§ 5.38 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (LORD WINDLESHAM)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Holding of border poll in Northern Ireland]:
LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 13, at end insert ("and the result of the poll shall be announced for each constituency as though such an election were being held.")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1. I believe it can be inferred from the Bill as it stands at present that the result of this poll will be returned for the entire Province. I infer this from the fact that the word "poll" is used in relation to it in the 416 singular, while the word "polls", in the plural, is used when referring to General Elections to Parliament. But in any case the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on Second Reading, indicated that it was the intention that there should only be one figure returned for the whole Six Counties. My Amendment would mean that, instead, the votes would be counted in each of the constituencies which, between them, used to return fifty-two members to Stormont, so that it would be possible to have an idea how sympathies are distributed on the two sides throughout the Six Counties.
§ In another place an Amendment was put down in quite different language. My language may be faulty—I cannot speak to that—but when the Amendment was debated in the other place it was refused by the Minister largely on the grounds that it was implicit in the Amendment that there would be a move in those areas in which a nationalist majority existed, for those areas immediately, or in the near future, to be handed over to the Republic. As my honourable friends said in another place, but I wish to repeat here, that is absolutely no part of this proposal. It has never been suggested by anyone who favours the abolition of Partition that this should be done piecemeal, and that at any time certain parts of the Six Counties should be joined with the Republic leaving the remainder in Northern Ireland.
§ I do not think that it takes very much understanding of the situation to accept that that must be the case, because if there were such a change, and if most of Fermanagh and Tyrone, and parts of all the other counties except Antrim could, by some strange jigsaw puzzle technique, be united with the Republic, one would be left with a very small three or four county Province, or part Province, which would have virtually a 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. Unionist or loyalist content. That, of course, is the last thing that we would desire, because it would mean that if it remained a viable State, and could continue in existence at all, it would always remain loyalist, and the never-ending hope of a 32-county Republic would come to an end. Therefore, there is no suggestion at all contained in this Amendment that if, for instance, in Fermanagh there was found to be, as I believe there would be, a 417 strong majority in favour of unification any pressure would be brought to bear for that single county, or other areas, to be joined with the Republic of Ireland.
§ The case was well argued in another place, and there are just two points I want to make here. First, I feel that it would be a matter of immense interest to everyone concerned to know how these loyalties lie in the Six Counties; where they are located, and in what areas the sympathies for the two sides are strongest. A large sum of money is to be expended in collecting information which is absolutely useless. I can tell your Lordships at this moment more or less what the result will he. If this extra work were done, it would cost very little more, and it would give us a most interesting picture of the composition of society in the Six Counties.
§ That is not the only point. What is more important is that the minority would be encouraged to come out and vote. This would discourage the boycott that is extremely likely at present, and which all Parties at Westminster have agreed should, if possible, be avoided. It stands to reason that if you were a Catholic or, I prefer to say, a Nationalist living, in a county—
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
If you were a Catholic, or a Nationalist, or a Republican, or an anti-Unionist—I will use whatever terminology is most suitable to the noble Lord—as things are at present you would say, "What is the point of coming out to vote to-day; I am going to be one figure in a minority in the entire Province. I will boycott it. "But if it were done on a constituency basis, as I am proposing, the position would be different, because at once the minority would say, "Come on, boys, let us go out and show them here in Fermanagh that we are in a majority". The same applies in Tyrone, or wherever it might be. Therefore, you would get a better turn-out, and you would have less opposition from the minority. In any event, what has been described as a farcical and, I believe, useless procedure would at least give us some information that we should like to have. I beg to move.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
The Amendment moved by my noble friend is no concern of mine. My concern is with the principle embodied in the first clause of the Bill. Hitherto, I have refrained from intervening in any of the debates associated with the Ulster problem, but not because I am unacquainted with the history of revolt and oppression, and the various allegations and counter allegations associated with the Irish problem. I was in fact brought up in Glasgow among members of the Orange Order and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. At the age of 15 I had to listen in my father's workshop—I do not want to indulge in an autobiography, but I simply recall it for the purposes of illustration—when they were discussing whether England (and it was England at the time; there was no reference made to Britain) should have gone to war against the Boers, and of course the Irish problem was under review. I recall the controversy, the passion, and the heat engendered in the course of those discussions.
