they came anywhere within range.
What other society in Western Europe would allow a man to incite people to murder or allow a so-called political organisation, such as political Sinn Fein, to give a legitimacy to murder and murderers or to operate ticker tapes and other machinery to propagate an apology for the killers? Provisional Sinn Fein should have no resting place either in Northern Ireland or the Republic. If the Secretary of State does not want to ban provisional Sinn Fein, it should be harried and hounded from pillar to post, because there is every justification for giving that organisation no resting place.
Serious consideration should also be given to the whole issue of 50 per cent. remission. Some people may remember the killing of my constituent Margaret Hearst because the the bullet went through a Kermit frog toy that was carried by a baby beside her. She was murdered less than five years ago, yet the people involved in her murder watched her father's coffin carried down the road to be buried alongside her. The people who murdered his daughter were released in time to see that man, who was murdered by their associates, carried to his grave. That is the price of 50 per cent. remission.
If there is contrition, as there would be in most other parole systems, people should be given remission, but the 50 per cent. remission is automatic. Sentences of eight, 10, 12 or 20 years are given, yet only three, four, five, six or eight years are served. Remission should be on offer only if some contrition and regret is shown by people for the offences for which they have been found guilty.
The right to silence is taken for granted on the mainland. I am sure that mainland Members of Parliament would fight to defend the right of silence. However, given what we have heard tonight, surely people should be expected to account for their movements if they are apprehended at the scene of a murder or brought in for questioning on suspicion of being involved in the commission of a terrorist offence. What is wrong with expecting a man to clear himself if he is not guilty? Why should a person escape the rigours of the law simply by folding his arms, staring at the wall, and refusing to answer reasonable questions?
One person described to me the tactics that the terrorists use, which I shall not go into now, to avoid answering legitimate questions. Why should a person, after 12 years of the horror that I have described, refuse to clear himself of complicity, and why do we allow him to run free if he refuses to do so? I hope that this issue, which has been raised by other people, will also be considered.
Internment is not the dirty word in my mouth that it is in other people's. If by interning someone a person's life is saved, then selective internment should be introduced. Internment is not exclusive to Northern Ireland. It is used in other societies where the normal rule of law cannot cope. For two months I have had it preached to me that Northern Ireland is different. One cannot be selective in making Northern Ireland different. If it is different to 956 justify taking certain actions, then the fact that Northern Ireland is different in this respect makes it necessary to justify different actions in these circumstances.
Those are my suggestions. I have made them in the past and I am sure that they will be ignored as they have been before. I ask for my constituents that of which the Secretary of State spoke—freedom to go about their daily lives in peace, free from violent attack. One day, sooner or later, the House will have to come to terms with that. It cannot expect the people of Northern Ireland to go on enduring, year in year out, 100 or 200 people killed. It cannot say to us that one of these days it will all come right. There is no compromise with these terrorists. They cannot be placated.
I said on a previous occasion that some of the terrorists are so steeped in blood that they have probably forgotten their political objectives. They do not share the political objectives of any legitimate political party in Northern Ireland, even those who would be on their side of the fence, and I do not mean that in an offensive way. Neither do they share the political objectives of any political party in Southern Ireland. They cannot be placated. They must be defeated.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
I am grateful for the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). I am pleased that he did not take the advice given by the unnamed person who suggested that he should stay cool and take everybody by surprise, because his comments, based as they are on the reality of someone who is close to terrorism and its effects, are required in the House to shake people out of their complacency. That complacency exists in this place, and it shields us from all the horror and the terror that is Northern Ireland under IRA terrorism.
The Secretary of State should be ashamed of himself for having to take part in this ritual once more. The very fact that we need a continuance order is an indictment of the Government and their failure to deal with terrorism in Northern Ireland. When there was a conflict in the South Atlantic, the Government rightly and properly acted with resolution, firmness and courage. However, when there is a conflict in Northern Ireland, which has existed for 12 or 13 years, all that we have had has been dithering from the Government and ineffective and compromising responses.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) referred to the debate of 2 July 1981, when he quoted from his own words on that occasion. I feel that it is perhaps more appropriate to quote the words of someone else who was here then but who is no longer here because the IRA terminated his life. On that occasion the Rev. Robert Bradford, the former Member for Belfast, South, when referring to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Order, said:Now is not the time to reduce the powers or measures in that Act. It is not the time to dilute the effect of the measures. It is a time to increase the powers available to the courts and to safeguard law-abiding society from IRA … There is a need for the ultimate deterrent against murderers and bombers, and that is capital punishment."—[Official Report, 2 July 1981; Vol. 7, c. 1056–7.]Sadly he will no longer take part in debates such as this. The ritual of these debates is over for him because of the failure of the Government to take effective measures against terrorism in Northern Ireland.
957 A former Minister, getting on to a plane to leave Northern Ireland in an inebriated state, is said to have determined that there would continue to be an acceptable level of violence in Northern Ireland. That seems to be the British Government's policy up to now.
In the South Atlantic the Government realised that they could deal effectively with the conflict by using strong and carefully planned measures. In Northern Ireland their policy is different. They want a levelling of the violence. They want to contain it at a level acceptable to the people over here, because people here are not affected by it in the way that the people in Northern Ireland are affected.
It is often said in Northern Ireland that the Government do not take the measures that they and we know are necessary to annihilate the terrorists because that might have its effect on this part of the United Kingdom. The Government are happy to allow the terrorism to continue at a certain level in Northern Ireland so that it does not boil over in the rest of the United Kingdom.
There is no question about the continuance order being necessary. It is more necessary today than in 1978 when the Act was passed. The Provisional IRA is the main cause of violence in Northern Ireland, although there are elements of terrorism from other parts of society that I and other hon. Members condemn and have condemned. The Provisional IRA is engaged in the most violent activity in Northern Ireland.
Those with access to intelligence from the Provisional IRA say that the IRA's personnel is larger now than ever. It sucked from the veins of the hunger strikers as much as it could. One does not get to leave the IRA once one has joined. One leaves only with kneecaps blown out or a hood over the head. All the recruits during the hunger strike period have added to the ranks.
We have gone almost the full circle in Northern Ireland. The hard-line bitter Republicans committed to prison in the late 1960s or early 1970s are coming back on to the streets. Such people reinforce the Provisional IRA ranks. The godfathers of terrorism, who keep their hands clean in law, have never been caught. The ranks are as strong as, if not stronger than, ever. The order is necessary because the IRA's manpower is greater than ever.
With some colleagues I have visited the United States of America. Other hon. Members have done that in different capacities. I am aware of the Noraid organisation, which funds the Provisional IRA to a significant extent. Not only does it send finance, but it is prepared to send weapons. When we see the weapons that did not complete their journey to Northern Ireland we wonder how many got through without the CIA, FBI or other United States organisations stopping them.
With the extortion rackets in Northern Ireland, the voluntary collections in the United States and bank robberies in Northern Ireland, the IRA's funds can always be levelled or topped up as necessary. Today the Provisional IRA is in a stronger position in regard to both manpower and financing than when the Act was introduced. Therefore, the continuance order is necessary.
There is also the problem of the Provisional IRA's weaponry. The security forces have been shot at by the most sophisticated weapons and people have been blown up by explosives emanating from Communist countries. All the weaponry and explosives that the IRA requires are available to it. Russian rocket launchers, Kalashnikov 958 rifles and the Armalite rifle that seems to be the favourite of the IRA have all been found in its possession. The Provisional IRA has its stores well placed and it has easy access from the Republic.
The cellular structure that the Provisional IRA operated was seriously damaged by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Shortly afterwards, Gerry Adams was sent to Dublin to reorganise the Provisional IRA and Seamus Twomey was brought in from the cold. Disagreements about such ideology as that organisation could ever pretend to have were patched up. Since Gerry Adams began reorganising the Provisional IRA, his position has weakened and the authority of Seamus Twomey has increased. That development might account for the resurgence of the Provisional IRA's use of car bombs in attacks in Belfast.
A new structure has been established by the Northern Ireland Provisional IRA. All the intelligence that the police gained about the old cellular structure is of little value and intelligence must be gathered again. Thus the Provisional IRA is reorganised, re-equipped and financed and it has the manpower to do the job. It also has its training camps in the Republic and, Colonel Gaddafi permitting, as he usually does, doubtless it has camps elsewhere. Compared with 1978, when the Act was put on the statute book, the Provisional IRA is at least as capable, if not more so, of carrying death and destruction to the people of Northern Ireland. Figures that the Secretary of State provided illustrate that point.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)
Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that, as the Secretary of State said, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is better equipped and has more full-time officers and more full-time and part-time reservists than ever before? It is very well equipped to meet the IRA threat.
§ Mr. Robinson
The Minister is right in saying that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is better equipped, but unfortunately it is not always given the full weaponry that it requires because of the United States' ban on providing certain weapons which we discussed in the United States.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Can the hon. Gentleman enlarge on a report that on a recent occasion, when there was the possibility of riots, the RUC was told "Just use two blanks and do nothing else"?
§ Mr. Robinson
That is a very serious matter. I also remember an occasion when there was rioting in West Belfast and the RUC ran out of baton rounds. Breakdowns in the system can occur. I accept that the RUC is well equipped. The argument of Unionist politicians has never been about the capability of the RUC to do the job, but about the directives to those in the RUC who are responsible for carrying out that job.
When the Minister talks about the RUC, the UDR and others he should also look to the protection of the men who are doing that job. Too often, police reservists and UDR men tell me that, even though their lives have been threatened, their application for a personal weapon has been turned down by the authorities.
A member of the UDR was twice followed to work. He notified the police that he was being followed by someone whom he believed was a member of the Provisional IRA.
959 The police followed the man who was tailing my constituent and established that there was a threat, but when my constituent requested a personal firearm his request was refused and his commanding officer handed him a piece of paper that I have with me. It reads:From the commanding officer. Personal security. Are you keen to stay alive? If so read on! The Enemy. Provisional IRA and INLA are looking for targets. They are on the hunt. They have been amazed at how insecure many of you are. So what are you doing about this problem?The paper helpfully lists a number of actions that ought to be taken to improve personal security and ends:Keeping a dog with a bark.That advice was given to a man who had been followed by the Provisional IRA. He was a target and had asked for a gun to defend himself. He was advised to get a dog that barked. How ridiculous can you get! The Government should be prepared to give security to those who are putting their lives on the line while defending us. It is amazing how many people who are pillars of society and are in danger of being attacked have had applications for personal weapons turned down by the authorities.
The Provisional IRA is as strong as ever and there is no reason why the Act should not be continued. However, the Act will do nothing to defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland. If it were going to do anything, it would have done so in the many years that it has been in operation. It must be accompanied by a strong and resolute military initiative.
I hesitate to stand on the corns of those who believe that a political initiative will solve all Northern Ireland's problems, but history argues against them. We have had political initiatives which should have been to the liking of any Republicans, because they gave them more than any democratic society should have given them, but they did not stop the Provisional IRA.
The hon. Member for Armagh read out the words of Owen Carron—I cannot call him the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The Provisional IRA is continuing its struggle to achieve its aims—whatever sort of Ireland would result from that.
Northern Ireland Ministers will have to add to the continuance of the Act a strong and resolute security initiative. The late Rev. Robert Bradford suggested that the courts should have tougher sentences, including capital punishment, available to them. I know that we are supposed to be sensitive about criticising judges and magistrates, but it is surely an indictment of our courts that people who have been found guilty of terrorist crimes, including murder and attempted murder, have walked from the court room with non-custodial sentences. What faith can the people of Northern Ireland have in our legal system?
About three-quarters of those who are found guilty of membership of the Provisional IRA are allowed to walk free. The charge of membership of an illegal organisation is generally used when the RUC knows that the person concerned is guilty of much more, but cannot get the evidence to prove it. The police can prove that he is a member of the Provisional IRA or the INLA, but three-quarters of those who are found guilty of membership of those organisations that are killing my fellow citizens in Northern Ireland are given non-custodial sentences. Either we are at war with the Provisional IRA, or we are not. If we are—I believe that we should be—we cannot afford to allow its members to walk out of the courts after being 960 found guilty. Tougher sentences must be mandatory and, at least, minimum sentences must be available to the courts.
There should be an immediate review of the yellow card, the consultation that is required of members of the security forces before they can fire on people who have guns in their hands. The security forces must be given the absolute right to defend themselves in such circumstances without their having to consult and worry about the regulations on a yellow card. The Provisional IRA has all the advantages in this type of urban, guerrilla terrorist war. Everything is on its side because members of the IRA can lie in wait and fire on a passing patrol or blow them up. They can plan their operations and decide when and where they will launch their attack.
