§ 5.36 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are satisfied with the role of the Security Forces in Northern Ireland. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Annan, to accept my apologies if he feels that my Question to-day will in fact trespass upon the ground which he may wish to discuss next week. In the debate on the noble Lord's motion he referred to the increasing violence in Northern Ireland. I would agree with that; there is no time to lose. Since we last met here, the destruction there has continued at an ever-increasing rate. It is precisely because of this that I wanted to discuss with your Lordships the role of Her Majesty's Forces, including that of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
§ My Lords, I do not intend this evening to reel off a long list of towns that have been destroyed by thousand-pound bombs, markets which have been destroyed by raging fires, or talk at length about murders. I want only to say that I personally had the most heartrending day on Sunday when I attended the funeral of the lady member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. She was a neighbour of mine, and a friend. At that funeral there were between 3,000 and 5,000 very confused, very sad people. It was a most moving experience, most heartrending. For me, this is a very frustrating time, and I shall illustrate that later. This was the last of a great number of funerals which, unfortunately, I have had to attend. The facts are that people believe at the very best—at least, those who really try to believe it—that the security position as it exists to-day in Northern Ireland is the same as it was some time ago. I would not be at all surprised if the Secretary of State, Mr. Rees, probably feels that the security position is worse. I have not spoken to him, but there are many who feel that to-day it is worse. If this is what we feel, a proportion of that feeling is due to the immense fatigue which everyone feels with this constant murder and bombing.
§ Therefore, my Lords, when we hear various Ministers and other people in 680 authority talking about political solution, we greet it with a hollow laugh. We are past political solutions. There is only one thing to be done, and that is to put the security situation right. The situation arose of the Secretary of State for Defence making a Statement; it was very quickly corrected, but it has done an immense amount of damage. I would not like to say how much encouragement this must have given to the rebels. If one puts security right, then one can talk about almost any political solution—almost any, but not any. There is one political solution left. I feel sure that I can ask Her Majesty's Government to give me an absolute assurance on that matter, that by legalising the Provisional I.R.A. they have opened the way for the most ghastly possible solution of all, that of negotiating with those who, after all, are the only people who could in fact call a stop. It would be most courageous of Her Majesty's Government to think once more before they finally recognise these evil bodies.
§ My Lords, it is unfortunate that the actions of the Socialist Government—and up to date their actions have been in line with those of the previous Administration—have failed to convince the I.R.A. that they are harder on the security front than were the previous Administration. This is unfortunate, because to date their actions have in fact run very much in parallel. The I.R.A. are convinced that with one more push they can get us out. Where do we go? I welcome very much the Statement of Her Majesty's Government. It is quite wrong to go on doing the same thing only more so all over again. Therefore, a complete and absolute review is correct, and I welcome it. But I want to pinpoint quickly the actual position in which we stand by quoting from three Statements made by various Governments, which give us the problem as to why the Statement by the Secretary of State creates not only a worrying position for us in Northern Ireland, but also an encouraging position.
§ My noble friend Lord Moyola, sitting beside me, had to call in troops in 1969. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was asked to make a report on the position of the police within our community. The position from the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, came out quite clearly, that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, our 681 sole force, and its supporting paramilitary organisation, should never have had the role of looking after our security. We in Northern Ireland were made to feel we had been wrong to look after our own security. A residue of that problem exists to-day, which makes it difficult to improve recruiting. In fact the Royal Ulster Constabulary was disarmed, and we in that Government accepted the words of the then Government and their solemn declaration that we could depend on the British Government to provide for the security of the citizens of Northern Ireland. There were many who thought we were wrong.
It is against this background that the then Home Secretary, Mr. Callaghan, was asked for certain assurances. The Government's published Statement in October said:
It is the responsibility of the Army to protect Northern Ireland from threats against its security and in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland there should be available a local force with local knowledge capable of instant reaction.
If the R.U.C. is to shed its para-military role the Government of Northern Ireland must be confident that other means exist.
The Statement continued:
The adoption of the principle of an unarmed police force must in practice depend upon the assessment of the security situation as it exists in Northern Ireland, and the vital interests of the Government of Northern Ireland in defence of the province should be recognised. A fully adequate military garrison will be maintained in Northern Ireland.
§ That was the treaty which I considered the Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom made with the people of Northern Ireland at that time. Mr. Callaghan on behalf of the United Kingdom Government gave those specific assurances.
I now pass on to direct rule, which was supported by all Parties in this House. I come to the present, with a Statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on April 4, 1974. I believe that the significance of what he said has not really borne itself fully in on the public, certainly not in Northern Ireland. He said:
I believe the cornerstone of security policy should be a progressive increase in the role of the civilian law enforcement agencies. So long as so much of the burden is being borne by the Army, it is altogether too tempting to many members of the community to undertake
less than their share of responsibility and to feel that law and order is a matter for the United Kingdom Government rather than for them.
§ So what is the position? Lord Hunt said in 1969, and Mr. Callaghan agreed, that security is entirely a military responsibility. Mr. Heath said in 1972 and in 1973, and Mr. Wilson agreed, that law and order as a whole ought to be a matter for the United Kingdom Government. Then the Secretary of State says in 1974 that the cornerstone of security policy must be the role of civilian agencies. This is a major reversal of policy But what it does, I believe, is point to the failure, and in my view the complete failure, of successive Governments to really grasp the nettle of long-term security policy in Northern Ireland. You really cannot have a reduction in the level of the Army and at the same time a policy of using the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the role of a "bobby" in an English county. It is quite incompatible. While I welcome the change to more involvement of local forces, the Royal Ulster Constabulary must not only be trained but must be equipped to deal with the problems that are going to come to it. At the moment I see very little sign of this.
§ The Ulster Defence Regiment, which took over another role, must be released from the inhibitions, from the restraints, which operate against its tactical use. It is not allowed in any way to be put into a position by which it could get into a riot situation. The object of the exercise which the Government are carrying out must be to release our troops from these appalling duties in which they are placed, so that we may play our part in NATO. Nobody finds it more humiliating than I to see our troops being involved in the way they are in Northern Ireland. If I have not said anything at the moment of my admiration for the troops and for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, I know that Members of this House will know that there is nobody who holds them in higher respect for their tremendous efforts on our behalf. I therefore consider that a review at this moment is not only right but proper.
§ May I turn to one or two measures which I feel noble Lords may not know are necessary. The first is this—it may sound extraordinary: the Government 683 announced that the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be divided into three commands, one of which is called Southern Command, commanded by a very able policeman. But no effort, so far as I know, has yet been made to amalgamate that command with the equivalent military commander. The boundary of the Southern Command runs exactly the same as Third Brigade in Lurgan, and yet the commander of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is still up in Brooklyn. All of us who had anything to do with the war know that an absolutely vital part of co-operation must be to have the two commanders in next-door rooms and to have a joint operations room. To me this is basic. I personally can say that I started arguing in 1969 that this should be so. Throughout the whole of Northern Ireland there are these contradictions of boundaries. Where I live, in Colebrooke, we have two police areas dividing the farm, and we have four Army areas also dividing the farm. In point of fact cooperation is extremely good. But this adds immensely to the problems which exist.
§ I should now like to turn to the question of intelligence. The basis for all actions by the Army must be intelligence. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, in his Report, which has been accepted, stated that interrogation in depth was illegal; that we must accept. I find it hard to see why, when officers who are in training are subjected to that sort of thing—and a number of them appear to have come out of it very well, and they seem quite normal people after it—people who have committed heinous crimes should not be submitted to it. However, accepting that, there is a very wide gulf between what is illegal and what occurs to-day. There must be very thorough interrogation in order to defeat the I.R.A. It is no use getting incidental information from the general public without that detailed knowledge from within. At present all the troops can do is ask the terrorist's name and address and then hand him over to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If, during that time the man decides that he is going to say that he has got a stomach ache or is feeling ill, the Royal Ulster Constabulary cannot question him. If, in this process, he is then passed into the Maze, in 684 detention or any other system, he can never be brought back for questioning. In the Maze prison there lies the solution to 98 per cent. of the problems of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I believe this question of interrogation should be re-examined, because within these two matters which I have raised lies the ability of the Government to show their will and determination to defeat the I.R.A.
§ The next thing that the Army requires, in my view, and from talking to people, is full police powers. In West Belfast, in spite of what anybody may have said, there are 100,000 people who have not got a police service. The Government will tell you that there are "no-go" areas. This is correct. There is no area to which the police cannot be taken in Northern Ireland. But it is pure eyewash; they are not there providing a police service. But, I believe much more important even than that, is the fact that the troops who are there—and goodness knows! they are doing a good job in that area—do not have the power to operate in the area where the police cannot. Stolen cars are one major way by which bombs are carried. The soldier has no right to interfere in that matter. This seems to me the most appalling gap in our Security Forces and also in our general policing. After all, it must be very nice to drive a car without a licence in that particular area. I do not think many of those people want to come out of it.
§ The next thing I would suggest to the Government is the use of identity cards. We have suggested identity cards many times before, and we have been told, not by the Government but by other people, that this was an offence to human rights and human dignity. I notice that when certain parties wish to prevent the "lump" private enterprise in the building industry the identity card system has become fully acceptable.
§ The next matter I should like to raise is that of border control on unapproved roads. It is only a few years since one could not cross the Border from Northern Ireland without going across an approved road or having an approved pass. We were told two things; that that had lapsed for quite a long time, and that the aggravation, the inconvenience, of enforcing it would be greater than the 685 results from it. I believe that the inconvenience to people on the Border would be nothing compared to the inconvenience which the people in Belfast and Londonderry suffer at present under their appalling gate system, and from every other problem of bombs in Belfast day in and day out. Further, we have seen the spectacle of the 1871 Act on trial for murder revived, and I cannot see why the customs rule should not be re-used. It can be used with compassion, it can be used to cause inconvenience, and it can be used to be punishing, depending on the way it is operated. But I have the fullest confidence in the co-operation between the Police and the Army in the Border areas to use it correctly.
