HC Deb 16 June 1988 vol 135 cc576-91 3.55 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the murder of six soldiers in Lisburn yesterday evening.

For the past six years the Lisburn borough council, in conjunction with the YMCA, has organised a series of charitable running events consisting of a half marathon together with shorter fun runs. This year some 4,500 people took part, more than half of them teenagers and young children.

Shortly after the end of the run, a bomb destroyed a Ford Transit van in which six soldiers were travelling. Four were killed instantly, one died on his way to hospital, and the sixth died in hospital last night. Eleven civilians, including an 80-year-old man and a two-year-old child, were injured, but all have now been released from hospital. The soldiers killed were a sergeant, two lance-corporals and a signaller from the Royal Signals; a corporal from the Green Howards; and a lance-corporal in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Next of kin have been informed. All six had come from Ebrington barracks in Londonderry, and were giving of their own time to help in an event which over the years has raised very many thousands of pounds for deserving charities.

I know that the House will wish to join me in expressing our deepest sympathy to the families and friends of those brutally murdered last night

My understanding is that the soldiers concerned travelled in the Transit van from Londonderry to Lisburn, and parked it unattended in the leisure centre car park, the start and finish point of the runs. Five of the soldiers took part in the marathon, which started at 6.30 pm. One took part in the fun run. While it is not clear when they finished running, it is believed that the van left the car park at 8.50 pm, and the explosion occurred at 8.59 pm. The evidence indicates that the explosive device had been attached to the underside of the van and consisted of some 3 kg of commercial explosive.

I must tell the House that, while the murders of the soldiers are horrific enough, there could well have been fatalities and casualties on a vastly greater scale if the bomb had gone off in the car park itself, where thousands of people were milling around, including a considerable number of families with young children.

What that indicates is that the IRA has no depths to which it will not sink in its determination to kill, no occasion, whether it be a remembrance service or a charitable event, which it will not attack, nor the slightest concern as to how many people of all ages—men, women and children—it may murder and maim in its vile activities.

What we face in Northern Ireland at present is the ruthless efforts of the IRA to intensify its vicious and bloody campaign. The Chief Constable gave clear warning of that, and the evidence of the arms shipments from Libya was further confirmation of the lengths to which the terrorists will go.

If civilised society is to survive, whether in Northern Ireland alone or in the whole island of Ireland, there can be no place for terrorism. We have no choice but to do all in our power to thwart and ultimately to defeat the terrorist—and in thwarting the terrorist we need the maximum vigilance and alertness.

The end of terrorism has to be our aim, and while there is no short cut, we must employ all the resources that a democracy can bring to bear, the commitment of Government and Parliament, the skill and courage of the security forces, the whole-hearted support and assistance of the whole community in ensuring that the men of violence are brought to justice and, in addition, the fullest co-operation and support from the Government and people of the Irish Republic.

All those we need; and the events of last night not only in what did happen, awful as they certainly were, but also in what so easily might have happened as well, are the clearest message why we must not fail.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

It is again with sadness that I come to the Dispatch Box following a statement by the Secretary of State. Too often in the past 20 years have successive Secretaries of State and their Opposition counterparts had to respond to brutal acts of callous inhumanity. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said on behalf of Opposition Members, the sympathies and condolences of us all, and indeed of all right-thinking people in the country, go to the families of the bereaved and injured.

The tragedy of the situation in Northern Ireland is the waste of yet more lives, this time of men who had just voluntarily given up their free time to help the local community in its charitable endeavours.

The Secretary of State has given us details of the facts of the fatal events of yesterday evening. If any solace can be found in the midst of such a terrible tragedy it must be that the devastation and loss of life was not on the scale of the Enniskillen remembrance day bomb.

But we were told that Enniskillen was a mistake. Last night was no mistake. The lives of men, women and children were coldly and deliberately put at risk. But for the grace of God it would have been another Enniskillen writ large.

The lack of warning, as well as the very act of placing the bomb, showed the men of violence for what they are —indifferent to life and devoid of any feelings of humanity. It was a deliberate act of sectarian provocation, taking place as it did in a staunchly Unionist town, which is also the garrison headquarters of the Army. Taking place, as it did, shortly before the onset of the marching season, it can only have been designed to heighten sectarian tension. We must hope that it does not lead to a spate of further tit-for-tat reprisals, for that is not the way.

