§ 2.37 p.m.
§ Debate resumed on the Motion moved yesterday by the Lord Chancellor; namely, That this House takes note of the situation in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, like several others of your Lordships, I attended this morning the very moving service of thanksgiving and rededication in support of "Help the Aged" in Westminster Abbey. One sentence from a reading of the Epistle to the Ephesians struck me as of particular relevance to our debate on Northern Ireland this afternoon. It was this:… endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.Yesterday's debate was a great credit to the House. All noble Lords who were present would, I think, agree with the comment made by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he said he felt proud to be a Member of your Lordships' House after listening to the wisdom, courage and moderation of the opening speeches; and these qualities continued to be shown throughout the debate that followed. What came through many of the speeches, particularly speeches made by noble Lords who are most familiar with Ulster, was the absolute exhaustion with violence, with the killing, the bombing, the shooting, the beating up and the intimidation of innocent people. Ulster politics are hard enough to come to terms with in any event. They are volatile; they are passionate. But it is this perspective, the readiness to resort to force, which makes the situation so tragic, and so infinitely harder to handle.
The issue now facing the Government can be simply stated: we cannot afford 114 to cling for too long to policies that have been overtaken by events; but there is an equal danger in abandoning the whole basis of carefully worked out policies in the face of a squall. The political weather in Northern Ireland always changes very rapidly. It seemed to me when I was there that it was like a stormy sea. The waves come up suddenly and they have to be ridden with the greatest care. Some are so high that they can knock the boat over, they can sink it completely. But each wave is followed by another, the next event which overtakes what has happened before. The previous waves do not subside, they remain; but they recede further and further into the distance. Thus it is the day-to-day handling of the situation in Northern Ireland that is of paramount importance. What sometimes appears to be something quite trivial may become a real threat to the precarious stability of the system of government. One of the answers is to talk all the time, to be ready to meet, to be ready to listen, not to stand on ceremony about which group of people represent what group of interests.
I am not close enough to events in Northern Ireland to know whether or not the Government were wise to refuse to meet the Ulster Workers' Council, or to judge whether even now there might be some advantage in thinking again. But of one thing I am sure: that a sensitive handling of day-to-day issues as they come up is absolutely crucial to the success or failure of any policies. But if the Secretary of State, and his two Ministers, try to navigate only by riding the waves, and avoiding the worst ones, then they will soon lose any sense of direction.
It is necessary therefore to study the currents below the surface, the deep and powerful currents that determine men's actions, and then to evolve policies that take account of them. What, then, are these currents? Some are very familiar. First of all there is the problem of divided allegiance. Partition a little more than fifty years ago did not resolve the problem. Whereas the majority of people in the Six Counties in the North-Eastern corner of Ireland gave their loyalty to Britain and to the British Crown, a substantial minority in those same Six Counties continued to believe that Ireland should be indivisible, that it should be self-governing and, above all, 115 in no way should it be dependent on Britain. Of course, Northern Ireland is not unique in having a large minority with political ideals and aspirations very different from those held by the majority. But what bedevils the position in Ulster, and what constantly underlines the split loyalties, is the fact that the loyalties of too many of the minority have been reinforced by a strong emotional pull over an international frontier.
In the South too, the existence of the Border, the memory of how it came about, and all that it symbolises, makes any kind of meaningful co-operation with the North exceptionally difficult. Look for example at security, at the need to safeguard the interests, the property, and indeed too often the lives of Irishmen, on whichever side of the Border they reside. How much better it would have been, how many lives would have been saved, if the Republic had acted swiftly and effectively against the I.R.A. when it first opened its terrible campaign of violence three years ago! Relations with the South have improved since then. They have improved a great deal, particularly as regards joint intelligence, which is always the most effective single weapon against terrorist organisations. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, or the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, when he comes to reply to the debate, will be able to tell the House something about what progress has been made by the Government of the Republic of Ireland in intensifying action against the I.R.A.—and against any other illegal organisations—which was a part of the Sunningdale Agreement.
Recently we have had the Report of the Joint Commission on Law Enforcement. During the period of the Election campaign in February I was fortunate to he able to meet the members of the Joint Commission, who were meeting in London at the time under Lord Justice Scarman's chairmanship, and to entertain them on behalf of the Government at the Middle Temple Hall. But there seems to be a feeling of some disappointment now the Commission have reported that it did not prove possible to move closer towards a system of mutual extradition for political offences.
Secondly, there is the problem of the double minority in Ulster. If divided 116 allegiance, to which I have just referred, lies at the root of most of Ulster's ills, the existence of a double minority explains many of the motives which dominate the Northern Ireland scene: in particular, the aggressiveness and absolute determination of each community to hold on at all costs to what it already has—sometimes complete areas of towns and cities as well as jobs and what are regarded as the rights and privileges of one community or the other. We have become familiar with the problems of minorities all over the world. A minority, whether a racial minority or any other kind of minority, because it is different, because it is outnumbered, is insecure and in consequence feels itself to be under threat. Insecurity leads to fear; fear leads to aggression; and too often aggression leads to violence. But in Northern Ireland, a small territory of 5,000 square miles containing no more than 1½million people, almost uniquely this cycle operates not just in one community, but in both. Both communities, Protestant as well as Catholic, believe themselves to be under constant threat. Each community sees itself as a minority, with the Protestants greatly outnumbered in Ireland as a whole; and the Catholics outnumbered by two to one in the North. This factor has had a profound psychological effect on the social and political history of the Province over the last half century. It also helps to explain much of what otherwise seems inexplicable when viewed from this side of the Channel.
The third current of which we should take note, and it is the last which I shall discuss today, is Ulster nationalism. As the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, said yesterday, this is no new phenomenon. It has always been there in the background. It is just that it has come to the surface in the light of the events of recent weeks and months. It was timely of the noble Lord to remind us in his speech that it was on this very issue some years ago, while he was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, that he had to part company with Mr. William Craig. A feeling of pride and independence is a deeply engrained characteristic of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. The way in which it relates to the strong sense of loyalty to the Crown, and the way in which it affects attitudes to the Government and Parliament at 117 Westminster are far from static. Protestant nationalism, like much else in Ulster, flows with the tide of events. But as violence has continued, as the casualties have mounted, as one political initiative after another seems to have been tried and to have failed, opinion here on the mainland has naturally gathered strength on the lines that Britain has done her best to keep the peace in Ulster, and that it is now time to let the Irish settle things for themselves.
I believe the Government are right in assessing how strongly this opinion is running in Britain at the moment, and that any new policies will have to take account of it. At the same time, we must realise that this body of opinion in Britain feeds back to Ulster, and as it does so it strengthens the tide of Ulster nationalism. Mr. Faulkner, to whom tributes have already been paid for his courage and his political skill in leading the power-sharing Executive, has recognised this and has said he intends to do all he can to point out the consequences of Ulster separating itself from the United Kingdom. But there are consequences for the United Kingdom too if a policy of separatism were to be adopted and my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, among others, spelled out what these were very clearly in a notable speech from this Dispatch Box in the debate yesterday.
My Lords, we have seen a great experiment in power-sharing. It may be that the present system contained in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, and based on more than a year of the closest consultation and negotiation in Northern Ireland, cannot be revived. But that does not mean it has failed. We should not be too pessimistic. We should not talk ourselves into a state of black gloom. Since direct rule was introduced in 1972 there have been some achievements of considerable importance. In working together, the Unionist leaders, the S.D.L.P. and the Alliance Party representatives, have shown for the first time for half a century that it is possible for men of courage, resolution and skill to break through the bonds which have confined them for so long. Whatever constitutional arrangements may have to be evolved for the future, this is the key factor. There is no arrangement, my 118 Lords, absolutely none, which will bring a peaceful and a stable society to Northern Ireland unless representatives of the two communities find some way of working together for the common good.
I am convinced this remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government, as it was the policy of the previous Administration, and that it will underlie all their attempts to fashion new policies in the future. In this context might I commend to noble Lords opposite the wise comment of my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham yesterday when he said that what should be aimed for is a modus vivendi rather than a solution. Solutions do not flower in the barren soil of Ulster.
If I might say just one more word to the Government in conclusion it would be this. Do not take too long in working out any new policies that may be needed. Because the Northern Ireland Assembly has been prorogued for four months it is tempting to think in terms of "a breathing space" of four months, or "four months calm". Some speakers in the debate yesterday even spoke of a cooling-off period. My Lords. I see no indications that this is likely to happen. Indeed, many of the signs point ominously in the opposite direction. All recent experience has shown the only way to achieve a situation resembling anything that could be described as political calm in Northern Ireland is by a display of feverish activity. Unless the Secretary of State and his colleagues exercise all their ingenuity, skill and authority to make the running, events, as so often before in Irish history, will take over.
The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will have much support and good will in this House in the months ahead. I have a feeling he is going to need all of it, as once again the British Government and the British people turn with endurance and fortitude to the task of trying to find a way to help the people of Northern Ireland all the people of Northern Ireland to live in a society in which they are free from fear and free to exercise, and exercise fully, the rights and liberties to which every individual is entitled. No civilised life is possible, my Lords, without these values, and they must not be denied.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHEPHERD)
My Lords, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in introducing this debate yesterday hoped that your Lordships' House would give approval to the fact that Parliament had been recalled in Emergency Session to consider the situation in Northern Ireland, and I should have thought, from the number of speakers both yesterday and to-day, that the decision taken was amply justified. So far as Her Majesty's Government were concerned, we hoped and desired to obtain a broad section of views and suggestions, and advice. That hope has been realised by the quality of the debate. The tone was set yesterday by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in a careful explanation and review of events. Again this afternoon, the opening speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has set what I hope will be the tone for to-day of careful consideration and reappraisal of the situation in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I have nothing more to add on the review of the events that was made yesterday by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, except to suggest—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham—that we have a very short time to reassess, consult and to see whether it is possible to evolve a new policy. Up to the very end the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been that of the previous Administration: to sustain at all cost the Executive under Mr. Brian Faulkner.
My noble and learned friend was followed yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. It was for me as one who has been in this House a number of years his most distinguished and challenging speech.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
He, I know, always enjoys controversy; but yesterday, as in previous debates on Northern Ireland, much of what he said has been to the liking of noble Lords on this side of the House, and we appreciated very much indeed the generous tribute that he paid to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary regarding his agonising choice in the Statement that he made the other day. The noble and learned Lord 120 also spoke of the threat to democracy, a theme which we have heard before. I had some sympathy with it because for a long time I have thought that we in this country have taken for granted for too long our democratic processes. Democracy needs to be nourished and strengthened and not taken for granted.
My Lords, yesterday in this debate we had a number of speeches of gravity and caution. That note of seriousness about the situation with which we are faced must be right, and the consensus view which I think emerged from the speeches which were made concerning the rightness of power sharing and the continuing presence of the Army in Northern Ireland is of the greatest significance to the Government.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, referred to the quality of the debate yesterday, but I think that we will understand if the people in Northern Ireland consider that there was some sense of unreality about the occasion of our debate. I, for one, could not blame them if they still thought that noble Lords in this House and, indeed, Members in another place, did not understand their problems, their fears, their hopes and, at times, their despair.
Those of us who live in London or in Great Britain have not had to withstand the fear that is a constant companion of everyday life in Belfast, or in many other parts of Northern Ireland. We must remember that many of the people who live there leave home in the morning under the nagging apprehension and fear that if their wives go shopping they may be involved in an indiscriminate bomb blast; or that their children may become involved in some form of terrorism, either as participants or as victims; and many wives must fear daily that their husbands may not return from work, whether or not their husbands are active participants in sectarian strife. In Northern Ireland it is often enough that one is either a Catholic or a Protestant to become a victim of brutal and random assassination. Some, not necessarily in your Lordships' House, criticise the people in that strife-torn Province, and particularly their reactions to the policies set out by successive Governments in this Parliament. But before we do so, it is well to pose the question as to how we might react were we to live in their 121 circumstances. It is the sort of imaginative self-discipline that I think we should all undertake when talking about the problems of Northern Ireland.
In your Lordships' House, as in another place, it is recognised that political language is, generally speaking, a form of words which is carefully chosen and expressed in a manner of moderation. Such words lead to achievements. In Northern Ireland, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, and other noble Lords who live in the Province, there has been a series of misunderstandings between the words expressed by politicians and their import. I think it is fair to say that words used in the political arena of Northern Ireland tend to be more emotional and extreme than in Great Britain, and therefore it is understandable, perhaps, that the moderate words used in this Parliament do not always carry conviction on the other side of the water. It behoves us, therefore, to ensure that there can be no misunderstanding about our statements and our intentions with regard to Northern Ireland. At the same time, we must be careful to leave our options open and we must be sure that the need for clarity does not cause us to depart from moderation in language—a point made with conviction by the most reverend Primate as well as by other noble Lords in yesterday's debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, spoke about a possible change of policy. I should like, also, to make clear my own view that we should on no account regard recent events as events which will go down in history as failure. It has been a time of upheaval and a time of violence, but I have no doubt in my mind that when this period is regarded by historians of the future the achievements will be seen to be highly significant. Certainly, I am sure your Lordships would not consider that the bipartisan policy of Government by consent adopted in this Parliament over the last two years with regard to Northern Ireland was a mistake, because the first power-sharing Executive collapsed after only five months in office. A number of your Lordships, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, have paid tribute to the Leaders of the Parties in Northern Ireland who participated in the 122 Executive, and I should like to express my own admiration of their valiant efforts and their deep personal courage.
If, despite the collapse of the Executive, the policy of consent which is power sharing was nevertheless right, what now should be the policy of the Government? Should it be that of a physician or a surgeon? In my personal view, and that of the Government, had the Administration in Northern Ireland been given time it would have worked. In all democratic systems time is important and, as we know, time was not available to the newly-formed power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland. But we must not forget the tremendous achievements of that Executive. It was the first time in the history of the Province that the leaders of the majority and minority communities came together in Government, worked together and achieved results. That, in itself, is a major achievement. In these circumstances I suggest to your Lordships that at the present time we should behave as a physician rather than as a surgeon. Our role must surely be to try to cure what we hope will be a temporary ailment by medicine such as tranquillisers and stimulants. The time is not now ripe for the more drastic remedy of surgery.
I have mentioned deliberately tranquillisers and stimulants. I think I have judged the mood of your Lordships' House correctly when I say that we are generally agreed that the people of Northern Ireland need to be convinced that certain assurances which have been given will be maintained. There is consent on the emotional problem of status. The Irish Government, successive Governments of the United Kingdom, and the leaders of both the minority and the majority communities in Northern Ireland, have accepted that Northern Ireland shall not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. There is also a consensus in this Parliament, and I believe among the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, that the principle of government by power sharing is practicable and desirable, even though the first attempt did not meet the full aspirations of the majority in Northern Ireland. And, thirdly, all are agreed that efforts must be 123 continued to deal with the security situation which the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, considered to be the nub of the problem.
These factors are what might be described as the tranquillisers in this situation. We need to reassure the people of Northern Ireland that this Parliament will not change its position on status; that we still consider power sharing to be the best solution; and that despite comments in the Press in recent weeks, there is no intention on the part of the Government to withdraw the Army from Ulster in the immediate future. But what of the stimulants as a medicine? A number of noble Lords spoke about the need for the people of Northern Ireland to recognise reality, to distinguish between fact and propaganda, and between truth and bigotry. In a democracy Government requires the support of the people as a whole. This lesson must be learned by the people of Ulster. They must recognise that the British people have contributed millions of pounds and hundreds of lives to their problems. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has already mentioned the cost in lives. Northern Ireland will receive direct transfers from the United Kingdom of about £350 million in the current year; in addition, it is estimated that the extra cost of keeping troops in Northern Ireland is about £33 million; and Northern Ireland expects to draw about £80 million from the National Loans Fund. Thus, total support comes to £460 million, and is all additional to Northern Ireland's share of United Kingdom taxation which amounts to about £420 million.
The tenor of speeches in your Lordships' House yesterday indicated that the fund of good will and patience which those of us in Great Britain have for Northern Ireland has not yet been exhausted. Those people who advocate what I might call surgery—for example, integration or independence—recognise, at least in this House, that these are the courses of last resort. Some scalpels have been sharpened, however, in the past week on the question of the withdrawal of the Army. I should like to say at this point that the Government were greatly encouraged by the fact that in your Lordships' House yesterday only one noble Lord spoke in favour of immediate withdrawal of the Army, other than the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, who 124 thought it was possible that withdrawal might be a constructive move in view of the shock and sense of responsibility that it might impart. But could the patient withstand the consequences of such shock treatment? I know that I have the wholehearted support of your Lordships' House when I pay tribute to the magnificent work which the Army has performed in Ulster, to their courage, their determination, tact and patience. They are there as a Security Force. It is a thankless task which they have been asked to perform, but they have enabled the fabric of life in Northern Ireland to continue. But like the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, the Government are conscious of the strain the provision has made on our Forces as a whole.
It has been said—and I have in mind particularly the noble Lord, Lord Byers—that the Army should not be expected to operate in Northern Ireland with one hand tied behind its back. As a member of the Cabinet, I can state emphatically that there is no truth in this assertion. No restrictions have been placed on the Army in their dealings with the terrorists. One must recognise, however, that the Army in Northern Ireland are dealing with guerillas who have the support of a small group of persons who live in Northern Ireland. If the Army attempted to move towards the tactics adopted by some regimes, of moving tanks into the streets and treating ordinary citizens and terrorists indiscriminately, the small groups of citizens supporting the terrorists would grow into a larger group. This would only aggravate the problem. As my noble friend Lord Chalfont pointed out, it is possible for the Army to contain the level of terrorism, but their actions can be eroded with irresponsible talk of immediate withdrawal.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, leaves that point, may I ask, for the record, that the noble Lord recognises that the pharse one hand tied behind its back" was that of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson? It was not mine.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, it is a phrase that has been used in a number of debates. If the noble Lord, Lord Byers, did not himself use that phrase, then I readily withdraw what I have said. But I think he would agree that part of his 125 speech had a degree of criticism of the restraints placed on the Services.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, may I say to the noble Lord that I was repeating what had been said to me on a short visit by a considerable number of people. This was the feeling of people who were afraid over there. I agree that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, is speaking from a well-constructed departmental brief, but the House should know and recognise that there are people who have this feeling.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My Lords, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that I have myself participated in dealing with situations not dissimilar to that in Northern Ireland and am well aware of the problems of the Army acting in support of a civil authority. Despite the fact that this is a carefully worded departmental brief, as the noble Lord said, I am sure he will realise that it is my own words and my own spirit that lie behind this speech.
At the same time, we must not forget the courage and devotion to duty of the R.U.C. In many ways, the strain is greater on them than that on the Army. They have no respite to look forward to at the end of their tour of duty; their homes and their families are vulnerable, and they do not always receive the co-operation of the people they are serving. The Government accept without reservation the need to strengthen the R.U.C., mentioned by a number of noble Lords, particularly the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Bourne. Every effort is being made to increase recruitment by the Chief Constable and the police authority. Numbers are increasing more rapidly than in any other Force in the United Kingdom. At the same time, a non-residential cadet scheme has been introduced to attract young persons. A dramatic increase in expenditure on community relations has been authorised, and the police authority is to be reconstituted to involve elected representatives. It is the R.U.C. who should have the responsibility for maintaining law and order, and it is the role of the Army to assist them. Withdrawal of the Army must be seen in the context of the ability of the R.U.C. to manage alone.
I have already mentioned the achievements in political terms in the last two years; the consensus on status, the con- 126 sensus on power sharing, the consensus on defeating terrorism. But I should also like to mention the constitutional Act itself. There has been criticism of this Act in Northern Ireland, but I do not think the majority of the people are opposed to its provisions as such. It is my personal opinion that it is the way in which these provisions have been applied in the formation of the first Executive which has caused disquiet.
Before bringing my remarks to a close, I should like to make reference to the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who suggested that later this year we might hold a referendum in Northern Ireland. This is not a time to reject any suggestion, particularly a suggestion from one so deeply experienced in the politics of Northern Ireland. I know the noble Lord will understand if I say that, while there may be certain attractions in his suggestion, there are also certain dangers. The choice to be put to the electorate will be difficult to draft. The two alternatives mentioned by him are not the only issues of burning importance in Northern Ireland. For example, should we not consider more than one arrangement for Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom?
The stark choice proposed by the noble Lord would have to be spelt out in sufficient detail for the electorate to understand fully the consequences of each option. But it would not have to be in such detailed form as to create a risk that the electorate might vote on the detail rather than on the central principle. The campaign in Northern Ireland during the last General Election is a sombre reminder of this risk, and of the scope for misrepresentation which might arise. Yesterday I observed that even within your Lordships' House, and within a very short period of time between speeches, confusion arose about the suggested terms of reference for a referendum.
The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, as did others, also suggested a non-political mediator for Northern Ireland. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is prepared to listen to all those who have political opinions to express. But, of course, it is for my right honourable friend to take a decision and to enter into 127 commitments on behalf of this Parliament. It is this Government which has the ultimate responsibility for Northern Ireland. Dr. Kissinger is a very able mediator, but his recent success in the Middle East is not a fair example. True, Dr. Kissinger has outstanding qualities, but, in the end, it was the United States, not the person of Dr. Kissinger, which was the national mediator.
