§ Second Reading debate resumed.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, the House will have been grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, for the thorough explanation which he gave of the new Northern Ireland Bill which is before the House, but in addition to the Bill we have a new White Paper—not to mention a Continuation Order for the Emergency Provisions Act which is to be taken afterwards. Therefore, this is not time to be looking backwards, for it is with the present and with the future that we have to deal.
I think that it is understandable that the people of Northern Ireland are now exhausted with violence. At work, people have suffered grievously. To give one example, I remember that at the end of 1973 the offices which housed the Youth Employment Service in Belfast had been bombed on seven separate occasions. With violence there has been widespread disruption of normal routine. Family life has been restricted and has been threatened. If this Bill becomes law, those who are responsible for the conduct of elections in Northern Ireland will be required to have organised no fewer than six separate polls in the space of what will probably be only about two years. For the Northern Ireland Civil Service, 1156 upon which so much has depended, the fall of the Executive has meant helping new Ministers yet again to become acquainted with the work of their Departments. Therefore, when the Convention for which the Bill provides comes to meet, it must be the hope that there will exist a united desire to find a solution by Ulster, for Ulster, out of the present troubles. Inevitably this Convention will encounter sticking points—issues upon which the political Parties in Northern Ireland are divided or, at best, do not see eye to eye. However, faced squarely, issues can be solved. Pushed aside, they may fester until, perhaps, at a crucial moment they may appear and destroy agreement.
One such issue must be security. It is the issue which is bound to be uppermost in the mind of almost everybody who is living in Northern Ireland. Perhaps one of the shrewdest comments upon the events of May was Mr. Cosgrave's expressed view that, in fact, the Executive had been brought down by the I.R.A.; and so it is that the Security Forces face their continuing task which the Army has shouldered so well for five years. However, as paragraph 42 of the White Paper says:Nothing would transform the security situation more quickly than a determination by the whole community to support the Police Service and to co-operate with it.On many occasions my noble friend Lord Brookeborough has in this House urged upon the Government various methods for improving recruiting to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If the issue of effective policing is not to be a cause of division within the Convention when it meets, then I think it is essential that the Government should ensure that the plans for the R.U.C. which have already been made should not be allowed in any way to stagnate. For instance, has the non-residential cadet scheme, which the Secretary of State announced in another place on April 4, started yet; and, if so, is there any indication of a favourable response? What is to be done about the plan for an all-Party committee to examine how best to extend effective policing throughout Northern Ireland?
My Lords, the White Paper affirms the practical fact that there is an Irish dimension—obviously a second sticking point, potentially, for the Convention. In 1157 another place my honourable friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham said, that the size of this dimension depends considerably upon the Irish Government. This was not said in any spirit of antagonism. It is a practical and geographical fact that if two countries share a common boundary, relations are bound to depend upon how energetically they protect that boundary for the mutual safety of each other. Therefore, may I ask the Government what practical steps are now being taken to implement the recommendation for extra-territorial jurisdiction which was the recommendation made by the Law Enforcement Commission just a few months ago? Although the United Kingdom representatives on that Commission would have preferred extradition, effective implementation of what was the agreed recommendation could be a step forward and could help to remove a sense of understandable grievance among those who will undoubtedly be members of the forthcoming Convention.
Thirdly, I must add to the list the whole principle of power sharing. It is bound once again to be closely debated within the Convention, although it will now be debated within the context of Clause 2(1) of the Bill. However, on this issue I believe that agreement can be reached. When the three Parties which were to form the Executive started discussions last year, it was believed that they were deeply divided on many issues which were crucial to the good government of Northern Ireland; yet within two months they had agreed a declaration on social and economic aims. It may well be that the economic position of the Province will unite members of the Convention.
Part 5 of the White Paper shows that considerable annual supplements are needed by the Northern Ireland economy. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has said, there is nothing wrong in this. Ulster is part of the United Kingdom, an association for which we have been thankful in times of need, and it is right that expenditure should be incurred to pursue the kind of social and economic aims which were set out in the White Paper of a year ago.
However, the Convention will be meeting at a time when the economy of the whole of the United Kingdom hangs in 1158 the balance, and not least the economy of Northern Ireland. It is true that increased productivity, good industrial relations, the attraction of a remarkable amount of foreign investment and improvements to industrial training are advances which have been made in Northern Ireland, and they are infinitely to the credit of all those who are concerned with the economy of Northern Ireland. However, anybody who is weighing the prospects for the Province in the immediate future must study also the other side of the economic coin: the great reliance which is placed upon one industry in Northern Ireland; namely, agriculture; the difficulties which are faced by Northern Ireland shipbuilding at Harland and Wolff; the serious threat which the recent disturbances have presented to the chances of further foreign investment.
The Convention which, after all, will be led by Party leaders who are experienced in the affairs of the Province, will need to weigh with the very greatest care the appalling consequences of any return to steeply rising unemployment. It is for these reasons that I hope and believe that for those who have the future of Ulster at heart the facts of economic life will unite and not divide.
My Lords, I have no detailed questions to ask about the Bill, but I have one point which I should like to put to the noble Lord. It is a point which I believe could be rectified by administrative action. Under the Bill, we return to Northern Ireland legislation by Parliamentary Order, with the obvious disadvantages of this procedure. However, in 1972 and 1973 the Secretary of State had the benefit of an advisory commission. This meant that at least Orders had always been discussed with representatives of those who were directly affected. Surely it would not be impossible for the Secretary of State to reconstitute such a Commission. If the noble Lord's right honourable friend feels that he does not wish to duplicate the Convention in any way, then perhaps he could be advised upon Northern Ireland legislation for Parliament by elected representatives who are drawn from the Convention itself.
Apart from the main difficulties which I have sought to identify there will be other problems to be overcome if the 1159 Convention is to succeed. I must say that the elastic terms of reference, yet no provision apparently for the Convention Report to be able to voice a substantial minority point of view, are both aspects of Clause 2 which cause me some uneasiness, and there will be practical considerations as well. There will be the choice of chairman, the delicate balance between the Convention and the Secretary of State, and also the whole atmosphere in which the Convention will first meet. All these things will be crucial, and so must be the willingness of Members to agree procedure and to determine progress. But these are not items which legislation can solve. The Bill provides a way forward, and for the future of Northern Ireland it must succeed.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I believe that we are now in the crucial period for the future of Northern Ireland, and that if right policies are pursued we may indeed begin a period of transition from violence to a constructive approach to this problem. I feel this so deeply that I think it demands a reappraisal of our views. It has certainly led me to new thinking, which I will try to express in the speech which I am now to deliver.
