§ 8.36 p.m.
§ LORD REAY rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will inform the Government of Northern Ireland that unless radical reforms are soon enacted by the Northern Ireland Parliament to eliminate discrimination against religious and political minorities, action on this fundamental question by the United Kingdom Parliament will become inevitable. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to start with a two-fold proposition; namely, that the situation in 133 Northern Ireland, both the underlying situation and the current situation, is such that for the reserved powers in the Government of Ireland Act to have any meaning Parliament at Westminster must be entitled to debate this subject, not just in this House, but also in another place, where at present Members of Parliament have been prevented from debating it. Secondly, unless the Government of Northern Ireland rapidly removes the causes of discontent in that country, it must be proper for the Government of this country to take the initiative.
No attempt has been made to deny that the situation in Northern Ireland is serious, even by the Government of Northern Ireland. When they produced their promises of reform on November 22 they said:
Unless the situation is stabilised and political action restored to constitutional channels there is a grave risk of still more serious disorders.
Yet a week later, after promises of reform had been made, a senior police officer is reported as saying, referring to the events of last week-end in Armagh:
Yesterday was the most potentially dangerous situation we have had since the present unrest began.
It could have been the beginnings of civil war in Ireland.
In other words, the situation is potentially critical to law and order, despite the recent announcements of reform, and in so far as the life and liberty of subjects of the United Kingdom are the concern of this House it must be our business to debate this subject and to recommend action, if we choose, to Her Majesty's Government.
My Lords, before going on to discuss the causes of the discontent I should like to say something about the relationship between the Government of Ireland and the Government of this country. To start with, I should like to read Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. Since the only copy I could get in this House is an uncut version, I may be right in supposing that some of your Lordships, at least, are not familiar with its terms. Section 75 says:
Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliaments of Southern and Northern Ireland, or the Parliament of Ireland, or anything con
tained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland and every part thereof.
So it will be seen that the terms are very wide.
§ In the ordinary business of the year-to-year management of the economy there is of course a great deal of concealed, but very real, direction of the affairs of Northern Ireland by the Government in this country. The word "direction" is not a very good word, but what I mean is something more than influence and something generally less than coercion. The strength behind this direction lies not only in the legislative function of Westminster in relation to the North of Ireland, and in the exclusive responsibility which the United Kingdom Government has in the fields of defence and foreign policy, but also on the dependence of that country on United Kingdom subsidies. They are difficult to assess but must be something between £50 and £100 million a year.
§ But beyond the question of economic management there is a more important principle which is recognised—namely, that parity in legislation should exist between Westminster and the North of Ireland in those fields affecting the fundamental rights and obligations belonging to citizenship of the United Kingdom. It is accepted that parity should exist, and does exist, in the fields of taxation and of social welfare. Surely if it must exist in these fields, it should also exist in the field of political enfranchisement which touches even more intimately on the description of United Kingdom citizenship. Is not political equality involved in the very description and structure of citizenship of the United Kingdom? For what we are talking about is a case of political inequality which has gone on so long that it has become a matter of scandal and has produced resentments that have become a threat to public order.
§ The history of bitterness, of the prejudices and the antagonisms of and between the two groups in Northern Ireland is as long as the history of Ulster itself, but I am sure they have become much less than they once were. But inequalities in the present structure of local government simply allow those 135 past antagonisms and prejudices to be perpetuated. Moreover, they have another undesirable effect. There is an all too long tradition, both depressing and dangerous, of minority Parties and interests in Northern Ireland not contesting elections. This is only another reflection of the reasons that produce violence in the streets. Both derive from the minorities' certainty that they cannot get justice under the system as it now operates.
§ The two principal inequalities in local government are these. In the first place, suffrage is not universal. In local elections only about 75 per cent. are enfranchised. Voters need to be the legal occupiers of their places of residence. This is an inequality against the poor and the young, and it is intolerable in itself. But it leads to a further and worse abuse, in the siting and allocation of houses. The allocation of houses is in charge of the councillor of each ward, and the practice that has sprung up is to pack the voters who are of a different allegiance to your own into that ward which you are bound to lose. This practice is called gerrymandering, a term which derives from the practice of the Irish in Boston. An example of the effect of this is found in Londonderry, where so many houses have been sited in the one Catholic ward that it has a density of 125 persons per acre, compared with a density of 25 per acre in the Protestant wards.
§ The second practice which has grown up is that where a family do not have a vote, because they have never had a house, they may be kept indefinitely on the waiting list for a house. So that in order to deprive a family of a vote they have first of all to be deprived of a house. The principal effect of all this is to provide Protestant majorities in predominantly Catholic areas. Londonderry has a Protestant minority of 30 per cent., yet there is a majority of 12 to 8 on the local council. But this is not just the effect; it is the purpose of these malpractices. These are the two chief electoral grievances. Others, such as the business vote, are much less important. But clearly there is a broad field in which discrimination is practised. It exists in employment, both public and private. The proportion of Catholics in prominent 136 positions on public bodies is much lower than the proportion of Catholics in the country. Here I should like to refer to a report which has been produced by a Committeee of the Society of Labour Lawyers, who have amassed considerable evidence of discrimination. At this moment it has been sent to the Government of Northern Ireland, prior to general publication. When it is published, I think that discrimination will be even less deniable than it now is.
§ My Lords, I want to make one other point. Section 5 of the Government of Ireland Act declares that any law made so as (among other things) either directly or indirectly to give a preference, privilege or advantage, or impose any disability or disadvantage, on account of religious belief shall be void. Accordingly, I should like, in all seriousness, to raise the question of whether an electoral law which enables the practice of discrimination on religious grounds, as we have every reason for concluding now exists in Northern Ireland, should not itself be considered or be ruled void under the terms of the 1920 Act. Secondly, even if a legal interpretation is found against the point I am making, I suggest that the discrimination is so patently against the spirit of the Government of Ireland Act, and evidence for its existence is so abundant, that the Government of the United Kingdom is not only warranted but by its responsibility in relation to Northern Ireland under an obligation to demand that this should be investigated and remedied to its own satisfaction.
§ On November 22, the Government of Northern Ireland announced considerable concessions. In the first place, they said that houses would in future be allocated on a points system, as is done here. Secondly, they promised reform of local government by 1970. In addition, they announced the removal of the business vote, a colourful but relatively unimportant anomaly, and the establishment of an Ombudsman (though they did not include any reference to local authorities and local affairs), and the setting up of a Development Commission for Londonderry, which to some extent was an admission of failure of local authority government. The announcement on the reform of the housing allocation is extremely welcome. Obviously, we do not 137 know how the points system will work, or how it will be made to work. We shall have to wait to judge by its effects. Moreover, we do not know whether there will be any difficulty in getting local authorities to accept it. Indeed, there is a report that one council has already refused to adopt the system.