A number of serious questions have to be asked about security. The Secretary of State has told us that the six young men killed were off-duty soldiers in civilian clothing in an unmarked van, beneath which was placed a bomb, the van having been parked in a public place. Until investigations are completed, we shall not know the exact type of device used. However, we are entitled to ask how any device could be placed when, in the aftermath of the killings at Andersonstown, we were told that all security personnel had been issued with warnings to be on the alert, quite apart from the normal security arrangements for personal safety.

When was the van last searched, if trained soldiers felt that it was unnecessary to look beneath it? Why was the van not parked in a more secure place, if it was owned by the military? Were any instructions given to that effect, bearing in mind that, as we now know and as the security forces probably then knew, the IRA can identify plain-clothes soldiers in unmarked vans, on this occasion trailing them all the way from Derry? What sort of surveillance is used when soldiers are taking part in civilian activities of this kind, difficult though it must be? If, as we have been told, commercial explosives were used, do we know yet whence they came?

Finally, I want to deal with the calls for action that have been made in the wake of the bombing. Some have already called for the return of internment or selective detention as a way to rid the streets of potential bombers and gunners. But, as the Prime Minister seemed to say earlier, that is precisely the response that the IRA would like. The Opposition reject those calls directly and immediately.

The recent history of internment in Northern Ireland shows that it is ineffective. It provides men of violence with propaganda and it is a fertile area for recruitment. Its return could only serve further to heighten tension, to increase social instability and to push the likelihood of any political solution that much further away.

As the Secretary of State said, there are no easy short cuts, just a long hard haul. The way forward in Northern Ireland is to support the security forces in upholding the rule of law, by strengthening the democratic constitutional structures, thus weakening the case of the gunmen, and to show that the ballot box alone is the way to achieve lasting peace on the island of Ireland.

The firm adherence of the Secretary of State to the Anglo-Irish Agreement should be supported. It should not be forgotten that the perpetrators of this outrage are as committed to the destruction of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as they were to the destruction of that of Sunningdale. The paramilitaries cannot be allowed to dictate to the House and to our country, or to Northern Ireland or to the Republic, the political agenda.

The Opposition reaffirm their support for that agreement. We reject the knee-jerk calls for the introduction of repressive measures. The defeat of men of violence can be brought about only by the support for the security forces and adherence to the rule of law, with equality before it for all. It is by those means that the forces of democracy, despite the temptation to despair and such heartbreaking setbacks as last night, will eventually prevail.

Mr. King

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I particularly appreciate his clear and unequivocal call for full support for the security forces in the tasks that they have to undertake. At a time like this, above all, we are conscious of the tremendous contribution they make, the tremendous strains that are undoubtedly placed upon them and the need for them at all times to demonstrate the greatest alertness and vigilance that is necessary if we are to thwart the evil acts of terrorism.

On the particularly detailed questions that the hon. Gentleman asked about the type of explosive, further information is likely to become available on that shortly, and I cannot comment further today. However, he will have noted my comment that, on the evidence available to me, that bomb could have gone off in the car park with the consequences that I described.

The hon. Gentleman paid tribute to young men who had given of their free time to make a contribution to the community in which they were serving. I am conscious that some of those same young men were people whom people in the Nationalist community were proud to praise when they turned out in the floods at Strabane to help them through their difficulties at that time when the Army did valiant work. There is no question but that the Army does much for the community in Northern Ireland, for which everybody in Northern Ireland should be grateful. But at the same time we must be concerned about procedures and their security and what is possible for them. The Army takes those matters seriously, and I know that it will be reviewing the situation.

The hon. Gentleman heard, as did the House, the clear response that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave on the introduction of selective detention, which it is important to recognise. I would only add that we have specifically retained that power within the legislation, were it thought desirable to take that course. But, as my right hon. Friend made clear, there are many considerations, many deeply difficult implications, that have to be considered in that respect. We keep the matter under review. We have no further comment to make at this stage.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Now that the mother of Parliaments has got round to moving from the subject of the stabbing of six footballers to that of the murder of six soldiers, no doubt the general public will wonder whether we have got our priorities right.

May I associate my constituents in the borough of Lisburn with the expressions of sympathy for the relatives of the dead soldiers? May I also ask, however, whether the Secretary of State understands that that sympathy will be tinged with considerable bitterness? My constituents remember the signing three years ago of an Anglo-Irish Agreement which promised peace, stability and reconciliation. Out of respect for those who have been murdered, and for those of us who are yet to be murdered, will the Secretary of State give instructions that that wholly false claim and promise should never be repeated?