I largely support the White Paper and the Bill that is now before us. My one regret is that in a succeeding Bill the present provisions for the emergency will be kept without amendment. I particularly welcome the proposal for a Constitutional Convention. A few weeks ago when we discussed Northern Ireland, I made this proposal on the suggestion of Professor Rose. I had the support of a noble Lord on the opposite Benches, but that was all. There was hardly any consideration at all of the proposal, and because it has now been accepted by Her Majesty's Government I am the more glad to welcome the White Paper and the Bill.
I say that in my view we all have to reassess our views about Northern Ireland because of recent developments. First, there has been the quite extraordinary growth of a sense of responsibility within Northern Ireland itself for its future. This was illustrated by the remarkable conference held at Oxford called by the British-Irish Association, when representatives were present from Protestants 1160 and Catholics, from ex-Members of the Stormont Executive and from the Opposition. It is now being reflected by discussions which are taking place within both communities and across their religious frontiers. I welcome the fact that this is recognised in the White Paper, which says:The Government welcomes the holding of discussions within various groups in the community which have extended towards establishing peace and withdrawal from violence.My Lords, I believe that that is now potentially within our reach. This growth of a sense of responsibility in Northern Ireland itself opens the door to the ultimate withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland, and the policing of violence within Northern Ireland itself.
The history of the presence of British troops is quite extraordinary. First, they were welcomed by the Catholics as a protection against the Protestant majority; then opposed by the Catholics because of arrests and, particularly, house-searching within their areas, while the Protestants supported them. Then, when arrests and house searching began in the Protestant areas, Protestant opposition grew as well, and we now have this quite extraordinary situation, that both Protestant and Catholic representatives are demanding the end of internment and looking towards the withdrawal of the British troops. I say at once what I said a few weeks ago, that the immediate withdrawal of the British troops would be disastrous. I do not think we have yet reached a situation where that would be safe, and where there would not be almost civil war, but I believe we may now be approaching that situation.
The Government have made the proposal of the Constitutional Convention, and I should like to suggest to them that, in order to give that Convention a sense of seriousness, a sense of seeking to find a solution to the problem of Northern Ireland, the Government should indicate that within 12 months of that Convention British troops will be withdrawn. We have the precedent of India, and if an intimation of that kind were made I believe it would be an encouragement to both sides in Northern Ireland to make this Constitutional Convention a real occasion when a solution might be found.
But I should like to add this. I believe it is most important that their discussions 1161 should begin about the policing of Northern Ireland. I hope there will be official discussion between the elected representatives, but I also hope that the Government will encourage unofficial discussions with the Ulster Workers' Council, who do not have elected representatives, and even with the I.R.A. It was after all a Conservative Minister who once had discussions of that kind with the I.R.A. Discussions about policing would prepare for a situation when the British troops could withdraw.
My Lords, a development has taken place in Northern Ireland during the last two or three months of which I do not think we have yet understood the significance. It is that power in Northern Ireland is passing from the old political representatives to representatives of the workers. This was shown in the General Strike which was called by the Ulster Workers' Council. I deplored many of its demands, but the I.R.A. itself cannot avoid the lesson of that quite extraordinary five days' Strike. It ended the Executive and power sharing, which I regret; it ended Stormont. But the I.R.A. have this example, that by five days' nonviolent General Strike, the Ulster Workers' Council obtained more results than did the I.R.A. in five years by violence.
My Lords, in saying that, I recognise there are dangerous elements within the Ulster Workers' Council. There are fascist elements. I am fearful of the increased influence even of the National Front within it. But on the other side, there are in the Ulster Workers' Council trade unionists who accept the trade union demands in Britain equally in Northern Ireland, and who are members of our trade unions, sound in their policy. We should recognise that when we are thinking of the emergence of the Ulster Workers' Council.
My Lords, the second fact which I do not think we have yet understood is the agreement between the workers' representatives among the Protestants, and the workers' representatives among the Catholics. As I have indicated, both are now in favour of ending detention without trial, but they are in favour of something very much more. Their social and economic programmes are almost identical, and make a bridge between the Catholic and the Protestant workers. I 1162 accept that that programme, stated only in broad principles, needs to be worked out in detail. I want to make an appeal to the Irish Catholic workers in Northern Ireland. I accept their views; I want a united Ireland, but I want a united Ireland by the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. I want a Socialist united Ireland, but I recognise that a great deal of education has to be done in Southern as well as in Northern Ireland before that is realised.
I make this appeal to the Catholic workers in Northern Ireland. They have accepted the view that there should be no union between North and South until the majority of the people in Northern Ireland have accepted that concept. The implication of that agreement is very great. No one suggests that it can be obtained in Northern Ireland until many years have passed, and acceptance of that by the Catholic workers in Northern Ireland surely means that during the period before consent—if it ever is obtained—should be one of co-operation with the Protestant workers in applying the economic, social and political programme about which they are agreed.
There is another reason why the Catholic workers in Northern Ireland should accept this position. This is the warning given by Mr. Cosgrave to which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred, that the people in Southern Ireland are becoming less concerned about unity with the North while violence persists in the North. That should be another reason why the Catholic workers in the North should turn to other proposals than the violence of the minority within the I.R.A. Unity between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland is the doorway to unity between them in all Ireland.
I want to put this in concrete terms, so I ask the permission of your Lordships to read what I am now going to say because I want it to be exact in my reproduction. I would ask the workers both on the Protestant and on the Catholic side in Northern Ireland to consider this proposal: a truce on the Border issues for ten years, during which provocative propaganda and processions by both sides would be avoided, and concentration would be given to the realisation of equal civil rights for all, including the abolition of detention without trial, the policing of violence by a 1163 representative Northern Ireland Force, and the implementation of social and economic policies of value to the whole people of Ireland. I hope that not only Her Majesty's Government but representatives both from the Protestant and Catholic sides will consider that proposal, as, indeed, I think some of them already are. I hope that this may be the way by which we may find a transition to peace and constructive co-operation in Northern Ireland.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to welcome this opportunity to debate not only the White Paper but also the Second Reading of the Bill. I hope that the other Bills will in fact pass through without further ado. I should like to refer to the television appearance in Northern Ireland—unfortunately it was not available in the United Kingdom—of the Secretary of State when he presented this particular White Paper. It was an appearance which gave that White Paper the best send-off possible. If I may so put it without being condescending, it has been a long time since an Englishman or Welshman has shown such understanding and sympathy for a strife-torn people. It was a most excellent send-off. May I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, for his personal intervention in many spheres, especially agriculture, and in other areas where he has gained the confidence of the agricultural community, a very large community in Northern Ireland. It is a great pleasure that he should be answering this debate, although he may not agree with everything I have to say, especially as I intend to keep the House for some three-quarters of an hour. I have had words already from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to say that I ought to keep my speech short.