§ In the 1967 White Paper on Local Government Reform, the Government of Northern Ireland managed to discuss the question without once mentioning franchise reform. So the proposal as it stands is too distant and too vague. But the worst omission of all from the Government's announcement is the refusal to include universal suffrage in local elections. This is something much too closely related to the malpractices in local government and much too widely demanded for its own sake to be ignored now. Moreover, there seems to be a certain distrust of the Government's intentions which has not been assuaged by the announcements of reform. Even the proposed Commission in Londonderry has been feared in some quarters as likely to be a device for removing economic control of that area against the day when Catholics acquire a majority in the area.
§ The Government of Northern Ireland has certainly shown itself at least responsive in some measure to the minority demands, but the proposed reforms come at a very late hour, and they are not yet enough. We all know that the Government has to contend with strong pressure, but for decades the Government line has been simply to deny that there is any malpractice, any discrimination, any need for reform at all. The Government will concede to pressure, but only to pressure; and we are therefore calling on the British Government to apply that pressure on behalf of the minorities in Northern Ireland. In conclusion, I would say that this Government should demand that universal franchise be introduced into local government; that machinery should be established to put an end to religious discrimination, and that this machinery be sufficient to satisfy the British Government. That Government should, in short, demand that Section 5 of the Government of Ireland Act be implemented and the spirit behind it honoured, and that the 138 principles of management and franchise be brought in line with those that operate everywhere else in the United Kingdom. In doing this, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government would not be exceeding their powers; they would be discharging their duty.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, I do not know what connection the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has with Northern Ireland or whether he knows it well or not, but I have grown up and lived with the Irish question all my life. I am against discrimination. Whether or not it exists in Northern Ireland, I cannot say. I should like to say a word or two about recent history connected with Ulster. It will only be the older Members of your Lordships' House who will remember the Ulster crisis of the days immediately before the First Work War: the signing of the Solemn League of Covenant; the raising of the Ulster Volunteer-Force; the mutiny at the Curragh, when numbers of British officers sent in their resignations rather than be ordered to go North towards Ulster. They had the support in those days of the whole of the Conservative Party in this country under Bonar Law, himself an Ulsterman. This brought Britain to the very fringe of civil war, which was checked only by the outbreak of the World War.
The point I want to make is that at that time Ulster was not struggling to obtain self-government. She did not want self-government. Ulster wanted to remain governed by this country, as it had been governed since the Union for 120 years. When she failed to achieve that she agreed as part of the general Irish settlement to accept a Parliament and Government which she did not want. That is the historical background.
We are now debating a Question which asks for action by the United Kingdom Parliament on the fundamental question of discrimination against the minority. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, did not seem to me to suggest what action he thought should be taken. Would he, for example, like Ulster to go back to the old situation and be governed again by this country, abolishing the Parliament and local government? Let me look at that suggestion for a moment 139 and see what it would mean. It would mean increasing Ulster Members here at Westminster from twelve, as they are at present, to twenty-six. All Ulster services would have to be operated from Whitehall under a Minister, presumably a Chief Secretary for Ulster, as there used to be a Chief Secretary for Ireland. But after fifty-five years of self-government would Northern Ireland now accept this solution to be governed again directly by Britain as she was? I doubt it.
After Southern Ireland cut all connection with Britain in 1948 and became an independent Republic, Mr. Attlee, who was then Prime Minister leading a Labour Government, in the other place on October 28 of that year said:The view of His Majesty's Government has always been that no change should be made in the Constitutional status of Northern Ireland without Northern Ireland's free agreement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 28/10/48; col. 239.]After all, Britain governed Ireland for 120 years, and I do not think anybody could say that that government was particularly successful. In the days of Mr. Gladstone, before he became converted to Irish Home Rule, coercion Bill after coercion Bill was passed in the British Parliament. Crimes Acts were passed and terrible things happened, like the occasion somewhere in County Cork—I think it was in a place called Mitchelstown—when the police were sent in to restore order and when they fired their rifles and killed a number of people. That was when Britain was governing Ireland. It is not, I am afraid, a very creditable record.
What else could you do? Would the noble Lord suggest, for example, that we should apply sanctions, like sanctions are now applied to Rhodesia? Would that help the minority in Northern Ireland, where unemployment is already especially high? I do not think it would. Under the financial clauses of the Government of Ireland Act, all the main taxes which the Ulster people pay are imposed, levied and collected by the British Treasury, and the Northern Ireland Government has power over only a very small section of the taxation field. Income tax and customs and excise, which are the main sources of taxation, 140 are collected by the British Treasury. Then there is a body called the Joint Exchequer Board, and the Northern Ireland Minister of Finance meets representatives of the British Treasury. They meet periodically and allocate revenue as between Britain and Northern Ireland.
I should like to say a word now about the minority in Northern Ireland, to which the noble Lord has referred. I do not say this in any way because I think the minority should be badly treated: I think they should be treated exactly the same as all the other people in Northern Ireland. But certain things about that minority must be remembered. You cannot dissociate them from the constitutional issue, because their whole raison d'étre is to abolish partition, to end Ulster's position in the United Kingdom and to bring her into the Irish Republic. That is the well-known aim of the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland. To go into the Irish Republic, Ulster will never consent to do.
I am not suggesting that all the members of these recent Civil Rights marches were Nationalists, but quite a number were. For instance, in the march in Londonderry on October 5 the leaders of the Civil Rights marchers were two or three Nationalist Members of Parliament. Also, it must not be forgotten that for six years, from 1956 to 1962, Ulster was savagely attacked by armed bandits of the Irish Republican Army based on the Republic. They burnt Customs posts; they attacked police stations; they attacked British Army camps, and in that campaign six Ulster police were murdered and over £1 million worth of property was damaged. It was largely that campaign by the I.R.A. which led to the passing of what is known as the Special Powers Act, which gave to the Northern Ireland Government power to detain without trial and other powers of that sort, because, by reason of intimidation, nobody could get any witness to come against those who were charged. That Special Powers Act, as noble Lords no doubt know, is still in operation. I understand that if things are made peaceable it is likely to be very much modified in future.