I have had further association with Ireland in the South and in the North. I was acquainted with many of the rebels before the First World War: the famous Jim Connolly, the not-less-famous Jim Larkin, Will O'Brien, Cathal O'Shannon, and Dick Corrish, and all the rest. I knew them all. I was similarly acquainted with many members of the Orange Order in the North. I was associated with the sea, and I had to visit the various ports of Ireland, and I was therefore able to make their acquaintance, so I know something about the problem.
The other day we had a debate on the general history of the problem, and here I should like to interpose one observation, which I think one ought to indulge in, and that is to express our regret that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, should be placed in this extremely difficult situation. From time to time Ministers are pitch-forked into a situation not of their own making. In this particular instance, one can understand the nature of the responsibility that is imposed upon the noble Lord, and I must say that his is an unenviable task. Whatever may be the outcome, one wishes him well personally and in the interests of Ulster and Ireland, 419 and the United Kingdom. I think that ought to be said. It has been said by others, and I have ventured to say it in the past, and I do so now.
When I listened to the debate the other day, I waited for some Member of your Lordships' House to propound a solution to this problem. Your Lordships will forgive me for expressing myself in this fashion. I do not mean any offence. But we Members of your Lordships' House went "round and round the mulberry bush". There were emotional and illogical speeches, but nothing realistic, and no solution was propounded for the obvious reason that there can be only one logical solution; that is, at some time or other, the reunification of the whole country. But having said that, may I say that I recognise all the difficulties associated even with an approach to that solution. Anyhow, why argue about it at this stage when it is obviously unacceptable?
But when the Government decide to have a referendum, in the course of which they ask people in the Six Counties to express an opinion as to whether they want to retain their association with the United Kingdom or to associate themselves with a United Ireland—which means association with the Republic—it is a different story altogether. Why is it necessary? I look at the Schedule and I am staggered by the language that is embodied in it. The electors (and of course there will be electors, because this is a kind of General Election; a referendum is not unlike an Election) will be asked, first of all, the question: "Do you want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom?" I ask Members of your Lordships' House: what are the majority likely to say in reply to that question? Obviously, they will reply in the affirmative. It would be completely unrealistic to think that they will say otherwise. We know it to be a foregone conclusion that they will reply in the affirmative. If that question had been supplemented by some reference to ensuring that the rights and privileges which are available to the majority should also be vested in the minority; that there should be no discrimination whatever as regards employment, the provision of housing or the effects of local authority administration, then I could have under- 420 stood it. It might also be more acceptable to those who are asked to record their vote.
On the other hand, we have the second question: "Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom?" If that question had been supplemented by the words "at any time in the future", not with any intention, if it proved acceptable, that it should be immediately imposed, but with the intention that it should be a subject for discussion, for negotiation, for a rational approach to a solution of the problem, I could have understood it. One might as well have posed the question in this fashion: Do you believe that two and two makes four? It is obvious what the answer will be. We know what the majority will say, and we have a fair idea of what the minority will say. No doubt some of the Catholic minority who, in the circumstances of the terrorism, the murders which have been perpetrated, and all the horrors associated with the Ulster problem over the last few years—apart from the historic features of the problem with which most Members of your Lordships' House are familiar—may be inclined to say, "Yes, let us be associated with the United Kingdom". I have not the least doubt that that might happen. There might even be a few of the majority who might say that, in the long run—not in the foreseeable future—they could be associated with the Republic of Ireland. They might say that there could be reunification, provided that the circumstances were propitious and that there was no discrimination whatever. They might feel that they should all live together, and I could understand that. But are these questions—I put it very simply—really necessary?
I think I am justified in asking this further question. At the end of the day, what will happen? Let me furnish an illustration. Let me take the second question: "Do you want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland, outside the United Kingdom?" I would ask the noble Lord, who will no doubt reply, to suppose that in reply to that question there is an affirmative answer. Let us suppose that, as a result of the plebiscite, a majority indicated their desire to be associated with the Republic. Are we to understand that 421 the United Kingdom Government would immediately, or in the foreseeable future, take steps in order to implement that decision?
§ LORD SHINWELL
My noble friend thinks that they would. But I have grave doubts about it, knowing some of the political history associated with this problem. In any event, in my opinion, it is most unlikely to happen. Therefore, once the plebiscite has been undertaken and a decision given, what will the Government do? It appears to me land the noble Lord may correct my impression if I am mistaken in this view) that if the decision is, as I expect it will be, in favour of continued association with the United Kingdom, it will emphasise the determination and resolution of those who are called the Loyalists in Ulster to hang on like grim death and never give way. It will rather harden their resolve not to give way on any account. Therefore it seems to me that this is a mistaken line of policy and one that should never have been undertaken. I do not suppose that the Government will respond favourably to the point of view that I am venturing to put to your Lordships, but that is how I regard the matter and I take a very realistic view of the whole situation.