My Lords, first of all, the main element of this White Paper, as other noble Lords have said, is the Constitutional Convention. It has received a general welcome by working people, and if I strike a note of dissension from that it is because I believe that it should be said absolutely clearly and without doubt. I have not spoken on this subject since the White Paper was published. I have waited until the debate occurred, and I have tried— 1164 and noble Lords will agree it is very difficult with Hansard on strike or impossible to get—to find out exactly what happened in the other place. But so far as I can see from typescript reports, the debate confirms my suspicion that in fact the Convention and the whole set-up is a method, a trap, for Northern Ireland to cut its own throat and end up with the Government—if it is the same Government when the Convention reports— being able to say, "This is an unacceptable report and we will wash our hands of Northern Ireland". That is what is so difficult.
I cannot forget that the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister had a fifteen-point plan not long ago. which ended up with the absorption of Northern Ireland in the Southern Republic. I cannot forget what has been described as, his, "unfortunate" speech during the Ulster Workers' Council strike. I do not think it was unfortunate from his point of view; I think that electorally within this country it was, in fact, a satisfactory intervention. But from our point of view it all added up to what I believe to be a plan. I believe that, unfortunately, he does not mind a diminution of the territorial establishment of the United Kingdom. Noble Lords will know that I am passionately devoted to the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. I believe in its greatness, in its way of life and in the contribution it can make to world civilisation.
How does this Convention fit into the picture? The elections have been announced at a time and in a way which lead me to believe that the only result will be that extremists—and I am talking about extremists on both sides—will be encouraged to stand for this Assembly, and they will be elected on extreme platforms. What we will get at that point, or what we will achieve, is much the same as we have on television in Northern Ireland. We very often have an extreme Protestant and an extreme Roman Catholic put on either side of the television screen. They argue for ten minutes; and then the media say that they have presented a balanced picture. In point of fact, all one gets is two completely opposite points of view.
I cannot see how, with their dedication to power sharing, the Government can resolve the problem at the same time as 1165 believing that out of this Convention they can get a report which is acceptable. In fact, because of the debate I am very worried about this question of the report. What happens if there is a 51 per cent. approval of some plan, with 49 per cents against? The right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State, if I may read what I believe to be what he said—and it is all the more confusing to me—stated:It could, for instance, put in interim reports so long as each report which it submits is a report of the Convention".What happens if 51 per cent. decide that the opinion of the 49 per cent. will not be heard? Then it does not become a report of the Convention. I do not want to labour this matter, but I feel that the problem that exists in regard to the report of this Convention is that the Government, headed by the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister, may quite welcome the fact that what comes out of this Convention will be something that is unworkable, and, therefore, he will be able, with apparently clean hands, to wash his hands of Northern Ireland. That is what I intend to do my best to frustrate.
I should like to know from the noble Lord how the Government can frame a plebiscite. The White Paper says that a plebiscite or a referendum will be put to the people of Northern Ireland. A Government which must involve so many items, such as power sharing of some description or a coalition of some description, must of itself be complicated. How can one frame a question that the people of Northern Ireland can accept or reject with justification? Are we to go to a point in the United Kingdom where we are to govern by referenda because, if so, I think we are running very fast into trouble. We already have a commitment on the E.E.C. We have a commitment here on the Constitution of Northern Ireland. We have a commitment in the 1973 Act that the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom shall be decided by a referendum. That is a simple question which can be decided. I am not happy about a referendum regarding a complicated matter such as a Constitution. I can imagine the Prime Minister, having received a report of this description with complete conflict, saying to friends under cover, "We have given the Ulster Unionists a very sharp knife. Now let them cut their throats". If 1166it is done in this way in present circumstances, there is great danger.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, has mentioned the question of recruitment. I do not want at this stage to go into the question of law and order and its various means of enforcement, but I must tell the House that we still have not got anywhere. We have not achieved anything so far as recruitment into the R.U.C. Reserve is concerned. We are still at the stage where Napoleon—and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Harding, if he were in Northern Ireland—would be too small to serve in the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. Certainly Napoleon was too small, and I think that if the noble Lord, Lord Harding, were here and I could measure him he would be in that state. This situation is ridiculous, and that is why we are having a massive political attack on the Reserve forces and a demand for some form of Home Guard.
We must get the Government to go wholeheartedly into this matter, and blow aside all the vested interests which exist in the various hierarchies, which prevent us from having a massive recruitment in a local area—because it can be done. We have done it in small areas and it can be done in larger areas. We still have the position where a security man is paid more than an Ulster Defence Regiment man who is in a very much more dangerous position. I still feel that security is not being handled with the vigour that it should be. I repeat—and I think everybody knows this—that politics cannot start in a sensible way until law and order has been improved. It has been improved—and there should be no doubt about it—but it requires still more improvement.
I should like the Government to announce very shortly that there will be two years of direct rule, irrespective of anything else. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said something very significant, and I should like him to repeat it. He said "Talk, talk, talk and talk." But the Bill says six months, with a further six months. I should like to feel that there will be unending talk, because I believe that only time will resolve the problem. I should like to think that during that period of two years the Government will appoint a Chief Executive—as they can do with very small amendments to the law—who is totally 1167 non-political, and who will take up the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and start by appointing a Commission, as existed before. Then gradually, if and when elections have taken place from the Convention, those commissioners should take up portfolios under a non-political animal in the form of the Chief Executive.
I should like very quickly to refer to a tremendous campaign which has been going on in Northern Ireland, but which may not have overflowed here to any extent; that is, for the abolition of detention. All of us dislike detention, and nobody dislikes it more than we unionists, who were responsible for bringing it in under necessity. It is repugnant, I and it has got to be done away with; but it is a question of how and when. I welcome the political decision of the Government to release a small number of detainees. I welcome too—and here I believe I speak for all sensible people in Northern Ireland, whatever their religion or creed—the decision that from now on extra releases and the final extinction of detention must and will depend on the security situation, and nothing else.
People talk about letting these people out, but they forget the fact of the innocent lives that have been lost through these people, who cannot be convicted because of intimidation, murder, and other forms of kangaroo courts. Even last night a man was shot in both knees, and who must be in considerable agony. This occurred not because he gave evidence but because it was suspected that he wanted to give evidence. It is a popular cry to call for the end of detention, but, so far as the majority of people in Northern Ireland are concerned, we support the Government's decision to end detention based on a drop in the security problem. The last two years have seen a tremendous fall in the number of security incidents, and this is very relevant to detention. Two years ago there were 3,000 shooting incidents a month; now there are only 300. The R.U.C. and the Army to-day are charging 100 people a month before the courts, and only a third of them are sent to detention.