Now I come to another point which makes the position much more difficult in Northern Ireland, and that is the 141 action of a Presbyterian Minister named Mr. Ian Paisley. Mr. Ian Paisley leads a band of militant and extreme Protestants, and whenever a Civil Rights march is going to take place he brings his people—he did it in Londonderry; he did it in Armagh two days ago—joined, as I saw in the Press, by special contingents from Scotland, and I think he is largely supported by funds from the United States. He comes to these cities where the Civil Rights marchers are having their march and creates a situation in which there is likely to be serious fighting between the one group and the other.
I do not believe that Paisley commands any significant support among the people of Northern Ireland. If a referendum were taken to-day, I am certain that there would be a very large majority indeed for moderation, which, as noble Lords know, has been the theme of the present Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill, who has, ever since he took office, persued a moderate and liberal line. But these followers of Paisley are 400 years behind the times. One hardly dares to contemplate what took place in this country, in England, 400 years ago when the main theme of life was Protestant v. Catholic for 200 years; when Roman Catholic priests were dragged through the streets of London on hurdles and hanged, drawn and quartered just because they were Roman Catholic priests; and Protestants like Latimer and Ridley were burnt at the stake just because they were Protestants. That took place here 400 years ago. But, of course, all that has long ceased in this country, and I believe that it is now on the way out in Northern Ireland.
The noble Lord, Lord Reay, referred to the reforms which have already been announced by the Northern Ireland Government. I expect the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, when he replies, will probably refer to them, so I do not propose to go into them in detail at the moment, but, broadly speaking, these reforms have been approved by Liberal and Nationalist opinion in Northern Ireland; and they were notably approved the other day by the Liberal Member in the Northern Ireland House of Commons. Miss Shelagh Murnaghan. The outstanding thing that has not been dealt with is the local government franchise, to which the noble Lord referred. Of course, the position there is 142 this. The local government franchise which now exists in Northern Ireland is exactly the same as that which existed in this country up to the time when Mr. Attlee's Labour Government in, I think, 1948 changed it and introduced "One man, one vote." But in Ulster it vias not changed. I do not know whether it is suggested that Northern Ireland should follow slavishly everything that is done in this country, particularly when there are Governments of different complexions. There was a Labour Government here and a Conservative Government in the North of Ireland. Be that as it may, I personally think it ought to be done and that we ought to give the same local government franchise in Northern Ireland as we have here—one man, one vote. I think it will be done, but it may not be done to-morrow.
In view of what has already been done to meet the situation, surely these Civil Rights marchers should call off their demonstrations. But if they are going on and are to be opposed on every occasion by Paisley's band of extreme Protestants, then in my view consideration should be given to this. There are in Northern Ireland units of the British Army which are always stationed there, and I should have thought there was something to be said for the civil authorities there approaching the military authorities with a view to bringing in troops to prevent disorder if it is likely to arise.
I can remember, many years alp now, fortunately, when there were serious Protestant versus Catholic riots in Belfast. It must have been at least forty years ago. The Army was called in and troops were picketed at various points in the city, and they prevented a great deal of bloodshed. After all, when there were Civil Rights marches recently in the United States of America the National Guard was called in. If these disorders go on and if these Civil Marches continue it may well affect the remarkable industrial development which has taken place in Ulster in recent years, because people may think that it is a country of disorder and it will be unwise to establish their business there.
As noble Lords know, the two main industries in Ulster used to be shipbuilding and linen: shipbuilding by the two great firms of Harland and Wolff (which still goes on) and Workman and Clarke, 143 who have now been wound up for several years. But both those industries have declined and numbers of people who used to be employed in them are no longer so employed. The Ulster Government have done a remarkable job since the last war. I have obtained certain figures from the Northern Ireland Government Office here in London, Since the end of the last war 65,000 new jobs have been found. Industries have come in, one may say from all over the world. There is the great Du Pont industry of the United States of America and also Chemstrand of the United States, which both make some type of nylon and give a great deal of employment. The Michelin Tyre Company from France is established in Ulster; the British Enkalon Nylon factory from Holland is also established in that country, and of our own big concerns, Courtaulds, I.C.I. and Rolls Royce all have big establishments in Northern Ireland, and many other smaller firms have come in. I understand that there are ten new projects, recently finalised, which are going to Londonderry and which are expected to give jobs for 2,000 people.
The credit for getting in all these new businesses and firms must go to the Ulster Government, and particularly, I think, to their Minister of Commerce, Mr. Faulkner, who himself has travelled all over the world to get new industries—the United States, Germany, France and all over Europe, with, as your Lordships realise, great success. Nevertheless, it is well known that the rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland is high. In spite of that, I think it can truly be said that Ulster is now a prosperous community. The advance in the standard of living there during my lifetime has been almost unbelievable, and in this economic climate all sections of the community have benefited, both majority and minority alike.
§ 9.15 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, I wish to make it clear that in giving support to the Question of my noble friend Lord Reay I am speaking entirely for myself. The noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, wished to know what connection Lord Reay had with the North of Ireland. I cannot tell him that about my noble friend, but, as I say, I can 144 speak for myself. I happen to be a resident of the Republic of Ireland. I in fact live on the Curragh, where the mutiny referred to by Lord Rathcavan took place. I was brought up in Donegal, which is now in the Republic but was part of the old Kingdom of Ulster, and I have just discovered, more or less to my alarm, that I am the owner of slum property in Londonderry, very much in the condition of the crowded wards which my noble friend has described, and I have been taking steps to find out exactly what anomalous position that puts me in. I am, politically speaking, a fan of both Captain O'Neill and Mr. Lynch the Republic's Taoisach, but I try not to let these things and my natural affection for all Ireland and Irishmen influence me too much.
It is as a Member of your Lordships' House, and the role, the often ambivalent role, of the British Parliament in these matters, which leads me to take a very little of your Lordships' time. I feel that time is the essence of my noble friend's Question. As I understand it, the desire of both Front Benches, both here and in another place, is to acknowledge the very considerable progress made by Captain O'Neill and not to interfere with it by interfering with him. He has done wonders which only a longtime pub-crawler in both Londonderry and Belfast could tell your Lordships about, were the hour not very late and your Lordships perhaps rather dry. He has made considerable dents in the uncivil (in its fullest meaning) political anomalies to do with the multiplicity of business votes and with the construction of local political boundaries. Left to himself—and he has appealed to Her Majesty's Government to leave him to himself—he would undoubtedly do much more.
