§ 4.11 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, I should like to begin by endorsing what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said in his tribute to the Secretary of State, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and his colleagues for the manner in which they have handled this extraordinarily difficult situation in Northern Ireland over the past year. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, brought out in his speech the humanity and realism which has inspired 1079 them all in dealing with this situation. I should like also to take this opportunity of echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said about the debt that we owe to the noble Lord, Lord Grey, and his consort for the manner in which they have carried out their duties in Northern Ireland.
I have not previously addressed your Lordships' House on the subject of Northern Ireland, not because it is not a subject that interests me deeply, but mainly because I was very emotionally involved in the problems of Irish nationalism when I was a young man, and I have always been afraid that I might be unable to avoid prejudices and partial affections in speaking of this matter. But this afternoon I think I can avoid those pitfalls, because, as I see it, to-day is not a day for looking back; it is a day for looking forward. I am going to resist the temptation to look over my shoulder at the sad things which happened in the past, although we must recognise that the distressful burden of the past lies heavily on the shoulders of the present and cannot be shrugged off.
My Lords, I turn to the White Paper, and I think it will be no surprise to your Lordships that, speaking from these Benches, I can do no other than to applaud it in general, because it embodies so many of the ideas which have been Liberal policy for many years. It was nearly seven years ago that the Liberal Party Assembly passed a resolution urging proportional representation in Northern Ireland elections; urging the repeal of the Special Powers Act; urging human rights legislation to prevent discrimination in Northern Ireland; and urging co-operation with the Republic. That was well before the troubles in Northern Ireland had attained their present dimension. I should like to speak quite briefly about those four matters.
First, on proportional representation, I was glad to hear the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition raise the question of what had been said the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I am sorry I did not hear it, and in the absence of Hansard it is difficult to keep in touch, but I was informed that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, had recently said that the Government 1080 reserved the right to reconsider this question of proportional representation after the first elections. I must say that that statement shocked me. The situation has led the Government to believe—and I think rightly to believe—that this is a form of election procedure which is essential in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland. We can discuss later why it should not be applied elsewhere. If the Government are satisfied that it is necessary now in Northern Ireland, I cannot believe that they expect circumstances will change in the next few years to enable the procedure to be altered at the following elections. I very much hope that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, when he comes to reply, will be able to give us a little help, and perhaps some encouragement, about that matter. Surely the political history of Northern Ireland since proportional representation was abolished has been an object lesson to us all.
In fact, my Lords, since the Government now accept that proportional representation is desirable in the circumstances of Northern Ireland, I would rather see it extended to the Westminster elections. I believe that if it were extended to the Westminster elections there would then be every justification for meeting the demand that has been made that the number of representatives in Westminster should be increased from 12 to 18, so as to bring the number of voters represented by each Member roughly into line with the position in the rest of the United Kingdom. If it is argued, as it may be, that you cannot have one system of election in one part of the United Kingdom and another elsewhere, I would only remind noble Lords that it was not very long ago that there were certain boroughs in England which had two member constituencies, which was different from the position in the rest of the country. I do not think this proposal would give rise to any real trouble.
Now I should like to say something about human rights. Miss Sheelagh Murnaghan, who was the only Liberal Member elected to Stormont (she was there until she lost her seat when the university franchise was abolished in, I think, 1969), almost emulated the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, because she introduced a Bill for human rights four times in Stormont, and every time it was voted down by the Unionist majority. I am sure 1081 that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, will be talking to us about human rights and I do not want to say more at this moment except that, if it is possible to legislate for human rights in Northern Ireland, why not for the United Kingdom as a whole?
As regards co-operation with the Republic, I believe that the Government are quite right in leaving the position open. The criticism which we have heard, that they should have put forward a more definite proposal at this stage for some Council of Ireland, seems to me to be quite misconceived, because if there is to be co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic—and I am convinced that there must be co-operation—it can be achieved only by the people and Government of Northern Ireland and the people and Government of the Republic getting together: although, of course, the United Kingdom Government must be associated with the discussions, because under this Constitution they will remain responsible for the foreign relations of Northern Ireland, which include relations with the Republic.
So, my Lords, I think I can say without any great reservation that the Liberal Party warmly welcome these proposals. As the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition said, when the Bill comes before us we shall have to examine it carefully, as we examine every Bill; but I do not think I wish at this stage to take up any special points except one or two which I should like to leave with the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack in case he may feel he can help us with a little further explanation when he comes to reply. The first is a small point which I must bring forward now or I shall forget it. It is on page 15 of the White Paper, paragraph 56(b) which deals with the legislative competence of the Assembly in relation to reserved matters. It says that these are:excluded … from the normal legislative competence of the Assembly but in respect of which the Assembly may exceptionally legislate with the agreement of the United Kingdom Government.Should it not be:with the agreement of Parliament"?I wonder whether there has been a slip-up here.
If I go on to paragraph 57 it says about these matters that if the Secretary of 1082 State is of the opinion that any measure deals substantially with a reserved matter, he will cause it to be laid before Parliament together with his recommendations, so that an opportunity will be offered for the will of Parliament to be made known. I would have thought that it was fundamental, in view of the ultimate responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament for Northern Ireland, that any modification in the legislative competence of the Assembly should be approved by Parliament, not merely by the United Kingdom Government.
Now if I may come to a rather more important point, the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition referred to the committees. As he rightly said, this is a new conception to most of us, and it is difficult to see behind the words of the White Paper exactly how it will work. I notice in paragraph 5(c) of the introduction to the White Paper we are told that these are powerful committees. But when I look a little later in the proposals it does not seem that the committees have any power. I am doubtful whether they can have power. The head of the Department, who corresponds more or less to a Minister in this country, has executive responsibility. He is chairman of the committee, and it is provided—very properly—that he consults with the committee and thus may gain an idea of the views of a cross-section of the elected representatives of the Assembly on any proposal he is bringing forward. I like particularly the idea that all Bills will go to the committee before they go to the Assembly. In the last resort if the head of the Department is unable to satisfy the committee—and of course he may modify his views—he is responsible and he may have to resist the views of his committee. I should have thought, unless there is some underlying matter which I do not understand, they are not powerful committees, though they are extremely valuable and I hope they will be influential.
May I now turn to the appointment of the Executive, something which has also been dealt with by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor answers the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, I feel he will probably answer the only point I have in mind. In the early stages, after the Assembly has been elected and the Secretary of State 1083 has consulted with it on how the Executive shall be appointed, they come to an arrangement—that is how it is described—under which this will be done, and then the Secretary of State comes to Parliament to recommend that the executive power should be transferred. At a later stage—it would appear as a pure formality—the Secretary of State appoints the heads of the Departments. If the arrangement referred to is one that involves, for example, something like the Swiss system, where the heads of Departments are elected by the Members of the Assembly, then the Secretary of State's duty is purely formal, to appoint the people who have been chosen in this way. But if any other basis was adopted one imagines that the Secretary of State would have some discretion, some choice, in whom he appointed as the heads of Departments. When the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor sums up I wonder whether he would give us his thoughts about that.
Another point touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, concerned the expression of views in the Assembly by duly elected representatives—to take a simple example, the expression of the views of those who want an early unification of Ireland. In paragraph 118 a distinction is made—very rightly—between those who are prepared to discuss their requirements, who seek to advance their views by peaceful democratic means, and those small but dangerous minorities who seek to impose their views by violence and coercion. That distinction is perfectly clear and plain. But, in regard to the latter it goes on:— and which cannot, therefore, be allowed to participate in working institutions they wish to destroy.Surely there are people who may think that this constitution is wrong and— "destroy" may be the wrong word to use—they seek to alter it by discussion and argument. I hope that there is no question that people expressing those views—it may be the Sinn Fein Party among them—should be allowed to seek the suffrages of the people and, if they are elected, to express those views in the Assembly.
I have a small but important point to raise regarding the paragraph referring to the Civil Service in Northern Ireland. I am sure that we would agree that the 1084 rights and position of civil servants in Northern Ireland should be protected. But I hope that the protection of the rights of civil servants in Northern Ireland will not be used as an excuse or reason for slowing down the injection into the Civil Service of a greater number of members of the minority community. It is essential that as early as possible the Civil Service, like other public bodies in Ireland, should be representative of the different communities. I was interested to learn—because I did not know it before—that the Civil Service of Northern Ireland is a distinct service under the Crown. Would it be possible that some civil servants in Northern Ireland be seconded to the Civil Service in the United Kingdom in order to make room in Northern Ireland for a more rapid spread in the Civil Service there of members of the minority communities?
As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, rightly said, all we in Westminster can do is to provide a framework and hope and pray that the people of Northern Ireland will be prepared to fill in that framework and to participate in the Constitution laid down which has been left flexible so as to meet as many requirements as may arise. The one essential about which I am sure we all agree—and I look forward to hearing the maiden speech of Lord Moyola—is reconciliation. After what has happened nobody can deny that that will be extremely difficult.
I know that the Churches, who exercise a great deal of influence in Northern Ireland, have come out strongly against violence; but have they come out strongly enough in favour of positive reconciliation? I am not speaking of the Churches alone. Are the leaders of the community prepared by personal example to go in for reconciliation; to meet people of the other communities in social and similar functions, and show that they want to make this small country of Northern Ireland one country and not two countries? The importance of education and the elimination of special schools is brought out in an earlier section in the White Paper, but I must say I was sorry it was not put a little more strongly. It seemed to me that it suggested that, because the different communities were represented on education boards, well, there it was: that was making some progress. Admittedly, this is a long-term 1085 affair; it takes a long time before the young generation, educated in common schools, will grow up. But the longer we put it off, the longer it will take before such a generation grows up.
My Lords, I do not know the Irish language, and I have a strong suspicion that there may not be in the Irish language a word for "compromise"; indeed, if there is, I have no doubt it is very difficult to pronounce, like some other words in the Irish language. Probably, it is almost as difficult in Northern Ireland to pronounce the word "compromise". But I believe there might be a better word: it is just "reason". I hope that all the communities in Northern Ireland and in the Republic will try to apply reason to these problems. If they do so, there is a real chance that this new Constitution which we are seeking to make for Northern Ireland may prove a success.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, since I am accustomed to speaking in a rather different setting I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if on this occasion I make mistakes in procedure and address, which I am sure I am bound to do. I, in my turn, will try to do my best to be as uncontroversial as I can on a subject on which there has already been far too much controversy. The first thing I should like to say about the White Paper is that there never was any prospect that it would please everyone, or indeed, for that matter, that any one Party would get from it all the things that it wanted. But I have no doubt whatsover that, given good will, what is in it can be made to work. This does not mean that there are not some things in it which I should like to see different, but certainly, in common with many others, such alterations as I should like to see I should like to make in a sensible and responsible way.
Before I go any further, there are two points of a general nature which I would mention. The first is the conduct of the Army, which, in my view, has been beyond all praise in very difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, words can never be enough. But I would assure the people of Britain through your Lordships' House that there is a vast majority of us in Northern Ireland who appreciate the enormous debt that we owe them and which we know we can never repay. I 1086 would add, contrary to perhaps the general impression, that there are huge numbers of people in Northern Ireland who want to do anything they can to help them and whose only aim is to try to make their task easier. The second point I should like to make of a general nature is that on Sunday we read of an opinion poll which was taken here, the gist of which was whether or not soldiers should stay in Northern Ireland or should go. It was not unexpected to some of us that there should be, as there was, albeit a small one, a majority who said they ought to go. I understand this feeling only too well. People of this country are faced with what must be a seemingly insoluble situation and one where, whatever is done, there are always a number of factions in Northern Ireland who are going to say it is wrong.
On behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, I would on this matter ask that there be a little understanding. I do not want to overstate the case or to labour it, but the plain fact of the matter is that in many parts of Northern Ireland there are many people who are genuinely scared. Most of them probably would not admit it; they probably would not admit it even to themselves. But the fact remains that fear is there, and where there is fear people do unreasoning and often appalling things. Fear can have the effect that it makes people obstinate; it makes them dig their toes in about matters on which they normally would not do that; it makes their attitudes harden lest any weakening of their existing position should set them on a slide to worse things. There is fear there, and it is well to realise that in the threat of it decent people do all sorts of things which they would not normally do, and some allowance needs to be made.
Now to the White Paper. I welcome very much the declaration that Northern Ireland will stay part of the United Kingdom for as long as the majority wants it. I should certainly like to be clear just how this particular part is to be ensured. We all know that Acts of Parliament can always be altered. Can any way be found which can give this declaration a total guarantee? Then, I should like to ask: How is it proposed to find out what is the will of the majority? There has been over the years far too much talk in Northern Ireland 1087 about the Border. In fact, all that talk has led to political stagnation; it has led to the fact that many important issues—for lack of a better word, bread and butter issues—have been largely forgotten. This has been because the main subject of discussion has been whether one is for or against partition. We do not want this to continue to be the overriding subject of Northern Irish politics for yet more years to come. Let the position, as stated in the White Paper, be accepted and established for a long period, and thereby let it be taken out of Northern Ireland politics. That means, to me at any rate: do not let us revive this discussion by too many and too frequent referenda. I should have thought that about 15 years would be a suitable interval between them and would allow a suitable time to elapse in which to find out whether there had been any change of heart. Certainly I am quite convinced that a rather long interval between referenda would have the advantage that those who cry, "Away with the border!" would know that for 15 years in any event they were going to be part of the United Kingdom; and it seems to me that, knowing that, they would have some incentive to make the new institutions work for the benefit of all.
Then I would turn to paragraph 39 of the White Paper. I myself have never had any particularly strong views about proportional representation. But even if I were violently opposed to it—and I am not—I would recognise the impossibility of having quick elections without it. It would take far too long to redraw constituency boundaries to produce 80 constituencies out of the present 52. Elections are needed, and are very badly and very urgently needed, so that we can find out in Northern Ireland who in fact really represents the people. They ought to take place as quickly as possible, and for that reason I say gladly that I have no quarrel with the proposal to have proportional representation.
However, I would put in a word of caution here about the 80 Members. This situation of course means smaller constituencies and fewer electors in those constituencies. At present, with our 52 seats, we have an average of about 17,000 electors per seat, which is rather small. Eighty seats is going to make the number 1088 smaller still. While many will argue that of course it will make Members of the Assembly more accessible to their constituents, there is the other side of it, which is important, that the Members of the Assembly of these very small constituencies will find themselves in a position where local pressures can be very quickly applied to them. They will find those pressures even greater than they are already, and goodness knows! they are already (and always have been) extremely great. My own view is that to create smaller constituencies may well be making it yet more difficult to resist giving way to moral cowardice, and I think this is something that should be considered.
I do not intend to go through the White Paper point by point. I want to mention a further three items. First, the composition of the Executive which, as we know, is to be no longer based on any single Party. Many people in Northern Ireland say that this idea of power-sharing community government (call it what you will) cannot work and they argue that those Parties that want to take Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland cannot be interested in the welfare of the country and therefore they will be interested only in its destruction. It may be I am an optimist to think that it can ever be otherwise, but it seems to me that if we can take the Border out of politics for a long period and if the electors—and particularly the electors of the minority Party—know that they have a place and a part to play in government I would hope that there would be returned among the new Members of the Assembly many who will be prepared to play a constructive part in the new institutions. At any rate, it seems to me that it is the clear duty of the electors to return such people because I am quite cerain that if there is a will to make it work, then it will work.
I should now like to mention the question of who controls the police. It seems to me that if there is a community government no one need be scared that the police would be used improperly against any section of the community. Of course I recognise that in the present situation the police must work with the army. The army in Ireland is an enormous force. The police must work with them and therefore control must plainly 1089 rest here. But certainly once normality returns it would surely be reasonable for the police to be the responsibility of the Executive and Assembly in Northern Ireland. Certainly I think it is strange that in normal times there should be any question that the new Northern Ireland Assembly could be treated rather less well than the average county council.
I now turn to Part 5 and the proposition to set up a Council of Ireland. So far as Northern Ireland is concerned, I feel that the Republic of Ireland is really like Everest: it is there, and those of us who do not recognise it are both foolish and unrealistic. We have to realise that we share the same island, and we have to realise that we have many mutual problems. Of course there has been a measure of co-operation in the past between the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government in Dublin. I myself can speak from personal experience, because when I was a former Minister in the Northern Ireland Government I remember going down to Dublin, meeting my opposite number there and being extremely well received, as indeed were many of my colleagues at that time. But for some reason one always felt that this co-operation and these meetings were somewhat hole-and-corner affairs about which it was better that too much should not be said. But there are mutual problems, very many of them, and I think it is worth speculating whether the present I.R.A. threat could have reached the point it has had there been in existence some form of machinery for concerted action against terrorism in the two countries.
Of course the idea of a Council of Ireland (or whatever it may be called) is repugnant to many people in the North, and if that has to be got over some sort of proof of good faith is needed on behalf of the Southern Government. I would say that the best proof of good faith they could give would be actively to try to flush out the I.R.A., who use the South as a base from which to come over the Border and carry out raids on the North. I am quite certain that if efforts were made to prevent terrorist operations from bases in Southern Ireland there would be a far greater willingness in the North to get round the conference table. Further, I think that the prospect of certain action against terrorism might 1090 become a reality for the future—not of course forgetting the many other mutual problems that we have.
I should like to mention one other small point. Paragraph (xxxi) of the Summary and Conclusion of the White Paper, where it outlines the objectives of the proposed Council, refers to the "acceptance" of the present status of Northern Ireland by the South. I should like to see the word "recognition" used. We are, in Northern Ireland, entitled to exist and if the Dublin Government would recognise our right to do so it would still further remove the Border from politics; and I believe it would remove the very real objections to the Council which many people in the North hold. I am quite certain that the Council can be useful only if some recognition is given to the facts of life as they are by both sides. If these facts are recognised, then i am quite certain that there is useful work for the Council to do.
One last thing I would mention concerns paragraph (xv) of the Summary and Conclusion, where it states that the Government have no higher priority than to defeat terrorism and to end violence". I would add that the vast and indeed the overwhelming majority of all sides of the community in Northern Ireland would willingly put up with any inconvenience to further this end. Her Majesty's Government should have no qualms as to this. The community over there is sick, sore and tired of violence: some perhaps do not dare to say so but it is none the less true for all that. Up and down the land, wherever you go, people come up to you and say, "When is it going to end?" With that in mind, and the fact that the White Paper provides a basis for constructive discussion in the future, I believe that there is a gleam of hope. Most of us in Northern Ireland are prepared to accept it and while, as I said earlier, no White Paper of this sort can possibly please all the factions, those who oppose it have a very heavy responsibility to bear.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, it is a privilege to me to follow my noble friend Lord Moyola, who has just made his maiden speech as a Member of this House. I have known him for many years and I admired his conduct when 1091 he was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, at a time when things were by no means easy. I think I must be the only survivor of the membership of the first Parliament of Northern Ireland, which met in 1921 and in which I sat for nine years when I occupied the position of Speaker in that House. It is customary now for some people to belittle the work of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and to suggest that it has been merely carrying out the duties of an enlarged county council. That was not at all the view of His Majesty's Government, as it then was, at the time when the Parliament was inaugurated in 1921 and when King George V and Queen Mary came over to Belfast for the opening, with King George V reading the King's Speech personally.
Those were the days when the Parliament started, and since then, in my view, it has done a great deal for the Province and has passed many Acts to add to the comfort, wellbeing and prosperity of the people. In the case of a local Parliament, such as the Parliament of Northern Ireland, in a small community, things can be done much more quickly and looking over, as I can, the period since the Parliament started, I can see that it has done a very great deal for the improvement of the conditions of the people and for their prosperity and happiness.
Now I should like to turn for a moment to the constitutional proposals in the White Paper. I am sorry to see that Mr. Paisley and some others who think like him are going to oppose the White Paper and do their best to defeat it. That is a very shortsighted policy, and anybody who desires the future prosperity and happiness of Ulster knows that the White Paper contains what should lead to the prosperity and happiness of the people. I look forward to the time when the new Assembly meets as an Assembly that will lead to the advancement of all that is best in the Province of Ulster.
I should like to add my tribute to those which have already been paid to His Excellency the Governor of Northern Ireland, Lord Grey of Naunton, and Lady Grey, who during their term of office have been continuously doing their best for the prosperity and advantage of every- 1092 body in the Province. I am sure that all noble Lords in this House, in whatever part of the House they may sit, will wish this new Assembly of the Northern Ireland Parliament, when it starts to function, all success in the years that lie ahead.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, in his tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, for his weighty speech to-day and for the gallant way in which he carried that tremendous burden while he was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. It must be a source of pride to the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, that his son and heir is to-day the Leader of the Alliance Party, a Party that steps across the sectarian divide and which had, I believe, such a very successful conference on Saturday. Noble Lords like myself who have a number of children do not wish to be held responsible for all that they do, and I do not want to imply that the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, necessarily had abandoned the Unionist Party to which he has devoted so many years, but at any rate I say that it must be a matter of pride to him that his son's Party is going so well. If things go on like this, the noble Lord may even join it. I personally express great happiness at the way the Alliance Party is proving that in Northern Ireland one can overcome these absurd religious troubles. So, good luck to the noble Lord's son and heir!