My Lords, we should accept that we have not suffered a total disaster by the collapse of the Executive, and that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of abrogating their responsibility. We must see the facts as they are, and take care to explain them to the people of Northern Ireland.. We must continue on our course of patient and resolute negotiation and consultation. Above all, we must urge upon the people of Northern Ireland that it is now up to them to build on the foundations that have been established. We must not fail to use the next four months to the full.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, last month I set down on the Order Paper a Motion on Northern Ireland but representations were made to me that it would be wise to withdraw that Motion. I was very glad to do so, for anything that might have upset the delicate state of affairs in Ulster before the recent events would have been deplorable. And, of course, the representations were made to me because I am going to voice unpopular views this afternoon, views which yesterday I heard denounced time and again in this House. I have not spoken on Northern Ireland since the debate in February, 1972, following "Bloody Sunday". I have not spoken because although I was in disagreement with the policy that the Government of the day were following, I thought it was an honourable policy, one which culminated in the Sunningdale Agreement, and which had the support of all Parties. I could not support that policy because it seemed to me to ignore what matters most in politics—power. Politics is about morality. We heard a great deal yesterday, I am glad to say, about the need for morality in politics. The Sunningdale Agreement seemed to me to ignore the power of the I.R.A. and it ignored the power of the Protestant militants. This 128 policy is now in ruins, and despite the wise and statesmanlike speeches which I heard yesterday I could not get a glimpse of a new policy.
In the past few weeks I have sometimes wondered whether the Government of this country were really governing in Northern Ireland. The Government rests on the Army for its support. In 1972 I remember saying that in the conditions prevailing in Northern Ireland the Army could not win, and nothing which has happened since then has made me change my views. I remember urging the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to get his colleagues to see a film called The Battle of Algiers. My point was simply that if General Massu and his paratroopers, using torture and summary execution, could not defeat the Algerian patriots and terrorists, the British Army, displaying marvellous patience and restraint, had no chance of suppressing the terrorists of either side. The Army has to operate under civil law, not under martial law, and every soldier knows that he can be brought before the courts for a small error of judgment. I wish that the champions of civil liberties, well-meaning as they are, would sometimes express more admiration for the Army instead of adopting a tone of sanctimonious outrage when they suspect that a slip has been made.
The Army can have successes, but so long as the guerrillas can command support, however unwilling that support may be, the heads of the Hydra grow again, as soon as the Army cuts them off. By now over 1,000 are dead in the Province of Ulster, twice the total of the Irish civil war 50 years ago; the Army and the police have lost 300 lives, and £60 million has been paid for damage to property. Finally the bombings and shootings have moved to England. Yesterday I listened with admiration, as usual, to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont; but when the noble Lord talked about the politically acceptable level of terrorism, were those the kind of figures he had in mind? I therefore venture to suggest that we must begin to plan an alternative policy, especially when the Prime Minister himself said in Belfast that if the Sunningdale Agreement failed it was difficult to see what new political initiative could follow.
129 Sooner or later the responsibility for law and order must be handed over to an independent Government in Northern Ireland, and that means the training of an armed force and the withdrawal of British troops. The Northern Irish must govern themselves. I do not expect Her Majesty's Government to adopt such a policy to-day, but let me say something which a Labour Government ought certainly to accept. The greatest single act of imaginative statesmanship overseas since the war—and I say imaginative because he was not a man often credited with imagination—was Clement Attlee's decision to end British rule in India and to set a time limit for our withdrawal. That act compelled the Indian and Muslim League leaders to come to terms. It stopped them playing off their antagonisms against the British; India and Pakistan gained immeasurably and so did Britain. What is more, Mr. Attlee did it again. Ernest Bevin wanted the British Army to stay in Palestine and carry out its peace mission. Mr. Attlee and his Cabinet overruled him, and who to-day would deny that he was right? How many British soldiers serving there then owe their lives to that decision?
§ LORD HANKEY
My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves this point, does he recognise that there was a terrible civil war in India, with enormous loss of life, and a disastrous war in Palestine, with great loss of life there.
§ LORD ANNAN
The noble Lord will see that I am coming to that point. There were wise and statesmanlike speeches made against the decision to abandon Palestine. There were wise and statesmanlike speeches made, notably by that magnificent adminstrator and soldier Lord Wavell, against the timing of the withdrawal in India, and I always regret the calumnies which were circulated about the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten, who pursued the policy of Mr. Attlee's Government with immense courage and intense sincerity. Wise and statesmanlike speeches are not always right.
I do not believe that you will ever get peace in Northern Ireland until the British Army withdraws—never. So long as the British Army remains in Ulster the I.R.A. has the perfect alibi for terrorism. So long as they are there, 130 Mr. Gerald Fitt, a man I greatly admire and whose courage is beyond all praise, will evade the truth and maintain, as he did the other day on television, that you have only to end internment and peace will come. So long as they are there, Mr. Enoch Powell and others will maintain that if Ulster were integrated, whatever that means, security problems would melt away. So long as they are there, the Government of Eire will never increase taxes to finance adequate security measures against the I.R.A. terrorists. So long as they are there, the terrorist movements of both sides cannot be brought to the conference table. And they must be brought to the conference table.
Let us not make a vain boast that I.R.A. gunmen and Protestant terrorists will never bomb or shoot themselves to the council table. Similar statements were made 50 years ago, and yet the British Government had to bring to London in 1922 the great Irish patriot, Michael Collins, to sign the Treaty, and Michael Collins's hands were red with British and Irish blood. Let no one imagine that I identify the present I.R.A. with the militant Protestant groups with Michael Collins, or even with the Algerian terrorist movements, but our judgments of the motives of these men is in the strictest sense irrelevant. Whether we like it or not, the terrorists are a factor and a most significant power factor in the political situation in Ulster. For 4 years the I.R.A. have proved their strength, and the Protestant militants proved theirs last month.
The noble Lord, Lord Hankey, a moment ago, raised the question as to whether the withdrawal of British sovereignty and troops would lead to a blood bath. The noble Lord recalled that the departure of the British from India led to the communal massacres in which more than 400,000 died. I have to admit, of course, that it is possible that history will repeat itself, and that there will be massacre in Northern Ireland. But I doubt it. I doubt it because the Government to which the British Government will hand over power must inevitably be fighting for its existence. All Irishmen remember the time when a Government in Ireland had to fight for its existence and they remember what happened then. When dealing with Ireland let us never forget history. The Irish never do.
131 Let us take our minds back to 1922 when Michael Collins established the Irish Free State. At that time the Republican minority under Mr. de Valera refused to accept the Treaty with the United Kingdom, and they continued the terrorist campaign, this time against their former colleagues and comrades. What did the Irish Free State Government do? It rounded up the Republicans and jailed them. In August of that year, when Michael Collins was assassinated by Republicans in County Cork, the Free State Government announced that they would shoot anyone found with a gun in his possession. They then began to shoot those who had been their comrades only a year before. Erskine Childers was found carrying a gun given to him by Michael Collins during the troubles. They shot Childers. When three Deputies of the Dail were assassinated they took from jail some of the finest spirits of the Republic and shot them without trial. They shot Liam Mellows, Joseph McElvey, Richard Barrett and Rory O'Connor. Rory O'Connor had been Kevin O'Higgins's best man at his wedding, but O'Higgins had him shot. In just over six months the Irish Free State Government executed 72 Republicans, more than three times the number that the British Government executed in the two and a half years of the Troubles. The Free State Government imprisoned 13,000 Republicans, and in the end the Irish Free State Government got peace, and Mr. de Valera did what he should always have done—he set out to get his ends by political means instead of by terrorism.
Now it is impossible for a British Government to take such reprisals to-day. Public opinion at home and abroad would be outraged. We should again be accused of murdering Irishmen. Of course when people talk about sending the tanks in, this is rubbish. The ghosts of Irish history, the ghosts of the Famine, the ghosts of Fenianism, the ghosts of the Easter Rebellion, would haunt us if we did that. But it is quite a different thing for the Irish themselves to take such measures. And the reason why I believe that there would be no bloodbath in Northern Ireland is that both sides know this. The I.R.A. and the U.V.F. know that with the British Army gone the Long 132 Kesh internees would be hostages for the ceasefire.
My Lords, it is stark realities like that which will bring the extremists of both sides to the conference table. I know that all sorts of objections will be raised. It will be said that to leave India or Palestine where we were not wanted is one thing, but to leave Northern Ireland, where we are wanted, would be a betrayal—and a betrayal not only of Ulster but of places such as Gibraltar. But are we wanted? The Union, in the sense that it existed in 1914, is dead. The people of this country would not feel outraged by Home Rule for Ulster. Nor do the Protestants any longer pin their hopes on Westminster. For them, the destruction of the old Stormont was really decisive.
Again, I realise that it will be said that even the whisper of the withdrawal of the Army is a comfort to the terrorists. I remember Mr. David Howell, a former Minister, of whose mind I have a great opinion, writing to The Times to that very effect. But I believe that is to commit the same mistake as was made by the Labour Government in 1964, when the determination to show that there was to be no devaluation became so dogmatic that the word "devaluation" was forbidden to be used in Cabinet Committee papers—so the shock when devaluation came in 1967 was all the greater. Again, people declare that not only would massacres occur but massive transfers of population would have to follow. Let me admit at once that I think that some Border rectification would have to be made. Let me admit at once that the transfer of 350,000 Catholics from Belfast would be next to impossible. But let us not forget that the Boal plan—and we should remember that Mr. Desmond Boal is a close associate of Mr. Paisley—is regarded as a starter by Mr. Rory O'Braidaigh, the leader of the Provisional Sinn Fein.
It is not, I fear, the old Unionist Party leaders or the leaders of the S.D.L.P. who have to be brought together; it is the leaders of the militants on either side. Yesterday, when the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, proposed that Lord Goodman might be called in to exercise his great powers of persuasion, I thought that that was an interesting suggestion. Lord Goodman's powers are such that 133 I believe that he could bring the Archangel Michael and Beelzebub to the Council Table here—although I very much hope that the right reverend prelate, the Bishop of Salisbury, would also be present! But let us be clear that these talks will never succeed if they do not start from the ultimate premise that the British Army would eventually be withdrawn.
When people talk of the British Army and withdrawal and suggest that this can be done overnight, it is ludicrous. I am not suggesting that for one moment. I do not even wish to suggest a time limit, and certainly no time limit should be made public. But a time limit should he forming in the minds of the Prime Minister and his colleagues. If some mediator, such as Lord Goodman, could discover what are the minimum guarantees required by each side; if simultaneously the Government could work out what constitutional procedures would be necessary to change the status of Northern Ireland, a start on the problem could be made.
Let us not forget that the modern Republic of Eire first began as an Irish Free State under the Crown, and there is no reason why Ulster should not remain under the Crown as part of the United Kingdom but separately governed by its own people. If it is objected that this will be merely to transfer power back into the hands of the old Protestant majority, then I must reluctantly answer that the alternative to that was destroyed by the violence of the I.R.A. But Britain has a bargaining counter. The £300 million in aid which we give to Ulster can be used as a counter in ensuring that the Catholic population is given elementary rights. What you cannot do is to blackmail Ulster into accepting a form of Government which is unacceptable to the majority.
Of course any new Government in Northern Ireland will have to have an armed force, and it is the knowledge that this armed force could be used in a very different way from the British Army's humane and stoical methods which will, in my judgment, bring the I.R.A. to the council table to get the best terms they can. I regret this. I regret that the Catholics in Northern Ireland, whose rights the British Government have tried to make effective will 134 suffer. It is with them that my sympathies originally in this whole dispute in the 1960s lay. But the I.R.A. captured the Civil Rights movement, and the I.R.A. bombings finally provoked the outburst of Protestant violence and intimidation last week.
I do not expect this speech to change policies. All I am hoping to do is to ignite some imaginative spark. For in my view we have always lacked imagination in our dealings with Ireland. We do not, as a nation, understand the Irish. We think that they will respond to bureaucratic reasonable solutions to their affairs which we put forward, and they do not. Their thoughts and hopes differ from ours, and we should let them seek their own solution as they have done with great success in Eire.
I believe that what I am advocating corresponds to deep political realities. I am afraid that any solution which is not based on the creation of a Northern Irish peace-keeping force corresponds only to political aspirations. These political aspirations may temporarily comfort Westminster and Dublin but they do not comfort the Ulsterman, Protestants and Catholics alike, who daily are maimed and killed. Nor do they comfort the kinsmen of the casualties in the British Army. My Lords, we all owe God a death, but we do not owe Providence the lives of the English, Scottish and Welsh soldiers dying in this internecine Irish feud. In the end it is not the British but the Irish who must settle this matter.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, this debate has been referred to, and has been accepted, as a most valuable contribution to the debates on Northern Ireland. If I refer especially to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and his most challenging speech, it is because I had something to do with his having to withdraw his Motion. I apologised to him then, and I apologise again. So many of the speeches have been so good that it is difficult to pick any out for special mention; but to-day I should like to discuss the situation in Northern Ireland as seen through the eyes of somebody who lives in Northern Ireland.
I maintain that the action which we have witnessed in Northern Ireland, presents, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham said, a most vicious attack on the Constitution of the United Kingdom 135 and we in the Parliament of the United Kingdom should not fail to pay attention to it just because it happened in Northern Ireland. It still involves the whole of the United Kingdom and our way of democracy. In Northern Ireland there was the strike. It had no camouflage. It was called for a political purpose—to try to overturn the Government, and it succeeded in doing so; but I maintain that there have been manifestations of the same sort of action in the United Kingdom in the not so distant past. Here they have usually been cloaked in some degree of respectability which at times has made it difficult to see what a tremendous challenge to the Constitution we are facing. I feel that British democracy has in the past always managed to find a way of dealing with these challenges with sense and with respect.
Before going further may I pay tribute to the Army and the Royal Ulster Constabulary in carrying out their duty. I have spoken many times in this noble House about what they have done and while, in this speech, I do not intend to go into their role to any great extent, I should like now to pay a tremendous tribute to them. If I follow the noble Lord, Lord Annan, (or was it the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd?) in paying a special tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary who have no opportunity of going home to another part of the world, no respite, and whose very homes are threatened, it is because I live among them. To anybody who has been talking about withdrawal of the Army, I should just like to say that in October, 1969, the then Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Callaghan, on behalf of the Government, made a solemn treaty with the people of Northern Ireland in return for the abolition of the "B" Specials. He declared absolutely, and made this treaty, that the British Army would remain to guard Northern Ireland while there was a duty to be done. This has been reinforced; it has been reinforced by other people. In my view, if we withdrew the Army it would not only be a breach to the people of Northern Ireland; we should in fact be attacking the whole fabric of the United Kingdom.
In Northern Ireland the problems of emotion make it very difficult for people 136 to come to a sound judgment on political matters which are presented before them. I think noble Lords appreciate that just as when one of your relations goes out into the street and there is a chance of him not coming back, you are anxious if he is half an hour late, then political judgments can be very bad. The other day I found a speech made by the then Lord Salisbury, in 1872, which I feel is fairly relevant to to-day. In it he said—The optimistic view of politics assumes that there must be some remedy for every political ill, and rather than not find it, will make two hardships to cure one. If all equitable remedies have failed its votaries take it as proved without argument that the one-sided remedies, which alone are left, must needs succeed. We can keep the peace"—and this is all about Ireland—and we can root out organised crime. But there is no precedent in our history or any other, to teach us that political measures can conjure away hereditary antipathies which are fed by constant agitation.I feel that what Lord Salisbury said in 1872 applies very much to-day.
If I may go back a little in history—I do not want to go back too far because we are a slave to history—in 1996 the I.R.A. were very much communist dominated in philosophy, and they were reviewing the failure of their 1952-56 campaign and they produced a document which was made public. In it they made it absolutely clear that they would penetrate, or attempt to penetrate, the trade unions and community groups, that they would set up front organisations to manufacture grievances and exploit them whether they were real or imagined. From 1969 to 1972, during the period of the revolution—for that is what it was the elected representatives of the Civil Rights movement were in fact the Party which is now known as the S.D.L.P. They led the civil rights campaign and were indeed actively supported by a number of Left Wing politicians in this country who I think were totally misled into the evil intentions of this campaign. It was like Mein Kampf; people paid no attention to it, and yet the programme was clearly laid down and when civil disobedience reached a certain point then the military insurrection arose.
While all this was going on the Unionist people were in fact being bombed and murdered and the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland 137 attempted to deal with the political side—it being one of the methods of interdicting and changing the course of a revolution—in a reform programme which gives us in Northern Ireland a civil rights standard which in many respects leads the world. I do not think noble Lords should worry too much about more civil rights because we in Northern Ireland have a greater protection of civil rights than exists even in this country. The remarks of Lord Salisbury—
If all equitable remedies have failed people take it as proved without argument that the one-sided remedies, which alone are left, must succeed".—applied, in my view, to the abolition of Stormont in 1972.
By 1973 we had the new Constitution Act, and my right honourable friend Mr. William Whitelaw had by various means—and a superhuman effort it was on his behalf and on the part of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and afterwards the noble Lord, Lord Belstead—managed to persuade the Unionists, the S.D.L.P. and the Alliance Party to sit down together to try to govern Northern Ireland. In this House I described the coalition as being a mixture of oil and water, but with Her Majesty's Government operating the centrifuge at enormous speed the mixture very nearly became a solution. At that point in time, in December, the Prime Minister called to Sunningdale the representatives of the Republic of Ireland, the coalition in Northern Ireland and the politicians who formed that coalition. They were called together for continuous negotiation, and I could not help feeling that that method of instant solution was a prescription for disaster. So, I am afraid, it proved, because when people went back—and some noble Lords have mentioned this—to their respective countries they each produced an interpretation of what was decided at Sunningdale which was radically and absolutely different. The Irish Government in Dublin produced one set; the S.D.L.P. produced another; we, the Unionists, produced a third, and Her Majesty's Government in Britain produced a quite different one.
This fed on the emotions in Northern Ireland, because when people feel themselves to be in danger they will always accept the interpretation which fits their worst fears. This failure of the information services and the failure to identify 138 clearly what was to happen was further reinforced when, eventually, a definitive statement of what the Sunningdale Council of Ireland would mean was brought out just before the Executive fell, when, once again, there were contradictory reports and interpretations. It was brought out in an effort to prevent the strike, but it totally failed. In my view, it made that conception of government almost impossible to revive. In criticising the method of arriving at an agreement at Sunningdale, I do not know how many remember the time when a man called Mr. Wendell Wilkie came across to Ireland during the war to try, I think, to persuade the Irish Government that it was time they came to defend civilisation. He had two days' hard negotiation and when he came out, having made no statement, the Press asked him how he was getting on, and he commented, "Well, we have had two days and I am not as far as Oliver Cromwell."
My Lords, I feel that my right honourable friend Mr. Heath did not let that amount of history be told at Sunningdale, but I feel that it was an ill-advised method of arriving at agreement which could be misinterpreted, or interpreted in so many different ways. Indeed there were people in this House who, when Sunningdale was announced, felt there was going to be an improvement in the security problem, but then the United Kingdom Election was called with Sunningdale and our Executive only five weeks old. I feel that calling the Election was a major cause of the fall of the Executive, because by counting the vote and manipulating the figures in various ways they were able to produce a support to say that the whole of the agreements reached after long negotiations were totally unacceptable. During the whole of this time the I.R.A. were operating at an ever-increasing rate. Even during the Election, at one of the most critical times, the I.R.A. staged a massive attack from across the border against the village of Strabane with two companies of Irish troops a mile away, which made it almost impossible for us to stand up and say there was anything to improve security as a result of Sunningdale. And so my view after the Election is that we were in great trouble.
To get back to the actual Executive, the Unionist people of Ulster were being 139 asked to stomach quite a problem. They were asked to see in their Government, at the table to govern them, people who had taken part in the revolution which finished in 1972. As well as that they were asked to sit down at a table with the representatives of a Government that had provided money for arms to start the I.R.A. and who, even at that point, seemed to be unable to show the basis of good will towards the Government. They were protected by vetoes which they felt could not operate, and we all know that vetoes, even in the Security Council of the United Nations, are something which we ourselves find most difficult to operate. It is my contention that at this particular time the Coalition Government was in fact getting and receiving general support.
My Lords, may I at this juncture pay great tribute to my friend and colleague, Brian Faulkner, and his colleagues from all Parties. I believe they showed a courage and a loyalty to their cause which is rare indeed in politics. The time when this happened was when a Council of Ireland became imminent. At that point the strike was called. At the outset of the strike and I speak of my own personal experience as I saw it there was a considerable amount of sympathy among the Protestant people that at last this backlash, which has been so much discussed, was being operated in a fashion that was obvious. But that sympathy, which Mr. Blease of the I.C.T.U. calculated to be about 10 per cent. and I believe that to be about right was not in fact support at that time.
The vital action, which the whole population waited for, was resolute action from Her Majesty's Government. The strike started on a Wednesday and by the following Monday public opinion was seriously disturbed and people were beginning to doubt that any action was being taken. By the Thursday I felt the position was so serious that I got in touch with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and informed him that in my opinion, at that time on the Thursday, there were only two courses open. One, we had to talk to somebody, but if we did we would lose the Executive; and, two, we should put the troops in. From my personal position I was not able to say what the dangers of doing that would 140 be, but by the Friday all over the country and with people from all walks of life, the sympathy which existed in the first place was changing to support. I relayed my information not only to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, but to other officials in the Castle of Stormont, and to Mr. Faulkner and to the Army. The information which I had on that Friday was that to put the Army in would be a hazardous operation because public support was not behind it.