Under the present security policy our security forces have to react to whatever the IRA do. The hon. Member for Armagh referred to hunting and harrying. That is what should be done. The security forces should be on the offensive. The Provisional IRA should not know when next it will find the security forces coming through the door of its headquarters. We know where the Provisional IRA is based in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. People are well aware of IRA routes across the border. There should be tighter border security and search and seizure operations in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. While that may seem draconian to some hon. Members, I can assure them that if they had visited as many homes and had seen as many widows and orphans as I have they would be prepared to take that type of measure to save having to visit any more.
After 2,300 people have been killed, more than 25,000 maimed and mutilated and millions of pounds lost as a result of IRA subversion and terrorism, the people of Northern Ireland and hon. Members from Northern Ireland are asking "How many more will die, how many more will be maimed and how much more will be lost by way of finance before we debate this matter again"?
§ Mrs. Shirley Williams (Crosby)
I have not frequently taken part in the debates on the continuation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and, therefore, it is not for me a ritual occasion. No one could listen to the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker)—that might not be the appropriate parliamentary phrase to use—and the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) without being conscious that time and again they face up to the tragic consequences of terrorism in Northern Ireland. No one could listen to what the hon. and gallant Member for Armagh said about his constituents and his obligation to visit widows and to attend funerals without feeling profoundly moved. Yet, in a sense, there is a more agonising dilemma facing the House that has not so far emerged in this debate.
Terrorists win their objectives in two ways. One is by destroying their enemies. The second is by destroying the very structure of law which democracy exists to defend. Therefore, it is right for the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) to stress that we, as a House of Commons in a parliamentary democracy, should perpetually review any legislation which in essence is hostile and alien to that democracy. If we do not do so, we shall allow the terrorists to win by the back door what they have not gained by the front door. That is the essential dilemma that any democratic Government attempting to 961 administer Northern Ireland are bound to have to face. It is not a unique situation for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is not as much a different place as perhaps has been suggested in debates over the past few weeks.
Northern Ireland shares with Italy, Spain and other democratic countries in Western Europe the same awful dilemma of facing a terrorist challenge to democracy. To destroy democracy in the name of destroying terrorism is to allow terrorists to win the final victory. If Italian judges die at the hands of the Red Brigades because they are left vulnerable to terrorism by the democratic system, if a Spanish ETA terrorist blows up the forces of law and order, those countries share with Northern Ireland the attempt to try to sustain democratic institutions. They know that that requires courage and determination and that at the end of the day not to sustain those institutions is to have been defeated in the most complete sense.
Those of us from the mainland who insist that we must investigate what the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) has correctly described as "hateful legislation" must do so with an awareness of the suffering and sacrifice that we are asking the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland, both Protestant and Catholic, to sustain in the name of democracy. Any other response would seem to suggest that we do not care about the long succession of death, suffering and injury that the people of Northern Ireland have to bear.
We are therefore right to say that the Secretary of State should inquire into the necessity for legislation that is repellent to the democratic principle. If it must be extended every six months, for example, so be it, but it must be justified, because the onus of proof in a democracy has to lie with those who remove some part of the safeguards from individual liberties and from the right of our citizens to trial by jury.
The Secretary of State has done the right thing in establishing a review seven years after the previous review took place under Lord Chancellor Gardiner. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Mansfield, who has pressed consistently for an independent review. He is right to do so. He is, in so doing, defending the institutions of democracy. It was right for the Secretary of State to concede that a review should take place. I hope that it will be conducted in as open a way as is compatible with the overriding requirements of security in the Province of Northern Ireland. I hope also that it will be possible for people to submit their views to the judicial review, because that will strengthen the United Kingdom's argument before the bar of world opinion.
The House must not forget that we must do more than prove the case to ourselves. We must prove it also to those who wish all too often to show that what Britain is undertaking in Northern Ireland is wrong and is intended to destroy the rights of our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the assistance that terrorism has received from across the Atlantic from democracies, in which some people wrongly believe that they are fighting for liberty when they put their money into the collecting plates. We must show decisively that they are not.
The last part of what I want to say comes down to the details of the Emergency Provisions Act. There are three aspects to which I wish to refer because I suspect that the judicial review will take note of what is said in the House 962 in this debate and earlier debates. Therefore, it is important that we should not regard this occasion simply as one to reiterate our past well-known views without drawing attention to the matters that we hope the review will take seriously into account.
The first aspect is the Diplock courts. As recently as the day before yesterday in The Irish Times a review was reported which showed that only 6 per cent. of the people who were polled in the Roman Catholic districts of Derry and Belfast and only 23 per cent. of Protestants in equivalent areas of Belfast believed that it was possible to get a fair trial under the Diplock courts.
I cannot say how accurate that poll was, but I believe that it raises considerable questions about the amount of confidence the people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic alike, place in the system of a single judge. Therefore, the case for sustaining the Diplock courts without any of the changes that the right hon. Member for Mansfield and others have suggested must be proven before the judicial review and not taken for granted.
The second issue is section 2(2) of the Emergency Provisions Act which relates to bail. As the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland said only a few days ago, it is almost impossible to get bail under those provisions. In a democracy, to make bail almost impossible to get is such a disastrously bad principle that again the House must be convinced by the review that it is absolutely essential to make no changes in section 2 of the Emergency Provisions Act.
The third and final aspect that I want to touch upon—in some ways in respect of this country's international status the single most disturbing one—and to which the right hon. Member for Mansfield referred, is the way in which confessions appear before the courts and the fact that the conditions that apply to them are much more narrowed and straitened than in the courts on the mainland. We know that "inhumane or degrading treatment" is now a reason for rejecting a confession. We also know that that is a much narrower phrase than the phrases that would normally rule out a confession in any other British court. Because intimidation can be alleged—it is often alleged—and it can be argued that confessions have been obtained by improper means, by threats of violence or the use of violence, we are in a peculiarly sensitive and fragile area.
A democracy has to make out the strongest arguments for accepting confessions that may be obtained by improper use of the forces of law and order. Therefore, once again we are entitled to ask the Government, in the course of the judicial review, to make absolutely certain that confessions that may be obtained in ways that go beyond what would otherwise be acceptable in a democratic court of law meet the onus of proof.
I believe that it would be wrong to allow the debate to pass without saying as strongly as possible that emergency legislation sustained year after year until it becomes almost a habit of mind is one of the most significantly dangerous things that can happen to a democracy. If it were not necessary—I am not suggesting that at the moment—or if it were to be sustained for one day longer than necessary, the terrorists would have obtained the goals that they seek.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I shall not take up the comments of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams), but I wonder why she said nothing about 963 the courts in Southern Ireland, which do not have the panoply of justice that is found on this side of the Irish Sea; yet the Republic is a democracy and no one suggests that its democracy is weakened by the fact that it has had to use exceptional means to deal with an exceptional circumstance. Misunderstood outside the Chamber, the right hon. Lady's comments might lead someone to suppose that the review has been forced on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State because so many people have stated their misgivings about the way that the Diplock courts operate. If the right hon. Lady has evidence, she owed it to the House to bring it before us tonight. Otherwise, her speech may be misinterpreted. Far from helping the cause of democracy and the defeat of terrorism, she may have aided and abetted the latter most awful scourge.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
In Dublin the only proof needed is a single police officer stating that he believes that an individual belongs to an outlawed organisation.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
That underlines my point. The right hon. Lady should make her strictures north and south of the border if she wishes to be fair.
I welcome the order because the situation in Northern Ireland has not yet reached the stage where we can see the end of the emergency provisions. I also welcome the suggestion of a review. The review must satisfy all hon. Members that circumstances have changed so markedly in the Province that there is a need to change the law. Only then will it have a useful function.
Almost in his first words my right hon. Friend referred to progress on the political front. He placed considerable emphasis on the need for that progress if we are to deal with the security problem not only with the force of law and with the security forces but with the support of the community. I submit that political progress must mean a willingness by local politicians across the community divide to seek for and to support policies that will enable everyone in the Province to believe that they are being governed fairly and that their reasonable aspirations are being given proper expression.
By the end of the year it is likely that Northern Ireland will have a local Assembly. Its success will depend on the willingness of all its Members to give physical expression to those two aspirations and to do so accepting that the present borders of Northern Ireland are a physical statement of the wish of the majority of the people living there to live as part of the United Kingdom rather than as part of the Republic.
The wish of the majority—and their democratic right to self-determination—must be sustained by law and by the forces of law and order when there are those who would coerce them by force of arms into a political union against their wishes. That law must be one that can be implemented bearing in mind the circumstances in which it is enacted.
When we think of Northern Ireland, or even of Southern Ireland, the word "intimidation" springs straight to mind. For anyone to imagine that intimidation is not part and parcel of the daly existence of people in Northern Ireland is to know very little about the state of the Province and what is going on there. That is the background to the review, as is the roll-call of the murdered and the wounded, the shootings and the bombings which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave to the House in his speech.
964 I do not believe that there would be much disagreement with any of my remarks by any fair-minded politicians, whether in London, Belfast or Dublin, but, if I say that, I find myself hoping that Dublin at least will give rather more indication of its willingness to accept the right of Northern Ireland to exist, as long as the majority of its people so wish, than seems to be the case. If Dublin has its aspiration of a united Ireland—and it is a reasonable political aspiration—
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman says that it is not. It seems to me that it is a perfectly reasonable aspiration for any Government to have a view of where its future lies.
§ Mr. Powell
It is not a perfectly natural aspiration for a country to claim the territory of another country. It is not a perfectly natural aspiration for France, for example, to claim part of Germany. The hon. Member is talking nonsense.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
With the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I did not say "claim". I said that if the Dublin Government seek the peaceful unity of North and South—.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
If the Dublin Government seek the peaceful unity of North and South, or if the Cypriots in Greek Cyprus seek to have a unity once again with the Turkish part of Cyprus, I cannot see how that is either against the law or beyond the wishes of the people on either side of a border. If they seek that aspiration, as I suggest they do—I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman will contradict me— [Interruption.] I did not say "claim". If they seek to have that aspiration, it seems to me that a peaceful unity can come only out of the wishes of the people north and south of the border to be linked together.
If the Government of the South are anxious to see such unity come peacefully, then they have as much a responsibility as have those in the North to do their part in ending the blood letting which goes on, and to take action against those who, like the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron), advocate that the armed struggle will continue and who seek to recruit young people to become killers in the North. I hope that the report in the Belfast Telegraph suggesting that the Garda are looking at the speech in question to see whether the hon. Member can be prosecuted under the southern Government's Act on incitement is correct, and that they will take action against him, for it seems to me that he is one of those who intend to perpetrate further killings, which may mean shooting and bombing in the North.
We heard a very powerful speech from the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) and I am glad that I re-read his speech in last December's debate. I am glad that he repeated today several things that he said in that speech, for, like him, I find myself less and less able to understand the logic behind the 50 per cent. remission of prison sentences.
I hope that my hon. Friend, in winding up, will spend some time on that matter. As the hon. Gentleman said in December—and, I think, again tonight—effectively we may say, as my right hon. Friend said, that many people 965 have received prison sentences of 10 years or more, when we should say that they will spend only five years in prison.
If we are to make any sense of this policy, the concept of a parole board, which again the hon. Gentleman suggested last December, should be included. To give remission without any promise of good conduct seems to make nonsense of the sentence that was originally given. Why not give the man five years, and have done with it, and let him earn perhaps one-third remission, which any prisoner on this side of the Irish Sea can earn, by good conduct?
§ Mr. John Patten
I do not want to get into wider issues of penal policy, if only for fear of inciting the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) to intervene, because he has powerful views on the matter. I just want to clear up one misunderstanding by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), which perhaps followed the speech of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). It is important to realise that there is no 50 per cent. remission for people who have been duly convicted of murder.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
My hon. Friend picks out murder, but he does not say that there is no 50 per cent. remission for crimes of terrorism. If he is saying that, I hope that he will make that clear. If he is not saying that, 50 per cent. remission is available for crimes of terrorism other than murder. My case—which was made so much better by the hon. Member for Armagh—should be answered. If the argument is that there is not enough cellular accommodation to contain all those who have been convicted of crimes of terrorism, let us come clean about it, and let us build adequate prison accommodation. If we think that this 50 per cent. remission somehow softens the attitude of the terrorist to the Government of the United Kingdom, we are barking up the wrong tree.