My Lords, I should like to pay my heartfelt tribute to all those responsible for the White Paper, and most of all, in this context, to our own Lord Windlesham, who always seems so calm that one would think he had just come from Chelsea where I live instead of from Northern Ireland. Certainly he has the temperament for this very difficult job. I pay tribute at the same time to all those responsible for law and order and for trying to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Let us agree, therefore, that there is a great deal to be thankful for in the personnel concerned.
As regards the White Paper, I welcome it cordially so far as it goes. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said that it was quite short. Let us wait until he produces a long Paper and we shall see whether we can master that. At any rate, it offers us 1093 a great many words. I do not know that I disagree with any of them, but there are large gaps which it deliberately leaves and therefore one cannot simply say, "I agree with the White Paper. I will sign on the dotted line", because we do not know what this White Paper will produce a few months or a year or so from now. So far as it goes, well and good, and certainly if there is any kind of vote, though I imagine there will not be, I will follow my Leader, who spoke so well about these matters, into the Lobby in support of the White Paper.
There is one point on which I believe I am a little more optimistic than the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I should like to support him not only generally but on one particular matter where I feel that the Government have not yet made up their minds—or perhaps their minds may have to be changed. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton—and this is a view widely held in my own Party, and I have no doubt outside also—would like an opportunity to be given to the Sinn Fein Party, or under whatever name it passes, to take part in these elections. I can easily understand the difficulties of allowing that. It might seem to encourage the I.R.A. at a moment when, in view of these last horrible happenings, that is the last thing which any of us want. Nevertheless, I am convinced by the same line of reasoning as I think convinced the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. We want these people to be placed in the position where they have to fight the election. I have no doubt they will fare as badly in the North of Ireland as they have in the South of Ireland, and that will be of benefit to all the constitutional Parties. So I hope it will be possible, in spite of the obvious difficulties.
I am a little more optimistic than is the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in regard to the long-term future of Northern Ireland. I think he hopes, as I do, that one day Ireland will be united. Without wishing to stir up any argument about this matter, which is not before us this afternoon, I must say clearly and candidly that I believe that this is far more likely to happen than seemed possible a few years ago. There are certain factors, factors which Er o much deeper than the I.R.A., for all their malevolent doings, much more important factors which work in this direction. There was a time as recently as the last war, and more recently 1094 still, when Britain had a very strong defence interest in maintaining a footing in Northern Ireland. The one thing that is never said these days is that for defence reasons Great Britain must stay there; that particular argument is over. It was far from unimportant during the last war.
On the economic side, Britain certainly has no interest in remaining in Northern Ireland; very much to the contrary; it costs a great deal for very little reward. So from a purely selfish point of view this country would undoubtedly be well advised to be out of Northern Ireland, and would be happier, or should be happier, to see the country united. But there is the moral obligation which transcends that, so I am not for a moment suggesting that that policy should be pursued; but I am saying that compared with the situation as it was some years ago Britain has now no selfish interest in remaining there. She remains there on moral grounds and should stay there so long as the present conflict continues.
And in Northern Ireland itself? Well, with the coming of the E.E.C. the customs barrier will disappear, and, from the point of view of someone who lives in Northern Ireland, one of the strongest reasons for remaining in the United Kingdom disappears with it; because hitherto one of the strongest reasons for wishing to remain in the United Kingdom has been that one remained on the right side of the customs barrier. When there is no longer a customs barrier that argument disappears. So, as time goes on, particularly for that reason and in the wider context of the E.E.C., all these economic arguments will tell in favour of a united Ireland.
Finally, the Ecumenical Movement, in my eyes the most joyful feature on the world scene in the last 15 years, cuts at the root of this poisonous feud which has disfigured Ireland for so long, ever since the days of the religious wars. The Churches now are beginning to give a lead. I have seen a good many churchmen; when I was in Northern Ireland last week I saw leading Catholic and Protestant churchmen. It is no use pretending that a good Protestant wants to be at war with a good Catholic, or vice versa. The people who are at war with each other are the had Catholics and the bad Protestants. So let us at 1095 least be clear about this: that as the Churches grow closer together this historic reason for the antagonism between the communities begins to evaporate. Let us look at these longterm factors and agree that in the lifetime of the younger Members of this House, and perhaps some of us older ones too, this Border is likely to disappear.
However, that is not our topic this afternoon. To-day we are concerned with this White Paper, and I want to applaud it and back it up, and if I say anything which seems to the noble Lord, or the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor who is going to reply, to require him to be more explicit than he wishes to be, I shall understand if he decides to refrain from answering it today. But I want to press one or two points very strongly. I want to deal basically with one question and to say a few words about the Council of Ireland. I want to deal with this one topic of the sharing of power. This is either going to be a genuine sharing of power or it is going to be "phoney". I am sure the Government wish it to be genuine, but in that case I think they must begin to spell out what it is going to mean in practice. I should call it a genuine sharing of power when the Parties representing the minority are included in the Government, or, as it is now to be called, the Executive. Noble Lords know I have been talking along these lines now for several years, but let us forget that; we can all decide how right we have been in the past, though nobody else may have noticed it. At any rate, let us take the situation as we find it. Are the minority going to be genuinely represented? It will not be enough a year from now for some eloquent spokesman to appear before us and say, "Now we have 12 in the Executive, and 3 are Catholics, and we are told that they all go to mass and some of them even go to confession." That will not be sufficient. These Catholics, if that is how we describe them, must be people representing the minority Parties.
If we take the S.D.L.P., just one of the minority Parties, I appreciate that they have tried to be a non-sectarian Party but in practice they have turned out to be largely a Catholic Party; so let us call them one of the two main Catholic 1096 Parties, and take them as an example. Either leaders of that Party are going to be included in the Executive, or the Executive will be a total failure, and we shall be back to square one (to use that clichified phrase) or further back still. We shall have an Assembly which for the second time is difficult to get rid of, and the last state will be worse than the first. Whether or not the noble and learned Lord is going to say something about this matter to-day—and I hope he will—this is really the crux of it. Are the Government facing this fact? I believe they are facing it. Are they going to say now that this is in their minds, that the Catholic Parties will be represented? I appreciate that it makes it easier for Mr. Faulkner to sell this package at this point if it is a bit obscured. I was in Northern Ireland, a few days ago, at the end of last week, and it astonished me how many enlightened Protestants—and there are, if I may say so, patronisingly, very many enlightened Protestants—are still reluctant to face this fact: that the leaders of the S.D.L.P. will actually be sitting down in the Government with those who lead the Unionists. But unless this is so, the whole thing will be a dangerous nonsense. I hope this point will be driven home and accepted by the Government.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for the reassuring answer he gave me as to what would happen if the power was properly shared at the beginning and then afterwards that system broke down. He gave, I thought, an extremely satisfactory answer on that point. I notice that some alleged experts are concentrating on the fact that in the White Paper we are told thatThe constitutional Bill will provide that formal appointment of persons to be the political Heads of Departments in Northern Ireland … will be effected by the Secretary of State.This has been picked up in at least one leading Protestant paper in Northern Ireland. I hope there is no special significance to be attached to the word "formal". The suggestion has been that this might be the kind of role performed by Her Majesty the Queen in this country. I hope the real power will lie with the Secretary of State. If the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, thinks it worth while to answer that point, perhaps he will do so, or it may be answered 1097 later on. Basically, I am satisfied with the answer given by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. The Secretary of State, Mr. Whitelaw—in whom we all have (I certainly have) enormous confidence, and we hope to have that confidence in his successors—will have the very heavy task of making sure that this power is well and truly and fairly shared in Northern Ireland, not just at the beginning but subsequently.
One final word before I pass from power sharing. I do not see this as just a sort of static demand for a sharing of rights, let alone a share of the good things that are going. I see this as the one possible procedure by which mutual confidence will grow. There must be some Members of this House who served in the wartime Administration in this country. I did not have that honour; I was not really old enough to do so. At any rate, I think everyone agrees that in this country great confidence developed within the Coalition, between people who had very little confidence in each other before that Coalition was formed. I should think that after a few years of genuine power-sharing in Northern Ireland these absurd —I am sorry to use that word again—and irrational suspicions will tend to disappear. These suspicions between the communities—I am talking of the best people in the communities; not of the scallywags, not of the extremists, not of the murderous elements—which still exist are irrational. Neither side wants to do the other down, but many of each Party think that that is precisely what is in the mind of the other, and nothing except the habit of working together will overcome those irrational suspicions.
After being in Northern Ireland last week, I moved on to Dublin. I always find a certain difficulty in referring to certain politicians in Southern Ireland, because I am most anxious to remain neutral as between the rival Parties. But I would take the opportunity of paying tribute to Mr. Lynch. He was speaking in the election; he may or may not have made a miscalculation. But he has shown himself a friend of civilisation and a brave and Christian man, and I should not like him to pass from the present scene without somebody saying that those who wish to see peace and understanding within his own territory, and throughout Ireland and between Ireland and this 1098 country, are grateful to him for what he tried to do and wish him well. I also saw Mr. Cosgrave and Mr. Fitzgerald, the brilliant young Foreign Secretary, as well as Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien who is an old friend of mine, whom I had the temerity in this House about ten years ago to describe as the Irish Lord Hailsham. So far as I know, they have both lived up to that similarity ever since. But I met those gentlemen and, without trying to pick and choose between the Irish Parties, one must be glad to think that after such a long dominance of one Party—34 years in office out of 40—the other side is getting a turn. But, even apart from that, this new Government is already being called a Ministry of all the Talents. The noble Lord, Lord Blake, will be able to remind us whether the previous Ministry of all the Talents was a success.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I was afraid that that might be the historical verdict. But this one may turn out very well, and we certainly hope that it will. Furthermore, Mr. Cosgrave may well turn out to be the Lord Attlee which perhaps that earlier Ministry lacked—the solid, wise man who is unobtrusive. So there we have a new Government in Southern Ireland and Mr. Cosgrave is associated, as any man in Ireland is, with a policy of law and order and a strong line with the I.R.A. I think we can therefore draw a great deal of encouragement from the presence of this new team.
To come to the Council of Ireland, I suppose that most people, like myself, wish that something more definite had been said on that subject in the White Paper, but I can well understand the reasons for not doing that. I can well understand the desire of the Government that this Council of Ireland, which they explicitly favour, should represent some agreement between the two parts of Ireland and not something imposed from this country. So there are arguments for the course which the Government have chosen. But I hope that when the Council is set up—I am sure that the Government wish to see it set up; indeed, they say so—it will not just be a talking shop. I hope that it will have real and import- 1099 ant functions and I think it could be particularly useful in the context of the European Community, to which I referred earlier. So I would place very great hopes in this Council of Ireland and, if I understood him aright, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, is prepared to do battle for it. In reply to that question the noble Lord gives a cryptic smile which I must take to be one of assent, and I was very much encouraged by what the noble Lord said on the subject. But there is so much in common between the two parts of Ireland. There are so many social and economic matters which they can tackle together and, above all, in the context of Northern Ireland itself. If people work together, then they learn to trust one another and this terrible irrational mistrust will be gradually dissipated.
I had the great privilege last Thursday afternoon of meeting half a dozen religious leaders from the Protestant Churches of Northern Ireland—Presbyterian, Methodist and Church of Ireland. I also had the privilege of meeting His Eminence Cardinal Conway separately. I asked those religious leaders, "What can people in the South do to increase confidence?" The answer that I derived—if I can put it in a sentence—was, "They can treat us with the respect due to a community of our kind". I am not now talking of the ultimate settlement, which may or may not come—I believe that it will come—which leads to a united Ireland, but in this period it is all important that people in the North should feel that, after all the battering which they have had, they are being accorded the human understanding which they feel has not been accorded to them hitherto. They may or may not be right, and that may or may not be an altogether rational attitude on their part, but it is an important factor in the situation. All I can say is that these points are well understood by now in Dublin, and I believe that when leaders—political, religious and all the other leaders—from North and South get together these psychological difficulties will pass away.
So I remain an unrepentant optimist. It is perhaps easier to be optimistic living in comfort here, and not living the life which so many people—such as the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan—live in Northern Ire- 1100 land; or not living the life of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. Nevertheless, one must take a broad historical view and speak as one feels. I believe that this White Paper gives a better chance than has ever been given to Ireland throughout her history of a real understanding which will start in the North and be followed up by a wider understanding throughout the island. So I once again congratulate those responsible for this White Paper and I wish them well. I have mentioned certain points which I think are all-important. But let us at least regard them as people who have put their hands to the plough and will not turn hack.
§ 5.19 p.m.
THE EARL OF CLANCARTY
My Lords, my family have not raised their voices in your Lordships' Chamber for 104 years, so I must beg your Lordships' indulgence for any rustiness of speech due to this unaccustomed volubility. I came here with a lot of points that I wanted to raise, but unfortunately previous speakers have nipped them all away. I agree with them all. There have been several developments since the publication of this White Paper. One, of course, is this odd alliance of people with conflicting views and we wonder how that will turn out. Here I should like to associate myself with all noble Lords who have paid tribute to the splendid and gallant work done by the Army in the most appalling conditions. These latest crimes which we have read about in the Press seem to me to underline the necessity for hurrying up the legislation that emerged from the Diplock Report. I think it is most important. I also saw in the Press the suggestion that the police force in Northern Ireland must be built up to be very efficient so that it can work on its own and not necessarily with the Army.
Some people have made the criticism that there is not enough emphasis on what is called the Irish dimension. Like a good many other noble Lords, and like the noble Earl, Lord Longford, I should like to see the North and South united eventually, but I think he will agree with me that "eventually" was the word used by the late Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, and I think one must go very slowly and carefully in view of public opinion in the North, and now in the South. I 1101 was interested to see the other day that only 37 per cent. of people in the South voted "Yes" when they were asked whether they wanted a united Ireland now, but I think it will be a long time before a poll like that can be granted. My Lords, the proposals, if they are adopted, show the people of the North of Ireland—Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Unionist—how they can walk out of this present morass and tragedy in comradeship. If they are not adopted, I see nothing in the future but a continuation of chaos, murder, death and darkness in this land.
My Lords, I should also like to pay my tribute to the Secretary of State, his helpers and advisers for the long and hard work that they have put in over the years. It must have been very disappointing at times, but they have culminated in these proposals, which I heartily support. I think that I have spoken long enough and I had better sit down and make way for other noble Lords who have much better brains and experience than I have.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, I am fortunate indeed that it has fallen to my lot to congratulate the noble Earl on the delightful, modest, but very well informed speech to which we have just listened. The noble Earl and his family have Mad a long record of service to Ireland and he speaks with knowledge of the subject with which we are dealing. That is a fine sounding name indeed—the Earl of Clancarty; and if we had felt inclined (which we do not, of course) to take issue with him we would have been daunted by the vision standing behind him of those Irish chieftains the Viscount Dunlo and the Baron Kilconnell. He has told us that we have not heard in this Chamber from the Earl of Clancarty for 104 years. May I say that it will be the wish of every one of us here present that we shall not have to wait 104 more years to hear from the noble Earl again. He has given us great pleasure this afternoon.
My Lords, this debate has been opened with two most excellent speeches, one from my noble friend Lord Windlesham and one of those very responsible and statesmanlike speeches from the Leader of the Opposition to which we have become accustomed. It 1102 is, my Lords, indeed a daunting prospect to find myself speaking after the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and I felt inclined to rush out and look myself up in Debrett to see whether I could find any evidence of one drop of Irish blood in my veins to stimulate my morale a little. May I say to my noble friend Lord Moyola that we listened with admiration to his impressive, restrained and very modest speech this afternoon and we deeply respect and admire his services to Northern Ireland when he was Prime Minister.
I intend to detain your Lordships for only a few minutes, because I wish just to pay an unqualified tribute to the eagerly awaited White Paper. I recall when we discussed the Green Paper that many of us called it the finest document of the kind we had ever read; and this White Paper, with its more specific proposals, in my opinion fully measures up to the exceptional standards of that earlier document. I hope we give it our unqualified approval. It sets out with admirable clarity certain essential bases for any settlement. The tributes I should like to pay, very briefly, are two: first, to the fairmindedness that runs through every proposal and every paragraph of this great constitutional document. Who, my Lords, in considering the baffling problems with any claim to impartiality, or indeed with any but an unreasoning degree of impartiality, cart doubt the integrity of the Government's intentions and aspirations—intentions and aspirations that I am sure are shared by all three political Parties in the United Kingdom and a great bulk of public opinion here.
The other tribute which I should like to pay is to the courage, patience and sensitivity of Mr. Whitelaw and my noble friend Lord Windlesham and their colleagues. I think the qualities they have shown deserve our deep respect, gratitude and congratulations. It was good to see in the White Paper the tribute paid to the Governor, Lord Grey, and to Lady Grey; our pleasure has already been expressed this afternoon.
I have no intention of speaking in detail about the specific proposals. I do not feel qualified to do so. I venture to 1103 mention only four of the proposals which seem to me in particular to warrant our wholehearted support. The first is that Westminster rule could only at the best be a temporary necessity; therefore we welcome devolution of a wide range of responsibilities once again to the Northern Irish people themselves. Secondly, I should like to applaud the proposed Assembly elected by proportional representation which I am sure was dear to the heart of the noble Viscount who addressed us so agreeably this afternoon, and with the new committee system which, of course, is untried. Thirdly, and I suppose the most difficult concept of all, with which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has dealt, the Executive in which political minorities will play a part. It must be a bold person who would feel sure that in current circumstances this experiment will be successful, but I am sure the Government have been wise to launch this scheme. Whether it will work or not will depend on the degree of co-operation and enthusiasm and good will shown by the people of Northern Ireland themselves. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, reminded us of the importance of ensuring that the minority members of the Executive should be in an effective sense true representatives of those minorities, and that I am sure is a very important point indeed.
The last proposal to which I should like to refer is what has been most aptly called the Irish dimension. I do not know who thought of those two words, but I hope he has been promoted if he was promotable. But that there is such a dimension which must be recognised in any settlement is unquestionable.
The Government have given a fair wind to the concept of the Council of Ireland, a body which in the first instance, I assume, will deal with subordinate matters of great interest to both countries, and on which there will often be, in fact, more common ground than would be readily acknowledged. That concept must surely be heartily approved. We were all, I think, delighted to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, said about the Council, and the sober hopes that he expressed that it should, with any luck, prove to be practicable and a success. I am sure the Government were wise not 1104 to attempt at this stage to set up such a body straight away, but, as they are proposing, to call a conference of representatives from Northern Ireland, Eire and the Westminster Government. That body must clearly develop bit by bit, growing as mutual trust (as we hope) will itself grow. My Lords, I would venture to suggest that, largely owing, I think, to the reasonableness and fairness of the Green Paper and now this White Paper, and to the quiet and steady patience and firmness of the Secretary of State and his colleagues, the atmosphere in the South may be more receptive to this idea than it would have been some time ago. I agreed very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, as to the evidence that the pressure for a United Ireland as an immediate development—pressure both from the South and from the North—is less impulsive than it was.
In conclusion, my Lords, let us welcome this fine White Paper in a spirit of quiet optimism and hope. As a layman looking on from outside, it seems to me that, in spite of the agonising strains of the present conflicts and the current murders, there may be developing among moderate opinion a kind of ground swell or undercurrent that may afford sober hopes for the future. It is surely a hopeful sign that this White Paper has not so far been condemned out of hand except in certain utterly extreme quarters. For myself, I particularly like paragraph 105 of the White Paper, and the last paragraph of all, paragraph 115, which seem to me reminders very finely set out. How all this will work out, and whether in fact it will inspire the spirit of cooperation that is necessary, no-one can say. What I believe we can with confidence feel is that these proposals and opportunities which are offered now, outlined in this White Paper, represent a genuine and sincere effort on the part of the Westminster Parliament and the people of the United Kingdom to fulfil our responsibilities, without any regard to what Party we belong to, in a way that will be worthy of our Parliamentary traditions.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ BARONESS BACON
My Lords, the noble Viscount said at the beginning of his speech that he was daunted by the fact that he was following four noble Lords who had Irish ancestry or Irish 1105 connections. Perhaps he can take comfort from the fact that he preceded one who, as far as I know, has no Irish ancestry of any kind. My interest in Northern Ireland stems from the fact that when I was a Minister at the Home Office I had a good deal to do with Northern Ireland in the pre-1969 period, when Lord O'Neill was the Prime Minister; and I was also present at the talks which took place at that time between Mr. Harold Wilson and Lord O'Neill and other members of the Unionist Party. At that time we were trying desperately to get the then Government of Northern Ireland to see that, unless they progressed in a different direction, there would be trouble in Northern Ireland.