It would be totally unfair on the Army if we were to release these men, many of whom are evil men from both sides, after the Army has spilt so much blood 1168 and tears in trying to capture them. Indeed, we have had a recent lesson, because at Christmastime a political decision was made to release some 60 detainees. It is recognised in the White Paper—and it was certainly recognised, as my noble friend Lord Belstead has said, by Mr. Cosgrave, who agreed that the Executive was put down by I.R.A. violence—that between November and March the number of incidents doubled. In my view this was as much responsible as anything else for the counter-violence from other people. Let us not be under any misapprehension; there is an improvement in the security situation, and it is continuing. Any relaxation of detention must be at the risk of more incidents.
If we are to reduce the criteria, what we have to do before we do that is introduce something like the Offences Against the State Act in Dublin, by which people can have evidence brought against them by a police officer. This is not a pleasant Act, but it appears to do the job. If the British people do not want detention, then they have to strengthen the law so as to enable the forces of law and order to carry out their task. Above all else, we must have no suggestion of an amnesty for those people who have been convicted of foul crimes, at enormous risk to witnesses. There must be no suggestion to these people that there will be an amnesty, that they will be let out after having committed these foul crimes.
I now turn to politics, because this is what it is all about. In the last year there have been a certain number of quite good elements, and I am going to concentrate on them rather than on the bad. The first thing—and other noble Lords have referred to this—is that the coalition did work. That the Act was almost unworkable is irrelevant. The fact is that a number of men worked together for a length of time, and the results should not be forgotten. Nationalists were able to work together with Unionists. The next form of coalition—because "power sharing" has become an unacceptable phrase—must include some method by which people of different aspirations, as it is put, are able to work with the majority who wish to remain British.
The next factor which is most important is that the Irish Republic recognise, and are able and feel strong enough to 1169 recognise, that they do not want Ulster at any price. It is a question of "a plague on both your houses". This has a very beneficial effect not only in the Irish Republic but here and on the elected representatives in Northern Ireland. Lastly, and a matter which has been referred to, there is the Ulster Workers' Council. I do not think that anybody can doubt that the Ulster Workers' Council have influence. Exactly what electoral influence they have remains to be seen when there is an election. Any body of men—and they had elected politicians with them—who can bring a country to a standstill cannot be neglected. They themselves have said that they require any solution to include two elements: one is more elected representatives here, and the second is a form of coalition in a devolved government in Northern Ireland. These are very significant factors.
In order to deal with these problems, I am going to raise a subject which I know is not popular in Westminster at the moment, but it is terribly important that we should recognise how people in Ulster see it. There is a civil rights cry now for Parliamentary democracy—a Parliamentary democracy somewhere. It was the failure to have Parliamentary democracy in the Assembly at Stormont, or to have it appear as such—because on my side of the House we were able to satisfy ourselves that there was Parliamentary democracy, but we had a noble Lord from here who said that the Chief Executive was in fact appointed and not elected—that made it difficult. My suggestion is that we must have a Parliamentary democracy which has fair representation here in Westminster. This is a fundamental civil right.
In 1920, when Northern Ireland was set up, a certain number of functions were transferred to us. Under the new Constitution we are to have fewer functions. Therefore, it is right and proper that at the very least we should have the minimum representation that is shared by any region. This is a civil right, and I feel sure that the right honourable gentleman, Mr. Stanley Orme, who played such a part in the civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland over the tertiary civil rights—that is, a tertiary form of government, because in Northern Ireland we had Westminster and Stormont both having the same franchise, and then a tertiary 1170 form of local government where there was an apparent lack of civil rights—would agree that if that was a cause for the civil rights campaign, how much more true is it now that we should have proper representation at Westminster.
I am not asking for this merely to have more Members here; I am doing it because of the next problem which arises, that if we can do this we can unlock completely new thinking on the solution for Northern Ireland. If we settle Parliamentary democracy here with proper representation we can then think in different terms; we can produce a different form of devolved democratic government. I am not asking for enormous representation. I know that noble Lords on the other side will agree when I say that if there is extra representation it will definitely not support the Conservative Party. There will be a cross-section, so we should not be afraid of that.
Democracy comes in many forms, and if we in Northern Ireland have Parliamentary democracy in Westminster, then there is no earthly reason why we should not have some different form altogether in the rest of Northern Ireland. I am not suggesting that we should follow the Greater London Council but, after all, the Greater London Council has a greater budget by far than the Benelux countries, and nobody can say that they do not have democracy, and a democratic form of institution.
One of the problems with the Assembly and the Executive was in fact that it aped Westminster, which enabled my Party to say that it was in fact a full Parliament with a Cabinet; the words were different, but in fact the functions were the same. This enabled other people who were against the Constitution to say, "Don't talk such nonsense; it is neither democratic, nor a Government of any description." So, my Lords, I feel that the agreement when the Convention meets, the agreement from the Convention, should be on the basis of increased representation in return for a sensible form of coalition. In my view, this gives considerable room for manœuvre. In passing, may I say that in another place there has been a request for more seats under proportional representation. I should like to feel that when this Convention is over and there is another election there will not necessarily be more 1171 seats but that the size of constituencies should be reduced. We have an eight-Member constituency and a seven-Member constituency, and the size is such that an ordinary Member really cannot begin to know everybody and service that community. I think we should have three-seat still on proportional representation.
Noble Lords will know that Ulster is, with certain justification, hung up in a way that has become fairly unmanœuvrable, and to everyone else obstinate; but there is justification. The bombing and the murders have made it difficult for people to be flexible in mind. There have been many bad Government decisions, people feel, on security and other matters and, above all, we are hung up on personalities. There are the big names that everybody sees on television. They have all taken up positions from which it is almost impossible for them to get out, and it is for that reason that I ask for a complete change, with a basis of fair representation in Westminster—maybe no taxation without representation. The White Paper stresses the financial responsibility of this Parliament to Northern Ireland—the amount of money that comes from it—and I entirely agree with that. But let us have new thinking; let us have Parliamentary democracy here; and let us save the United Kingdom and then Ulster will remain British.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, the noble Viscount has not taken as long as he said he was going to take. I think we could have listened to him for a lot longer. When anybody speaks with his dedication and his special knowledge, I think this Chamber is always willing, and indeed very happy, to listen.
On the day the White Paper was introduced, I congratulated my noble friend on the Government's initiative and their common sense; and my views now are exactly as they were before. It is a very sensible decision to put the responsibility for a solution of their own governmental problems on the people of Northern Ireland, and if they can come up with a solution which is acceptable to both sides it will not only be welcomed by the Government of this country, whichever Government it is, but I think will also be generously endowed, so that it can work.