My Lords, it was now Saturday and we all waited with baited breath for the great television broadcast of Her Majesty's Prime Minister. I feel so many people have criticised that transmission, and it may or may not be fair. But the broadcast was built up to the people of Ulster by the media telling us when to listen to this great message, details we all hoped of resolute action, most of it probably put into effect by the time we heard the broadcast. I cannot describe the shudder that shook the backbone of Ulster at hearing it. Horace said:Mountains will be in labour; the hirth will be a single laughable little mouse.I only wish that we in Ulster could have laughed after that broadcast. I personally believe that no single event during that strike and no action did more to ensure the failure of the Executive and the failure of the Government's action. But believing as I do in the Prime Minister's mental agility, I am forced to ask the question: Was it done by mistake or because he did not understand the reaction in Northern Ireland; or is he in fact in a covert fashion somehow trying to drive the people of Ulster to a position where this nationalism of which so many people talk is fed on the flames of dislike of the British Government? I ask that question, but I do not know.
However, a certain lady, a Roman Catholic who is clearly not a Unionist, came up to me and said that the broadcast almost drove her to support the strike. During that fatal period of inactivity, and because to all outward appearances the Government were sitting in Stormont Castle and doing nothing, various deputations from the C.B.I. and Ulster Farmers' Union, and various other people, went to see the Government. May I say that there were offers from various other people to mediate, but all felt they 141 had been dealt with rather discourteously. For myself I have never had any cause other than to be complimentary to the courtesy which I and my fellow Members of Parliament have received from the Government, but there is a general feeling that because of Government policy those deputations were brushed aside.
The final blow to the Executive came when the S.D.L.P. demanded that the Army be put in. They said they would resign if the Army were not put in and the Government stood by them at that point. The effect on the people of Northern Ireland to this demand of the S.D.L.P.a Party which had up to then vilified the Army and even now cannot bring itself to commend it for its operations to see on the Monday that the Army was put in, simply made certain of the destruction of the Executive. It took Mr. Cosgrave in Dublin to put the strike in proper perspective when he said it was all a result of I.R.A. violence, the bitterest enemies of the United Kingdom. The Executive has gone, but before we can do much more we must try to improve security, and one area of which I have spoken before is the question of convicted prisoners being classified as political prisoners and getting a separate status. This breeds in everybody who commit acts of violence a feeling that an amnesty will soon be called.
The next element which the Government should press ahead with as fast as possible while there is no Executive is real co-operation with the Republic to make sure that we have the sort of cooperation which we were all hoping for from Sunningdale. Another element with which the Government should proceed very fast is the appointment of the Police Authority of Northern Ireland, and they should make sure that the Irish Republic appoints its Police Authority. Then, to that Authority they should appoint those people in politics in Northern Ireland who have been critical of the conditions in the Council of Ireland which concern the Police Authority, because one of the great cat-cries was that the control of the police was going to be surrendered to the Government of the Irish Republic. They should be encouraged to serve on the Police Authority to see that the control of the police in fact resides in Northern Ireland.
142 As regards the 1973 Constitution Act, great care should be taken before discarding it. There are, however, certain aspects of its operation which it is worthwhile to mention. I know it is not a popular thing to say, but the revolution five years ago was because of a belief and a well-founded belief according to many people that there was a lack of civil rights in Ulster. That is why the revolution was able to gain ground and eventually to win. This last revolution (I do not know whether noble Lords are aware of it, but the strike was a revolution) was because the Loyalists started claiming that their democratic civil rights, too, had been eroded and did not exist. The first area of discontent is in the number of Members of Parliament who are elected to Westminster. In Northern Ireland we have only 50 per cent. of the number of Members which the same population in England would command. It is an unpopular time at this moment, with every Member from Northern Ireland except one opposing the Government. But if the franchise in Northern Ireland was important five years ago, how much more important is it that the franchise should be properly operated now, when we have lost the Coalition and when, even if the Coalition is to be maintained, certain powers which used to reside in Stormont no longer exist? I believe that if that had been done it would have been very difficult for anybody to say that we in the United Kingdom could not dictate to the second tier in Government what sort of Government they had; that is to say, had the number of Members of Parliament here been correct.
Now what good came out of it? The last five months have proved that a Coalition could work. But the Act appears to give such overriding powers to the Secretary of State that the shout of "Dictator!" has been sustainable and has had some effect. Indeed, I heard the noble Earl, Lord Enniskillen, almost using that cry last night when speaking of the operation of the Act. The first place where those powers are used is by the Secretary of State when he forms the Executive. The first Executive was formed by my right honourable friend, who did the whole thing himself and I think it was essential that it should be done by him. But what I should like in future 143 is for the Secretary of State to call an elected Member to him and ask him to form a Government. If that Member fails, and the Government must in fact reach the standards of the 1973 Act, then I should like the Secretary of State to call another Member and ask him. I believe that that in itself would go a very long way towards removing that particular cry.
There has been a lot of talk about referenda, and I should like to mention one point in this connection. No referendum should be held until 1983 if it involves any question about the status of Northern Ireland, because this would feed once more on the main cause of the strike the feeling that the Protestant population is being let down. It would be a further breach of promise, because the 1973 Act has this solemn declaration that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a referendum has shown it to be public opinion; and I think there should be no referendum before 1983. So I should like extreme caution to be used before anybody thinks of referenda, although I believe that public opinion on these matters must somehow be discovered. In the meantime, my Lords, political Parties of all complexions should be called together, and they should be encouraged to have discussions and to make recommendations to Her Majesty's Government.
To help this forward, I should like to suggest that we should have an independent chairman—and may I follow the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, by putting another name forward? He is a man who is held in great respect by people of Northern Ireland of all creeds Lord Grey. He is a lawyer of tremendous eminence, and he is very well-loved by all the people of Northern Ireland. It is vital that we should encourage the politicians of Northern Ireland to try to solve this problem themselves in the immediate future, and I would therefore encourage the Government to do this.
Before I go any further, may I ask the Government whether they will make quite certain that the civil servants of Northern Ireland know that we are aware of the tremendous trauma which they have had to go through? I consider that no country has been better served by its Civil Service than we have been in Northern Ireland. They had Stormont, they had 144 direct rule, then they had Coalition and now they are back to a form of direct rule. They have served the country loyally and well, and I should like to feel that the Government can in some way show their gratitude. Certainly I, for my part, am very grateful.
For the immediate future—and here I have another suggestion—Northern Ireland must have what is seen to be impartial government. At the present moment there is a suggestion that, temporarily, a Minister of State should be appointed to be the equivalent of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland—because that is what he is; the Chief Executive is the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Whoever that Chief Executive is, he should have the confidence of the whole of Parliament in the United Kingdom and all the people in Northern Ireland; and, with great respect to the Minister of State, his past experience has not led him to be loved by the Protestant population in Northern Ireland. I am not saying that what he has done is wrong, although I do not agree with it; but the facts of the matter are that he has previously taken part in demonstrations and activities which supported the first revolution.
In my view it is very important, if the government of our Province is to be made easy, that we should have the Secretary of State and his various Ministers; under that trio, as it is at present, a Chief Executive who is non-political; and under him his various Ministers, again nonpolitical—civil servants, or something like that. If this is done, then I believe that for the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland government will be a much easier task; and I should hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, would feel that his task might be lightened by that. It is with a view to trying to help to govern the country of Northern Ireland that I make that suggestion.
I should like to end by quoting Kipling in 1912, because I think he described to a certain extent what has happened if it is seen through Unionist eyes and that is how I have been looking at it. He said:Rebellion, rapine hate, Oppression, wrong and greed;Are loosed to rule our fate, By England's act and deed.The blood our fathers spilt, Our love, our toils, our gains;Are counted us for guilt And only bind our chains.145Before an Empire's eyes, The traitor claims his price;What need of further lies— We are the sacrifice.That, my Lords, is the problem.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, in the last two days taking note of the situation in Northern Ireland has promoted a great many ideas in the minds of those who have been privileged to listen to a succession of quite impressive speeches. It is my responsibility to try to say something about the connection between the religious and the political situations, because up to now I do not think it has received the attention it deserves, especially in the light of the problems it produces.
I have long since believed that in many respects "Catholicism" and "Protestantism" are convenient labels on bottles, the ingredients of which do not necessarily correspond with those labels, and that indeed very often religious differences are a cloak or a mask for more profound economic and social conditions. Yet I think no one would quarrel with the statement that in the last few days it has been necessary to re-assess the relationship particularly of Protestantism as it is now attached, as the verb or the noun, to the particular emergencies of the last week or so. For indeed that Protestantism needs a great deal more explanation than to assume that it represents what in fact politically it has come to be seen to do and that is both a concordant reaction against continuing problems and sufferings and the re-emergence of a kind of nationalism which was there all the time but has now come again to the surface.
What is this Protestant background? I suppose no one would now quarrel with the assertion that this last demonstration of Protestant unity was a cry in the dark rather than a programme to be announced. It was almost a shout of despair at the continuing and almost insufferable conditions under which the majority of people, particularly in Northern Ireland, have been living. That has been exemplified in speech after speech and seems to be beyond question. But at the same time it has been recognised by speaker after speaker, who knows far more about the situation in Northern Ireland than I do, that the re- 146 emergence of nationalism is closely associated with this Protestant reaction.
I have had a certain amount of correspondence with Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland and they make a number of complaints and a number of assertions and leave out one or two very obvious facts. I should suspect that when we use the word "Protestant" about the citizens of Northern Ireland we are talking of about 10 per cent. of those who are earnestly concerned with justification by faith or the priesthood of all believers and only very rarely attend the means of grace Sunday by Sunday. They are more or less in the same category in which other Pagan cities now exist. What has happened is that they have been brought together by a sense that they have together suffered intolerable wrongs and that they need the kind of support that they have not received for a number of reasons which these clerics on the other side of the water have impressed upon me as being very valid. One reason is that there has been a lopsided and very indiscreet use of the media in this country whereby false or imperfect impressions have been carried across the St. George's Channel. What is more, movements towards genuine Protestant solidarity and aspirations have more or less been ignored. Who knows, for instance, the work of Bishop Daly and Dr. Gallagher? and yet that work in reconciliation is monumental and I hope it will increase. It will immeasurably increase if it has the kind of publicity which is too often given to the blatant expressions of extremism, which may become excellent television but which are no servant of the true ends of reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
There is another and much more sinister aspect of the word "Protestant" when it becomes associated with Mr. Paisley. I shall treat of him in his ecclesiastical status which will relieve me of the necessity of calling him either "Reverend" or "Dr.", for both of these appellations are self-inflicted wounds. I hope no one in your Lordships' House imagines that the comparative moderation of Mr. Paisley on this side of the water corresponds to the same kind of attitude which he takes in Northern Ireland. He is a loud-mouthed mob orator with an unfortunate mind, a capacity to arouse emotions, and a savagery which I believe precludes him from any inclusion in what 147 I would call a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have carefully thought whether I ought to say this. I know that I am morally bound to love him but, thank God! I am not called upon to like him, and I do not. I dislike even more than I dislike him the whole miasma and cloud of misunderstanding, prejudice and hatred of which I have personal knowledge and of which there is ample evidence for those who would seek it.
But it is not so much the individual Mr. Paisley, who should never have emerged from the obscurity to which he properly belongs, it is the kind of attitude which is represented by a section of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland which looks upon him as its saviour and leader. Your Lordships will forgive me if I enter a little into theological matters, because there is a trend within this Protestantism which I regard as menacing, dangerous and from all accounts increasing. It springs from the nature of the particular fundamentalist faith which is another form of ecclesiastical fascism and which is sponsored by those who worship the Bible as if it includes at every page of it immaculate evidence as to what you and I should do in every conceivable situation. It is a totalitarian form of religion which to me is totally in disharmony with the principles of the faith which I would seek to hold. As an aside, if there is to be infallibility anywhere in religion, I should infinitely prefer the verbal discipline of a Pope to the continued garrulence of a library of books. That is precisely what has happened.
I have in my hand—and I shall dispose of it very briefly—a rag called the Protestant Telegraph which represents the attitude of those who follow in the steps of Mr. Paisley. It is a disgraceful document. It quotes the more bloodthirsty Psalms repeatedly. It has no kind of connection with intelligent thought and it is just as bad as the United Irishman. It represents the kind of thing which now can pollute this newfound unity among Protestant people who but for its infection I believe might move to a kind of solidarity which would be much more amenable to the emollient processes of discussion than in the past. Therefore, not only is this infection of the Paisleyite type of Protestantism producing a kind of fascism within the Protest- 148 ant movement, but it is also exacerbating the violence which is the supreme enemy of any attempt to proceed to more congenial and peaceful methods of Government. That is by way of declaration.
I have thought as carefully as I could of what contribution practically I might think it well to make. I am quite sure that the Government should be supported in their attempt to proceed upon the undoubted success of power sharing. As this debate has progressed, and as I read the various reputable literature on the subject, I am convinced that what has happened is this: that had this power sharing not been so closely identified with the somewhat indiscreet interpretations of the other side of it, the Council of Ireland by the S.D.L.P., it might well have been that this programme of power sharing would have produced even greater results than it has done. It commends itself, I believe, to an increasing number of those moderate Protestants who would give anything to be free from the shackles of Paisleyism, and yet who have no voice as of the moment, and perhaps out of cowardice and a sense almost of hopelessness have not yet commanded the kind of initiative which I believe they can do and I hope they will do. I am sure that in this cooling-off period—a dangerous phrase—but in this period in which we have at least a little time to think, it would be foolish to disregard the possibility of setting up some kind of power sharing which would rescue something at least from the remnants of what hitherto has been regarded by some as a total disaster.
But surely the supreme problem is how to abate the violence. I wonder whether we sufficiently appreciate what happens to a community which knows nothing but violence. I am continuously appalled when I look at the television screen and see the faces of youngsters of 10, 11 and 12—to say nothing of what they carry in their hands—and to see and to hear the blatant violence of women, however gentle and motherly they may be in other circumstances. I reflect that when I was a boy of 14 I was involved in the mass violence of the First World War. I became a bayonet-fighting instructor and what now appals me, as I remember it, is that I loved it. I fed on it: I enjoyed it and I could still repeat No. 1 butt stroke and tell you about long point and jab. 149 I know I should not, of course; but I also know that it is extremely hard for a community which has grown up in violence to think and act rationally. This would seem to me, a complete answer to the prognostication of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that if we withdraw the troops from Northern Ireland, those there would then settle down to a rational argument as to whether it was worth while continuing to shoot one another. I do not believe that people under this kind of emotional pressure are likely to be rational enough to do that—and who is to blame them? Surely, the most practical way in which this debate may not only have proved worth while but actually fruitful is to discover, if we can, what measures can be taken to abate this violence.
I have no particular stomach for what I am now going to say, but I must say it. I have listened with care to what has been said about the Price sisters and I have been moved, as I think everyone in your Lordships' House has been moved, by the evidence of the compassion of the Home Secretary; but I think he is morally wrong. If a matter in which pressure is brought to bear on a Government is itself in error and not justified, then I believe it is an absolute rule that that Government should not accede to that pressure. But in a matter where a Government have indicated through their Home Secretary that perhaps there is justice in the demand, or the plea, that these two girls should serve a sentence of many years in their home country, and if that is accepted, then I believe that the moral law becomes comparative and not absolute, and has to be measured in terms of the likely consequences. I would think it is one of the prime responsibilities of government to see by what means it can reduce the likelihood of violence, and I shudder to think what that violence is likely to be among the crazy, but nevertheless in some ways sincere, members of militant groups.
This is no condonation of what the Price sisters were involved in doing, but to understand is not necessarily to palliate, and so I would invite your Lordships to consider also that they believe they are operating in a state of war. We believe that they are operating in a condition of peace. Their unilateral declaration of war in some circumstances would 150 justify the kind of action they have been performing, and we must be very careful not to be hypocritical in making a complete judgment on what people should do in what we are pleased to call peace, when those others, with equal sincerity, believe it to be a condition of war. This does not justify their actions but it causes me a tortured conscience, and I believe there is in this act of mercy at least a possibility and, I would think, a probability that some of the worst excesses which are now likely to occur can be prevented.
However, as a pacifist I would not go further and immediately desire the withdrawal of British troops. To withdraw troops as a political ploy or in a mood of exasperation or disappointment carries with it no virtue at all and is likely—and indeed I believe it is already established in the minds of many of your Lordships, judging from the speeches we have heard—to be the occasion for very serious and continuous bloodshed. But a phased withdrawal, not as the reward for good behaviour but as part of the programme of reconciliation, should enter the minds of the Government and should be acceptable, though perhaps with great difficulty. It would, of course, have to be worked out. I am well satisfied that, sooner or later, the withdrawal of troops is imperative because this is not a matter of power—I say that again with due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who says politics is primarily a matter of power. Thank God, it is not! Politics is primarily a matter of the power of morality. In the present circumstances I am sure that a programme which includes as part of its essential characteristics the withdrawal of troops, accompanied by some new and better form of reconciliation, would be acceptable, and should be considered.
My last word would be this. This is a long tunnel, and no-one after hearing the speeches which have been made over the last few days can be left in any doubt as to the gravity of the situation. But there is one thing which gives me more hope than anything else, and it is that for the first time within a period of just a few months those who were intractably opposed and represented a tradition of intractable opposition came together and began to work out reasonable policies and to make friends with one another. 151 To that, I believe we can attach some measure of hope. It is the kind of hope we should not throw away in any quick decision which would exercise brutal power or even security. It is something which has to be cherished, for I believe it is the one hope for the people not only of Northern Ireland but of these shores, and indeed of the whole of Ireland itself.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down I should like to ask him one question about the Price sisters—not necessarily following on what I said about them yesterday. The noble Lord used the word "sincere", when he spoke about people in Northern Ireland who were going to be violent, and he said that this violence was going to be created by the Home Secretary's decision. When it comes to using the word "sincere", surely the word can also be applied to the Home Secretary and even to Hitler. Therefore the word "sincere" seems to me completely out of place when used to describe terrorists in Northern Ireland.
§ LORD SOPER
My Lords, I wonder whether that needs an answer: I think perhaps the question itself has provided the answer. I would have said that sincerity is wholeheartedness in a cause. It may be a bad cause, and I am certainly not prepared to say that Hitler was wholehearted; but I am perfectly certain that these young women are wholehearted. Though it may be argued—and I think it would be perfectly consistent with, shall we say? theology—that they have abominably misused their powers in violent deeds, yet I would not withhold from them the concept of such sincerity as caused them to risk their own lives, and to be prepared to die now. You only die, I believe, for a cause that you really believe in.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, I should like to start my speech with an apology. Because for a very long time I have had an important engagement with a voluntary charitable organisation (which, incidentally works in Northern Ireland) for a later hour this afternoon, this may not permit me to return to the Chamber in time to hear the closure of the debate. I should like to express 152 my apology to the noble Lord who is to wind up. I shall try to get back in time, but it may not be possible.
Secondly, I should like to say that I feel a deep sense of obligation to the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who has just spoken. From the point of view of a religionist of world-wide respect and fame, he has said things which throw a clearer light than most of us can see on what you have to do in continuing to love your enemies while contesting some of their methods and practices. I have seen a little of what he has described in the distorted Protestantism of Northern Ireland. I would not express my accord with everything he has said, but I should like to add just one other point that when I saw on the television screen people who will be the victims of this policy rejoicing in the streets, I felt I was seeing something that I had not seen since the 1930s.
Perhaps I should also make a brief point here on the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I must say that my first reaction was that of somebody—perhaps the noble Lord, if he is still here, will be able to tell me who it was—who, in speaking about Lord Macaulay, said I wish I was as sure of anything as Tom is of everything."There are of course historical fallacies in what he said, which perhaps are not important; but India, after all, was never part of the United Kingdom. One could go on in this way. But, on the other hand, I feel it was a good thing that the noble Lord's speech should have been made, because we are always under some temptation in this debate of sliding from a very distant hope to a hope which sounds more comfortable than the occasion warrants. To that extent he has done us benefit by pouring a little acid into the debate. That does not indicate that I in any way agree with what he said.
May I make one comment on this debate as such? I was rather upset to hear in a comment this morning the rather slick remark that yesterday's debates showed that neither the Government nor the Opposition have a policy. Surely that wholly misinterprets the purpose of this debate. The Government, with great wisdom, before they develop a policy to answer the present emergency, have called us all together in a kind of 153 Council of State, to give advice which they may take or reject. It was wise to take the exceptional course of not putting the debate on the basis of a policy, but of asking both Houses to debate this matter so that out of this wisdom they could distil a policy of their own. This seems the right course to adopt in the circumstances, It is a practice which is quite commonly used in the United States, which uses the separation of powers between the Legislature and the Executive to do precisely this.
Before I go on to the main subject of discussion, may I also, without taking too much of your Lordships' time, say one word on the tragic circumstances of the Price sisters? I should first like to say that, in common with all your Lordships, I have the highest respect for Mr. Jenkins as a person of intelligence, sensitivity and compassion. He has had a terrible time in trying to decide what is the fair thing to do in this difficult case. I have had the same anguish as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and it shows how difficult it is that I have come out on the other side, and for this reason: I feel that these tragic, misguided young women are not, in fact, seeking to die for Ireland. If they can only understand it (which perhaps they cannot) they are being asked to die in order to be transported to a prison in another part of the United Kingdom where their presence will cause more disturbance than it causes where they are now. I had hoped that when the Cardinal in Northern Ireland was interviewed on the television, and said that he was disappointed by the decision of Mr. Jenkins, that he would have been able to convey something of what I have said to these young women. I hope that they may have some ability to recognise the degree to which they are being exploited. I say this expressly, because Mr. Jenkins has received a good deal of abuse and I am afraid that he will receive a good deal more. I should like to express my confidence in him and in what he has done.