§ The next problem concerns uniformity of sentencing. There is great offence among the Army and everybody else, that a bomber in London can get life imprisonment but with us it is not so long. Further, when they get to the Maze they are able to claim special status, which means that they can wear their own clothes and have food brought in. This makes their escape easier, because they have civilian clothes. No matter what the Government say, they do not believe that there will not be an amnesty. Remember, my Lords, these are not detainees; they are people with crime after crime behind them. I believe that until this special status is abolished, any assurance from the Government on the matter of amnesty will fail to convince these people, and if it fails to convince them more people will come forward to take their place.
§ I want to refer quickly to the Ulster Defence Regiment and to pay great tribute to those who are in it. There is one thing wrong with the Ulster Defence Regiment, and it is a very big thing that is wrong with it; there are not enough people in it. If there is anything that can be done to improve that situation, by examination of the pay structure, car allowances or anything else, it should be done. No matter what happens they are a local force, locally involved, and no matter how much you pay them they are still cheaper than one of our own regular British Army. I appeal to the Government to do something about that. Above all else, let us have an assurance again, because it is necessary on the long-term future and on the fact that the Ulster Defence Regiment 686 is there to stay. There has been a growing feeling that that might not be so. We should like a long-term plan of the various ways, if we get peace, in which the Ulster Defence Regiment will be organised with men on certain levels of call-up.
§ I mentioned the question of West Belfast. In parts of Northern Ireland, we have almost reached the breakdown of civilisation. In areas such as West Belfast, we have almost to build up civilised society again from scratch. In the past, people have gradually formed their own police forces, and we have to tackle this problem in a way in which it can properly be tackled. That brings me to the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. I believe that we are now in a very critical state in Northern Ireland. I should like to see 20,000 people in the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. This means that we must have a massive recruiting drive, district by district. At the present moment, a Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve person is expected to serve over a wide area. Under these conditions you will be taking a risk if you do this, but we are long past the time when we must stop taking risks. We must take a risk, but they should be limited to specific areas, and going outside those areas would be breaking the law.
§ I do not believe that there is any man or woman in Northern Ireland, who loves his country and loathes the bombers, who could not give at least four hours a fortnight. At the present moment, that is not considered a large enough commitment for service in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I believe that we must have continuous service of a minimum of four hours per fortnight, with the basic duty of security. In areas which are traffic-free because of control by the Police and by the Army, I should like to see the Royal Ulster Constabulary completely replace the Army so as to enable the Army to be free to go after the terrorists in an offensive role. These people would be supervised; the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be there. We are going to have to offend the hierarchy, because the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, as it is at present, is a very high-class force, and we shall have to lower the standards. But we are at a point where we may have to do that in order to get the mass of people to take responsibility. This must not be a third 687 force. They must be supervised by the Royal Ulster Constabulary where they are freely operating, and by the Army in the areas where they are not.
§ Why do people not want to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary? I can speak only of my own area, but one of the problems is that they are asked to sit an examination, and a lot of the older men are not prepared to face the humiliation of possibly failing that examination. One of the questions asked is: "Who is the President of Chile"? There may be some noble Lords opposite who know who he is to-day, but I do not see how that in any way contributes to a man's doing his duty in spotting a bomber. I consider that this examination is a farce, and it should be avoided.
§ The next question concerns the height limit of 5 feet 6 inches for men and 5 feet 4 inches for women. During the war, many of our ladies served with great distinction and they were a great deal less than 5 feet 4 inches. Napoleon, had he been an Ulsterman, would not have been allowed to serve Northern Ireland. I wish we had Napoleon. In my part of the world, we have one or two who do not quite make the height, and I can think of one, in particular, who, when he sees the sergeant come by, stands on a doorstep in order not to be questioned. Indeed, we had some people to my home to recruit for the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, and we had a very distinguished citizen who is not much more than 5 feet. The recruiting sergeant, who is a very able man, had turned down some other people as too small, but he said "You will be all right. You can slope arms with a revolver".
A few weeks ago I filled in the form to join the Royal Ulster Constabularly Reserve for the second time. I have here the letter turning me down. It says:
A member of the Force should not take any active part in politics".
That is a regulation. There are two points about that; first, I do not know anybody in the North of Ireland who is not totally and actively involved in politics. Therefore, that regulation should be destroyed. Secondly—and I feel this very strongly—I would put every politician up to his neck in it and make him put his money where his mouth is. I am fed up with people who complain
about the Army doing this and the Police doing that, and complaining that not enough is being done. I would make sure that every politician was given the opportunity of joining the Royal Ulster Contabulary Reserve so that they could see exactly what has to be done. If you allow the leaders—and, after all, they have been elected so they must lead somebody—really to get down to it and join the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve, I believe that you will get a long way. But I think you will find quite a lot of them who do not have the guts to do so. My Lords, I find it difficult to have been turned down. You will all know how difficult married life is, anyway, and if you have a wife who has a warrant you are at a double disadvantage—as I am. Because I cannot reply to other noble Lords, I should like to thank your Lordships for taking part in this debate, and I should like to say to the Government, "Give us the tools and we will do the job".
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ LORD GREY OF NAUNTON
My Lords, it was for some five years the exceptional privilege of representing the Sovereign in Northern Ireland that kept me from seeking to exercise the privilege of addressing your Lordships' House. Now that I venture to do so and to ask for the indulgence that your Lordships customarily and kindly extend on such occasions, I wonder whether my Northern Ireland experience does not still inhibit me. Your Lordships ask of a maiden speaker that he shall be brief, and that is doubly appropriate to-day because I have often thought that those of us who seek to serve Northern Ireland may do a disservice by talking. Often there has been too much talk and not enough effective action in remedying what are euphemistically called "the troubles". Your Lordships also, very properly, require that a maiden speaker shall not be provocative and I learned painfully in Northern Ireland that it is almost impossible to say anything of consequence in public about Northern Ireland without provoking somebody, if indeed one does not end up by offending everybody. But if one has to make any useful contribution to your Lordships' discussions one must speak about what one knows, or tries to know about, even if it is so provocative a subject as Northern Ireland.
689 The noble Viscount, Lord Brooke-borough, has asked whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied with the role of the Security Forces in Northern Ireland. Whatever answer one thinks should be given to that question in its most literal and simplest form; namely, whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied with the distribution of what has to be done about security as between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Armed Forces of the Crown, is as it should be, no one could possibly feel satisfied that the Armed Forces of the Crown should have had for these past five years to fulfil the role that they have so gallantly had to fill. Nor, I fear, can anyone really feel that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has yet found precisely the role that it is best fitted to play in the country at the present time, or precisely the best way in which that role can be discharged.
So, my Lords, what is to be done? As so often in Irish affairs, it is much easier to propound the question than to suggest an answer to it. But unless one is merely to blunder on the solution to a problem, one must get the problem straight, and if one is to provide useful answers to questions one must be sure that the questions are the relevant ones. The opportunity given by the noble Viscount this afternoon will not at all have been wasted, nor the time of your Lordships wasted, if it serves to settle the form of the questions that the country must answer. The question certainly is not whether troops should be withdrawn from Northern Ireland and Ulster people left to settle the matter for themselves. Nor indeed is it just whether the level of reinforcement in Northern Ireland should be substantially reduced and no more done. We should all be thankful if those measures alone were to suffice.
Having regard to what the noble Viscount has said, I hope I am not offending against your Lordships' wise custom that one should not be provocative on an occasion such as this if I say straightly that I think that those of all parties and of none who have consistently said that the troubles of Northern Ireland will be settled only by both a political solution and physical security measures, are absolutely correct. A great deal of sincere and earnest effort has been put by a host of people, and is being put now, into 690 attempts to find a political solution to the troubles. I would say no more about that than that I respect those efforts but I grieve that quite obviously they have not yet suceeded. The tragic doings of evil men and, alas! of evil women of various kinds, continue in Northern Ireland and the heavy tasks of the Security Forces of all kinds are likely to continue, I fear, for a good long time to come.
The noble Viscount asks whether Her Majesty's Government are satisfied with the role of the Security Forces, and I think he made it plain enough that in his view Her Majesty's Government ought not to be satisfied about it. Where does the tragedy lie and what is to be done about it? Elsewhere in the Commonwealth when it was necessary, as unhappily it sometimes was, to get the aid of the military forces for the civil power, the Common Law principles of England seemed to speak plainly enough even if, for the luckless soldier, it was not easy to be sure that he was interpreting them correctly. If the civil power were unable, or seemed likely to be soon unable, to maintain order or restore order if it had been lost, then the civil power might call on the military to aid them. There was a Common Law duty of the military to respond and it was for the military commander on the spot, and for him alone, to decide what action should be taken. Those principles work well enough in the sort of instance where, after the application of minimum but effective force, the situation was quickly restored to order and the duty of maintaining it would be handed back to the civil power.
Whether or not those principles still prevail in the tragically different circumstances of Northern Ireland where month has succeeded month and, wearily, year has succeeded year, and the Armed Forces of the Crown are still not just in aid of the civil power but are in fact the principal arm of the civil power in maintaining order, it is plain enough, as the noble Viscount himself has said, that this use of the Army ought not to continue any longer than can possibly be helped. It is not for this that the Armed Forces of the Crown are maintained and it is a tremendous tribute to the excellence of the soldiers, of the Royal Marines, and of the men of the Royal Air Force Regiment that they have had as much success as they have in discharging this unhappy 691 role. One question which I suggest should be asked and satisfactorily answered is: What is to be done about practical proof to the professionals of the Armed Forces that the successful discharging of their very disagreeable role will be reflected in what, if I may use a convenient shorthand phrase that your Lordships will understand, might be called "their relativity"?
