§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. John Patten)
I beg to move,That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) Order 1983, which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
It may be appropriate if I point out that the last debate was rather more wide-ranging than it should have been. This debate concerns the continuing in force of those parts of the temporary provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, except section 12 and schedule 1, which relate to the detention of terrorists, for a further six months, beginning from 25 July.
§ Mr. Patten
I shall speak at slightly greater length in introducing this order than I did in introducing the last order. I invite the House once again to renew the provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. It is not my purpose to burden the House with a detailed explanation of why it is necessary that the Act be in existence or be renewed for another six months. That is not because I think that the House should regard the renewal of this or any other Act as an automatic process. On the contrary, I am sure that all hon. Members will share the sorrow and regret that I feel that 10 years after the passage of the first emergency provisions Act we should still be forced to consider the life of its successor for another six months.
The extension is necessary for two very clear and precise reasons. The first is that violence continues in Northern Ireland, and the threat of violence remains. The House will be only too aware that last Tuesday evening the wife of a soldier was murdered in Londonderry in front of her husband, her mother and five other members of her family, including three children. I have to report to the House that so far this year 10 members of the security forces have been brutally murdered by terrorists. I have to continue the litany by reporting that so far this year 10 civilians have been brutally murdered by terrorists and, of course, the bombings continue.
In the coming weeks of the general election compaign in the United Kingdom, the public in Northern Ireland and also in Great Britain must be vigilant against the threat of further terrorist activity.
The reason why we have not had any further large-scale atrocities since last December's heartless massacre at Ballykelly is not due to any sudden show of compassion or concern for human rights on the part of murdering terrorists or their apologists, whether Mr. Ken Livingstone on this side of the water or others on the other side. It is due in some small part to luck, to informers and to people coming forward and giving evidence to the police. But it is mostly due to the care and vigilance exercised by the security forces in Northern Ireland on behalf of the general public.
I leave to the imagination of hon. Members what would have happened on 26 April this year if the security forces had not intercepted a 500 lb bomb in the Falls road. I ask hon. Members to imagine the damage that that could have done and would have done in a crowded shopping centre to passing civilians.
976 The Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding continue to assure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that if they did not have the powers to carry out operations based on the provision of the Act, they might not be, it must be admitted, totally impotent to combat and prevent terrorist crime; but they would be much less effective in doing so, and we are advised that lives would be lost as a result.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
The hon. Gentleman asked the House to speculate what might have happened if the bomb in West Belfast had not been rendered harmless. Would he care to speculate what may happen next week when the Government's proposal to reduce staff numbers at the security gates around Belfast is introduced, with the result that there will be only selective searching?
§ Mr. Patten
The most careful consideration has been given to that issue and is being given to it. Extra vigilance will be undertaken by all members of the security forces during the general election campaign, just as ordinary members of the general public on both sides of the water must exercise special care throughout the general election campaign because of the terrorist threat.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Will the hon. Gentleman say how there will be extra vigilance? At the moment everyone passing through the barricade is searched. The personnel involved are being cut by 150 and there will be only selective searches. How will the additional security be given?
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman knows of the substantial numbers of security forces in Northern Ireland, not just the army, but the additional members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who have been recruited and created as a direct result of the policies put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The greatest possible care will be given to the security position in the coming weeks, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want me to reveal any operational instructions that have been given.
The same principle that I have enunciated connected with the Emergency Provisions Act about the prevention of terrorist crime has to apply to the operation of the courts in Northern Ireland. I know that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) is rightly concerned about the operation of the courts in Northern Ireland, a s is his party.
The special provisions in the Act relating to the trials of terrorist-type offences are designed largely to overcome intimidation and threat to both witnesses and jurors. We have all seen the side effects and the direct effects of such intimidation. Terrorists in Northern Ireland, just as they have shown themselves ruthless and without mercy to individuals, have also shown themselves to be utterly without regard for justice. One of their main aims has always been to use intimidation and violence to circumvent, to distort, to pervert and ultimately to destroy the judicial system in Northern Ireland. In turn, they have attacked the police, the judiciary—most recently there was the tragic death of Judge Doyle—and members of the public who have had the courage to come forward and bear witness against them for their dastardly deeds. It is our concern to ensure that the courts have the powers to withstand the pressures imposed on them and to arrive at 977 the truth, which is critical. The extent of the problem may have changed. It may have got better, and in some aspects it may have got worse, but I assure hon. Members that the problem still exists, which is why we must continue to have the powers.
It would not be appropriate for us to try to interfere at this stage with the provisions of the emergency legislation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced last year that there was to be a full examination of the workings of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act because it was important to check that the powers in the existing Act represented the correct balance between the rights of the individual and the need to protect those rights and the critically important need to provide the security forces and the courts with adequate powers to enable them to protect the public.
It is a very difficult balance to strike, and the end result is not necessarily perfect, but I am sure that by now right hon. and hon. Members are aware that Sir George Baker has commenced work on his review of the Act. His task will not be easy. It is a very complex Act which tries to deal with a complex and difficult situation. Many of the issues upon which it touches are of fundamental importance connected with civil liberties and human rights. But I know that he will carry out his task as quickly as possible and with the characteristic vision and humanity that he displayed over many years in the courts. I am sure that the House wishes him well in his task.