The trouble is, will he be left to himself? Your Lordships will be aware of two modish phrases, "Revolution of rising expectations" and "Revolutionary backlash". Their modishness cannot take a slight chill from them. Both forces, in my experience, are at work in Northern Ireland, and each is the other's lines of supply. The persons and property of the innocent and not so innocent have already been caught in a dangerous field between these two poles, and the 145 danger is on the upswing in Londonderry, Belfast and now Armagh. Whatever its political complexion, Her Majesty's Government raises taxation in Northern Ireland, and though the economic traffic is not merely two-way but altogether favours the smaller country, as it should, the raising of taxation is a political privilege which goes with extreme political responsibility. The bedrock of responsibility is care for the citizen, and events in Northern Ireland suggest that local political control is less capable of this care because less sympathetic to the needs of its citizens.
How long must our Parliament wait? How much violence—and your Lordships have been told about violence or read about it—is needed before a little pressure, a little real interference, comes into being? My right honourable friend Mr. Grimond, lost leader of my noble friend Lord Reay, got into hot water himself last summer for suggesting that on the whole violent agitation did, regrettably, pay a few dividends. Will Ulster prove him right after all? In spite of my "revolution of rising expectations". I hope and believe that if Westminster makes clear to Stormont, and Stormont makes clear to its electorate. that the basic electoral reforms will go through, are going through, are subject neither to filibuster, gerrymandering, or less subtle modes of pressure, then, and only then, will there be a reasonable chance that the problems of Northern Ireland will be settled elector-ally: that is, reasonably: that is, as we all hope, politically.
In another place recently Mr. Maudling suggested that the question of Ulster be debated, if only because the Republican Labour Member for Belfast West, in the course of making similar representations to the Speaker, had slipped in a few blows below the belt. Mr. Maudling wanted these blows to be answered, though not in kind. Let me at least urge on noble Lords more influential than I am that we undertake a full debate in both Houses on the Ulster question and that we undertake it quite soon. I insist that such a debate might clear the air of those buried allegations of violence, malpractice and time-serving which so often give rise to the very actions they deplore.
146 I insist that such a debate would be no disservice to Captain O'Neill and no slur on a man with the courage of his own moderation. I suggest that it would also be politically honourable to debate Irish affairs at a moment when, due to Her Majesty's Government's import deposit manœuvre, the Republic is rather suspicious of our political honour. The crucial fact is that we may want the red hand of Ulster to remain politically the symbol of Northern Ireland; but vie certainly do not want a messy and less symbolic red on our own hands.
§ 9.22 p.m.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, I should like to start by thanking the mover of this Question for giving us an opportunity to say some of the things that I think ought to be said, and many of which have indeed already been said. I would particularly refer to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, who has, I think, most adequately filled in for your Lordships the general history and some of the details. I should like also to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, on his balanced approach to what is a most difficult problem.
The noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, has been brought up in Ireland, and has known it all his life. I have not that advantage. But I have the advantage that I was brought up there as a child; I lived there for a considerable period of time, and I have returned there again, this time with perhaps some more responsibility than I had when I was young. I am not a particularly old man, but I can remember the day when we had no motor car. I well remember coming from school on a terribly slow train and being met with a horse and carriage; and I think I am correct in my memories when I say that we certainly did not have a car until somewhere around 1930.
Ireland is miles behind this country, and I must say that I think the responsibility lies here. I should also like to say that I feel that the best way we can help in this situation is to try to produce constructive feelings in Ulster between its peoples, and all its peoples. The ordinary person who to-day goes about his business on day-to-day affairs in the country has nothing else in mind except to exist, to get on, to do what any other ordinary human being in this United Kingdom wishes to do. He 147 is interested in the price of his cattle; he is interested in the astonishing difficulties of his farming; he is miles away from his market. He feels to a certain extent unsupported, and yet he feels that he is taxed and criticised. These, I feel, are points which we on this side of the water could help to smooth over, to support, to give strength to, so that in their day-to-day going about their business the people do not feel that they are subjects of criticism.
I have no doubt that there is discrimination. I have no doubt whatsoever, and it would be stupid to say that there was not. There are reasons for it, and it is the reasons we want to do away with. The suggestions which are made are very good, but at the same time I am worried about pressures. When we talk about bringing pressure to bear, then I think we are undermining the very things that we want to do. I think it is pressure which is largely causing indigestion in the entire world, let alone in Northern Ireland.
I think that both the Church and the State are perhaps inclining to move too fast to order, where there is no real feeling on which to hitch the order. When the forces which are at the disposal of Governments exercise their authority, with modern communications and modern methods they are subject to immediate "showing up". I have been a policeman, and I know that unless you feel that you have the confidence of those in authority over you and the confidence of those you are trying to protect and be fair to, you very soon turn sour and you are no longer a good policeman. The police force, the forces of law and order, should be protected and supported. They should be given every possible facility to maintain that law and order and to restore the discipline without which no community can live a decent, organised existence.
My Lords, I think that one must refer to that which the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, has already mentioned, the other side of the Border, the Republic of Ireland. It is not mincing matters to say that the Nationalists' whole policy is that Ireland should be united, and this is totally against the feelings of your fellow-countrymen in Northern Ireland. I would appeal to the Church, to the people who 148 live in Northern Ireland who enjoy the benefits of Northern Ireland, to come forth as individuals and to prove that they are not the directed force that they are thought to be. Let them come out and prove it, and then I feel we shall be getting somewhere towards making a homogeneous community, and one which we all want to see established.
I am sure that there are faults on both sides, but I do not believe that undue pressure or undue haste will increase the chance of our making the sort of responsible community that all of us who live in Northern Ireland wish to see. Jobs and houses are not only and solely the privilege of the Protestants, as is so often made out. There are Protestants without houses; there are Protestants without jobs. It is not just Protestants and Catholics. There is a wealth of poverty in Northern Ireland which must be overcome, and you have got to dig down beneath these flaunted differences to get to it.
I have said before that it is not really our fault that we are miles behind. In response to this Question, I beg that the Government at Stormont and the Government of the United Kingdom will work closely together, hand in hand, in support of one another, rather than the other way round, with this Government kicking Stormont into actions which they would be responsible for putting into force so that they would receive all the criticism.