Although we are having debates in both Houses of Parliament here in Westminster today, what we say here is not so important as what is being said in Northern Ireland. We shall decide for or against the White Paper, but it will be the people of Northern Ireland who will determine whether or not to make it work—and that is the important thing. During the last few years of bombings and shootings there has all the time been talk of a political settlement, as if we could find some magic formula which would cure all the troubles of this unhappy land. For some time now, I must admit, I have thought that the situation had become so bad that it was almost impossible to produce a political settlement with any chance of getting off the ground at all. The differences have seemed too wide in the last year or so, and the sectarian bitterness too great. Even within the Protestant and Catholic camps there have been wide divergencies of opinion. For example, among those who oppose the Unionist Party there have been those who were striving for justice and civil rights within Northern Ireland and those who wanted to see an end to Ulster altogether. We can also see the differences that have arisen during the last year or two within the Unionist Party. So there have been not only differences within the two Parties, but differences within the various communities.
Now we have this White Paper. There is not complete agreement about it, but, of course, nobody expected that. However, I believe that it is a great achieve- 1106 ment for it to have received the support that it has, and I should like to congratulate Mr. Whitelaw, Lord Windlesham and the other Ministers concerned. Both Protestants and Catholics are talking about this White Paper. They are not fighting about it, and that in itself is an achievement. Like my noble Leader, I support the White Paper. I could, I think, like most people, find some things in it about which I might have doubts, some small point that I should like to change, but, my Lords, I believe that this White Paper has to be taken as a package. If there are amendments or concessions on one side, it will lead to a demand for counter-concessions to balance them, and that will lead to more trouble. I think that the Government must make it clear that this White Paper is not a bargaining document but that "this is it". It has to be taken as it is or it has to be rejected; and if it is rejected, I personally see no hope for the future of Northern Ireland.
In saying this, I do not say, of course, that there are not some things in the White Paper which need explanation and clarification. Some of those have been mentioned this afternoon, particularly by my noble friend Lord Longford. There is the whole matter of policing in Northern Ireland; and, of course, there is the problem of what power sharing means; but, like my noble friend Lord Shackleton, I believe that if this White Paper is approved here to-day the Government should proceed rapidly with legislation in order to get the elections as soon as possible. It is essential that not only the people of Northern Ireland but the whole world should know who are the people's chosen representatives there. Politicians in Northern Ireland are claiming to speak for various groups, but who knows whether they are speaking for them or not? It is a long time since the last Stormont elections. The position has changed. There have been new groupings and even new Parties. It may be that it is not too much to hope that some of the people of Northern Ireland have learned to separate religion and politics. That, I believe, would be the biggest step forward of all. Perhaps the elections might produce some surprising results; there might be more 1107 people of moderate views than we think who will be glad to see an end to the ultra-Protestant and the ultra-Catholic political warfare.
When we talk of minority groups in Northern Ireland I think it is important that we should remember that we are not just talking about Catholics. There are some minority Parties in Northern Ireland which are non-sectarian Parties. There is the new Alliance Party, there is the much older Northern Ireland Labour Party. I should like to quote from the London Evening Standard of March 21, last week, where it says:There are only two parties in the province whose own programmes can be said to accord closely with yesterday's White Paper—Alliance, and the Northern Ireland Labour Party. It is no coincidence that they represent only a minority of the electorate, for they, like the British Government, occupy the most treacherous position of all on Ulster's bloody battlefield: the middle ground.In the Listener dated March 22, again last week, Keith Kyle writing there said:The second difficulty is that of defining the power-sharers. It is journalistically impossible (and would probably be intellectually dishonest) to avoid referring to the two communities in Northern Ireland as Catholic and Protestant. But there are very valid reasons for not wishing to see these distinctions hardened by statutory definition, as if they were the names of separate nationalities or, as in Belgium, language groups. Although the nonsectarian parties, like the Alliance Party and the Northern Ireland Labour Party, are clearly at the present time minority interests, the system ought not, if at all possible, to be further loaded against them. But the need to give a chance to such non-sectarian parties to gain strength in the future does place a limit on the extent to which the role of communities as such can be explicitly safeguarded.I watched Monday's "Panorama" programme. It was a very good programme. But I want to say, as an interpolation in my speech this afternoon, that now that we are probably approaching elections in Northern Ireland, I think there should be fairness all round. I know that this fairness has been exhibited on the part of the Government and certainly so on the part of the Opposition; but I think also that the television companies, when presenting programmes now—now that we are nearing an election—should do their best to be fair. I was very disturbed to see that the Northern Ireland Labour Party was left completely out of that "Panorama" programme which gave such a boost to 1108 other Parties on Monday evening. This is the Party which has fought General Elections for many years and which, in 1970, when contesting seven constituencies got 100,000 votes.
But even in the White Paper—I know it is very difficult not to do this—the majority is regarded as Protestant and the minority Parties as Catholic. To-day the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—and again I know it is very difficult not to do this—talked a little in the same vein. He said that if the Executive were too much one-sided somebody would have to be brought in from the other community. My noble friend Lord Longford (with most of whose speech I agreed completely) again had the idea that the only minorities, politically speaking, were Catholic minorities. I believe that we must get away from regarding the majority political Parties always as Protestant—although I know that that has been so in the past—and the minority as Catholics. Only when Northern Ireland gets away from confusing religious and political interests will there be, I believe, any hope in Northern Ireland at all.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I gladly accent the rebuke of my noble friend. I am sure that what she said was very appropriate; but I was trying to make the point that this proposal with its power sharing would be a non-sense unless the minority Parties, meaning the Catholic Parties, were represented. I feel certain that the others will be represented. I am sure that power sharing will involve the Alliance and the Labour Party. I do not doubt that. I raised the other point because it was much more dubious.
§ BARONESS BACON
My Lords, I was very glad to hear that my noble friend assumes that minority Parties will include these other Parties. I want to make it clear that they will and that we shall have regard not only to one minority Party but to all minority Parties in Northern Ireland, whether based on sectarian grounds or non-sectarian grounds. This is very important indeed.
Some of my noble friends have said that they would like to see the Sinn Fein able to stand as candidates. This is a very difficult problem. Like everyone in this House I abhor the things that Sinn Fein stand for. Nevertheless, I 1109 think it would be a good idea to see what support they have in Northern Ireland. We might get another surprise there.
My Lords, the method of voting for the election is going to be that of proportional representation. In general, unlike the Liberal Party who put it forward to-day as one to be adopted universally, I dislike proportional representation, but I can see that Northern Ireland is an exception. I was a little puzzled by the remark by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, about the smaller constituencies. As I understand it, there are going to be i2 constituencies, although there are 80 Members in the Assembly. These 12 constituencies are going to be defined by the boundaries of the present Westminster Parliamentary constituencies. I should have thought that these should be bigger constituencies. I am wondering what is going to happen on election day. I remember that a few years ago in Leeds we had a complete re-warding for council elections. All the members of the council had to retire at the same time. Voters had to put crosses on the ballot paper against three out of nine or ten names. Some people found this difficult. I hesitate to say what is going to happen where there are 80 Members in 12 constituencies. This works out at about six or seven Members per constituency. If there are about eight Parties standing, I can see the electorate confronted with about 56 candidates and not only having to put crosses against six or seven of them but having to put those 56 names in order of preference for the proportional representation voting. I do not want to make a joke of this; but I ask the Government, if they are going ahead in this way, to give a great deal of thought to some kind of explanation well in advance to the electorate of what will be expected of them.
There are one or two paragraphs in the White Paper on education. They do not say very much. I do not see how they could say very much. It would be very difficult to change the system of education in Northern Ireland—and let us not forget that we have the same system, to a lesser extent here in England. Education is very important. When we have watched television over the last year or two and have seen youngsters taking part in battles with each other, have even 1110 seen them giving interviews to television about what they are going to do to the Protestants and to the Protestant schools; and about what the Protestants are going to do to the Catholics, we realise that there is a great uphill task to be done with education in Northern Ireland. I think that everyone has to move from entrenched positions. Some people have not learned anything since 1969. There are signs that a great many people have moved from their entrenched positions and we are left with the polarisation only at the extremes of the communities. We have all made mistakes in Northern Ireland. I frankly admit that I think the mistake which my Government made was that when we put the troops in at the request of the Catholics for their protection in 1969 we did not at the same time institute direct rule. We left the political situation as it was while involving our troops there on the ground. This is speaking with hindsight; perhaps we could not have seen it then. But I readily admit that we made mistakes as well as everyone else.
Now, my Lords, we have to look to the future. So far as the people of this Island are concerned we all know that what they want is to see the troops out of Northern Ireland as quickly as possible. I believe that one of the ways we can do that is by supporting the proposals in this White Paper. If they succeed I think there is a chance of getting the troops home earlier than if these proposals never get off the ground. As for Northern Ireland, I believe that there the time has come for the people to recognise that the real issues are not religious but economic—unemployment and the social conditions. Those are the things which are important in Northern Ireland. There has to be rebuilding and rehabilitation and, as I said a few moments ago, I believe that so long as politics in Northern Ireland are dominated by religious parties and sectarian influences there will be trouble. And, as I said at the beginning, this is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland to decide, and after the experience of the last few years I very much hope that they will make a wise decision.
§ 5.52 p.m.
My Lords, I welcome the White Paper as a fair, constructive, far-sighted and brilliantly 1111 drafted document. I should like to take the opportunity of expressing a personal note of thanks from an Ulsterman—and I speak, I am sure, for many other Ulstermen—to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to the Secretary of State and to his other colleagues who have done so much for Northern Ireland over the last year; who have undertaken a thankless task and who have been confronted by a problem which at times seemed insoluble. They have done a great job for us and I think that all sensible people in Northern Ireland realise this and appreciate it. The loud-mouthed, posturing small men would try to propagate the fact that direct rule has been resented, that the White Paper has been resented, and that the Secretary of State and his colleagues have been resented. Last Saturday two events took place in Belfast. One was in the Ulster Hall which I understand was filled to capacity when the Alliance Party Conference took place there. The entire membership of that conference, which filled the Ulster Hall, stood to give an ovation when a speaker expressed words of thanks to the Secretary of State and his colleagues for what they had done. The other event was in Donegal Square, outside the City Hall, where the publicists responsible had predicted that there would be a monster rally to demonstrate the resistance to and rejection of the White Paper. In fact, the monster rally attracted fewer people than those who gave a standing ovation to Mr. Whitelaw and his colleagues. Funnily enough, my Lords, it was not even raining.
I welcome the White Paper. Of course it does not give 100 per cent. of what everyone wants. Probably it does not give 100 per cent. of what anyone wants. That simply would not be possible. The wisdom of Solomon could not have produced a document which would have given even a proportion of the people everything that they wanted. But I suggest, and I sincerely hope, that to perhaps 95 per cent. or 97 per cent. of the people has been given more than 50 per cent. of what they want. If these people have the good sense to be flexible, to accept a measure of compromise and to be generous enough to make concessions, I see no reason why the proposals contained in the White Paper should not work. My Lords, I referred to 95 per 1112 cent. or 97 per cent. of the people, but I am afraid there is a very small percentage which would not have accepted this White Paper. I am glad to be able to say that it is a small percentage, but I am sorry it exists at all. It would not have accepted the White Paper whatever had been contained in it because these people are not open to reason; they are not prepared to concede anything. These are the extremists; terrorism and the disruption of society is their business, and irrespective of what was put in the White Paper they would not accept it. It is distressing that these people should exist, and perhaps even more distressing that there are a larger number of people who are intimidated by this minority and are unable to express their opinions freely. But this minority does exist.
What is less depressing is, I think, that over die last three years Her Majesty's Government and the people of Great Britain have become more aware and now realise that this small minority of extremists and terrorists are not open to reason and that no concession will cause them to abandon their evil ways. In fact, concessions are more likely to encourage them to pursue violence to achieve their ends. So the first priority must be the elimination of terrorism and violence. It is interesting to recall, in passing, that just over a century ago Karl Marx said that the way to topple England—which was the way to topple capitalist Europe—was to get into Ireland and get Ireland on the move. I would not like to say that the I.R.A. is Communist-inspired, but I am sure that these people are simply not open to reason or negotiation. I am delighted that the White Paper recognises that the elimination of terrorism is an over-riding priority. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, drew attention to this in his speech. When this is done I think that the White Paper will open the way for political progress which would not be possible in a climate of violence and terrorism.
Having achieved that state, the next thing that is required is that the new Assembly proposed for Stormont should be composed of people of the highest calibre obtainable in Northern Ireland. In a few words, the background to Northern Ireland politics is that when Stormont was established in the early 1920s a number of people like the noble 1113 Lord, Lord Rathcavan, to whom we listened a short time ago, people of integrity, sincere people, gave up their time and energy to serve in Stormont. It was not surprising that some of them (the noble Lord to whom I have referred was not one of them) had a beleaguered mentality. While they themselves in many cases were fighting for their lives and for the life of Britain in the trenches in the First World War, we saw the Irish Republicans trying to stab Britain in the back. They had seen terrorism, perhaps no worse than we have recently experienced; they had seen the Republic being established under turbulent circumstances; they had seen it being established with an almost theocratic system, and a Republic whose Government claimed de jure possession of the North-Eastern Six Counties. So it is perhaps not surprising that these people who were leading in the political field in the 'twenties, and indeed in the 'thirties, should have had this beleaguered mentality.
My Lords, I am an Ulsterman. I come from Northern Ireland. We have always been there. I have a stake in Northern Ireland, and perhaps I may be permitted to state what I consider to be the truth, albeit the brutal truth. It is that we have been to a great extent let down by the next generation of politicians, who did not have the same excuse to take the beleaguered attitude. Of course there are notable exceptions, such as the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, tried to bring Ulster politics into the second half of the twentieth century in the early 'sixties. What did he find? He was confronted by people with closed minds and closed ears, shouting: "British get out. Ireland for the Irish". He was surrounded by people with closed minds and closed ears, shouting, "No surrender; not an inch! Ulster will fight, and Ulster will be right!" We all know the end of this sad story. I wish there had been more people like the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola.
I have been disgusted in my time. When I was a Unionist six or seven years ago (I have not been since) I occasionally went to meetings, and I was disgusted to see one speaker vying with another to see 1114 how extreme and tub-thumping a speech he could make. The man who stood up and made a reasonable, responsible and constructive speech was met with a puzzled silence; the applause at the end was half-hearted; he was not mentioned in the paper the next day. But the man who shouted No surrender. To hell with the Pope!", and all the rest of it, got the headlines and the applause, and he was selected for candidacy the next time there was an election. Equally, I have been disgusted to see the way that these small men have been posturing and manœuvring and trying to jockey themselves into positions of power while Ulster has in the last few years been in a life or death situation.
I suppose it is true to say that there have been many people of stature and integrity who have not wished to get involved in politics in Northern Ireland, possibly for two reasons: first, because, quite frankly, they have not liked the smell of it. In saying that, I am not suggesting any corruption. The Civil Service in Northern Ireland—and I hope my noble friend will agree—is the finest that you can find anywhere in the world. It is a credit to them that they have kept things going in the way they have over the past three or four years. But people of stature and integrity have not wanted to become involved as politicians, because they did not want to associate themselves with the extreme tub-thumping speeches to which they would have had to give at least tacit assent by sitting on the same platform. Secondly, many of these people have worthwhile things to do: they have businesses to run, professional careers to pursue, and they have felt, Well, why should I waste my time doing this when I have better things to do?". I am afraid that I must blame myself, in that I have never been actively involved in politics in Northern Ireland for these two reasons. I am not so presumptuous as to suggest that it would have been any good if I had done so, but I number myself among those who, for the reasons I have given, have not become involved.
I am sorry to use your Lordships' House as a platform to say what I am about to say, but I do not know where else I can say it. Now is the time when I think we have to pull out all the stops in Northern Ireland. People of stature and ability must address themselves to 1115 the fact that they may have to make sacrifices, in the same way as in the war when, while we did not have conscription, many people went to fight while others stayed at home and said: "Oh, I must stay at home and look after the family business. It would prejudice my career. My wife would not like it if I went and fought. I will let someone else do the fighting for me." The same with U.D.I.—some people join, and some do not. So I say now, with the political situation as it is in Northern Ireland, that anybody who has a stake in Northern Ireland and, like me, feels strongly about it, should make himself available if he is invited so to do and if it is felt that there is anything that he can contribute. It is the first eleven that we have to field this time—no; I am wrong; it is the first 80, I should say. We have to get the best people we can, irrespective of whether they have been "Party hacks" for many years. Incidentally, I was interested in the suggestion that several noble Lords made, including the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, about Sinn Fein. I think this is an excellent idea. Let Sinn Fein put themselves forward for election and see how many members they get into Parliament.
One cannot convert an electorate overnight. The electorate have been fed for so many years on the "No surrender; not an inch" philosophy on one side, and the "Ireland for the Irish" philosophy on the other side. But let us hope that we have now passed through more than one night—we have passed through almost four years. Let us hope that the public also will recognise their responsibility. I hope that those who are delegates to any of the political Parties will think carefully in their selection of candidates. Similarly, I hope that every member of the public who has a vote will exercise that vote, and exercise it responsibly. I would even go so far as to say that I would hope that people would look at the calibre of the candidates even more carefully than they look at the Party the candidates represent.
We have a ridiculous situation in Northern Ireland. The Labour Party has never got off the ground properly, and it ought to have done so years ago with the number of working people that we have—and excellent working people they are, if I may say so. The Liberal 1116 Party has never got off the ground. It is too soon to say whether or not the Alliance Party will get off the ground. But I hope that the principle of election that has been established will allow democracy to work properly, and allow Parties other than the old faithfuls to be properly represented. As I say, I hope that people will look carefully at the candidates. Cruel things have been said in the past. It has been said that if you put up an ape in a predominantly Protestant constituency he would be elected to Parliament provided he was a good loyalist Protestant ape. It has been said that if you put up a baboon in a predominantly Roman Catholic constituency, provided he was a good Irish Republican baboon, he would be elected as a Republican. It is cruel but perhaps there is a germ of truth in it. I hope this system of proportional representation will cut through that idea and that we shall see a far more representative Assembly in Stormont.
There are still tremendous opportunities in Northern Ireland; I sense a mood of buoyancy in business. The noble Lord on the Front Bench drew attention to some of the encouraging figures in production and productivity. I sense this feeling of buoyancy. If we could take this chance now we could break through and leave behind us all the dreary millstones and things which have dragged us down in the past. If we do not take the opportunity which has been given to us—and it is a tremendous opportunity—we have no one but ourselves to blame.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, who comes from Ulster. All of us must have been impressed by the depth of feeling which he expressed, and his appeal for sacrifice and dedication in order to seek a solution to this problem. Many of us were also impressed by the picture which he gave of the situation in Belfast to-day, the contrasts between the crowded conference of the Alliance Party and the comparatively small demonstration of the extremists in the open square. One hopes that is a picture of the spirit which is now emerging. Nearly all of us have been happy in the fact that, contrary to some expectations, the publication of this 1117 White Paper has not resulted in violence and in the greater threats of disruption, but that, on the other hand, it has had a quite extraordinary reception. Even those who have criticised it have said their opposition will be by democratic means. This has probably surprised even members of the Government, as it has others of us. It is an indication of the new climate in Ulster which may bring a solution to the problem.
Although I shall have some reservations to express, I welcome both the spirit and the balanced proposals of this White Paper. I hope very much that it is going to lead to the opening of a way by peaceful and democratic means to a solution of the appalling problems Northern Ireland has had, not only in the past four years, but for many years before. For the sake of my own friends in Northern Ireland possibly it is worth my indicating the six items in this White Paper which I specially welcome. They are: first, the acceptance of the transferable vote, proportional representation, for the election of the National Assembly as well as previously for the local elections. Secondly, the decision to repeal the Special Powers Act; thirdly, the Charter of Human Rights which is promised; fourthly, the withdrawal of the Oath which offended so many consciences in Northern Ireland; fifthly, the right of Republicans in Northern Ireland not only to express their views, but even to be in office when they hold those views if they do not resort to violence; and sixthly, the acceptance of the principle by the Government of an all-Ireland Council. May I be forgiven if I say that all six items were in the Bill of Rights which I introduced in this House two years ago. May I be further forgiven if I say that I believe if those things had been applied two years ago we should have been saved from many of the disasters which have occurred in Ulster in these past years.