Nevertheless, while we must be thankful that the professionalism of the Armed Services is as high as it is, we cannot indefinitely contemplate the use of anything like 15,000 men in Northern Ireland. What is to be done instead? It would be well if, as some have urged, the task of maintaining order, or rather of restoring order, were to be given to Ulster men and women, but again one must ask, how? The Royal Ulster Constabulary was a para-military force, and a very good force too. For valid reasons it was decided that its proper role was to be an unarmed civilian police service and there are many loyal, brave and conscientious members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who think still that that is their proper role and who would not welcome a return to the general service of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as a sort of armed gendarmerie. It is no discredit to any of them that they should think that.
Who, then, is to carry out this task? There is also, fortunately, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but here the problem is, as the noble Viscount has said, to get enough men into it. Here the dilemma is that one will not get more men into it—even, I regret, if their monetary rewards are increased—if the level of duties that they have to carry out is as heavy as it is now. No man, however fit and strong, can go on indefinitely doing his own day's work and then turning out, say, four nights a week and week-ends as well, in the Ulster Defence Regiment. But we cannot reduce the duties of the Ulster Defence Regiment until we get more men into it; so there is the dilemma.
There have been suggestions, not only that the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its reserve should be greatly increased, but that some other force or forces should be raised. It would not be right for me to go into any of the merits of this notion of a third force. I would only say that we should 692 remember—as so many seem cheerfully to forget—that it is one thing to will the creation or the enlargement of a force; it is something entirely different to achieve it. One has to recruit the men and to train them when they are recruited.
One other point which should not be forgotten is that it is not only in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in its reserve and in the Ulster Defence Regiment that Ulster men and women are already taking a great share in dealing with the troubles of their unhappy land. There are many brave people who are seeking constantly in other ways to bring about a more settled and honourably decent society in Northern Ireland. It is, for all its tragedies, a good country with many good people who, unfortunately, are not as frequently brought to public notice as unhappily it is necessary to bring to public notice the very few evil ones among them. This cannot, as we all know, draw on indefinitely, and if the Army is to be reduced in strength, and if the role of the Royal Ulster Constabulary is to continue to be that of an unarmed civilian force like that of the British "bobby", what then is the instrument by which the Government will deal with bombers, terrorists and murderers?
There was talk some years ago of a committee in London to consider this problem. Did it meet? Did it come to some conclusion? What resulted from its efforts? It is never much consolation when trouble and sorrow comes to say, "I told you so", but Great Britain now sadly knows that these troubles cannot be confined to the troublesome Irish across the water; they have spread here. What is to be done about them here? How is the peace of this Island to be preserved? It is not for the suppression of civil disorder that Britain has raised and maintained an Army in the past. We do not have in this country the kind of police force that many other countries have for precisely this role, but how are the potential subversives to be dealt with?
As I have ventured to suggest to your Lordships, these questions—and many others, some of which the noble Viscount has himself posed—have to be correctly answered if this terrible blot on the life of the United Kingdom is to be erased. If the discussion in your Lordships' House this afternoon will help to settle these 693 questions, that at least is a little start towards satisfactorily producing the answers. It is in the hope that it will do so that I have ventured to take up your Lordships' time this afternoon.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
My Lords, may I be humble enough and happy enough to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, on his maiden speech. It was worth waiting six years to hear the noble Lord and I am sure that we shall hear more practical and commonsense advice from him in future. May I also thank the noble Viscount, Lord Brooke-borough, for initiating this short debate on a subject which ought to bother us all, but which I regret does not. So much of the country has got into a state in which it expects death to be on the news every morning, and regards it as something to be put aside and forgotten, something normal in Ireland.
The time has come when some real effort has to be made to make everyone realise what is happening, that this week Catholics are being killed and next week Protestants will be killed and that there is a continuing battle going on. In these times of declaring interests, perhaps I had better declare mine and say that I speak as a Catholic and an ex-soldier. Therefore, I want to see justice done on all sides. I want to see Mr. Faulkner's Sunningdale power-sharing succeed, and for politics to succeed in Northern Ireland. It was interesting to hear from my noble friend that everyone was politically motivated. How can that be when people are killed every day and the country is just trying to survive?
My Lords, mainly and briefly this evening I wish to make a plea on behalf of the Forces, who by tradition may not speak for themselves. There is the question of pay—not, for heaven's sake, "danger money". Nobody in Her Majesty's Forces wants danger money. Danger they expect to face. Is it possible, perhaps, to consider some form of extra money for unsocial hours, for the discomfort in which the troops still live and for the often boring and very long hours which they spend in their work? The danger period may be great, but it is the long hours of boredom and the discomforts that are really hurting them. They very often want to go back. I met 694 two soldiers only last week who had come away from Ireland and who are hoping to be sent back; not, I hope, that a unit will be sent away from home for three Christmases running. That is an error which the Army has made and which should be put right.
Also, is it possible to get a quicker response in order to pay the sums that have been agreed for total or partial disability? The Press has carried this story very well and brought it to our notice. Both Governments must have seen the problem. Can this one now try to speed things up so that a man is paid as soon as he is disabled, without having to wait so long? Perhaps one should also ask whether those who have been disabled in previous wars could also get the increase which it is proposed those in the Services in Ireland should get. What about a man who lost a leg, or both legs, in Korea? Should he not perhaps get the same disability allowance? I urge you, my Lords, to go down to the hospital at Woolwich and see some of the disabled soldiers as they come over from Ireland. You will not forget what is going on in Ireland if you go to that hospital.
As I said earlier, the morale of the soldiers is still excellent. But I think they look with a little dismay on the fact that in future they may have only the alternatives of Germany and England to Belfast. That is a pity. They looked on Malta and Cyprus as at least a period of rest and relaxation in between the other three. May I also pay a tribute to the work of SAAFA in Northern Ireland; and, indeed, to the families who are left behind when their husbands go to Northern Ireland. SAAFA have done noble and excellent work, and in Ireland have been in some danger and difficulty. It is the wives, the mothers and the girl friends who are the deterrent to more soldiers being recruited. It is not that the young men are frightened of the dangers in Northern Ireland, so something has to be done for those three categories. SAAFA, as I said have been a great help and they are short in some Commands.
May I come back to a plea that I make every year without success, to whichever Government happens to be on the other side of the House, for T.V. in the B.A.O.R.—not for live T.V., but for the 695 things that wives and families want to see, the things that I enjoy, such as Westerns and all the English-speaking amusements and programmes that you can get taped and put on. The wives of these soldiers in Ireland are often put in fairly lonely, remote stations in Germany and their frustration and boredom could be alleviated if we had another look at the question of T.V. for the British Army of the Rhine.
The present situation is not very unusual for a soldier to be in, and he has done this kind of thing all round the world. He has been between two religions in many countries. What is so difficult now is that he is between two of his own religions. But the task is not something which it is impossible for an Army, the British Army, to perform. They are worried about some things. Too many of the people released have been in trouble again. In other words, they have seen a chap put into prison and a short time later he is out and getting into trouble all over again. I could not but agree with my noble friend who initiated the debate, that there is—at least, so the soldiers tell me—a real feeling among detainees and those sentenced to prison that an amnesty is coming, and that therefore the sentence is not worth worrying about. Ten years does not make any difference; the amnesty is coming and they will soon all be released. This must be a great morale booster for those who have done wrong deeds.
We have heard about the Ulster Defence Regiment which needs an increase in strength. It has in it members of all religions. Too many people are leaving because they have reached the age at which they are meant to leave. As they are so largely on guard duties and many would be prepared to stay, why can they not stay over the age to do the guard and static duties? Is it right that their role should be so much confined to this kind of work? Furthermore, they are in danger the whole time and they need our support so should they not also receive medals like the British Army?
There are still too many instances, so I am told—and I speak as an outsider—of incidents happening while those who cause them are in safety over the Border. I wonder now, with the good will that 696 exists on all sides, whether it is possible for there to be better liaison between the Republic of Ireland and the British Forces on the Border. Surely our object is to save lives at almost any cost. What does it matter if it is tiresome to have an identity card, if it is tiresome that in an area where two murders are likely to be committed it is said that, if necessary, there will be a curfew every night for six nights? Which is better—to be confined to your own house watching telly, or to be shot at if you go out? It is time that measures were considered to save lives, so that a period of normality may be restored where politicians of good heart may get together and where common sense may prevail.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ LORD MOYOLA
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend Lord Grey of Naunton will not think it presumptuous of me if I offer him my hearty congratulations on a very excellent maiden speech. I had the honour to serve him during his time in Northern Ireland, and I can only say that in that time he was always helpful and constructive, just as he has been in his excellent speech this afternoon. My intervention in this debate will be extremely brief, but I should like to make three points about the security situation in Northern Ireland. I have always expressed my admiration and gratitude to the British Army for what they have done and what they have put up with during their stay in Northern Ireland, and if I should say anything that sounds like criticism I want to make it quite plain that my aim is not to criticise, but to be helpful.
My Lords, until terrorism has retreated I think that there is little true hope of the Constitutional Act being supported, or indeed for the Sunningdale Agreement being supported in any way either. At this moment talk of a political solution without peace is really so much hot air. If we could get peace then the Executive would receive the support that it deserves, and I believe that a great deal of the opposition that now exists to the Sunningdale Agreement would melt away. The trouble at the moment is that we have our priorities wrong. Peace has to come first and then the political pieces will fit into place without a great deal of difficulty.