Mr. King

The right hon. Gentleman may understand on reflection why, although I recognise that the outrage occurred in his constituency, I am somewhat disappointed in his contribution.

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's endless repetition of his concern about the phrase, let me say that he will have noted from my statement that in talking about "peace, stability and reconciliation" in the Province, I referred to arms shipments which we have good reason to believe came from Libya. He will know that those shipments started to come well before the signing of the Hillsborough agreement, and that this is a sign of the growing threat that the security forces are facing very bravely. I should have hoped that he would include in his remarks a tribute to all those who serve in his constituency, many of whom come from every other constituency in the land and some of whom lost their lives in the incident last night. They have gone there to support people of good will and integrity in Northern Ireland, which they are proud to do.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

It ill becomes the Secretary of State to criticise what the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) has said. The Unionist people have not only given their sympathy; they have given their support to all the security forces. Those whom the Secretary of State thought he would bring with him in the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the members of the SDLP, will not call for people to join the Army today; they will not call for people to join the UDR today; they will not call for people to join the police today.

The Secretary of State must face up to the fact—as must the House, although I know that it is not a popular thing to say on this occasion—that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not brought peace; it has not brought stability; it has not brought reconciliation. [Interruption.] We live there. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) does not. He does not follow the coffins; he does not meet the widows and the orphans. He should shut his mouth until he meets the orphans, the widows, the people who sorrow.

The hon. Gentleman, sitting on his backside in his Gangway seat, has never followed a coffin in Northern Ireland. He has never put his hand on the curly head of a little girl or boy who will have no father, no mother and no succour from a father or mother. The hon. Gentleman had better recognise that it is an evil thing that we are fighting in Northern Ireland.

If the House thinks that we have to take these constant killings, let me say that we sympathise so sincerely with those who have been bereaved because we have walked that way ourselves. We have been down in the valley, and we have shed the same tears as they will be shedding. We know what this is about.

It seemed to be easy to identify the unmarked van. Will the Secretary of State start an immediate investigation into the civilian personnel who work in the Londonderry barracks? Someone there put his finger on that van, and it is the duty of the Secretary of State to find out who it was.

Furthermore, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the vehicle ought not to have been parked in a public car park? Will he give instructions in future that such unmarked vehicles should never again be parked in a public place but must be parked under Army surveillance? When he has obtained the details, will he also take into consideration the type of bomb that was used, and warn Army personnel that that type of bomb could be used again and could bring about more murders in the Army?

The people in Northern Ireland today are incensed that members of the SDLP are continuing their talks with the godfathers of the men who planted the bomb. That is resented by the right-thinking people of Ulster.

Mr. King

I hope that the House agrees that we owe it to the memory of those who lost their lives last night to do all that we can not to spread dissension, division and bitterness in the House, but to pledge ourselves to work together with all the constitutional parties to start building some harmony and co-operation, and not always seek to exploit the resentments and difficulties.

In answer to the last point made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I have made absolutely clear my utter abhorrence of all who espouse violence or who fail to denounce it. I wish to see the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland sitting down, without inhibition and without any preconditions, to establish whether they can play their part in starting to build a rather better and more constructive future.

The hon. Gentleman raised a specific point about the van and the issues arising in connection with the journey, the parking and the lack of attendance. I spoke to the GOC in Lisburn this morning about that. It is a matter of concern to the Army, which is at present reviewing its arrangements. The points that the hon. Gentleman has raised will be very much in the minds of Army personnel.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, while I look forward to the arrest of the perpetrators of yesterday's crime, I do not think that it will stop the violence in the Province? Nor would internment. As we have just heard in the expressions of strong feelings, the problem of Northern Ireland is not just a security matter; it lies far deeper than that.

May I ask two questions? The first is about explosives. The Secretary of State has said that he will have more information later today about the nature of the explosives used. Are we satisfied that in co-operation with the South— not through the Anglo-Irish Agreement; there has been co-operation over the years—we know the source of the Semtex and the route that it takes through the Province? Are the security forces in the South aware of the problems that arise because of the movement of this high explosive?

My second question is about soldiers. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) mentioned the lack of security for off-duty soldiers. There is a feeling that there are too many non-operational soldiers in Northern Ireland, and that the guarding of those soldiers poses a problem not only for the Army but for the police.

Mr. King

The right hon. Gentleman's first point is enormously important. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the lion. Member for Antrim, North both referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I entirely understand the political attitudes about it, but some can read into those comments the idea that we should not work as closely as we can in co-operation with the South.