1172 I am not going to reply directly to the noble Viscount who has just spoken, but I hope to engage my noble friend on this side of the House. A month ago I paid one of my regular trips to Ulster as a journalist, a trip made between the collapse of the Executive and the issue of the White Paper—that is, between our last debate and our present debate. People have spoken here of the mood of Ulster at this moment, and I must say I was shocked by the amount of physical damage that had appeared since my previous visit, particularly in Londonderry, which I thought had some of the brooding melancholy beauty of Leningrad. I paid, with some trepidation, a visit to the Creggan cemetery. I felt an alien, a Protestant intruder into the grief of the Bogside. I saw those costly monuments to the fallen heroes of the I.R.A., and I looked at the top and saw, "A boy aged 19". Then you think of the other boys, their contemporaries, in khaki uniforms, whom you have just left, who have been so diligently and pleasantly searching your car, and you are shocked by the tragedy of it all.
The people, our friends there, are terribly fatigued and depressed. I had come at a moment of great disillusionment, when the power-sharing, which had raised their hopes, had been shattered. I was in the house of a man who was supposed to be rather a hard man, a man of conspicuous bravery. He suddenly noticed that a van had drawn up outside the door, and one felt the wave of fear that a van outside the door caused to this man. This kind of thing represents a terrible menace. Of course it proved to be an innocent van. I also found friends of mine in Belfast asking for the very first time: should they be in Belfast? Should they come to England? Should they give up the whole struggle? Could they really continue to bring up their children in this atmosphere? This was an entirely new spirit among friends of mine who have lived and whose families have lived for generations in Ulster.
The object of my visit was to assess the strength of the Ulster Workers' Council and to try to discover why it had succeeded. I think the main reason why it succeeded—and I am sorry to have to say it—is that it was a demonstration by the Protestant community that they were fed up with the Roman Catholics; that, 1173 after all, in the allocation of power-sharing the Catholics had been given excellent offices, excellent jobs, and the reward seemed to be increased bombing by the I.R.A., and even the members of the S.D.L.V., those very wise and excellent ministers, did not play their political cards exactly right.
There were, it seems, too many well-publicised visits to Dublin; and I think, too, that the Government in the Republic did not make all the right noises at that particular time. So this was a demonstration not merely in favour of a kind of change in the Stormont procedure but a great gesture of fed-upness, so that it became genuinely popular and there was no chance of the strike collapsing, no matter how hard conditions were. There seemed to be a kind of Dunkirk spirit about, and the people said that they would sec it out until at least one of the political objectives had been obtained.
My other objective was to see how the Ulster Workers' Council were going to translate their industrial power into political power. I think there has been a certain amount of false romanticism about the Ulster Workers' Council, particularly in my Party. There is a feeling that because it is proletarian it must therefore contain some bidden beauties. There are dreams of the Catholic and Protestant working-classes, such as my noble friend outlined this afternoon, joining hands and—although he did not say it—freeing themselves from the aristocratic embrace of the noble Viscount who has just spoken and the noble Lord who is about to speak. There is a feeling that there is an opportunity for the workers to get rid of the people who have allegedly been misleading them, and that the Catholics will be able to get rid of what are called the "Green Tories". Politically, I could not distinguish between the Unionists and the Ulster Workers' Council.
I think the character of the Council was shown by what happened to Mr. Murray when he got back from that very pleasant meeting at Keeble College, which the noble Viscount who has just spoken and I both attended. He spoke some pleasant words, but apparently those words were totally unacceptable—what the Catholics call indifferent ism. That kind of political ecumenism was totally unacceptable to the people of the 1174 Ulster Workers' Council and he had to resign the chairmanship. So far as I am concerned—and I hope my noble friend will correct me if he is unable to agree—I was unable to distinguish any social or economic point of view that the Ulster Workers had as a Council. Certainly many of them have political ideas. They are various shades from pink to deepest red. But I did not and could not find, when I was there a month ago—it may have changed since, but, if so, I have not seen it recorded in the Irish newspapers—a consistent social and economic policy. I am very willing to give way if my noble friend would like to reassure me that I am wrong on this point.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
I am obliged to my noble friend, and I agree with his total analysis. I was against everything the U.W.C. stood for. Its opposition to power sharing, its opposition to Stormont and its opposition to Sunningdale. When I spoke to-day I indicated that I recognised that it had very dangerous elements within it; namely, Fascists, and the National Front. I added that it also has within it very good trade unionists with the same purposes as trade unionists in this country, and the shop stewards committees on which they are have adopted social and economic aims which are exactly the same as those of the Catholic workers on those Committees.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for those comments, but I am not totally reassured that there is anything comprehensive in that. I must agree that a number of them dream of the day when they can get down in Northern Ireland to the conventional class struggle of politics and they will be side by side with the Catholic workers. Before that can happen the Border problem would have to disappear. Our experiences throughout the world show that even when the cause is removed, especially a Colonial cause, nationalist and tribal politics linger on for many years after there is any need for them. So far as I can discover, the Ulster workers are hoping in the next few months to have a voice in the political decisions of the Unionist Coalition and a say in the choice of candidates. This, I think, is their immediate political goal.
The para-military organisations are looking for ways of politicising themselves. 1175 My noble friend has used words which will not commend themselves either to Social Democrats or to noble Lords of the Opposition Party. There is, of course, a possibility that the random violence on both sides—Catholic and Protestant—will cause the two sides to get together and call a truce. This hope is based on the strength shown by the Ulster Workers' Council. There is a belief, rightly or wrongly, that the I.R.A. and the extreme Republicans who support it must now see clearly that their hopes of being the masters, if Britain would only go away, are based on a complete illusion. The I.R.A. policy has failed. They have seen the strength of the Protestant forces of Northern Ireland.
The question is, how can the Republican forces in Northern Ireland be brought face to face with reality? One of the suggestions, which was made at the Oxford Conference, was that perhaps it is not until people are freed from internment, including some of the top leadership of the I.R.A., that it will be possible for the I.R.A. to bring about a change of policy. Whether there is any strength in that argument I do not know, but I heard it from more than one pair of lips.
At the Oxford Conference the proposals in the White Paper were greeted with great public good will, but with many private doubts. When I contacted the people who had those private doubts I asked them what initiative they could see that contained the seeds of hope. They could not suggest any initiative other than this one. What they did say about this one is that its great merit is that it gives another lease of time; time, as the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, says, to talk. The situation is not static. Although the words power sharing themselves are by now becoming taboo, the idea of it is still powerful in Northern Ireland. The Council of Ireland is not an idea any more. It is difficult for we who do not belong to Northern Ireland to understand exactly how much fear and prejudice the very idea of the Council of Ireland caused, until we think of the fears that some people at Westminster have of a mild form of economic union suggested for Europe ten years from now. They get very worried about it. It is only by contemplating the kind of feeling people have about the sovereignty 1176 of the part of the world where they live that we can understand how people feel in Northern Ireland.