697 Certainly it is not for me to try to tell the Army how to do their job. I myself wrestled with the problem for about two years and I know how difficult it is. If I knew the answer I should be very quick to give it. But may I venture two thoughts which I think would be helpful to the Army in carrying out their task, both thoughts concerning the Republic. The first thought is, from whence comes all the explosive which almost nightly goes off in towns and villages throughout Northern Ireland? We certainly believe, and I have it on good authority, that the vast majority of it comes across the border from the Republic. I have read their regulations concerning the security of explosives and so far as they go they appear to be extremely good. But are the regulations enforced and, more important, do their security forces make any effort to stop explosives being moved about the country and particularly across the northern border? I am told that if one drives to the South one is far more likely to be stopped and have one's car searched than when one is driving to the North. That is, of course, perfectly reasonable; they are entitled to take action for their own protection. But in view of all the remarks, expressions of goodwill and co-operation which came from the Sunning-dale Agreement, surely one might hope that pressure might be applied to get them to do something about the explosives which come from the other direction.
I wonder also whether the Southern Security Forces have been asked to take part in any joint operations with the British Army. People tell me constantly, and my noble friend Viscount Brookeborough beside me knows better than I because he lives in that part of the world, that there are known terrorist hideouts along the border. If there was a joint exercise mounted by the two Security Forces on both sides of the Border, surely it would be possible to, block up the escape routes and gather up whoever or whatever might be in these hideouts. I should like to pose a question: has this kind of joint operation ever been sought? If it has been sought, what was the response? Across-border forays, and the Army's difficulties there, will only stop with genuine and firm co-operation from the South. It does not simply stop on activity along the Border. All over the country we 698 know that there are people on the run who do not live at home, but who live over the Border in their hideouts and who reappear now and again, let off a bomb somewhere or other, before disappearing again.
I am certain that an immense amount of blood and trouble could be spared if only we could achieve much greater co-operation from the Security Forces to the South. Surely there is some way in which pressure can be put on the Southern Irish Government to act more firmly. We have had recently a spate of sectarian killings. I think there have been five in the last four or five days and a further one was reported on the news this morning. One cannot deplore them strongly enough. Unhappily "deploring" does not stop them. I am certain that the bulk of this bloodshed would stop if only one could prevent people feeling that they had to take the law into their own hands. They would, I am quite certain—and I am not in any way trying to make excuses for them because I deplore in the strongest terms what they do—react sensibly so that these incidents would happen much less frequently were the perpetrators persuaded by sufficient activity from the Security Forces.
My Lords, one can advocate all kinds of ideas to try to curb terrorism. Certainly I support entirely all that my noble friend Viscount Brookeborough has said about trying to increase the numbers of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the police. I should certainly support any measures that might be produced in that direction. But there will have to be more drastic measures taken. They need not necessarily he repetitive and need not be against any one section of the population, but undoubtedly there will have to be methods used which will cause inconvenience and delays, which will probably restrict all our own personal lives. If I can get no other message across to your Lordships to-day the one that matters is simply that the people of Northern Ireland are sick, sore and tired of the whole thing, whether they be Catholic or Protestant, and I believe they will put up with any inconvenience which they could see was helping to bring an end to terrorism.
As long as everyone is treated fairly, the ever-overwhelming majority would support the Army at least in whatever 699 they may think necessary to get on top of this tragic situation. If a curfew is necessary in certain areas, then for goodness' sake! let us have one. If the road blocks, which cause a great deal of disruption, are necessary—I know there are some but to my mind not nearly enough—and more inconvenience will be caused through them, let us none the less have them. If agricultural fertilisers which are used for making bombs, need to be banned, then let us ban them. I speak as a farmer and I know that I could get along without them, at any rate for a time. But whatever the Security Forces think is necessary should now be done. I do not think that it has ever been properly faced up to the fact that we are really fighting a war over there—nice as it is and nice as it has been—and that the Security Forces have done everything in their power to avoid disrupting the civil population. I think the time has come when that should cease. I am quite certain that this view is shared by many of my compatriots. I think they would all say that it is time to have an all-out effort, to put the country to whatever inconvenience may be necessary, but for goodness' sake! let the Army and the Police get on with the job without any form of fetters.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, it is nice to be able to follow an absolute expert who has been Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and who called out the troops originally. I should like also to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, for tabling this Question, which is very much to the point. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, who spoke with deep personal knowledge of the problem over five years. I hope that we shall hear him again. I was interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, say that the people of Northern Ireland would put up with anything in order to obtain peace. I am coming to that aspect—it encouraged me very considerably—but I should like first to refer to some other points.
When the Army was called out it was because the police, the R.U.C., were not strong enough. Ever since, for five years, the Army have been in a police role which, as the late Marquess of Salisbury 700 said, was the wrong role. It is still the wrong role. Unfortunately, we are still following that situation and the result has been that, on top of it, the R.U.C. were disarmed and the "B" specials abolished. When I went to a police station in Belfast about a year ago no man would dream of going down the street without a Sten gun. In other words, they were disobeying orders. You cannot disarm the police there. It is not as if it was an English county. If you ask a member of the R.U.C. when he last patrolled Andersonstown, the answer is, "Not for several years". So the Army are doing it. When I visited Northern Ireland a couple of years ago I asked senior officers why they did not clean up this violence. They said they were obeying the orders of the politicians—quite rightly; I mean, the British Army is accustomed to that—and they were on the defensive. They are still on the defensive; Lord Brookeborough mentioned that. From the moment the Army goes over to the offensive and employs a few of the methods which Lord Moyola outlined, I reckon the violence will be under control in six months, probably less.
Another aggravation is this. The last time I went to Northern Ireland the senior officers were worrying about a British sergeant who was charged with murder and was due to appear before the normal courts. I think that was very wrong. These officers were hanging on; they could hardly answer my questions—ordinary, Army, military questions—because they were waiting for the verdict. It is the inalienable right of the British soldier to be tried by his peers—a court martial, in other words—and I personally think it was quite wrong to put the Army, voluntarily, under the normal courts. It is potentially sabotaging the discipline of the Army.
When Sunningdale came alone, as has been mentioned, we all thought we were near the end of the road. At least, we certainly were optimistic, and we thought Mr. Whitelaw was quite wonderful. But it had not the faintest hope, as Lord Moyola has said, of being implemented, The political and security control has continued to remain in Whitehall, and there is not the faintest hope of doing anything except the same old thing. When we come to law and order, my conclusion is that what we require is the restoration of 701 law and order sufficient to allow a workable political solution to be reached. We have just heard that there is not the faintest hope of that, but I think that is not a very good argument. Incidentally, the Army publicity is not very good at the moment. Although the Army is doing a great deal, it practically never gets a mention in the national Press.
There are one or two other factors, I believe. Time is not on our side; it is still a racial war; there are still innocent people being murdered. One thing is absolutely certain: we cannot go on like this. Admittedly, Malaya and Kenya are a long way off, but they, too, had very difficult problems. In Malaya, it took twelve years to sort things out, and I think at least three years in Kenya. But they both had a strong, armed police force, which was reinforced and strengthened while the operations were going on. For example, there were police lieutenants from Palestine—and there are plenty of volunteers in this country now. I believe the R.U.C. ought to be strengthened. Admittedly, that is not the real problem; but I so much agreed with Lord Brookeborough when he said that there ought to be 20,000 Reservists and the R.U.C. ought to be able to take over the policing role from the Army, leaving the Army to carry on the offensive. The police forces in Malaya and Kenya were there at the start; they were there right through the operations, and they were there at the end, when the British Army had left. They knew the people, as the R.U.C. know the people; and I personally think that is the right way to deal with it. It is a special difficulty, of course, that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and it voted strongly in that direction the other day.
I suggest that kid-glove methods have not been successful so far, and that we are not achieving the object. It is very easy to pose the questions—at least, comparatively easy—though it is not so easy to answer them, but I am going to suggest a plan. I personally think that we ought to appoint a High Commissioner—a modern Templer. If only Templer were 40 years younger, he would be just the chap, but am afraid he is not. But the Army is full of very good men. Such a man ought to be given full powers, and he ought to command everything in 702 Northern Ireland, including the Stormont Government. After all, Templer commanded the LEGCO in Malaya. He was perfectly competent to do that, with the right staff. Such a man ought to command the Army; he ought to command the police; he ought to run the intelligence, which I am told is quite good nowadays; and he ought to run the government Departments. He ought also to be permanently resident in Northern Ireland, and not have to come back to answer Questions and take part in debate in the other place.
The corollary of this is to abolish the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and I personally think that is well worth doing. I am not saying, that Mr. Whitelaw and Mr. Rees are not very good men, because they are; but they have, or have had, the wrong job. Then, I would put a ban on the Minister concerned—probably from the Ministry of Defence, or perhaps the Home Office, although they do not know much about it; the Ministry of Defence would be better—visiting Ireland more than once a year.
I would leave the matter to the modern Templer. The modern Templer would of course state his requirements—and, by the way, the old one got everything he asked for—and would then submit a plan pretty quickly, certainly within three months. Power-sharing should probably be continued; the police ought to be reinforced. That can be done. Army matters ought to be kept away from the normal courts; and detention without trial ought to go on—there is no question about that. You cannot get the evidence in court; we know that. That is why internment was started.
As to curfews, about which we have just heard from Lord Moyola, they should, if necessary, be imposed and identity cards issued—things like that. If necessary, I think this modern Templer should shorten the frontier in order to make quite sure that a 1,100 lb. bomb does not come in across the frontier in a farm cart or a horse trailer, or some other vehicle; and he should consider very carefully whether the people who voted for a Republic should not go to the Republic. They are in a horrid place called Crossmaglen, and in Londonderry and Strabane, I believe.
703 My Lords, that is my plan. I am not suggesting this to be awkward at all; I am suggesting it because it has been done before, and it has worked extremely well—somewhat slowly, perhaps, in Malaya because we did not apply the amount of force that was necessary. But it is only by tough methods, instead of kid-glove methods, that violence will be eliminated and peace restored—and that should be the first thing. The question I should like to ask the Government is: are they considering this action, or are they content to go on with a system which has been proved not to work?