I am glad to hear confirmation from the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that he recognises, as any sensible person must—and as I said in my statement—that one of the four preconditions for success must be the full commitment and co-operation of the Government and people of the Republic of Ireland. In the long run—and perhaps not all that long a run either —terrorism could be as big a threat to the Republic as it now is to Northern Ireland.

It is believed that a commercial explosive was used—not Semtex, which might be defined as a military explosive. As I said in my statement, 3 kg of commercial explosive was used. Because of the additional resources that have been made available through the assistance of the Libyan Government, there is no doubt that within the island of Ireland very significant resources of weapons, ammunition and explosives are available. That is why we must have the close co-operation and commitment of the Irish Government, the security forces and the people, together with our own efforts in every possible respect, so that those weapons of evil, destruction, tragedy and death are recovered at the earliest possible opportunity.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

We welcome what has been said about this atrocity by Mr. Haughey, but do we not now have the right to expect words to be matched by deeds and a success to be made of the extradition arrangements? Although the last internment was excessive and incompetent, will my right hon. Friend and the Government at least not rule out highly selective detention before they have discussed it with the Government of the Irish Republic, with a view to simultaneous action on both sides of the border?

Mr. King

It is very important that we should have effective extradition arrangements. I have made clear my views about that. We are continually striving to improve the effectiveness of security co-operation. I know that the House would not wish to ignore the fact that we appreciate the significant arms, weapons and explosives recoveries that have been made in the South by the Garda. We are grateful for their successes as well as for the very significant successes of the security forces. It would be quite wrong not to appreciate that at this very moment the IRA is trying to intensify a vicious campaign and that there have been a number of successful efforts by the security forces that have frustrated or thwarted the IRA. I am having to report, sadly, to the House today an occasion when the IRA was not thwarted, but it would be wrong not to pay tribute to some very real achievements in recent months by the security forces.

We do not rule out the possibility of selective detention. I said in my statement that I have kept that power available in case it is thought appropriate to use it. At the same time, I made it clear to the House that there could be very real problems. My hon. Friend referred to very selective detention. On a previous occasion he referred to selective detention as the recruting sergeant of the IRA. We have to consider responsibly those kinds of consideration and decide whether they would help or damage the fight against terrorism; but we keep these matters under review.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

In expressing my condemnation and absolute abhorrence of this act, and in expressing also my sympathy to the relatives of those who were killed, may I say without equivocation that I believe that there should be no hiding place for those who carried out this act and that anybody who has any information about it should make it available to the police so that those who perpetrated this act can be caught and brought to justice?

I ask the Secretary of State to end, please, the speculation about selective internment. Internment can never be selective. That is one of the lessons that we have learnt. It is not possible to have selective internment. Will he bear in mind that we had selective internment in the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, the 1950s, the 1960s and the 1970s and that the problem is still with us? Since the day and hour that the Northern Irish state was formed, the empirical evidence has been that, if we want to give a fillip and an impetus to terrorism, the way to go about it is to introduce internment in any shape or form.

Mr. King

I think that some would argue with the hon. Gentleman's historical analysis. They might argue that on certain occasions selective internment was used effectively. I recall that it was used effectively not merely in Northern Ireland but also in the Republic of Ireland. However, I am conscious of the other aspect of the problem that the hon. Gentleman raised and to which I referred earlier, but I have nothing further to add on that point.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's absolutely unequivocal statement. I hope that it will be heard and listened to in the quarters where his words carry weight. It is tragic to consider the deaths that have occurred in Northern Ireland, not just because of the number but because of the number of young lives across both communities from every sort of background. They are tragic because they are so pointless. It is tragic that lives have been lost, to the achievement of no end, by the security forces bravely defending communities and by terrorists who have achieved nothing. For all those reasons, we must bring about an end to violence in the island of Ireland.

Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North)

Does my right hon. Friend share the edification that many of us feel that at least this tragedy has been condemned by Members in almost all parts of the House? We hope that the message will go out that there has been universal condemnation by this House of what happened. Does my right hon. Friend agree that now is perhaps the time to mount a propaganda or a dissemination of knowledge campaign on an international basis about the viciousness of the IRA so as to dry up the supplies of treasure and money that are coming from misguided people in other parts of the world?

