HL Deb 17 July 1972 vol 333 cc609-15

7.32 p.m.

LORD WINDLESHAM rose to move, That the Draft Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, laid before the House on June 30, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the third Order standing in my name on the Order Paper. This Order continues the financial procedure for expenditure by Northern Ireland Departments in 1972–73. It is laid before Parliament in draft and it is the intention that the Order, if approved by both Houses of Parliament, it should come into operation as soon as it has been made by Her Majesty in Council. This Order, in draft, was debated at some length in another place last week, and it would I think be in accordance with your Lordships' usual practice regarding the handling of financial business if I explained it fairly briefly.

The sequence of events concerning financial arrangements in Northern Ireland is that in February of this year Estimates were drawn up and authorised to be printed. These amounted to some £417, 943, 300. Later, in February, the House of Commons at Stormont authorised by Resolution a Vote on Account covering roughly one-third of this amount to enable payments to be made in the first four months of the year. This was followed by a Consolidated Fund Act passed on March 23, 1972. Detailed estimates were then published in the normal way.

Prorogation of the Northern Ireland Parliament then occurred and altered the annual procedure as regards appropriation. The earlier stages up to and including the Consolidated Fund Act had been completed in the normal way, but the procedure as regards appropriation had not. Although the Consolidated Fund Act therefore has authorised the issue of money out of the Consolidated Fund, it did not appropriate monies to particular services. Instead of one appropriation Act passed at Stormont in June of this year, it has been necessary to bring two Orders in Council before Parliament at Westminster concerning the appropriation of monies for services in Northern Ireland. For certain technical reasons following Prorogation, the first Order was laid under the urgent procedure and was approved by your Lordships on June 12. The Appropriation (No. 1) Order, the earlier one, provided for the first four months of the year appropriating a sum of approximately £140 million which had been the subject of the Stormont Vote on account in February.

The Appropriation Order (No. 2), now before your Lordships, covers another £250 million, thus providing for the remainder of the Estimates which have been reduced by £26.3 million for capital borrowings and minor expenditure on ministerial salaries not now required. Autumn and spring supplementaries will be needed this year, as in any normal year, although possibly for greater amounts because of the situation in Northern Ireland. These will in due course be the subject of one or more further Appropriation Orders. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Draft Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, laid before the House on June 30, be approved.—(Lord Windlesham.)

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, has a number of points to raise, and therefore in the interest of time I shall confine my remarks. I am persuaded all the more to confine my remarks because this matter was debated fully in another place. What is slightly unfortunate is that the Minister's replies continued in column 2139 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the other place for Friday, July 14, because it was after four o'clock, and the text is not yet available. I sought, rather late in the day, to get what I believe is technically called the "Over-matter", but I was advised that there was not a copy anywhere in the building. Certainly in saying this I intend no reflection to our Library, because I asked for it only five minutes before the debate. None the less, this is another aspect—perhaps it was just a misfortune ; it is very unusual for another place to sit after four o'clock on a Friday.

I am not quite sure, again, what is the status of this Order. If it is equivalent to a Money Appropriation Order, one clearly would not wish to discuss whether the money should be appropriated or not ; but one does discuss the subjects for which it is appropriated. This document is comparable to some of the other various lengthy documents (I have even forgotten what they are called, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, may be able to help me again here) we dealt with in another place and here, whether Estimates or the various Departmental Accounts. It is usual to go through them, but it is futile for me to attempt to do so on this occasion. I do not know enough about the merits and, on the whole, I think that this type of matter will be more appropriate to the Commons, although occasionally we have a general debate on Northern Ireland and these particular matters might then be raised. But I am all for the noble Lord, Lord Wade, taking advantage of this situation, within reason.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I have no intention of "taking advantage", if that means taking unfair advantage of the situation. The subject is becoming almost esoteric. But it leads me to say that there is a certain air of unreality in this whole debate, because we are all very much conscious of the bloody conflict that is continuing in Northern Ireland. This is brought home to me very much by the report I have just read that the latest three casualties in the Armed Forces are three members of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, which is recruited in the West Riding of Yorkshire and therefore of concern to me. I can understand those who say, "Well, how long is this going on ; and isn't time running out?"

With reference to that I should like to ask a question, which I hope is not going too wide of the Order. What is the relationship between the legislation and the activities of the Advisory Commission? Those who have agreed to serve on the Advisory Commission have, by doing so, indicated their willingness to support Mr. Whitelaw's policy, and I welcome that ; but I am not quite sure whether they are consulted on matters requiring legislation. Of course it is the Westminster Parliament that has authority, and there may not be very much advice required where Orders such as these are already in the pipeline. But there will be new proposals coming forward, and new reforms, and it may be that the Commission's advice will be helpful.