There is one point out of the immediate past which I should like to mention, because I hope it may be of some help in future circumstances. When the crisis grew to its height in Northern Ireland, and, properly, the Prime Minister and the spokesman for the Opposition, were due to address us, my immediate assumption was that the one thing they would con- 154 centrate upon was that all this activity, the strike and the political agitation, was based on a false prospectus. Many noble Lords have referred to the fact that it was based on the assumption that the Sunning-dale Agreement in some way weakened the ability of Northern Ireland to protect itself from union with the Irish Republic if it did not want it. It contains no such menace to the North at all. It seemed to me strange that neither of the two speakers should have made that leading point, which would have encouraged a certain division among Protestant opinion in the sense that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, mentioned, instead of which the five minutes were devoted to other things. The particular point I am making was left to the Irish Government and, I am happy to be able to add, to the Leader of the Liberal Party. I deduce later in this speech something from that—that somehow there should be a better machinery for reflecting what might be the truth and feeling in Northern Ireland in what is said from London. Of course this is not a new point, either.
Having issued the false prospectus, the Ulster extremists proceeded to demand that democratic steps should be taken so that the position could be restored. Again, there was a point there which was a false prospectus. What that meant was that the status quo, which started all this, should be restored and that once again the Catholic minority should be reduced to a position of perpetual opposition, and perpetually powerless opposition. But under this—and here one must be fair—there is rather deeper argument about which all those in charge of these matters will have to think very carefully indeed. It is this: it is argued in less extreme terms that it is not politically possible to share power with people whose ultimate objective is that the country which you are trying to run should be absorbed by another country. That is a respectable piece of political argumentation.
I think in any British political terms we would be inclined as a nation to say, "If people are reasonable this can be fixed, and we can run the show temporarily on a basis of pragmatic common sense and see how things develop." I fear, from what has been said by noble Lords who have spent time in Northern Ireland and who have actually exercised power in Ulster, that this would not work. One of 155 the many things that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will have to grapple with is the question whether a convincing answer in Ulster terms can be found which will sufficiently reassure genuine Protestant opinion that there can be a real power sharing with people, some of whom, at any rate, will cling to this objective in their political thinking.
My Lords, as you can see, no more than anybody else am I going to be able to prescribe any solutions. But perhaps at this stage of the debate I may collect a few points from speeches by other noble Lords, and I should also like to finish by offering, with great impertinence, a point of advice to my old, personal friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. Of the points which have come up in the debate, obviously still more will have to be done about security. Secondly, the concept of power sharing should certainly not be allowed to die. But, first, I suggest that we drop the word "Sunningdale" from the vocabulary. One day there may be a more suitable dale in Ireland to which a future agreement may be referred. I also suggest that, because words become catchwords and symbols. we may even want to evolve a different expression for "power-sharing", although it will cover the fact of power sharing. Your Lordships may feel that I fuss too much about words; but I do not think you can fuss too much in the radio/television age. There has to be a rethink of all words like Loyalists "and even "Protestants" and "Catholics", as the noble Lord, Lord Soper, has pointed out. A new point which I do not think has been made is that one of the great difficulties when you are in the middle of a quarrel between communities, is that the people whom you are trying to help will do the most awkward or tragic things, or even just say them. I beseech those in the minority whom we are trying to help not to make inconvenient requests the moment we are in trouble through trying to help them. It really is no good when we are trying to help them, for the minority, say, to insist literally on ending internment or whatever it may be. Equally, this goes for the Government of the Republic, who have latterly been most helpful but whose help a little earlier on would have been so much more valuable.
156 In the meantime, I agree with the vast majority of noble Lords that talk about evacuating our troops is quite irrelevant to the present situation, and possibly harmful. Of course, one day we do not want any troops on active service in any part of the United Kingdom dealing with the citizens of the United Kingdom. But when we shall reach that point is impossible to foresee at this moment. This whole crisis brings into the scope of reality one element that has not been there before: that if. under whatever name, we are unable to reach a power-sharing, then the question will become actual that there should be a smaller Ulster; and those who have precipitated this crisis will have to recognise themselves in the mirror as the creators of a smaller Ulster, and I do not think that that is what they would want.
Finally, one fact that has emerged with immense clarity from the speeches of noble Lords who have been the Prime Minister or the Governor of Northern Ireland is that the dimensions of thought and emotion there are different from ours. This has now become a commonplace. It is not so very long ago that it was not one, but it now is one—at least intellectually. Therefore, might I put the suggestion to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, that it should be a conscious purpose of Ministers in charge of our interests and our affairs in Northern Ireland to spend as much time in Ulster as they possibly can. Would they also make a point of being free to see anybody whatever, formally or informally? I am not attracted by an immediate conference, which I do not think can result in anything but deadlock. But in the end Ministers will have to say and do things clearly and deliberately, and they will have to do them not so much by sweet reason as by instinct. Instinct does not grow on trees; it is the product of a great deal of contact and a great deal of information which enable one to say the right thing at the drop of a hat.
So, my Lords, I hope—and I may be saying something which I need not say—that Ministers will spend a great deal of time in Northern Ireland seeing everybody from one end of the spectrum to another, so that the mental image of that place is absolutely clear. I am quite 157 sure they will not forget the political realities that they are dealing with here at the same time, but it will enable them to be absolutely sure in their advice to the Cabinet here about what should be said and done. I am conscious of not having really offered anything particularly new or striking. I can only join with other noble Lords from all sides of the House in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and his colleagues well in their efforts to produce a more peaceful and a happier Ulster in the future.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken speaks with such great authority that if, when he is, as he describes it, fussing with words, he makes a slip it is important that poor mortals like myself should correct it. The British troops in Northern Ireland are not on active service, so the suggestion of the noble Lord that they are is quite incorrect. That is not the only slight complication about words which has occurred in this debate. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, at the beginning of his speech, spoke in terms of pride of his membership of this House, having listened as he said to words and speeches of great wisdom. It is my judgment, having listened to the entire debate yesterday, and having read the debate in the other place, all the newspapers and all that can be written on the subject, that the singular thing about what has transpired in the last few days, including the affairs in both Houses, is that as a nation we are bereft of any policy.
I would draw attention to one or two major reasons for it. When the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was speaking he discovered that Ulster nationalism was a new phenomenon. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, this afternoon that it was something very old. We heard from speech after speech, including I should have thought by implication from the noble Lord who has just spoken, that we must "keep our cool" we have no suggestions to offer but we must all be cool, calm and collected. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, I thought got much nearer. Time is not on our side. We have not unlimited time. It may be the 158 events of the next few days or next few weeks will not reduce the temperature. It may not get cooler; it may get hotter. Yes, noble Lords on all sides of the House, and the noble Lord who has just spoken, are quite content to let the British troops stay in Ireland and to let them "carry the can".
§ LORD GORE-BOOTH
My Lords, the noble Lord is very kind in alluding to what I have said. Perhaps I had better not let him get it all wrong. I have never suggested that we have a lot of time. We have not a lot of time. I have simply, like other noble Lords, tried to suggest what the Government could do after making up their minds in a few days.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I have listened to most of the noble Lord's speeches since he has been in the House, and it is an old gag to try to put into my mouth something I did not say. I am sorry if I wound the noble Lord's pride, but I was not referring only to him. I referred to many noble Lords in the course of this debate and said—unless I have gone nuts—that I was referring to the noble Lord by implication. I am not referring to him all the time. If he will forgive me for saying so, he is not all that important. although of course I would never minimise just how important he is.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, it is regrettable that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is not present to defend himself. It appears that the noble Lord, Lord Gore-booth, thinks that anybody who speaks with clarity earns the kind of rebuke that was meted out this afternoon by this quotation which I will not attempt to repeat. I might express my difference with Lord Annan—I mentioned it to him. He referred to Clem Attlee's announcement from the Bench opposite in this House that we were to withdraw from India—we set a period on our stay—and subsequently Ernie Bevin made the announcement we were to withdrawn from Palestine. It is just possible that Lord Annan knew that India was not part of the United Kingdom, and that he also knew that we were in Palestine in pursuance of a mandate. My quarrel with Lord Annan (I nearly followed him, 159 and wish I had) was when he was interrupted by the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, who reminded him of what happened when we came out of India and what followed when we came out of Palestine.
§ LORD SEGAL
My Lords, in fairness to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who is not here, I would say that he also referred to the case of Algeria. May I remind the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, that Algeria then was a part of Metropolitan France?
§ LORD WIGG
I am sorry, my Lords. I will go on to Algeria, but I did not want to go all round the world. I could go back to Thrace. I could go back to Greece and Turkey where I served as a young soldier when the League of Nations involved British troops, of whom I was one, in similar circumstances. The point I want to make is that Clem Attlee did not come out of India for any noble reasons at all he came out because we could not stay, because his military advisers were beginning to say to him that in actual fact we should need 2 million troops to hold India. Furthermore, the British Army had paid the price to the full in Palestine.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, the noble Lord is casting a profound slur on the memory of a very great man.
§ LORD WIGG
If it is a slur on the memory of a great man, I am saying that Clem Attlee was a man who dealt in military facts. The point is that he came out of India because we were not in a position to stay. We came out of Palestine for precisely the same reason and we are going to come out of Northern Ireland for exactly the same reason. We had a debate in this House on May 9. I regret that Lord Annan did not take part in it. I did not intend to do so. I was guilty of a major solecism because it was almost a private debate with the Conservative Party, but I came in at the tail end of the debate and had a few words to say and I explained my position with some degree of care.
When Lord Donaldson wound up the debate he refuted two suggestions. He refuted the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, which has been repeated many times in the debate, that the Army should take their gloves off and 160 that we should have road blocks, passes, and all the paraphernalia which have been used in other circumstances. General Matsu tried to do it in Algeria and did not succeed. Either you do that or, he said, you adopt my solution.
My solution was not to bring the troops out. In order to make it quite clear, I have brought along with me the actual words that I used on that occasion. I said that the time had come when it would no longer be possible to carry out the job the Army was required to do—to maintain the civil power because the civil power had broken down, that a date should be fixed, as was fixed over India and as was fixed over Palestine, and that influence should be used to build up a gendarmerie because what we want are policemen and not soldiers. At the end of the debate, in answer to a remark made by Lord Bourne, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said:We do not feel that we have reached the stage of either Lord Bourne's solution or Lord Wigg's solution. I hope we never do …Then Lord Bourne interrupted and asked:May I read into his answer that the British Government are content to go ahead with the present system?The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, then said:My Lords, the noble Lord can read exactly that into the present answer."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9/5/74, c. 726.]What has happened since May 9? We were committed to the policy of Sunning-dale, power sharing and using the Army in most difficult circumstances to do a job for which it was neither trained nor equipped. It was living in appalling barrack conditions. Then the Strike began to build up, and it was perfectly clear, as was mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. that we were building up to the Prime Minister's broadcast. Everybody thought that the Army was going to go in. This was "talk", and some of it inspired "talk". Two spearhead battalions had gone in. For those interested in these matters, it went in at very low strength—at only 500. But the remainder of the spearhead battalions were to go in and then B.A.O.R. was to go in. They were to remove troops from B.A.O.R. in order to break the strike.
161 Of all foolish propositions, this struck me as about the most foolish. Therefore I will be perfectly frank. I listened to the Prime Minister's television broadcast with trepidation because it seemed to me that no competent staff officer who had been trained in either A or Q duties could have faced this problem—not the kind of staff officers who gave Clem Attlee the advice which made him come to this House and say that we did not have the strength to maintain our position in India. What is involved? The British Army of the Rhine is supported by no less than 30,000 German civilians. Even in fulfilling its NATO obligations the Army cannot do without the support of those German civilians. And that is not all.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, before the noble Lord develops the question about B.A.O.R., may I say that there was never the slightest question of bringing out the troops.
§ LORD WIGG
In that case, my Lords, it ought to have been contradicted out of hand. It should have been contradicted out of hand because there was a build-up both at home and abroad that the Army was going to be used in an effective role. What I want to point out is that it has been the decision of both Governments, Conservative and Labour alike, to run the Reserves down to the point where they are non-existent. At one time we had a Supplementary Reserve. That was washed out in 1969. The total strength of Sections A, B and D of the Regular Army Reserve is 20,000. At the present moment, the Army is maintained at a fantastic cost, but the only military job which it can do is to maintain a watch on the plains of Hanover, supported by a civilian force which is almost equal to its own strength. That is the situation which we have reached.
In the event, the Prime Minister fetched over the Members of the Executive. What for? If he was going to act, he did not need to send for them. But by Sunday, of course, it became a little clearer. On Sunday, the Secretary of State was taken by aeroplane down to Cornwall to be interviewed by the Prime Minister because by that time the S.D.L.P. were insisting either that the Army should go in or that they would resign. Therefore we had a timetable the next morning. 162 The timetable was this. The Army goes in at 5 o'clock. Mr. Fitt, widely reported, has set a timetable to resign by 6 o'clock if the Army does not go in. And the Army goes in. The Army has been soldier, policeman, road sweeper. It has done every job under the sun. Now it was to become petrol station manager. The Army went into 21 stations in circumstances which were bound to exacerbate the situation, with no follow-up. It went in one hour before the deadline so that every Protestant in Northern Ireland believed, rightly or wrongly, that they went in at the behest of Mr. Fitt.
My Lords, I do not regard this as being terribly clever. My protest is the same as the protest which I made on May 9 and I repeat it now. The 15,000 troops in Northern Ireland are living, at the behest of and with the support of your Lordships' House, under conditions which none of your Lordships would accept. I have had this experience on many occasions. I served in Ireland for a little while during the "Troubles". As I indicated, I served in the British Army of Occupation in Constantinople; I served in the Army of Occupation in Iraq, in Palestine, in Egypt. I have been at the receiving end of it and if you ask these men to go on for ever and ever doing four-month terms of duty, which are virtually four months' C.B., in conditions in which sleeping, bathing, feeding are sub-standard, they will not do it.
But there is another reason. The Army of my day and of many a noble Lord was an Army in which you could not get married and receive a marriage allowance before the age of 26 for other ranks; for an officer the age was 30. To-day, there are more wives and children than there are soldiers, so when young men from B.A.O.R. do their tour of duty their overseas allowance ceases although their wives are left behind to meet the cost of living—and a higher cost of living it is in B.A.O.R. So what happens? I will make the point that I have made dozens of times before, that when Mr. Healey was Secretary of State for Defence he reduced, in his wisdom, the engagement from seven to three years with an option of coming out. Therefore, my Lords, whether you like it or not you are eventually going to have no Army. That is why recruiting figures are falling. And they will continue to fall, because what 163 Her Majesty's Government did in those critical days was to ask the Army to undertake an unlimited commitment with limited resources, for exclusively political reasons and without any regard to the military consequences or the effect upon the troops themselves. Your Lordships on both sides of the House support that commitment. I do not. I protest. I protest, because in the long run it is certain to fail.
I repeat that Mr. Attlee took his decision in regard to India not for noble reasons. Such a suggestion I regard as a slur upon the memory of a great man. But it is not the first time that it has been done. Is it a similar slur upon the late Lord Birkenhead, who once sat on the Woolsack, that he took the decision to meet Michael Collins in the face of the certain opposition of the Conservative Party of that day? Is it a slur upon his memory? If it be a slur, let me assert that he took the decision for exactly the same reasons. I will repeat the figures I have used before. There were in Ireland in the 1920s 70,000 troops, and they were taking on the Cork Brigade—Sinn Fein—27, and the 27 even shot up the G.O.C. So this is what we are up against.
There is no end to this story. We are bereft of any signs of a policy, yet when the noble Lord, Lord Annan, comes along this afternoon and puts forward something that begins to make sense he is dismissed as being guilty of the crime of being certain. If we are going to judge ourselves on that basis, what about the most reverend Primate, who began yesterday afternoon by saying how proud he was to be a Member of this House? I thought that pride was one of the deadliest of sins. Of course pride is a deadly sin because it puts scales over one's eyes and one does not perceive the truth. The most reverend Primate then went on to make this most surprising statement: he said that when logic and reason go all we can do is to fall back on feeling and intuition. I regret that the most reverend Primate is not here, but I say to those noble Lords who care to listen, and particularly on the eve of the Derby, that whether you are concerned with military matters or political matters or you go to Epsom tomorrow afternoon, let reason and logic be your guide and not feeling, because if the good Lord had intended us 164 to use a pin in politics or racing or anything else, we should have been born with a pin in our fingers. So I reject the idea that I should rely upon intuition or feeling merely because every avenue I have tried has ended in a cul-de-sac, and written on the wall is "nonsense".
The basic truth is, what? I am not an Irishman; I do not know but the much reviled Reverend Ian Paisley—and he did not say this in another place, because I suppose I should be out of order in quoting it if he had done so—said: "Let Irishmen settle the problem; let Irishmen get round the table". Well, let them get round the table and let them agree, because both sides need it. Let them solve the question of a police authority and start building up a gendarmerie that will maintain law and order. If you do not want to fix a date for withdrawal, recognise the logistics of the fact, whether it is a slur on anyone's character and reputation or not, and have a sliding scale: bring the troops out in the direct proportion to which the police authority can be built up. In the ultimate, if peace ever comes to Northern Ireland—and this has been said so many times that I must ask noble Lords to forgive me for saying it again—peace must come by consent, and that consent must be reflected in the habits and practices of ordinary people working through the institutions of which they approve. There is no alternative to that.
Therefore I say to Her Majesty's Government: no more broadcasts like that broadcast on the Saturday night. I do not mind any Member of this House or of the Government thinking that they are God, because if they think it long enough society will find a solution. What worries me is when they think they are Napoleon. As a humble soldier, that really makes me very worried indeed.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I do not intend to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, in everything he has said—indeed it would be difficult to do so—but I should like to make a comment on his remarks regarding Lord Attlee, as he subsequently became. I agree with noble Lords opposite who objected to the remark made by the noble Lord. Lord Wigg. I am quite sure that Lord Attlee came out of India as a result of his sincerely held 165 beliefs in Fabian doctrine. I do not agree with the Fabian doctrine, but I am quite sure that Lord Attlee came out of India for that reason and that he did not come out because of a threat of force. However, I am not the right person to defend the late Lord Attlee.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, of course Lord Attlee's entire record shows that he believed in the policies that were pursued. He was sympathetic to the policies of Ghandi and Nehru. I accept all that, but the ultimate decision which enabled him to take his Cabinet with him was the advice he received from his military advisers that a situation was building up in which if he tried to hold India he would need 2 million men. That was the basic fact that made him take his decision.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, that decision may not have been right, but I quite agree that if a Prime Minister is tendered such advice by his military advisers, he has to take it. I can see that point. I should like to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Annan—I note he is not here so I will not prolong it—who said that when we moved out of India the massacre that ensued killed 400,000 people; my information is that it killed nearer 2 million people, and of course we also bad the two wars between India and Pakistan. I think that it would be disastrous if we were to pull the army out of Northern Ireland, although of course I quite agree that one cannot compare the North of Ireland with India.
In the tragic circumstances which we have reached to-day I have supported the Assembly; I have supported power sharing, if practical. I also supported a Council of Ireland, but it is obvious that we have moved too fast. I cannot believe that the collapse of the Assembly has been completely due to the Unionists not desiring power sharing. I think the collapse has been due to the fact that we moved too fast and the Council of Ireland really was a nail in the coffin, or the straw that broke the Protestant Unionists' back. I think we should have tried to explain it better to the average person in the North of Ireland, who rather envisages the Council of Ireland as like the jaws of a whale, which would swallow them up into the South. It is extra 166 ordinary that they should have thought that: after all, many times they have had the assurances of both Governments that there would be no question of the North going into the South unless a majority in the North wished it, but the fact remains that the idea of a Council of Ireland did turn the scales against the Assembly. As Mr. Cosgrave so courageously stated, since the formation of the Assembly the I.R.A. has played a great part in bringing down the Assembly.
My Lords, the great question is, "Where do we go from here?" The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, appeared to think that so far nothing much has come out of the debates in either House as to what happens now. Of course, to an extent, there is a certain amount of sense in saying that. It is difficult to formulate a policy as to what does happen now. I do not want to labour the point, because it has been mentioned several times, but we have had wild talk from what are always assumed to be responsible quarters, talk of spongers and calling the Workers Council Fascist thugs. This has not helped, because whether we like it or not, the Workers Council at the moment does appear to represent the majority. I am quite sure that if we had an election in the North of Ireland to-day, there would be a big unanimous majority who would back up the workers' action in the North of Ireland.
I abhor industrial action for political ends. It is the absolute negation of Parliamentary democracy. But it was rather difficult for so many not-so-well educated people in the North of Ireland when they heard Mr. Merlyn Rees or Mr. Orme appealing to them (and appealing in hard language; some might call it abusing them) not to strike. Of course, with due respect to Mr. Rees and to Mr. Orme, in the past they have not been averse to strikes for political ends in this country. One might say that the last Conservative Government fell chiefly due to a strike for political ends. So we must not be too hard on the Protestant workers in Northern Ireland. We must remember that during this strike, so far as I am aware, there have been no bombings. There has been no violence at all so far as I can gather. It was a nonviolent strike; its leaders wanted it to be a non-violent strike.