Mr. King

Yes, Sir. I believe that that is an important part of the total approach that we must seek to adopt to defeat terrorism. I have already said that there is no single, quick answer to the problem, and the House understands that perfectly well. We are determined to tackle every possible aspect that we can, whether it be more accurate information or the relaunch of the confidential telephone. That is one small contribution to the fight against terrorism, but it is already making a significant contribution by enlisting the support of the community in the fight against terrorism. The new arrangements for the security forces, the changes in the legislation that we are introducing, and the impact on racketeering by trying to tackle the sources of funds for terrorism are among the issues that we are tackling right across the board in our determination steadily to tighten the net around the terrorists.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Will the Secretary of State note that my right hon. and hon. Friends wish to be associated with the tribute that he has paid to the men who lost their lives and with the sympathy that he has expressed for their families? Now that the IRA has turned its attention from the cenotaph to a sporting event for what must have been the first time, is it not evident that there is no innocent man, woman or child in Northern Ireland who is not potentially on its hit list and that this fact ought to be recognised around the world?

Does the Secretary of State think that the natural conclusion to draw from what has happened is that one cannot dismantle any of the mechanisms upon which could be built closer co-operation? The failure of co-operation so far, such as the chaos around the extradition arrangements, must have been music in the ears of these murderers. Does he not think that we ought to strengthen rather than weaken security co-operation?

Mr. King

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. It is not necessarily a fact that men, women and children of all ages are now on the IRA's hit list. They are probably not on its hit list, but the IRA is so terribly callous that it could not care less if men, women and children happened to be on the hit list when it was in the process of committing other atrocities.

The hon. Gentleman also said that argument and division in this House are music to the ears of the terrorists. IRA terrorists want to exploit any resentments that can be built up between Northern Ireland and the Republic. It wants the agreement smashed and confusion to reign. Our job is to build up constructive co-operation and to stand together steadfastly against the terrorist.

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

Does the Secretary of State accept that those who elected me to the House unreservedly condemn the vicious and brutal murder yesterday evening of six soldiers in Lisburn? I offer my sympathy and that of my constituents to those families who are enduring great sorrow.

Does the Secretary of State also accept that we, as a United Kingdom, owe a tremendous debt to all members of the security forces who stand between us and the vicious attacks of the IRA, and that those members of the security forces deserve our unreserved support in their fight against terrorism? Is it not to be deplored that when the security forces are effective against terrorists, there seems to be a hue and cry from certain quarters, even in the House, and demands for inquiries into why the security forces have been so effective?

Will the Secretary of State address his mind to the fact that the members of the Unionist family give their support to the security forces, but is it not time that we heard from the SDLP a condemnation of this act? Will the Secretary of State ask the SDLP, and allow it to answer in the House, whether it unreservedly supports the security forces in their fight against terrorism?

Is the Secretary of State suggesting to the House that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is the price of co-operation with the South of Ireland in the fight against terrorists? Is the Secretary of State really saying that, if the Anglo-Irish Agreement had not been brought into existence, the Government of southern Ireland would not take any offensive against the IRA? That would be a condemnation of any country. The Prime Minister of that country was a former gun runner. The facts speak for themselves. I ask the Secretary of State to accept that the people of Ulster appreciate the great value of the security forces. We should give our support to any effective, aggressive measures against terrorists.

Mr. King

I had better say to the hon. Member that I hear what he says. I should have hoped that, instead of seeking to emphasise yet again his dislike, for whatever justifiable or unjustifiable reasons of the SDLP or of the Irish Government, he could have noted that on occasions I have criticised the SDLP for not being as forthright as I would wish in its public statements of support for the security forces, but the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has made it absolutely clear today, forthrightly and without equivocation, in what he said. I welcome that and hope that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) will welcome it. I hope that he will seek to encourage that co-operation with the Republic of Ireland, which is absolutely vital in the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)

Does the Secretary of State understand that, while he welcomes the statement of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), people in Northern Ireland will see that statement in the context of the ongoing talks that the hon. Gentleman has with Sinn Fein, which, in the Secretary of State's own words, is indistinguishable from the people who planted the bomb under the van last night? Does the Secretary of State agree that there is not really much point in hon. Members engaging in a competition to find stronger words of condemnation or criticism of the terrorists? That is probably what they want us to do. Why does he not do all in his power to thwart terrorists? Why does he not announce today the removal of the automatic right to 50 per cent remission for people convicted of terrorist offences? That would send a stronger message to the terrorists this afternoon than all the words that we have uttered together.