In the circumstances, I trust that the House will agree that there is a clear and continuing need for emergency powers in Northern Ireland and when Sir George Baker has completed his review—it will be conducted in private, for obvious reasons, but the findings will be published in full—and it has been brought to the House, that perhaps will be the time to look at the Act again. But now it strikes me as imprudent during this review to do other than renew the powers conferred by the Act. It is for that reason that I commend the order to the House.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
We welcome the announcement of a review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. We have been calling for such a review since late 1981.
The Minister is right to say that the powers of the Act are considerable. In normal circumstances, they would be regarded as draconian and unacceptable in any civilised and democratic community. The Act is made necessary by the special problems of Northern Ireland, and I appreciate that. We must constantly bear in mind—I know that the Minister does because of the terms set out for the review — the real conflict between the need to maintain law and order and the need to preserve civil rights. Getting the balance right is of critical importance when one is involved in a struggle with various paramilitary groups.
I am sure that the Government are as concerned as we are at the fact that since 1978 there have been about 17,000 arrests under the Act but that only about 700 have resulted in convictions for scheduled offences and 436 for nonscheduled offences. Any Act of Parliament that results in so many arrests and so few convictions must give rise to concern and requires deeper examination. The way in which the courts are run must also be fully and carefully examined.
978 We look forward to receiving the report of the review body and we shall wish to discuss it in depth. I am grateful for the Minister's expression of interest in such a debate. Meanwhile, I accept that the Act must continue.
§ 8.1 pm
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Briefly, I support the order. I share the Minister's view that to deprive Ministers and the security forces of the powers conferred by the order would be irresponsible and would put at risk the lives of countless people in Northern Ireland in the security forces and in the civilian population.
As the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) knows, we have never set our faces against reviews of legislation such as this. We did not oppose the review of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Indeed, my party made various submissions to the review body, some of which have been published in its findings. We take a similar attitude to the present review, provided that no one imagines that we oppose the legislation. As I have said, we support it in principle. If it is to be effective it must be reviewed for two purposes —not so much to weaken it as in some cases to bring it up to date and even to strengthen certain provisions. Once again, my party will put forward constructive submissions from people qualified to speak on this matter.
As that review is under way, I share the Minister's view, which was endorsed by the official Opposition spokesman, that the best service that the House can do for the people of Northern Ireland today is to support the renewal of the order.
§ 8.3 pm
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I wish to draw the attention of the House and of the Minister to certain matters of great concern to me.
At present, 243 civilian searchers search everyone going through the gates into Belfast city. It is proposed that 60 of them be made redundant in the near future and that the present 243 be eventually reduced to 93. In all, it is proposed to make 150 searchers redundant. The Minister's colleague, Lord Gowrie, has said that there will be no more individual searches but only random searches of people going through the barricades.
In recent days we have heard of bombings and burnings in the centre of Belfast. How can the Minister possibly tell business people in the city that the security system will be as good as it was? If we do not search everyone, we may as well search no one. The number of extra police or army personnel has nothing to do with it, because they do not carry out the searches. It ill becomes the Minister to try to tell us that security will be just as good when 150 civilian searchers will no longer be there to do that job. The Minister owes the people and the traders of Belfast an explanation.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
Is not the Government's motive purely financial? They intend to save £1 million as a result of this cut. Is it not a false economy to save £1 million by cutting the number of searchers when compensation for one building could cost far more than that?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I certainly agree. One terrorist bomb in the city centre could cause millions of pounds worth of damage. The Minister owes it to the House to explain how that can possibly be a better security system. He cannot take the people of Northern Ireland for a ride on this. He 979 cannot possibly tell them that security will be better when to save £1 million the searches are to be stopped, which may allow millions of pounds worth of damage to take place.
Of course I should like to see the centre of Belfast without barricades or searches, but we are surely all aware that the seat occupied by the Rev. Robert Bradford when this Parliament began is now empty as a result of terrorist action. That should bring home to us the reality of the situation. Will the Minister please assure us that this matter will be properly considered and the Government's decision reversed?
I never supported the introduction of Diplock courts. I voted for the retention of juries. It is wrong to try to sell to the House the idea that those courts were set up because juries would have been intimidated. No one knows who the jurors are until they are selected. There was certainly intimidation of witnesses—a witness living not far from me was killed—but I wish to see restoration of trial by jury as soon as possible. I am glad that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Smyth), who is no longer present, is also on record as sharing that wish. It is certainly my wish and I voted against abolition of jury trials.
A review of the Act is certainly needed. I am concerned about some aspects of the way in which the battle against terrorism is going. I do not like what is happening in the Diplock courts. I cite one example—the case of a so-called super-grass. Everyone in Northern Ireland knows that that man was responsible for a grim catalogue of crimes including murder. Yet he is free today. I do not know how much money has been paid to him or what protection is given to his life, but I know that he is free when he has committed murder. The amazing thing is that he was proved to be a perjurer in court. A cheque was produced in court and he was asked whether he had endorsed it. He said, "Never." He did not think that the cheque could be produced, but fortunately the bank teller was able to do so. He had written a code on the cheque which showed that identification had been asked for in the form of the man's driving licence. That was proved in court, yet he swore on oath that he had never signed it.