I want to join with others in this House who have appealed to Her Majesty's Government to arrange that the Election for the National Assembly shall be as soon as possible. In saying that, I hope, as two legislative measures will be necessary, that when the first measure for the Elections is introduced at an early date a definite guarantee will 1118 be given that legislation will be introduced as soon as possible to carry out the other proposals in the White Paper. With reference to the Election, I want to join with my friends in appealing to the Government to allow Sinn Fein to nominate its candidates. I make that appeal because I believe at this moment it is more necessary than anything else that we should turn the mind of Northern Ireland from violence to political means. If Sinn Fein, which is associated with the I.R.A. and its violence, is given the opportunity for political action I believe it will exert an influence strongly in that direction. May I also say, incidentally (and perhaps a little immorally), I am also hoping that Sinn Fein will have this opportunity because I believe they will receive only derisory results.
It is now clear from all the analyses which have been made that proportional representation in the Election will strengthen the non-sectarian elements in Northern Ireland. I remember my noble friend Lord Archibald, when he introduced his Bill for P.R. in Northern Ireland, urging that strongly. This gives an opportunity for a quite extraordinary experiment in Government, the adoption of the committee system. I am particularly interested in this because one of the first advocates of it 50 years ago was Fred Jowet, a Member of the first Labour Government, whose biography I have been privileged to write. It is of some interest that George Bernard Shaw at that time urged the same system. May I say this to the Government. While this system has tremendous possibilities, there are also great difficulties. There has been one precedent in Government where it has actually been applied. That was in Ceylon, and it broke down. I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should look closely at this previous experience of the committee system of Government as it was applied in Ceylon and seek to learn the reasons why it failed, so that failures in this case may be avoided.
After the elections, the National Assembly. I am not sure it is quite fully appreciated that when the National Assembly is elected it will pass through three stages. The first will be when it decides its own rules and procedure. Its second stage, which in my view will be 1119 the most important, will be the consideration and discussion with the Secretary of State in this country of the devolution of power to Northern Ireland. Only after that will the National Assembly have the authority for legislation. The White Paper says that the Government do not consider the Assembly a consultative Assembly, but in fact during that second stage the National Assembly will be very much like a constitutional conference. It will have to consider how in Northern Ireland the devolution which is foreshadowed in the White Paper shall be carried out. During that period, with great controversy within the Assembly between different extremes, there will be a difficult time in finding some consensus of opinion about its future. When we are looking at what is happening in Northern Ireland we should be well aware of that. Its scope will be limited. Westminster will retain issues of the Crown, of foreign policy, of Defence, of taxation, and security.
When we turn to the issue of security, I hope that Her Majesty's Government in those discussions with the National Assembly will pay close attention to the composition and the powers of the police. The sooner security is taken from the Army to a police force, the better; but if it is transferred to the police force, the composition of that force and its location are tremendously important to ensure trust. I mentioned earlier, in connection with security, that the Special Powers Act is to be repealed, but detention without trial is to remain. I can understand the reasons for detention without trial. There may be a public climate where decisions by juries are difficult; there may be intimidation of witnesses. But I would suggest to Her Majesty's Government, as illustrated by the speech we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, that there is now a new climate in Northern Ireland, particularly in the Catholic community, of widespread revulsion against the policies of violence. This has been deepened greatly by that appalling atrocity of last week where girls lured soldiers to their deaths, and when three out of four soldiers were Roman Catholics. We have to begin to appreciate the fact that there is now this new climate of revulsion against violence, not only in the Protestant community, which was 1120 recognised, but deeply and widely in the Catholic community as well. In that situation it should surely be possible to advance towards the position of no detention without trial, no detention without charge and without conviction. I would urge Her Majesty's Government to go further than that. If our purpose is to end violence in Northern Ireland, it would be wise for us to provide for an amnesty for the present detainees, except those against whom charges can be publicly made of murder, of association with murder, of bombing. I believe that if the Government were to take those steps it would be possible to secure a ceasefire in Northern Ireland.
We pass to the third point after the Election and the National Assembly in its consultative capacity: its capacity of dealing with legislation. I believe there is tremendous hope here of common action between working-class elements among the Catholics and the Protestants. One of the most extreme Protestant organisations is the Loyalist Association of Workers. But their programme for dealing with poverty, unemployment, housing, economic planning, is almost identical with the programme of the Catholic working class. My hope is that when the National Assembly approaches the position of legislation there will be a unity between Catholic workers and Protestant workers concentrating on their own problems of poverty, unemployment, wretchedness, housing, the need for development in the deprived areas; and that that combination in the National Assembly of working-class representatives of both sides, even extremes, may bring about a common action which will be of the greatest hope for the future of Northern Ireland.
I pass particularly to the subject to which reference has been made in relation to myself: the Charter of Human Rights. I cannot say how deeply I welcome this. I welcome particularly the fact that it covers religious discrimination. It was 12 years ago that I introduced in another place a Bill to end religious discrimination in Northern Ireland, and the fact that to-day this is accepted by the Government is of course of enormous pleasure to me. The proposals which are made in the White Paper are different from our own Race Relations legislation. Consultation has been 1121 going on between employers, trade unions and the Government, and as a result they have proposed an Agency to which complaints should be made, and not only that, but preventive inquiry. I am interested to find that it goes even further than our own Race Relations Board. Indeed, in this House only a few days ago the recommendations of the Race Relations Board that they should be allowed to take part in preventive inquiry were not given much encouragement. It is proposed that the Agency in Northern Ireland should engage in conciliation and only in the last resort go to the courts. I welcome that and that legislation is to follow.
But I draw attention to the fact that the Agency applies only to discrimination in industry. It applies only to employment and promotion within industry; it does not cover the spheres outside industry. There is to be a Standing Advisory Committee to consider further statutory provisions. May I be bold enough to ask that that Committee should look at the Bill which I introduced in this House and should consider including the provisions within it. On this matter I conclude by saying that absolute prohibition of discrimination in all spheres and not only in industry is absolutely necessary and that real powers of enforcement should be given.
Finally, I should like to make reference to the Council of Ireland. The White Paper says that the Government favour and are prepared to facilitate the formation of such a body, but it does not go much further than that. I recognise that it is reasonable that there should be consideration by the National Assembly and discussions with the Government of the Republic of Ireland. But there is a danger of prolonged postponement in the implementation of this idea. I should have been glad if Her Majesty's Government, in making their proposals in the White Paper about the National Assembly, had made a condition that there should be progress towards the Council of Ireland.
I recognise that the reunion of Ireland can only come by consent, and can only come after a long period of experience. But I believe the time for co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland in an organisation like the Council of All Ireland is now imperative: to obtain 1122 concerted action against violence; to develop trade exchange; to develop economic planning; to develop common schemes of power; to develop common schemes of transport; to deal with pollution; to encourage an approximation in personal liberties, in social welfare provision, in standards of life. This will be a gradual development between North and South which ultimately can bring national harmony and reunion. One cannot to-day lay down the pattern of that reunion. It may be a federal system. Years ago I urged on my friend and my fellow prisoner, President de Valera, the proposal for a federal solution of Ireland, and I think that may still be the best way of advancing. We cannot be rigid, but we can begin now to establish the machinery by which progressive co-operation can take place between North and South leading to the spirit and to the practice of co-operation and ultimately to a united Ireland.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, anyone who, like myself, has no direct experience in the life and the problems of Northern Ireland will take part in this debate only with a deep sense of humility, and that especially so after the two very distinguished speeches that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I do so only, first, because I may be able to voice some opinions on the part of those who have no voice in our House, and also because the problems of Ireland are the problems of all of us and to some extent we all share in the responsibilities. It is for this reason that I am very grateful to have listened to such a speech as that made by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, which has given the right setting for anything that one might endeavour to say oneself.
Nevertheless it is no mere formality for me to express from these Benches, as has been expressed so often in this debate, the admiration and the gratitude which we feel towards those who are responsible for the affairs of Northern Ireland at the present time. For so long the burden of Irish affairs has lain heavily on British politics, and while we have all admired and enjoyed the many great qualities of the Irish people, so also have we all, to a greater or lesser degree, shared in the 1123 suffering which in so extraordinary a way they are capable of inflicting on themselves and on other people. In the intensification of this bitterness and misery that we have witnessed in recent years there must have been many temptations to lose nerve and to cast away patience. It is greatly to the credit of those who exercise authority that they have not succumbed to the pressures of panic and despair, but have gone on steadily and courageously to preserve law and order and to find a peaceful solution. We ought at this moment again to express our gratitude to Mr. Whitelaw and his companions—especially in this House to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—for the calm yet firm leadership that they have shown. And also to the British Army, which has been carrying out its role of keeping the peace in conditions of almost irresistible provocation with such devotion.
The proposals in the White Paper represent a considerable achievement. They are supported broadly by Mr. Faulkner, who calls it a constructive document. The Republic of Eire has welcomed it. The Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Alliance Party endorse it. The S.D.L.P. endorse it with qualifications. Such a reaction is in itself a great step forward. We must all hope that those who have voiced their opposition will appreciate that within the area of practicability the proposals go a very long way. They give to Northern Ireland a greater degree of self-government than to any other part of the United Kingdom. They provide for the representation of minorities; they give protection from political and religious discrimination through the Charter of Human Rights; and the Diplock proposals provide a just means for dealing with terrorist activities. They keep the "Irish dimension" open through its encouragement of the formation of a Council of Ireland. Such proposals, even if they do not give to everyone all that they want, must commend themselves to sanity and to reason and we must hope and pray that those who have expressed their opposition will come to see that these proposals are a viable way forward and give the support which they will need for their full success.
To many of us one of the most grievous features of this long-drawn-out tragedy 1124 has been that the name which we honour above all names has been dragged down into the sordid cockpit of hatred and violence. The fact that one side is labelled Catholic and the other Protestant is a daily reminder to us of the wound. Christians know, to their shame, that religious differences have made their contribution to the problem, though they are by no means the sole reason, as the names of the two sides might suggest. But there is a special responsibility laid upon the leaders of the Churches and their people that they should redouble their efforts to allay the bitterness. Their role so far has been patient and unspectacular but it is being fulfilled. In May, 1970, a joint group on the Role of the Churches in Ireland was set up by the Roman Catholic hierarchy and the Irish Council of Churches. The joint chairmen have stated that:It is astonishing that we have met at all—in view of the disintegration going on all around us—and we have continued to do so.That group provides a bridge both between Churches and across the Border and it is making a contribution to the re-creation of trust.
In this country the British Council of Churches has set up an advisory group drawn from member Churches and the Roman Catholic Church. It retains regular contact with the Irish Council of Churches. It informs its members of what is going on; it advises about local initiatives; and gives its support wherever possible to Christians in Ireland as they have to live with the crisis. The Community and Race Relations Unit of the British Council of Churches has been able, through private generosity, to set up a fund to assist projects, mainly in Belfast.
It is, however, at the local level that the long-term work of establishing trust and creating changed attitudes, which are essential to the success of the proposals that are before us to-day, will be decisive. The House may be interested to know that the growth of ecumenical understanding in Ulster has led to the setting up of a number of projects. Murlough House brings together people in industry from all over Ireland for consultation. The Servite Priory at Benburb sponsors lectures and conferences for Christians and those of other faiths. The House at Corryneela is used by Christians 1125 of all denominations. And the Ardoyne Housing Association, set up jointly by Roman Catholics and Protestants following the destruction of 200 houses or more after the rioting in August, 1971, has the local Roman Catholic priest as its chairman and a Methodist as his deputy. One must hope that sooner rather than later this growing confidence will lead to a solution of the educational problem which, as the White Paper rightly points out, is basic to a long-term solution of the divisions and the suspicions which exist to-day.
But these efforts, significant for what they are and what they represent, touch only the fringe of a vast problem. And it is essential that if the White Paper proposals are to succeed they must be under-girded by massive efforts on the part of Government to remove so far as possible the underlying causes of the trouble. One of the grounds on which, I think legitimately, criticism can be levelled against the White Paper, is the brevity with which it deals with the economic and social problems. They occupy only one page, and yet poverty, bad housing and lack of work provide the most fertile ground in which violence, fear and hatred can grow and blossom. May it not be that one of the best ways to combat the present troubles would be for the Government to undertake a massive programme of public works to clear the slums, to rehabilitate the derelict areas and to conserve the countryside? If such a programme is feasible, it would need to be undertaken with vigour and imagination. It would remove bad housing, provide employment, and would get both sides working together for a common aim which could be seen to be for the common good.
On a larger scale President Roosevelt embarked on such a scheme at a time of great social and economic strain in the U.S.A. and restored employment and self-respect to many hundreds of thousands. In Ulster it would not be over-expensive, in view of the relief it would bring to the strain on public assistance and the long-term saving which the restoration of peace would bring. I understand that such a programme would be widely supported in Northern Ireland by Unionists, Catholics, the trade unions and by influential citizens. I hope that Her Majesty's Gov 1126 ernment, who doubtless have such ideas in mind, will pursue them with such determination and clarity as to catch and set alight the imagination of ordinary citizens.
My Lords, there is always a danger for all of us in any situation, when we are in a fix, to think that we can put things right by changing the framework or the setting in which we live, if only things were different. Sometimes those structures must be changed and in this instance Her Majesty's Government have no alternative but to provide a new constitutional structure for the Government of Northern Ireland. But let us be on our guard against thinking that this alone will bring peace. The proposals provide a hopeful setting for peace. But it will depend upon men of good will who want it to succeed (even though it may not give them all that they desire) to make it succeed. Experience teaches us, unfortunately, that there will be those who have no intention of co-operating and who will, with the bomb and the gun, try to wreck it. The Security Forces must continue to deal with them. But if those who love Ireland and long for peace will take these proposals as the framework within which they can build a happy, contented and prosperous country, then at long last we shall see the end of this tragic chapter of history.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, before the right reverend Prelate sits down, may I say that he interested me when he mentioned in passing that the Churches were giving thought to educational problems. Would he explain if that means that the Churches are giving thought for instance to undenominational schools?
§ THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, I think that the noble Lord must have misheard me. I did not say that the Churches were giving consideration to this problem. I have no knowledge on that. I was saying that I hoped the existing cooperation which is there and which is growing will tackle eventually the educational problem which seems to be basic to so many of the problems.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, as a member of the Ulster Unionist Party and a member of the Standing Committee of the Ulster Unionist Party, and to a great extent an Ulsterman, I give support to this White Paper, as I also did to the Paper for discussion. They are both admirably written documents, and I heartily congratulate everyone who was responsible for their publication.
There are three or four reasons why I support this White Paper. First of all, anyone who supports constitutional government must support this Paper. That need not prevent us from criticising it. There is another reason. In my speeches on this subject I am very pleased to see that several of the things I have been gunning for for some considerable time have been included in this White Paper; such as proportional representation, and an organisation of Parliamentary committees through which the minority Parties can have representatives and play a part in formulating policy. I am afraid I am going to criticise one or two things.
First of all, I should like to sound a note of warning on proportional representation. I think it was the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, who said that by the single transferable vote the poor elector might be faced with 50 or 60 names. Of course, that is true. Yet if we were to get a great mushrooming of small Parties, he might be faced with 100 names or even over 100. It will be very important for the Government to explain this system to the electors. Several noble Lords, and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, have asked why cannot Sinn Fein stand for election. Provided that Sinn Fein could somehow guarantee the I.R.A.'s not going to the polling booth with the bomb and gun, no doubt they could put up candidates. But how are you to ensure that? You cannot have intimidation at the polling booths.
It may appear to us Unionists at first that we have lost a lot and that the Unionist Party has been made to suffer certain humiliations, but a great number of those humiliations are really only verbal. We are not going to have a Governor. The Privy Council, I understand, is going to be abolished, though not the existing Privy Counsellors. The 1128 title of Prime Minister is to be abolished. The two Houses of Parliament are to be abolished, but of course we will have the National Assembly. I should like to offer comfort by quoting Shakespeare, as I have done before in this House—"call a rose by any other name". Though it is to be an Assembly, it will have great power and in actual fact it will be a Parliament. I have always thought that for such a small country, not much larger than Yorkshire, it has not been completely practical to have two Houses of Parliament and all that paraphernalia of power. That is just my personal opinion.
It is rather hard to lose control over the franchise, and the appointment of the judicature, and of course prosecutions. What is harder is to lose control over security. I have not had to undergo loss of security. Though I am an Ulsterman and I occasionally go to Northern Ireland, I have been quite safe in England—so far, anyway. Presumably, if you have been bombed and shot at for three or four years, your prime interest is security. If I had lived in Belfast for the last three or four years, I would not be really interested in anything else but security. After all, we must remember that Ulstermen recall that for almost fifty years, while they controlled security, it was comparatively peaceful. There were a few raids from South of the Border, but on the whole it was really very peaceful. I fear that many Ulstermen will probably be rather nervous—"nervous" is not quite the word, but rather alarmed about their lack of control over security.
That is why I think two of the most important paragraphs in the Report are paragraphs 69 and 70, because they apply to law and order. Paragraph 69 admits that law and order is of great concern to the people and that public co-operation is needed. The Northern Ireland Executive, under these two paragraphs, are to advise the Secretary of State on security. Internal security must primarily rest with the police, certainly eventually, and, under these paragraphs, I see that the Police Authority is to be reconstituted; it will continue but it will be responsible to the Secretary of State. Would it not be more dignified to have the position reversed? For instance, if police and penal matters generally were 1129 enacted by the Assembly with the Secretary of State's approval, it would really come to more or less the same thing, but I think it would be more dignified. If I may quote paragraph 70, line 2, it says:The Police Authority, which will continue to have a statutory responsibility for the management of the police service, will be re-constituted following consultations with the Assembly so as to introduce into it an element drawn from elected representatives. In addition, the new District Councils, which will come into being in October, will be able to form the basis of local committees with advisory responsibilities in relation to the policing of their districts.You really have full democratic control of the police in that paragraph.
So far as I can see, every shade of opinion will have a say. I should therefore have thought that with such safeguards, ensuring that the police force represents all sections of the community, the Assembly should have the right to control its own internal security, with the approval of the Secretary of State. While on the subject of security, I should also like to ask why the power of the Secretary of State to declare a State of Emergency should not be shared. I welcome the fact that the Assembly is to be very broadly based, but there is one point about which the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, was rather worried. He was rather concerned, as I am, about the fact that the chairmen of these Assembly committees or, if you like, Parliamentary committees, will also be members of the Executive, as they will be heads of Government Departments in the Assembly. Although the membership of the committees is to be very broadly based and minority Parties will be represented, if the chairman of a committee is also a member of the Executive, representing the majority, it will surely inhibit the work of the committee. It would be more satisfactory if we could have—as perhaps we may—committees which do not always reflect the view of the majority.
May I turn now to the Charter of Human Rights, which I thoroughly welcome? Stormont has had some very hard things said about it, but it has never denied human rights—certainly not intentionally. What has happened has been exaggerated out of all proportion by the communications media. I am glad to see that in paragraphs 92 and 105 emphasis 1130 is also laid on human responsibilities. To a great extent in this country, the whole emphasis has been placed on people's rights—"The world owes them a living." Very little is said about their responsibilities or duties, and I am very pleased to see that in the White Paper the Government have had the nerve to point out that ordinary people have some responsibilities. I am rather sorry—and I have written in The Times about this point—that the White Paper did not go further in the matter of a Council of Ireland. I am quite sure that it would not need to be particularly political, but it would be of tremendous help in getting the two sides to know each other and to discuss various subjects such as transport et cetera. The White Paper appears to imply as one of the excuses that it would be difficult to have a Council of Ireland; as the United Kingdom Government is to be responsible for many of the functions of the Assembly, how could the United Kingdom Government participate in such a Council? But I can see no difficulty, and I do not see why they could not participate. I am quite sure that the majority of those in Ireland would welcome such participation. The whole situation is so absurd when one thinks that we are two small islands intermixed by blood, and it is really pathetic that we cannot get together.