Mr. King

I have made clear my views about Sinn Fein, and I do not resile from anything that I have said. The hon. Gentleman has quoted some of my remarks. I certainly believe that the talks that are taking place at present, in so far as they are now inhibiting the chance of talks between the constitutional parties, are a major disadvantage, about which I have the greatest concern.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is no point in bandying across the Chamber words of ever greater condemnation. I hope that he will realise that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State and I are engaged in the most comprehensive approach to the matters that he raised. I shall not talk about them in detail. We keep under review every aspect of ways in which we might intensify and make more effective the fight against terrorism.

Nothing is barred from that review. We have considered some of the matters which have been raised. We do not consider them appropriate at present, but I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance that we are examining every single aspect. A further step forward which may be helpful to the security forces in the matter of evidence will come before the House this evening in the Criminal Justice Bill, and I hope the House will support it.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

After this latest bombing tragedy, many of us are bound to recall that recently a suspected bomber was not extradited to Northern Ireland. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, at ministerial meetings under the Anglo-Irish Agreement, British Ministers can and do question the competence of sections of the Irish judiciary and sections of the Irish Ministry of Justice?

Mr. King

My hon. Friend, in his usual gentle way, is leading me into extremely difficult country. We certainly have made clear our full concerns about extradition. The judiciary in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland are independent and obviously must take responsibility for their decisions. However, I am most anxious, in so far as it lies within my power—and I know the absolute commitment of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General—to seek to ensure that we have effective extradition between our two countries.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I recognise the need for the ritual condemnation of violence in Northern Ireland and the tired message of the Secretary of State, who keeps coming back to the House mouthing the same old platitudes, but is it not time for a completely new political initiative? Is not one of the problems the fact that the Government are hemmed in by statements and undertakings given by the Prime Minister on successive occasions to Ulster Unionists in this Chamber? That is why we are now stuck in this logjam.

Mr. King

As the only hon. Member in this House to get up and start talking about tired old messages and the same old platitudes, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) takes the biscuit.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

When my right hon. Friend is considering the possibility of introducing selective detention, will he take account of the fact that those who, perhaps by coincidence, are the most republican in their sympathies, are the strongest in their opposition? At the very least, there is the possibility that, had there been an effective policy of selective detention, those who perpetrated yesterday's outrage would not have been at large.

Mr. King

One of the questions is whether, had there been such a policy, there would have been more or fewer people available to commit such outrages. I heard my hon. Friend put his question about the choice to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. He asked whether, if a choice was to be made, and if it meant saving lives, that was not a choice in which a few scruples had to be buried. But is that the choice, or is the choice that that decision could lead to even more lives being lost? The history of this matter has been rehearsed, and I have already disagreed with my hon. Friend, but those are the honest considerations that have to be faced.

I say absolutely clearly, because part of what my hon. Friend said is correct, that there is clearer intelligence. There is a better understanding of some of the people who are involved in terrorism, but there is great difficulty in bringing forward the evidence which will enable convictions to be achieved. There are considerations that have to be borne in mind. I hope that it will be clear to my hon. Friend that I take clearly and seriously the points that he has made.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Secretary of State clarify what he said to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Sir A. Buck) about American money? Is it not true that in downtown Boston and elsewhere, and encouraged by one of the candidates in the American election campaign—at least by his attitude to Northern Ireland—more and more American money is likely to be collected?

May I gently ask whether, if there had still been national service in this country, any of us really think that the British Army would still be in Northern Ireland? How do well-intentioned, high-minded, good-willed Englishmen such as the Secretary of State think that the Army will ever solve the historic problems of Ireland?

Mr. King

I do not think that I shall go into the last part of that question. I am not sure that I agree with it, and I would need to think about it.

Although elements in the United States are still fighting the old battles and seeking to stir up all the old hatred and bitterness, many other elements there are now trying to divert the understandable loyalty and affection for Ireland into much more responsible channels. This evening in Northern Ireland I shall be meeting representatives of the American Ireland Fund, incorporating the Ireland Fund of Canada, and some hon. Members will meet them next week. In such groups responsible American leaders are encouraging the channeling of the understandable and thoroughly praiseworthy affection for Ireland that is felt by so many people in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia into these funds and into responsible hands, not into the hands of terrorists.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that even those who believe that the Government's present Northern Ireland policy is mistaken admire his personal bearing in Lisburn this morning and the way in which he has carried out his melancholy duty here this afternoon?