167 So where do we go from here? Time is short. I agree with my noble Leader that we have this four month period, but not much can be accomplished in four months. For myself, I can see no policy at the moment except as a holding operation for direct rule. But for direct rule, of course, we really need some kind of superman to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, to be advised by a council drawn from every section of the community. But where that man is I have no idea. The Irish people, whether from the North or the South, are a traditional people. They are largely in rural communities. I was brought up there in my younger days. Some people might call these people somewhat childlike in their approach; I do not, but some may. The Irish people like their traditions. They like to have as their leader someone who has connections with Ireland. It sounds rather absurd to say so, but the only person I can think of who could really lead and inspire confidence between the North and the South of Ireland would be someone who is half Scottish, half Irish, but not an Orangeman, not a very active Catholic—or someone who was a Catholic himself or his wife was a Protestant, or vice-versa. One has to take into consideration the fact that these reasons may appear a little childish, but the Irish are a rather unusual people, and we have to understand the Celtic temperament.
My Lords, when we have had a period of direct rule, we must bring it to an end as speedily as possible. But I can see no other policy after this period of direct rule except to go back to one man, one vote. It would seem wrong in the United Kingdom to have a Constitution in the North of Ireland based on a different system of voting from the rest of the country. I am extremely sad that this experiment in power sharing has failed, but I think many in Northern Ireland think that the Assembly had (although perhaps it is not the right word) a rather gerrymandered Constitution. But perhaps they did not understand it. In future, we will need exactly the same system of voting as we have in England, Scotland and Wales. Politics is the art of the possible. I doubt whether any other system is possible in Northern Ireland.
168 My Lords, may I for a moment speak about the suggestion for the withdrawal of the Army. I consider it completely mad to withdraw the Army at the moment. Obviously, the North of Ireland cannot remain an armed camp for years and years, but to withdraw the Army at the moment would be quite irresponsible. I agree that the Army is in a very unenviable position, because to ask a highly disciplined and highly professional Army like the British Army to play the part of the civil power—which the Army are doing—is not only bad for the Army, but is also bad for the civil power. It brings the police into disrepute, or rather downgrades them. It is extremely difficult for regular soldiers to play such a role. But before the Army leaves, the R.U.C. must be built up to take over internal security, as I think one or two noble Lords have said. The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said so himself. This will take some considerable time. Noble Lords ought to remember that for nearly 50 years, when the R.U.C. were completely in charge of the civil power, the North of Ireland had a peaceable time. But since that power has been largely eroded we have seen what has happened. So before the Army goes, I would only repeat, you have to have something to put in its place, and the R.U.C. would appear to be that something.
We read all kinds of crazy suggestions in the Press, such as hiving off parts of the Six Counties and moving populations. I doubt whether that is practical. You can do it if you are in a Communist State. But to take part of the Catholic population and transport them to the South of Ireland, to Eire, I think would be only a very last resort. You need to have the agreement of the Eire Government to that course. and they might not agree.
We hear talk of Fascist thugs at work in Ireland, but we have heard no talk of Communist thugs. In 1971 International Communism had a meeting in Belfast. That fact was published by Tass, the Soviet news agency, in the Soviet papers but it was not published at all in the British Press, other than I think in the Morning Star. From what I have gathered, there is no doubt in my mind that some part of this trouble has been kept on the boil by Communist influence and even perhaps by Communist money. 169 One question which mystifies many people is, how do these terrorists get the explosives to make such very big bangs? Most of your Lordships, I suppose, did a bit of chemistry at school. I was made to do a bit, and I did it very reluctantly. I could tell your Lordships exactly how they make these big bangs. Any of your Lordships could do it. I am not going to say how. But I am quite prepared to tell the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, after this debate that if he would ban the manufacture in this country of a certain chemical, which anyone can buy, it would make it very difficult for people to make these explosives.
I should like, in conclusion, to repeat something I have often said in this House. In doing so I am looking a long way ahead. I feel that if only the Catholic Church would allow integrated education in the North of Ireland, if only Protestant children and Catholic children could share the same schools—I agree, of course, that Catholic children would need to have separate religious education—the future of the North of Ireland would look a lot brighter. I only wish the noble Earl, Lord Longford, would divert some of his energies towards influencing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Ireland to allow integrated education. Historically he might then be remembered more for that than for his pursuit after pornographers. I put that forward just as my personal opinion.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, it is not clear to me whether the vast numbers of Members of your Lordships' House disappeared from the assembly because the noble Viscount rose to address the House, or whether it was that they anticipated I would follow him. I leave noble Lords to draw their own conclusions.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, if I may be allowed to say so, I think it was probably to have tea.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, everybody who listened to the speeches during the debate of yesterday and to-day must agree that we had a spate of remarkable oratory. It began with an immaculate exposition of the situation; I regret I am unable to add an assessment of Government policy, because 170 there is considerable ambiguity and lack of clarity about Government policy. That was followed by a most remarkable feat of oratory, expressed with his customary eloquence, from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham. I hope it will not embarrass him if I say, without any condescension or patronage or paternalism, that the speech he delivered, at any rate three-fourths of it, was one of the finest speeches I have ever heard him make. He and I were colleagues for many years in the other place; he came rather later than I did, but that was purely fortuitous. He was not to blame for that. I often had to seek to correct him during his efforts to convince the House of the value of his opinions.
I understand that the noble and learned Lord is to attend a function to-night, a most remarkable function, something unusual, where he will, along with other members of the Society concerned, recite some of his poetic effusions. I am sorry that because of another engagement I shall be unable to attend; indeed I have not been invited; I only noticed the reference in one of the newspapers. But I am bound to say this, and I mean what I say: some of the language he used in the early part of his speech yeterday afternoon was, in my judgment, the very essence of poetry. The language was superb. However, later on he divorced himself from reality. But he was not singular in that respect.
Whether or not we withdraw our troops from Ulster, the problem of Ulster will remain. That is an accurate and objective assessment of the situation. We must face realities. I know that is a cliche', but it ought to be said over and over again in the course of our debates, in our discussions, in our conferences, wherever we may be. We have to face realities. What are they? They can be simply expressed. The Protestants of Ulster—it matters not what we think of them or say about them, or what language we use about them; whether we abuse or praise them is completely irrelevant—taken by and large. if I may use a nautical expression, want to remain part of the United Kingdom. This is traditional with them. There has been talk of independence, nationalism; these words or ideas have been thrown up as a result of what has been happening in recent times. But they intend—I will not use the word "integration" 171 —to remain part of the United Kingdom, and are ready to fight for it. On the other hand, we have a very large section of the Catholic persuasion who agree with the citizens of Eire that some day there should be a United Ireland, with the members of the Republic in the majority and the Protestants in the minority.
This is the situation. This is what we are up against. Of course there are sectarian difficulties. We even had an expression of sectarian disputation this afternoon in a speech delivered by my noble friend Lord Soper who, I regret, will not hear what I have to say. If I may just digress for a moment, there has been condemnation—we had it from the most reverend Primate yesterday—of the Prime Minister who used extravagant and exaggerated language about the Ulster Workers' Council and their friends, supporters and devotees, when he described them as "spongers". But my noble friend Lord Soper made no bones about what he thought of the reverend Mr. Paisley. Indeed, if my noble friend Lord Soper had been a Member of the other place and used such language he would have been called to orner at once, and if he said it outside he might be sued for slander.
Again another digression—one has to indulge in them because I have not had time to prepare my speech in writing. Yesterday a suggestion was made by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, that Lord Goodman might be injected into the discussion for the purposes of mediation. The other day I met the reverend Mr. Paisley and talked with him, and I said, "You need some mediation in Ulster to resolve this problem. What about me as a mediator?" He rejected it outright. Indeed, he even laughed. My suggestion was rejected, but there was some compensation because it is the first time that I have ever seen him laugh. There was quite a change in the climate, so I gained something from it.
I indulge in these digressions for a particular reason; I am sick and tired of a lot of things, the violence, the thuggery, the murders, the assassinations, the violence, the vandalism, the uncivilised behaviour to which the noble Lord, Lord Hailsham, directed our attention yesterday—and how right he was and how 172 much I agree with what he said. But it seems to me that there are some people in high places using expressions which are irrelevant and unnecessary. For example, take what has been said—and indeed my noble friend Lord Shepherd, from an official brief, said, and may be expressing his own opinions—about the sums of money that we have injected into Ulster. What is wrong with that? After all, we have injected vast sums of money into the emergent nations of Africa, India, the Arab States and all over the world. There is nothing particularly wrong with that. There is no sponging about it when we inject the necessary finance into a part of the United Kingdom. All this language is irrelevant and unnecessary—spongers, thugs, and so on. It is doing much more harm than some of the Ulster Workers' Council intended to do when they went on strike. Acerbity, acrimony, and, as a result, bitterness, and a bitterness which is difficult to dissipate. It has been going on far too long.
In the course of the debate yesterday, and in some of the speeches this afternoon, reference has been made to the difficulty of anybody in England understanding the Irish problem. Your Lordships cannot say that about me. I have been involved in the Irish problem industrially and politically from almost the beginning of the century. Indeed, I can recall listening to discussions before the end of the century during the Boer War in my father's workshop in the East End of Glasgow, when there were some Orangemen there who were his customers, and also some Roman Catholics, also his customers, arguing about the Boer War. I remember on one occasion I sought to intervene and was thrown out. He was not going to lose trade because of my views.
I can also recall the Civic Volunteers marching through the docks to go to South Africa. In the early part of the century, because I was associated with the seafaring people of the country, including those in Ireland, I made many visits to Dublin and other parts of Southern Ireland, and met many of the rebels. I knew Jim Connolly and Jim Larkin, and Cathal O'Shannon, William O'Brien. Nick Corrish and many of these people of the time, and wonderful people they were. I did not always agree with them. I can recall them singing the 173 Soldiers' Song with great gusto, with revolutionary fervour. They demanded a united Ireland, and were having no nonsense about it. There was no sectarian feeling about it; it was purely political in character.
I also met people in the North, in Belfast. I went there for industrial purposes connected with the seamen. I went there when I was Secretary for War and met the Army. There has been talk about our troops in Ulster as if they only went there recently. They have been there for years. I frequently went there on the launching of a vessel. So one gets to know, not as a result of reading history—which I may come to in a moment—but as a result of experience, what are their feelings, their sentiments and views, and what is the climate of opinion both in the South and the North, in Belfast, in Londonderry, and elsewhere. This is the situation. There is a clash of opinion difficult to resolve. It has been difficult to resolve for two or three centuries. Efforts were made by Mr. Gladstone to resolve it and he failed; efforts were made by Mr. Asquith to resolve it, and he failed; and Mr. Lloyd George made efforts to resolve it and he failed, even with the assistance of Sir Edward Carson, who became Lord Carson. I knew all about it; I have even written about it.
What is to be done about it? First of all, take the position of the troops. Should we take them out or leave them where they are? When it was first decided that the troops should go in. I was very doubtful about it. I supported my noble friend Lord Wigg who was also doubtful about the consequences, but when they went in we knew they would do their best—and, heaven knows, they have done so in most difficult and dreadful circumstances. Something has been said about the troops being there with their hands tied behind their backs. I do not care for that expression, but say to my noble friend Lord Donaldson and to my noble friend Lord Shepherd: the troops in Northern Ireland have been faced by reservations and restrictions which made it very difficult for them to operate and to preserve and maintain law and order. It was a police job to start with, but unfortunately the police were not effective and they were disliked by both sides, which made it very difficult.
174 What is to be done? We had a challenging speech from the noble Lord. Lord Annan, this afternoon. It was just as well we had that speech. We do not want too many euphoric speeches; a dispassionate speech is sometimes useful so that we can face reality, even if it is stark and harsh. He was careful later on to point out that he does not want them to come out just now. We talk about phasing out the troops, which would maintain a threat over the heads of the people in Northern Ireland. One can understand that: take them out now and face the consequences. But to phase them out is even worse. If they have to come out, bring them out at once and make no bones about it.
There is one way of dealing with this situation, and I put it before Members of your Lordships' House. I know that my noble friends in the Government are anxious to listen to suggestions. If we were able to recruit sufficient of the Ulster Constabulary or the Ulster Defence Regiment, and if we were able to arm them effectively and adequately, that would be a different matter. Then you can take the troops out and it remains a police job, but one that can be undertaken only with effective weapons. We have no right to ask men to undertake difficult tasks like that, unless we provide them with adequate tools. So it is one thing or the other; either they stay where they are— I will come to the matter of policy in a moment or two—and take the consequences and do the best they can in these difficult circumstances, or we proceed to recruit intensively and eventually provide the police forces in Northern Ireland with effective weapons to undertake the task that our troops were sent to undertake.
It has been suggested that if the troops were taken out at once there might be a catastrophe, a disaster, a calamity of the worst kind. Reference has been made to what happened in the case of India. It was not my intention to raise this matter but, since it was mentioned, it was not the intention of Members of your Lordships' House to listen to a disputation over what happened about India and the action of Mr. Attlee. I notice that when my noble friend Lord Wigg referred to it he was attacked. It would have been better if those who sought to attack him 175 had tried to understand what happened at the time. I am probably the only person present here who was a Member of the Cabinet at that time. I know exactly what happened. I do not want to discuss it at length; I am sure many of your Lordships would regard it as an irrelevance, but it was raised as having a bearing on the question of taking troops out.
Lord Wavell was determined that we should remain in India, although we were faced with very serious military consequences—mutiny, military disaster, revolt and that sort of thing, and Mr. Attlee did not like it, neither did Members of the Cabinet. As a result, Lord Wavell was set aside and there has been considerable controversy about this—books and articles have been written about it. I should have thought that Members of your Lordships' House would be fully aware of what happened. As a result, Lord Wavell was replaced by the noble Earl, Lord Mountbatten, and he gave Mr. Attlee and his Cabinet, of which I was a member, a definite assurance that if we gave India self-government, which had been demanded for many years, there would be no trouble.
But what happened?—bloodshed, massacres, assassinations which lasted a considerable time. It is true that it was not in the United Kingdom, but it is something that cannot be disregarded. And what happened recently in BanglaDesh? The difficulty between India and Pakistan was simply a revival of what happened at that time, precisely as what is now happening in Ulster is a revival of what happened 50 or 60 years ago. But what is the solution to the problem? It comes to the question of policy. Before we take the troops out, we have to decide on our policy. At the same time, action should be taken and I beg my noble friends on the Front Bench who are responsible for the matter to consider this point. It is desirable that we should now proceed to build up the police forces. It may be that some members of the I.R.A. will not like it. Possibly, Mr. Paisley and some of his friends will not like it, but the Government have to govern; that is the first thing.
I come, therefore, to what is called power sharing. I have learned a great
176 deal about that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, referred to it and so did my noble friend Lord Shepherd, and other Members of this assembly have dealt with it. But I am bound to say that we might have had a little clarification of what is meant by power sharing. What some people mean by power sharing—and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, or my noble friend Lord Donaldson will correct me if I am wrong—is that a Government is elected in Ulster by democratic means. When it is elected, it should share power with those who are in the minority as part of the Government. Surely that is utterly unrealistic. That is precisely what happened in setting up Mr. Faulkner's Executive—it was unrealistic.
Is this not somewhat unconstitutional? I appeal to noble Lords some of whom are authorities on constitutional matters. If a Government is elected, is it expected to share power with the minority? Is Mr. Wilson expected to share power with Mr. Heath, even though his majority in the other place is not more than the number of fingers on one's hand? Or is the President of France or the new Chancellor of West Germany expected to share Government with the minority? No, my Lords, it is utterly out of the question. What I understand by sharing power is something different. An election takes place or an Executive is appointed or an Assembly is formulated with Executive powers. It has to govern. What is it to do about the minority?—act with tolerance, with compassion, with understanding. Minorities have their rights just as majorities have. That is what I mean by policy. There were assurances of this kind, but they were broken. Therefore we must start again.
Reference of a fairly constructive character has been made to what should be done in future. Some noble Lords have suggested conferences. I beg of them to set that aside for the moment. What will happen if you call a conference? Call the members of the Ulster Workers' Council, members of the I.R.A., members of the S.D.L.P., Uncle Tom Cobley and all and what do you think will happen? Disagreement, trouble, even fisticuffs could happen; but to meet each of them singly, to go around and discuss matters with them, ascertain their views, see how far they are prepared to 177 go—that is statesmanship, the kind of thing the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, suggested yesterday. I wish he had gone further in that direction. What is needed is statesmanship and leadership; ascertain the views of the people and then you may call a conference, but not until then.
My Lords, there is a chance of finding—I will not say a solution of the problem, because I am not so optimistic—an approach to a solution, which is quite possible, and this is the way to tackle it. It is the first thing to be done, and at once, with no nonsense about it. Let me come back to the question of the Ulster Workers' Council, which was described as being composed of thugs, murderers and all the rest. I do not like that language. I will tell your Lordships why—because when a community, an organisation, an institution or a group of people are frustrated in their political aspirations and in their social objectives, what does one expect? They will resort to industrial action. We have seen it in this country. Have we heard about it abroad? Of course we have. It is almost a national pastime in most countries. It is predominant throughout the industrial world because people are frustrated. As a result they cannot get their Governments to agree to promote the rights and privileges that people expect. So they resort to industrial action, even thuggery as it is called.
Of course, my Lords, it is sometimes done by some trade unions; they threaten and intimidate and do all the things they ought not to do. But in Ulster they do it with guns and that is the difference. It is not good enough. Therefore I do not denounce them; I just understand them. After all, who are the people of Ulster? They have among them descendants of people who came from Scotland 200 years ago. Many came with William of Orange from Holland. There are many Dutch people in Northern Ireland, and you know what is said about the Dutch: "The fault of the Dutch is giving too little and asking too much." There is some of that in Ulster, too. Therefore, I suggest—no conference just now, but talk, talk all around the place, try to ascertain the views and stop the denunciation. We want these people to come to us and agree with us. I do not suppose that members of the I.R.A. will 178 be too happy to agree with us. Of course not; they also have their aspirations for a united Ireland. Logically, of course, that is the solution but it is totally unacceptable for many years to come. I am certain of that. In any event, I look at it from the aspect—
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? Will he agree with me that if we are to conduct talks with various parties it must be done by an independent person, who can take liberties with different people and with people with power in a way that a Government Minister cannot do? Therefore, it is vital to have a man of independence who is not totally answerable to the House in person, although answerable through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
§ LORD SHINWELL
I am sorry, my Lords, but I do not attach much importance to that. I know about people who are independent. It always reminds me of the gentleman elected to the mayoral position in some locality and wanting to ingratiate himself with the electors, who said he would be neither partial nor impartial. You can ask a judge to undertake the task. You cannot depend on people always taking an impartial view; you have to chance it. A Minister may if he is strong and able enough and of the calibre to deal with a situation of that kind; if he is forthright and is not afraid of people around him; and if the Government behind him also have the ability and the quality. We have not had Governments of that calibre for a long time. I am sorry to say that, but it is so. Why do I say it? Judge by results, my Lords. Look at the situation we are in. But I will not enter that aspect of the problem at the moment.
My Lords, here is an opportunity. As for time not being on our side, this problem has been with us so long that we can probably stand it for a little while longer. It was worth while having this debate, it was worth while hearing the views of noble Lords, and it was certainly worth while hearing some of the remarkable speeches, but as for helping the Government—I am satisfied that my noble friend Lord Donaldson will probably have recourse to an official brief, but it is always far better if it comes from the heart. Even when I was a Minister I 179 often rejected the official brief. Perhaps that is why I got in so much trouble. But in any event it would be difficult for my noble friend to formulate and propound a policy to-night; he cannot do it. But what he can say is that he has listened to noble Lords and will be able to go to the Prime Minister and say there is a consensus of opinion that we cannot take the troops out at once, but that we might recruit a police force in time. Let us also say to the Prime Minister, "For heaven's sake be careful about your language in the future."
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, at this stage in the debate it is difficult for anyone to contribute ideas which have any merit of novelty and therefore I would not wish to detain your Lordships very long. In fact I have only two points I wish to make, although I think I should at the outset refer to the very difficult situation which faces the Home Secretary in relation to the Price sisters. I have the utmost regard for the integrity and courage of Mr. Jenkins. I am, nevertheless, not convinced that he came to the right conclusion. I am not convinced that making martyrs is the best way to deal with what is, after all, a political rather than a judicial situation.
I do not believe that the death of the Lord Mayor of Cork, some 50 years ago, for instance, really helped the Irish situation then. And 1 do not think the death of these young women, if it occurred, would help the situation either. That they are being exploited is obvious and this one must utterly deplore, but if the Home Secretary says that he is prepared, maybe in the fairly near future, to transfer them to a prison in Northern Ireland, one can only suppose that he is satisfied about the security of any such arrangement, otherwise he would not have gone that far; and if he is going to do it at all it would be better done sooner. I fully understand his difficulty over duress and equity in relation to possible other prisoners. Nevertheless, probably because I am a woman, I have feelings of sympathy with them despite all the things they have done, and I think I would have come to a different conclusion. But he has made his own decision, and now, of course, with one other prisoner having 180 died, it would be even more difficult to change it.
My Lords, I want to come to the main problem which faces us. My noble friend Lord Shepherd said that he believed that the power sharing experiment, as it has been called in Northern Ireland, had it been given time, would have worked. I wish I could believe that that were true, because obviously that would be by far the best solution to the problem, and we would all wish it to be true. But I must admit that I had a good deal of sympathy with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan—a speech which I think shocked some Members of your Lordships' House but which I thought was more realistic than many we have listened to. I think it was more realistic for the reason that, as the noble Lord. Lord Windlesham, said in his speech, the problem that one has had in Ireland over the years is that each community sees itself as a minority—the Catholics as the arthimetical minority in the North and the Protestants as the potential minority in a united Ireland. I find it difficult to believe that any solution can be found which does not grapple with this problem and situation.