Finally, I should like to issue a plea to Mr. Craig—although I do not know him—and what he calls his Ulster Loyalists. If you are a Loyalist, your first loyalty is to your nationality, to the United Kingdom. Therefore I implore him, by all means, to try to make constructive criticisms of the White Paper, but to go bald-headed and try to destroy the proposals would be extremely wicked. I sincerely hope that Mr. Craig and his Ulster Loyalists will see reason. I should like to finish by congratulating the Secretary of State and everybody connected with him, especially my noble friend Lord Windlesham, on the very good work that they have done in producing this White Paper. I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, on his maiden speech, and I only hope that he will come over here on many occasions and give us the benefit of his views, not only on Northern Ireland and Ireland generally, but on many other issues on which I am quite sure he is an expert.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, in saying with what interest and respect I listened to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola. That gives me an opportunity to say what pleasant recollections I have of his courtesy and kindness to myself personally, and to my colleagues, at a most critical and difficult time for himself, and to thank him now, late in the day, for the co-operation I received from his Government in the task we were set. While paying tributes, I am very glad to join mine to those which have been voiced in regard to the Governor, the noble Lord, Lord Grey. From him, also, we received invaluable advice and I have an undying admiration for a great man fulfilling a most frustrating task—a task which was terribly frustrating for his great talents—with great forbearance and tact and patience.
I am glad to come in at this stage of your Lordships' debate, because it seems to me that this is one of those rather rare debates in your Lordships' House which have contrived to be impressive—and I am sure it will go on being impressive—despite the fact that we have all been speaking virtually with one voice in support of the Government and are speaking with one voice rather than being at loggerheads. We are supporting the Government's proposals for a new Constitution for Northern Ireland but, more important—I am sure I have the feeling of everybody in this House—we are sending a message from this House to the people of Northern Ireland to take up again their rightful responsibilities, to turn their backs on the past and to set about shaping the future.
My Lords, I think it is particularly important for those of us who claim some right to speak on this subject, whether on grounds of kinship or through some experience of the fearful events of the last few years—and I can lay claim to a modest stake on both these counts—to say first that here in this White Paper is a fair basis for the future for all reasonable and fair-minded people in Northern Ireland to accept. Conversely, I believe that anyone who commits himself not merely to disapprove of these proposals, not merely to contest them within the framework of the constitution 1132 proposed but to set about wrecking them, will stand condemned before the bar of history for criminal irresponsibility. I am sure that British people on this side of the Irish sea would view any such action in just that way.
The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, made reference to the recent opinion poll but it is not necessary to consult an opinion poll to be well aware, from ordinary day-to-day contacts which we all have, that people over here are becoming sick and tired as well as anxious in regard to the strife, the brutality and the strident calls of narrow sectarian leadership that we read about in our papers, we hear on our radio and we see on our television. Whatever the constitutional responsibilities of Her Majesty's Government for the people of Ulster—and I am second to none in insisting that this is our responsibility—there are limits to the patience and the tolerance of ordinary British citizens in being expected to accept responsibility for people who persist in being irresponsible themselves. Having said that, I think it is more important still to say how certain it is—and we have Lord Moyola's personal testimony for this—that there are many ordinary people in Northern Ireland who have very much more cause than we have to be sick and tired ow what has been going on and who fervently want a settlement. I hope the message that will go out from this House will give courage to all those many Ulster citizens who want to live in peace with their neighbours.
My Lords, I want to go on only to make a comment on those parts of the White Paper which relate to law and order. The inevitable position of Her Majesty's Government of having to preserve the broad aspects of law and order calls for no comment at all but I attach great importance to the words in quotes which qualify this position—"for the time being". I am sure that the significance of those words will not have been lost on all who are resolved to make the new Constitution work. Those words hold out a prospect, and I hope I am right in saying also a promise, that when, by the success of the efforts of politicians and the public in Ulster working within this new framework of law, as well as by the success of the continuing 1133 fight against terrorism, the police can again resume their normal role, the responsibility for law and order will then be devolved on to the new Assembly.
How far ahead this will be—and the acid test will be the return and acceptability of the police in doing their civilian duty in such areas as the Bogside—is a Question about which it would be futile to conjecture at this time, but I believe that the desired goal should be pursued only through this Constitution. My Lords, I am totally opposed to the proposition which is being advanced that the transfer of powers of law and order should be hastened by building up, arming and equipping the Royal Ulster Constabulary with all the accoutrements of war as soldiers and giving them once more the para-military role which they had before 1969. I believe there is an unanswerable case for retaining the military job in the hands of the Army, and therefore of Westminster, for the time being. The alternative is a policy of despair and can only lead to what would be tantamount to a police State, and for me at least it is quite intolerable to contemplate the conditions of a police State within the United Kingdom.
My Lords, tributes have been paid from time to time in your Lordships' House, and I have joined in them, to the Army and the magnificent work they are doing. Too little, I think, has been said in tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, who behind the shield of the Army have continued to do their civilian duty in conditions of great difficulty and considerable danger. I am glad to pay this tribute now. I am delighted that the Northern Ireland police authority, which was created as a result of the recommendations of our Report in 1969 and was by far the most important of those recommendations, is now to include members of the new Assembly. When we recommended the police authority in the autumn of 1969 in the first instance, my colleagues and I—and I hope your Lordships will permit me to read a passage—wrote, on the proposed membership:It would be best that this body should consist of elected representatives, but in the political circumstances of Northern Ireland such a body would not at present adequately 1134 represent the minority parties and communities".Happily, those words have been outdated by the provisions of this Bill which will bring in the new Constitution.
I am no less pleased to note the proposal that the new district councils may establish local police liaison and advisory committees as a link with and a means of involving local people with the police in their own locality. We discussed this idea with the chairmen of county councils and with county magistrates in 1969, but the conditions then, particularly in regard to local government suffrage, seemed to provide little prospect of genuine community participation with one exception, and that was Londonderry where, as everybody will know, local government was then and is now in the hands of a commission on which are represented all communities. There we recommended that a local police liaison committee should be set up. I believe that that was done, and their experience will doubtless be valuable to the other counties when that idea is extended. We were impressed in 1969 by the testimony of senior police officers to the effect that the Special Powers Act should be repealed with, of course, certain powers being transferred to other legislation. But now that the essential measures for the duration of the emergency are likely to be taken care of by Lord Diplock's proposal, I am delighted that the special powers are to be dispensed with.
My final word, my Lords, is on the future beyond the present prolonged emergency and on an era when to-day's and to-morrow's children will be the citizens of the future. The question is, are they to inherit the prejudices of the past simply because some of to-day's adults insist on perpetuating their own prejudices and hatred, or are they to grow up in a new climate, valuing each other as people irrespective of their religion and community and totally regardless of the unhappy story of the past fifty years or so? My Lords, one of my ancestors was an apprentice boy who, among others, defended the gates of Derry against the Army of James II. Another was a Dublin judge who, I am told, was particularly harsh in his sentences on Catholics. Those events and those people were buried well nigh 300 years ago. How irrelevant, how absurd, 1135 how unintelligent it would be if I were to boast about that apprentice lad and hold any kind of brief or dislike or animosity on that account against staunch Republicans in Derry city to-day! And how equally absurd and unreasonable it would be if anyone held anything against me to-day on account of the judgments of that Dublin judge! My Lords, this is a folly which cannot be gainsaid. There is here, with this White Paper, a responsibility which must not be rejected by those across the water who face the challenge and the opportunity which Her Majesty's Government have provided.
§ 7.20 p.m.
THE EARL OF ENNISKILLEN
My Lords, we have already had a very long, debate, and we have had many of them in the past. Like other noble Lords, I know how extraordinarily difficult it is at the end of an evening to think of original contributions to make to a debate; but this has been an exceptionally good debate, and the points that have been brought out have, I think, been brought out very clearly. The White Paper is a magnificent piece of draftsmanship, and it clearly reflects the care that we all know has been exercised by those who have had to bear not only the burden of inventing the new forms of government which are set out in this Paper but the whole brunt of the security situation as it exists in Northern Ireland—and there have been many expressions of gratitude on this account. This White Paper has been interpreted, I think perhaps unduly interpreted—and certain noble Lords before me have already commented on this factor—as laying too great an emphasis (or, rather, that other people have laid too great an emphasis) upon power sharing and far too little emphasis on the ability and the responsibility to administer the power which is going to be transferred to the region. The power is in the region. The people who exercise the power have to do it with their responsibility, and in this way it is powerful; but it is so often interpreted in the political field as personal, individual power, as Party power or as sectional power, or whatever it may be. This is something which, if the scheme outlined in this White Paper is to work, must be recognised by all the people who are 1136 going to operate and support this Paper in Northern Ireland.
I commend the Paper while not entirely approving of it, because, like other noble Lords, I think there are many questions which are so open at the moment that it would be impossible to give it wholehearted approval. I give the spirit of it wholehearted approval; I give the intention to carry it through wholehearted approval; and I would give my wholehearted support to try to make it work. But the nuts and bolts have still to be screwed on to the framework, and the stresses and strains that will be applied are going to be considerable. For example, I am reminded of the early days of motoring. The equivalent then was the comparison of the motorcar with the ass. Both of them were more powerful when they went backwards. The motorcar has now been developed, with front-wheel drive, and therefore goes just as well forwards as it does backwards; and there are many aspects of this Paper on which, I feel, we have had to go backwards and not forwards, but where this is necessary in the climate that exists in Northern Ireland to-day—and there is no question but that it is necessary. I regard proportional representation as a step backwards. I regard the fact that we shall have a Secretary of State, instead of Her Majesty's representative in the Governor, as a step backwards. But, like the French, reculer pour mieux sauter. This is what we have to see; we have to recognise this. I think my fellow countrymen have to recognise that apparent backward steps can, under the ægis of this Paper, under the ægis of Government policy, be really an effective means of advance. That is the hope that all of us have expressed here to-night.
The security situation remains, I think, the biggest single factor that exists in Northern Ireland to-day, and I cannot feel that it is really very much better. It is difficult to improve on it, because it is so easy to commit atrocities. It is easy enough to come over here and put two bombs in a car to blow up things over here. I should like to suggest that in future, when we are talking about the police forces and internal security, really strong consideration should be given to going back to the situation in which, as a public, we were able to support our 1137 policemen because they were on the beat. I do not think we have enough police stations; I do not think they are spread properly. I hope that something can be done about this and a better system put into practice. I believe this problem is almost universal. I think we have gone mad with the desire to have our police in high-powered cars with radio contact, with radio control and with operations rooms, and that we have forgotten that the policeman who is not known in the area cannot get the confidence of the people in that area. In the old days, the "bobby on the beat" would walk along and look at every door on his beat. He would know them by sight. If a padlock was at the wrong angle, he would know that something was wrong. This cannot happen to-day because he passes by in a motorcar. If there is a thief there, the thief merely walks round the corner until the car has gone. I think the chances of the police catching people, the chances of them getting the confidence of the people they are protecting and the chances of the people themselves getting confidence in the policemen to protect them, do not exist in the way they ought to exist. This is a factor which, in thinking of the internal security in Northern Ireland in the future, we ought to deal with as fast as we can. I agree with the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that it is not a question of arming the police; it is a question of confidence in the police and of the confidence of the police in themselves. I believe that the only way we can bring that about is to do as I have suggested.
There are, as I have said, and as many noble Lords have said before me, several things here which hurt, perhaps, in some ways, and which will hurt various people. Nobody is getting everything they want out of the Christmas pudding—but why should they? Why would one expect to? I do not think anybody expects to. We must think in terms of what we are going to put into this rather more than in terms of what we are going to take out of it. But there has been one remark which I must deal with; it concerns the coming elections. If I may digress for a second, I entirely endorse the necessity for speed in the elections. It is terribly important to get the elections off the ground, and we must get them established as soon as possible for all the very good reasons which have already been given. 1138 But if, at these elections, we are going to change the law once again in Northern Ireland to allow the Sinn Fein Party to stand, I really believe this is force-feeding the baby to such an extent that we will kill it before it has even breathed. I think it is not possible to do that in the present general climate. To adopt such a suggestion I really think would be disastrous. It is to a certain extent difficult, after the breakdown of the institutions that you have had for so long, to put over the view that the Party that is politically representative of the very people who have shot and bombed their way through life in Northern Ireland to-day is to be given the legality to stand. Is this not really to say that if you blow up enough people you get what you want? I feel that it is. I must express that feeling.
I have no other new point to add to the debate except one, on the Civil Service. I should like to pay a tribute to the Civil Service in Northern Ireland. They are first-rate. I should like to suggest that in a new composition of an Assembly some consideration might be given to the inclusion—it sounds a little odd—of the chief civil servant as a member of that Assembly, but not with any right to vote. I have a feeling this might help in the matter of confidence in the Civil Service and that it might help the Assembly. That, I fear, is the only really constructive suggestion I have to make at this time. I know that in reply we shall hear answers to many of the questions that are worrying so many of us and that we shall have an opportunity to debate the matter further when the Bill is published. I support the progress of this White Paper.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, on page 1 of the White Paper, paragraph 2(d), we read that one of the primary purposes of any new Northern Ireland constitution is to seek a much wider consensus than has hitherto existed. This is an entirely admirable aim; but, to strike a pessimistic note, we ought to remember that a wide consensus did once exist. This was immediately prior to the start of the present troubles when, doubtless as a result of the reforming measures and gestures of inter-communal co-operation instituted by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, it was found that no less 1139 than 76 per cent. of the Northern Ireland population supported the then-Constitution wholeheartedly and a further 12 per cent. did so with reservations—a total of 88 per cent. which I suggest is a significant and impressive figure, not appreciated nearly enough this side of the water. Yet this overwhelming supporting was not enough to prevent the effective disintegration of the State when elements of that small dissident minority, numbering no more than 12 per cent. in total, who opposed the Constitution took advantage of certain errors of judgment and certain tense situations deliberately to reawaken the dormant fears and suspicions that always exist when two distinctive and historically antagonistic cultures occupy the same territory.
What I am getting at is this. In an underdeveloped country, even substantial dissident minorities cannot do much in the face of a determined majority. Even in a semi-developed country like Cyprus, neither the disaffected 18 per cent. Turkish minority on the one hand, totally deprived of all power and reduced to relative poverty, nor the bombs of General Grivas and his supporters on the other, have been able either to topple the Government or to impede economic development or the growth of tourism. A highly developed complex urban community, on the other hand, is far more vulnerable not only to arson, to bombing and other forms of terrorism, but also to sustained industrial action, rent and rate strikes and so on.
For all the White Paper's good intentions, I fear that unless its proposals are amended in two or three important respects so as to allay what I believe to be justifiable majority suspicions, the resulting institutions may end up commanding a smaller degree of popular support than did the previous Constitution in the mid-1960s and so prove even less durable. The two elements in the White Paper that most obviously cry out for amendment in this respect are, first, the Province's representation at Westminster and, secondly, the durability and extent of guarantees as to its United Kingdom status, a point made forcefully in the excellent maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola. I am glad to 1140 see that from a left-of-centre position, the Guardian newspaper strongly favours increased representation for Ulster at Westminster.
Such a step would be right for three reasons. First, whatever the residual powers of a new Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate in the fields of housing, employment and so on, it cannot be denied that its overall powers and status have been reduced. Secondly, those powers which have been specifically removed—control of the police and security, the power to declare a state of emergency and control of the franchise—all make it easier for any future United Kingdom Government that may be hostile to Ulster's link with Britain to impose its will upon the Province—and not only a future Government, if the alarming reports by the distinguished political correspondent of the Observer, Miss Nora Beloff in last Sunday's edition are anything to go by.
The third reason, not unconnected with the previous one, lies in the anomalous and unreciprocated right of Southern Irishmen resident in this country to vote in British elections. We know that it takes 62,000 votes to elect an English M.P., 51,000 votes to elect a Scottish M.P., but 85,000 votes to elect a Northern Ireland M.P. If it is true that we have 800,000 Southern Irish people of voting age living in Britain, then we are faced with the extraordinary and paradoxical position that Irish men and women from the Republic have more aggregate influence in determining the composition of the British House of Commons than the entire Northern Ireland electorate, irrespective of Party. This is a truly alarming situation for supporters of the Union—and one which cries out for rectification.
Finally, we read in the Observer again last Sunday that the Commission on the Constitution intends to recommend a Federal pattern for United Kingdom Government with a large measure of home rule for Scotland and Wales, as for Northern Ireland. If this comes about, I cannot see any British Government, least of all a Labour Government, recommending that Scotland and Wales be allocated fewer seats in the House of Commons in consequence. This would make the position of Ulster as odd man out all the more intolerable 1141 Next, and even more important from the point of view of the majority, is the question of guaranteeing the Province's status as part of the United Kingdom. Frankly, in my view, paragraph 32 of the White Paper is unsatisfactory in this respect. We really cannot sweep under the carpet—certainly nobody in Northern Ireland does—the fact that the minority's birthrate is the highest in Europe, with the exception of Albania and Turkey, and higher by far than that of any other Roman Catholic country. So while the Roman Catholics formed 34.9 per cent. of the population in the last Census, it is estimated that 50 per cent. of the children at primary school are Catholics, with the result that perhaps within a generation Northern Ireland could in theory be voted into the Republic against the wishes of every single Protestant. That this would flout the unambiguous principle laid down in paragraph 77 of the Green Paper is bad enough. Paragraph 77, to summarise it, states that no United Kingdom Government wishes to impede the realisation of Irish unity if it were to come about by genuine and freely given mutual agreement and on conditions acceptable to the distinctive communities. I suggest that the word "distinctive" is of the essence here. Far more important is that such action would lead to inevitable bloodshed and chaos both North and South of the Border.
I have described to your Lordships on previous occasions how this situation could be avoided. I was delighted to find in my researches yesterday that such a distinguished public figure as Sir Frederick Catherwood, who I understand is a member of the Labour Party, has independently arrived at the same conclusions as I have. In a book published by the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Sir Frederick, in discussing the question of guaranteeing the Border, wrote that under a simple majority systemany majority however bare, however temporary, would be enough to remove the guarantees. If, however, the Union could not be overthrown except by, say, a two-thirds majority then the more normal issues of politics can emerge.It is particularly interesting to note that Sir Frederick arrived at these conclusions in a roundabout manner, in that his initial thinking was directed to finding a way of protecting the minority from 1142 the consequences of one-Party rule stemming from a simple majority voting system existing at Stormont. His solution was that a 75 per cent. majority ought to be required for any future legislation. He then went on to write:If the voting requirement for routine legislation were 75 per cent the proportion could hardly be less for Bills involving a crucial question such as the future political status of the Province.My Lords, through the power-sharing proposals in the White Paper, the Government have effectively ruled out the prospect of future legislation going through with the support of only 51 per cent. of the representatives in the new Assembly. Having admitted this principle so far as internal legislation is concerned, are they not in fairness bound to admit it equally when the question of the Province's constitutional status is at stake?
One further point needs clarification. It is the right of the new Assembly to control immigration (I am thinking mainly of immigration from the South). Under E.E.C. regulations, such immigration can be prevented where it is in the interest of depressed areas, but only on a temporary basis. If Ulster achieved an economic take-off as a result of the restoration of peace plus increased British subsidies, it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that existing unemployment may be totally absorbed and labour sucked in from the South. Brought up in the Republican tradition, it is more than likely that such people would tend to vote Nationalist once residential qualifications were established, thereby upsetting the political balance of the Province. I wonder whether a 10-year residential qualification, before the right to vote in any future Border poll were granted, might be a reasonable answer to this problem?
My Lords, to say that one has doubts about Part 4, concerning the Bill of Rights, is rather like saying that one is against motherhood, as the Americans say. But I confess to having some doubts. In view of the time I will not expound on them, except for one point. My interpretation of Part 4 is that it would be illegal for any employer in Northern Ireland to refuse to employ a Communist or a Fascist. It would, for instance, be illegal for a Jewish businessman to refuse to employ someone who happened 1143 to be a fervent supporter of the Black September Organisation; and equally, it would be illegal for a man whose wife had been killed by the I.R.A.—or for that matter by the U.V.F.—to employ someone who was an ex-member of one or other of those organisations. Such restrictions would not apply in Britain of course. Employers here would have the right to refuse to employ any such people, and it would be interesting to know whether such will be the case in Northern Ireland.
It gives me pleasure to be able to support without reservation one section of the White Paper, Part 5, dealing with the so-called "Irish dimension". The introduction is straightforward, shrewd and realistic and the conclusions impeccable; namely, that any proposed Council of Ireland can operate only with the consent of both the majority and also the minority opinion in Northern Ireland. The implications of this are clear. It is inconceivable that any self-respecting Unionist, whether the name be spelt with a large or a small "u", could bring himself to participate on a basis of friendship and equality in such a council so long as the Republic claims jurisdiction over United Kingdom territory and denies the right of his Province to exist as a separate entity. The ball lies fairly and squarely in the Republic's court. Until such time as Article 2 of the 1937 Constitution is amended, relations between North and South will surely have to be confined to the existing ad hoc co-operation on such mundane matters as land drainage and electricity supply. After all, my Lords, Mr. Bhutto has been widely criticised for Pakistan's non-recognition of Bangladesh while the Christian Democrats in West Germany were equally criticised for refusing to renounce claims on formal German territories East of the Oder-Neisse Line. In contrast, Herr Brandt has been much praised for finally renouncing these claims and so enabling former relationships to be established with Poland and the Soviet Union. It would be a great act of statesmanship for Mr. Cosgrave to emulate Herr Brandt.