If that had happened on this side of the water he would have been tried for his crimes, although the fact that he was informing on others would have mitigated his sentence. In Northern Ireland a murderer is allowed to go free. That is a serious trend. I do not want to speak at great length on this subject tonight, but I raise it because of my anxiety about it. I dread to think of murderers being able to avoid prison by being prepared to accuse others. His evidence was uncorroborated and that is most serious. I trust that the matter will change and that we shall have the same code of justice in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the United Kingdom.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) is present, because a meeting in his constituency raised the matter of administrative separation in prisons, on which my party has already declared where it stands. When a man is sentenced to imprisonment his relatives should have peace of mind. They should know that his life is not in danger. However, today prisoners in Northern Ireland are being attacked and their lives are in danger. Yet the Northern Ireland Office tells us that they should not be segregated. I am asking not for that, but for administrative separation. The people of Northern Ireland work and mingle together, but at night they go to their part of the city—the place where the majority of the people 980 think alike and which they feel is a place of safety. It might not be much of a place of safety but at least they know that the people around them sympathise with their views. But in prison sections of communities that have warred against and murdered each other are asked to accept complete association.
It cannot be denied that there have been attacks. Some prisoners have had deep religious experiences and take no part. They are in between and are getting the battering. It is the Government's duty to do something about that. It should not be swept under the carpet. I have been in prison twice and I know a little about it. When I was in prison certain categories of prisoner never met. The governor decided that for the best order of the prison.
Let me give an illustration. A young man in prison was told that he was going into a predominantly Republican wing. He told the governor that he had been warned that if he did so he would be attacked. The governor sent a prison officer with orders that the prisoner should go to that wing. The man said that if he did so he would be in danger of his life, and the prison officer told him that to avoid going there he should not conform and should break a window of his cell. The man did not want to do that. He wanted to be a conforming prisoner because he had had a religious experience. But the prison officer said that if he did not do so he would be sent among the Republican prisoners. In order to save his life that man broke a window and was locked up rather than go to that Republican wing. I have given written evidence on that matter to the Northern Ireland Office, which was confirmed by the Church of Ireland chaplain. That is happening not once or twice, but many times.
Those matters deeply concern me as a representative of the people of Northern Ireland. I make no apology for bringing them up in the debate tonight because they run deep into the heart of the community. If the hon. Member for Armagh catches your eye. Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will be able to speak of this matter because he was at the meeting and I was not, although I received its resolution informing me that both I and the leader of the Official Unionist party would be approached on this matter. I have already made my party's position clear. We have discussed it in the Assembly and tabled a motion, but I bring it to the Minister's attention tonight, and I trust that he will tell us something of what he intends to do before we have a prison murder. There will then be a hue and cry. It is a tragedy that we have such a situation in Northern Ireland.
I repeat that no political settlement will stop the terrorists. A Roman Catholic in Londonderry had huge slabs of concrete dropped on his hands until they became jelly. With all due respect to other hon. Members, men who do such things will never believe in politics or democracy. They have already said that they will continue to do such things. If they do that to one of their own religion, what would they not do to those of my religion? That is what is happening in Northern Ireland. It is the stark, dark, bloody reality of a frightening situation. The Government must not delude themselves. Even if the Assembly goes forward, as I trust that it will, it will not take the terrorists from the community. Only by rigorous action shall we be able to deal with those who carry out what the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) calls the satanic acts.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and I have not found many points on which we could agree over the many years that we have served in this Parliament. However, I recall vividly one issue during the passage of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Act 1975 when he and I, at completely different ends of the political and religious spectrum in Northern Ireland, objected to the setting up of the Diplock non-jury courts. There cannot be real justice in the courts without a jury. The jury system is part and parcel of the British judicial system. It has existed for a thousand years. There would be a great upheaval before anyone attempted to abolish the jury system in Britain.
I have said that the Republic has a terrorist problem, although it is not as serious as that in the North. The courts in the Republic have three judges. In Northern Ireland, perhaps three judges or one judge and two assessors would be better than one. The present system of the Diplock courts, which have only one judge, gives Northern Ireland cause for real objection.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said that his party had never disagreed with such legislation. How right he was. In 1922 the Unionist Government first put the draconian Civil Authority (Special Powers) Act on to the statute book. That Act remained in effect from 1922 until after direct rule. It was replaced by the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973, which runs in tandem with the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. I have objected to many of the provisions in those Acts. If the debate was not taking place on almost the last day of this Parliament, many hon. Members would be going into the Lobby to register their continuing disapproval of those provisions.
I shall be consistent. I have voted against repressive legislation throughout my political life and long before I came into politics. The Civil Authority (Special Powers) Act was on the statute book before I became an elected representative. That in no way shows that I have one second's sympathy for terrorists and their awful practices in Northern Ireland and in Britain.
A bomb was discovered in my constituency last week as a result of police vigilance. The police detected two vans, one of which carried detonating equipment and the other the bomb. The four people who were in the vans got away. Later the IRA issued a statement charging a priest in my constituency with having informed the police that the bomb was in transit. If the priest informed the security forces that such a bomb was in transit through the heavily populated area of west Belfast, he was morally justified in taking that action. The IRA in its statement said that the priest should have considered what would have happened if the security forces had shot and killed the four men who were in the two vans. The IRA did not consider for a moment what would have happened had that bomb reached its destination or how many other people would have been killed. If IRA men are killed, the security forces are regarded as murderers. If the IRA carries out its continuing number of ruthless murders, that is regarded as a continuation of the armed struggle.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to the terrible incident that occurred in Londonderry in which a woman was shot trying to protect her husband. A man who 982 had been kneecapped and was a partial cripple was dragged from his home in Londonderry to have his hands broken by concrete blocks. Those incidents occurred after a so-called parliamentary candidate, Martin McGuiness, who is contesting a Foyle seat, said that the Republican movement, after much deliberation, had decided not to kneecap children any more, which was very decent of him. In return for that concession, people should apparently vote for him in the forthcoming Westminster elections.