Mr. King

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who speaks from a position of absolute principle and integrity.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Does the Secretary of State recollect his response to the leader of the Ulster Unionists? Does he acknowledge that the people of the kingdom on Armistice day have taken note that the leader of the Ulster Unionists is the only leader of a parliamentary party here wearing medals of service in Her Majesty's forces? Will he bear in mind that the sacrifices in the Ulster battle are borne primarily by the people in Northern Ireland? I acknowledge wholeheartedly the sacrifice of those who have come from Scotland, England and Wales to serve there, some of whom are my cousins. However, I deprecate the occasional implication that Ulster Unionists are criticising the security forces.

I ask the Secretary of State to give us some guidance on whether an appeal to the whole community is realistic, given that at least 10 per cent. of that community backs Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Secondly, can the right hon. Gentleman now tell us how the Government are hitting the resources of terrorism? I am not thinking specifically of aid from America, but of how terrorists milk public money and engage in robbery and other such activities.

Thirdly, is not one of the real obstacles to the implementation of the law that allows selective detention the fact that the Republic of Ireland Government are not in a position to co-operate with the British Government in the internment of Irish subjects?

Mr. King

I am not sure why not. Historically, there have been occasions when the Irish Government have pursued that policy, but I have nothing further to add to that. It is a matter for them.

In the cut and thrust of exchange across the Chamber, and in my disappointment at the contribution of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), I in no way sought to disparage his patriotism or service. I am aware that some of us have served in the armed forces in one way or another, and I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's contribution. I did not want to make disparaging comments about him.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about the approach of the security forces, from wherever they come to fight terrorism in Northern Ireland and, as sometimes happens, in Great Britain. His words were well chosen in that respect.

The hon. Gentleman was right to say that funding comes not only from America, and that probably less derives from there than from the rackets and other activities. We are taking a number of steps to make those practices considerably less successful than they have been in recent years.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

I express my heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of the six soldiers who were murdered last night, and I repeat my tribute and that of my constituents to the soldiers in the Regular Army, to the UDR and to the police who serve in Northern Ireland. On behalf of all those people I ask the House to pay tribute to them and to recognise the courage of the people of Northern Ireland who, for 20 years now, have faced atrocity after atrocity with great courage and a restraint that would not have been manifested in this country if the same mutilations and murders had taken place in England, Wales or Scotland. Is it not high time that people inside and outside this House stopped criticising the people of Ulster for not doing more, when the defeat of the IRA lies wholly in the hands of the Government? The people of Ulster have shown restraint and now expect the Government to play their part.

Mr. King

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks. We who live among them—hon. Members who represent them and all who serve in the Government in Northern Ireland—cannot but be conscious of the courage of people in the security forces, the UDR and the police.

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's last remark. The greatest fallacy is to say that only the Government can sort out the problem. I said in my statement that everyone has a responsibility to make a contribution—the Government, elected representatives in this House, the security forces, the Churches and the people of both communities. Many people have a contribution to make in the fight against terrorism. Not only everyone in Northern Ireland, but a friendly Government and people in the Republic, are needed in the fight against terrorism. All those components must play their part.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

I endorse the condemnation by my hon. Friends of the horrible event at Lisburn last night. I, too, express my sympathy to the relatives of those who were killed and of those who suffered injury. I endorse the right hon. Gentleman's statement, and on this occasion, as I have done in the past, I ask anyone with information that will lead to the arrest or bringing to justice of the perpetrators to come forward.

Talk of internment—even though it is not acted upon —feeds the propaganda exercise of the IRA. All internment is selective, so there is no such thing as selective internment. By its very nature, it means that people are picked, not on evidence or on law, but on selection of information.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will endorse what I am about to say. My party and I do not need and will not take lessons from any party in Northern Ireland about the absence of support for terrorism. No member of my party has ever donned a balaclava or uniform, has ever manned a barricade or carried a coffin of a leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force, or has ever created third forces or led men armed with truncheons and wearing balaclavas—as have leaders of both Unionist parties in this House in the not-too-far-off past, which actions have contributed in a major way to the creation of violence in our society in Northern Ireland.

Mr. King

I hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say and note his comments about selective detention. I am grateful for his clear commitment, which he has given before, to ensuring that those who are guilty of terrorism are brought to justice. I am also grateful for his denunciation of terrorism.

Several Hon

. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I accept that this is a United Kingdom matter, and I shall call those hon. Members who have been rising.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on drawing discussion towards the future, especially towards the wider principles. Is he aware that the way in which he spoke of American interest in Northern Ireland was not very reassuring to those who fear that concessions to the American Government have been a major cause of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the proposals for employment in Northern Ireland? Is it not possible for him, in a spirit of good will, to tell the American Government that it is not necessary to their worldwide interest to interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland? In the end, the concessions that have been seen to be made to what many would, sadly, describe as interference can only be to their disadvantage in trying to persuade public opinion in this country?