And might one not hope that sentiment among Republicans, both North and also South of the Border, might change still further? What Her Majesty's Government seem, to be trying to do, if I may use a Middle Eastern analogy, is 1144 to change Ulster's de facto status from that of an Israel—a State dominated by one religion; subject to periodic attacks from across the Border and to subversion from within—into that of a Lebanon. The Lebanon, like Ulster, is a State artificially created to protect the interests and identity of a minority—in this case the Christians of that region living in an often hostile Islamic outpost of the Ottoman Empire. The history of the country has not been a totally untroubled one, but basically the guarantee of rights for all, plus the highly elaborate system of checks and balances codified in the 1926 Constitution (whereby. for instance, some posts were reserved for Sunni Muslims, others for Shia Muslims, others for Druzes, others still for Maronites, Orthodox Christians and Armenians) has won permanent acceptance of the country's frontiers by its neighbours. Although because of their much higher birthrate the Muslims now form a majority of the population, nearly all the Muslims accept the country's boundaries as permanent. Those few who prefer a more Islaamic milieu, who wish to speak Arabic to the exclusion of French, have only to cross the Border to live in Syria. Is it too much to hope that as a quid pro quo for the very thorough and elaborate system of rights that it is proposed to guarantee the present minority in Ulster, they too might accept as permanent an Ulster linked to Britain? while those few who would only feel happy living in a more Gaelic, a more semi-theocratic society need only cross the Border to live in the Republic which, we should remember, embraces 83 per cent. of the island's land area.
My Lords, when all is said and done, the essentials of an Ulster solution are, first, to provide—where these have not already been granted—the fullest rights and opportunities for the minority and, even more important, to give this minority no excuse for ever claiming that such rights have been denied to it. As others have observed before, in Ireland the actual truth is far less important than what people think to be the truth. The second essential is to guarantee that the majority's way of life and links with the Crown will be guaranteed absolutely as far ahead as can reasonably be foreseen. The White Paper's elaborate and highly detailed proposals for power-sharing and for a Bill of Rights ensure 1145 the first essential. If they can so amend the proposals as to ensure the second essential as well, then the proposals have an excellent chance of success.
§ 7.48 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, it is hardly surprising that the House is a bit "thin". I am hoping to last sufficiently long to listen to the noble Duke whom I have the honour to precede, and then, without any disrespect to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, who is sitting on the Opposition Benches, to dart off, hoping that some supper is left. My Lords, peace based on justice is almost the expression of the Leader of the Opposition, and that is what we are all agreed upon as our aim. Mr. Whitelaw's stature continues to grow, in spite of the fact that in bringing law he has produced no order. Peace has eluded him, and peace remains the major factor unsolved. When generals fail they are sacked. I hope that Mr. Whitelaw remains to carry out his task. The White Paper comes before us and almost everyone has offered it God-speed and good wishes, and I join them in that. I noticed a poster on my railway station this morning which invited one to visit the London museums: "H.M.S. 'Belfast'. The floating museum." I could not help realising from the events of the last fifty years that the real Belfast is a museum of hopes that do not float; that it may well happen again; that it is not the last chance; and it is not the ultimate disaster if it does happen again.
I refer to the result of the recent poll, which seems to indicate essential vital statistics for Ireland. There would seem to be two communities—three Unionist Protestants, two Republican Catholics. In spite of the efforts of the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to make these communities invisible, I regard the evidence much as I regard one of my forbears, who announced every evening that he was invisible, and the family had to take cognisance of his views and could not look at him or address him in any way without giving him offence. The facts in Northern Ireland are plainly before us, and have been for fifty years. It is divided between Republicans, who are mainly Catholics, and Unionists, who are mainly Protestants. However much we 1146 may hope that these things may change, that is what they are to-day. It must be more difficult for them to sit down at the same table or to occupy the same platform than for even the noble Duke the Duke of Devonshire to sit on the same platform as Mr. Enoch Powell. The difficulties will remain for a long time.
My Lords, I turn to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, whose maiden speech was a streamlined and perfect delivery, such as we should expect from his distinguished record.
He referred to a paragraph in the White Paper which I will quote:The Bill will therefore include a statutory declaration that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. It will not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.To the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, it was not quite enough: he wanted to know whether anything more could be done to prevent Acts of Parliament from being revocable. To me, and to others, it is a little too much for the following reasons. The separate existence of Ulster rests on Article I (2) of the Charter of the United Nations, the principle of self-determination. That is the charter for Protestant Unionist Ulster's separate existence, and it would be most unwise that Ulster should reject or try to modify in any way its dependence on that principle.
But there are portions of the present Province which have an equal right under the same Article, and if they are ignored the claims of Dublin for a United Ireland, even in spite of the wishes of the North, are stronger than those of the North to dominate this smaller minority. Therefore I wonder whether it would be possible, in trying to solve this dilemma, to take up the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola: Can anything be done? Can Southern Ireland be persuaded to recognise the North? Would it not be possible under this Article to seek from Southern Ireland recognition of the right to existence of Northern Ireland—Ulster, if you like—but not to the present boundaries, leaving for discussion the boundary question? Surely, if they want recognition in the North they must make that concession to those who have rights as good as theirs. I speak, as I have said before, as a Roman Catholic who 1147 for forty years has supported the separate existence of the Protestant North.
I leave that and go to one or two other points not covered by other speakers to whom I have listened. The economic and social problems of Ireland are dealt with in paragraphs 25, 26 and 27 of the White Paper. I want to quote something which at first sight may seem irrelevant, but which has been brought up in this House to-day and is vital for the population of Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland and other parts. The Treaty of Rome, Article 39, says:The Common Agricultural Policy shall have as its objective … (b) to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural population, particularly by the increasing of the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture.This brings in head-on collision our historic principle of food from the cheapest source and the maintenance of a good standard of living for the agricultural workman. It was expressed admirably, although I would say incorrectly, by the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, to-day, when he said that it was a conflict between the peasantry of France and the urban consumers of the United Kingdom.
Ireland is a population of farming folk, and unless you allow the prices of food to rise—the most important commodity for us all three times a day—unless you allow those communities to approach the industrial standard of welfare, you are keeping them depressed, and there must surely be a compromise. In the remarks which have been made to-day about opposing the Common Market Agricultural Policy because of its insistence on raising the price of food, I was reminded of all the arguments over the abolition of the Corn Laws. The best way to help Ireland is to make food products worth more. It is much better than any other subvention of which we can think. I suppose, as I said in connection with Greece the other day, that the Irish have wallowed in poverty too long. They need to be prosperous in order that they may be sensible, and not envious and vindictive, in their social relationships.
There appears in the White Paper something which I have not seen before and which I welcome with tremendous enthusiasm. It is a charter of obligations, which is summed up as follows:The individual cannot continually call for 'law and order', yet be reluctant to observe 1148 laws he dislikes and hostile to those who protect public order. He cannot demand every benefit that society can offer, yet fail to play his part in paying for those benefits. Private armies; failure to co-operate with the police by withholding information on violent crime; civil disobedience; rent and rates strikes—all of these developments are incompatible with an equitable pattern of rights and obligations as between society and the citizen.Surely every right carries with it a companion obligation. But is not this something of a sermon addressed from a pulpit which is a whited sepulchre? Should not these remarks be addressed to us in this country as well as to people in Ireland? However that may be, surely it is an excellent change that a charter of rights should be associated with a charter of obligations.
My final remark concerns the question of security. Once again something fresh in my experience has developed. I am reminded of the trial of Jomo Kenyatta in Africa, and the fact that a leading article in The Times summarised in sonorous and dignified language the course of the trial, where nine of the Crown witnesses had been murdered. It indicated, so far as I remember, that this dreadful sacrifice of witnesses was worth it to preserve our judicial standards. I believe that we are moving away from that situation. I read from the Diplock Report that the minimum requirements are based upon the assumption that witnesses to a crime will be able to give evidence in a court of law without risk to their lives, their families or their property. Unless the State can ensure their safety, it would be unreasonable to expect them to testify voluntarily, and morally wrong to try to compel them to do so. Surely that is something right and something new.
I remember I was once alone in Africa up against some threat of a security nature. I made up my mind that I would find out the information no matter how, but that no man who told me anything should be victimised. The men came to me at night, and I sat alone unarmed while they brought their arms. I took no pencil, because in Africa if you take a pencil and write a man's name he thinks you have taken his soul away, and taken it over to Westminster. One must respect as absolutely precious the secrets that people tell you at the peril of their own lives. This awful business of victimisation was brought to its climax 1149 in that trial in Africa where nine good Crown witnesses were murdered. That situation surely is coming to an end, and that will help us to get the information without risk to the witnesses in Northern Ireland.
§ 8.3 p.m.
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE
My Lords, we have had a long debate and as it has continued I have become more and more daunted at the inadequacy of my own remarks, following so many speakers who have spoken with such pertinacity and relevance to the subject under debate. Like nearly all noble Lords who have spoken, I should like to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on the production of the White Paper, both for its contents and clarity and its ease of understanding. Like other noble Lords, one can only hope and pray that there will be enough sensibly minded people within the Province prepared, at no doubt considerable sacrifices to themselves, to give a fair trial to the proposed suggestions so that at last peace may descend on their troubled and unhappy Province.
Since we last debated this subject some 14 weeks ago, two events have taken place in the calendar of Ulster's recent history—two events, alas! against the continuing background of murder, maiming and villany. The first was the referendum, the Border poll. This told us nothing new; it merely told everybody what they already knew, which was that the overwhelming majority of the population of Ulster wished to remain within the United Kingdom. It had its use because anything that reassures the Protestant majority in Ulster to-day that there is no danger of their being sold down the river by Westminster into the Republic is of value. Although pledges have been repeated ad infinitum, there seems to be no end for the need to reassure the Protestant majority in Ulster of this fact. It is one of the many blessings in the White Paper that that pledge is yet again reaffirmed.
The second event was the General Election within the Republic. This had a considerable amount new to tell us regarding affairs in Ireland, taking the country as a whole. Quite apart from there being a change of Government, it showed how, at any rate for the present, the question of the unification of Ireland 1150 is far from being the overriding consideration within the Republic. It so happened that I was living within the Republic throughout the election campaign. The astonishing fact was that the question of the Border simply never arose. Had someone been visiting Ireland for the first time and studied the papers and the campaign as it proceeded, they would not have realised that the Border was an issue at all, let alone an issue on which so much heat had been expressed in recent years. It showed overwhelmingly that for the great mass of people living within the Republic, the Border and unification of Ireland is not at present an issue. That is not to say it may not become an issue. The last time I spoke on the subject I said that the cause of the unity of Ireland is too deep seated for it ever to be laid for good and all. It may be dormant for years or decades, but it will reappear. Certainly at the moment it is not an issue with the great mass of people within the Republic.
This is of significance to affairs in the North because, taken with the referendum—and that equally conclusive result—it must show all those who are prepared to face facts that nowhere in the Island is there strong feeling towards any change in the Border. Those living in the North have shown it by the referendum; those living in the Republic have show it by their total lack of interest, and shown it in the recent General Election. What it further shows is the isolation of people living in Ulster. The Republic does not want them, or only wishes to have them under the same conditions that the people of Ulster wish to join the Republic—that is, with the willing consent of the overwhelming majority. As of now the Republic does not want them.
Ulster is part of the United Kingdom and will remain so as long as it so wishes. Her Majesty's Government are pledged to that. As the Prime Minister made it quite clear when he visited Ulster before Christmas, if the Province is to remain part of the United Kingdom, it must so conduct its affairs in similar ways as the rest of the United Kingdom does; and those basic freedoms that we believe in, in this the mainland of the United Kingdom, must also prevail within Ulster. There cannot be one code of general conduct for people living in England, 1151 Scotland and Wales, and a totally different code of conduct for those living in Northern Ireland. By all means let them remain part of the United Kingdom, but they must conform to our code of living and with the correct way of behaviour as followed by the rest of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.
This of course is not palatable to all those living in Ulster. One of the great merits of the White Paper is that, in setting forth the whole of the new constitutional proposals for the future administration of the Province, it has finally and forever put paid to any ideas that Ulster might return to some form of Government similar to that which used to prevail at Stormont before direct rule was imposed. That in itself is a great blessing because, so long as anyone could hope in his most secret heart that Stormont as it used to be might yet return, there was a danger that such a person would not apply his mind to the future; he would merely cast his mind back longingly to what used to be in the past fifty years, and not think of the changed conditions of the present and the conditions that must prevail in years to come. So it is not surprising that for those who wish to see the return of the old Stormont this White Paper will not be acceptable, and it does not promise the future that they would wish.
In these circumstances it is not surprising to hear voiced the possibility of the creation of an independent Ulster, a separate State on its own, neither part of the United Kingdom nor part of the rest of Ireland. I am told by those who are certainly in a position to know, that such an idea is a "non-starter" on economic grounds, if on no other; and I accept those assurances. But I must confess that the idea of an independent Ulster has to me many attractions, because it would be something on which to build. One of the great difficulties in looking for a solution to the problems that face Ulster is that there are no solid foundations on which to build a lasting edifice. The past is one of strife and contention. There is no one, unifying Church. There is however loyalty to the Throne, and that is felt, certainly by the great majority, and not only by Protestants in the community. But to some that very loyalty is anathema, and 1152 it is impossible to find some strong edifice upon which to build for a lasting future. It seems to me conceivable that, were an independent Ulster to be created, this would be something to which the two now sadly sectarian, divided parts of Ulster could look with a common loyalty. Furthermore, the shock of the sudden—or impending; not sudden—responsibility of having to be totally in charge of their own affairs might cut down to suitable proportions the differences which now separate them: differences which, although felt very acutely, are really differences that it should not be beyond mankind to find ways over. I say, were it possible, I think there would be much to argue in favour of a single, united, independent Ulster. But, alas! as I say, it is not economically possible.
I would end my remarks on an independent Ulster only by saying that it would be very worth while to make a great financial sacrifice by this country, and indeed an equally great (in proportion) financial sacrifice by the Republic of Ireland, to make an independent Ulster viable. In terms of human happiness, and indeed in terms of saving of human life, it would be worth an enormous financial sacrifice. But, as I say, alas! on economic grounds, apparently, it is not to be.
There are just two points on the White Paper about which I should like to speak. One has been mentioned, in the speeches I have heard (and although I have not heard them all, I have heard the majority), only by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, and is concerning education. After the desperate need for the restoration of law and order within the Province, the problem of education comes next. I know that the problems are formidable. I know that education is a very delicate subject in any country, and with the religious division that exists in Ulster it becomes more delicate. But, as the noble Viscount said in his speech, if we are to plan for the future then we must start with the children; and if we are ever to have a Province that is not divided by a sectarian division, then it can be only by teaching the children that they are citizens of one Province. Quite rightly, according to the White Paper education will be one of those powers devolved upon the new Assembly. When the Mem 1153 bers of the Assembly forgather, I most sincerely hope they will give a great deal of most careful thought and attention to this question of religion. It is also one for which the Church has a great responsibility and must be deeply involved in. The noble Viscount pointed out how difficult it was. But the whole basic trouble with the Province is the past: it is the evils of the past that are haunting us today and causing the tragic deaths we read of every day. And every day that education, and particularly primary education, is based on sectarian grounds, that past continues in the present. It is only by having an education that is genuinely "across the board" and non-sectarian, so far as is possible, that we can hope to teach the future citizens of Ulster to forget about their sad, unhappy past and to look to a future which they all can enjoy. I have expressed myself badly, my Lords, but I feel so very strongly that until this problem of education is properly tackled we cannot look to a fruitful future for Ulster. It is at the very root of the problem; and of the problems devolved upon the new Assembly I feel sure it must be the most important one which the Assembly will have to tackle.
My final point is to do with the Irish dimension of the problem of Ulster. Like other noble Lords (particularly the noble Lord, Lord Monson), I find myself in complete agreement with the paragraphs in the White Paper on this subject. I am sure that Her Majesty's Government have shown great wisdom in not trying to impose any form of all-Ireland Council. With Ulster in its present state, the less that is imposed upon it, the better. If we are to have progress in Ulster it must be by growth from the grass roots. The very fact of imposing something, no matter how admirable the suggestion might be, would be self-defeating because of the very fact that it was imposed by Westminster. So I am sure that it is proceeding on the right lines to decide that, once the new Constitution has been established, a conference of all Parties concerned should be called to discuss matters of common interest. I feel that, although there is a great future for an all-Ireland Council, it should not aim too high in the problems it tackles in its early days.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, dismissed such matters as agricultural drainage and electricity as mun 1154 dane. Well, mundane they may be—I would add tourism to them—but they are also very important. It is a trite saying: "From small beginnings do great things come". So I think that the right thing to do would be to establish a body and not overburden it with matters of great importance—certainly not matters of constitutional importance—in its early days; let it come spontaneously from sensible minded citizens both in Ulster and in the Republic, and let it grow rather than be imposed.
Some of your Lordships may be aware that at heart I should like to see a united Ireland. I still hope that I shall see the day when that happens; but let us walk before we can run. The time will come to talk about a united Ireland; but the time to talk about that will be when we have a united Ulster. Until we have a united Ulster, until that problem is solved, let us put aside such thoughts and ideas as we may have for a united Ireland.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ LORD GARDINER
My Lords, I have in the past supported the Government's policy on Northern Ireland. As I think I have said before, I have the greatest admiration for the attitude and actions both of the Secretary of State and of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and I support them now and gladly join in a welcome to this White Paper. There perhaps I might have stopped, particularly because, as I have been spending most of to-day in Select Committees of this House, I had not the advantage of hearing the opening speeches; but owing to the courtesy of both my noble friend Lord Shackleton and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, I have been able to read them and I want to make only a few observations on paragraphs 58 and 59 of the White Paper, which reveal the Government's intention to legislate on the Report of the Committee of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Diplock, was the distinguished chairman. I am sure we are grateful to all the members of the Committee for their Report.
Early legislation being, I gather, indicated, it may well be said that I ought to postpone anything I have to say on the matter until the Committee stage of the Bill. Ordinarily I should have agreed, but I hope the House will allow me to make a few observations on the Diplock 1155 proposals, first because I am still hopeful that before introducing the Bill in its final form the Government will take into account such observations as I have to make; secondly because I rather agree with my noble friend Lord Shackleton that it was perhaps unfortunate that the House had no opportunity to debate the Diplock Report before the Government made up its mind about it. Thirdly, as I have to leave for Australia on Sunday I shall be unable to be here for the Committee stage of the Bill in any case.
The terms of reference were somewhat narrow. Some of the points which I wish to mention were, I think, already made in a publication which I know the Government have seen, from a group at the University of Belfast, including Professor Palley and Professor Twining. They, of course, were in favour of special courts. This is probably water under the bridge now, but they did point out that one of the things which a special court supplied, and one of the things which has always been lacking, is a body to consider grievances from an excess of power by the authorities. In the conditions of Northern Ireland I do not think the conduct of any Army or police could have been higher, but in those conditions there are bound to be errors of judgment, and those are particularly explosive if there is nobody to whom the citizen can take his grievances. I believe the prospects for peace have always receded where the people—mainly, of course, Catholics—have felt that the Army or police have either acted illegally or have used their emergency powers unreasonably. Your Lordships may remember that the Lower Falls curfew operation in July, 1970, ended the Catholic co-operation with the Army, which obviously was a great loss. The Cusack and Beattie shootings of July, 1971, led to the withdrawal of the S.D.L.P. from Stormont. The Shankill shooting of September, 1972, led to Mr. Paisley's refusal to participate in the Darlington Conference. It is not merely what happened, but the refusal to hold an early and objective inquiry.
It is quite true that people have their ordinary rights; it is true that somebody who has been injured by illegal force may bring an action for assault, and some have successfully done so, but it takes a very long time. There can also be an action 1156 for malicious prosecution. But I wonder whether it is too late to consider even now whether there ought not to be some form of tribunal which could early inquire into an incident and, if necessary, have power to award compensation, particularly where there is a loss of employment or earnings, perhaps not merely where it is proved that the degree of force used was illegal but even where it is unreasonable.