§ Mr. John Patten
How on earth can the hon. Gentleman or I explain to Mr. Ken Livingstone and his like that support for Mr. McGuiness is support for violence and murder?
§ Mr. Fitt
I have repeatedly tried to tell Mr. Livingstone and those who share his views that their support gives succour to the most bloodthirsty murderers who have ever lived in Ireland.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to a meeting held in London a fortnight ago in which a London member of the Provisional Sinn Fein, which is a legal organisation in London, said that when his party comes to power in Ireland the Garret FitzGeralds and John Humes would have nowhere to shelter. Those are the words of Fascists and murderers who are determined to implement their form of rule by whatever means are possible. It is impossible to say who will be sitting in Parliament in future. Whatever Government are in power, they will have to examine the illegal organisations that exist in Northern Ireland, whether it be the UDA, the IRA or the Provisional Sinn Fein.
There is little difference between Provisional Sinn Fein and the IRA. The membership is of a dual type. My honestly held opinion is that some spokesmen for the Provisional Sinn Fein are also engaged in terrorist activities. Those people will be soliciting votes in the democratic election within the next few weeks.
Northern Ireland has tragically in the past few years developed into a tribal society. Majority and minority tribes exist. The press have stated the anxiety that is felt by Unionist representatives about the evidence that has been given in the courts by the so-called super-grasses. The distinct impression is that the majority of Protestants do not have any real objection to Republican supergrasses. The Catholic community in Northern Ireland would not give a damn if a Protestant super-grass became known every day of the week. That shows how the community has been torn apart into two distinct tribes.
I have read what Unionist representatives have said in the Northern Ireland Assembly about the prisons. They have voiced anxiety about the integration in the prisons where Republicans and Unionists are treated as criminals. That was what the hunger strike was all about. Ten men were sentenced to death in the hunger strike in Belfast by their own organisation that attempted to say that they were not criminals but were in a special category. Those 10 men gave their lives for that cause. Those who were behind those machinations and brought about that tragic conclusion tore the Northern Ireland community apart.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I want to make it clear that what I am talking about is entirely different. I do not believe in giving any prisoner political standing. Prisoners are criminals and must serve their sentences. However, it is the prison authority's duty to protect those in prison. When a prison officer tells a man that he canot protect him unless 983 he breaks a rule so that he can lock him up, law and order has broken down in that prison. I am totally opposed to the other system for Protestants, Roman Catholics or anybody else. Those in prison are criminals and must serve their time. In the old days govenors had administrative separation. Rapists and child molesters never mingled with the other prisoners.
When I was in prison a well-known Republican called Sullivan was in prison too. I believe that he is well known to one of the hon. Gentleman's constituents. Sullivan and I never came face to face in the prison, although we were doing time together. The governor knew that it would not be healthy for us to come face to face. He took a decision. If the prison governor can give me an assurance that every man is safe and will not be attacked in prison, I shall be happy. However, he cannot do that and his own officers—
§ Mr. Fitt
When the hon. Member for Antrim, North was in prison, it was well known that he did not mix with Republicans. He had a really soft job and was working in the bakery. He kicked up an awful row on Good Friday when he had to make hot cross buns, and that was well known at the time in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said that warders and prison administrators are telling people to break windows to save themselves from being integrated. If that is so, there is a case to be answered.
In the past few days I have written to the Minister, Lord Gowrie, about a case that I have. In, I think, H block 6 in the Maze — cellular accommodation as it is now called—there are 17 Loyalist prisoners and three young Republicans. Apparently, those three young Republicans are frightened out of their wits. Their relations came to see me. A prisoner is entitled to the protection of the prison and it is not right that a prisoner's relatives should face continual worry. Therefore, that is a legitimate cause for concern, and the Minister should look at it.
I have always objected to some of the Act's provisions, especially in relation to the means of interrogation and the length of time involved. Under sections 11 and 12, a person can be detained by the police for up to 72 hours in an interrogation centre. After that, on the application of the police, the length of time can be extended, under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, to seven days. The police know of people who have been interrogated for three days. Incidentally, I am not lodging any objection about the form of the interrogation, because the Bennett report highlighted that point. However, during those three days those involved are unable to go to work. Incidentally, there are already too many people who have no jobs to go to. Although no charge is preferred against them, many of them find that they are immediately dismissed on returning to their place of employment. Many of them are embarrassed to tell their employers that they have been in Castlereagh interrogation centre, because they know the political and religious divisions that exist in Northern Ireland. Many of them have lost their jobs because they were unable to work during that period.