I wholeheartedly agree with those who have already paid tribute to the present Prime Minister in Northern Ireland. He needs support, as do all the moderate, ordinary folk who have not raised their voices or their sticks. The best way to do that is to ensure that over here and over there we speak with the same voice. This will do away with the fear of isolation and will also show the other side—and there is another side—that they have no right to interfere in the affairs of the North any more than we have any right to interfere in the affairs of the South. If this is established, we can then, as the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, said, live side by side with honour, and not with guns, sticks or with verbal blows or any of the things with which, unfortunately, Ireland is to a great extent associated. Ireland is a happy country. It wishes to be happy, and it can be happy if we can bring it up to date—and it is time to do so. I have 149 nothing else to say, except to hope that this Government will give their fullest support to the present Government in Northern Ireland.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I must apologise for not setting down my name as intending to speak in this debate. I had two Church appointments which I intended to fulfil, but on reflection I felt that some ecclesiastical representation might not be out of place in relation to the situation in Ireland in which the religious issues are so deeply entrenched. However unsuitable I am, in the absence of any other minister of religion or clerk in holy orders I wish to say something about the religious situation as it is represented, squalidly indeed, by Mr. Paisley.
Before I do so, may I first of all agree in principle with the noble Lord, Lord Reay, in his assertion that constitutionally there is room for, and at a certain stage there will be a demand for, action on the part of this Government if matters in Northern Ireland reach the kind of crisis which some people already envisage. I stop short of wild enthusiasm when I am told of the proposals which have now been made and the fourfold programme which is now in progress in Stormont. It is true that a points system has been set in prospect for rehousing problems, but it is as yet strictly permissive. At least one Council, Dungannon I think, has refused altogether to have anything to do with it, and in any case it would need far more powerful teeth than is at present anticipated by those who look upon it with a good deal of anticipation and confidence.
It does not seem to me that the postponement of radical electoral improvements for at least three years has upon it the mark of urgency, when one reflects that 300,000 adults in Northern Ireland are now denied local government votes. If it were not somewhat cynical, it might be thought that the Unionist Government in Northern Ireland would prefer to postpone these matters until perhaps, as they think, a more favourable atmosphere to them were to appear on this side of the Irish Sea. Whether or not that is true, what surely is substantially true is that the Unionist Government at Stormont believe that they have to reckon with a powerful Protestant attitude which, in 150 large measure, is characterised by the so-called leadership of Mr. Ian Paisley.
Furthermore, Mr. Ian Paisley has been described, first of all, much more widely than in the particular areas of Northern Ireland, as a Presbyterian. He is not a Presbyterian. He is what is called a Free Presbyterian, and the adjective there is quite as inaccurate as the noun. In any case, he is not a Protestant leader, as one incautious statement averred in the daily Press only a few days ago. He is certainly not a Protestant in the accepted and traditional sense in which I claim to be a member of that great tradition, and he is certainly not a leader in the sense that he has great and objective ideas with which he has electrified, or with which he has stimulated, intelligent and resourceful Christian people.
It might not be out of place if a little more of Mr. Ian Paisley were put on record. He is very largely the author of the particular church which he has spawned. His doctorate is, I think, very largely a self-inflicted wound. He is a man of bony appearance and of a loud voice. I say these things without any feeling that I am unjustly treating him, because I said these things on two occasions in the open air in Ireland, one in Belfast and the other—a rather unsuitable place—an open air rally in the Horse Fair at Ballymena. I have tangled with Mr. Ian Paisley. On the first occasion he displayed a typical quality of his. He showed no inhibition whatsoever in the fact that he had no scholarship, and he was not in any way deterred by he fact that he was purely dogmatic and had no argument whatsoever to offer for the various declamatory statements that he was making. On the second occasion his followers threw a Rosary and a Bible at me, which I felt was at least an ecumenical gesture, and there was a near riot.
I assure this House that Mr. Ian Paisley has been immensely over-praised for qualities that he does not possess. He is a rabble rouser, he has a raucous approach and he has a dogmatic gesture. He is very largely duping a lot of simple people. Their prejudices are being increased by what he has to say, and it would be the gravest of misjudgments if it were allowed to appear in our affairs 151 that here is some Heaven-sent or devil-sent leader, some führer who can command the loyal support of people who follow the Protestant tradition and who stands for those things that are required and are necessary to the proclamation of the Christian faith. I say this without any fear of contradiction, because, unlike your Lordships, I know Mr. Ian Paisley and I have no use for him whatsoever. It is unfortunate that other people have a considerable amount of use for him, and it is not true, unfortunately again, that he does not represent a considerable fraction of anti-Roman feeling in Ulster.
What is true is that, on the general count of argument on the creative side of any political or Christian gesture which could be interpreted as a contribution to the welfare of Ulster, the sooner Mr. Paisley retires to the obscurity from which he should never have emerged, the sooner we shall be able to see an improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland itself. It is this comfort that is being given to Mr. Paisley and his supporters by incautious propaganda and by his self-styled leadership which is the spearhead or, if you like, the running ulcer betokening something of the underlying disease.
It is perhaps on that point that we can most practically register our attitude, and I would do so, if I may, on behalf of the Christian Church in this country, and would say, for I know that I speak for Anglicans as well as Methodists, and indeed for true Presbyterians, that we support those in Northern Ireland who are as disgusted as we are with the antics and the brutalities of Mr. Ian Paisley and his thugs. We will try to lend what support we can to them in their repudiation of Mr. Ian Paisley and all for which he stands. That is not enough, but it is something. It is high time that this should be said, clearly and unmistakably, and that is my own presumption for taking part in your Lordships' debate, recognising that there are many other things that must be done, but isolating in this particular speech of mine a factor in the present situation which is spurious, factitious and, above all, completely unrepresentative of that Christian faith of which I happen to be a representative to-night.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I would also apologise for not having my name on the Speakers' List, but I felt I could not let this occasion go by without saying a few words to back up my noble friend Lord Rathcavan. Before doing that, I should like to agree heartily with the noble Lord who has just sat down. I am most cheered to hear his words regarding Mr. Paisley. I heartily agree with him.
My Lords, my family has had a very long connection with Ireland. I know I must not boast, but the first Governor for the British Crown, for Queen Elizabeth I, was my direct ancestor, Sir William Skeffington, and my family has provided Lord Chancellors and Speakers of the Irish House of Commons. I was brought up as a very young boy in the North of Ireland. I had to flee for my life there, with my home roaring up in flames and with chaos everywhere. Somebody was killed. The last thing I remember was the nursery cat, with its fur on fire, screaming. So, of course, I have not very pleasant memories of my childhood in Ireland. Nevertheless, I love the Irish, and I do not hold that against the Irish at all. I am afraid, however, that I do hold it against the Party of the noble Lord, Lord Reay—the Liberal Party—and I particularly hold it against Mr. Lloyd George, the Prime Minister at that time; but we will not go into that now.