I come to some matters of detail: paragraph 39—the abolition of juries. I thought the Committee made out their case, but I am not myself passionately wedded to one-man courts. I think I nave heard the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor express the same view. I believe it is a case for the judges to be able to share responsibility, at least as to the facts, and sit with assessors. The reason why the Diplock Committee came down against them was mainly what they say in paragraph 39:In criminal proceedings, in particular, immediate rulings on admissibility of evidence and other matters of procedure have constantly to be made by the single judge when sitting with a jury. It would gravely inconvenience the progress of the trial and diminish the value of oral examination and cross-examination as a means of eliciting the truth, if a plurality of judges had to consult together, albeit briefly, before each ruling was made.I am not, of course, suggesting that at all: I am suggesting that the judge should rule on all questions of law but that on the difficult questions of fact which have to be decided it would ease his responsibility if he sat with two assessors.
Paragraph 55 deals with bail, and one of the provisions there is that bail should be refused unless the jury is satisfied that(b) either exceptional hardship would be caused to the applicant if he were to be detained in custody or he has been held in custody for not less than 90 days.…I think that "exceptional hardship", which I suppose would be construed subjectively, is too high and should be "undue hardship". Secondly in relation to bail, it is proposed in paragraph 117 that the Director of Public Prosecutions can certify that the case is one fit to be dealt with under emergency procedures. I suggest that if the Director can do that, he should also be able to certify that the offence was not in his opinion committed for political motives and that the accused should be given bail. Thirdly, 1157 I suggest that provision should be made for an appeal against a refusal of bail.
Paragraph 89 deals with inculpatory admissions—that is to say, confessions. These are to be allowed unless obtained by torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Those words are, I think, unduly restrictive. I recognise them, of course, as having been taken from the European Convention on Human Rights, but I think they are too limited. The Committee of Privy Counsellors all agreed that they would not express any opinion as to whether the practices described in the Compton Report were or were not torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, because we knew that it was the intention of the Eire Government to bring a case before the European Commission when that very question would have to be decided, and it seemed to us very undesirable that we should express any opinion about it. I think it doubtful that it could be said that deprivation of food or forced deprivation of sleep, solitary confinement, psychological pressures, and so on, amount to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Therefore those words, as I have said, are really too limited. It is also proposed in the Report that when judging whether or not a confession has been properly or improperly obtained, the onus, instead of being on the prosecution, should be on the accused. I cannot see any good reason for that and I think that the onus of proof should, as normally, be on the Crown.
Although it is a small point, may I mention that paragraph 97, dealing with the circumstances in which a written statement can be read from a witness who is not there, says:I agree with all those except to the first. I should have thought that it was dangerous to allow a written statement by a man of whom it is said that he cannot be there because of his mental condition. Such a person ought to be available for cross-examination in any event.
- "(a) is dead or is unfit by reason of his bodily or mental condition to attend as a witness; or
- (b) is outside the Province and it is not reasonably practicable to secure his attendance, or
- (c) all reasonable steps have been taken to find him, but he cannot be found."
Lastly, my Lords, as to the scheduled 1158 offences. These provisions are obviously of great importance and it is recommended in paragraph 114 that they should be amendable by Statutory Instrument. I do not think that any indication has yet been given whether that should be done by an affirmative form of Resolution or by a negative one. Such an important matter should clearly require an Affirmative Resolution. My Lords, we have had much more important things to discuss than the matters I have ventured to mention. It has been a very important debate. It is only in exceptional circumstances that I have ventured to raise these points and to hope that before actually introducing a Bill the Government will be good enough to take them into account.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, this has been a most distinguished occasion. We started with an outstanding introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, followed by an equally outstanding response by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. Indeed, I found it technically a little embarrassing, if politically very satisfactory on this occasion, that my mind seemed to be moving in very much the same channel as that of the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton. We have also had the pleasure of an extremely authoritative and attractive maiden speech by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and a quiet, modest but eminently sensible maiden speech from the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty.
I have had at one time and another a good deal to do with the compilation of White Papers and have a certain consciousness of the things that happen; of the carelessnesses, of the last minute thoughts, the changes of mind. Against that background, I must say that I consider this White Paper to be a most outstanding document, both in its content and in its style and arrangement. I join whole-heartedly with the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, in expressing the view that this will emerge from all our discussions as a great State document. We should be both grateful and laudatory in our thanks to the Ministers and the officials who have been responsible for its production. May I refer to two of its virtues? One is a general virtue. It has a very special virtue in being a multi-dimensional Paper. By that I mean that we some times get into the rut of feeling that the 1159 Ulster business is a squabble between Protestants and Catholics, and "a plague on both your Churches". That is in a way the origin, but the Paper deals with it in its Ulster dimension, its Irish dimension, its European dimension, and indeed a world dimension and therefore puts it in its proper proportion of complexity and challenge.
May I say a word on the particular point of the Council of Ireland? It is surely right that it should feature in the Paper but I feel very strongly, with the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, that it would have been very unwise to pursue the possible result of that further. I respect very much the views of those who look forward to a united Ireland. But in the present sensitive state of this question, a state which is improving one must think, it would have been most unwise to haul up that particular flag attached to this particular document.
May I also commend the White Paper on its precise language. I mention that because it is a point which was referred to—although I do not entirely agree with what was said—by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon. It seems to me that in paragraph 39, on the proportional representation system, the White Paper uses exactly the right expression. It describes this system of voting as "best suited to this occasion". To a former civil servant, that means that it is in fact the best suited to this occasion and that if it is used on this occasion, there is some reason to suppose that it may go on being the best suited; and that is surely exactly what it was intended to say, neither more nor less.
May I also make one more allusion to the text of the White Paper, because this leads to a point which was discussed in some detail at the beginning of this debate and is a very important one. It is the question of the sharing of power. Paragraph 44 provides for a balance of power in the Assembly Committees corresponding to the balance of power in the Assembly as a whole, and it then lays down that the head of the Department, that is the Minister, should bringthe members of his committee into the fullest consultation".1160 That means—and this is clearly absolutely right—that minority members cannot get shut out because they happen to be a minority. The members must be consulted, not just the Committee. But it does not say—and this in a way is going to be ultimately the hub of the argument—what happens if, after that consultation, you still have a deadlock. It may well be that it is the intention of the Government—and that may well be wise—not to lay down what then happens. On the other hand, I hope that perhaps the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack may make a comment on this point because it is a crucial link in the whole business of making an inter-Party, inter-denominational Government work.
That reflection also led me to wonder whether the Government foresee a function in this kind of situation for the Secretary of State—and again the Government may have advisedly left this open for very good reasons and for future negotiation—but naturally when one comes to think on these lines one thinks in terms of other functions of the Secretary of State; for instance, would there be perhaps a relationship between the Secretary of State and the Assembly such as the kind of relationship one gets between the President of the United States of America and the Congress, where he appears at very infrequent intervals but where at least there is some formal contact as well as informal? Again, it would not be for me to press for replies on this matter, but I put these questions on record as being interesting and, I venture to think, relevant.
I have just a few very short reflections which I thought I might address to your Lordships and, if I may put it in this way, via your Lordships to certain people, as being directly relevant to the present situation. For instance, to the Protestants in Northern Ireland, the message one would address is very much less one of foreboding than it might have been a few days ago; but it still remains true that, supposing there were to be a recrudescence of Protestant extremism, which one hopes is now less strong than one thought it was, you could get a sudden change for the worst among British public opinion, the kind of change that noble Lords have mentioned to-day, in which you would get a withdrawal. Then 1161 there would be an Irish civil war: the chances for the Protestants would not be all that great, and the chances for everybody else would be miserable. I feel sure that this will not happen, but none the less it seems worth mentioning, lest it should.
To the Catholics of Northern Ireland, I think that one's message would be—and I hope the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will agree with me—that much has now been accomplished. It is sad to relate, but I am afraid it is true in human affairs, that sometimes violent words, and even occasionally violent deeds, are needed to wake up the British sense of justice and fairness; but it is there, it is innate. I think that now that sense has prevailed in a very conspicuous manner, and I hope that it will now be appreciated by all thinking people on the Catholic side how much has been done and with what sincerity and good will it has been done.
I would like to say a word which I would address to the media. I had rather hoped that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, was going to make this part of the speech for me. I think we should all be grateful to the editorial pages of the media, who by and large have given the White Paper an extremely good welcome. What I want to suggest—and it is a little difficult to phrase—is that this question is so important, so many lives depend on it, and so many people in your Lordships' House agree with the line that is being taken, that there might be some slight letting up of the almost automatic policy of "againstmanship". What I mean by that is that if anything happens or is proposed or is launched, it is the instinct of competitive newspaper craft to find out the person who is most articulate and who is most violently opposed and to give him a great deal of space and time. Of course the "againstman" must be reported, but I do hope that there will be a spirit in our media, folowing what has been said about this White Paper, which will at least help it to realisation and success, rather than be apparently seeking holes in it and disagreements about it.
Finally, addressing myself to the Government, may I make two suggestions? The first is that I would hope very much that, while it is not in the White Paper, and perhaps should not 1162 appropriately be so, some thought is being given to the methods of countering what I can only call the eccentricities of Irish politics. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, alluded briefly to the possibility when he mentioned the politics of abstention. It is perfectly possible that you may get elected to the Assembly people who then with great pride will say that they are not going to take their seats or do anything to co-operate. I think it would be wise—I venture to suggest this—that the Government should consider whether in that case, after a certain lapse of time, or under some other rule, seats that are not used should be filled. I speak with a certain family experience of this, because I have an aunt who did exactly that, and I would not wish Her Majesty's Government to undertake "Travels with my Aunt".
Perhaps a more all-embracing point is this. I believe—and I think this is the general feeling of your Lordships from the tone of this debate—that things have, for several reasons, taken a decisive turn for the better. I have a slight worry lest we should be getting a little too comfortable about this. I would just suggest that there may be one very last, very determined and very nasty effort to spoit it all. One turns over from the commendation of the White Paper to a very bland interview by Mr. David O'Connell, who is, in Irish terms, on the run in the Republic, telling us, "No, this is all going to go on. We do not in any way apologise for the murder of the three sergeants", and so on. So that the irrational spirit, the destructive spirit, is not going to be suddenly abolished by the White Paper, much though we would wish it to be. One must also remember that the people who represent this are not the real followers of the traditional, the legendary I.R.A.; they are people who have taken on the title which really "belongs to the legitimate successors, which are the two principal Irish political Parties. I think we should have in mind that there could be one rather difficult outburst, in which we shall all have to keep our heads, because the I.R.A., whether dignifying themselves as Official or Provisional, will also have the support of people who have publicly said that they wish to use the situation to destroy three societies, those of the Irish Republic and Ulster and the United Kingdom.
1163 Having said that, I would like finally to return to the more optimistic diagnosis of the situation. I say again that we should be very grateful to those who have produced this White Paper, and in supporting it we should greet the Government with that traditional Irish greeting, "God bless the work".
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I shall be very brief. It was a pleasure to hear such excellent maiden speeches as those of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. Ireland has been with us for 800 years—and the White Paper does discuss Ireland and not only Ulster, even if the Irish dimension has been played down. The White Paper is sensible, moderate, helpful and British, just like my right honourable friend Mr. Whitelaw and my noble friend Lord Windlesham, even though his name might be Hennessy.
If Ulster does not want to be sensible, moderate and helpful, like my right honourable friend and my noble friend, the great mass of the British people are going to react by saying, if they are not saying it already, "We are fed up with our soldiers from Yorkshire, Kent and Argyll being savagely murdered by men, and it now appears women, from Monaghan and Tyrone. We are fed up with Loyalists waving the Union Jack and shooting at Her Majesty's soldiery. We are fed up with the pagan bigotry of some of the Ulster Catholics and the Ulster Protestants".
Unless the moderate centre, which the noble Lords, Lord Dunleath and Lord Brockway, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, in an experienced maiden speech, say exists, exerts itself and plays the political game according to the standards set by my right honourable and noble friends, then the rest of the United Kingdom citizenry, English, Welsh and Scottish, are going to shout a demand for a withdrawal of the British Army and a final end of the British connection with Ireland. And that, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth said, will result in a bloodbath of unparalleled horror. They will want the money to be spent on other things, which in this country are important and constructive, and they will not care a hang for the Irish. I am sorry to have 1164 been pessimistic, and I am sorry to have been perhaps destructive.
I now make two pleas which I hope will be regarded as constructive. First, if Ulster starts behaving like my noble and right honourable friends, can the number of Members of another place be increased? I know that English Parliamentary Parties regard large numbers of Irish Members of Parliament with complete and utter horror; but if Ulster is to stay British and is to behave like the British, then perhaps its representation ought to be increased. Secondly, I should like to back very much what the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, has said—not, as he said, badly, but eloquently—on the banning and the abolition of sectarian education in schools. I am not suggesting that Presbytarian, Roman Catholic or Church of Ireland doctrines should not be taught. All I am asking. and I know it is a lot, is that the practice of educational apartheid should be abolished.
As a descendant of a Norman-Irish family, I pray from the bottom of my heart that the proposals in the White Paper succeed. I also pray that my pessimism is totally wrong and that the echoes of the Thomson gun will no longer be heard in the glens of Antrim.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I think that we have in our debate to-day shown the quality which can be found from time to time in your Lordships' House when we are faced, as we are to-night, with a subject of the greatest possible importance. I should like to join from this Box in the very warm compliments which have been paid to our two maiden speakers—the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, to whom we all listened with the very greatest attention, which was not less than his due in view of his experience in Government in this difficult Province; and the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, to whom we also listened with particular interest, who charmed us all with a most interesting and most constructive maiden speech. We certainly hope that he will set an example to his line and will not remain silent as his immediate predecessors in his family appear to have done.
If I may say so, while being impressed by many of the speeches of noble Lords in all parts of the House, I feel that 1165 my noble friend Lady Bacon made a really outstanding contribution to the debate. I was also very much moved by the very impressive contribution indeed of the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, who made a plea which I thought was echoed in other speeches, including the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, for those who wish to take a reasonable and moderate line to come forward, because they cannot remain a silent majority. They must be prepared to speak out and, when the time comes, be counted in the various forthcoming Elections. Unless they do that, all the great hopes which arise from this White Paper will be dashed.
We on this side, as my noble friend Lord Shackleton made very clear, warmly support, in broad outline at least, the proposals in the White Paper. That does not mean that there are not details about which we have some questions, and about which we may be concerned. But as the White Paper is plainly to be followed by legislation, we shall have further opportunities to discuss the points of detail which have been raised in various parts of the House, on which, naturally enough, there may be differences of view. I was particularly happy that my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner made some comments on the Diplock Report; I should have felt hardly competent to do so. But that is one example of something which will have to be dealt with later in legislation, and I was very clad that we had the benefit of his advice.
The main points put forward in the White Paper are those which, broadly speaking, we on this side of the House have in some instances actually put forward, or have certainly gone along with, in the various propositions that have been put forward from time to time by my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson in another place, and by other spokesmen for our Party. We are entirely at one with the Government in their proposals for an Assembly elected by proportional representation, for the Charter of Human Rights, for the proposals for power sharing—to which I should like to come back in a moment, because that is the most difficult section of the White Paper to envisage in action—and for the inclusion of references to the Irish dimension 1166 and the possibility at some stage of a Council for Ireland.
We are very much concerned with the whole question of timing. I was very glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, for the view which we all hold very strongly, that the elections for the Assembly should be held as soon as possible. if we do not hold them in the coming summer, and if we allow an intervening period—whether or not one pays attention to the "marching season", as it is called—we shall lose the momentum which has been aroused by the publication of the White Paper. Leadership, if it is to emerge, must emerge soon and it must be possible for everyone to identify and recognise who are really the leaders of the different sections of the community in Northern Ireland. I understand that a Statement has been made in another place, and I shall be extremely grateful if the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack can enlighten us on this.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD HAILSHAM OF SAINT MARYLEBONE)
My Lords, I am afraid that I am probably going to disappoint the noble Baroness. I have received the Statement, but it is so full of corrections that I am terrified of getting it wrong. I think we must wait until we see the Commons Hansard, so that we get it right.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I shall not be speaking for very long, but I think I might be speaking for long enough for—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is not quite simply that. There were a certain number of interventions, and there were a lot of corrections in the typescript that I saw. I should be very grateful if the noble Baroness would wait until to-morrow. If I thought it was a sensible course for me to repeat the Statement on what I have got, I should certainly wish to help her.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, had the noble and learned Lord had the patience to wait until I put to him the specific point on which I wish to seek his guidance for the House, I should have said that I understand that it was precisely on this matter of the legislation that the suggestion was made in another place that the legislation might be so ordered that 1167 it would be possible to hold early election, because those of us who have taken advice on the matter appreciate that it would be very difficult to hold early elections if one had to have a completely comprehensive constitutional Act passed before the electoral process was put in train. It was on that point, and that point only, that I was hoping—
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness again. I was perfectly familiar with what she was going to ask me, and it was precisely because it grieved my heart intensely to have to disappoint her that I tried to break it gently.
§ BARONESS WHITE
Quite frankly, my Lords, I do not want to sound petulant, but this is a matter of major importance. I think we are entitled, if the Prime Minister can say something in one House, to ask the Lord Chancellor at least to tell us in principle what his right honourable friend said. We are not asking for the full details of the matter, but a matter of such consequence as the principle on which legislation is being introduced is surely something which the Cabinet as a whole will have considered. I cannot believe, therefore, that the noble and learned Lord knows nothing about it, whatever he may say.
But I do not wish to introduce a contentious note into this debate, because we have proceeded hitherto in an extremely friendly and co-operative spirit on all sides. I wish merely to underline the very strong feeling of my noble friends and myself, that this question of the timing of the elections is extremely important; and also to express our concern at the fact that, as I understand it, only a few days before the White Paper was issued the Secretary of State gave a specific date for the local government elections, which are to be on May 30. This somewhat disturbs us because, as I am sure all noble Lords who have considered this matter will appreciate, to fight local government elections very shortly before elections for an Assembly, as described in the White Paper, would be a most unsatisfactory exercise.
The White Paper proposals would be bound to obtrude upon local government elections. We know within this country that from time to time local government 1168 elections are fought not really upon local issues as perhaps they should be, but upon national issues; and in certain circumstances which would pertain if we have local government elections to be closely followed, as we think they ought to be, by elections to the Assembly this summer it would seem to me that a very unsatisfactory situation would arise. We should appreciate the Government's thinking upon this. After all, we all have some political experience, and either to postpone the Assembly elections for a period of months after the summer holiday period or to have the local government elections immediately before would seem to us to be unsatisfactory. We should very much wish to have from the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack just how the Government look at this situation. We do this with the very strong interest in making a success of the White Paper and not in any destructive way at all. The White Paper seems to us to give at long last an opportunity for some constructive action in Northern Ireland. We are so anxious that it should succeed, and we should be very sad indeed if, through some mistake or misjudgment over timing, things should go wrong. One does not need to be deeply steeped in Irish history to realise that there have been occasions in the past when, because of timing, things which might have been were not. That is one of the main points that we on this side would wish to emphasise.
My Lords, in saying that we wish the White Paper proposals well I think we should just comment on some of the opposition which has been voiced, though not in your Lordships' House. There have been criticisms of detail, but I think it is true to say that not a single person who has taken part in this debate has done other than in general terms support the White Paper though there have been reservations on certain matters. In fact, during the debate there once or twice crossed my mind, this House being regarded in some quarters as the bastion of reactionary thought, what the ghost of the late Lord Carson must have thought, because the change in attitude and atmosphere in the last 50 years is surely one of the most remarkable phenomena of British politics.
There have been critics, of course, in Ulster itself. I would have thought that 1169 Mr. Craig at any rate would receive no comfort from our debate, if he ever comes to read it. I would say a word about the opposition expressed by the Reverend Ian Paisley, Member of another place, and I say this partly as a Welsh woman. His criticism of the proposals in the White Paper is that they would make the people of Ulster second class citizens and would do so more particularly unless the representation at Westminster were to be increased. There has been a good deal of Press discussion about whether or not the representation at Westminster should be increased, but I should like to stress the fact that the Assembly for Ulster which is proposed in the White Paper, with some 80 members, is going to be very much more powerful than any other part of the United Kingdom is to enjoy. In paragraph 53 of the White Paper it is made quite clear that the Government propose to seek the approval of Parliament for the devolution of extensive legislative powers to that Assembly. Now this is something which we in Wales do not enjoy, and in Scotland only to a most limited extent.