I think the basis of the revolt that we saw (which is what the strike really was) was that for 50 years we have had the Protestant ascendancy in Ulster, and the condition of maintaining that ascendancy was believed to be, in effect, a denial of full rights to the Catholic minority. As soon as we started to reverse this policy and to ensure that the Catholic minority received their full civil rights—which, after all, was the policy of both Governments in this country—we had a situation in which people who had felt in unassailable ascendancy for so many years suddenly began themselves to feel insecure. I see that my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge assents to this.
In those circumstances, my Lords, can one be satisfied that the way in which the strike was dealt with by the Government was the correct one? I have here a very remarkable letter from the Northern Ireland Labour Party, which has presumably been circulated to Members of both Houses who are interested in Irish affairs, signed by David Bleakley, Labour Member of Parliament for East Belfast, and by the Secretary of the 181 Northern Ireland Labour Party. In this letter they severely take to task the Government in this country for the way in which they refused to meet the representatives of the Workers' Council. I never thought to see a letter of this nature emanate from the office of the Northern Ireland Labour Party.
First, of course, they profess the principle of power sharing to be acceptable to the majority of the Protestant community, and that this is a revolutionary advance in the Province's history, but then they go on to say thatthe majority of the Protestant community nevertheless considers itself excluded from power and influence, and is therefore aggrieved and alienated".I think this is true. In those circumstances, was it therefore wise to refuse to talk with them? It is pointed out that when the Civil Rights movement was in its infancy, they were not at that time elected Members, but the former Labour Government of 1968-69 were perfectly prepared to talk with them; and at a later stage Mr. Whitelaw was believed to have spoken, privately at any rate, with members of the I.R.A. So this attitude of not talking was one which plainly did not go down at all well, and I think it deepened the crisis and polarised the situation in a way which I believe to have been regrettable.
If I may quote again from this letter, it says:To he non-sectarian a Labour Government must act in a fashion which is resolutely evenhanded".It is suggested that, while the Labour Government were willing enough to be co-operative with the minority, they showed themselves to be far less willing to talk with those whose political opinions quite obviously would be far less sympathetic to their own. This is a question of tactics. It is a question of the day-to-day dealings which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, mentioned as so important in the situation in which one finds oneself in Northern Ireland; and I think it is only right that one should say that, with hindsight, it may be that one's colleagues in the Government were perhaps ill-advised in the steps that they took. But this is all part of the psychology of Northern Ireland which it is so difficult to grasp.
182 My Lords, I am a pessimist, quite frankly, about this matter. I find it difficult to believe that one will obtain a satisfactory solution from the Province of Ulster as it is at present constituted. I have said before (a couple of years ago when we were debating this matter) that I believed that we would have to have some significant rectifications of the boundary between North and South if we were to have peace. I still believe that that is so. The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, mentioned a smaller Ulster; and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, also indicated that there needs to be Border adjustments. I think this is essential if one is to have stability. I do not pretend that it is an ideal solution—far from it—but there is no ideal solution in Ireland. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said, a modus vivendi is the most that one can hope for; one cannot find a satisfactory solution. My own belief is that it would be far better to recognise this and not to try to contain within one political entity the people who had every expectation—at least, their forebears had 50 years ago—that they would, in fact, after examination of the situation, be included in the South. It would be far better to let them join the South if that is what they wish, and at least to put it to them that this is at any rate one of the possibilities on the table.
One might then be left with a very small Ulster indeed. One might be left, in effect, with Belfast, Antrim and Down as, it may be in those circumstances, a county of the United Kingdom. But I believe that this question of the Border ought to be considered. It was absolutely right not to propose it too soon, and it may still not be the right time to do it. I think it was right to try power sharing; but I still believe that we may find this to be too difficult. It is too difficult because one has too large a minority which can never hope to be a majority. In the South one has a Protestant minority which is so small that it can be accommodated. In the North it is too large to be accommodated, and therefore I think the logical thing to do is to diminish it in such a way that you then have a majority which can be a majority without feeling itself insecure if it does then grant complete and absolute civil rights in all directions 183 to what would be a residual minority—one cannot obviously divide up the population of Belfast, or anything like that, satisfactorily.
So, my Lords, I am a pessimist about the possibilities, although I wish the Government luck. I am a pessimist about the possibilities of finding even a modus vivendi with the present balance in Ulster. I think that, sooner or later, we shall probably have to apply surgery, although my noble friend Lord Shepherd said that he did not feel the time for surgery had yet come. It may not have come. It may still be worth while endeavouring to obtain power sharing by consent. What one worries about, as the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said, is that it has for us a political unreality. That is another reason, apart from the psychology of it, which makes me pessimistic as to the outlook.
Therefore I repeat that on the agenda for any discussions which may be taking place I would regard adjustments to the Border as necessary and as something which was always expected. I have said earlier to your Lordships' House that I am certain that Michael Collins would never have signed the Treaty had he not believed that there were going to be substantial boundary adjustments. That was his firm expectation. That is on record. He believed that that was the only way in which one would be able to have a satisfactory situation. He recognised that there would be a rump of Ulster which was irreconcilable with the South, and that that had to be accepted. That I still think is probably the only lasting solution.
The only other point I wish to make is my deep distress and concern for the young people in Northern Ireland. For five years they have been growing up in these appalling conditions of violence and intimidation. Let there be no doubt about it; there is intimidation on both sides. It is extremely difficult to know what one can do. Various people of good will have given time, effort and money to providing holidays, for example. The people of Holland—the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, was not very kind about the Dutch just now—have been extremely generous so far as the children and young people of Northern Ireland are concerned, in giving them hospitality, holidays, and so forth, 184 doing so on a basis of mingling the children of the two religious faiths. Everyone who knows the situation assures one that happy as the children are on holiday together—some of them have come to this country, some have gone to the South and some to places abroad—when they come back the pressures of their respective communities are too much. While one would not like to say that the effort is entirely wasted—it has a therapeutic effect, no doubt—it would probably be an illusion to pretend that it is doing anything of lasting value, except perhaps for the occasional child here and there.
Again, I believe a solution has to be found in Northern Ireland itself, and by whatever can be done either through Government efforts or through private benevolence—through the fund suggested by Mr. Whitelaw, or through a small charitable trust with which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, myself and two others, Lady Fisher and Lady Tilney, of Conservative persuasion, are concerned. We are doing in a very modest way something for some of the young children in Northern Ireland. But a very great effort is needed to try to mitigate so far as one can the effect of this situation upon children and young people. One has the horror that, otherwise, this cyclical violence will continue and that in the next generation we shall see repeated what we have seen in recent times. Again, I am a pessimist and I see no early or immediate solution. I can only hope for mitigation and amelioration. That is all one can ever hope for in Ireland. But in so far as one can achieve that, I hope that Her Majesty's Government, and all of us as private persons, will do everything we can.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, yesterday the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, spoke inspiringly of the glories of the English Constitution and the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom. From that he went on to argue that no province of the United Kingdom should become separate because of violent actions of its inhabitants, and therefore the soldiers must stay.
It seems to me that there is a flaw in this argument, eloquently and movingly put though it was. The provinces of Connaught, Leinster, Munster and three 185 counties of Ulster proved by the activities of the Sinn Fein and the Easter Rebellion that violence could succeed. The Protestants of the North also proved in 1912 that violence paid. They imported arms from Germany. They refused to be associated with the Home Rule Bill passed by what they still quaintly call the Imperial Parliament. They yelped, "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right". They took instead a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people. This Orange and Protestant intransigence is nothing new. Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington, was writing about it from Ireland and Dublin Castle in 1806 in terms' which are very modern in their sentences.
Five years of violence has got rid of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and Mr. Faulkner, twice. While I am on the subject of violence, and as my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham was talking about the illegal non-violence, has a member of the Protestant Executive been leaking its decisions to the Ulster Workers' Council as reported in the Observer? Can the Army tell the R.U.C. when it goes to arrest some Protestant bully boy without the R.U.C. getting it back to that Protestant and letting the bird fly? If these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, surely that is the illegal non-violence referred to by my noble friend Lord Hailsham.
My Lords, to return to the almost mystical admiration for the British way of life, its Constitution and its way of running the country to which my noble and learned friend referred, may I say that I completely agree with him. I regard it as the greatest privilege a man can have to be born a free subject of the Crown and to be ruled by the Sovereignty of the Queen in Parliament. This privilege is the reflection of the English, Scots and Welsh people's genius: the genius for toleration; the genius for respecting minorities—to which the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, referred—and of listening to other people's views with respect, especially when you do not agree with them. This genius has passed the Irish by. I say that being half-Irish myself; that is to say, I am sufficiently Irish to be Irish when it is convenient to me.
This Irishness is exemplified by the much referred to so-called "Reverend" 186 and so-called "Doctor" Paisley who is reputed to have urged the voters to vote as their fathers did at Enniskillin, Aughrim, Derry and the Boyne, totally failing to take into account as he stood orating away on his Lambeg Drum that the soldiers fought and did not vote on any of these occasions and that they were English, Dutch, Hessian and Scots, commanded by a Prussian and blessed by the Pope, or as the so-called "Reverend", so-called "Doctor" Paisley politely calls him, "Old red socks". The Shibboleths and slogans mouthed by the Protestant hooligans it appears, judging by the General Election results and the support given to the Ulster Workers' Council, are now backed up by the majority of Protestants in the Province.
I want to return again, my Lords, to this specialness of the privilege of being a member of the United Kingdom. It demands in return of its citizens the standards of public behaviour that the English, Welsh and Scots—be they Plaid Cymru, Tory, Labour, Liberal or Scots Nationalists—show on this side of the water. The Irish therefore do not deserve this privilege. As a serjeant in the Munster Fusiliers said to my grandfather when serving in Tralee before the 1914 war, after some particularly barbaric deed of violence by the I.R.A.—or the Sinn Fein as it was then called—"Captain Dillon, there has always been murder in Ireland". That Irish grandfather of mine, who loved Ireland and the Irish, commanded a brigade in Belfast in the troubles in 1919, and was so horrified at what he saw Irishmen doing to each other that he never went there again.
Mr. Wilson has been criticised for what he said in his broadcast on Saturday—his "sponging" remarks. As one whose favourite hobby is criticising Mr. Wilson, I think this is a bit unfair. It appears that the Northern Irish think they can insult the English as they wave the Union Jack, but when a relatively mild and obviously true statement is made they come out in a huff. Surely we should say to the Ulster Irish: "Either you learn to accept the standards of the rest of the United Kingdom or we pull out our troops and we stop our aid", and then (as the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was muttering just now, and as the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, said yesterday) we let them fight it out. This may seem harsh, but I must say to your 187 Lordships that I find the sight of Ulstermen waving Union Jacks, singing "God Save the Queen" and then shooting the same Queen's soldiers, quite repellent. I know that many of my fellow Englishmen feel and speak exactly like this.
Several noble Lords have referred to the possibility of a blood bath. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, in what I would say was a very brave speech, hoped that it would not come about. It is possible that if it did come about it would be over fairly quickly. Is it not worse to have the constant "drip, drip, drip" of English and Irish blood on the streets of Belfast and in the Glens of Antrim than to have a short, sharp and admittedly nasty civil war in Belfast? As the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said, there appears to be no end to this horror unless we withdraw. Of course, people are frightened that it will spill over into Liverpool, Glasgow and other towns with large Irish populations. But what is the evidence for this? Someone has said that the Irish have too much physical courage and too little moral courage. I believe this lack of moral courage was shown, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, said in his opening remarks, by the feebleness of the reaction of the Southern Irish Government (admittedly with very poor resources) to the situation of extradition and Border security.
The inconsistencies in the Irish character arc great. The 26 counties provided more soldiers per head of population during the last war in the Imperial Army than did the six counties of Ulster. There was one Irish Marine sergeant, possibly from County Cork, who drank the health of de Valera for keeping Ireland out of the war as his landing craft touched down on the Normandy beachhead on D-Day. This is the character of the Irish which we in England do not seem to be able to understand—nor do they seem to be able to understand our character. It is this combination of qualities, such as charm—and certainly there is almost a superabundance of charm and it is a very dangerous quality —and deficiencies in the Irish character which makes them such uncomfortable clubmates in the United Kingdom. Unless there is a complete transfiguration of attitudes in Ulster, the experiment of 188 Henry II and Strongbow must be brought to an end and brought to an end quickly.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I have listened to about 90 per cent. of the speeches, and whatever derogatory remarks may be made by people in the Press, who are rather facile in their criticism but at the same time slow to give constructive answers in their weekend pieces, the value of this discussion to anybody who thinks in depth has been very great indeed, no matter what points of view have been taken.
I have listened with considerable interest to the noble Earl and I must say that I agreed with about 90 per cent. of what he said. I should also like to make it clear that, in his own inimitable way, my noble friend Lord Shinwell, who has now left the Chamber, always manages to put his finger on a point of vital importance. He asked for a definition of "power sharing". I believe that this business of using words loosely is partially responsible for some of the troubles we see at the present moment. Let us take as an example the remarks made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary regarding the Price sisters. I read them through again and again, and saw that my right honourable friend had used that quaint word "resile". I do not quite know why he put it in, but it derives from the French verb "to cancel". He said:I will not resile on what I have said before".Lawyers and others will know the use of this word in administrative documents. Perhaps it could have been put a little more clearly and his paragraph could have been enlarged upon, because what my right honourable friend was saying was that the opportunity would be there for the Price sisters to go to Ireland, but that at this particular juncture he could not give way to pressure. That is what was meant and it showed, in a way, a courageous approach. Nevertheless, in that approach (as my noble friend Lady White said) there was the promise. If that promise is there, could it not be made rather quickly in view of the present circumstances?
The word "sincere" has also been mentioned. It is a beautiful word, and it 189 really means "without wax"—"sans cire"—without the seal. That is all it means, so do not let us get befuddled about the word "sincere" and think it means something holy. It merely means that a signature has been put on a document without the wax seal having been put on as well. We have now introduced the word into modern language and given a completely wrong meaning to it. Consequently, the meaning of the word, in circumstances such as we have today, becomes much more important when you are dealing with the Irish than when you are dealing with the Welsh!
To-day, the problem appears to be more difficult than at any time in the last 50 years. What do the strong-arm men—those who would shoot and grind their way through masses of human flesh to a terrorised peace—ask for? I have been looking up history, as well as the noble Lord. Lord Annan, who incidentally delivered a brilliant speech. I thought I had better see what the great Macaulay had said on this problem on October 10, 1831, on a lovely afternoon in another place. Let us quote Macaulay for a few minutes. He said this:It is easy to say: 'Be bold; be firm; defy intimidation; let the law have its course; the law is strong enough to put down the seditious'. Sir, we have heard this blustering before, and we know in what it ended. It is the blustering of little men, whose lot has fallen on a great crisis. Xerxes scourging the waves, Canute commanding the waves to recede from his footstool, were but types of the folly. The law has no eyes; the law has no hands; the law is nothing—nothing but a piece of paper printed by the kings printer, with the king's arms at the top—till public opinion breathes the breath of life into the dead letter. We found this in Ireland. The elections of 1826—the Clare election, two years later—proved the folly of those who think that nations are governed by wax and parchment; and, at length, in the close of 1828, the Government had only one plain alternative before it—concession or civil war.That, my Lords, is the position to-night unless we can work it out.
Macaulay continued:I know only two ways in which societies can permanently be governed—by public opinion and by the sword. A government having at its command the armies, the fleets, and the revenues of Great Britain, might possibly hold Ireland by the sword. So Oliver Cromwell held Ireland; so William III held it; so Mr. Pitt held it; so the Duke of Wellington might, perhaps, have held it.He then goes on, and I need not quote it, to point out how this can be done 190 but the price is not worth it. We cannot even do that to-day. Therefore the question is: What hopes are there?
I find it very sad and I worry because society all over the world is sick. I heard the noble Lord talk about India and Earl Attlee. I happened to be in India when all that trouble occurred. There were other factors as well. I went to every unit in the Far East (using Mountbatten's plane, actually) to deal with the possibility of outbreaks of the kind of revolution with our own troops who, it was forgotten, had been out there for years and had not been home because of the war in the Far East, and the possibility of things stirring again. There was the weakening situation in South-East Asia and the Far East; and, with the Atlantic Charter, we were ostensibly fighting for freedom and the destruction of the old imperialistic system. We could not fit in our so-called fights for democracy with the same old ideas of holding India down.
It was Churchill who uttered the famous formula "Jaw, jaw, jaw is better than war, war, war." If ever we want a slogan to work on somehow, that could be an introduction to our discussions with the Ulstermen. I will not develop something which the noble Baroness, Lady White, said, but I find it sad to see on television children of ten years of age, less than teenagers, bobbysoxers, throwing stones at troops. What is happening to mankind? Where are the parents? There is a warning for theocratic States: if you worship at the thrine of theocracy, for God's sake teach toleration as well because unity is not everybody thinking alike; unity is the toleration of variety, and if educationists want a warning beware of breaking up society into denominational schools to fit everybody's ideas of religion. Beware of it in the name of God if you believe in any God. Those of us who take a broader view—and with a primitive Methodist background in the depths of Wales I was brought up to believe in my God—what kind of toleration can be built up if you segregate children? They know nothing of snobbishness they know nothing of religious differences until suddenly they come under the hammer of parental control that is bigotry and bigoted.
We must ask ourselves whether we use consent or force. Are we going to give up? We must soldier on in the 191 sense of getting a cooling-off period. You cannot have an unruly withdrawal right away but must build up inside Ireland a police force and gendarmerie of its own. In the transition period whether we like it or not the Council of Workers have proved their strength. At least we have had ten days of less bloodshed than we had before. As the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, said, you should speak to them separately, not get them all in groups. I once made that mistake in India: I sat as chairman of a discussion between representatives of India and Pakistan. The meeting went on for three hours, but nobody made a consecutive speech because of the continous interruptions. This was not religion, it was fanaticism.
The brave effort of Mr. Len Murray was a testimony to the courage of the British trade union movement which is trying to learn the art of negotiation. Do not scoff at it. Some of the pictures I saw in the Daily Mirror were of faces struck with venom when looking at Murray trying to lead these people, who were not embittered against Ireland, but were seeking to solve a problem. There is a warning here to those who read the Sunday Times. Intelligent industrialists are now saying, "We need nearly £1,000 million backing Ireland to get it on its feet. We need nearly £100 million to deal with the strikes. We need £35 million right away". There are negotiating points as well. If it costs this country as much as ten Concordes to get peace in Ireland it is worth it. It is worth it to the British taxpayer, and as a testimony to the common sense of the British people that they would rather spend money than have their sons shot and killed. I would use it as a negotiating point about what it is costing Britain. But we are prepared to pay that cost if we get a little more "jaw, jaw, jaw" in Ulster rather than "war, war, war". I am almost at the end of my point, much to the joy of my Front Bench—
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE): Not at all!
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I said "the end of my point", not "the end of my speech"! As an old-timer I know everybody wants to make their own 192 speech. As Macaulay pointed out then, and it is true to-day, there is no military solution to the problem. I believe this to be true. In the transition period we need the troops. Years and years of history and surrender lie behind the impasse. But when we talk of responsibly withdrawing, that in itself will only make the position worse. Nationalism in the Republic is a problem we shall have to meet. This is not the moment in history to encourage republicanism or to encourage nationalist ambitions. Of course Britain will have to disengage eventually from Ireland. But the real and lasting settlement in Ulster can only come about through the people of Ulster themselves. If we let them know that in this transition period the British taxpayer is still prepared to share the burden, then Ulster ought to be prepared to play its part in maybe a new system of society or dominion status. But there is a price, and that is not perhaps power sharing; but the minority in Ulster shall have the right of constructive opposition and the right of taking part. Even though I am against proportional representation, I will take the Byers's formula as being a way that may help in this case.
My Lords, I have spoken for 13 minutes, and that is enough for anybody to speak to this noble House at this time. I will finish with what always shakes me—Matthew, Chapter X, verse 34:Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I come not to send peace but a sword".If you knew the original Greek I am sure you would find that was a mistranslation—at least, I hope to God it is!
§ 6.41 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, it is difficult to follow a Welsh orator of the calibre of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. I nevertheless enjoy speaking either before or after him. More than once he has followed me and always has found some nice complimentary remark to make about what I have just said. On this occasion may I return the compliment. I thought I was to be the only person to pay a tribute to Mr. Len Murray for his gallant and courageous stand for the right to work, made under the most unfavourable conditions that any leader of the trade union movement 193 can possibly ever have chosen. But for the police he might well have been lynched, such was the venom of people, male and female, all around him. I thought it was a magnificent gesture. The fact that it failed means nothing. It was the kind of failure which will re-echo in decades to come, when the right to work will I hope be sustained and the right to strike diminished.
He was not the only one who excited my admiration at this time. I am astonished at all that has been said about the Prime Minister's speech. I did not hear it. I read it. When I heard it so much castigated in this House I obtained a photocopy and read it again. It is splendid stuff. It needed saying—everything that is in it, including the one word (I think the only one) out of 2,000 which has been quoted in this House; namely, "sponging". I should like—but your Lordships would not like it—to read out that speech so that it could be included in Hansard. I do not know whether there is any way of getting it into an appendix. The Prime Minister's speech has been so maligned, and what has been said about it is so unfair, that I should like it included with this debate.