I put this question to my hon. Friend the Minister: how many of the terrorists who are currently awaiting prosecution, or who are already in prison, are there for the second or third time round? What is the rate of recidivism among terrorists? In my opinion, that figure is central to the argument that one can release prisoners after quite short sentences and they will not go back to that form of crime.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Gentleman has raised a most important aspect of sentencing for murder. Is he aware that there are two forms of sentence? First, there is the one that just says "life", and it rests with the Secretary of State on appeals, and petitions are entered. In the second, a number of years are mentioned. The Minister should clarify the matter.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I thank the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for that extension of what I was saying. I hope that my hon. Friend will satisfy me and other hon. Gentlemen who have raised these matters, because the question of remission is a bone of contention, and one that now needs to be explained in greater detail than has occurred in the past.
I shall follow the hon. Member for Armagh in referring to the situation on the border. I had the rather tragic task of going to see Tynan Abbey a week after the killing of 966 Sir Norman Stronge and his son, a little more than a year ago. I had never examined the border between the North and South quite as closely as I did on that visit. Some of us imagine that the border is a clearly marked line between the North and South, so that one knows for certain which side one is on. In fact, it is an imaginary line which encircles the Six Counties. When I saw how easy it was for those who killed Sir Norman Stronge to cross from South to North, and that there was no physical obstacle of any sort in their way, I found myself wondering whether we are wise, year in, year out, to say that nothing can be done to make the border more of an obstacle to those who would cross it illegally. I can do no better than quote a leading article in the Belfast Telegraph of Monday 21 June, which said:The border is still of vital strategic interest, since across it flow the money, arms and often the men who carry out the violence. It cannot be sealed, but it must be patrolled, and the accusations of a slackening of security on the southern side are worrying".They are certainly worrying while the Government in the South give the impression that terrorists will not be handed back if they escape into the Republic and are arrested. Whether the Republic knows it or not, that policy, like its unwillingness to sign the European Convention on Terrorism on the grounds, apparently spurious, if the Republic's Foreign Minister of 1977 is to be believed, that the convention is against the spirit of the constitution, has created a deep bitterness among those whose lives are in danger in the North. Because of that, the strength and effectiveness of our own security forces along the border assume an even greater importance.
In those terms, can my hon. Friend say whether station sergeants are now required to reside near their police stations when that police station is along the border and whether those stations are continuously manned by an inspector or a sergeant at all times? Those comments arise perhaps initially from what happened at Tynan Abbey. It is, however, reasonable to ask a little more about the Army-police relationship and how it is evolving throughout the Province. Can my hon. Friend say how carefully selected are local police commanders and how much training they have received in command procedures with Army units including the UDR? There is a view in some quarters in the Province that the tactical support between the RUC and the UDR is not as effective as it should be, and that the UDR is slow to respond to calls from the RUC.
Do the RUC and the UDR carry out joint exercises with the Army, particularly involving the use of helicopters? Can I be assured that the police in frontier areas have received training in how to bring a helicopter into land so that a guide can be taken on board? Can I be told that the police have all the armoured vehicles that they require? I think I am right in saying that in the Tynan Abbey incident, if both police cars had been armoured, the terrorists would almost certainly not have got away. The fact that only the first vehicle was armoured and that it was involved in a crash with the terrorists' vehicle meant that it was out of use, and the second police car, which was unarmoured, could not be used against the terrorists with their high-velocity weapons.
May I be told whether Regular Army units which are stationed along the border are kept long enough in one place to have detailed topographical and demographical knowledge of the area? The comment made to me was that 967 there was an inclination to move these units about the border area which prevented them obtaining the detailed knowledge so necessary in this kind of operation.
§ Mr. John Patten
My hon. Friend has asked some probing questions. The RUC, like the UDR and the Army generally in the Province, has all the equipment that it needs. If any request comes from the RUC, it is immediately and sympathetically considered. I can give that guarantee. I must reassure my hon. Friend that the co-operation between the RUC, both full-time reserve and part-time reserve, the UDR and other Regular Army units in the Province is at a high level. I do not think it would be possible or, indeed, wise for me to answer any of the questions that he has posed in the House. This would obtrude on matters of operational judgment that might be damaging to the security of the border areas themselves.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I recognise a portion of what my hon. Friend has said. There would be nothing against his writing to me as the point that I have made to him was put to me publicly. Some form of satisfaction might be accorded by him to me through a letter.
§ Mr. John Patten
I should be happy for my hon. Friend to call on me at a time that is convenient to himself to discuss these issues.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am obliged to my hon. Friend.
Finally, I shall return to the Army, the RUC and the UDR. If, as I have suggested, with such an open border it behoves our security forces to increase their activities on the border as much as is possible, that does not seem in any way to allow the Republic to believe that it does not have a similar responsibility. If the Republic wants to have clean hands at the end of the struggle that is now going on in the North, if it wants to have hands that are clean of the blood of the innocent people who are still being murdered, it must show that it is as willing as we are to patrol its side of the border, to carry out the same surveillance of the border that I like to think that our security forces are currently employing. Surveillance of the border will produce the intelligence about those who cross it and where they cross it that will be most valuable to the security forces who are trying to capture those who come to the North to continue the campaign of terrorism and bloodshed.
Our security forces are already doing about as much as can reasonably be expected of them. I should like the border to become more of a physical obstacle than it now is. But for the sake of good Irish relations—relations between North and South—I should like to see the South demonstrate its determination, to see that it, too, is playing the greatest possible part in defeating the terrorists who are still such a cause of anxiety in the North.
§ 9.7 pm
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) will not take it amiss if I do not follow his line of argument. His latter comments would have been more appropriate to the other debate on Northern Ireland that has been taking place recently than to an order on the renewal of the Emergency Provisions Act.
I do not dissent from what was said by the Secretary of State and endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). They spoke of the 968 continuing tragedy of Northern Ireland and the almost impossible role with which the security forces are charged. It is a heartbreaking and seemingly impossible problem.
Debates on the emergency provisions are sobering events. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) and others described passionately the tragedies, violence and crimes that take place in their constituencies. If placed in those circumstances, most of us would feel much the same. It would be difficult for any of us to be objective in such circumstances. I do not want it to be thought that, because we differ in our approaches to the issue, we do not understand or do no more than sympathise.
I am only sorry that the House is never fuller on these occasions. It might do many hon. Members good to listen to the speeches that are made in these debates. It might also be good for those of us who attend these debates as often as we can and perhaps get so close to the problem that we cannot see the wood for the trees to hear some fresh views from hon. Members who do not usually contribute. Certainly I have always hoped that Northern Ireland would attract much more attention and interest in the House.
This debate takes place twice annually. Automatically, therefore, the list of crimes and violence, horrid, unacceptable and revolting though they be, must be listed yet again. It is not enough, however, simply to do that automatically and then go through the ritual of supporting the continuation of the order and remaining silent about it. That is not what we are here for and no one would thank us if we adopted that approach. As the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) said, we are bound to examine this extraordinary legislation that we are being asked to continue. We should also determine the extent to which it might be counter-productive. That is the aspect that worries many of us most of all.
After those introductory remarks, no one will be surprised to hear that I was not satisfied with the kind of inquiry proposed or indeed with the rest of the Secretary of State's remarks. I was concerned when I read the press release from the Northern Ireland Information Service on 26 May announcing the inquiry. I felt that it was not the kind of inquiry that we needed. We asked for the inquiry on five different occasions, but the inquiry outlined by the Secretary of State was not the kind of inquiry that we envisaged.
With all due respect to Lord Jellicoe, who has been put in charge of the inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act, I was rather worried as I felt that this inquiry—I believe that the Secretary of State himself said this—must be a judicial inquiry, for reasons that I shall explain. Such an inquiry must be conducted by someone who is much closer to the courts and the experience of the courts because of the nature of the offences and the acts to be examined.
I was also concerned about the timing when I read the press statement. This cannot be allowed to drag on and on. Five debates means that it is two and a half years since we first asked for an inquiry. One would have thought that at least some preliminary work would have been done by now and that we would be almost at the point of agreeing to the inquiry going ahead and proceeding fairly speedily.
I do not accept that this inquiry must necessarily be linked to the Jellicoe inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The two pieces of legislation are different and they operate in different parts of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. The Prevention of Terrorism Act operates mainly here, whereas the Emergency Provisions 969 Act operates mainly there. The latter operates mainly through the courts, while the former has a different connotation. They do not necessarily have to be linked.
§ Mr. John Patten
I entirely take the point that the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Provisions Act are separate pieces of legislation, but there is a considerable overlap. The Prevention of Terrorism Act, certainly in two of its parts, has considerable application in Northern Ireland. There is, therefore, a considerable link. Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman is right to say that they must be taken separately in terms of an examination into their workings.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is not really arguing against me. I am saying that they do not necessarily have to be taken one after the other. The two inquiries could run parallel with each other. There is nothing to suggest that we must await the outcome of Lord Jellicoe's inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act before looking at the Emergency Provisions Act. The press statement said that the timing of the inquiry into the Emergency Provisions Act would have to take into account the conclusions of Lord Jellicoe's review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I do not accept that view, which is why I tabled the amendment, which has not been selected.
I am not dissuaded from the terms of my amendment by the Secretary of State's announcement of the kind of inquiry that he envisages, nor am I too worried about the party policy aspects mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield. Frankly, I have never been too worried about party policy or any other aspects. No one can say that Labour Party policy does not give plenty of scope for interpretation. I have always exercised more scope than most, and I know that in other circumstances my right hon. Friend would perhaps do the same. I do not have to be a slave to the words of a document with which I might even agree.
§ Mr. Concannon
My hon. Friend will accept that as a Labour Party spokesman on this subject I speak not for myself but for the Labour Party and must take into account the virtually unanimous decision taken at our last conference. I must support the Labour Party's policy document. Obviously my hon. Friend, as a Back Bencher, has much more licence, but I am sure that he will accept that I must pursue party policy as enunciated at our conference.
§ Mr. Stallard
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend's intervention, but I shall get into difficulty if I take the argument too far. That conference decision did not necessarily discuss the policy in relation to the Emergency Provisions Act by itself. It spoke of "a fundamental review". I could interpret the word "fundamental" for the next three or four hours, and I am not a lawyer. I do not think that my amendment is outside the strict interpretation of party policy that was so ably advanced by my right hon. Friend. I certainly accept his stricture that he must speak for the party. That is fair enough. However, I do not necessarily have to accept every jot or tittle of that document.
Nothing that I have heard so far has dissuaded me from the sentiments expressed in my amendment, and I shall attempt to justify the kind of review that I believe to be 970 necessary. The Act was first introduced in 1973. It was amended in 1975 and 1977 to incorporate other emergency powers provisions, and it became the 1978 Act. It was originally the product of the Diplock report, and we all remember how controversial that report was at the outset. It was never accepted that it would stand the test of all time. The report remains controversial. It is probably even more controversial now that we have had experience of it on both sides of the Irish Sea. That must be taken into account.
The last inquiry into the operation was conducted by a former Lord Chancellor, Lord Gardiner. That begins to put into our minds the need for the judicial aspect of the inquiry. It was felt then, rightly, that we should put a Lord Chancellor, or somebody with that kind of experience, in charge. The Committee reported in January 1975, over seven years ago. Thus, it has been more than seven years since the last review.
We know that there is a growing demand in Northern Ireland, as well as here, for a fresh investigation into the operation of the Act, taking particular account of the effectiveness of the recommendations of the Bennett committee on interrogation methods, which reported in 1979, and the possibility of allowing part or all of the Act to lapse as part of the process of normalisation.
Like everbody else, I have been concerned only with the creation of some atmosphere in the Six Counties that would allow both communities to be reconciled. I have always wanted reconciliation. However difficult it may be, that must be the immediate target. If something is counter-productive and is causing problems, we must remove it if it is an obstacle in the way of reconciliation. That is why my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have adopted our attitude in the recent debates in yet another attempt to find another elected Assembly that may help to create an atmosphere that will allow the two communities to get together peacefully and talk about politics, like the rest of us, instead of indulging in violence and crime.
I feel strongly about the counter-productive elements that can be engendered by some of this emergency legislation, if it is allowed to go on and become worse. There has to be a limit. The process of normalisation means that we have to examine seriously the possibility of perhaps allowing parts of the legislation to lapse, or even all of it to disappear.