I want to add one further point, in case there is any misunderstanding. I have no feeling of sympathy or compassion for those who have been responsible for the horrors which have been committed—none whatever. In my view, the bestiality has been horrific. My noble friend Lord Kilbracken said the other day that he thought it might lead to reunification, but I do not know. It sometimes happens that violence makes a contribution to progress, but I am not sure that it will happen on this occasion. But I ask the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, first: was it really necessary to embark upon this undertaking; and, second, having decided to embark upon it, what is to happen at the end of the day? I should like the noble Lord to furnish me with an answer which will clarify my mind, and the minds of other Members of your Lordships' House who are finding it very difficult indeed to understand whether this journey was necessary.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I think we should debate the Amendment, because I regard it as a serious one. I explained my views at great length the other day and I hope that we shall take this Amendment seriously. My dislike of the Northern Ireland (Border Poll) Bill is such that I do not really see very much point in tampering with it at all, but there are certain obvious advantages in what is proposed in my noble friend's Amendment. We particularly pointed out the limitations of this particular set of questions, and we shall come on to that later. But it is arguable that something, if not exactly my noble friend's Amendment then something like it, might reveal some useful information. Where I have doubts—and I would say this to my noble friend—is that I am not sure whether taking the constituencies is not too blunt an instrument. My noble friend will correct me if I am wrong, but I take it that he means the Parliamentary constituencies.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I take it that they are smaller. Could my noble friend tell me the size of the electorate in each of the typical Stormont constituencies?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Well, there it is; we are in a slight difficulty. But I can see an advantage if the areas are reasonably small. Taking the Parliamentary Elections, if my recollection is right each county, so to speak, elects two Members, and these areas are very large indeed. There would be advantage in relation to the point which my noble friend Lord Beswick made; namely, that if there were to be small boundary changes necessary this might provide some useful indication. I happen to be rather against tampering with the Border. I am inclined to think that it is all or nothing at this moment. But this could come later; there could be such adjustments. And I think my noble friend's argument that this might mean more people taking part in the poll is of some interest. But as I said when we debated the whole principle of this Bill, I suspect that the Government are really anxious to get—I was going to say "the damn thing 423 over". They realise it is very embarrassing, but they are committed. We know that they will not achieve anything other than to irritate and upset a large number of people, which may lead to violence; and, of course, we know what the result will be at the end of the day. It may be that my noble friend Lord Kilbracken can even give precise figures.
But having said all that, once again I say that I appreciate the Government are committed on this; and, therefore, attractive though in some ways I find my noble friend's Amendment, I suspect that at this late hour there is not very much more we can do about it. It may well be that when we come to the later Amendments, or the Question, Whether the clause shall stand part?, we shall be able to press the points made particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and others, that the Government should publish their proposals as soon as possible. But I am very conscious that we shall be coming on to the Detention of Terrorists Order, which is a very important Order, and I observe the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, and my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner, who really will be able to give us some help on this, and therefore I do not think I will say any more at this moment.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
May I give my noble Leader the information which I said I was unable to give him without notice? He will gather it from pages 90 and 91 of the Green Paper. There is a proposal for 75 constituencies, each having about 13,000 electors; so if there were 50 constituencies—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Are these the proposals by the Northern Ireland Labour Party or by the Ulster Liberal Party? At any rate, I take my noble friend's point, and I am grateful to him.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I am in the hands of the Committee entirely. As the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has said, we have still to come the debate on the Detention of Terrorists Order, which has not been debated by either House of Parliament and which is a matter of very considerable importance, and I know that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the noble and 424 learned Lord, Lord Diplock, are hoping to speak on that Order. It would therefore seem to me that perhaps I should not engage in a protracted debate with the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who has raised very wide and interesting considerations on this Amendment. In the debate on Tuesday I explained, within the context of the Government's policies as a whole, the reason why we believe it is necessary to hold the Border poll, and to hold it as soon as possible. The Amendment before the Committee in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, is on the much narrower point as to how the votes should be counted and the results announced.