Mr. Cosgrave, the Prime Minister of Ireland, spoke well. What a change there has been. How different it would have been if the Republic of Ireland had not claimed for 50 years a title over Belfast, even a Belfast in bondage. That is a change. I go back to my early life when I too was proud of the unity of the British Isles. I was shocked beyond my belief in my early professional life when that unity was fractured in Southern Ireland. Nevertheless, there has been a change there and I look forward, not very much to the united Ireland, which excites in me no enthusiasm whatever, but to the restoration of a united British Isles in one form or another. Surely progress can be made. We need each other so much.
So much has been said against the Irish which is not true that, if one looks at the Republic of Ireland and sees the past through which it has gone and the poverty in which it still lives, one should pay a small tribute to Dublin at this time. We are however face to face with a problem which I regret to say, with all respect to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, is not a new dimension 194 of Ulster Protestant nationalism. It certainly goes back to the Curragh, which is my earliest period of consciousness, about 1912. I think it goes back 150 years before. That is always with us. It is that which I have always supported as being the justification of a separate State of some kind, and it is that which I still support. I have always thought it an evil matter that Dublin, on its birthday fifty or so years ago, should have cast in the moment of its freedom an envious claim on a manifestly non-Dublin area so attached to the United Kingdom. I am not certain that the inconsistencies to which the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, called attention, with an illustration about flags, arc really evidence of what he was trying to say, that the Irish are inconsistent. The fact is surely that when the Union Jack was regarded as the bulwark of the independence of the Ulster Protestant nation it was welcomed, rather than an Ulster flag which would not do the job. When the Union Jack weakened, of course it was no longer required. But the flag is not the principal matter; it is surely this Ulster Protestant nation which they are determined to preserve.
How can we do it? I suppose and I have always thought, much in the same way as the noble Baroness, Lady White, explained to-day, that we may be driven to the judgment of Solomon, which will be difficult and painful to carry out. But we must do it on the spot and not leave it to be done afterwards. And we must provide each portion, if that is what we have to do, with an adequate police force. I endorse here all that has been said. Police, even of a more substantial and armed character than we are accustomed to, must be brought into the picture to release our Army for purposes much more important in connection with defence against the common foe. Thus we may be reduced to this situation. I should have thought that in negotiations for power sharing it should now be made known to the parties concerned that some solution of this kind will be forced upon us, because there is not the slightest doubt that there will be a wave of popular disgust in this country and a willingness to cast a vote for anybody who says, "I guarantee to get you out of Northern Ireland in 12 months." That will come. We should prepare.
195 I do not like these bloodbaths. I do not like the way we left India. I do not like the way we left Southern Ireland. I do not think the idea of a short, sharp massacre is something which ought to appeal to any one of us and to me it is horrifying—you cannot get back the dead. It would be enormously worse than the 1,000 people who have died prematurely during the last five years—enormously worse. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, spoke about a bloodbath and said he did not believe in it, but then gave a whole series of figures which illustrated the bloodbaths that had occurred. He was so eloquent that I felt at that moment that one swallow does sometimes make a summer—in other words, one speaker makes a debate. I was thrilled. but I did not believe what he said and was not convinced by it in any way.
I suppose that everyone ought to make some remark about the Price sisters because that is a political issue. I can quarrel in no way with the decision of the Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins, sorry though I am to have to say it about two women. But why is it the decision of the Home Secretary, even if that is the custom? Surely in a matter of some significance it should be a collective decision of the Cabinet as a whole. I have known some people behave in this way. I had an aunt, Lady Constance Lytton, of cherished memory, who went in for hunger strikes. The Women's Suffrage movement did so, and there have been others. I have had friends in India who have done that. Beyond question, some of them have shortened their lives. Strictly speaking, I suppose that is a contribution to suicide and it is wrong, but I have always admired the passionate capacity of self-discipline in a cause.
In this case I am disappointed that the cause should appear to be so entirely trivial: whether to serve in one place or another a prison sentence for which one hat been convicted and against which one does not quarrel regarding the conviction. I am sorry because when these people die, even Terence McSweeney, I like to feel that they have died for some noble cause of freedom and not just because they want to be in another cell somewhere else.
I do not know these ladies. I am a Catholic and I have received the Last 196 Sacrament. I have been on the brink. As the doctor said: "You were not far from your Maker". In my case I should like to say that I was doing my utmost to prevent it happening and that I looked at the oxygen cylinder with a lynx-eye lest the meter should go down to zero and nobody should notice it. I was not trying to die. Nevertheless, having once been near death, one reviews the problems of ending life and one feels that to do this kind of thing deliberately requires a better cause. Cannot, therefore, somebody persuade these young ladies to get well and then to fast in another cause, if necessary to death?
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, this debate has had one curious characteristic. Nobody in the leadership of either the Government or the Opposition has been able to suggest a new policy to replace the one which is now sadly in ruins. I think that is a very healthy situation. If anybody had come up with an instant solution to the problem at this moment it would have been very suspect indeed. Even we Back-Benchers, usually so fertile in solutions, are compelled to be prudent. The only touch of certainty which I have seen is in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan. As I am about to make a very mild attack upon him I regret that he is not here to listen to it and, perhaps. to challenge me. This was the most impressive speech of the day, but I think that when we look at it tomorrow we shall find that although it was delivered in the accents of Cambridge and in the measured phrases of an historian, nevertheless the views he expressed are those which people are expressing almost everywhere to-day.
I was chilled by his speech, just as the noble Earl who has just spoken was chilled by it, and I should like to associate myself entirely with his humanitarian remarks. I was particularly distressed because I share some of his views about this crisis. I was distressed because he seemed to me to bring the detachment of the professional historian to current suffering. It is true that he thought the bloodbath was not inevitable. He thought that a bloodbath might be avoided. Nevertheless, looking back he seemed to think that the massacres following our withdrawal from India were inevitable and were, therefore, acceptable. 197 I am quite sure that if the Labour Government of those days had known that the strategy which they proposed to follow in India was to be followed by between 400,000 and 500,000 deaths they would have tried to find a different strategy.
To come back to policy, there is inevitably a gap between the failure of one policy which carried so many of the hopes of all of us and the construction of its successor. That gap is to be filled by a temporary return to direct rule, although I think I am right in saying that for the sake of constitutional propriety it wears the garb of a kind of Executive. However, the Government have promised to listen to this debate in both Houses of Parliament and then to listen to all the Parties in Ulster to see what can be built upon the ruins of Sunningdale. When they return to Ireland I hope that they are able to pursue an active diplomacy—that they will not just sit down and wait for people to come to see them but will invite people in and start a new discussion. The bipartisan approach between the Government and the Opposition has been preserved so far, and it is more vital than ever at this moment that it should not be threatened. This does not mean that Ministers should escape all criticism for their handling of policy. That is asking too much of human nature, particularly of political human nature; but it does mean that criticism has to be kept within rather narrower bounds than normal. For what is intended to be just specific criticism about a specific issue can, if it is voiced too frequently and too vehemently, seem like a fundamental clash on basic policy, particularly in the context of Ulster.
My Lords, I should like to say a word about the criticism that is being voiced currently about Ministers. May I add a word of thanks for the kind remarks which the noble Earl made about my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. He and his Ministers may be vulnerable in their rhetoric, but I think that we should bear in mind that their errors arose out of their intense zeal to protect the splendid creative system which Mr. Whitelaw had worked for so hard and so patiently. They were resolute defenders—perhaps too resolute defenders—of Sunningdale and everything that lay behind it.
198 It is suggested today that the movement to pull the troops out of Ulster is growing in political circles. I do not know whether this is true but I do detect a change in the approach. Even those who had previously given the impression that they were advocating a kind of populist approach to the problem—to pull the troops out and let Ulster settle its own problems—are now talking in terms of a negotiated withdrawal over a considerable period of time. During the past week in the minds of many of us, including my own mind and I have rejected this resolutely in the past, we have started to look at what was the unthinkable option of a British withdrawal from Ulster. We can no longer totally exclude this from our thinking.
The idea of withdrawal cannot be excluded for two reasons. The first of them, and we have to face it, is the populist reason. There is a limit to the patience of ordinary people. They are sickened by the violence and by the indifference to the value of life in Northern Ireland, and they are sickened by the casualties to British troops. On a lower plane, they are disgusted with the waste of their wealth by explosives and by this recent costly strike which may have cost more wealth in one relatively quiet fortnight than has all the bombing over all these years. That is one reason why sometimes we cannot exclude the possibility of withdrawal. But we have not reached that point of bitter and irresponsible impatience and I pray that we may never reach it.
More serious people are asking now whether Britain's willingness to give up the Province could be used constructively to help the divided communities towards reconciliation and co-operation. Can it be—and I think we are bound to ask the question which has been asked by one or two speakers, including the noble Lord, Lord Annan, this afternoon—that our political and military presence does less to pacify than to exacerbate the current situation? Can it be that the token civil war such as now exists is a luxury that can he afforded because we are there in strength to ensure that it does not escalate?" I can ask the question but I cannot answer it, and I do not know who can answer it with any confidence. However, it is something which has to he put to the test, and in not a very great length of time.
199 There is one dangerous fallacy abroad that we cannot stay in Ulster unless there is agreement on power sharing. Of course if there is agreement on power sharing the question of our leaving Ulster does not arise, but if there is no agreement on power sharing I do not see how, in good conscience, we can go away and leave the Catholic minority for ever condemned to be a subservient race. We have inherited a responsibility for the Province as surely as those who belong to the two communities there have inherited the legacy of hatred and division. But it could be that our final act of responsibility was to acquiesce in an understanding between the two communities that could be achieved only by the departure of their old masters.
It is a tentative hypothesis that I put forward. We could be faithful to our responsibilities only if we left Ireland in affection and not in hatred and with disregard. If we left Ireland, it would have to be an Ireland with a prospect of peace and not an Ireland in which a bloodbath was probable. We could not leave in such terrible circumstances. Nor, although we had shed our political responsibility, could we shed our economic responsibility. We could not condemn an independent Ulster to hopeless poverty and unemployment. If its economic structure makes it unviable, then ours is the responsibility; there is nothing wrong with the energy and the skill of its people or with the fertility of its soil.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, the speeches in this long two-day debate have seemed to me to concentrate around three questions, each of which is vital for the future of Northern Ireland. The questions were first: is the concept of power sharing justified; secondly, has it been given a fair trial; thirdly, what now is to be the way ahead? As my noble friend Lord Windlesham said in his speech at the beginning of the debate this afternoon, it has been particularly noticeable that noble Lords who are closely associated with Northern Ireland have each expressed the longing of ordinary people to be relieved of violence. I would submit that the prime justification for some form of power sharing is peace—the hope for peace which to many 200 people in Northern Ireland must seem to be the pursuit of a mirage. I hold that it remains our duty to secure the reality of peace.
It is the fact that politics alone will not eradicate terrorism. But may I remind your Lordships that since the beginning of direct rule we have always believed that our Security Forces deserved the surest support which could be given in their operations, and that is the reason why the Constitution Act was passed last summer with the overwhelming support of both Houses of Parliament. Certainly, that Act did not represent an agreed set of constitutional proposals, but it was drafted after two debates in both Houses of Parliament, and extensive discussions with political and religious leaders and many other people in Northern Ireland, which showed that significant areas of agreement existed upon which legislation could be based.
Then, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor reminded us in his speech opening the debate, during last spring and summer the Government pressed forward. But in doing so they did not deviate from three undertakings which had been given in the White Paper: that for the majority the union with Great Britain will endure for so long as it is the wish of the people of Northern Ireland; that for all who seek to work genuinely for the welfare of the Province and to advance their views by constitutional means the way should be open to a part in life and in public affairs; and that for everyone there would be effective protection against arbitrary or discriminatory use of power.
But there was one assertion which the constitutional proposals never made: that it would all be easy and that inevitably it would succeed. Indeed, referring to the constitutional proposals, the final paragraph of the White Paper included these words:At every point they require the cooperation of the people themselves, if they are to have any prospect of success. They can be frustrated if interests in Northern Ireland refuse to allow them to be tried or if any section of the community is determined to impose its will upon another. It should now be perfectly clear that these are prescriptions for disaster".It is because I submit that that final sentence could well contain nothing less 201 than the truth that I believe the justification for some form of power-sharing continues to exist. Politically is it not evident that if one section of the community never has any share in responsibility those people will eventually cease to be responsible? Conversely, I believe that anyone working in government, either central or local, in Northern Ireland to-day will assert that the spread of responsibility which there has been has been to the benefit of sound administration.
In a funny way, power sharing is also reflected in a security consideration: that the support of people living locally is a vital factor in Army or Police operations, because the "safe house" makes the line of attack or retreat all the easier, because an area of non-co-operation is a blanket wall against security success. The bearing of all the Security Forces in Northern Ireland has been maintained in the face of provocations which, I think we all agree, no other Forces in the world could have faced so well, and it is vital that this should have been so because relations with the public are also a key ingredient in security operations.
If this applies to security operations, it applies doubly to the work of Government. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and his honourable friend the Minister of State are now to shoulder enormously increased responsibilities. I do not know whether, at his age, the noble Lord ever thought that he would be the offspring of Section 8(6) of the Constitution Act, but that is exactly what he now is, and in this we wish him and his honourable friend well. But while the noble Lord and his honourable friend are doing this work, has any thought been given to the reappointment of the Advisory Commission, which, after all, during direct rule provided an essential channel of communication and advice for the Secretary of State?
My noble friend Lord Windlesham has explained why we must ask the Government—and many noble Lords have done so this afternoon—to indicate their hopes and intentions as fully as they can. It is because the pause may, in fact, be no pause at all. I very well remember once being told that during the first hectic fortnight in April, 1972, my noble friend's filing cabinet had been simply two Government dispatch boxes. The Northern 202 Ireland Office is now rather more firmly settled in Belfast, but in the rush of events members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service in some ten Government Departments will need a political lead. It is now over a week since the Executive was ended. I wonder whether the Prime Minister has any intention of appointing another Minister, and, if not, are the Northern Ireland Departments to remain organised as before?
Has power sharing been given a fair trial? We know that the Executive commanded the support of some 65 per cent. of the Assembly. We also know that about six weeks ago an opinion poll was taken which showed that there was considerable support for the work of the Executive throughout the Province. It can only be conjecture, but I would guess that the Northern Ireland Civil Service, of whose integrity my noble friend Lord Brookborough spoke so rightly and so feelingly, appreciated having Ulstermen as heads of each Government Department, with a clear policy and enthusiasm for their new task.
Now this has gone, swept away in the name of opposition to Sunningdale. Yet I question whether that is the reality of the case. When first the Assembly met to do business in the autumn of last year, it was members of the Democratic Unionist Party and the U.U.P. who disrupted the proceedings and vowed to boycott the subsequent meetings. But if I remember correctly, this was the form of forcible opposition to power sharing in which Mr. West's Unionist Party did not share. It was, of course, subsequently that the Tripartite Conference at Sunningdale was seized upon to further opposition to Mr. Faulkner's Executive.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, said he knows nothing of any covert attempt to thrust Ulster from the United Kingdom against the will of the Ulster people. And, indeed, not only was there nothing to fear in the communique which came from Sunningdale, but the Republic as well as Her Majesty's Government and the Northern Ireland Executive at Sunningdale showed the political will to agree fresh proposals for dealing with violence on both sides of the Border. Although I join with my noble friend Lord Windlesham in regretting the decision of the Republican members of the Law 203 Enforcement Commission as to extradition, I hope in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, may be able to tell the House when we may expect the legislation to implement the recommendation on the extra-territorial method of trying offences.
My Lords, in his speech the noble Lord the Leader of the House drew attention to the fact that people who have suffered so much in Northern Ireland have fears and suspicions which many of us would probably hold if placed in a similar position. But it is evident that many just do not understand that a formal conference would have been needed before any agreement could have been implemented at Sunningdale. On May 22, Mr. Faulkner's Executive issued a Statement. This Statement made it clear that whereas Northern Ireland supported an immediate agreement on consultation and co-operation on various economic and social matters, on policing and on human rights, the Executive would not agree even to consider the transfer of any executive powers to a Council of Ireland, or to the setting up of any formal secretariat or headquarters until after the next Assembly elections, set for well over three years' time. This, I think, would have been the moment for the Government to have clarified misunderstandings. But. of course, within three days Ulster faced complete disruption; within six, that disruption had brought the Executive to its end.
What is now to be the way ahead? Surely what is needed above all else, as so many noble Lords have said, is an opportunity (if it is to be given) to think and to negotiate, for the headlong plunge towards the precipice to be arrested. Last autumn, the three Parties negotiating for the Executive found that they shared areas of policy agreement, which I think it is fair to claim were far more extensive than anyone had in fact imagined. All were determined to continue the assualt on areas of high unemployment, historically the bane of life in Northern Ireland. All shared pride that despite terrorist destruction Ulster remained very firmly in business with a growth in manufacturing which was a credit to both sides of industry. In sectors vital to social as well as economic life, such as community relations or the youth service, there was 204 again a common purpose; and where different attitudes initially prevailed (as they did in education) it was found possible to agree a common policy, and then to entrust the administration to a colleague with whom the Executive would share collective responsibility. It was not easy, but it was done. A great deal was owed to Mr. Faulkner, Mr. Fitt and Mr. Napier.
I do not suggest that the sharing of power should have as its objective a sort of Gilbertian Elysium of total agreement: somehow, I feel that such a mutual admiration society would not really suit the temperament of Northern Ireland politics. But what I do suggest is that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that the Secretary of State had begun to explore the views of the political leaders, it may well be found that the views of the Parties which comprise the United Ulster Unionist Council on policy for social and economic life in Northern Ireland may well accord, perhaps to their surprise, with the views of politicians with whom they disagree on other matters. For instance, after a period of disruption which has taken tens of millions of pounds out of the Northern Ireland economy, how best can the Province continue its commercial expansion? How can confidence be restored to overseas firms which have so successfully been attracted to Northern Ireland in recent years? What should be the most urgent priority now for policy on human rights? How can industrial training, one of the great achievements of Northern Ireland, be further expanded? What steps should be taken at this difficult time for the whole of the United Kingdom to promote agriculture, the basic industry of Northern Ireland?
These are all things which the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, discussed at greater length in a most interesting speech late last night. These are questions upon which Mr. West and his Party, and the two other Parties in the U.U.U.C., should seek to join with the other Assembly Parties to lead opinion in Ulster, whether they do it in Government, or whether they do it in Opposition. In my view, this would be a constitutional approach whereby the problems of Ulster indeed could be solved by the people of Ulster.
205 My Lords, just one more point about the views of the three United Ulster Unionist Council Parties. Although under the Constitution Act the question of the police remains a reserve matter, the three Parties of the U.U.U.C., who defer to no one in their concern for the future of the R.U.C., surely would wish to offer their views on two important matters at this time—first, on the effect of prorogation on the All-Party Committee of the Assembly, which I understand the Secretary of State was about to set up to study the extension of normal policing in Northern Ireland, something about which many noble Lords have spoken most interestingly, particularly to-day. Would they in turn wish to comment on how political views could be represented now that, presumably, the proposal for Assembly Members on the new police authority (which would have been introduced into this House within literally a few days of the House returning from the Whitsun Recess) cannot be put into effect?
In his speech yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, said the political solution is essential, but it will be hard to get until the security battle is won. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, speaking I think from a different point of view, said that democracy is not only about institutions and constitutions, but is also a matter of the spirit and will of the people. I think my noble friend Lord Moyola is a man well qualified to interpret the feelings of the Ulster people. When the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, as he did, identifies the need to continue to strengthen the role of the R.U.C. and the Ulster Defence Regiment, then I become strengthened in my conviction that the existing plan for the police, and any plans for the Ulster Defence Regiment, which may have resulted from the security review of the Secretary of State, must not be lost in the present political activity, but must be able to continue to unfold.
I submit that all this underlines the considerable part that only the people of Ulster can play in the shaping of their future. But Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. In his broadcast on May 25, and again in an intervention in another place yesterday, it seemed to me that the Prime Minister cast some doubt about continuing the financial com- 206 mitment which undoubtedly (and I agree that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has clearly shown it to-day) Northern Ireland has needed, and we have freely given. Certainly I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, with the noble Duke, the Duke of Devonshire, and with my noble friend Lord Onslow, that Northern Ireland must face realities. But at a moment when many people are struggling to improve the economy of Northern Ireland, they need a clear expression of our meaning. I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, whether the Government still stand by the objectives for expenditure set out in paragraph 86 of the White Paper: to accomplish physical reconstruction, to encourage a sound economy, and to work towards the same standards of living as prevail in Great Britain.
Finally, may I welcome the assurance which has been given by the Government in both Houses about the role of the Army. It is true that recurring service in Northern Ireland entails strain and brings with it tragedy. But to abandon the task at this moment, or to announce that it will be abandoned, would carry incalculable consequences. I believe inevitably it would encourage the I.R.A., which for some time has been reduced to using teenagers for their dark work, which has been, after all, further weakened since our last debate on security, by the capture of two more leaders in Belfast; undoubtedly it would be the signal for a massive recruitment to the Protestant paramilitary organisations. I believe the presence of the Army is essential to allow political leaders to use this time to negotiate. Time is precious. On it depends a part of the United Kingdom, perhaps a great deal more, and for Northern Ireland the future of democratic government.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I do not normally suffer from a defect of diffidence, but I must say I am rather frightened of trying to do justice to this very long debate, which really has not had a boring or an uninteresting speech in it. I do not wish to say anything in any way critical of this House, but it is a very rare event.