Finally on a slight note of hope I should like to quote from the Irish Times, a newspaper which got a new editor a few days ago. On July 12, it had a leading article which I should like to think—I may be wrong—was his testament of faith. He was pointing out that 16 years from now the Orangemen of the North will be celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. Will they be marching, he said, through the smoking rubble of a Province that has ceased to exist for all human purposes, or will the tercentenary of the pious, glorious achievement of King Billy take place in a new Ireland, one whose outlines none of us can yet foresee? Lower down in the article he expressed the hope in this way:Gradually, however tragic the process, there is emerging in the North a feeling in the two communities that a chance exists of getting across to each other, which neither acting alone has satisfactorily managed, or through traditional allies in Britain or the Republic. It is a small seed of mutual recognition that should not be overestimated, but perhaps it represents the crack in hidebound attitudes on which the future may be built.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, although I suppose nobody on his side of the House knows more about Northern Ireland than the noble Lord. On one occasion he attended a political meeting in my home village of Ahoghill, although I was not aware of the fact that he was in the room. That was many years ago, so I am pleased now to be following in his footsteps. The noble Lord was talking a few moments ago about the Council of Ireland. I cannot forbear, even at this late stage, to repeat very briefily what I said when we came back after the Election in March. I should like to read a few words of what I said on that occasion. To my friends in Dublin I said:Please do not press for the immediate establishment of a Council of Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, col. 73, 13/3/74.]I added that if this frail vessel were to sink no one would suffer more than the Government in Dublin.
The frail vessel I had in mind was the new power-sharing Executive which I 1177 thought was—I still think so—the most wonderful thing that ever hapepned in Northern Ireland in my lifetime. Unfortunately, when you are dealing with Irish affairs you must take into consideration the views of the Government of the day in London, and the views of the Government, if there is one at the time, in Belfast. It is difficult to marry all these views together and get a consensus of opinion.
Also, I am the first person to appreciate that had it not been for the plans for the Council of Ireland it would have been impossible for the S.D.L.P. to serve in that power-sharing Government, because it had abandoned its previous position, which was that it could not share power until internment was brought to an end. So it was obviously an extremely difficult situation. Nevertheless, had it been possible to put the Council of Ireland on the long finger at that time, then possibly, and to use that terrible American word, "hopefully", the power-sharing Executive would have survived and the future course of Northern Ireland might have been different.
I had the honour to sit through the first two hours of the discussions in another place on Monday. As a matter of personal interest, I counted the average number of Back-Benchers attending that debate on both sides. I am not talking about the eleven extreme representatives from Northern Ireland, who were ob-obviously bound to be there. I am talking about detached Back-Benchers on both sides of the House. There were approximately eight on each side of the House. I was not in another place to-day—I was here—but I am sure the House was packed to hear about Cyprus; and yet there is Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, going on every day, every week, every month, every year. I sometimes wonder whether the British people realise how serious the situation is upon their own back doorstep.
My Lords, I was delighted to hear the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to-day. But I have heard suggestions from this side of the House—or, perhaps I should say, more widely from the Conservative Party in general—about whether the Government were right to scrap the 1973 Constitution. I would say this to them, my Lords: what else could the Government have done? The power-sharing Executive came to an end. 1178 The Secertary of State for Northern Ireland took immense trouble to see the leaders of the various Parties to try to find out whether it might be possible to form a new power-sharing Executive, presumably still based on the 1973 Constitution. It proved impossible, and I would repeat: what else could the Government have done, but to draw up new guidelines for the future?
I think we must face up to the fact that the future of Northern Ireland rests with the people of Northern Ireland, however divided those people may be. It is a fact of life. We have tried all these years to guide the people of Northern Ireland. They do not want to be guided—at least, not in the way we have tried to guide them in the last few years—and I really feel that there is nothing else that one can do in these circumstances. I think one could say that it is doubtful whether any lasting settlement can be completely imposed from outside.
Leading on directly from that, it is my earnest hope and prayer that bi-partisanship will survive. Those of us who have read a little Irish history know what happened between 1800 and 1914. Whenever there was a change of Government in London there was a change of policy in the administration of Ireland in Dublin. It was known as the policy of "kicks and kindness". When the Tories were in power, repression was tried; when the Liberals were in power, reform was tried. We cannot possibly go back to a division of policy between the two main British Parties on the future of Ireland, and on the future, in particular of Northern Ireland.
We must try to remain united; we must try to continue with this bi-partisan policy. If it breaks here it will certainly break in Dublin, where my friend, Mr. Jack Lynch is having the greatest difficulty in keeping the Fine Gael Party in some good sense and some good order on the Northern Ireland problems. So I think that we in Great Britain must try to set a good example on this, and try to keep the policy of bipartisanship going in the future. If there are any Conservatives who feel there would be some political advantage in breaking this bipartisanship, I would advise them to read the speech made by Mr. David Howell when he was a Minister in Northern Ireland. He made it perfectly 1179 plain that, in his view, the Tory Party could never go back again to the old days of 60, 70, 80 or 90 years ago and I am sure that his speech was a great act of statesmanship.
I was tempted to interrupt the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. If I did not do so it was because of my gratitude to him for the great part he played over the question of the Price sisters; and, of course, there was also the part played by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Had those two girls died, it would have been yet another addition to the list of martyrs for the I.R.A. Therefore, I should like to thank the noble Lord for what he did, and I am sure history will thank him. Having said that I want to take slight issue with him on what he said in his speech. In his argument on the question of withdrawing troops from Northern Ireland—not immediately, but in time—he drew in aid the parallel of India. If my memory serves me right, after the British withdrew from India—I am not saying that policy was wrong, but this, I believe, is a fact—some 3 million people were killed. I am not suggesting for a moment that this would happen in Northern Ireland, but I think there is a danger that, if the troops were to be withdrawn, there could be a monumental civil war in which 100,000 people might be killed. I just mention this in passing to show why I did not agree with the noble Lord in bringing in India to aid his argument.
Secondly, may I just say this on the question of the Ulster Workers' Council. I am guilty myself, because I wrote an article in the Observer saying that the middle-class moderates had failed, and that if the working-class extremists could get together and solve the problems of Northern Ireland we should welcome this possibility. But he went on to say that there were many good trade unionists among the U.W.C., and I should like to say this. The, unfortunately, very effective Protestant strike which brought the power-sharing Government down was not the first strike we had had, and whenever the extreme Protestant working-classes were acting almost in an unconstitutional manner the man who tried every time to stand up to them was the secretary of the local Irish Congress of Trade Unions, my old friend Billy Blease. I should 1180 like to mention that en passant; and while I admit that if the worst comes to the worst we must hope that the extremists can somehow come together and settle these problems, nevertheless at the same time all down the years, in my day, I found that the trade unions in Northern Ireland behaved in the most responsible manner. I am afraid that some of these people connected with the U.W.C. and not part of that great responsibility.
