HL Deb 22 May 1974 vol 351 cc1451-3

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House I will repeat a further Statement which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made in another place this afternoon. He said:

"I will, with permission, make a brief Statement on the situation in Northern Ireland in view of the involvement of further troops. The Government repeated last night that they will continue with their duty of preserving the life of Northern Ireland and helping to maintain essential services. They will not be intimidated or blackmailed into departing from the Constitution Act or into negotiation with the Ulster Workers' Council, nor will they be diverted from their avowed intention of proceeding with the Sunningdale Agreement which left a number of matters for further discussion in the context of the Sunningdale package as a whole.

"The House will wish to know the present situation. Security operations have been mounted to achieve important and specific objectives. Yesterday, some of the major access roads into Belfast were re-opened and they have been kept open. Last night and to-day road blocks were removed in a number of areas, including the Village, Sandy Row, Donegal Road, East Belfast, Shankill and most of North Belfast. The operation was completed without serious incident. A number of Protestant estates are still sealed off and some roads are blocked in the Province. In some areas blocks are put back shortly after they have been taken down. The Security Forces' operations, which are still continuing, have had a marked effect. More people are at work in the centre of Belfast and more shops are open. Further troops are being made available.

"The effects of the strike are serious. Great efforts have been made by the Northern Ireland Executive and the public authorities in the Province, with the assistance of Her Majesty's Government, to maintain essential services and supplies. The strike hits mainly at the ordinary people of the Province and hardship cannot be avoided until it stops. I will keep the House informed of further developments."

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, from these Benches we would express our gratitude to the noble Lord for making a second Statement on Northern Ireland in a period of three days. In particular we should like to welcome the news that certain barricades in Belfast have been removed and, on behalf of my noble friends, to express support for the way in which once again the Security Forces have achieved certain objectives.

My Lords, when the noble Lord made his Statement on Monday I think that all who commented in this House expressed support for the Government's policy in the face of industrial action accompanied by intimidation, and we do not now depart from that. If, however, I may make just one point, the reason for this strike, organised by the Ulster Workers' Council, is, I deeply believe, misconceived and yet at the same time the Statement which the noble Lord has just made shows that serious consideration must continue to be given now, immediately, to this very serious situation, if only because the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are going through a really terrible time, particularly if they live in Belfast.

I know that it is not going to help the Government if I ask questions now. Therefore all that I will do is to say that from these Benches we will study the news very carefully in the next few days and hope that Northern Ireland will see its way clear through this very difficult time.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord very much indeed for repeating the Statement. I welcome the statement that the Government are not going to be intimidated or blackmailed. I think that this will have support from all quarters of the House. There is also full backing from these Benches for proceeding with the implementation of Sunningdale, in so far as we can. I should like to conclude by condemning this senseless strike which can achieve nothing constructive. I only hope that better sense will prevail in the coming days, not weeks.


My Lords, I am very grateful for the support which noble Lords have given from the Front Benches opposite and, I feel, from the House as a whole. I think that this will be a comfort to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in the difficult times which he has in front of him.