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, may I first say how much I enjoyed the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton. It was most helpful and made a valuable contribution to our discussion this afternoon.
I should like to say something about the role of the Army and the impact it is having on affairs in Ulster. The Army has been in Northern Ireland for well over four years now, in considerable strength. During that time it has been called upon to act as a police force—something well outside its traditional role—and while it has always been accepted that the Army has a duty to assist the civil power and help the police force when necessary, it is also accepted that this should be done on a temporary basis. There is no sign of that in the present situation: in fact it is unlikely that the Army could be withdrawn because of the weakness, which has already been referred to, of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment. In other words, it looks as though the Army will be called on for a further considerable period to act as a policeman. This is a waste of the Army's abilities. Surely it could be used to much greater effect in a mobile role.
It seems to me that the real problem to be faced at this stage is that of intimidation. It is a difficult one to deal with and it is rather like asking, as of the chicken and the egg, which comes first—restoring law and order or doing away with intimidation so that law and order may be restored? I am convinced that until this problem of intimidation has been dealt with there is no possibility of 704 restoring law and order. Intimidation is put on the Police Force and the Defence Regiment through threats and actual attacks on their wives and families; and they must be very brave men indeed to volunteer for these Forces with these constant threats before them.
There is also intimidation of ordinary people—intimidation to carry out tasks for the terrorists, to allow their houses to be used as hideouts or stores, or as places from which to mount an ambush. And while the Government are unable to afford these people any protection, who can blame them for doing as they are told? Therefore, until intimidation is stamped out there can surely be no prospect of the restoration of law and order.
There has been no sign, that I am aware of, of an improvement in the situation over the period of the Emergency. It makes one ask whether the Army is inefficient (which I do not believe) or whether it is not being allowed to carry out its task effectively. I believe that is the reason why this Emergency has lasted so long. Perhaps I may give one example of what happens to the troops on the ground and the problems they have to face under the present arrangements. A patrol may think it has located a party of one or two terrorists. It then has to obtain permission from higher authority before it may carry out its search. Only too often, by the time that permission is granted, the terrorists have vanished into thin air. Also, there appears to be a constant instruction coming down from higher authority to the men on the ground on no account to escalate the situation—which, in my reading, means "do as little as possible".
When we come to consider what used to be referred to as the "no-go areas", as has been pointed out these are still dominated by the I.R.A. A patrol may go through them once or twice in 24 hours and it will often be met with stones or shots. I understand that in Londonderry at the moment there is three times as much shooting as there was 12 months ago. These areas quite definitely are not under the control of the Security Forces and they form good bases from which the I.R.A. are currently able to act with impunity. The feeling in the Army, as I understand it, is that as long as the men on the ground are prepared 705 to accept this situation the Government will take no active steps to reduce what they call "the acceptable casualty rate."
I should also like to raise another problem affecting patrols on the ground. Only too often a patrol may be shot at. The men are allowed to return fire only in certain clearly defined conditions. To help the patrol leader to resolve this conundrum, he is issued with a yellow card. This takes some minutes to read. Your Lordships may imagine the scene: it may be dark, the patrol is fired on and the leader gets out his yellow card and lights a torch to help him read it—thereby drawing further fire and imperilling the lives of his patrol. He may feel entitled to return the fire, but more often than not in such a case the terrorists will already have gone. There are many occasions when it is either right or wrong to fire, but there is a grey area in between where it is extremely difficult to make the correct decision, especially under such difficult conditions. Yet if the patrol leader takes the wrong decision, he may later find himself faced with a substantial period of imprisonment, as happened in a case a few weeks ago. While it is clearly desirable to protect the innocent inhabitants from indiscriminate shooting, it seems to me that the present "solution" is not a very happy one.
Many of these soldiers are stationed in Germany, which is not in any case a popular station; and when a married man is in Ulster he has to leave his family behind and is far from his own home. In addition, he is expected at present to spend some four months of the year in Ulster, living in truly deplorable conditions and unable to go out without danger of being shot at. During that period he will get one long weekend. Before and after his tour of duty, he may get leave of 14 days or thereabouts. During the rest of the year he will spend most of his time catching up with his normal training—and for a married man this involves further separation from his family.
How long can soldiers be expected to accept this situation? My guess is, not for much longer. Not for a moment do they object to doing the job itself in Northern Ireland, but they do object to not being allowed to do it properly. Some of these units are now returning for a sixth or seventh tour of duty; and I 706 understand there is now a growing tendency for men to leave rather than return to Ulster: that is, they finish their engagement and do not sign on again. Unfortunately, very few recruits indeed are coming forward to take their place. May I add my tribute to the magnificent work these men have done during their various tours of duty under the most trying conditions. We should all be very proud of them.
My Lords, what happens next—a potentially reduced Army, inadequate Police and supporting Defence regiments? It seems to me unlikely that the present role of the Security Forces can be maintained, and if things just go on we shall surely be faced with chaos. I believe that this is just what the terrorists want. There seem to be two other alternatives. The first is to withdraw the troops altogether. We have been told by many people that this would lead to a blood bath of substantial proportions, and no one can seriously want that. Furthermore, Her Majesty's Government, once having assumed direct control in Northern Ireland, have not only a legal but a moral obligation to prevent this happening, and also to restore law and order. The second alternative is to take immediate and effective action to deal with the terrorists while the Government still have the means available. They should do everything necessary, as the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has just said, to restore peace to this unhappy area. I entirely agree that until this firm base of peace and stability has been achieved, there is no possibility of achieving any form of settlement. Therefore, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will adopt the course advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne.
§ 7.2 p.m.
LORD DE CLIFFORD
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships and as a third division speaker, as it were, I often find many people have said what I had hoped to say. To-night I am probably the first person who has spoken on this Question who has no personal experience of what is happening in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I am speaking very much as the ordinary reader of a newspaper, the viewer of television and the listener to the radio sees the situation in Northern Ireland. But I probably have a greater benefit than many people, as I have listened to a number of speeches in your 707 Lordships' House which conveyed far more information to me than is normally put over to many people through the normal media. I should particularly like to say how much I appreciated the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, to-night. With what great power he put over his points! I much appreciate and understood them, and I hope that we shall hear much more from him in the future.
The situation which appears to have arisen at the moment is that many people in this country are starting to look on Northern Ireland as something which is not part of this country. It is becoming a situation such as existed during the troubles in Malaya, Aden or any other place where there has been disruption. As a result, an attitude is growing which is coming very much to the same crystallisation: whether we like it or not, the British troops are wasting their time and should be withdrawn. I am not one who joins in this view, but it is something which the Government, and anybody to do with Northern Ireland, must realise is happening. We are virtually appearing to be facing a fight for liberation by both sides with the unfortunate troops having the role in the middle. From what has been said to-night, particularly by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, with whom I so much agree, the troops are hampered all the way round in doing the duty for which they were really sent there. I agree with his views about the idea of a corporal in the British Army having to switch on a torch to read a yellow card before he can take a shot at somebody who has "had a go" at him. That must be the most devastating situation a soldier could ever find.
The soldiers are now the targets on both sides: they went in as friends, but are now disliked by everybody. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bourne: a soldier is a soldier; he is taught to be a soldier and not a policeman. For a short time you can use a soldier in a policing role, but you cannot continuously, year after year, bring him back to the police role without damaging his primary funcion which is to be a soldier. He is not trained to be a policeman; he is trained to be a soldier and to be a part of the Defence Forces of this country. His prime object is to defend us. I cannot see how the Army, acting as it is at 708 present, can be doing anything except losing efficiency. You cannot keep gunners and tank crews as policemen for year after year, and expect their efficiency to continue. As the noble Marquess said, when the troops go to Northern Ireland they are separated from their families. A happy soldier must have a happy family; that is something those of us who were in the Army know. If year after year, you take soldiers from their families for four-and-a-half months at a time, and then put them on some intensive training for their normal role, you will get unhappy families and unhappy soldiers. The way the morale of the soldier has borne up in Northern Ireland has been magnificent. I should like to pay particular tribute to the officers of the Army who have kept the morale and the momentum of the soldiers going during this terrible period.
I feel that we have to find a proper role for the Army. The Government are faced with the problem—about which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, will be able to give some help—of making sure that the Army will be able to do a proper job and get a grip of the situation so that all this turmoil can cease. Unless some proper role is seen to be given to the Army, quite apart from the political side, there will be an increasing restiveness in the people of England to have their Army withdrawn.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I must apologise for intruding in what has become a private debate of the Conservative Party. My diffidence is to some extent diminished by my finding myself in almost complete agreement with the last speaker. His diagnosis is right; there is a growing feeling in Great Britain, and among the Army, that the troops in Northern Ireland have tried to do a job which is without end and people are asking for the reason why. I also entirely agree with him and indeed with the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that unquestionably continued service in Ireland has a very bad long-term effect upon the Army. For better or worse, Mr. Healey, I think most unwisely, reintroduced a short-service engagement in the Army. I do not believe for a second that we can have a voluntary Army based upon short service. It has never seemed to me that it involves a difficult problem. If you enlist 100 men a year and they 709 serve on a three-year engagement, you will have an Army of 300; and if you enlist for a period of seven years you will have an Army of 700. It is no more complicated than that.