§ Lord BROCKWAY
My Lords, may I intervene? I should like to express my very deep appreciation to the noble Lord for what he said about myself, and to assure him that my greatest concern was not the lives of the two girls, but the effect that their deaths would have had in escalating the situation in Northern Ireland. About India, may I just say this. The noble Lord put very low the number of those who died. As a matter of fact, nearly as many died as died in Europe during the war. But I would suggest that there is this difference between India then and Ireland now. India had been under British occupation. There had been the intensified feeling between Indians and Muslims, and very little acceptance had been given to Gandhi's proposal for an adjustment between them. I did not suggest immediate withdrawal from Ireland: I suggested it after the Constitutional Convention had met. My hope is that at that Convention an agreement would be made about the new policing of Northern Ireland against violence, which would make the presence of British troops unnecessary.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, it would be wonderful if that could take place, but I fear it might be impossible. I just want to conclude by mentioning something which is rather topical at the moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, knows only to well. Certain extreme politicians are trying to make themselves popular with their grass roots by suggesting that there should be a Home Guard set up in Northern Ireland. All I should like to say to these extreme politicians is that it was President Makarios who set up the National Guard in Cyprus, and we all know what happened to him. Just as the extreme politicians found that the Ulster Workers' Council was not willing to listen to them 1181 when they decided to call their strike, so if they set up a Home Guard they may well find that they will end by riding inside the tiger themselves. I just mention this en passant. I want to finish as I began by saying that I do not see what else the Government could have done in the conditions which exist to-day. I only hope and pray that the patience of the British people will last long enough for us to be able to solve this appallingly difficult problem in Northern Ireland to-day.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, at the beginning of this debate I said that there was every reason to welcome talk and talk again on the other side but that there was very little excuse at the moment for a great deal of talk over here, and I think that noble Lords have been forbearing in the length of their speeches. They have all been interesting and constructive, and I think our debate has been a useful one without being too long. I shall try and fit into this pattern. I am not repeating my opening remarks to indicate why I approve of what we are doing, but I will try and sum up a little of what has been said.
My Lords, generally the approach of the White Paper, which is, as it were, activated in this Bill, has received universal support except I think from the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. I will have a word to say about his views later. Generally speaking, we have had a very good reception to what we are trying to do. I remember the last debate, or the one before last, when the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, said that any proposition coming from this side of the water would be turned down. I think the Government are rather inclined to agree with this. We are not putting up propositions; we are asking the people in Northern Ireland to put up their own propositions, and I think this must be right.
If I may first comment on a few of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine—because his speech is the nearest in our memory—it is certainly true that he warned us to keep the Council of Ireland on a long finger. It seems a very long time ago—it was my first appearance in connection with anything to do with Northern Ireland— 1182 and I replied to him that Sunningdale was a package, and like the Gospels you could not take out of it bits which suited you. To-day he has been honest enough to admit that without it the S.D.L.P. would never have come in and there would not have been Sunningdale. This is a typical Irish situation. There are always three things which have to be done, one of which contradicts the other two.
A number of rather important points have been raised, particularly one by the noble Viscount. Lord Brookeborough, on the clarification of the Convention's report. This is, I think, something that one does not want to go into in very great detail at this stage. My right honourable friend explained on Monday that the provision for reports in Clause 2(2) of the Bill is not intended to allow groups of Convention members to submit their own dissenting reports. Any report must be submitted by the Convention as a whole. There is no bar, however, to the Convention deciding to include the separate views of any of its members if it wishes to do so. Any such report must be one which the Convention as a whole is content to be put before Parliament even though it is not supported by all Convention members.
All of us who have chaired councils or committees know this situation. If you have six minority reports you are a very bad chairman and the thing is a failure; but if you have two reports, one major and one minor, this is acceptable. The work has been done and if the Convention is unable to reconcile the two clearly it comes back to Westminster and we are not tremendously further on, but the situation will have been talked about and more ideas will have come into being. I do not think one can take it any further than that. We do not want to anticipate what the Convention will do. It will be self-governing and I hope it will be responsible enough, if there is a major difference—which there is almost bound to be—to try to reconcile it with some kind of compromise proposition. This is what we all hope for, but we may not get it. We are not going to tell them how to do it, but I thought it was worth just mentioning it at this stage.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, made on inaccurate remark. He said that the 1973 Constitution had been 1183 scrapped. This is not the case, and there is no intention that it will be the case. I think this is a slip of the tongue. We cannot impose the solution, and a great deal of the talk this afternoon has been suggesting solutions. This is not really what I am concerned with. Whatever noble Lords may suggest to-day, however marvellous the suggestion, once we pass the Bill it is not in the Government's hands to adopt it, so I shall not deal with suggestions in detail. Bipartisanship was referred to again by the noble Lord. This I think is absolutely fundamental. It had a slight quiver a week or two ago but it is back as solid as it can be now, and I think that the support from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to what we are trying to do was total. The other point which the noble Lord raised, which applies also to my noble friends Lord Ardwick and Lord Brockway, was about the U.W.C. and the trade unions. From this position I shall say nothing about that. The situation was acutely difficult for everyone concerned.
If I may turn now to the Opposition, as it were, which is the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, he was kind enough to start by being very agreeable and appreciative of the performance of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State generally and in particular on television, and we appreciate his appreciation. But I really cannot accept the kind of talk he produced about the Leader of my Party. I think it is absolutely unacceptable, it is pure nonsense and the noble Viscount ought to know it. I cannot speak too strongly in denying categorically that anybody in our Party who is responsible for policy is setting a trap hoping that the Unionists will fall into it by putting up to this Government an unacceptable compromise. That is totally untrue, and in my opinion should not have been said. Having said that, the rest of the speech of the noble Viscount was, as always, most helpful and useful, but as it was almost entirely about the things that we might do which are now going to be in the hands of the Convention I shall not reply in any great detail. I have not had time (we have been so busy) to look into the exact qualifications for size—a matter which has always worried the noble Viscount—for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but I shall 1184 see whether we can get an inch or two taken off.
Several noble Lords, and the noble Viscount in particular, said that politics cannot start until law and order are established. Of course we all know that the reverse is equally true: law and order cannot be established until political stability acceptable to the people is established. This is what we are asking the Convention to do, and it is not at all easy. I am not sure that at this stage it is possible. We may need to have a Convention every two years for ten years; but we will get it in the end, and when we do then the people for whom we are trying to hold the fort will at last be able to hold their own fort, and do it happily.