We have repeatedly said during our debates that there should be some form of compensation, or that the police or security authorities should give the person involved a 984 note or some documentation enabling him to return to his place of employment with a clean sheet. As long as there are such injustices embodied in the Act, there will always be cause for objection from hon. Members such as me. I am not too sure than any hon. Member will accompany me into the Lobby, but I shall attempt to divide the House. Whenever this legislation has come before the House I have voiced my objections, for many reasons. Today is the last chance that I have to object and I shall be consistent. Even if I cannot gather any support I shall lodge my objection.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)
There is a serious argument about segregation and integration in our prisons. I am not worried about the terminology, because in Northern Ireland we have a segregated community. That may not be desirable, but it exists. Government finance is involved in segregation. I speak of education, a spoiling organisation financed by the Government which operates segregation and the Housing Executive which has a points system consolidating that segregation. We say to the more violent element in our society, "You have been caught and sent to prison. Now you must integrate." The Government use none of their influence to encourage integration in society, but when men are put in prison they are told to integrate whether they like it or not. That is not tenable for the Government.
When the Secretary of State and Ministers came to Northern Ireland towards the end of the hunger strike, they made one or two concessions to the Republican prisoners in an attempt to defuse the situation. That worked and the problem was resolved. The Government should make efforts to end disturbances in prisons.
The Minister responsible for prison administration wrote to me to say that he was concerned about the possibility of paramilitary groups taking control of prisoners if segregation is introduced. Republican wings in the prisons exist because of the disputes. Evidence of paramilitary control already exists, and that can be dealt with only through normal prison rules.
The Government's position is not tenable when they make men integrate to conform with prison rules and those men are assaulted, scalded with boiling water or beaten up by Republicans with whom they are forced to associate. The prison system in Northern Ireland should reflect the community. Prisoners who wish to associate with other prisoners should be allowed to do so. Prisoners who are happy to straddle religious alliances should be allowed to do so, but to enforce integration and thereby endanger people's lives is wrong. It is time that the Governmert made the gesture that they have made in other respects.
This is the last time that I shall be able to speak as a Member of Parliament on behalf of my constituents in South Armagh. I have spoken on their behalf so often in the past 10 years that frequently I am referred to as the hon Member for South Armagh.
Many tributes have been paid today, all of which are well deserved, but few communities in the United Kingdom are more deserving of tribute for their forbearance and courage than my constituents. No community has endured for so long what they have had to endure. I am talking of all my constituents.
Since 1971 almost 500 of my constituents have been killed. Well over 300 have been killed by the Provisional IRA. Others have been killed as a consequence of Loyalist 985 paramilitary activity, and others have been killed by the security forces carrying out their duties. I believe that, under the pressure of such attacks, communities in other places would have disintegrated. It is a great tribute to the people of South Armagh that they are still intact as a community and that they make every effort in the normal course of events to work together and get on together. Although I will not be speaking as their Member of Parliament on other occasions, I am sure that I will be speaking on their behalf in debates of this nature as the years roll on.
The Secretary of State made some comments today which no doubt struck a chord in the hearts of many Northern Ireland representatives. The right hon. Gentleman said that he regretted that Question Time, which raises matters of security statistics, tends to give the wrong impression about Northern Ireland. I go along with that. The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that the overall level of violence has fallen substantially over the years. I go along with that as well. But that does not apply in all parts of Northern Ireland. For those who have doubts about that, I shall describe a seven month period of events in Northern Ireland.
On 7 October 1982, one UDR man and one prison officer were murdered; on 22 October 1982, another UDR man was murdered; on 27 October 1982, three RUC men were murdered; on 10 November 1982, another UDR man was murdered; on 16 November 1982, another two RUC men were murdered; on 19 November 1982, another UDR man was murdered; on 27 November, an RUC reservist was murdered; on 21 February 1983, another RUC man was murdered; on 9 March 1983, an innocent Protestant civilian was murdered; on 15 March 1983, another police reservist was murdered; on 13 April 1983, a Territorial Army reservist was murdered; and on 6 May 1983 a civilian, described by the IRA as an informer, was murdered. In a seven-month period, 16 people were murdered by Irish Republican terrorists.
To appreciate the effect of those murders on the people of the community, one has to live with them. Probably the only thing that sustained those people was the fact that, for a short time during that period, it appeared that the security forces were taking the resolute action necessary to defeat the murderers. During that period six people were killed by the security forces. Lest anyone rises to defend those people and to describe them as innocent, I can tell the House that on the day they were buried there was no doubt about what they were. They were given full paramilitary funerals. Before they were cold they were acknowledged as active members of the Republican movement. The security forces' action, horrific though it was in its own way, was probably the only thing that kept the community from once again taking the law into its own hands.
Yet, over the next few weeks, I will witness and the families of those people will witness the spokesmen for those murderers tramping the streets and lanes of County Armagh—
§ Mr. McCusker
—with protection offered to them, masquerading as politicians. From what the Minister and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said, there can be no doubt that those men are not politicians.
986 I well remember that, shortly after I was elected to the House in 1974, a dirty deal was done across the Chamber between the two Front Benches to lift the ban on Provisional Sinn Fein and at the same time to lift the ban as a quid pro quo on what was called at that time the volunteer party—a wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force. At that time I expected in my innocence the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who is now Foreign Secretary, to comment. The right hon. Gentleman slipped down further into his seat and did not rise. As a consequence, that motion was passed unopposed. I had prepared a speech and had intended to oppose the motion, but I did not have the opportunity because it passed so quickly through the House. That would not happen so easily today.
Shortly after that, as a result of vicious terrorist actions by the Ulster Volunteer Force, the House re-proscribed the volunteer party. The House recognised that one cannot play politics in the daylight while playing the terrorist in the dark. But it seems reluctant to accept that for the Provisional Sinn Fein. The Minister asked what could be done with such people. The answer is to proscribe them. Society will not accept as politicians those who carry a rifle in one hand and a ballot paper in the other. Many societies throughout the world will not accept that.
If the day ever comes, and I hope that it never will, when the militant Left or the lunatic Right on the mainland decide to advance their political objectives by terrorism and front men, the House will have no hesitation in ensuring that they are banned and that the world is told that they are terrorists and spokesmen for the apologists of terrorism. They would not be recognised as a legitimate political organisation. If they were banned, they might be charged with an offence if necessary. I am not concerned with the niceties of being told that we cannot do this, that or the other.
§ Mr. John Patten
I do not wish the hon. Gentleman to end his equitable and accurate debating with me across the Chamber for the past two and half years by misrepresenting something that I said. When the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) kindly allowed me to intervene in his speech, I asked him how I could explain to such people as Mr. Ken Livingstone and his ilk—the apologists for murderers and others in Northern Ireland —what the net effect of their actions would be. I did not at any time talk about proscribing the Sinn Fein or any other organisation.
§ Mr. McCusker
If the Minister acknowledges such people to be what we, the community and the Roman Catholic hierarchy acknowledge them to be, it would be logical to ban them and declare them a wing of the terrorist organisation. In many ways they can be as dangerous and as effective in prolonging the terrorist campaign as the dumb gunman who blows out someone's brains.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
It is possible—although I hope it will not happen — that the two members of the organisation that we are discussing, who were banned from coming to the House, could come here as elected Members because the Minister is not prepared to take the action that he would take under similar circumstances on the mainland.
§ Mr. McCusker
Hon. Members will remember that the Chief Constable, when banning them, actually said 987 that they had been involved in the commission of terrorist offences in previous months. There is no doubt about that. It will be highly offensive to the people of Northern Ireland — especially those related to people who have been murdered or mutilated — to see such terrorists masquerading as legitimate politicians during the next few weeks. To be fair, they do not apologise for their terrorist activities; they glory in them. Everything that they do heightens the tension and fear in Northern Ireland. They are an essential component of the whole terrorist apparatus.
I hope that the day is not too far away when we face up to our responsibilities. Men who are believed by the highest authorities in the land to be guilty of the commissioning of serious terrorist offences, and are therefore not fit to walk the streets of London, should not be thought fit to walk the streets of Belfast, Derry or South Armagh. If that is so, we must face up to that reality, ban them and take whatever other effective action we can against them.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) did an injustice to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) when he suggested that the references by my hon. Friend and other Unionist politicians over the last few months to the super-grass issue had been on one side of the fence because they dealt with Ulster Volunteer Force cases. The hon. Member for Belfast, West would no doubt accept that in this case it would be a Protestant UVF member who would go free. If my hon. Friend says that a Protestant should not go free in such circumstances, he is hardly likely to say that an IRA man should go free in similar circumstances. We see no distinction between the two.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is so concerned about the continuance of the Act without its being reviewed, would not like an innocent person to go to gaol because of the uncorroborated evidence of a super-grass who was trying to save his own skin. The hon. Gentleman would rightly howl to high heaven if that were to happen. While it is a sensitive issue, let us not minimise the effect that it could have within the community and the injustice that could be caused.
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) referred to the meeting in his constituency at which administrative separation was considered. Unfairly, he likened the case for administrative separation to political status. Nothing could be further from the truth. The hon. Gentleman knows well that the case for political status was based on the so-called five demands of the IRA. Those demands were built up within a prison system based on compounds such as one might expect to see in a prisoner-of-war camp where the prisoners control the compound and decide who carries out the duties and when prisoners shall rise in the morning and go to bed at night. They are in complete control and only fleeting visits are paid by prison officers.
That is a world away from the situation in the H-blocks, which are closely controlled by the prison staff. It is a cellular system rather than communal quarters. Administrative separation would not give prisoners control over the wings. The very words "administrative separation" indicate that the administration could change prisoners from one wing to another or from one H-block to another. Complete control would be kept within the 988 prison regime. Because it is a cellular system, prisoners could be locked up at night and would not have control in the wing.
There is more likely to be control by paramilitaries under the present system within prisons. The hon. Member for Belfast, West referred to the three Republicans who are in H6 with 17 Loyalist prisoners. I should have thought it was more likely that those three prisoners would stick together as a unit to safeguard one another's lives if they felt under threat. If the three are in a wing they can go about their own business, but they may act as a unit under threat, which makes a paramilitary group all the stronger.
I suggest to the hon. Member for Belfast, West that the case for administrative separation is built upon one premise and one only, and that is safety. If the prison regime cannot afford safety to the prisoners, surely other steps must be taken. The Minister responsible for prisoners in Northern Ireland, Lord Gowrie, came out resolutely against segregation and even against administrative separation when that was explained to him.
However, when a prisoner called Kenneth McClinton was working in an IRA workshop, he was brought to the ground, scalded with boiling water across his back, beaten with a blunt instrument on the head, hit about the arms and body with a wooden baton and kicked while on the ground. If he had been a weaker individual, he would never have left the workshop alive.
McClinton used an IRA man as a shield to get outside. When he passed through the doors, there was not a prisoner officer in sight. The positions that would normally have been manned by prison officers were empty. There was a large van obstructing the view of the prison officer on the watch tower, which prevented him seeing anyone coming out of the workshop. The fact that a van was outside the workshop was a sign that there was either loading or off-loading. Usually vans go to the workshop only for one or other of those purposes. However, the door to the other end of the workshop was closed, preventing anyone from that end of the workshop seeing what was taking place.