There is also the undoubted fact that the supremacy of the British Army in 1914 was not due to its intellectual capacity; it certainly was not due to the intellectual capacity of its officers. But it was due to the fact that they were long-service soldiers and they had been taught to shoot for their proficiency pay; and sixpence a day meant a great deal in terms of beer and a trip to the pictures with their best girl. The result was that, from Mons to the Marne and from the Marne back, and when they died in their tracks at Ypres, they out-fought, out-marched, out-disciplined and out-moraled the Kaiser's Army. They fought them to a standstill. But the troops of 1914 who gave their lives for their country without any question did exactly what the troops in Ireland are doing: they did their duty. No higher tribute needs to be paid than that in fact they did their duty. As I think I can claim without any shadow of a doubt that I have more service in the ranks of the Regular Army than anybody else in this House at present, and I also possess a decoration that no other Member of either House has ever won, a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, entitlement to which is eighteen years of undetected crime. I believe I speak with some authority on this particular point.
That brings me to the noble Lord, Lord Bourne. He, too, is a regular soldier. But he made the most surprising statements, astonishing statements. It is the inalienable right, he said, of a British soldier to be tried by court-martial and to be tried by his peers. Has he ever been an other ranker tried by a court-martial? Trial by his peers—by a selection of officers of whom he knows nothing? Is that trial by his peers?
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, perhaps I ought to explain that by "his peers" I really meant other soldiers.
§ LORD WIGG
Well, my Lords, perhaps I may be forgiven for not knowing what the noble Lord meant. I can only judge by what he said. He said it was the inalienable right of the British soldier to be tried by a court-martial, to be tried 710 by his peers. Neither statement is true. He has no inalienable right to be tried for a civil offence by a court-martial. If the noble Lord will consult the Army Act—and if he has difficulty I shall be glad to help him—he will find that in fact the civil law must be paramount. That is the trouble. In Northern Ireland the civil law has broken down, and the private soldier, the soldier on his beat in Northern Ireland, is required to conform to a law which does not exist. He is the only person conforming. Nobody else is. This is the trouble. And of course it was always bound to be a trouble.
I well remember that on the night Mr. Callaghan took the decision, presumably in conjunction with the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, to put the troops in, he said, "We haven't done so badly so far." I said, "No, you haven't made a single mistake. You have put them in. But what I should like to ask you, Governor, having put them in, is how do you get them out?" They have gone in many times before. Again I would say that I am astonished at Lord Bourne. I thought better of him.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment to explain? Would the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, agree that it is quite wrong—at least, I think so—for a sergeant to be had up for murder in the civil courts?
§ LORD WIGG
Again, my Lords, I am not wise enough to pass judgment. I am not gifted with that insight which the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has to pass judgment on a set of circumstances about which I know nothing. I deplore the fact that a British soldier is held to account for something that has arisen in the course of his duty. I believe that the case which has been referred to is still sub judice and under consideration and I therefore would say nothing about it, except that I hope it will be dealt with to the satisfaction of all concerned.
Before the General Election I initiated a debate on an Unstarred Question, on the paramountcy of British troops and the civil law in an exercise at Heathrow. At all times from the 17th century onwards the civil power has been paramount, and that must remain so. The difficulty in Ireland is that the troops there are subordinate to the Common 711 Law, to the civil power, and the civil power is not affected. I am going on to point out that this should have been thought of before the troops were put in. I think Mr. Callaghan missed one of the chances. What should have happened at the moment when the troops were put in was the suspension of Stormont. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, should have been sent on leave. It was at that moment that the great chance came, and it was missed. I think again that Mr. Heath boxed it, as he boxed everything else, when he called an election in Northern Ireland and put paid to any chances of Mr. Faulkner's succeeding.
I have considerable respect for the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, but would he include in his reading list the history of S.O.E., published I believe by the Stationery Office, and read what the Germans tried to do in Northern France. No holds were barred so far as they were concerned because they had behind them the S.S. and the concentration camp, torture and all that went with it. They did everything that has been called for tonight. They had their personal passports; they had the road blocks; the concentration camps. Oh. yes, the Generalissimo is in command. They took all the measures for complete suspension of every civilised right. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, has called for. This is roughly what we did in South Africa, but there was a harvest to be reaped. It is reaped in terms of the Nationalist Party and apartheid, which spreads from the natural stupidity of the Conservative Party.
§ LORD WIGG
Oh yes. The noble Lord is the odd exception, but I refer to the rest of them—highly civilised men but always stupid, never being able to see that power does not necessarily belong where it seems to belong. That is the hallmark of a Tory. He always thinks that power should be where it seems to be; and he is so often wrong.
I happen to have served in Ireland a long time ago, nearly fifty years ago. And everything that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, would have done was done by the Black and Tans. How many troops were there? Seventy thousand. How many men did Michael 712 Collins command when the settlement was reached? Twenty-seven. Twenty-seven determined men held up 70,000 British troops, plus the Black and Tans, recruited at very high rates of pay. They raped; they pillaged; they roadblocked; they did just what the hell they liked. And they created such hatred for Britain and for the British troops and for all that Britain stands for—the heart of the troubles in Northern Ireland to-day. Whatever you do or do not do, you are going to have to answer at the bar of world opinion; and if that does not judge you, you are then going to have to answer at the bar of history. You can sow, but what you sow you will reap.
Unfortunately, my reading of the situation is that in Ireland the extremist always wins, just as in the 1920s a settlement came about between Michael Collins on the one hand and the arch-Conservative, Lord Birkenhead, on the other. I do not know whether this is true—I have heard it so often, but perhaps some of those who are younger than me have never heard it—but it is said of Lord Birkenhead that when he signed he said, "I am signing my political death warrant", and that Michael Collins said,"And I am signing my death warrant". And he was dead within six weeks.
§ LORD WIGG
That fact needs to be remembered. I do not understand the utterances of the political leaders of both Parties who say that they will not talk to the extremist. I would. To-night we have heard from the Benches opposite that all that matters is to save lives. All that matters to me is to get the British troops out of Northern Ireland. I should like, as a civilised being, to see the Irish problem satisfied. It can only he satisfied when the extremists of both parties sit round the table together and come to agreement. You cannot impose moderation; but that is what you are using the Army to do, and I protest. We tried it in Malaya, but in very different circumstances. There was an open frontier. There was the infiltration of the Communists from the North. If the Chinese Government had determined that a different conclusion should have been reached in Malaya, we should not 713 have won. We won in Malaya because of our Armed Forces and the determination of Field Marshal Templer. All those things came about there. But they do not exist in Northern Ireland.
What, therefore, would I do? I would face the facts. I am not prepared to let the British Army be whittled away through the falling-off of its recruitment campaigns. I would say to the people of Northern Ireland, "You have got until June 1, 1975, to settle your differences. We cannot settle them for you. If, however, by June 1, 1975"—that is not necessarily an arbitrary date; we can make it six months, or a year, or three years later—"you have not settled, then the British troops are coming out of Northern Ireland". If you do not do that—and it is a long enough delay—there will not be any British troops to send to Northern Ireland, because you will not have an army. That is the basic fact. The British Army is being destroyed through being asked to carry out a task that is impossible.
It has been said in this debate that soldiers are not policemen. They are not, and they cannot do a policeman's job. That is why the Wehrmacht failed in Northern France; that is why the Wehrmacht failed throughout Europe. A soldier cannot do a policeman's job because he is not trained to do it; his is a different sort of job. If, though, you turn round and say that the Army is coming out by a given date then it is for the civil authority, the authorities in Northern Ireland or the authorities here, to build up what is required. You require a gendarmerie that is there on a continuous basis and that does not move by units. They would be trained for that particular job. That seems to me to be the utter reality of the situation. It seems to me that in the long run there is no other possibility at all. It is like trying to grow sweet peas at the North Pole to imagine that there is any possibility of reaching a political solution through the use of military methods. No military methods can themselves last in the long run. That is the whole history of the modern world.
The other solution is not to wait as long as six months, or a year, or eighteen months, or three years, or whatever the period happens to be, but to turn round and say—I believe that the people of this country are already beginning to say it, 714 and I agree here with the noble Lord who spoke immediately before me—"Well, we will opt out. We will hand the problem over". So many of my friends in the Labour Party always want to hand their problems over to UNo—perhaps not so much to-day as before the war, when they were all for passing resolutions to hand problems over to the League of Nations. They say, "Let us have a mixed force there; let us have the Russians there and the Americans there. Let them come in and try to solve it". But it cannot be solved by British troops, and I, for one, am not prepared to go on being dumb on this particular issue, because of my service in the Army. I can never repay, except by raising my voice on occasions like this, the debt of gratitude which I owe to my service in the Regular Forces. I served in the ranks. It is very commonplace to ask what I should like Ito do if things were different and if I could start again. The answer is that I would do it all over again, and that is why I speak to-night.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ LORD BELSTEAD
My Lords, the Question which is put to the Government by my noble friend Viscount Brooke-borough raises issues which are literally a matter of life and death to the people of Northern Ireland. It is partly because of this that the debate this evening has claimed a considerable list of speakers—not least my noble friend himself and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, both of whom on many occasions come over, at not a little inconvenience to themselves, to take part in the debates in this House. And, of course, in the debate we have had a notable maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton.
My Lords, the noble Lord set himself the task of trying to state what the problem is, and his wide experience has enabled him also in his speech to put several telling questions. However, on one point I would, with respect, differ from the noble Lord, Lord Grey asserted that it is almost impossible to say anything upon this subject without provoking somebody, or even offending everybody. I do not think that that applied to the noble Lord in his speech this evening. During his service in Northern Ireland, the noble Lord, Lord Grey, and his wife, attracted, I know, widespread friendship because of their obvious concern for the life of the Province, and I know that subsequently 715 at a variety of functions there has been ample evidence that the noble Lord never forgets his friends and that the people of Northern Ireland do not forget him. It has surely been wholly right that he should have spoken as he has done today, and I know that the House will wish that the noble Lord will take part in our debates again without too long an interval.