The purpose of the Bill is to hold a poll to enable the people of Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, to make known their wishes as to whether Northern Ireland, within its present boundaries, should remain part of the United Kingdom or should be joined with the Republic. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government, as I explained on Tuesday, that it would be undesirable to declare the results by individual constituencies or any other areas, and the Secretary of State is not planning to do so. The votes cast throughout the Province will be collected and taken to one or more central points for counting, and for the results to be declared. In our judgment, a declaration of the count by particular areas, whether Stormont constituencies or other areas, would very probably be taken by many people—even though I appreciate that it is not the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, that it should be taken in this way—as an indication that there was a possibility of redrawing the Border; and this, as he said, correctly, would be unacceptable to a large number of people in both communities in Northern Ireland, and would serve only to keep the Border issue alive.
Moreover, most responsible opinion—including, I believe, the Government of the Republic of Ireland—is against any redrawing of the Border, which would serve only to perpetuate a divide which they want to see bridged. I appreciate that the noble Lord. Lord Kilbracken, is not arguing along these lines himself. We believe that it would have that effect: he believes that it would not.
§ LORD BESWICK
The noble Lord is emphasising the unwisdom of declaring results. Is there any reason why the Government should deprive themselves of the information as to what the disposition of the different views is? Is it necessary to declare? Would it not be reasonable to have the information for the Government, at any rate?
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
As I mentioned on Tuesday, it is so difficult to understand, in the calm of this House, the intensity of feeling in Ulster on this issue. This is an article of faith to the majority community, that there would be a vote over Northern Ireland as a whole in which the people of Northern Ireland as a whole could vote on the Border, and nothing else. That pledge was given by the Prime Minister and was accepted by Parliament in March as part of the package of direct rule. It has been repeated on a whole number of occasions by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and if he went back on that now, which he does not intend to do, the chances of him getting the confidence of the Protestant majority at a time when we depend on getting enough confidence to reach a settlement would be greatly negated. It is for that reason that we do not think it would be right to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
I am grateful to the Minister for his reply, which I listened to with interest. I hardly expected that he would accept my suggestion. It may indeed be helpful to him in getting the confidence of the majority to keep the voting conditions as they are. I myself should have thought that it would help to gain the confidence of the minority, which is not without importance, if he changed the question along the lines I have suggested. But having been given this opportunity to ventilate this matter and having heard what noble Lords have said, I have no intention to press the Amendment to a Division, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.10 p.m.
LORD KILBRACKEN moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 1, line 14, leave out ("questions") and insert ("question")
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are paving Amendments for Amendment No. 4. I hope that these three Amendments may be considered together. The effect of these Amendments would be to substitute a new, much longer Schedule for the existing Schedule which gives the form of the ballot paper on which the men and women of the Six Counties are going to vote at this poll, whenever it takes place. I know that we have an important debate to come and I do not want to keep distinguished noble Lords waiting, but I feel that this is an extremely important matter. I have already said at Second Reading that I regard this poll as being disastrous, largely because it is going to result in the complete polarisation of the people of Northern Ireland; it is going to drive the nationalists on the one hand, the loyalists on the other hand and those at present in the middle to the two extremes, because they are being presented with this completely stark, unqualified two-part question: Are you going to stay as part of the United Kingdom or are you going to join the Republic of Ireland? There are various ways in which the question could be modified so that it does not present such a stark alternative. It is those stark alternatives which I fear are going to lead to violence and resentment throughout the Six Counties.
§ My noble friend Lord Shinwell has already referred to the inadequacy and unsuitability of the questions as they exist at present. There are many people who will not feel inclined to reply "Yes" to either of them. The wild men on the extreme Protestant side who want a form of U.D.I. in the Six Counties cannot say that they want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and certainly they do not want Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland. All they can do is to hand in a blank ballot paper. In order to modify it to some extent it might be possible to put instead a question of this sort: Do you want Northern Ireland to be united with the Repubilc of Ireland at some future date under conditions to be decided by the whole Irish people? Answer "Yes" or "No". At this point I want to mention that it seems to me to be wrong to have two questions, with the voter having to choose to which of those 427 questions he can answer "Yes". That is not the normal, way in which a referendum or poll is taken. Normally, there is one question put to the voter; and he answers "Yes" or "No". That is the way I should like to see it here.