In trying to pull the debate together, I believe it has centred on two points: 207 first, should the British troops be withdrawn or a date be given for their withdrawal; and, second, should an attempt be made to continue power sharing. There have been a very large number of other points raised apart from those two, but I think from the point of view of my right honourable friend the Secretary of of State these are what he will get out of this debate. I think we can say that yesterday we had remarkable unanimity on the first point; only Lord Clifford of Chudleigh and the Duke of Devonshire, for rather different reasons, advocated withdrawal. To-day we have had a powerful case put by my noble friend Lord Annan, and a very different one, leading to the same end, by my noble friend Lord Wigg. But the general tone of the debate will encourage my right honourable friend and will not persuade him to change his present policy. The troops are in Northern Ireland because the security situation requires it, and I repeat what my right honourable friend has said again and again, that Her Majesty's Government will not withdraw British troops from Northern Ireland while conditions are as unstable as they are to-day.
On the second point, that of power sharing, every noble Lord who spoke yesterday agreed that the concept should not be abandoned, and I think every noble Lord who spoke to-day said the same—I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, made a pronouncement on that particular point. Otherwise everybody said, "It may not work, but have another try". So here again I think my right honourable friend will be encouraged by the debate in this House. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, said that he would prefer direct rule, and I read the same preference into Lord Monson's speech; but both, I think, would welcome power sharing if they could not get direct rule. My right honourable friend in another place has made perfectly clear that integration, which I think is the same thing in the long run as direct rule, is not a starter in his mind.
In spite of many and various criticisms made across the Floor on details during these two days, I do not in fact feel particularly apologetic. The right honourable gentleman Mr. Whitelaw started something which is not dead yet, even 208 though the Northern Ireland Executive as originally constructed has collapsed. He thought, and we thought he was right, that no part of the United Kingdom should have a large minority group without political representatives. He thought power sharing was the only way to prevent this, and again we thought he was right. But he certainly did not assume that in the form in which the Executive was formed it would necessarily succeed. As the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said, one of the provisos was not that it would be easy. Mr. Whitelaw thought, and we supported him, that it must be tried. It has been tried and it has failed. But it has failed not because those who shared the power fell out with one another; on the contrary, they agreed better than anyone. themselves included, had dared to hope; nor because their Government was inefficient; it was not. They failed in reality because they were not given time to succeed. The United Kingdom Election ruined their chances, and from that moment up to the final collapse it was a desperate struggle for survival.
The noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, in his wise speech, made it clear that changes of opinion in Northern Ireland are not governed by logic, and other noble Lords have made the same point. Actually to anybody who is living there the point hardly needs making. Forty eight per cent. of the population, during the United Kingdom Election, at least did not vote for those who were clearly opposed to Sunningdale, power sharing and the Council of Ireland. One could almost say they voted for those three things, but at least they did not vote for the candidates who were against them. In an opinion poll held in the middle of April this year, about three-quarters of those interviewed were in favour of power sharing. Yet the strike which brought the house down managed to enlist widespread support, against ostensibly the Council of Ireland, but in fact against Sunningdale and power sharing as well. The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, in a remarkable speech yesterday, made one point which may well be true. Any proposal from London, he said, is subject to Protestant veto, even to the extent of wrecking the economy. In fact the strike itself has already gone a long way in this direction. It is impossible for us to understand over 209 here that the Irish character is not afraid of self-inflicted wounds, but alas! I believe this to be the bitter truth.
Your Lordships will not expect me to deal with every speaker in this long debate, but I should like to pay a special tribute to the lucid and calm exposition of this terribly difficult situation by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. And I would say to my distinguished contemporary, if I may so call him, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that he made the finest speech I have heard in this House for a long time. With one small exception, where he criticised some remarks of my Leader, I agreed with every word in it, and we on this side thank him for stating our bipartisan policy with such gravity and force. I was particularly moved, as indeed was my noble friend Lord Shepherd (it is so long ago since he spoke that I think I might say it again), by his generous reference to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary in his agonising decisions, and his condemnation of the blood-curdling threats—I think those were his words—which were being issued against him.
The noble and learned Lord's speech contrasts starkly with a much less creditable speech made by another classical scholar yesterday. I have only seen Press reports of Mr. Enoch Powell's fulminations. I cannot quarrel with his expression of views, which in a free country he is entitled to make. But I can and do quarrel with his ungenerous abuse of the Executive, to whose courage, physical and moral, almost every noble Lord here has paid tribute. To Mr. Powell they are political eunuchs. This disagreeable phrase displays a meanness of thought which to me is very painful. I will say no more.
We had a remarkable speech also from the Duke of Devonshire, who gave us a lucid analysis of the possibilities in front of us. I cannot, of course, agree with his suggestion that the shock of the withdrawal of troops might bring the Parties together in sensible discussion. I think no Government could take this risk on those grounds. But his demand for more communication with a clearer statement of the issues must be welcome, and every effort will be made on the Government side to provide the information clearly on which people can make 210 up their minds. I am afraid that this will not be enough. It does not matter how often you say things, nobody takes the slightest notice. The misunderstanding, which has been referred to by a number of noble Lords, of the implications of the Council of Ireland are a perfect example. On paper there is nothing wrong with it at all. But nobody believed a word of it and this is why the trouble arose. I do not feel myself that exposition, however clear, is going to solve the problems, but we will have a go.
Three noble Lords yesterday asked for a referendum, and my noble friend Lord Brockway asked for a constitution convention on the lines proposed by Professor Richard Rhodes. I would only say at this stage that my right honourable friend in the pause which we hope we have is in no mind to exclude any possibility. His intention is to talk with all and sundry, and in due course to come back to Parliament with his considered suggestions. Nearly everybody who has spoken in these two days has made it clear that they themselves think this to be the right course.
It is hard to please the Press. Monday's headlines said, "Bipartisan policy crumbles". Tuesday's headlines said, "Both Parties bereft of an Ulster policy." The truth is, and no one denies it, that the whole situation has changed as a result of this attempt, and there is virtual unanimity, in this House at any rate, that great efforts should be made to build up something for the future which involves power sharing of one kind or another.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, if this is a pause in his argument? When he says that the Secretary of State will be talking to all and sundry, does this include representatives of the Ulster Workers' Council?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, the Secretary of State's actual words were:I will consider talking to anybody who has a political contribution to make.Those were his words, and I give them for what they are worth.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, that is not a very clear answer to the question. If it embarrasses the noble 211 Lord to give an answer I shall not press him, because I know the situation and how difficult it is to handle situations of this sort. If he is able to give an answer to the House, it would be interesting to hear it.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, it does not embarrass me. I am just passing on the information that I have. That is the information that I have, and I have not any more. I think the Secretary of State is going to look at the situation as it arises and deal with it as it comes. He is anxious to have the widest possible discussions. I should like to turn for a minute to some of the points raised to-day.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question in relation to a point raised yesterday on the position of the Price sisters? I was able to inform the noble Lord before he began to speak that information has come to me from that direction which suggests that new possibilities exist. Would he at least undertake, if he is not going to deal with that subject, that those possibilities will be considered by him and referred to his right honourable friend?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I shall certainly undertake to make representations to my right honourable friend. My noble friend Lord Brockway was here earlier on to tell me that he had been in touch with him, and there were developments. I do not think that there is anything to be gained by speaking to my right honourable friend again, but I shall if my noble friend wants me to. The matter is in hand, and I do not know where it has got to. It has nothing whatever to do with me at this stage, except that I shall pass on my noble friend's remarks.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, could the House be told something about this? What is meant by "developments" and "possibilities"? This is a matter of serious national importance, and we ought to be told about them.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, you cannot be 212 told because I have no information on it. If my noble friend Lord Longford has any information, let him tell us. But I have no information. I shall pass on the question.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, it is a very odd situation for a noble Lord to get up and refer to possibilities generally in a matter in which we are all deeply interested. I do not think that the House will leave it at that point. I think that the noble Earl must really support the question that he has asked with a few facts.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I do not think that it is for my noble friend to make a speech. He has asked me to pass the question on, and I shall do so.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, will the noble Lord be good enough to take serious note of the difference in the two statements that have been made, one by him—namely, that the Secretary of State would be willing to talk to all and sundry, and the words which he put in the Secretary of State's mouth, that he would be willing to talk to people who have a political contribution to make. There is all the difference in the world between those two statements. So far as the way ahead is concerned, they are absolutely fundamental. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, did not press the noble Lord and I am not going to, but it is a matter on which I shall be very grateful, as I think the House will, if he will undertake to make further inquiries, and when we meet after the Recess take the opportunity of coming to the Dispatch Box and explaining what the two sets of words really mean.
LORD DONALDSON KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, that is an absolutely fair question, and I shall certainly meet it. The Secretary of State has not even got back to Ireland yet. He is still in another place. He will be there to-morrow morning and making up his mind what he is going to do. and the noble Lord will have the first information. This is perfectly fair.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, will my noble friend pause a moment? Only the other day his right honourable friend made it as clear as the noon-day sun that he would not negotiate with anybody associated with the Ulster Workers' Council. Has there been a change in the situation?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, he said that he would not negotiate with the Ulster Workers' Council over the strike. That is what he said—over the strike.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
I know, so we have a new situation. I have given all the information I have about it.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, I wonder about the Price sisters. My noble friend Lord Longford intervened, but I was not quite clear as to what information he had. Is it possible to ask my noble friend to tell us, perhaps for the information of my noble friend Lord Donaldson, what information he has had about the Price sisters? We ought to know.
§ LORD DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, this is really a matter which should be dealt with outside this Chamber. I, as official Government spokesman, have no information whatever. If my noble friend Lord Longford has any information and wishes to give it to the House I will sit down, but until then there is nothing further to be said.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
My Lords, I think that the matter is in the hands of the noble Lord. There is great interest in this matter. If the noble Earl was to ask for the leave of the House to make a brief intervention at this point, the House might wish to give him that leave.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord is in fact in possession of any information that has reached me. I understand that if a date were fixed—a reasonable date—there would be a good chance of the Price sisters coming off hunger strike. If anybody wants any further information than that, they can have it, but I do not think that it would be wise to go any further.
§ LORD SHINWELL
My Lords, who is running this Government? II am quite serious about this. I say nothing personal about my noble friend. I see the dilemma. Is the noble Earl, Lord Longford, running the Government, or Mr. Harold Wilson, or the Home Secretary? We ought to know. What does all this manoeuvring outside mean? That is what I should like to know.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for his help. He has said succinctly exactly what I feel. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is responsible for this question as I told my noble friend Lord Longford a few minutes ago.
If I may go back to the day's events, we had, as always, a sympathetic and helpful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. He made one or two remarks which I should like to take up. He described the Ulster population as exhausted with violence, and I think this was a good phrase. That is just about what they are. He referred to Ulster nationalism as having been something which was always there. I think that the point that my right honourable friend made in his speech in the other place yesterday was not that Ulster nationalism was new but that working-class Ulster nationalism was new. I think that the noble Lord would probably agree that that is slightly different.
The noble Lord asked about Border security. It is still the Government's intention to go ahead with the recommendation which both groups in the Law Enforcement Commission supported; namely, the extra-territorial jurisdiction. It is assumed that the Irish Government will proceed in a similar way. The two Governments have also agreed to hold a Ministerial meeting to discuss security and how best increased co-operation across the Border can be achieved at all levels. Action taken recently against the I.R.A. in the South has been encouraging, but of course, like the noble Lord, we were looking and hoping for more. It seems to me that the co-operation which was to have emerged out of Sunningdale may be expected to go on.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, made a most striking speech. I do not at all agree with his conclusions, 215 but they were put with power and great lucidity and I think we shall all want to read and study it. It was either my noble friend Lord Shinwell or my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek who tore it to pieces fairly well. The difficulty about it is that none of the analogies wholly fitted. India was one thing and produced a blood bath; Palestine was another and produced a different one, and I do not think you can argue from A to B to C, however historically convincing you can make the sequence. The final refutation of this is that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and this is an absolutely different situation from that applying elsewhere. The noble Lord suggested that although he was in favour of removing troops, it would be ludicrous to think of doing so overnight. He would not put any time limit on it, so in his ultimate conclusion he was not so far away from every sane person's policy as he seemed. We all feel that the troops are there on a temporary basis so I hope perhaps we are not so far away as we looked.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, raised a number of points. I accept his statement that the promise made by my right honourable friend Mr. Callaghan still stands. We stand by that, and that is all right. That promise, you will remember, was that the troops were there until security justified their removal. He explained that there are many different interpretations of Sunningdale and suggested that perhaps the Government could have done more to explain them to people. But as I have already said, explanation is not enough. A great deal of explanation was given and was received, I think, without understanding. His general support for the Executive, and the fact that he voted for Sunningdale in the Assembly, warms my heart. He said that perhaps the Prime Minister is trying to drive the Nationalists out of the United Kingdom. My Lords, this is not the case. I am not privy to the Prime Minister's every thought, but I can assure him that this is not only not the case but bears no relation to it.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
The Prime Minister is not trying to drive anyone out—I can assure the noble Viscount of that. He asked about the special category. This worried the last Government and it worries us, but nobody sees at the moment quite how this can be dealt with; it is a tricky problem. He asked about Westminster M.P.s. This has to wait until the Kilbrandon question is dealt with as a whole. He paid a tribute to the Civil Service in which I am happy to join.
My noble friend Lord Soper needs very little reply. He made an attack of a kind which I could hardly make from this position. I thought it was very interesting. He also made what I think is a sound point—that we hear about everything that goes wrong but the very steady work being done—he quoted two fine men, Bishop Daly and Dr. Gallagher—never gets a mention in the Press. He raised the question of the Price sisters. I shall now say my last word on this. The decision has been an agonising one for my right honourable friend Mr. Roy Jenkins, but as things stand, for better or for worse, it is his decision and his alone, and I think his statement of why he made it is crystal clear. I have not one word to add to it, nor do I intend to do so.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord GoreBooth, made the point that the strike was based on a false prospectus, and this, of course, is the thing which has worried us all along.
I come now to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, whose contributions are formidable to those of us who stand at this Dispatch Box. We had rather less autobiographical matter this time. I agree with the noble Lord that Ulster nationalism is not a new phenomenon; but the point I should like to make again is that what is new is the working class nationalism of which previously there has been very little sign, but which now I think is something to be reckoned with. I agree with the noble Lord that time is not on our side. We have not got six weeks to think over this matter quietly, but there is a pause of an administrative kind during which consultations have to take place. I agree with the noble Lord about the problem of troops' wives; I do not entirely agree about the troops' conditions. I have seen most of the establishments and although 217 one or two are not very good quite a lot are. I think possibly the noble Lord will agree that the morale of the troops is first-class; they are not bellyaching about their conditions. I agree, finally, with two further points he made, which I think are constructive and important; first, that we must build up the police before we can remove the Army, and, secondly, that peace can only be had by consent.
The noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, offered me a piece of news which I shall be very happy to accept. A great deal is being done about the movement of explosives, but if the noble Viscount has information I shall be very pleased to have it. The noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, as always, made a wise speech. May I tell him that, bad though it may be, such words as are written here I have written myself. I have not had an official brief. The noble Lord has been "at it" in Ireland since 1900, as he told us; but having had 75 years of it he still leaves a lot behind him because there were 300 to 400 years before then. We do not expect solutions here. The clash of opinions to which he referred is not likely to disappear in a great hurry.
The noble Lord spoke about the reservations and restrictions on the Army. I would say to him that the only reservations and restrictions in the Army are those of being in support of the civil power and not being on active service. He also made the point that of course the R.U.C. needs strengthening. But we must not overlook the fact that the easiest way to strengthen the R.U.C. would be to add Catholics to it. The proportion of Catholics has fallen from 12 per cent. by some 4 per cent. and with the failure of Sunningdale and of all their aspirations in this direction, the opportunities from the Catholic side of increasing their numbers are very much reduced.
My Lords, my noble friend Lady White talked about the Price sisters, and she will allow me to say no more, I am sure. I agree with her point that where each community has its own minority, particularly the majority in the North has an unassailable ascendency. This is now under attack. But of course this is the "siege mentality" which we have read about for years in Ulster. Turning to talking or not talking to the Ulster Workers Council during the strike, my 218 noble friend said that the Northern Ireland Labour Party was in favour of our talking. Let me tell my noble friend that the trade union movement in the United Kingdom, which includes Northern Ireland, was steadily and firmly against it, as was evidenced by the march which Len Murray led, to which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred.
The noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is certainly one of the three noble Lords who to-day came down firmly for pulling out the troops, but his reasons were not quite the same as others. I was much impressed by his reference to the dangerous charm of the Irish. I have myself fallen almost completely under it, and am totally in love with their marvellous country. Their failure to use it as the finest tourist country in the whole of Europe North of the Mediterranean is the greatest tragedy, which I hope will one day be put right.
As always, my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek woke us up and kept us entertained and instructed. He made some historical analogies which gave me a little trouble in that he spoke about the time when the Irish patriots were voting against England. If only we now had a situation as simple as that, how easy it would be to deal with it. I am afraid that it is a far more complex position. I have referred to the praise of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, of Len Murray, and to his interesting remarks about Dublin. He said something in favour of the speech of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. I think it is worth pointing out that when the Prime Minister spoke of thugs, he spoke of them in an absolutely accurate and simple way. He said that those people who rampaged through Ballymena two nights or so before the soldiers went in, and who on their way back shot two Catholic innkeepers after having broken up three Catholic inns, were thugs, and so they were.
My Lords, it was the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, who helped me against the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I am sorry that I did not give him credit where it was due. He made criticism of the noble Lord's statement, but I am chiefly interested in the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick—and it is good to use this point near the end of what I have to say—laid great stress on the bipartisan policy and on its extension. I feel that 219 we have now reached the stage where, for the moment, we can rely on no bickering between Parties in this extraordinarily difficult situation.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, raised two specific points. His first question concerned finance. Under paragraph 86 of the previous Government's White Paper to which he referred, they undertook, once violence had ended, to accomplish as rapidly as possible the task of physical reconstruction, to create a sound base for the economy, to work towards the standard of living, employment and social conditions which prevail in Great Britain. He asked whether the present Government stood by that. The answer is that these objectives cannot imply a blank cheque, and as difficulties increase so the problems of increasing the money, which is eaten up by troubles, may arise. But this may happen whether the need comes from the security situation or from the normal effect of the economic situation. Therefore, we cannot underwrite a blank cheque, but in principle those are objectives which we wish to see fulfilled. I think I can say that there is no intention on the part of this Government to use as a bargaining counter this assistance which is currently being given. We are not going to say, "If you do not do this you shall not have that." Obviously, all these questions will have to be considered against the background of whatever new arrangements are entered into.
The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked also whether the Government intend to appoint an Advisory Commission. No doubt the noble Lord has in mind the former Advisory Commission as provided by the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972. At the moment, the Northern Ireland Assembly is prorogued and during the time of prorogation legislation can he enacted only by means of a Bill in this Parliament. Therefore, the procedure differs fundamentally from the period of direct rule during which legislation was enacted by Orders in Council, which gave little time for debate and no scope for Amendments. In these circumstances, the Government have no plans at present to introduce an Advisory Commission.
My Lords, if I may sum up, because I have gone on for too long, we have 220 a new situation here and my right honourable friend will not plunge into new policies without careful thought and examination. We are all agreed after this long debate that there must now be a pause for reappraisal. How long it will be no one can say, but certainly it should be as short as possible. My right honourable friend will discuss the way forward with everyone who has a political contribution to make, and in due course will come hack to Parliament with specific proposals. No one, I think, would expect him to act immediately, but your Lordships have come down firmly against the threat of withdrawal of troops, although there have been two or three powerful advocates of such a course. Almost without exception, your Lordships have endorsed my right honourable friend's expressed intention to try to find a way to continue power sharing.
My Lords, there is a bitter past in relation to Ireland, and to Northern Ireland in particular. I think that the consensus of opinion in this House shows that we in the United Kingdom have no intention, in spite of popular pressure, of opting out of our responsibilities and leaving the majority and the minority to fight it out. In spite of murder on both sides, we have no doubt that there is a majority of people opposed to violence who can and must find, in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, "a modus vivendi". and we are committed to try to help them to do it. I think that your Lordships' debate over these two days will assist and encourage my right honourable friend in his difficult task.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether he can answer my question about the leaks from the power sharing group to the Ulster Workers' Council and the security of the R.U.C.?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, the answer to the noble Earl's question is, no. I have heard them both and have not made inquiries, but if I had and had received an answer I should not be able to give it.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked him when I was absent? Is the Secretary of State aware 221 of the necessity of appointing extra Ministers to the Northern Ireland Office, even if the suspension is for only four months, which I gravely doubt? Secondly—this is a much longer shot and I will not ask him to comment on it—if the Northern Ireland Office is asking for power sharing in Northern Ireland, might they coasider power sharing in the Northern Ireland Office by having a Conservative and a Liberal Minister, thereby showing that the Northern Ireland Office speaks for Britain?
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, it was the question that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, asked about appointing extra Ministers.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
Yes, my Lords, the answer is, of course, that the Secretary of State is aware of the desirability of this. As regards the second question, I do not think it has been considered.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at eight o'clock.