I should just like to say that the noble Lord who introduced this Question appears to forget that, after all, the North of Ireland Government has been elected on a full franchise. It is a universal franchise as regards General Elections. The noble Lord quoted the Government of Ireland Act. The North of Ireland Government has at present in local elections the same system of franchise that we had in this country before the Labour Government altered it, and I really think it would be—and I am quite sure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor would agree with me—quite incorrect, and an arbitrary act, to say to the independent North of Ireland Government, "You have to alter your franchise for local elections immediately, and everybody, irrespective of whether they are ratepayers or not, must have a vote". As has been said by one 153 or two noble Lords, we are extremely fortunate in having Captain Terence O'Neill as the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He is the most moderate of men; and I personally think he has done wonders and will continue to do so. But if the British Government put pressure on the North of Ireland Government it will not help the position.
My Lords, it is true that there is discrimination. Of course there is. You have Protestant discrimination and you have Catholic discrimination, but, of course, you have more Protestant discrimination because there are far more Protestants in the North of Ireland. It is true that where the Protestants control the council probably more Protestants get houses. But there are other areas where the Catholics control councils, and in those areas—although it is true that there are far fewer councils controlled by the Catholics—the Catholics get more houses. I sympathise with the noble Earl behind me. He says that he finds that he has some slum property in Ireland. It must be a worry to him. I can truthfully say that I have no slum property in Ireland. I should like to point out also that the Catholic schools have an 80 per cent. grant from public funds. I am not saving anything against that. They practise all their Catholic teaching there—as, of course, they must be allowed to do—and they have this 80 per cent. grant from the Protestant Government. So one cannot really accuse the Northern Ireland Government of great discrimination. I am speaking from memory, but I think that that figure is correct.
Let us take the question of religion. In Londonderry about two or three weeks ago, before this great demonstration, an all-night service (I believe it lasted for 24 hours) praying for moderation, was held in both the Catholic Cathedral and the Protestant Cathedral. Protestants and Catholics went to each other's cathedrals. That would have been an impossible event 20 or 30 years ago. Great strides are being taken towards religious toleration in the North of Ireland. I am quite sure that religious discrimination will disappear among the younger generation, that it is only a matter of time. For instance, in Queen's University, Belfast, where three-quarters of the students are Protestant there is now a Catholic President of the Union. 154 This is a great step forward. I am quite sure that the young people do not hold with religious discrimination and that in the North of Ireland things are working in favour of toleration. It may take 20 years or more for religious discrimination to disappear—for we must allow time for the young people to grow up—but eventually it will disappear.
There is another matter on w lich I do not quite agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan—though I hesitate to disagree with such a great authority on the North of Ireland and with one who is so much my superior in all matters appertaining to the North of Ireland. In regard to the present troubles, I do not think that a great number of the Roman Catholics—and perhaps even some of the Nationalists—who are standing out for full local franchise in the elections are bothered about Partition at the moment. But if that were to happen, if they do get full franchise in local government, I think that when we join the Common Market, as I presume one day we shall, the whole question of Partition will become a comparatively minor one. I do not think it will continue to raise much emotion.
I hope that Her Majesty's Government here will not try to force the Northern Ireland Government. I suppose tin t they could do so to a certain extent; but if they did, I am sure that it would only raise the temperature in the North of Ireland, and that would be very unfortunate. I am also quite sure that if the situation is allowed to run its course, and with the ability to present the Pope and the Queen, and other such dignitaries, on television in the poorest households in the land, people will not look on the Pope as a devil or the Queen as a tyrant. I am sure that, with education and television, this problem will be solved in time, and I therefore hope that no undue pressure will be put on the Ulster Government.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down—he has talked a good deal about the great religious toleration—may I ask whether he is aware that a cousin of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, a Unionist Member of Parliament, was obliged to resign from the Orange Order because he attended a Catholic service during civic week in his constituency? Would he not think this 155 a rather poor example to give to the young to-day?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, no doubt it may be a poor example, but the Orange Order is not in complete control of everything that goes on in Northern Ireland. It is certainly still very strong, but it is by no means as strong as the noble Lord would appear to think.
§ 9.52 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise for intervening, because I realise that time is vital, but I should like to say one thing on the question of whether we are justified in allowing things to right themselves in time. I think that on this Irish question it is untrue to say that a whole history of Ireland has been given to-night—God knows! it could not be. That fact is shown very clearly by the name "Tory Party" which I looked up in the dictionary. I found that the definition of a Tory was:One of the dispossessed Irish who became outlaws, subsisting by plundering and killing the English settlers and soldiers; often applied to any Papist or Royalist in arms.Since then, the pendulum has swung a very long way. That may have been said of the Tory Party a long time ago, but it does not apply now. I think that now it is rather the other way round: that they would be more inclined to support the English settlers and soldiers in plundering the dispossessed Irish.
In 1938, when I lived in Ireland, a Protestant English General, who was against the Catholics in almost every way, was so disgusted at not being allowed to include Roman Catholics in his Boy Scout troop that he founded a body called the Irish Association which now has only 420 members. Your Lordships can easily find out the purposes of this. The General was confronted by immense opposition to what he was doing. The efforts of the members are entirely directed to trying to bring people on either side of the Border together in a reasonable and rational way, forgetting about history. He has not been 156 very successful, in that it has taken a very long time. And I would express my complete support for the belief voiced by my noble friend Lord Reay that pressure must be put on—and indeed it has been put on by police in a riot—not violence, but pressure, in order to get any kind of action taken. I am confident that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will sympathise with the principle behind that, and I hope that we shall hear what action will be taken.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, may I say a brief word from the Front Bench on this side of the House in this interesting and important debate. I listened with close attention to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reay, in opening it, and if I may say so I thought that it lost some force by lack of impartiality. I felt that he did less than justice to the reform measures which Captain O'Neill has introduced in blowing upon them as he did. I think that they should be taken in good faith for the good which they will do. The reply made by my noble friend Lord Rathcavan really covered the whole field, and I am sure that noble Lords on all sides felt that this was a complete answer to the attack that was made.
My noble friend's speech brought out the immense complexity and difficulty of the situation in Northern Ireland. The minority Party there is in such a peculiar position. They do not want to govern Northern Ireland themselves. They want to abolish Northern Ireland as an independent entity, as a State. They want to join up with Eire. This is bound to make extra tensions, extra emotions and extra difficulties. Indeed, this point was made by my noble friend Lord Enniskillen in his very effective speech.