My Lords, because the Security Forces are combating the terrorism within the boundaries of the United Kingdom it is, I think, inconceivable that the reply of the Government this evening can be in the affirmative; and surely this will continue to be the case until the Security Forces receive their just reward for their tenacity by seeing peace return to Northern Ireland. At the same time, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, may be able to give the House some information about some of the successes of the Security Forces.
My Lords, I realise that the picture is complex. I do not live in Northern Ireland, and I accept what my noble friend Viscount Brookeborough has said, that recently there has undoubtedly been a tragic escalation of violence there. But it appears to me that violence in the Province habitually tends to ebb and flow as terrorists seek to evade the vigilance of the Army and the Police. If I am right it is, I know, cold comfort for a shop owner in, for instance, the Border area to know that violence in his town has suddenly increased because terrorists are finding the pace too hot elsewhere. But what I think is important, none the less, is that when possible the initiative should lie with the forces of law and order and should be seen to do so. Of course the importance of the initiative is clearly demonstrated when arrests of key men are made, such as the re-arrest of Ivor Bell some 10 days ago.
But the recent current level of violence is bound to provoke the reaction which has come from all Members of this House: that every possible support must be afforded to the Security Forces in their difficult task. May I therefore put one or two questions about the R.U.C., the U.D.R. and the Army? On April 4 in another place, in Answer to a Parliamentary Question, the Minister of State gave figures for the strength of the Royal Ulster Constabulary since 1971. I wonder 716 Whether the Government can indicate how the present strength of the R.U.C. matches up to the target strengths? I believe I am right in saying that recruitment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary is encouraging, but entrants to full-time service are below target figures. If I am right in this, it is vital that new recruitment plans, also announced by the Secretary of State in the House of Commons on April 4, should be successful. Let us face the fact that when a settled peace can be achieved, then upon the police will depend the day-to-day standards of law and order; and for this to be achieved the R.U.C. must surely attract support from the whole community in Northern Ireland.
I hope that the Government will consider very carefully the constructive suggestion of my noble friend Lord Brooke-borough when he spoke about the R.U.C. Reserve. I hope that the new nonresidential cadet scheme will attract not merely recruits but Roman Catholic recruits as well. I am sure it is of the utmost importance that all sections of political life in the Province should combine to plan the policing for the future.
Paragraph 17 of the Sunningdale Communique foreshadowed the formation of an all-Party committee from the Assembly to examine how best to introduce effective policing throughout Northern Ireland. Can the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, tell us how far the formation of this committee has proceeded, and will members of the United Ulster Unionist Council form part of this committee? After all, my Lords, in company with others—and, I think it is fair to say, probably feeling even more deeply than many other people—members of the D.U.P., the V.U.P. and the official Unionist Parties have every reason to want to be included in the making of plans for the future of the R.U.C. I very much hope that when the Order for the reconstitution of the police authority is laid before Parliament, the members of all Assembly Parties will be included among the Assembly element on the reconstituted authority.
Because the only predictable aspect of the violence in Northern Ireland is the unpredictable, the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment assumes increasing importance; and I think this even more after having listened to those who really 717 know, like the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, and my noble friends who are seated behind me. This is because the local knowledge and involvement of all men and women in the Province is essential for the defeat of terrorism, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Brookeborough that it was particularly tragic to read of the recent attack on the U.D.R. headquarters at Clogher and the shooting of Mrs. Eva Martin in that attack, because it is women like Mrs. Martin who, among their other duties, have been saving lives and protecting property by participating in the long hours of searching that are so often a part of life in Ulster to-day.
The noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, referred to the dilemma which lies between the recruitment needs of the U.D.R. on the one hand, and the heavy demands which are made by U.D.R. duties on the other; and I suppose there is absolutely no doubt that, although they cause difficulties, the hours of night patrol, week-end duty and training which U.D.R. volunteers carry out are none the less vital to security in Northern Ireland. So may I add my voice to that of the noble Lord and also to that of my noble friend Lord Brookeborough, and ask how the Government see the recruiting situation for the Ulster Defence Regiment to-day? My noble friend Lord Brookeborough has, in fact, asked the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, some specific questions on points in this area, but I think the House is anxious to know the view of the Government about recruitment to this vital force.
Finally, there is, of course, the role of the Armed Forces. Nearly five years of continuous service at full stretch and—as my noble friend Lord Monckton of Brenchley has said—many long hours of duty have accustomed our soldiers to the more disagreeable aspects of service in Northern Ireland: to the accusations when restraint is interpreted as "appeasement" and when firmness in the face of danger is dubbed "harassment"; to the testing period which some communities see fit to accord to a newly arrived unit; to the grim realities of intimidation, so that in some areas a word of thanks to the Army is rarely risked for fear of a bullet through the legs or in the back. Yet when the Secretary of State for Defence recently made some remarks 718 which were interpreted as a threat to withdraw troops, it swiftly became clear that the role of the British Army in Northern Ireland is widely accepted for what it truly is—a genuine attempt in the most adverse circumstances to make the best of a bad job.
So I ask the same question that distinguished Members of the House have asked this evening—what can be done to finish the job? I think it is natural that we should seek solutions, but in seeking them let us remember that if a recent poll is to be believed nearly 70 per cent. of the population support the concept of the sharing of power, and I believe that after nearly five years of war weariness there is a deep desire in Ulster to give the new Executive a chance to succeed. The appalling level of violence, of which my noble friends have spoken at first-hand to-day, is now perpetuated by gangs of utterly ruthless men and women. My own impression (for what is is worth) has always been that the soldiers on the ground appreciate that the prime need is to prize apart any bond of sympathy which may exist between terrorists operating in an area and the local population, and in this the Army has met with a success which I doubt that any other military force in the world could have achieved.
Limited though this policy is, by pursuing it the Army has made it possible for the slogan, "Ulster is still in business" to reflect the really extraordinary industrial and commercial success of the Province during recent years. In seeking solutions, therefore, let us acknowledge what has been achieved; and, as the noble Lord, Lord Grey, said, let us acknowledge the work of reconciliation which the understandable, but regrettable, pressures of time on the media do not always allow us to hear about frequently enough. Let us also recognise that if there were to be indiscriminate military action—which there has never been in our time in Northern Ireland—it would endanger the economic climate of the Province, which would have the very gravest consequences—not only economic, but social. Of course there is the other supposed solution of sudden, precipitate, total withdrawal. As the noble Lord, Lord Grey, and my noble friend Lord Salisbury have declared, this is no solution. It would feed the aspirations of the I.R.A. and, inevitably, it would play upon the natural 719 fears of the majority, and of many Roman Catholics as well. In seeking new initiatives, the operations of the Security Forces must surely be supported by firmness in adhering to existing policies.
The previous Government pledged themselves to end detention; in the words of the Sunningdale Agreement, "as soon as the security situation permits". My right honourable friend the former Secretary of State demonstrated his good faith by making some 65 releases at Christmas, but that was not an indication of an open-ended commitment. My right honourable friend subsequently said that he bears the responsibility for those releases, and that responsibility requires me now to ask the Government: what evidence exists of any of those released returning to terrorism? Surely it must be in the light of such evidence that the timing of future policy should be decided.
My Lords, I believe that peace will return to Northern Ireland only when the terrorists cease to find a refuge on either side of the Border. The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and others have referred to this view. The prime hope of the Sunningdale Agreement was that the Law Enforcement Commission would agree really effective means of dealing with the terrorists, whether apprehended in the North or in the South. An initiative could just emerge from the recommendations of Lord Justice Scarman and his Committee. I must say that I welcome the opportunity which has been provided to-day by my noble friend's Question to urge swift publication of the Report of the Law Enforcement Commission.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE)
My Lords, this is not a very easy Question to answer. It is the custom in this House for an Unstarred Question to be brief, for there to be perhaps one intervention, a brief reply, and for the subject to be closely confined to one topic which is examined in depth. I know that this is what the noble Viscount Lord Brookeborough, wanted to do. I should like to say at once that he and other speakers have been far more successful in doing this than I thought possible because, quite seriously, we have 720 spent the last two hours talking about the subject of the Question, which is very unusual in this House and still more unusual elsewhere.
My Lords, I think I must begin my reply by defining the role of the Security Forces. Their role is to maintain law and order. The Army is in Northern Ireland to support the police and the civil powers in maintaining the fabric of society in a part of the United Kingdom. This was neatly put in The Times a couple of days ago, as follows:Its realistic target has been to lower the level of violence and then contain it so that a reasonably normal life can carry on in the Province while politicians sort out the longterm answer".In spite of what has been said tonight. I do not feel the least embarrassed in saying that that is still the Government's objective. It was the objective of the last Government, and it is ours.
One must add here that the course we hope to see pursued is that of Sunning-dale. It is interesting that only two speakers mentioned it—the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley. The bipartisan policy here is not to give up hope of a political solution while Sunning-dale is floating. Sunningdalc is not sunk yet. My business as a junior Minister is to try to see that it does float, and I know also that the business of my seniors and the entire apparatus of the Northern Ireland Office is to try to do the same. I do not have to explain to your Lordships because we are not to-night discussing general politics, but if Sunningdale did float, it would be a very much better answer than that of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, on the one hand, or of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, on the other. If it does not float, of course, we shall have to think again.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me, I took the words out of the mouth of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, when I said that we were very pleased about Sunningdale and hoped it would succeed, but, in his words, that was not likely.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, I accept that. What I do not accept is the prophecy of the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, at this stage. I think he will be proved wrong, although no one can express certitude; 721 it is a tricky business. That is what we are trying to do and will go on trying to do.