The Bennett committee was established following a number of serious allegations of violence, and the subject has been discussed at length in previous debates. These allegations were of violence against suspects held under the Emergency Provisions Act. The Bennett report recommendations concerning the treatment of suspects and access to solicitors and training and supervision of detectives were accepted by the Government, and we welcomed that acceptance.
The new Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Jack Hermon, also expressed himself as being determined to eliminate violence against suspects, and we welcome that. Allegations of serious violence have—I hesitate to say this—almost ceased, although there were many such allegations some years ago. Now solicitors report complaints of malpractices only occasionally during interrogation.
However, even the absence of such allegations does not mean that the operation of the Act should go unchecked. Some research into the operation of the Act was carried out by the Cobden Trust, a registered charity established to do 971 research and education work into civil liberties. I commend the results of the research, one of which is entitled "Ten Years on in Northern Ireland". It is an excellent research document.
The hon. Member for Armagh remarked that some research had been done by academics who could "stand over their work", and the research to which I am referring was also done by academics who could stand over their work. They may have come to different conclusions, but the same criteria must apply. They found a number of things in their research. For example, they found that 90 per cent. of all arrests under emergency legislation, either the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act or the Prevention of Terrorism Act, do not result in any charge against the suspect. Many of those arrested are picked up at home in the early hours of the morning. They are taken to Gough or Castlereagh interrogation centres and held for questioning for extended periods before being released without charge.
We know that such operations, particularly when one person is arrested on a number of occasions or when a number of people are picked up from a small community and detained, serve to exacerbate still further the relations between the community and the RUC. That is one of the counter-productive elements to which I referred.
It was also found that a high proportion of cases going to the non-jury Diplock courts were not terrorist offences but robbery—and robbery is a scheduled offence—for which the police and court records disclose no evidence of a terrorist motive. That does not help to enamour the local community of the operation of the Act.
These studies also show that the police continue to rely heavily on confession statements, with about 90 per cent. of cases coming before the Diplock courts relying solely or mainly on a confession statement. It was also found that younger suspects and those who are held for longer periods are more likely to confess. The Bennett committee recommendation on the length of questioning and the limit on the number of officers involved in interrogating one suspect are not always observed. Considerable pressure is put on suspects to confess and the Bennett recommendations are not always followed.
The findings are the product of serious research. They must concern us all in relation to the operation of the Act and its effect on the communities. The distinction between the role of the Army and the role of the police is blurred by their common involvement in arrest and interrogation operations involving the questioning of detainees' families and friends about their political views and associations—in other words, "screening"—rather than on specific criminal activities of which the detainee is suspected. That could operate against the Act.
The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, in a press notice released on 21 June 1982, said:Under sections 11 and 14 of the Emergency Provisions Act 1978, both the police and the Army have special powers of arrest. A constable can arrest any person whom he suspects of being a terrorist and this person may then be detained for up to 72 hours. A member of the Army can arrest, and detain for up to four hours, a person suspected of committing or being about to commit an offence. There is no requirement that there be objective grounds, such as might be reviewed by a court, for exercising these powers.A subjective decision to arrest may be implemented in a straightforward way. The Advisory Commission has thought that, at a minimum, there must be a reasonable grounds before an arrest is made and all officers must be accountable for their decisions.972 That underlines the blurring of the roles of the two forces. After giving a number of examples the commission continued:These examples show the limited, and reactive, role of the Diplock courts. It would be an exaggeration to say that all the important decisions are made prior to the trial in the Diplock courts, but certainly some highly significant aspects of the process do precede the judicial hearing. It is surely vital that the use of powers which can deprive someone of his liberty should be subject to review of some sort. It must be correct that people are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. Despite legal technicalities, a fairer test on the admissibility of statements could and should be introduced. Perhaps it would be advantageous if the judges drafted the rules, or a code of practice, laying down what had to be done before any statement of confession could be admitted in court.The Cobden Trust research set out a code of practice that could apply in the cases outlined by the standing commission. The standing commission, in its seventh report produced on 11 March 1982, referred to a review of the emergency legislation that it had been carrying out. It considered that the time had come to question the very existence of the Diplock courts—with one judge and no jury—for scheduled offences, rather than simply examine matters of detail thrown up by the operation of the Act. That is a significant statement from an important body which examined this matter closely.
§ Mr. Freeson
Does my hon. Friend agree that, whatever may be the desirability of the review that has been announced by the Secretary of State, in view of the work that has already been done by these organisations to which my hon. Friend has referred at length, there is no need to delay matters for the indefinite period to which the Secretary of State referred? On some of these matters, action could be taken forthwith.
§ Mr. Stallard
That was precisely the point I was making. I did not think that we had to wait, as the Secretary of State implied, to the end of the Lord Jellicoe inquiry into the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Some matters are already well documented and certainly well enough known to be part of a parallel inquiry now. That was one of the purposes of my amendment. The commission was mainly concerned about the single judge issue, but its general view was that there should be a review of the legislation. That conclusion must be emphasised.
Last year a conference on the administration of justice in Northern Ireland was held at Queen's university in Belfast. Delegates were connected mainly with the peace movement as well as some of the legal groups and the conference was sponsored by the National Council for Civil Liberties. The conference was reconvened this year. Both conferences stressed the need for a judicial review into the working of the Emergency Provisions Act.
Thus, all who have examined the problem closely have concluded that a judicial review is needed and that it need not have to wait for as long as the Secretary of State implied. In my amendment I also mentioned the terms of reference, as did the Secretary of State, who said that he would speak about the subject later. I do not see why he could not then have announced the terms of reference. At one stage he seemed almost to be pre-empting the decision of the inquiry or the recommendations that might come from it.
Lord Gardiner and his committee were asked:to consider what provisions and powers, consistent to the maximum extent practicable in the circumstances with the 973 preservation of civil liberties and human rights, are required to deal with terrorism and subversion in Northern Ireland, including provisions for the administration of justice, and to examine the working of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973; and to make recommendations"—which of course they did.
Now the terms of reference must be much broader and the inquiry must last longer. From the research and discussions that have taken place, we can see how broad those terms of reference ought to be. They should question whether in the administration of justice there is now any need for the Emergency Provisions Act in view of the dangers to civil liberties and human rights that that legislation has presented for nearly 10 years. The committee of inquiry should consider the use of the Act for screening rather than for the interrogation of those suspected of criminal activity. It must also consider the provisions in the Act for obtaining confessions and statements and the extent to which the police are thus encouraged to obtain by methods that may be unacceptable confessions that are often unreliable.
A desire has been expressed by many groups, and confirmed by an opinion survey carried out by the standing commission, for a return to jury trials. We all understand what my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield said about the intimidation of witnesses. The Gardiner committee referred to the number of witnesses who had been intimidated, but admitted that there was no evidence of the intimidation of jurors.
There was evidence of intimidation of witnesses and none of us can be surprised that some witnesses were afraid. No doubt even in London many witnesses are intimidated into not appearing at a trial. That is not peculiar to Northern Ireland, and the two year's statistics quoted by my right hon. Friend do not necessarily rule out consideration of a return to trial by jury for some offences, particularly as there is no evidence that jurors were intimidated. We have our suspicions about what might happen, but there are some cases in which jury trials would be appropriate in the Six Counties.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
My hon. Friend will know from my previous involvement in these matters that I have considerable sympathy with the view that we must get the balance right between control of the situation and not undermining our aim of winning the support of both communities.
My hon. Friend will also be aware from the Cobden Trust book to which he has referred that, although the evidence on intimidation is not good, the trust points out, perhaps to the surprise of some people, the difficulty of getting Unionist paramilitaries convicted with a jury system. A significant change has been seen there, and I trust that my hon. Friend takes that into account when he says that some cases could be tried by juries.
§ Mr. Stallard
I was saying that there is no need for the blanket abolition of juries. Some of us would like to see a partial return to the jury system.
Another term of reference for an inquiry should be to consider the role of the DPP and the Attorney-General who are responsible for descheduling an offence when there is no evidence of terrorist motives and when a jury trial would be appropriate even under the existing law.
An inquiry should also look at the provisions for bail in the Emergency Provisions Act. That matter was 974 mentioned by the right hon. Member for Crosby. The enforcement of the Bennett recommendations on the supervision of the police and the handling of complaints against them could also be part of the terms of reference.
In the view of myself and others more expert than I, an inquiry of the sort that I have outlined could be carried out only by someone with experience of the operation of criminal trials preferably as a judge. I said at the outset that I was worried that the Secretary of State might be implying that Lord Jellicoe, whose excellent knowledge and character I concede, may be asked to continue from the Prevention of Terrorism Act inquiry into an Emergency Provisions Act inquiry. That would be a mistake; it must be a judicial inquiry.
The composition of the body conducting the inquiry, the type of inquiry and the terms of reference are crucial. Indeed, the terms of reference are so crucial that they should be discussed in the House before they are put into effect. That would give us the benefit of the views of hon. Members in all parts of the House and perhaps we would ensure that we set up an inquiry that the seriousness of the present tragic situation deserved.
While the inquiry must allow time for interested parties to give evidence, it should not be allowed to drag on as sometimes inquiries, and indeed speeches, are inclined to do. Therefore, I hope that a report of an inquiry of the type I have suggested can be made available in time for the next renewal debate. I further hope that when the Secretary of State replies he will be able to accept the points that I have made on behalf of a great many people who have taken much trouble researching the workings of the Emergency Provisions Act.
It is no use saying that we must wait for the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act before we can examine the matter. That is not the answer. Enough has been done to allow the inquiry to start and to report in a reasonable time and to give those who are working hard on the reconciliation front in Northern Ireland some hope that the issue will not be shoved under the counter for another 12 or 18 months or until after the next election when perhaps someone else will have to deal with it. That is not the answer. Unless the Secretary of State can give an assurance that there will be a judicial review within the time limit for which I have asked and with the terms of reference debated in the House, I shall have to divide the House.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)
I share a good many of the anxieties that were expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard). Although I shall not go over the details with which he has dealt I shall refer to the latter part of his remarks. While welcoming the Secretary of State's announcement, the impression that he gave of the long time scale of the intended review is not satisfactory to me, to my hon. Friend or to other hon. Members. It was announced in May after the Secretary of State or his predecessor had been pressed on the matter over a long time. It was further remarked upon, and no more than that, in his opening speech and during his remarks he indicated that he did not expect work to start until about September or October. I do not find that satisfactory.
As I said in an intervention earlier, the report to which my hon. Friend referred shows that a great deal of work has already been done on certain aspects of the operation 975 of the Emergency Provisions Act. It has already emerged that some important areas require attention and change. We do not need another six months, another year or whatever length of time it may be beyond that, for the House to have before it some recommendations for change.
With the time scale implied in the Secretary of State's remarks, if there are to be legislative changes put to the House, we may find ourselves dealing with them in 12 or 18 months from now. Why do we have to wait for so long before a number of the measures referred to by my hon. Friend are dealt with by the House? I put it quietly but I put it seriously that we do not need to wait so long. Changes in the Emergency Provisions Act could be introduced quickly.
I endorse my hon. Friend's strongly held view that the review should be a judicial review. I was not clear from the Secretary of State's remarks that we would have anything more than a significant judicial figure on the panel of inquiry. We are entitled to know whether it is the intention of the Secretary of State to set up a judicial inquiry without his necessarily having to set down today the details and the terms of reference. He has made it clear that he is not in a position to do that anyway.
Most of the debates that we have had on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisons) Act have been interesting and valuable for individual Members—I have found tonight's debate valuable, especially the speech of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker)—but, as some have said, they have become rituals. If the emergency legislation is to continue, the case for doing so must be justified on every occasion. If it is not, why bother to have six-monthly debates and six-monthly Divisions?
Having listened to all but the opening five minutes of the Secretary of State's speech, I can say that he did not justify the continuation of the emergency legislation. He did not present the argument for so doing in chapter and verse. There may be a case for continuing to renew it, but he did not present it to the House. I have read previous debates of this character in Hansard and I have attended some of them and I know that we are rarely presented with a full justification for renewal. Without necessarily accepting the conclusions drawn by the hon. Member for Armagh, we had more justification for renewal in his speech than in that of the Secretary of State. I did not agree with all the conclusions that the hon. Gentleman drew at the end of his speech, although I was extremely impressed by the general tenor of his remarks.