I hope that the investigation that has been promised into the positioning of prison officers on that occasion will be thorough. There are many who want to know where the prison officers were when the incident took place and the measures that the IRA took to ensure that no officers were present.
When I met Lord Gowrie to talk about the Kenneth McClinton incident, he admitted that the intention of the IRA men was to kill Kenneth McClinton. I noticed a difference in the Minister's attitude after the McClinton scalding. He appeared to be reconsidering his position.
I went to the prison hospital to meet Kenneth McClinton. I have visited him in prison on about six occasions. His story is interesting. He was one of the most ruthless paramilitary members in Ulster and was on the very Right wing of the paramilitary organisations on the Loyalist side. When he went into prison he was one of the few hard-core Protestant prisoners who went on the blanket protest.
§ Mr. Robinson
It is the same prisoner. The prisoner, when he was on the blanket protest, had a spiritual 989 experience and changed his life completely. The prison staff recognised the change in him, and anyone who meets him will know that his life has changed. I suggest that those in authority in our prisons should do everything possible to encourage people like Kenneth McClinton to stay away from paramilitary groups. They should endeavour within the prisons to support prisoners who want to reform their lives and conform to society and prison regulations. Every encouragement should be given to them to keep away from the influence of paramilitarists, and this can be done through administrative separation.
I saw a slight change in Lord Gowrie's attitude. The attempt to kill Kenneth McClinton had struck a chord with him. The incident had concerned him. I shall be interested to hear the views of the hon. Member for Armagh. The hon. Gentleman was unable to be in his place in the Assembly on the occasion when administrative separation was discussed.
Lord Gowrie still uses the excuse that there is no demand for administrative separation, and he cites the motion of the Assembly which turned it down. The hon. Member for Armagh is on record as having spoken out on the subject, and he will not want to go back on what he said. I urge him to join my colleagues and others from his side to table a motion in the Assembly to press for administrative separation, for everybody knows that it is only a matter of time before somebody like Kenneth McClinton is killed in our prisons.
§ Mr. McCusker
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that from the day, almost from the hour, that the Secretary of State took up his appointment, I have been in correspondence with him and with Lord Gowrie, and have had meetings with both of them on the issue, as well as having meetings with representatives of my constituency who are concerned? My sympathy for the argument is clear. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to agree a motion that can be placed on the Order Paper of the House, I shall be happy to sign it along with him.
§ Mr. Robinson
I was not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman was a Johnny-come-lately to the administrative separation or segregation issue. I was pointing out that we lost the vote in the Assembly on that matter. I was suggesting that we might agree a motion, and there must be value in agreeing motions before they are tabled. Can we agree a motion that will be approved by the Assembly before somebody is killed in our gaols?
When I made my maiden speech in the House in 1979 I dealt with security, a subject which every hon. Member has raised, and asked the Government to take resolute action against terrorism "to let my people live." At the end of the life of this Parliament the Government have made no progress. Security policy has not changed in a way that will make any difference to the chance of the IRA being defeated. There is only one way to defeat the IRA. Political initiatives will not do it. Only a strong security initiative and drive against terrorism will do it. That has not come from the Government and it is to their discredit that they have not taken more resolute action against the IRA.
One of my first actions on becoming a Member of Parliament, following a visit to my office in Belfast by five members of the security forces in the Fermanagh area, was 990 to see the border region. They came to my office in Belfast and said, "One of the first things you should do is to see what it is like for people like us along the border." I went with them to tour the Fermanagh area.
Today, four years later, three of those five men who came to see me in 1979 are dead, murdered by the IRA. The terrible aspect is that those three men told me in 1979 that they would die. They knew—because they lived in an area that had significance along the border—that a campaign of genocide was on and that their death warrants had been signed. I suppose that in due course I—or perhaps another hon. Member—will be discussing the renewal of this measure. I wonder, as I stand here at the end of this Parliament, how many of the remaining two of those five men will then be living.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. John Patten
No one could fail to be moved by the litany of death that the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) gave us. I know that he has walked behind many coffins in his constituency. I am sure, knowing him as I do, that he remembers that others on this side of the water have walked behind the coffins of soldiers, young and old, who have given their lives in defence of the people of Northern Ireland. I remember such a funeral in my constituency of an 18-year-old rifleman of the Royal Green Jackets who lost his life in Northern Ireland.
I concur more cheerfully with the hon. Gentleman's evaluation of his constituents: how well they get on with each other generally and what a cheerful place his constituency is despite the level of terrorism. I have always enjoyed my visits to Armagh and, somewhat poignantly, it was in Armagh on Monday afternoon that I heard that the general election was to be called. The torn-tom drums and messages from the Chief Whip reach even those parts of the United Kingdom that messages do not commonly reach.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) would be a most able instructor if the Minister wants to take lessons.
§ Mr. Patten
When I return to Northern Ireland on 10 June as part of the continuing Conservative Administration, with my Department's five-year plan I can apply to the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) for instruction in how to play the Lambeg drum.
Those who are historically inclined might be interested to know that this is the last speech that any hon. Member representing the city of Oxford will make. The constituency has existed since 1298 when two burgesses were sent to Parliament. They did things better in those days. They sat for two occasions on two single days only in that year. Since then there has been an hon. Member for the city of Oxford. I am the last to hold that happy title.