My Lords, having said that, your Lordships will see that my position is not very easy. A great many of the things which have been said which are critical of the present situation are perfectly true. To start with, the description of the situation as an extremely unhappy one is true, of course. The position of our troops there is extremely difficult. I agree absolutely with what the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, said about their morale. It is absolutely at the top. It is astonishing. One must say that if the turnabout that they have to experience in Northern Ireland can be spaced out a little further, this will be a stimulus and not a detraction from recruiting. I think this is certainly the view of the G.O.C. and the Secretary of State for Defence. I hope it is true. The dilemma is always to judge the most effective level of force and activity which will maintain selective pressure on the terrorists, and which will gain the support of all the communities while not interfering unduly with the life of the people.
My Lords, I should like to say, because some of the things the noble Lord said referred to this, how glad we were that the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton, found time from a life of public service to come here at last and make his maiden speech. It was extremely impressive. If I may say so, it was of a proper length and it was not controversial in any way that affects any of us here. We hope to hear a great deal more from the noble Lord. One of the points he made which struck me was that there are very many good people and very few evil people in Northern Ireland. This is true. This is really the ground on which we are working—not, at the moment, with conspicuous success. Of course, the Army fights at a great disadvantage because it must be subject to the law. It is their safeguard. Probably to his surprise, I shall here agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. There is no question whatever about the Army in a civilian role, such as it might be anywhere else. If a sergeant shoots someone in the course of duty, he is subject to the civil law. This is the law of the land and the law of Northern Ireland. Whethet the circumstances are such that it ought 722 to be altered is a question which I shall not deal with because, as the noble Lord said, the matter is sub judice. It is an awkward situation, but the law is very clear. The terrorists are not subject to any law. They give themselves military titles, regard themselves as soldiers at war, and that makes things easier. Their kind of war disregards all the niceties of law and order and the requirements of the civil administration. They are subject to no restrictions.
My Lords, I shall not detail the indiscriminate and very beastly murders of which we all know, but it might be worth remarking that since January 1 there have been 57 "knee-cappings" in Northern Ireland. As your Lordships may know, "knee-capping" is when you put a pistol behind the knee and shoot from behind the knee-cap. It is one of the most painful wounds one can have, and the victim is lame for life. It is not yet quite so bad as the Capone days, when they put a man in a petrol bath and lit it. It is a bit better than that, but getting jolly near it. We are dealing with something very nasty, and let there be no mistake about that.
The Army has to be flexible. In the last month or two, as one or two noble Lords have mentioned, there has been an increase in incidents of terrorism, but the general level of violence (although it does not seem like it to me) is less that it was a year ago. In the first four months of this year, there have been 1,247 shooting incidents. During the same period last year there were twice as many-2,649. So at least the shooting is halved. This is not high, although it is still an appalling number. One of the results of troops being more effective in relation to shooting is that the terrorists have turned to bombs, where we have achieved no reduction. There has been an increase of nine, but only nine, bombing incidents, from 299 to 308 in the same period; so that the increase in bombing is not great. But they find new ways of doing these things all the time. As your Lordships know, the proxy bomb is a new idea and it is extremely difficult to deal with.
The soldiers have taken on this dreadful job of protecting the innocent majority with tremendous courage, and I think all of us here and in the whole nation cannot too often say—and everybody has 723 said it to-night—how grateful we are to them and what a difficult job we think they have to do. I should like here to stress the fact that I believe it really is a majority—this again is a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grey—of the Northern Ireland population who want to be protected and who accept the role of the Army with gratitude. The soldiers have been subjected to grievous provocation and serious loss and injuries but they have stood up to these dangers without reacting violently in a way that they should not, except on one or two very rare occasions which must happen everywhere.
Because of the feeling that so many noble Lords have expressed, that this cannot go on forever in exactly this form, the Secretary of State called for a security review last month into the role of the Army in the towns, in the rural areas and on the Border, and this review is going ahead. It is, I think, nearing completion, together with the Ministry of Defence, and clearly nothing I say must anticipate its conclusions. In the meantime, the Secretary of State announced that there would be some reductions. The first reduction is the withdrawal of one unit, which will come from the Londonderry area. This is due quite soon, if I remember rightly. Whether and when it will be possible to make any further reductions remains for consideration, but we must aim—I think various noble Lords made this point—at the minimum number of troops there which the needs of the situation require and combine that with the maximum degree of flexibility and speed in response to change.
§ VISCOUNT BROOKEBOROUGH
My Lords, would the noble Lord give way? If this reduction in troops is going to occur in Londonderry, it must, therefore, be that their role is being replaced by other forces. Who is replacing them, and what training have they been given to make them suitable for that role?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, the R.U.C. are increasing their numbers in Londonderry. The chief constable is content that he can gradually ease forward and do more and more in the difficult areas, of which we know there are about three. We are satisfied that this makes sense. These things cannot be done at once; they have to be 724 worked in slowly. A great deal of notice has been given. Preparations are being made. There will be difficulties, but we think this will work.
Noble Lords will remember that not long ago, just before Easter, a special operation was mounted which was extremely successful. There had been an appalling weekend of bombing and the spearhead unit which is always in reserve in England was brought over and had three or four great successes in actually finding the materials of major car bombs on the way up. That is the kind of policy that we think will have to be pursued. It can be done as often as necessary. As I said before, the lower level—provided it is a marginally lower level; and that is all that is suggested—of troops will make for a much more satisfied body of troops there, because the tour of duty will not come round so often, and I think to professional soldiers the stimulus of an active service area from time to time is probably not unacceptable.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, it is a form of words; perhaps I used the wrong ones. One is invariably misunderstood by somebody, as somebody has said already, and I choose my words with care. But I hope that the Prime Minister's Statement on April 25, that the Army will stay in Northern Ireland in whatever strength the fulfilment of its task requires, is clear enough for anyone to understand. The reduction I have already referred to is quite small, and it is absurd that every time a marginal change of this kind is made the cry should go up that the Army is pulling out. My Lords, it is not. The Government do not accept the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, at this stage, that a date should be given. We are not giving a date. We are saying that it will stay there as long as the situation demands it.
Of course, this has to be combined with a gradual increase in the role of the police, and this involves recruitment. There are great problems about this, but 725 great efforts are being made. It involves questions of pay for the Army and the R.U.C., and indeed the U.D.R. Unfortunately—perhaps fortunately for me—all these matters are under review at the moment and I really cannot say anything. But I will say that the Secretary of State for Defence is speaking on Monday in another place; I think he will have something to say about the Army side of the question and there is a clear linkage even if not an actual one between the two sides. The real trouble is that the community must accept that the Forces are trying to restore law and order on their behalf.
There still are, as noble Lords have said, areas where the police are not welcome and where, in fact, they get shot at if they go. These are getting fewer in number, and the first place that we are trying to ease into is Londonderry. There are other places where at the moment the Army must stay. But there are things, I think, which the people themselves can do. Many noble Lords have asked for more recruitment for the R.U.C. and the R.U.C. Reserve. I feel that every able-bodied man and woman should ask themselves very carefully why they should not join rather than leave the job to their neighbours.
The difficulty is partly sectarian, as we all know. The proportion of Catholics has dropped over the last four or five years from quite a high figure to quite a low one. I would rather not quote figures because I do not have them written down, but I think the proportion is between 4 and 8 per cent. now and it used to be something like 20 per cent. This is a very serious situation and one of the reasons why things are not going to get better without some kind of démarche between the quarrelling parties. In the end you will have to have it. The shopkeepers and others can do a good deal more; we are urging them to do a good deal more, and we are threatening to dock compensation if they do not do a good deal more to protect themselves both by searches and by having detectives and people about and by protection of various kinds. This has to be done. It is really impossible for the Army to deal with the girl who brings an incendiary bomb in a cigarette case into a place like Woolworths or the equivalent. It is not on. It has to be done by the people themselves.
726 There have been so many questions asked that, as this is an Unstarred Question and I have already been on my feet longer than I intended, I have notes of the points that various noble Lords made and it would probably be better if I wrote to them, rather than try to deal with them now. The most formidable proposals were made by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and I think that they were formidably contradicted by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. I do not think that I shall join in that controversy. We do not feel that we have reached the stage of either Lord Pourne's solution or Lord Wigg's solution. I hope we never do, but, doubtless, if we do these matters will be seriously considered.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, will the Minister give way for a moment? May I read into his answer that the British Government are content to go ahead with the present system?
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, the noble Lord can read exactly that into the present answer. While we are trying to produce a political settlement by means of Sunningdale, that is our policy and there is no variation from it. In the immediate future, this is the hope which we hold in front of ourselves. Irish politics are so tremendously interwoven, that there really is no doubt that if you could get Sunningdale (which I am not saying will be easy) what would follow from that would be the kinds of things for which noble Lords were asking. For example, at the moment you cannot get the S.D.L.P. to co-operate with the police liaison committees, until the police authority is set up in the South as a result of Sunningdale. Everything hangs on everything else.
I beg noble Lords, who I know are suspicious of Sunningdale and some of its implications, not to give away this—I must not say "last chance" but, at any rate, late chance without being very sure that their objection to, for example, the Council of Ireland is really worth dying for, if we could get the kind of co-operation from the Catholic local population without which this problem could never be solved. I and my colleagues feel deeply about this aspect.
I believe that there has to be a bit of give; I see terribly little of it, but there 727 has to be some. That is what we are hoping for. These matters are all tied up one with another, but I do not think there is any reason to despair. A number of suggestions have been made tonight which will be looked at very closely. As your Lordships can imagine, most of them—such as identity cards and curfews—are always in everybody's mind as a possibility in certain situations, but at the moment they have not been thought worth while.
Co-operation on the Border is clearly most important, and we are all working for it. As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the Army's role is to contain the violence, and it is certainly doing that. Some noble Lords said that the violence was increasing; that is not the position overall. There has been a local increase, but it is not increasing as a graph. The Army's role is to contain violence while the long-term solution is being sought. The Army is doing this, and it will go on doing it for as long as may be necessary.