A particular point that this leads me to mention concerns education. Like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I am not quite sure how far we can go in discussing an Order, but education is one of the subjects referred to in this particular Order, and I think that in another place the question was raised as to whether it was desirable that there should continue to be a separation of children according to their religious background ; whether some progress should not be made towards bringing children together in one school, instead of separating them according to religion. I should like to know whether anything can be done in that regard and, if so, whether the Advisory Commission will be asked to consider such a matter. In the future, when new proposals come forward, it will be helpful to the Westminster Parliament to know what advice has been offered by the Advisory Commission. If the noble Lord is able to deal with these points I shall appreciate it.

7.43 p.m.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate because I have spoken on several occasions during Northern Ireland debates and, like many other noble Lords, I have almost come to the point when I ask myself, "What is the use?", because as soon as we have a debate here it seems to be so unreal. Like the noble Lord, Lord Wade, I come from the West Riding of Yorkshire, from where the troops upon whom the present casualties are being inflicted have come. However, I feel I must say something about this Order. My noble friend Lord Shackleton said he was not quite sure whether the £250 million was an Estimate or a grant, or what it was. Whatever it is, my Lords, it is an awful lot of money. It is £250 million which is to be spent in Northern Ireland, in addition to a great deal more, and I feel that I cannot let this occasion pass without saying how dreadful it is that as we in this House and in another place are providing all this money it is being bombed away in millions of pounds almost as soon as we are granting it.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, mentioned the West Riding. I remember coming to London from my West Riding town a few weeks ago, during the rail "go-slow", and speaking to an elderly porter whom I have known for some time. I said, "Is there going to he a train to-day?" He said "Yes, I think so, but I read in the paper this morning that we are giving millions of pounds more to Northern Ireland. All we want is £3 million or £4 million more for an honest day's wage, and we are not doing any bombing." I make these remarks—and I am conscious of the fact that we must not in any way intensify the situation—only to emphasise that in this country at the moment there is a feeling about Northern Ireland, and I wish to make a plea—which in the present situation will probably go unheard—to the people of Northern Ireland that they should realise that we are making these great grants and that it is all fruitless and a waste of time if there is at the same time such terrible destruction in Northern Ireland.


My Lords, the last two speakers have referred to their close connections with Yorkshire and with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, which has served so admirably in Northern Ireland. I will certainly arrange to pass on their comments to the Commanding Officer of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment. I know that he will value what has been said in this House. Whether or not it is reported outside, it will certainly be reported to him, and to the G.O.C., by myself.

What we find ourselves doing almost every day in Northern Ireland, and certainly every week—indeed we had this exact discussion at the Commission last week—is to remember that if, because of the nature of the security situation and because of the crisis atmosphere in which too many people live, we allow ourselves to be deflected from the proper administration of the Province, which includes planning for the future, then we give the extremists one of the things they have been trying to achieve. They have been trying to bring normal administration to a standstill. That is one of their aims. Therefore if we were to say, even to ourselves, "It is all too difficult ; we cannot go on considering the future of the schools, or of planning or of local government ; all this should be put on one side it really would be a defeatist thing to do. Moreover, I think it would be something that Parliament here would not wish us to do. So we have to try to ride both horses at once: maintaining the standards of public administration, while at the same time paying full and proper regard to the immediate and urgent requirements of the day-to-day security situation.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that in my remarks I was not putting forward the defeatist attitude to which he has referred.


My Lords, I quite understand that, but I thought I should explain the dilemma we are in. In a sense it is unreal ; but, on the other hand, not to proceed in this way would be the less desirable of the two alternatives.

The noble Lord, Lord Wade, asked about the draft Education and Libraries Order and whether it had been considered by the Northern Ireland Advisory Commission. The answer is that it has been considered at some length, indeed at two meetings by the Northern Ireland Advisory Commission, and the subject of integrated education was discussed. This is a large and complicated question, going back over many years, and it is one that perhaps we might debate when the draft Order in Council comes before your Lordships.

As to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, I believe that I know what was really in the forefront of her mind. But I should point out that the Estimates of £417 million were prepared in the early part of this year, before Prorogation ; and, as I explained in my introductory speech, £140 million of that, roughly speaking in order to cover the first four months of the year, was appropriated to specific services in the Appropriation No. 1 Order. The remaining £250 million is appropriated in this second Order. There may be a need for a further Order or Orders later in the year. But this one is on the basis of the earlier Estimates.