We have had this six-monthly ritual over a long period and no real justification for continuing to implement the Act. It is about time that we took this legislation and its interference with civil liberties more seriously. We are to have a review, and let it be a prompt judicial review. Let it not drag on for 12 or 18 months before the House is able to make changes in the current legislation or seriously to consider whether the continuation of the Act is justified. There are some who believe it to be counter-productive in the fight against terrorism.
When I listened to the hon. Member for Armagh I began to wonder whether I should participate in the debate. It was a compelling and moving speech. He has no reason to apologise for being angry about what he had to describe and what he has described previously. We on this side of the water who do not represent constituencies such as Armagh do not have first-hand experience. As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North said, if I 976 and others represented a constituency such as Armagh, we might well draw virtually the same conclusions as the hon. Member for Armagh and might be just as angry and passionate. I feel passionate, but first-hand experience would make a tremendous difference.
As I have said, I cannot accept all the conclusions of the hon. Member for Armagh. We cannot accept that these practices are right or effective after all these years when we know what is being done within the context of the Act and other legislation and when we consider some of the practices that are applied by the authorities within the terms of the Act.
I reinforce a point that was made by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams). An essential par: of the theory of urban guerrilla warfare and of some other political revolutionaries in this country, as elsewhere, is the need to provoke the State into violent reaction. I fear that under the operation of the Emergency Provisions Act, like the Prevention of Terrorism Act, that has increasingly happened in the Unted Kingdom over the years. In a world of much poverty, mass disease, despotic war, terrorism, political injustice, of which Ireland's history has plenty of examples, the obscenity of the arms race and so-called sophisticated weaponry, there is an urgent need for more people to seek radical change. All of us in our different ways should accept that.
There is nothing radical or revolutionary about the bullet or the bomb, whoever uses it. Bully boy politics remain bully boy politics. They impoverish us all, whether we support them or not. We react in the way in which bully boy politicians, the terrorists, wish us to react.
Terrorising the innocent and murdering men, women and children, or supporting those who do, is barbaric and ineffectual. In a society such as ours where by no stretch of the imagination can we be described as helots who require such political action, we cannot accept for a moment the rejection of the politics of persuasion in favour of so-called revolutionary politics or Vanguardist politics, whether that is represented by the IRA in Northern Ireland or by other groups elsewhere in this country and other countries.
Whatever the cause and whatever the history, terrorism carries the same political disease that drove Hitler, Stalin and others like them to conduct themselves as they did. However, we must ask ourselves when we respond in Government and in Parliament in the way in which we have tended to respond over the years whether, as was being argued to some extent by the right hon. Lady, we are giving them the victory or the prospect of victory.
I shall not develop that approach because it is not the occasion to do so. It is in that mood and with that concern that the State and terrorism should not feed on one another that I turn in detail to one aspect of operations by the authorities under the Emergency Provisions Act. In view of the questions and correspondence in which I have been involved in connection with the use of plastic bullets, the Secretary of State will not be surprised when I turn to that aspect, which shows where things are going wrong and have been for some time.
I hope that the review of the operation of the Act goes as wide as the Secretary of State suggested, to include the relationship of the practices of the security forces—whether it is the Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Ulster Defence Regiment—to the policy controls of the Secretary of State and his colleagues over methods of maintaining security.
977 The operation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, like the Prevention of Terrorism Act, is already having an effect on the rest of the United Kingdom. It affects civil liberties throughout the land. For example, its operation in Northern Ireland bred the decision, following the inner city riots a year ago, to make available to police forces the riot control weapons previously used by the Army and the RUC in Northern Ireland. Their effect in maintaining law and order is dubious but they endanger limb and life not only of violent but of non-violent demonstrators and of innocent bystanders.
As I said, the most significant of those is the plastic bullet—baton rounds. Water cannon are unwieldy and vulnerable and they exhaust their water supply rapidly. They are of no use with ever-changing circumstances involving crowds. Reports have made that clear. Some time ago a Home Office working group on protective clothing and equipment made that clear.
The plastic bullet has a solid cylinder, 1½in. in diameter and 4in. long. It weighs ⅓lb. It is fired from guns with a velocity of 60m to 75m per second, according to the Secretary of State for Defence. It is about the size of a cricket ball, appreciably harder and is fired at 134 to 160 mph.
It is highly dangerous and has produced a disturbing crop of injuries. Up to mid-November, 43,000 such bullets had been fired, causing 10 known deaths. At c. 42 of the Official Report for 6 July 1981 the Secretary of State revealed that in less than two months 110 people went to hospital with injuries caused by plastic bullets, 45 of whom needed to be admitted as in-patients. According to United States Army research, which is available to the Government under exchange agreements, heavy casualties were to be expected from using such a weapon. Riot control weapons with impact energy above 90 ft/lb were in the "severe damage region". Previous answers to parliamentary questions that I put down stated that at its extreme range of 50yd the plastic bullet has an energy level of 110ft/lbs, while at 5yd it is 210 ft/lbs. The plastic bullet is perhaps the most dangerous of the so-called less lethal riot control weapons used by national security forces anywhere in the world.
It is doubly disturbing that there is mounting evidence that plastic bullets are being used freely, if not irresponsibly, in Northern Ireland. I hope that the situation will be looked into, as I have urged for some time. Numerous incidents have been reported in which standing instructions on the use of plastic bullets have been violated. They should be used only when they would represent "minimum and reasonable force", they should be aimed at selected persons and not indiscriminately at a crowd, they should be aimed at the lower part of the body and fired at a minimum range of 20m except where personal safety is threatened. Disregard of those minimal precautions has helped to inflame already difficult circumstances, as well as increasing the number of casualties.
The exceptionally high rate of use of plastic bullets last year gives the impression of almost uncontrolled firing. I use the word "impression" because I shall quote figures that reinforce one's anxiety about the matter. Whereas 13,000 were fired in the eight years 1973–80, some 30,000 were fired in 1981, 16,500 of them in the month of May 978 alone. Those are extraordinary figures. The previous highest level for baton round firing in a year was just over 23,000 in 1972, and the highest figure for a single month was just under 4,000 in February 1972.
By no standards could the violence confronting the security forces in the early summer of last year compare with the intensity of the disturbances in 1972, the worst year of the present troubles in Northern Ireland—a year of massive upheavals over internment, Bloody Sunday in Derry and its aftermath, and so on.
To give just one index of comparison, the number of deaths arising out of the conflict in Northern Ireland in 1981—I know that the figures sound cold but I am making a point of comparison—was 108, of which 10 were soldiers. In 1972, there were 103 Army deaths out of a grisly total of 467. Was 1981 a worse year than 1972 in the light of those figures? Yet look at the figures for plastic bullets that were used which I have quoted. There does not seem to be any effective justification for the high level of use of plastic bullets last year. It suggests a level of irresponsibility, possibly of indiscipline, or failure of control of some kind, which bodes ill for their use in the rest of the United Kingdom should that ever occur—and they are in stock now.
The Government need to take members of the public much more fully into their confidence if they do not wish to see the much-valued relationship of trust between the British public and police severely frayed by the introduction of the riot gear from Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom. The secretive reflexes of Government should be controlled. Why, for example, have repeated requests by hon. Members over the years for information on the precise safety tests carried out on these weapons and their results been fobbed off with empty phrases? We do not get the right answers. Now that the use of the weapons is being stopped elsewhere, after the Ireland experience, it is time for openness on this issue of key importance.
There is, indeed, a strong case for including under the review a public inquiry into the safety and characteristics of the weapons, to be carried out before they are used more widely in the United Kingdom. At present there is great stress from the Home Secretary, and from the Home Office working group on protective clothing and equipment for the police, on their being used only as a "last resort".
Were there really just under 30,000 occasions of last resort in Northern Ireland last year? The implicit double standards—with extreme verbal reluctance to employ in the rest of the United Kingdom a weapon in every-day use on the streets of Belfast, Derry and elsewhere—has already provoked adverse responses in Northern Ireland, and I think the Secretary of State is well aware of that.
However, I am at least as worried by the obverse of the coin, that once the novelty of the weapons has worn off and the British public becomes accustomed to their presence in the police armoury, the lax situation that appears to have existed recently in Northern Ireland will become evident here, too. Then we may see these weapons in use against groups of people who are not a serious threat to life or property, but who are campaigning in their own ways without threat of violence. It is a slippery slope that we should not tread. A number of bodies, for example, the British Society for Social Responsibility in Science, and the Council for Science and Society, have urged the Government not to extend their use, and have supported the need for an inquiry into their use in Northern Ireland.
979 I believe that the House should also endorse that view. I hope that it will, and I hope that the Secretary of State will do so.
We have seen in British cities, in different circumstances but with some of the same social and economic backgrounds, the inflammable nature of the human results which flow from violent situations. It would not take much in the way of repressive policing or the repressive use of this kind of weapon by authorities elsewhere to set up another chain reaction. It is the sort of lesson that we should have learnt from the sad history of technological riot control in Northern Ireland, but so far we do not seem to be attempting to learn those lessons.
980 I end with a general observation, which I make not just as a rhetorical flourish at the end of my remarks. We must beware not only of terrorism but of our own, even unintended, abuse of power, whether it be technological or political. Each feeds on the other in a world of increasing insensitivity and violence. Let there be no mistake about it. If we continue to accept these things, unquestioned and unchallenged, we in this House will be infected by the insensitivity of much of the violence and aggressiveness that is spreading throughout the world today.
§ 10.6 pm
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I again place on record my instinctive distate for this type of legislation. I have lived in Northern Ireland under a succession of repressive Acts of Parliament such as this, and it is my honest and considered opinion that this type of legislation is counter-productive, and does not do what it is intended to do.
On every occasion when a renewal debate takes place, everyone who is present listens with concern and respect to what has to be said by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). For many years, almost weekly—certainly monthly—he has been losing close personal friends. There was a time, in the 1970s, when the same thing was happening to me, when I lost many, many friends who were brutally murdered and assassinated by so-called Loyalist paramilitary gangs. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) realises, in so far as it is possible for a Member of Parliament on this side of the Irish Sea to realise, the emotion and feelings of frustration and anger that are generated by the continuing succession of murders. This legislation is on the statute book, has been on the statute book, and has been renewed twice a year, and yet this grisly total of murders continues to mount.
Recently I acquired a video. During the recent weeks I have been taping news bulletins about the Falkland Islands, the war in the Middle East, and the war in the Lebanon. Neatly interspersed between the tragedies there, only last week and the week before, there was the picture of Belfast devastated by car bombs set off by the IRA, people who are allegedly from the same tribe as I am in Northern Ireland—because there is a tribal situation there. A car bomb was set off indiscriminately outside a hostel where 28 young nurses were badly injured. Even tonight, in my constituency, clearing-up operations are taking place following a car bomb explosion that severely damaged and almost demolished 300 houses. That happened in a Catholic district, not a Loyalist area, of Northern Ireland. This explains why so much emotion is generated by Northern Ireland Members when we discuss these matters. We live with the reality of what terrorists can do to us and to our constituents.
I should like to draw the Secretary of State's attention to what I hoped would not happen but what, in fact, has happened. This legislation has taken on a tribal aspect. Catholics, who are the minority in Northern Ireland, feel that the Emergency Provisions Act is aimed at them. It is mostly in their community that the arrests and the detentions take place in the early hours of the morning. I accept that on many occasions the Act has been used against Loyalist paramilitaries. It has, however, to be stated that it is now accepted in Northern Ireland that the Act is aimed at the Catholics. Whether that is or is not the case, the fact is that this is what people believe.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East rightly drew attention to the great concern and anger within the Catholic community about the over-use of plastic bullets. The Secretary of State cannot afford to underestimate the feeling among the Catholic population about the use of plastic bullets in riots which they feel have been generated by the IRA. There can be no doubt that 982 some of the 10 people, perhaps all of them, although I am not in a position to say, who have been killed by plastic bullets have been innocent.
When a plastic bullet kills an innocent Catholic, that is not a victory for the security forces, for the Government or for legislation that permits the use of such bullets. It is a victory for the IRA, which brutally exploits the situation. I have seen the funerals. I have seen the statements that emerged from the IRA when a young teenage girl—some of the victims are not even teenagers—has been killed by a plastic bullet. The over-use of these bullets creates great friction and hostility. It is counter-productive. It drives a wedge between the majority and the minority communities.
I recognise that members of the majority Unionist and Protestant population, hearing what I say, will remark "We always knew Gerry Fitt was a secret supporter of the IRA". If one voices opposition to this Act, which the majority Protestant population see as being on their side, this must mean, in their view, that I am giving covert support to the IRA. That is patently not so. It is, however, the way in which debates on renewal of these provisions are interpreted in Northern Ireland.