Whatever may be the content of the report of the Kilbrandon Commission when it comes out, I do not believe that they will propose that there should devolve upon either Wales or Scotland extensive legislative powers. I frankly hope that they will not make any such recommendation. I think we may well have an elected Assembly of some kind—I hope that we shall—but not, I trust, a Legislature. But a Legislature with certain reserves—a matter of course for the United Kingdom Parliament—is what is proposed in the White Paper, and therefore a suggestion that the people of Ulster will be second class citizens unless they largely increase their representation in this Parliament seems to me to be entirely misplaced. I do not myself think that it would benefit either side to increase the representation at Westminster. I say that not only for the reason which I have given, which is that I think it would be unfair to other parts of the United Kingdom, particularly Scotland and Wales which have an identity of their own, but also because I believe that it would be taken as an indication that Ulster was to look more and more to Westminster rather than to look in the other direction. That I think would be unfortunate, although I do not suggest for a moment 1170 that the Government were wrong in leaving the proposals about councils for Ireland in a fairly vague form. I would absolutely agree that any such body should not be imposed. I listened with interest to what the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, said, that it should not be imposed. With that I certainly agree. My own view, and that of my colleagues, is that it should have been positively encouraged; but I was not entirely convinced by what he said about any such institution coming from the grass roots. I think, frankly, that this is something for which leadership from the top may also be required
I was interested in the proposal for a Council of Ireland—historically something which has been suggested for 50 years but never carried out—and I was glad to note that the Government are at least prepared to contemplate, and if possible to further that suggestion. My Lords, there are indeed some disadvantages in studying this White Paper which is admirably written, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, rightly said. It is one of the most readable White Papers that one has seen for some time and I have no doubt at all that it was quite deliberate in giving the impression of being firm in principle but flexible in detail. The only disadvantage is that if one is flexible or, as some people might even say, vague in detail. there is the risk that it then permits everyone to paint in his own vision of the future; and I hope that in certain directions the Government will perhaps be a little more forthcoming as time goes on as to just how they hope matters will develop.
The whole question of power-sharing is a very difficult one to contemplate. I think it is a most challenging experiment that is proposed in the White Paper. It will mean very considerable tolerance on the part of many people who have never before, I suppose, even contemplated working together in a position of power in government. Yet if this does not develop into a meaningful sharing of power then I think the whole experiment in the White Paper will come to nothing. In this country, in war-time, we have had the experience of Coalition Governments which have succeeded for relatively short periods because those taking part in them were kept together in the face of common danger. Surely, 1171 in Ulster at the present moment there is this common danger which should keep together all men of reason and good will. We hope, therefore, that means will be found for a genuine sharing of power, even between those whose ideals are different and who, as I say, have never before seriously worked together. If one could establish the habit of tolerance and co-operation at least in the centre of the political spectrum that will be a most tremendous gain for the future.
My Lords, one weakness of the White Paper which has been stressed by several speakers, not least by the right reverend Prelate, concerns the economic factors. I was talking yesterday to some of my colleagues in another place who have large Irish communities of both religious persuasions in their constituencies—in Glasgow, Liverpool and so on. They say that the old ghetto mentality of those cities has not entirely gone but has very largely broken down in recent times because of improvements in economic conditions, in job opportunities, in better housing and so on. They have no doubt at all that a really massive improvement in the economic and social infrastructure in Ulster could, in itself, do a good deal to break down the suspicion and jealousy which now exists between the communities. I was very much interested in the suggestion made by the right reverend Prelate. In the present situation in Ulster it would, I believe, be well worth while if Her Majesty's Government did not just take the steps which they suggest in the two or three paragraphs that they devote to the economic situation—the regional policy, and so on. I believe that if it was thought that it would bring a genuine solution to Ulster the people of this country would be prepared for something like a Roosevelt New Deal, as the right reverend Prelate suggested—a really massive and dramatic effort to solve some of the apparently insoluble problems.
I do not believe one can do it by the normal economic means of regional policy, trying to persuade private industry to come, and so on. We have done that for years, with some measure of success, but I think that an economic package ought to accompany the political proposals which are contained in the White Paper. I believe that unless we get a 1172 fairly early indication that we are on a real road to a solution, some of the apprehensions expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, may come about; for from my conversations with colleagues at the other end of the corridor there is no doubt whatever that there are signs of deep concern about the morale of some of our troops. Some of them are going back now for the fifth time. They are in a very unhappy situation; and I was wondering just how long we were going to be able to sustain this situation. I think it essential that we should do so while the White Paper has a chance of working out. I wonder how far we are trying to make our own troops feel that the White Paper itself is something worth trying for. They are not directly involved; but I think that if you are being kept in a country where you are shot at from both sides it is important that you should have at least some indication of what you are being kept there for. I hope the Government have taken this aspect into account; and while one would not wish to undertake any sort of propaganda in this matter, I consider that at least some explanation in depth of what the Government are attempting in the White Paper should be given to the troops.
I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke as he did about the police, because while I am sure that we are in entire agreement that the main control over law and order and the Judiciary should remain with the Government at Westminster, we cannot carry on indefinitely in a quasi-colonial situation with the police. Therefore one is glad to see references in the White Paper to the ways in which it is hoped that local control of police may be developed and one would certainly wish for success in that direction.
Finally, I should like to echo what several noble Lords have already said about the concern we all feel for education and for the children and young people who are growing up in these conditions. This is what concerns me almost more than anything else. The White Paper rightly says that means must be found to create a greater sense of community in the minds of the younger generation. This, to my mind, is one of the most challenging things of all and the most difficult. There is segregated education, educational apartheid. It is 1173 not easy to think of ways in which one can loosen that situation. My advice is that there are in fact in Northern Ireland many families, Protestant and Catholic, who in the situation in which they find themselves recognise that this segregation of children and young people is one of the most crucial elements in the situation and that it would be perhaps desirable to have some loosening of the rigid division in the educational system. But there are the ecclesiastical authorities who, I am told, take a much more rigid view. One hopes particularly that those on the Government side of the House who have any influence in these matters will persevere in endeavouring to ameliorate a situation which perpetuates the animosities, antagonisms and even hatreds in the younger generation. If it is too difficult immediately to start with the schools, can one again redouble one's efforts in the extra-curricula activities in the various youth movements? I know that a great deal is being done there. I should like to pay tribute to the various voluntary organisations who, with some Government support, are working very hard in this field. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the Corrymeela Community where people of different persuasions are working together.
I was encouraged a week or two ago when a friend of mine came from Dublin to talk to me about what the religious organisations and the women's organisations, particularly in the South, were trying to do. They wish to break down the barriers to ecumenical co-operation in the South in the first place, and, when they had established relationships of confidence there, to try to establish relationships across the Border—not for political reasons but purely as human beings who are desperately concerned that children and young people should not be brought up to hate each other. Therefore anything which can be done here by individuals or organisations, or with the assistance of public authorities in this direction, I think should be done and should have our support. And we should be glad to hear a little more of it, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, said, the media give us only the horrors. Co-operation, Christian goodwill and Christian endeavour are not news. Therefore one hears little of the 1174 very considerable effort and ecumenical co-operation and understanding mentioned by my noble friend Lord Longford. It does not come to us in our newspapers. It is hardly mentioned, yet it is going on, I believe, to a very considerable degree; and anything that we can do to hearten and encourage those working in this direction, North or South, Catholic or Protestant, I think we should do. My Lords, the White Paper said that what can be done is to set off in the right direction. We believe that the White Paper is at least setting off in the right direction, and we wish it well.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I hope that it is considered right that, notwithstanding that this debate has almost been without controversy—I almost said entirely without controversy—a member of the Cabinet should reply to it, owing to the importance of the subject matter. In a sense, it is an impossible debate to reply to because there has been virtual unanimity about so many points; and what one would naturally wish to do in winding up a debate of this kind would be to answer the numerous questions which have been put to me in detail by various speakers. But, for a reason I will give in a moment, it is not going to be at all easy to give many specific replies. Before I get to that, however, I think I should be churlish if I did not acknowledge with gratitude the tributes which have been paid both to my noble friend Lord Windlesham whose opening speech, I thought, was greeted with universal acclaim in this House, and to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the tireless and self-sacrificing work which he has performed in Ulster during the past 12 months.
My Lords, it is difficult to speak of these things. I think I may say that I know my right honourable friend intimately. I have served with him in Opposition; I have served with him in Government, and I honestly do not believe that there is another person in this country who could have brought a more completely appropriate bundle of talents to the hideous situation which he faced 12 months ago. His extraordinary good will and forbearance and patience in the face of extraordinary adversity, sometimes of abuse, I think command the 1175 respect of this nation, and, I hope, have earned the gratitude of the people of Ulster, because he certainly deserves it.
I should also like to pay my tribute to the two maiden speakers. I join with those who have hoped that the noble Earl from the Cross-Benches does not leave us for another century and four years without a speech from an Earl of Clancarty. I very much enjoyed the speech he delivered, and I thought it well described by my noble friend Lord Amory with the epithets which he lavished on it when it was fresh in all our minds. My noble friend Lord Moyola made, as one would expect of him, a distinguished contribution to this debate. It makes me hope that, as matters go on and the White Paper is followed by legislation, he will help us again with the benefit of his experience and leadership. It would be impertinent to compliment an ex-Prime Minister upon a maiden speech, but I can assure him that he commanded both the attention and also the approval of the entire House.
There are two considerable difficulties in bringing this debate to a precise conclusion. A number of questions have been asked and, so far as I can recollect, there is not one which is not appropriate and which does not properly deserve attention: and I promise the House that they will receive attention both from my right honourable friend and from the Government.
My Lords, a number of points were deliberately left imprecise in the White Paper and, for a reason which I hope will appeal to your Lordships—the way in which the Executive will be formed; what would happen if we were confronted with an elected Assembly composed of a number of persons who were not prepared to co-operate—a number of points can emerge only when we have an elected Assembly in being and when we can deal with the genuine representatives of the Northern Irish people. Indeed, that is the main object of this exercise. It is, so far as possible, to get rid of direct rule, which could serve only as a temporary if necessary expedient, and to put in its place a genuinely new set of constitutional institutions which will grow and work as the previous set of constitutional institutions proved unable to do. That means that we must hold 1176 the elections as soon as possible, and when we have an Assembly which is elected we must discuss the issues which arise, many of which are pressing, with those who will have to work them with us.
I therefore share the anxiety of the noble Baroness, Lady White, and of I think almost every speaker from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, onwards, about the urgency of getting elections held. I understand that the local government elections are likely to take place at the end of May, and we must get our legislation through in order to ensure that as soon as possible there is an elected Assembly in being. I was glad to hear that this view commended itself also to my noble friend Lord Moyola.
I was asked what had taken place in another place to-day. There was evidently some kind of interchange. It was not a Statement, as the noble Baroness seemed to think, but apparently an extempore interchange, three-handed, between the Prime Minister, Mr. Merlyn Rees and Mr. Enoch Powell. I do not propose to reproduce their ipsissima verba, despite the importunity of the noble Baroness. What I can say to the House is that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is in fact opening the debate in another place to-morrow, and that he will be making a statement upon the subject which I hope will be as precise and clear as we can have at the present time. I hope that the noble Baroness will not be left as annoyed with me as she was in the course of her speech.
I want to put another point which has been emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton; namely, that there is only a limited field of manoeuvre. That is what I think he meant by saying "firm in principle and flexible in detail". What we are discussing is only a White Paper, and of course criticisms will be taken into account whether made publicly or brought to our notice privately. It will be followed by a Bill, which must follow the usual Parliamentary procedure in both Houses, and no doubt Amendments can be made to the Bill.
But at the end of the day there are definite limits which have to be recognised, limits of principle beyond which we cannot go. Within certain limits what will emerge at the end of the day is an 1177 Act of Parliament producing a subordinate Assembly elected by proportional representation and the single transferable vote, with an Executive in which there is a real degree of sharing of power and possessing legislative powers of a wide order, but still not extending, at any rate for the time being, to law and order. It is fair to say that this has been recognised by this House in all quarters, and it has been recognised, certainly by the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church leaders, in Northern Ireland. One hopes their flocks, even the less sheeplike among them, will take their advice to heart. At the end of the day it will depend upon the extent to which they do take the advice to heart whether these things are a success.
There are two matters which emerge clearly from this debate. The plebiscite having been held, it is clear to my mind that, at any rate in the present state of affairs, two of the possible alternatives are out of consideration. Nobody believes that in the light of the plebiscite a united Ireland can be introduced at this stage; and nobody believes in the light of the plebiscite, or of public opinion generally, or of the facts of life as one understands them economically, that an independent Ulster can be produced. With those two extreme solutions out, one has to create a situation, as my noble friend Lord Windlesham said, within the framework of the United Kingdom.
Here I want to say something—and I shall come back and say something else about the same subject before I sit down—about what I call the British dimension. I think it was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in his opening remarks. It is a great mistake for anybody to think that Ulster can remain part of the United Kingdom, as we have promised to keep it, except on terms that the United Kingdom Parliament are prepared to enact. We are the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom, and people are not entitled to dictate to us what we will enact if it is against our consciences to do it.
The fact which has led us to assume a greater degree of authority than certainly I would have been prepared to do until relatively recently is that 17 battalions or more (it varies from time to time) of British troops are deployed 1178 in Northern Ireland. Some people across the water seem to forget that it is our children who are being shot at; our husbands who are being jeered at; our brothers who are being stoned. One almost hysterical letter from the Province at the time of the bombing of the Old Bailey said that it was the first time that British people had taken any interest in Northern Ireland, or had expressed any anxiety about it. For three years it has occupied the major place in our national Press; thousands of parents in the United Kingdom—in this part of the United Kingdom—have known the anxiety which parenthood brings if a child is stationed in that part of our country. We have not merely a legal right to legislate; we have a moral right to state what we think about things. When Irish people of various denominations seem to suggest that we have nothing to do with it, or do not understand it, I think they have probably misjudged the situation and the temper of the British people.
There are, if we exclude the two extreme alternatives, only four possible solutions open to us. There is, first of all, the continuance of direct rule. Nobody has suggested that, unless we are driven to it. There is complete integration. I think the noble Lord, Lord Monson, rather hankered after complete integration, but I cannot myself see how it could possibly be introduced without completely upsetting our own constitutional arrangements; nor do I think it would offer the smallest additional safeguard to the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland for their continued membership of the United Kingdom. On the contrary, I think what it would do is this. I can see no greater difficulty in detaching six counties which were integrated than six counties which were subordinated to an Assembly of the kind we propose. What I think it would do—instead of inducing Northern Irish people to live together in amity with one another, which almost every noble Lord who has spoken regards as the proper and only way that we can go forward—would be to encourage them to bring their differences over here, playing off one political party against another, and occupying a great deal of very scarce Parliamentary time in the process. I 1179 simply have never regarded that as a sensible constitutional arrangement.
We could of course return to the status quo ante: that is to say, to the old Stormont, hut, even if we wanted to, we could not do it while we have a law and order situation comparable to that which exists now; and I doubt whether anybody wants to. We did, as a matter of fact, when we took over direct rule, and insisted upon taking over law and order for ourselves, offer them an Assembly which had a very much wider degree of autonomy than any local portion of the United Kingdom has here, and they would not then have it. But, now that the old Stormont has gone, it is quite clearly folly to believe that it could be restored.
If in fact those possibilities are rejected, at the end of the day only one remains and that is the kind of subordinate Assembly which we have suggested, without, at any rate in the first place, powers of law and order, for the reasons I have given, but with greater powers to legislate, for instance, in the fields of education, transport, agriculture, health and social services, than any assembly in this Island—certainly even greater than those of the Greater London Council or the metropolitan districts or counties outside London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Now, my Lords, if that he so, something very like the White Paper emerges as the only possible policy which people must either work or face the appalling consequences in bloodshed which would result from its rejection.
I do not want to say much about the single transferable vote. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Bacon, I am not a particular friend of proportional representation as such. I do not share, never have shared, the views of the Liberal Party about it as a general rule. I do not even think it prevents the emergence of extreme groups; I think perhaps the contrary may be the case. But I believe it is true that it is the condition of the bipartisan or tripartisan approach which we have tried to introduce. I hope it may encourage, whatever else it encourages, voting across tribal divisions, and thereby bring about the overdue demise of a purely tribal warfare. And I cannot help remembering that the introduction into the Province of the Westminster 1180 pattern, which has operated only, I think, since 1929 or thereabouts—I may have got the dates slightly wrong—was in fact a partisan action designed to perpetuate the domination of the Unionist Party.
I have left two points to the last, although they have been touched on, I think, by most noble Lords who have spoken: the so-called Irish dimension and the necessity of the two communities to live together and for the moderates in the two communities to exercise the leadership to drive them into living together—and may I say in passing that, like the noble Baroness, Lady White, I was particularly impressed (as I think the right reverend Prelate was) with the speech which came from my noble friend Lord Dunleath. It was of a very remarkable order and I may say that I was not able to gather from what he said in quite what interest he was going to stand for the new Assembly; but I wish him the best of good fortune in whatever interest it may turn out to be.
With regard to the Irish dimension, many of us who have spoken in this debate have Irish blood in our veins, of one sort or another. I was brought up a Unionist; I was brought up in a family which, until 1921, if asked, would have described itself as "Irish". My earliest recollections of a political character date back to the controversies before the First World War when an uncle of mine in the Curragh incident formed a short footnote to the history of the period a few months before he was killed in action in France, fighting for his country. My first memories are of the bitterness of controversy which surrounded the Home Rule arguments of that time. I think the noble Baroness, Lady White, asked what Carson would have thought of the present situation: what would any of them have thought about the present situation? The present arrangements would not have satisfied any of them: no one on any side—not Carson, who wished to see Ireland ruled as a unity with Scotland, Wales and England from Westminster. He would not have been satisfied with the present situation. Not Redmond, who wanted to see Ireland united under the British Crown under a separate Parliament, and whose first action after the declaration of the First World War was to declare his loyalty to the battle in which the British Empire (as it then was) was engaged. Not the 1181 Liberals, not the Conservatives; not Sinn Fein, who wished to see Ireland independent but united. None of them would have blessed the arrangements which followed the treaty.
Being a Unionist of what I think is the old, rather than the modern, type I can never reconcile myself to the belief that Britain and Ireland are alien from and independent of one another in quite the sense that France and Germany are independent of and alien to one another. We have virtually a common currency; we have, despite Welsh and Gaelic of both kinds, a common language; we have common legal traditions; we have almost interchangeable citizenship; we have—as we have learned to-day—interlocking family connections which are as common in the working class of this country as they are in any other; we have an interdependent economy; we have a common literature; a common summertime; a common sequence of motor car numbers, and now common membership of the E.E.C. I do not wish in any way to go back on a treaty which, in my opinion at least, has given many more benefits to this country than to Ireland during the last fifty years, but I have never been able to regard the artificial sickroom atmosphere which has bedevilled official relations—whether between Westminster and Dublin or Stormont and Dublin—during the past half century without mingled feelings of irritation and contempt.
Others may complain of the partition of Ireland, but I complain bitterly of the cultural and spiritual partition which exists between the different portions of this group of Islands. We are at least as fit to be associated with one another in some common terms as Benelux, and now that we are members of the European Community I regard the barriers as more artificial than ever. I personally have long advocated some form of structural association, and therefore, like other noble Lords, I welcome the proposed Council, by whatever name it is called. But the conviction remains with me that no fundamental reconciliation will take place until the British dimension is also recognised as a factor as readily as the British recognise the Irish dimension. However, precisely because these things 1182 can be done only by discussion, can be arrived at only in consequence of agreement, and up to a point by experiment, I believe that my right honourable friend was wise to leave that dimension totally undefined at this stage.
It remains with the people of the North, and on the leadership of the moderates in the North, to see whether this experiment works. The Protestants have been given the promise that so long as the majority desire it they are part of the United Kingdom. But they can no longer claim to ascendancy. The people of Britain, I believe, are not prepared to tolerate as part of the United Kingdom a regional situation where ascendancy based on religious culture is steadfastly practised. I believe that to be a fact. I believe it to be an unalterable fact about public opinion in this country. On the other hand, and equally, the politics of abstention—as I believe they were called in two of the speeches—have to come to an end on both sides.
The French have a proverb that "the absent are always wrong". I firmly believe this to be true. We are now about to create a situation in which all minorities—I accept the correction which one noble Lord gave that the matter is multilateral as well as bilateral—can hope to have an effective part, if upon a system of proportional representation they can gain seats in the new Assembly. If people stay away; if having had this Assembly legislated by the sovereign Parliament of this country they choose to absent themselves, whether they be extremists on one side or the other, they cannot complain if those who attend rule them. The absent I hope will prove to be wrong.
I have, I am afraid, detained the House too long. I end simply by saying that I agree with those noble Lords who believe, without false optimism that these proposals offer far the best hope there has been in this Province for a very long time. The possibilities of the alternatives, do not bear contemplation, and certainly so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned we intend to do everything possible to realise those hopes.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.