I shall deal with four matters. The first is the review by Sir George Baker of the Act. The second is the important issue of searching. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for mentioning it. The 991 third is converted terrorists, and the fourth is the problem of segregation and safety of prisoners in prisons. I assure the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) that the terms of reference of Sir George's review will allow him to conclude and recommend that certain parts of the Act be changed in different ways, both strengthening—to use his words—and weakening the Act.
I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that a review of the workings of the Diplock courts is always kept in mind. It would be wrong for me to comment on them while Sir George is examining the Emergency Provisions Act. Searching was raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. We are seeking to make the best use of security resources in central Belfast. We believe that the security arrangements will be improved by the introduction of new and flexible procedures which can always be stepped up if necessary. We believe that the existing arrangements lead to a waste of resources. I know that the hon. Member for Antrim, North is listening with care because he pressed me on this point.
The selective searching of pedestrians will continue. The selective and in many cases fuller and more thorough searches of civilians will continue at the barriers. Cars will, however, always be searched. All pedestrians will be searched at off-peak times. We believe that full selective searching will be a thorough deterrent to possible terrorist threats.
I remind the House that we were told loudly by some hon. Members that letting cars into the centre of Belfast before Christmas 1981 would lead to more bombings and to the breakdown of ordinary, civilised life in the centre of the city. That has not happened. The new provisions will allow the security forces to make a flexible and more efficient use of their search powers.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
I was interested when the Minister referred to making better use of resources. I understand that there is to be a reduction in the number of security forces involved in searching, and that seems to involve a reduction of resources rather than a proper use of them.
I was also fascinated when the hon. Gentleman said that there would be spot checks at peak hours and that everyone would be searched at off-peak periods. Surely that is a warning to the terrorists to do their business at peak hours.
We should not congratulate ourselves too much on the fact that car bombs have not been used in the past year. Those who watch the pattern of terrorism know that there are tactical reasons for that, and only this week we saw the renewed use of grille bombs in the centre of Belfast.
§ Mr. Patten
The points made by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and his colleagues will be carefully evaluated and taken into account by my ministerial colleagues responsible for the matter.
§ Mr. Patten
I am sorry, but I wish to discuss the important issue of converted terrorists. The converted terrorists who have come forward and helped the police 992 and the courts have been critical in securing convictions, preventing further terrorist activity and helping the forces of law and order to fight the battle against terrorism.
If the RUC, and particularly the Chief Constable, were subjected to less unwise criticism and calls for resignations, the RUC would be able to get on with its job much more effectively.
§ Mr. Patten
My charitable feelings at the end of a parliamentary Session prevent me from elaborating on my views about unwise, unjustified criticism of a splendid serving police officer who, like all his men, has given up an enormous amount and is risking an enormous amount to serve the people of the Province and of the United Kingdom. I hope that I have the support of the people in the Province for that view.
My final point concerns segregation. The demand for the separation of prisoners on religious grounds may have superficial attractions, but it does not necessarily follow that the consequences of such action would be those for which hon. Members hope.
The immediate result of any formal segregation would undoubtedly be to increase substantially the ability of the paramilitary organisations on both sides to operate more cohesively and effectively in Northern Ireland prisons. I am sure that no hon. Member wants that.
The paramilitary organisations would be able, by intimidation, to choose those prisoners who were acceptable to them and those who were not. To borrow an expression often used by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), they would be able to operate a form of apartheid in prison. That cannot be in the interests of the prisons or the prisoners.
In addition, the paramilitary organisations would press for the prison authorities to act through the command structure and the spokesman of the organisations. In short, to agree to a criminal formal system of segregation would be likely to pave the way to a return to special category status. That would lead to a loss of control by the prison administration. That is not acceptable to Her Majesty's Government. On the other hand, we are conscious of the fears of some prisoners and of their relatives and friends, and of those who go in a Christian spirit to visit them. We acknowledge that there are many prisoners in goals in Northern Ireland who wish to serve their sentences quietly and remain apart from paramilitary influences. I assure the House and, in particular, Northern Ireland Members, that the Government will continue to keep in close touch with prison governors who are anxious to take every practical precaution to ensure the safety of all the prisoners in their care.
The Act and the order renewing it are of fundamental importance to the security of the population of Northern Ireland. The Act is being closely examined by the review under Sir George Baker. I hope that no one, particularly at this time in the life of the Parliament, will be tempted to divide the House against the order. I commend it to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 62, Noes 0.993
|Division No. 146]||[9.16 pm|
|Beith, A. J.||Best, Keith|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Braine, Sir Bernard|
|Brinton, Tim||Mather, Carol|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Molyneaux, James|
|Buck, Antony||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Murphy, Christopher|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Neubert, Michael|
|Cope, John||Onslow, Cranley|
|Costain, Sir Albert||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Dover, Denshore||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Rathbone, Tim|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|Grieve, Percy||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Hamilton, Hon A.||Sims, Roger|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul||Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Thompson, Donald|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Viggers, Peter|
|Lang, Ian||Waddington, David|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Waller, Gary|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Watson, John|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Wells, Bowen|
|McCusker, H.||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Mr. Robert Boscawen and|
|MacGregor, John||Mr. John Major.|
|Tellers for the Noes:||Mr. Jock Stallard.|
|Mr. Gerard Fitt and|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.