When the issue of plastic bullets was mentioned earlier in this debate, the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) asked whether live bullets would be preferred. That is a big debating point in Northern Ireland. Over the past few years— I am not going back to "bloody Sunday"—many innocent people have been killed by real bullets. I refer to a case that I have brought to the attention of the Northern Ireland Office and about which I have written to the Prime Minister. It concerns a 15-year-old boy called Danny Barrett. Everyone will concede that members of the IRA in the Ardoyne area of Belfast, in July last year, were shooting at the security forces. A soldier on top of Flax Street Mill, in evidence that he gave to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said that he thought he saw a puff of smoke and fired at it. There was no puff of smoke but he killed the 15-year-old boy.
I have spoken to the parents of that young boy. They are absolutely heart broken. It will take a long time for them to get over, if they ever do, the loss of their young son who was doing nothing but standing outside the door of his home. There was shooting in the area. But the soldier was not on the ground. He was on the top of Flax Street Mill. It is unlikely that anyone would have regarded him as a target, but the soldier fired down into a bunch of children with a live bullet and killed young Danny Barrett. Needless to say, that event has caused much concern. It leads to other questions which should be answered.
The case was sent to the DPP who issued a statement saying that there would be no prosecution in that case. It is only because I have inside information that I am able to refer to the puff of smoke. It was different for the parents. The papers were sent to the DPP. Then a policeman called on the bereaved parents saying that there had been word from the DPP—there would be no prosecution.
Moreover, the inquest on that young boy has not been heard. That is another cause for worry in Northern Ireland. When people are killed in such circumstances, whether by plastic bullets or, as was Danny Barrett, with live ones, it takes many months, if not going into a second year, before an inquest is held. All sorts of excuses are trotted out by the Northern Ireland Office. They say something about administrative difficulties. I see no opportunity for 983 administrative difficulties in the holding of an inquest. It would be in the interests of the public if inquests were held with all due speed and if all arrangements were made so that the relations of the person who has been killed could have the matter clarified.
It is felt that when people die in such circumstances, inquests are often prolonged for six months or a year—in Danny Barrett's case it is nearly a year—in the hope that there will be another set of atrocities and people will have forgotten about the first one. I am sure that there are many thousands of people in Northern Ireland who have forgotten the name of Danny Barrett and the circumstances in which he died. Thousands of people in Northern Ireland would not recall the 10 people who were killed by plastic bullets to whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East referred. It is in the interests of neither the Government nor the community to prolong the time before inquests take place.
I sometimes read the Republican newspapers that are sent to me privately. They are put through my door in the early hours of the morning to keep me up to date with what is being said about me. They do not make good reading sometimes. Those papers and even the legitimate press have often said that people who will read these articles with more generosity of spirit than I believe that soldiers and policemen in Northern Ireland can kill anybody and get away with it. Only in a small minority of cases can the verdict be anything other than guilty. In almost every case of a soldier or policeman taking the life of an individual, if there is the slightest doubt, the verdict is always in favour of the member of the security force.
In Northern Ireland what I have just said will be interpreted as an attack on the security forces. It is no such thing. I recognise the tremendous difficulties under which the security forces are labouring. I am only too well aware of the problems facing the UDR which the hon. Member for Armagh mentioned—I would not object to calling him my hon. Friend on this occasion. When members of the IRA murder those UDR men, they say that they are shooting at a uniform or at a member of the security forces, but they are shooting milkmen, bakers, shop assistants, barbers, shop fitters, labourers, unemployed people and tradesmen. They are shooting members of the Protestant community, and well they know it.
The recent gruesome catalogue of murders of members of the security forces, particularly in the Strabane and Armagh areas, has been condemned by every voice that I know which represents the Catholic community, including the political and religious leaders, so the IRA cannot claim to be acting in the interests of the Catholic community. I support much of what the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said in relation to the murderous campaign and the continuing tradegy in Northern Ireland. He said, as is said all too often, that 2,300 people had died in Northern Ireland as a result of the IRA campaign of terrorism. That is not strictly true. It is said quickly and some of the newspapers here would probably jump on it, but the IRA was not responsible for 2,300 deaths, although I freely admit that it was responsible for the majority of them.
I refer here to what is known in Northern Ireland as "what-about-ery". That is what it is called when a Unionist stands up and lists a catalogue of murders of members of the Protestant community and I am supposed to say "Ah, but what about …?" in an attempt to justify the other side in a macabre game of "You are worse than us". I am 984 not in that game at all. At the present time, the IRA is responsible for the major part of the death and destruction taking place.
The Protestant, so-called Loyalist paramilitary groups are still there, however. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his colleague condemned them today for the attempt to blow up a Catholic church in the Cavehill Road in Belfast just over a week ago. That was done for exactly the same reasons as IRA members were on hunger strike last year. There is no difference between them. A person called Somerville was found guilty of taking part in the atrocious murder of the Miami show band to which the hon. Member for Epping Forest referred. That man is now claiming political status. The Government have rightly refused to give him political status, so his colleagues outside the prison decided to blow up a Catholic church. A large number of people could have been killed. The Protestants, so-called Loyalist paramilitary groups are certainly still there. I condemn the IRA and I admit that it is responsible for the major part of the tragedy now taking place, but we must be ever mindful that there are two sides in this conflict.
I hope that the Secretary of State will take particular note of the case that has been made about the excessive use of plastic bullets and especially the case of Danny Barrett, who was shot last year and whose inquest has still not taken place.
In another case, a person by the name of Rafferty was interrogated by the police five or six years ago. When he went into the police station, he had all his physical abilities about him. After being interrogated, he emerged from the police station badly beaten up. He was examined by a doctor who verified that there were cuts and bruises all over his body. He said that he had been beaten up in the police station. Again, this is not an attack on the police, although I can almost hear people in Belfast saying that it is an attack on the police who in their eyes can do no wrong.
When that man left the police station, he was badly bruised; of that there is no doubt. He was examined by a doctor and the police said that his wounds were self-inflicted. There may well be some injuries that can be self-inflicted, and I have no doubt that in their attempt to discredit the police and the RUC interrogating officers some IRA men inflict wounds on themselves. However, the extent of the injuries suffered by Mr. Rafferty convinces me that they were not self-inflicted.
Mr. Rafferty has fought year after year, at inquiry after inquiry and in court after court to prove that his injuries were not self-inflicted and that he was beaten. He reached the end of the line in the last two or three days, when the High Court decided that there was considerable doubt which must be exercised in favour of the police.
That was an added bonus for the IRA. It was absolutely delighted with that verdict, because it said "It proves once again that the police can do whatever they like with you. Tell the Catholic community to be careful with the RUC, because the RUC is the enemy." Had that verdict been otherwise, some people would have believed that we could still expect justice where it was due.
The feeling in Northern Ireland is that in a tribal sense the Act is deliberately aimed against the Catholic community. That may not be so, but that is what people believe. They believe that the security forces, even when guilty of dereliction of duty, receive the benefit of the doubt.
985 The parents of someone who has lost his life, such as those in the case of Danny Barrett, should be asked to give evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions, yet those parents were not. They were told that the papers would go to the DPP. Afterwards, a policeman told them that the DPP had considered the case and had taken the view that the soldier was on top of the Flax Street Mill, was worried about all the shooting taking place, saw smoke, thought it was a gun—which it was not—killed the young boy, but was not acting with malicious intent. As a result, the DPP decided to do nothing about it. That does not bring back that young boy's life. I have met the young boy's parents and they are absolutely heart-broken about the circumstances in which their young 15-year-old innocent son died.
As the hon. Member for Belfast, East said, the Army has the yellow card. Some people think that it is too restricted and that the Army should be given more leeway. If a soldier is able to shoot to kill merely because he thought he saw a puff of smoke, I do not believe that the yellow card is the proper means of allowing the Army to fire.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North will remember the case of his constituent Mr. Boyle. The hon. Gentleman was incensed at that. Therefore, the Army can, and does, make mistakes. When it does, it should admit the fact. If there is an attempt to vindicate everything that the Army does, people in Northern Ireland who do not support the terrorists will begin to have less respect for the security forces.
§ Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)
Like most hon. Members, I deplore the need for this order after 13 years. Most hon. Members in the House 13 years ago did not expect that there would be a need for it in 1982. I am disappointed that some hon. Members should have found it necessary to table an amendment because one of the great things about the House is the unanimity with which hon. Members have approached the problems of Northern Ireland and the question of how to deal with terrorism.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), for whom I have the greatest admiration. He is an extremely courageous man, and his integrity is of the highest order. I am afraid, however, that I cannot agree with him in his support for the amendment. He said that the Catholic community felt threatened because of the arrests in the early morning, which he felt were devisive. However, that is the only time when the forces of law and order are able to conduct that type of exercise with some certainty of being able to achieve their objective, and do it with as little bloodshed as possible. This technique was followed recently in the South Atlantic, where considerable advantage was taken of the enemy when they were sleeping. An enormous amount of bloodshed was saved as a result.
In a war, one must expect some hurt to be suffered, certainly by the security people whose purpose is to help to maintain law and order. We know that in the past CS gas and rubber bullets have been used as an alternative to lead bullets. More recently plastic bullets have been used. I am not surprised that an enormous number of plastic bullets are now used.
986 The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) said that he considered the figure to be excessive, but I should prefer to see a number of people in hospital because of an injury from a plastic bullet than the death of one soldier, killed in trying to do his duty on the streets of Northern Ireland. I feel that the yellow card is quite restrictive enough.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Belfast, West has had an opportunity to visit some of the ranges that are used to train soldiers for service in Northern Ireland. He may know that I have recently completed quite a long service in the Reserves and I have on more than one occasion had the opportunity to use this type of range.
It is extremely difficult to tell whether one is about to be fired at from a window or doorway in a narrow Northern Ireland street. A soldier has a split second to react to whatever happens. Somebody in a window may be using a pair of binoculars, a camera, or just a hairdrier. All of these visions in a window can easily be mistaken for someone using a small arm.
Therefore, we have to congratulate the security forces on the low number of accidents caused to the population. I feel that when there is danger of this sort people should keep well out of the way if they are not involved. This applies to accidents and fires in England as well. It would be fatal for people to mingle with the fire brigade or the ambulance service, or to interfere, because that only delays the work of those services. In like manner, if people are foolish enough to appear at a window or door during a shooting they run a grave risk which should not be underestimated.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West mentioned Danny Barrett, a 15-year-old boy. It is tragic for parents when a child whom they love dearly is cut down in the prime of life. Parents have a grave duty. I hope that the parents of that boy, and other parents in Northern Ireland, will consider carefully what they should advise their children to do in such circumstances. They should advise them to steer clear of riots.
§ Mr. Thorne
I took particular note that there had been gunfire in the area. It is foolish to stand near a door or window in such circumstances. The ranges to which I referred simulate people appearing in doorways and windows. A soldier with a firearm in his hand must decide in a split second whether the person in the doorway or window is aiming a gun or a camera. It is not easy to decide whether to fire one's weapon before the other person fires.
Parents have a duty to ensure that their children are properly looked after, in the same way as they teach their children to keep away from the road and to follow the green cross code. Northern Ireland parents have the extra responsibility of ensuring that their children do not become mixed up in shootings and so run the risk of serious injury.
§ Mr. John Patten
I have been listening with care to my hon. Friend's observations because I am aware of his Service record. He is dealing with the problem of young people and their appearances on the street. He will be aware of a tragic incident in Londonderry on 24 May when a soldier was killed by petrol devices thrown by children.
987 In the circumstances, does my hon. Friend agree that the security forces have a difficult task when facing such adverse conditions and use minimum force?
§ Mr. Thorne
I was coming to that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I deplore the fact that so much IRA activity is carried out behind a mask of women and children. A favourite IRA tactic in a riot is to ensure a sufficient depth of children and women in the front of the crowd to distract the forces. IRA terrorists then throw bombs over the heads of the children and women—that is, when they are not encouraging the children to throw missiles. We should ensure that Northern Ireland parents accept the responsibility for ensuring the safety of their children. If they do not take on that responsibility, they must not be surprised when the worst happens.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West mentioned the Loyalist prisoner who has been on hunger strike for 30 days. The media have been low key on the issue. Indeed, until I saw the news on the agency tapes tonight I did not realise that anyone was on hunger strike in Northern Ireland. When a low-key approach is adopted in such cases, there is less chance of those involved achieving their aims. I do not support Loyalist hunger strikers any more than IRA hunger strikers.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West said that when there was any doubt about an incident the benefit of it was invariably given to the police or security forces. If a person is alleged to have committed an offence under United Kingdom law he is always given the benefit of any doubt and I am not surprised that it is given to the police and security forces who do a difficult job magnificently in terrible circumstances. They are the envy of the world. I can think of no Service personnel anywhere else in the world who could do that job with so little bloodshed.