Mr. King

If my hon. Friend is referring to the American Ireland Fund, he is reading an incredible amount into what I said. It is supportive of and interested in worthwhile causes, and I am very grateful to it. I would in no way seek to dissuade people from taking the undoubted human, family and ancestral interests which so many Americans have in Ireland. However, that interest must be channelled into responsible and worthwhile support.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that we shall never be bombed out of Northern Ireland; that each act of violence makes us all the more determined to find peaceful solutions to the problems of the Province; that each atrocity that is perpetrated by the IRA, which scars Northern Ireland, makes us more resolved to support the people of the Province, promote their prosperity and starve the IRA of support; and that the vast majority of hon. Members hold the unquenchable belief that the forces of truth will ultimately always overcome the forces of darkness?

Mr. King

I wish that I could have put that as well as my hon. Friend. I wish that anybody who has entertained the idea of violence, or those who still support it in Northern Ireland, could have listened to those words. They are precisely what I believe and precisely what I find so tragic about the campaign of violence and terrorism. It is totally counter-productive to any aim that it may seek to ascribe and causes enormous misery and suffering in the process.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that he and the Prime Minister, pursuing with great courage the correctly balanced policy in Northern Ireland, do not need the assistance of hysterical contributions, such as we heard earlier from the Benches behind me and elsewhere? Whether synthetic or genuine, such contributions will not contribute to the attainment of peace in Northern Ireland.

Does my right hon. Friend also agree that the Anglo-Irish Agreement, far from being a sham or hindrance to the attaining of peace, is a vital linchpin? Will he confirm that it is the Government's intention to reinforce that agreement as it develops with increasing ministerial meetings, and will he look favourably on the idea of a joint parliamentary commission?

Mr. King

We are having a review of the workings of the conference very shortly. I am struck by the amount of comment that is emerging. Even if people do not like the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there has been recognition that its elements and components make extremely good sense. I think that that recognition is being more widely expressed. Northern Ireland is never short of sound and fury. There are many issues about which people feel deeply and passionately. I never despise emotion, because some of the sufferings of the people of Northern Ireland are beyond description and their endurance is beyond praise. At the same time, if we are to make progress, we must learn to control that emotion and try to work in a constructive and positive way. As my hon. Friend said, I try to look to the future, not dwell on the past.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Did my right hon. Friend notice the regrettable contrast between the statement made by the mayor of Lisburn and that made by the hon. Member representing Lisburn? The mayor of Lisburn had a constructive and moderate approach to the subject, whereas the hon. Gentleman tended to suggest that this incident was the fault of the people of Northern Ireland. Has my right hon. Friend noted from newspaper reports today that it appears that southern Ireland is making insufficient attempts to track down and survey Patrick McVeigh? Does he regard that with considerable concern and does he accept that the authorities in southern Ireland should take steps to ensure that they know where he is and track him down as soon as possible?

Mr. King

I cannot comment on my hon. Friend's latter point, because I have not seen the reports. I concur with the conclusion that my hon. Friend drew and hope that every effort is being made in that respect. I shall not comment on the first question asked by my hon. Friend. I have not seen what Councillor Bleakes—the mayor of Lisburn—may have said. I am trying to build a co-operative and positive approach. We owe it to the people who lost their lives last night and to others who have lost theirs over the months and years to build on the positive and constructive work that has been done, and that is what I am determined to do.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

As the Secretary of State is aware, at the weekend, with his complete co-operation and much help, I visited Northern Ireland. It gave me an opportunity to speak to a number of people in Northern Ireland, who asked me to bring this message to him and to the House. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that does not elect mainstream political parties to Parliament. They feel confined to voting for sectarian red or green parties and they do not feel that they can choose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am reluctant to stop the right hon. Lady, but I think that she has asked this question before. Today, we are discussing a specific incident.

Mrs. Gorman

Will the Secretary of State comment on whether that feeling of isolation contributes to the attitude of the IRA in perpetrating atrocities and whether Ulster people can be nudged into the Republic?

Mr. King

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her ingenuity in asking the Prime Minister and me a virtually identical question in the space of an hour. The safest thing for me to do is to give the same answer as my right hon. Friend.