Several noble Lords talked about detention. I had meant to deal with this matter in the second part of the proceedings, which is the renewal of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, but there are no speakers down for that and I hope we can take it fairly formally if I deal with these points now. I believe that would be to everybody's convenience. I should like to make one or two remarks about detention which is the stickiest point in the whole issue. It is the point one feels one cannot get rid of, and yet one cannot make any progress until one has got rid of it. It is a very difficult situation, as everybody who has anything to do with it knows.
To give your Lordships some background in considering this matter in the last three months 379 people have been charged with security offences. In a number of cases it has not been possible, due to evident and often acknowledged intimidation, to produce the evidence necessary to obtain conviction. In effect, my right honourable friend has had to detain no less than 138 people during this period—that is, out of the 379 charged—under interim custody orders under Schedule 1 to the Act which will be before us in a few minutes. I can give examples of the kind of situation which leads up to this, but I do not think that noble Lords need much persuasion. We cannot let the provisions for detention in the Act which we are to discuss be allowed to lapse, because one cannot ask security forces to risk their lives in protecting the public unless one gives them full backing in arresting and locking up 1185 terrorists when they catch them. That is obvious, and one simply cannot do it. The proper thing to do is to use the normal machinery of the courts, but because of intimidation in present circumstances this is simply ineffective in bringing terrorists to book.
My right honourable friend has stated his intention to make a start with further executive releases. Last week he ordered the release of seven, last Thursday another was released to get married and not to go back, and to-day a further six have been released. My right honourable friend hopes to make further and regular releases if the security situation permits; this means in effect—and this fact should be noted—if there is some response from those who are at present committing acts of violence. If they cease their terrorist activities, the Secretary of State will go ahead with a programme of regular releases by executive decision in parallel with the reviews being undertaken by the Commissioners. But if the terrorists persists in violence, then my right honourable friend will have no alternative but to discontinue or slow down the release of detainees. The choice is now in the hands of the terrorist organisations. If they want people to be released from detention, let them cease violence. If, on the other hand, detention provides them with a convenient excuse for violence, the people of Northern Ireland will now be able to see whether their criticisms of detention are sincere or hypocritical. If violence is checked, detention can be ended. The choice is a simple one.
It is recognised that detainees who are released will, in many cases, face special difficulties and steps have been taken to make assistance available in relation to social and domestic problems, so that persons will not drift back into terrorism as the easy option. My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Stanley Orme, has spent a great deal of time on this matter. He has had a committee formed, and we have agreed to allot a sum of £20,000 to help organisations outside the Government which are prepared to assist in this process of rehabilitation. It is, again, rather a difficult business because people who are too helpful always end up getting shot. But we shall do the best we can.
1186 Finally, of course, we hope that the Gardiner Committee, over which my noble and learned friend is presiding at this moment in Belfast, in considering the present provision for detention will be able to recommend alternative procedures which, while continuing to ensure that the public is protected from the terrorist, will nevertheless remove some of the more distasteful aspects of detention. The point to be clear about is that it is one thing to release detainees, but it is quite a different matter to remove the law which justifies or allows detention without full trial in an ordinary magistrates' court of people who are virtually caught redhanded.
My noble friend Lord Brockway had a rather more rosy view of the whole matter than I have, but none the worse for that. It is nice that somebody should feel hopeful about these matters. There has been a major change, or at least there is the beginning of a major change, in the political power of the kind to which he referred. The working man, particularly the Protestant working man, is moving a little away from the aristocratic leader to whom he is so used, and is beginning to do some work for himself. We welcome that from this side of the House, without any offence to my aristocratic friends.
The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, made a suggestion that I do not want to support at all. This is not a question of policy, because nothing has been said about it, but I believe that it would be absolutely wrong to set a date for the removal of troops. Of course, if the Convention said that they wanted this, then that would be another matter. But my experience of the Ulster character, which is strictly limited but which is beginning to be quite useful in depth, is that nothing provokes them so much as any feeling of threat. This is a threat and I believe it to be dangerous. But it is entirely arguable and I may be quite wrong. I do not want to take too long, but I thought the noble Lord's appeal to the workers was an eloquent one. Certainly if they would listen to him nobody would be more pleased than I should be. I hope very much that they will do so. It is a pity that there will be no Hansard, but perhaps the noble Lord would like to put out this appeal and to circulate it. 1187 Coming from him, it is a very valuable appeal and we must all support it.
My noble friend Lord Ardwick spoke of the "hidden beauties" of the working class—pulling the leg of my noble friend Lord Brockway a bit, I think. We have already discussed this relationship but what we have—and he made this point in favour of what the Government are doing—is that at least this is giving us another lease of time, and there is some hope emerging that the differing bodies are beginning to see a possibility of getting access to each other. What is so curious is that in many walks of life they work perfectly well together without the faintest trouble, and yet there are just these edges which nobody is able to control.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked me many different questions to which I am proud to say I have the answers. I will give them to your Lordships very quickly. He asked about the non-residential cadet scheme. The answer is that this is going well. The first examination for applicants—this is for the Royal Ulster Constabulary—was held in June, 1974, and 53 boys between the ages of 16 and 17½ have been selected. They will start a two-week induction course in mid-August and will attend technical college at the beginning of September. Generally speaking, this is going well and the noble Lord can rest assured that it will go on doing so. So that is good.
The second question he asked me was about the all-Party Committee to examine effective policing throughout Northern Ireland. This Committee is rather in abeyance at the moment. My right honourable friend, in spite of the fact that the Assembly still exists in theory, has not thought it right to disband the Committee, but circumstances have changed since the Committee was appointed and it will be difficult to hold meetings during the holiday season. My right honourable friend intends to look at the whole matter again to see what is appropriate at the end of that time.
He asked me also about the Law Enforcement Commission. Drafting is well ahead on our side, and the Irish sent us a first draft of their Bill last week, so although I cannot give a firm date, this matter is going ahead in a perfectly satisfactory way. The noble Lord asked 1188 me about the Advisory Commission set up by the previous Conservative Government to advise Parliament on the Orders in Council. Nothing has been arranged about these as yet and I do not think the Secretary of State is particularly keen to do anything in a hurry, so I would rather wait before giving an answer in this regard until a firm decision has been made. My feeling is that this is probably not the method he will use.
I have spoken for a great deal longer than I intended, but several very interesting questions were raised and I have done my best to answer them. May I sum up by saying that this Bill has three clauses and is intended to do two things: first, to establish the method by which my right honourable friend will be responsible to Parliament for the good govenment of Northern Ireland during an interim period; and, secondly, to arrange for elections to a Constitutional Convention with a duty to make recommendations to Parliament as the best and most acceptable method of governing Northern Ireland. My Lords, I am grateful for your support. We must all wish God speed to the Convention.
§ On question, Bill read 2a: Committee negatived.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 44 having been suspended, pursuant to Resolution, Bill read 3a and passed.