The security forces have had a difficult time. There were problems with the media in the early days when it was suggested that they were trying to make stories. That period has passed and the reporting of issues is extremely responsible. Of course, in any society there is the occasional rogue elephant. Even the House has experience of that and we should not be surprised if the security forces and the police suffer the same problem. It would be wrong to condemn all the rest because of the way that one or two have behaved.
The security forces have learnt in Northern Ireland some arts and skills that were useful in the recent conflict in the South Atlantic. I was interested to hear one or two men say recently what a refreshing change it was to be fighting an enemy in uniform. Whatever they thought of the forces they were fighting in the South Atlantic, at least those forces did not disguise themselves as civilians and take advantage of that anonymity.
We must accept that the IRA and Loyalist terrorists who conduct cowardly, underhand actions behind respectable fronts are the sole cause of the problems in Northern Ireland. The security forces have a duty to protect themselves to the best of their ability. They do a fantastic job, and I hope that we will give them every encouragement to continue in that way.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry)
My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) said that he had had an easy six months, with only four people being killed in his constituency. I wish that I could say the same, but on 988 Sunday 28 March, Inspector Duddy of the RUC left his church in Londonderry after a service, got into his car with his two teenage sons and was shot dead before their eyes. On 1 April, two soldiers who were changing batteries in a radio station were ambushed, shot and killed in Londonderry on their way back to their base. On Tuesday 27 April, Lieutenant Hamilton of the UDR, a bread server, was shot and killed by the IRA while he was delivering bread to a supermarket. On 4 May, Constable Caskie and his companions were ambushed by the IRA in the centre of Londonderry. He was killed and the woman constable with him was seriously wounded. On 12 May, Mr. Cunningham, an ex-member of the UDR, was shot through the back of the head and killed while at work tiling a bathroom in Strabane.
§ Mr. Ross
By, it is alleged, a 15-year-old boy, who has since been arrested and charged but not yet found guilty.
On Monday 24 May, soldiers in an armoured vehicle were petrol-bombed by children. They had to evacuate the vehicle which ran forward, crushed one of the soldiers and killed him. I consider that to be murder although it is marked down in the report as an accident. On 11 June, Detective Constable Reeves, in a follow-up search of a lock-up garage with the Army, which had discovered apparently stolen property, picked up a television set. It exploded and killed him. On 15 June, Mr. Cummings, a member of the UDR, was shot and killed in Strabane. Nine people were killed in 12 weeks and that is far too many.
Although not all those people were killed in my constituency, I hope the House will realise that I also know what the practical effects of terrorism are like. There have been many more such murders.
That is a horrifying record, but, more important than the record, it demonstrates the capability that the IRA still possesses to commit murder almost at will, to do it with extreme efficiency and so far as one can gather, when the murders are carried out by the highly experienced murder gangs, to do it with very little chance of being caught. It is that that I must put in the balance when others call for modification and for a relaxation of the measures that are before the House for renewal.
The IRA tried hard and often in Londonderry last year, but it did not succeed. This year it is succeeding with a terrifying regularity. The devolved Parliament in Northern Ireland was declared unfit at one stage, in 1972 and even before that, to deal with the security situation in Ulster. Since that time responsibility has rested in the House. I wonder whether, if those who were so anxious to remove that power to this House in those days had to do it now, they would be as anxious to go down that road.
A great deal of the terrorist activity in Northern Ireland over the years has happened because there has been a persistent failure to understand the driving, motivating force that keeps the IRA at work. The IRA only keeps at it because its members believe that in the long run they will win. There is a lack of understanding in the House of the IRA mentality.
On 24 March 1972, Captain Orr, the hon. Member who preceded my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in that constituency, said thatthe imposition of direct rule against the wishes of the majority can only be described as an act of folly.989 The then Prime Minister said that that could not possibly be so because the Government remained convinced that the great majority of the people of Northern Ireland wanted peace and security.
The then Prime Minister went on:The IRA has demanded an amnesty. That is not Her Majesty's Government's proposal. It demanded the withdrawal of all British troops. That is not Her Majesty's Government's proposal. It demanded the abolition of Stormont. That is not Her Majesty's Government's proposal."—[Official Report, 24 March 1972; Vol. 833, c. 1870.]However, a year later that third demand of the IRA was met. No member of that terrorist organisation or its supporters will ever be convinced that its demand was not met. They will never be convinced that it was not met at their behest because of the military action that they took. Failure to understand that is failure to understand the mentality of those with whom we are in military conflict.
We are told that these same folk were recently trying to buy anti-aircraft missiles in the United States. Newspaper reports tell us that they had $1 million to spend. It is clear that there is no shortage of money. That is a terrifying prospect. What do they want missiles for? Does anyone imagine that this organisation would use them only against helicopters? I do not. I believe that it would be prepared to go for much more spectacular and terrifying deeds.
What further actions and what further methods of operation is the IRA contemplating that have not yet come to light? We have read press reports that were issued by the Israeli Government that IRA members were found in the Lebanon. When the Government spokesman replies to the debate, I hope that we shall be told whether the Government have yet had confirmation of that claim. If they have, the Northern Ireland people should be told.
We have seen a return to the car bomb, which can mean only that the IRA has a great deal more explosive and explosive devices than it has had for many years. Questions must be asked, because one of the great enemies of the IRA is truth and an understanding of its intentions as well as its capabilities. Far too often the ordinary men and women of Northern Ireland have been left in the dark when clear warnings of IRA intentions could have been given. It is clear that this organisation is still capable of much evil. It is clear also that when it reorganised in 1977–78 in response to the increasing security force action at that time there was a decrease in the total number of adult deaths.
In the years 1972 to 1976 the average number of deaths each year due to terrorist action was slightly less than 300. In 1977 it fell to 132. Since then it has been over 100 on only one occasion, which was in 1979. The average since 1977 has been 96 or 97. That shows that the IRA is operating at a certain level of activity. Over the past five years the number of civilian deaths has been about 50 every year, which is just short of one a week.
There must be a reason for the great drop in fatalities. I accept, of course, that in the earlier stages they were not all caused by IRA activity. However, there has been a great change from one level of death and destruction to another. There must be a reason for that. This must mean that the present security policy is capable only of keeping the level of deaths at about 100 a year, give or take 10 or 990 15. That is just not good enough. There should be another security policy and an effort to drive that death rate much lower until it disappears completely.
These powers are necessary. It is also necessary to have political action that will convince the IRA that Ulster is British and that the House means to keep it British. Because the Labour Party's spokesman only yesterday said that it was not willing to work for the unity of the Kingdom, he and his party have done much to encourage the IRA to believe that its objective will succeed. A great part of any military battle is the belief that one will win—the belief not only in the moral rightness of one's cause but that one can, and will, win.
The fact that a major party in the United Kingdom says through its spokesman in the House that it will not work solidly and continuously for the maintenance of the Union means that the IRA believes that there is a possibility that that party will surrender at some point to its demands.
There is also the dangerous assumption that has been followed assiduously throughout the years, that one can buy off Republicanism with a job in a devolved structure in Northern Ireland. Those people cannot be bought off. One cannot buy off Charlie Haughey or Dublin. Those people are all after a united Ireland. They are all prepared to twist and turn, but they work continuously towards that end. They will not be bought off by jobs. The idea that giving a job to the political Republicans will buy off the gunman Republicans is utter nonsense. It has never been possible to do so.
I live in a Republican village. I know men and women who are now on the run. I know men who killed and who are in prison. I know what they think of those politicians on the Catholic side of the fence. They say to me in private "Willie, they betrayed us." Of all hon. Members I am the one on the Unionist side of the fence closest to the Republican community, as I have lived in it all my life. I know the people and their attitude. I know the depth of their commitment to Republicanism and the violence that they have perpetuated down the years. I am under no illusions about their intentions anymore than they are under any illusions about my objectives for the future of Northern Ireland.
That is why I come back to the word that was used by the Under-Secretary of State in a bit of chit-chat across the Floor of the House with my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South. He used the word "acquiescence". That word has not been given enough attention. It is not necessary to give people a job or to make them love one. It is only necessary at the end of the day to make them acquiesce in the structure, the government and the future of the country.
There are many in the Creggan, Gobnascale and in West Belfast who acquiesce to the presence of the IRA. They give the IRA money and hiding places. However, that does not necessarily mean that they all love the IRA. It does not mean that they all willingly welcome and support the IRA. It means that they acquiesce and help, because they can do no better. They can do no better because the House has failed them more thoroughly and regularly than it has failed the Protestant community. The Roman Catholic community are the people who have the IRA on their backs. That is plain to anyone who goes into the areas, looks at those people and listens to what they have to say.
The Government have a duty to impose their authority and the rule of law to bring peace and normal justice to 991 the areas. The population cannot be expected to throw off the IRA. One does not argue with a gunman at the door in the Creggan; one does as one is told in West Belfast and many other places. The only ways that the gunman can be defeated are if he is driven out, put in prison or killed. Only by doing that will we convince the people who support him and are prepared to join in his evil activities that we intend to win and will beat the gunman.
My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh mentioned the right of silence. There is also the question of guns that are used in murders—IRA guns that travel from one part of the Province to another to be used in murders in Armagh, Belfast, Londonderry or Strabane. They are doubtless used by different people. Should not the carriage of such guns be treated as a serious offence, perhaps attracting a life sentence? The person who transports the gun is part of the murdering organisation and is co-operating in the murders that the gun is used for. That issue should be more deeply explored. My previous requests have been turned down.
The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) spent time on the question of plastic bullets. They are used freely, but their use is necessary. If they were not used a lot more soldiers might be burnt to death by petrol bombs and a lot more lethal weapons might have to be used. In May 1981 we were in the middle of the hullabaloo about the IRA hunger strikers. Few can name them today. That is the measure of their failure. They are not the martyrs and are not written in everyone's heart in the way that they expected.
The plastic bullet is vital for the security forces in Northern Ireland. It must be retained and used as freely as the men on the ground facing the rioter and petrol bomber feel necessary. False restrictions should not be put on its use.
My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh also mentioned the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron), as I suppose we must call him. That person complained about the political bishops and constitutional politicians and asked where they were hiding. By being harsh on the constitutional politicians he displayed his utter contempt for the whole concept of democracy. When he was arrested in the United States he complained that he had no income other than social security benefits. Is a man elected to the House, entitled to the salary and the other perks that we have, not drawing his salary?
§ Mr. Ross
Is he then entitled to social security benefits? That is strange. I hope that we can be told what the position is.
We are debating in the normal six-monthly way the Emergency Provisions Act. I support the Act, although not willingly. It is an Act which is necessary for the welfare and the defence of the people of Northern Ireland. It is an Act which must be kept—and strengthened—in order finally to destroy the IRA and all its activities.
§ 11.5 pm
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)
I fully endorse all the comments that have been made by hon. Members, and by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams), from all parts of the House expressing our admiration and our gratitude for the 992 efforts of the members of the security forces in Northern Ireland. I hope that everyone in the House will support their efforts.
It is understandable that those of us living on this side of the water tend to think in particular about the soldiers from England, Scotland and Wales who go over the water to Northern Ireland in order to help maintain the peace there. But it is incumbent on us in this House tonight to think about the particular role of the security forces within the Province—those who were born and bred there and who will go on living there.
It is no invidious comparison to record a special tribute to those members of the security forces—they are a clear numerical majority—who come from Northern Ireland. In all likelihood they will live there for the rest of their lives, with their families, and it is with their families that now—and perhaps well into the future—they continue to be subjected to the threat of murderous and cowardly attack by barbarous terrorists. It is to them that we owe a great deal.
I would say, however, to the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), who is not in his usual place in the Chamber at the moment, that I fully understand his point about the monotonous litany of murder, terror, bombing and maiming. How could anyone fail to understand it? At the same time, I would not want him to think that there are not people on this side of the water who, through their sons, daughters or relations, have experienced, at least in some small part, that greater scale of terror with which he is all too familiar. I have within recent months been behind the coffin of a young rifleman from my constituency who served the United Kingdom and paid the ultimate price in Northern Ireland.