§ My own Amendment (which is probably worded wrongly) brings out certain points of principle which I hope your Lordships will consider. To begin with, it is far longer; but I do not think that that matters. I hold in my hand my polling card for the referendum which is taking place at this moment in the Republic of Ireland and on which I would be voting to-day if I were not speaking here. The most important question is being put to the people of the Republic is whether in Article 44 of the Constitution, Sections 2 and 3 should be deleted. In that case the question has to be written in two languages, English on the left and Irish on the right; and it takes up the whole of one page. It starts by telling you what Article 44 of the Constitution, Sections 2 and 3, says at present and how Article 44 will read if those sections are deleted. It then says that if you approve of the proposal, et cetera, mark "X" opposite the word "Yes" which is printed on the paper. The question occupies two complete pages of the yellow polling card.
My question is not as long as that, but in it I am trying to make it possible for people to see this issue in terms other than black and white; that there are various alternatives; that we are trying to find out which is the best one; and that the solution lies somewhere in the middle. I begin by a statement which I am sure the Minister cannot object to:
The Government has pledged that no change shall be made in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland"—
and these were the words used by the then Mr. Attlee in the original undertaking given to the North—
unless this has been shown to be the desire of the majority of its citizens.
Then I state:
One way in which its Constitutional status could be changed
Of course, there are many others
is through political union with the Republic of Ireland.
§ I emphasise that governing such a union there will be conditions that we do not know about at present, and that these will be decided by the "whole Irish people".
Your Lordships will note that I have inserted the hypothesis,
if the people of the Republic of Ireland agreed
because I feel that whatever the Republic of Ireland may say in Article 2 of the Constitution claiming jurisdiction over the whole island of Ireland, it is still a little presumptuous to have a poll in the North in which one of the alternatives is political union with the Republic of Ireland. There has been no discussion, so far as is known, with the Republic of Ireland as to what they may think about this proposal. I should not like to presume that much; and so I put in the hypothesis that the conditions would be decided by the whole Irish people so long as the people of the Republic of Ireland agreed that such a course be taken.
§ Then in paragraph 4 of my Amendment I put forward some of the alternative ways in which this political union might take place. There may be many others. But I say that it is the whole Irish people who would decide on these details once it had been established that the majority of the people wanted such a union. The whole Irish people would decide whether the new State should be part of the United Kingdom. I do not know whether there is any reason why a 32-county Republic should not be part of the United Kingdom. I do not think it is very likely; but I do not know of any constitutional reason why it should not be if the majority of the people desire it.
§ They would decide whether the new State would be inside or outside the Commonwealth. That is a very much more serious suggestion. Of course, the Six Counties are already part of the United Kingdom, even more than being in the Commonwealth; but this is the kind of concession that might be given if it were going to lead to the possibility of reunification. In a month's time the Republic of Ireland is going to be in the E.E.C. The Republic of Ireland has always enjoyed enormous economic preferences in this country as though she were a member of the Commonwealth.429
§ When bargaining is going on, each side must give a little, to try to find the middle course. I am not a member of any political Party other than the Labour Party in this country, but I should have thought that if reunification were on the cards, one of the easiest things to agree would be that this State might be inside the Commonwealth, if that is what the majority of the people wanted.
§ Then I go on to point out that it does not necessarily mean a sudden transfer to a single State capital in Dublin with complete and absolute powers, but that there are all kinds of halfway houses that might be inhabited. I point out that the new State might have a single seat of government which might be in Dublin or in Belfast. It might have regional governments in both existing capitals, with a National Government in one of them, or elsewhere. This is a federal solution of the kind which I have often thought might be the most promising; regional government in Belfast and Dublin, with a Federal Government somewhere on the Border, on the lines of Canberra in Australia or the District of Columbia in the United States of America.
Then there would be:
such other legal and constitutional changes as might be found desirable.
I have already drawn attention in my Second Reading speech to the kind of things in the Irish Republic constitutional law which the North might find disturbing and things in the North which the Republic might find disturbing. Finally, having shown that there are different possibilities, I am able to put the matter simply, as a question:
Do you approve of seeking such an eventual union?
Union would not be immediate, but would occur at some time whenever it became possible.
Put an X in the box marked, 'Yes' or 'No' as appropriate.