I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Rathcavan say that local government franchise should be dealt with, and this would certainly be my feeling. I was glad to hear him say, with his great knowledge of Northern Ireland, that it will be dealt with. It may not be tomorrow, but it is coming. These things have to take their time. One point which must be clear to all of us is that much of Irish life, in Northern Ireland and in Eire, is somewhere behind the standards of living here and they need time.
157 The only point on which I would part with my noble friend Lord Rathcavan is on his advice that troops might be brought in to assist in keeping order. I suppose that in extremis they may be, but as a rule the arrival of troops tends to inflame tempers rather than cool them. I feel, with my noble friend Lord Enniskillen, that everything depends on the police themselves having the strength and the popular support to keep order. I think that their record has been pretty good up to date, and I hope that they will continue to get support.
I do not pretend to know to what extent the noble Lord, Lord Soper, is right in thinking that the Government of Northern Ireland consider that Mr. Paisley has popular support. But I am interested to learn that there is a police summons out against him for his part in the Armagh disorders. This is evidence that they are not frightened to take action, if he is in the wrong. I have no doubt that when lie is taken to court he will be able to show whether or not he is right.
I am sure that my noble friend Lord Rathcavan is right in his point about industrial progress and that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will be 100 per cent. with me there. Though my noble friend rightly referred to what the Northern Ireland Government have done in this respect, both Labour and Conservative Governments have subsidised this development, and this is, I am sure, the right road to strengthen, develop and liberate life in Northern Ireland. If poverty is relieved, the people educated, and conditions improved, many of these troubles will gradually disappear. So industrial progress is vital, and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, is right in saying that nothing should be done which might deter industrialists from considering going there and taking advantage of the attractive financial inducements provided by the United Kingdom Government for them to go there. These, I hope, will go on.
I thought that we had two interesting speeches from the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie and the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, both noble Lords obviously speaking with great knowledge. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, recommended that there should be pressure by Her Majesty's Government on Captain 158 O'Neill's Government in order to accelerate reform, and the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, recommended the reverse. For myself, I should think that the reverse view is right, especially in a situation of such complexity.
I do not pretend any intimate knowledge of the affairs of Northern Ireland, or indeed of Eire, but we have all learned a great deal, I think, in the last twenty years in the process of liquidating, as it has been, the Colonial Empire, and liberating these countries to become independent countries. On the whole, it has been successful when this country has taken the most generous tolerant and moderate line. I am sure it cannot be different in this case. I am sure that we should be patient and support moderation. It seems to me that Captain O'Neill's Government has a number of really worthwhile reforms already to its credit. It has done a great deal, and there is every reason to think that it will continue to move in this direction.
Moderation, which would ease these tensions, seems to me to be the right line. I fear that if the Government here put pressure on Captain O'Neill and his Government it will be bound to cause reactions in the Protestant camp over there and will increase, rather than reduce, tensions. We want the Protestant camp in Northern Ireland to feel confident that they are going the right way; that, broadly, responsible opinion here supports them, and that they are not going to lose by it. I think that tolerance, patience and a generous view here will help most, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will tell us that the policy of the Government will continue to be what it has been to date. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will tell us also the very limited constitutional position as the law now stands. But, for myself, I should hope that we may continue with the same policy that we have followed in the past, with every hope that the Constitution which we should like to see in Northern Ireland will progressively emerge.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am sure that the House has reason to be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Reay, for giving us this opportunity of discussing recent developments in the Northern Ireland Constitution which are of such importance to us all. I feel 159 that the debate has been a credit to your Lordships' House because of its moderate tone throughout. As the noble Lord, Lord Nugent, said, to display moderation is the best service that we can perform in the present circumstances.
The debate has been notable for a number of excellent speeches, and particularly those from my noble friend Lord Soper and the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, both of whose speeches I hope, for different reasons, will be extensively reported in Ulster.
My Lords, I shall of necessity repeat some things that have already been said, but I hope you will feel that I can best serve the House if, in replying to the debate, I give, as it were, a balanced picture of the whole situation as the Government see it and begin by outlining the recent developments. There has been concern for some considerable time that progress in Northern Ireland towards the ending of bitter political and religious divisions in the community and the resulting injustices suffered by individual people was not proceeding fast enough. We were all agreed about that. The only thing we disagreed about was how fast it should go. This was despite the undoubted efforts of Captain O'Neill, which not only noble Lords but my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have commended on a number of occasions in another place, and indeed also the efforts of other leading figures in Ulster of differing views. These fears were intensified by the events in Londonderry over the weekend of October 5 and 6 when it became plain that the tensions in the community could no longer be contained without the grave risk of continuing civil disorder.
Your Lordships will not expect me to comment on the events themselves, but my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor told the House on October 7 that the Prime Minister had invited the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to visit him for the purpose of discussions about the situation. At the same time, he pointed out that the maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland was a matter for which the Parliament and Government of that place were solely responsible.
The discussions took place on November 4. The Prime Minister afterwards announced that they covered five main 160 areas; namely, the local government franchise; allocation of housing; the recent events in Londonderry; the Special Powers Acts, and the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner of Administration in Northern Ireland. It is, I believe, true to say that these are the questions on which concern has mostly been voiced and which lie behind the public expressions of feeling which have been made. The discussions between Prime Ministers were confidential. I have nothing to add to what my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said in another place in answer to Questions.
It is gratifying, however, that on November 22, a little more than two weeks after the discussions in London, the Northern Ireland Government announced their intention to take a number of steps in the areas covered by the November 4 discussions. They are these. First, it is intended that a points system on a readily understood and published basis will be introduced for the allocation of local authority housing. Secondly, there is to be legislation in the Northern Ireland Parliament to appoint an Ombudsman. I understand it is the intention that he should deal, as the Ombudsman does here, with central Government activities, but consideration is also to be given—this is very important—to the need for effective machinery to investigate citizens' grievances in a wider area.
Thirdly the Northern Ireland Government propose to set up a Statutory Commission to implement the Londonderry Area Development Plan, which is designed to transform the economic and the social conditions of life in the city. The noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, gave some particulars. My Lords, I have been there. It is not propaganda. I have spoken to the industrialists who are starting these projects. Some of them are more than started: they are in operation, and there are literally thousands of jobs in the area which will be coming forward. It will, I believe, transform conditions there, and this proposal, I am glad to say, has commanded support from all quarters.
Fourth, the intention has been announced to abolish the company vote in local elections at an early date. The Northern Ireland Government have said they intend to review the present property-based local government franchise 161 once decisions have been taken on the reorganisation of local government which is at present under discussion between that Government and interested bodies.
Lastly, the Northern Ireland Government have accepted that such of the Special Powers legislation as conflict with the international obligations accepted by Her Majesty's Government—for example, under the European Human Rights Convention—should be withdrawn as soon as this can be done without undue hazard. At the same time, since the Government of Northern Ireland have the responsibility for maintaining law and order, they will feel free to resume the powers should this be essential in a state of public emergency. The Convention itself recognises that such circumstances may arise, and provides accordingly.
My Lords, these measures, and particularly the decisions to apply equitable standards in housing allocation by local authorities, the measures for the redress of grievances, including the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner, and the decision to give early effect to the Londonderry plan are most welcome. They must be most welcome to all of us, whatever criticism there may be, whatever dissatisfaction there may be, perhaps, with the particular membership of a Commission, or with a points system. There are many different points systems for the allocation of council houses in this country, but let us please welcome these changes. Certainly they are desirable steps on the way forward, if we put it no higher than that, and it is the hope of Her Majesty's Government that the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland will take urgent action to give effect to these reforms and that they may be carried out in an atmosphere of tranquillity in the Province.
But, without in any way minimising their value—and I do not, because I know something of the conditions—your Lordships will note that the measures now proposed hold out no promise of implementing the principle of "one man, one vote"; namely, giving all adults the local government vote. That principle lies at the heart of citizens' rights and it is a matter which will need to be considered when the discussions which began on November 4 between the Prime Ministers are resumed.
162 Your Lordships will be aware that under the Government of Ireland Act there is a division of executive responsibility between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. Stormont has responsibility for the so-called "transferred" matters which, broadly speaking, are matters dealt with in Ulster, while we have responsibility for affairs that are dealt with on a United Kingdom basis. All the five subjects which the Prime Minister discussed with Captain O'Neill on November 4 are "transferred" matters, which under the Government of Ireland Act 1920 have been placed within the competence of the Government of Northern Ireland. Subject to the rules of order, your Lordships are free to debate any Motion before you, and the noble Lord, Lord Reay, has exercised his undoubted right to raise questions and ask for answers, and even to urge that unless the Government of Northern Ireland takes action to eliminate discrimination against religious and political minorities Her Majesty's Government should take appropriate action which could (as he indicated) in the last resort mean using the reserved powers to legislate under Section 75 of the 1920 Act.
You, my Lords, are free to debate this, but I am not. I must remind you that as a Minister of Her Majesty's Government I cannot answer questions on matters for which this Government have no executive responsibility. In other words, I cannot answer the questions put to me to-night on matters on which I am not answerable to Parliament because they are transferred matters which are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government. One example of this is what happened in Armagh last weekend, which has been so widely reported in the Press. I refrain from making any comment on this—which otherwise I might be tempted to do—for, as your Lordships will appreciate, certain aspects of those events are now before the courts in Northern Ireland. But, in any case, responsibility for the maintenance of law and order in the Province rests on the Government of Northern Ireland, and they have the necessary powers. I leave it at that.
There are some things that I would say, because since, under the Home Secretary, I am the Minister with special 163 responsibility for Northern Ireland, and because I have many friends there of widely different views and persuasion, I know as much as most people about the present situation. And since we have all been talking about our Irish ancestry, may I say that I am of course Irish, with an Irish family name.
The first thing I want to say is that extreme language from this House and from this country will not help. That is why I felt the debate has been such a credit to this House. And I whole-heartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, that the great majority of the people of Ulster desire a peaceful solution of the present disputes. Let there be no manner of doubt about that. No-one who has been there can have any doubt about it. It is the extremists who are the enemies of peace. Of course they receive the most publicity and, as I know from my correspondence (and many of them write to me), and also from their public utterances and deeds, their fanaticism is almost beyond belief, and certainly beyond reason. They are prepared to use violence to deny essential justice and freedom to others. They are the main obstacle to a speedy and satisfactory settlement of those matters which we in this House agree, and we have agreed to-night, must be settled. And we can best serve the cause of peace, reason and justice in Northern Ireland by supporting the efforts of those who are genuinely working to achieve them. And it is not only people in the Unionist Party who are working to achieve that; I know that others are, too.
One thing I must say, with the greatest firmness and clarity that I can command. Northern Ireland is as much a part of the United Kingdom as Wales or Scotland; and even the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, in his speech, it seemed to me, seemed to forget that when he was talking about paying the same taxes. Of course you pay the same taxes; you are part of the United Kingdom. The noble Lord, Lord Reay, mentioned a figure of some £50 to £100 million which, as he put it, went back in the form of subsidies. It is not so much a question of subsidies. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and it happens that it is a development area; and therefore of 164 course in some respects more money flows there. So I hope we shall not be having again from an Ulsterman this argument that seems to suggest that even he is thinking that Ulster is not part of the United Kingdom. They are our people, and that fact is fundamental to the relations between us.
In case any misapprehension may still linger, particularly following some recent remarks in the Dail, let me remind your Lordships of the recent reaffirmation by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister of the pledge given by Mr. Attlee (as he then was) in 1948 and 1949, which is enshrined in the Ireland Act 1949; and because of that, despite what has been said by so many noble Lords to-night about the basis of the problem, I say that the Border is not in issue. We are all members of one nation, with a common heritage, and I well know the pride that Ulster takes in that. But pride and unity are based on more than a Union Jack, and if we are to lay just claim to unity in this United Kingdom we must share common standards and fundamental principles of good government.
This is by no means a Party issue, as we have shown to-night. I am not arguing for slavish imitation of the policies of one Party or another—whichever happens to be in power. I am arguing for the need for general acceptance in all parts of the United Kingdom, which I say clearly includes Ulster, of the principles of fairness and justice. It is the partial lack of that acceptance in Northern Ireland which has given rise to the tense situation which has prevailed over the last few months. It is a disappointment to me, and I am sure to many of your Lordships, that the Northern Ireland Government have not yet announced a firm intention to introduce a universal adult franchise for local elections. It is only when the will and voice of reasonable men on all sides can find democratic expression in every aspect of life that reason and goodwill can banish bigotry and extremism. We must work together with Ulster for uninterrupted progress, with a good hope for and a shared belief in the future peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland.
§ House adjourned at twenty-two minutes past ten o'clock.