We have properly heard something about the restraint that the security forces show in undertaking their duties in the Province. Those who criticise the use of force by the security forces in the Province, and who feel that too much force is used, must remember the very great restraint that they have to show day by day. Sometimes, on the other hand, there is an element of criticism in the comments of some hon. Members who suggest that we are not letting the people who are in charge of security policy take the gloves off and get on with the job. I have heard those comments repeatedly in these and similar debates. To those who feel that taking off the gloves would suddenly make the difficult job of the security forces less difficult and less dangerous, I say that it might make it more difficult and more dangerous.
It is very important for the House to realise that the security force commanders in the Province—the GOC and the Chief Constable—have available all the resources that they need and are able to have a free hand, within the law, to take any action that they feel is necessary, and to take whatever operational decisions seem to them most likely to be effective. But, sadly, the history of mistrust between the communities in Northern Ireland—I need not elaborate on that history—is such that there clearly is a mistrust, on the part of some sections of the community, of the forces of law and order.
I do not believe that we shall eliminate terrorism until we isolate it totally from the community which it purports or pretends to serve.
Sometimes the terrorists try to portray themselves as the protectors and servants of certain sections of the community. What a sick joke that is. What a ghastly Gothic fantasy. Tell that to the 24 nurses who were injured 993 in Belfast by flying glass and debris within the last fortnight, by a bomb that was aimed, not at a particular target, but indiscriminately to maim, kill and injure. The fantasy of those evil, wicked and perverted minds, who suggest that somehow they are serving the interests of the community, deserves to be revealed for what it is, time and again. None of us should miss the opportunity, in this House or in any part of the United Kingdom, to reiterate that and drive the lesson home. It is as true in Armagh as it is in Aldershot.
It is a matter of great regret for all right hon. and hon. Members—most right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken have voiced that regret—that the terrorists have achieved such success in their efforts in the past as to undermine the institutions of democracy and the rule of law, to a certain extent, as the right hon. Member for Crosby said. It has been a sad necessity, shared by the last Administration, the Administration before that, and this Administration, that in the face of such intimidation it has been necessary to adopt exceptional measures. Those exceptional measures were properly taken. They modify but do not completely abandon our normal standards and procedures for the conduct of criminal justice in this country. However, sometimes it seems to be forgotten by critics, especially by critics from abroad, as the right hon. Lady said, that many of the traditional safeguards of British justice remain in the Diplock courts.
I shall remind the House of those safeguards. First, strict rules of evidence apply. Secondly, the accused hears all the evidence. Thirdly, the accused is represented by counsel and may challenge the evidence in open court. The right of appeal of any person convicted in a Diplock court is unfettered on points of fact, as well as on points of law. The right of appeal is not restricted as it would be on this side of the water, had the case been tried before a jury court. All in all, many of the traditional safeguards of British justice, English law, are maintained within the framework of the Diplock courts. Those who want changes in the law serve their case ill if they choose not to remember those facts.
Nevertheless, my right hon. Friend, myself and the Government realise that other provisions in the Act incorporate exceptions from our normal procedures. That is why my right hon. Friend said that these procedures are to be reviewed. There is no doubt that, whatever the results of the review, it will not lead to the complete abolition of those courts in the near future, or the total riddance from the legal landscape of Northern Ireland of emergency provisions and special provisions. I doubt whether any right hon. Member or hon. Member, even the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), who put his case so lucidly, believes that it would be possible to wipe away overnight all the special provisions that exist. But it is clear that the existing provisions may need to be adapted. They may need amendment. They may need development and change to take account of changing circumstances. It would be appropriate, my right hon. Friend feels, for the Government to have independent advice before deciding what changes need to be made.
§ Mr. Freeson
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that whatever else such a review may undertake or produce, it 994 will not be open for it to recommend, if it so decided, that the Act should be withdrawn? That is the import of what the hon. Gentleman has stated.
§ Mr. Patten
I apologise for not being present when the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) made his contribution to the debate. This is an independent inquiry. Any independent inquiry can make any recommendations to the Government that it sees fit. It is then for the Government and the House to decide whether to adopt the recommendation. I was speculating that I thought it extremely unlikely, should the inquiry come forward in six, nine or 12 months' time with recommendations, that any of us could suspect that the security situation in the Province could be at such a pitch that we could get rid of all emergency provisions.
All hon. Members want the Act to be as effective as possible for its two entirely but internally consistent purposes. We want the Act to bring offenders to trial so that they get the appropriate sentence. The second purpose is, at the same time, to maintain confidence throughout the whole community that the processes involved are fair and the sentences deserved. There is a duality of purpose in the Act as at present drafted.
Freedom for all sections of the community in Northern Ireland can be achieved only if ordinary people respect the safeguards that the law provides.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
Can my hon. Friend say whether the Offences against the State Act, the special courts and so on, in the Republic of Ireland receive the same scrutiny and review as our legislation receives in the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Patten
I am ashamed to say that I cannot answer specifically. I do not know what reviews, if any, are presently going on in the Parliament of another country. I know that there are also special regulations south of the border.
My right hon. Friend's suggestion that there should be an independent and free-standing inquiry has received a wide welcome from both sides of the House, from the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), speaking for the Opposition, from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) who, I am pleased to see, has made a great recovery and whose further contributions I look forward to hearing, and from the right hon. Member for Crosby. It has not been so welcomed by the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North. We have to relate the timing of the inquiry, the establishment of the review and its schedule of work to the progress of Lord Jellicoe's review on the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. That seems to us sensible. I know that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, does not agree. The two reviews are related. The Emergency Provisions Act review will have, of necessity, to take account of the reasoning behind, and the conclusions drawn by Lord Jellicoe's review. I can give the hon. Gentleman and any of his hon. Friends who share similar doubts an assurance that we shall press ahead as quickly as possible in the light of these considerations.
I am unable to anticipate my right hon. Friend's announcement about the terms of reference and the form of the review. The right hon. Member for Mansfield will not be disappointed on either count when my right hon. Friend makes his announcement in the not too distant future. Some emergency legislation is likely to remain 995 necessary. That may be a starting point of the review. I equally expect that the terms of reference will provide [Interruption]. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) has just arrived. Does he wish to make a substantial point?
§ Mr. Patten
Perhaps I may finish this sentence. I was intending to return to my hon. Friend. I know how impatient he is. I have seen that expression on his face often recently. I always try to give way to him as quickly as possible. I expect the terms of reference to provide for as wide-ranging a review as that which the noble Lord Gardiner conducted. My right hon. Friend will aim to appoint about four members of a similar calibre.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing me to make a point. When he mentions the appropriate sentences being awarded by the Diplock courts, perhaps he will bear in mind what the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) said about IRA criminals who, having been sentenced to between six and 10 years' imprisonment, come out after between three and five years after 50 per cent. remission and are able to continue their murderous activities. Will the review be able to consider a variation of sentencing policies and to include a recommendation that anyone who is convicted for a scheduled offence should be sentenced, not to a determinate sentence, but to imprisonment for as long as the emergency shall last? Does he agree that that would be an incentive, if not to the individuals concerned, to their relatives to hasten on the end of the emergency so that the prisoners may be released?
§ Mr. Patten
I am glad to have my hon. Friend's suggestions. As I have just said, the terms of reference have not been set. My hon. Friend made an interesting set of suggestions. May I reassure him on two points. First, no one who is convicted of murder gets 50 per cent. remission. Secondly, as most hon. Members know, that 50 per cent. remission must be earned. Moreover, when convicted terrorists are released they are on licence and may be recalled at any time if they are caught or suspected of being in the commission of crime.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield asked about powers of arrest under section 11. He asked one of those questions that is easy to ask and extremely difficult to answer. The committee of inquiry should address itself to that problem. There is no doubt about that.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield also asked whether it would be possible to de-schedule certain offences—offences that in his mind or that of other right hon. and hon. Members may no longer be regarded as necessarily of a terrorist type and can therefore be dropped. I remind him that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General can already de-schedule an offence if he is satisfied that it is not a terrorist one and that the threat of intimidation of jury and witnesses is considered not to exist. That is a fail-safe provision. If we chose to remove particular offences from the schedule, it would automatically follow that there would be no option of trial in a Diplock court. That is a problem that the review will have to face with some care in its deliberations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) asked earlier about the Government's 996 opinion of the level of co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda. Certainly, such co-operation is of very great importance. We believe that the two police forces north and south of the border which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) pointed out, is so difficult to police, have established a high level of professional and close working relationships. Those relationships continue to produce a substantial number of arrests and finds of arms and ammunition on both sides of the border. A recent example was the finding by the Garda in Dundalk on 3 June of a substantial car bomb factory and related armaments.
Equally, I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest that the Government are in no doubt that we need to continue to develop our relationships with the Irish Government in terms of dealing with fugitive terrorist offenders. In the absence of an extradition at the moment, we must look to extraterritorial legislation which permits offenders to be prosecuted in one jurisdiction, as they have been recently, for offences committed in another. I am pleased to report that there are very encouraging signs that this is becoming much more effective than it has been in the past. Again, I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the example of the six recaptured Belfast prison escapees who were convicted in Dublin by a court outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom of offences connected with their escape and subsequently received 10-year prison sentences.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General is in close touch with his Irish opposite number about resuming discussions on the very important way forward that must be followed in suppressing terrorism both north and south of the border.
Lastly, I come to the troubled subject of plastic baton rounds which was raised by the right hon. Member for Brent, East and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who has lived in the eye of the storm in that tragic part of the city for so many years and whose fortitude under continuous and merciless attack and provocation on him and his family has shone out like a beacon in that troubled part of Belfast.
I am happy to report that figures for the use of plastic baton rounds in recent months show a downward trend. In March 1982, 40 plastic baton rounds were expended by the security forces in the Province. In April 1982, 30 rounds were expended, and in May 1982—the most up-to-date figure that I have—28 rounds were expended.
The use of an adequate level of force is a terrible dilemma for the security forces. Is it to be plastic or is it to be lead? Is it to be a high level of force or is it to be minimum force? I cited earlier the example of the young soldier killed in Londonderry by a child who threw a petrol bomb. The dilemma that continually faces the security forces in Northern Ireland cannot easily be solved by saying "Let us get rid of this or that form of arms".
These issues concerning the special provisions made in the Province to face up to terrorism under the emergency provisions legislation need to be closely examined by the review committee that is to be set up. Equally, in the meantime, I assure every hon. Member that the security forces will maintain their fight against terrorism in every part of the Province and they will not be deflected from that in the intervening months between now and when the review committee reports.
I commend the order to the House.
§ Question put:—997
§ The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 19.998
|Division No. 254]||[11.30 pm|
|Ancram, Michael||Hannam, John|
|Arnold, Tom||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Benyon, Thomas (A'don)||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Blackburn, John||Kilfedder, James A.|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Lang, Ian|
|Bright, Graham||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Brinton, Tim||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg&Sc'n)||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||McCrindle, Robert|
|Buck, Antony||McCusker, H.|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Carlisle, John (Luton West)||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)||Major, John|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Marlow, Antony|
|Cope, John||Mather, Carol|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Dover, Denshore||Mellor, David|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Dykes, Hugh||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Eggar, Tim||Moate, Roger|
|Fairgrieve, Sir Russell||Molyneaux, James|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Murphy, Christopher|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Myles, David|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Sir Charles||Neale, Gerrard|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Needham, Richard|
|Goodhew, Sir Victor||Neubert, Michael|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Newton, Tony|
|Greenway, Harry||Normanton, Tom|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Penhaligon, David||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Sproat, Iain|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Proctor, K. Harvey||Stanley, John|
|Renton, Tim||Stevens, Martin|
|Rhodes James, Robert||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Thompson, Donald|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Robinson, P. (Belfast E)||Watson, John|
|Roper, John||Wells, Bowen|
|Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)||Wheeler, John|
|Rossi, Hugh||Whitney, Raymond|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Wilkinson, John|
|Silvester, Fred||Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)|
|Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)||Mr. Peter Brooke and|
|Speller, Tony||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Parry, Robert|
|Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)||Richardson, Jo|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Skinner, Dennis|
|Canavan, Dennis||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cryer, Bob||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Dubs, Alfred||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Flannery, Martin||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Mr. Reg Race and|
|Holland, S.(L'b'th, Vauxh'll)||Mr. John Tilley.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.