Nothing in the world would surprise me more than if my Amendment were accepted. But I think that points of principle have been raised which have been worth debating in this Committee and I beg to move the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I cannot agree with the 430 noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken—I shall speak only for about three minutes. The Amendment is not compatible with the times in which we live. I agree with the noble Lord's sentiments with regard to the future advantages of having two regional governments which may eventually come together, and all that. What could be approved—of course this would be entirely up to Mr. Lynch—supposing we had a plebiscite in Northern Ireland and it was found that a large majority of the people wished to stay in the United Kingdom, would be a plebiscite in the South of Ireland, the question being, "Do you want to have the North of Ireland in the Republic of Ireland against the wishes of the North of Ireland?" I think that my noble friend Lord Dunleath suggested something like that the other day. Such a plebiscite would be possible: it is up to Mr. Lynch. But in the times in which we are living I do not think that Lord Kilbracken's Amendment is practicable.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not think that I should go over too much of the same ground in replying to this Amendment. I appreciate the careful thought which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has given to drafting this alternative schedule. I had an opportunity to talk with the noble Lord at length earlier in the week, and I think that I now understand better what is in his mind; and perhaps he understands better what is in the mind of the Government. I cannot say that we reached agreement because the noble Lord's outlook is necessarily different from our own. All I can say is that I can well understand, from his position, living in the Republic of Ireland and with his links with the nationalist community, that he is aware of that strain of thought in Irish politics which is a very strong one and has existed for many centuries. We are aware of it, too. When we debate the next item of business, the Detention of Terrorists (Northern Ireland) Order we shall be discussing the major source of grievance on the minority side and how we felt that we had to get over that hurdle.
As I explained on Tuesday, in the speech I made in opening the debate then, this is a matter which concerns the confidence of the majority community. 431 In Stormont Castle, where the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been for the last eight months, he or his Ministerial colleagues meet members of the majority and minority communities, actively engaged in pursuing some political objective or other, every day. In that time we have come to form a judgment. My right honourable friend has said repeatedly in the House of Commons that he does not claim that his judgment is any better than that of anybody else. But he has to make up his mind. He has been given the responsibility of trying to help to resolve this appalling conflict, and he has concluded that two of the essential prerequisites are, on the minority side to take account of internment, and on the majority side to have this plebiscite on the Border in the simple clear-cut way in which it has been presented to Parliament. The House of Commons accepted that argument and I hope that your Lordships' Committee also will accept it.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
I am grateful to the Minister for his reply and, following his words, I should like to express my appreciation not only for everything that he and Mr. Whitelaw have done, always, I know, with great sincerity, but also for the time the Minister was able to give me in the discussion that we had earlier and the correspondence we had. There was one little surprise to which I would allude and which was perhaps unexpected. I think we understand one another: we are trying to find solutions in different ways. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, is on the Government side of the House and I am on this side; he is a Catholic and I am a Protestant—or at least mine has been a Protestant family since the time of Cromwell. I do not intend to press the Amendment, and with those remarks I beg leave to withdraw it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Remaining clauses and Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment: Report received.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution):432
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I do not propose to prolong the proceedings, but I think it ought once again to be on record that many of us do not like this Bill and we look forward to the package. Perhaps I might say to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who has the very difficult task of trying to balance things out and may not succeed in pleasing everybody—and sometimes may not please anybody—that the rest of the package proposals will also be of the very greatest importance to the minority and, one hopes, acceptable to the majority as well. We shall undoubtedly need to debate Northern Ireland again at no very distant date. Passing this Bill so quickly through these stages is not due to any lack of appreciation of the importance of the subject on the part of your Lordships' House. I think that we ought to regard this in the sense of a continuing dialogue.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I do not want to intervene for more than a moment, and I do so with some reluctance. I have already expressed my deep-felt opposition to the Bill. I feel that it is highly divisive and, above all, is liable to cause increased violence in the North. For that reason, I very much regret that I cannot accept that the Third Reading should go through "on the nod", and I am going to oppose it.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. I can assure him that there will be many further opportunities of debating Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State has made clear that this is a continuing flow of policy. There will be, as early as possible in the New Year, a White Paper, and the Temporary Provisions Act will run out at Easter. Northern Ireland is bound to occupy a good deal of time in our calendar next year.
I do not claim that the Bill before us will by itself solve the problems of Northern Ireland, but I do claim that it can contribute towards a solution by offering reassurance, and it should help 433 to clarify minds. Some people will welcome it as an opportunity to reaffirm their wish that Ulster should remain part of the United Kingdom; others may want to indicate that it should become part of the Republic of Ireland. But either way, democratic expression of this kind is deserving of respect and attention. Moreover, the Bill honours a specific undertaking by the British Government. It is therefore important in itself, and as part of the process of reconciliation, which means working by persuasion and assurance rather than by continued confrontation.
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed.