HL Deb 14 February 1980 vol 405 cc415-72

7.50 p.m.

Lord DUNLEATH rose to call attention to the security situation in Northern Ireland; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper. First, I should like to say a few words about the background to the situation. The vast majority of people from all sides of the community in Northern Ireland are outraged, embittered, and bewildered by the fact that terrorism has continued for so long in the Province. Those of us who joined the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Police Reserve in the early years of the last decade thought that the considerable inconvenience, and indeed risk, were worth the trouble because we felt that if we all put our shoulder to the wheel, the problem would be solved within a couple or three years. In the event this has not been the case.

The ordinary man in Northern Ireland is convinced that there must be a solution, if only someone in authority had the vision to be able to identify it and the determination with which to implement it. Therefore, politicians who aspire to an easy round of applause can achieve that with no difficulty by advocating apparently simple solutions, such as the reintroduction of capital punishment or the reintroduction of internment. I was for some years chairman of the Alliance Party's Security Committee and we discussed the security situation many times. I am convinced that there is no single, simple solution. I should perhaps add in passing that I resigned from the Alliance Party through no disagreement over policy or no clash of personalities, but for business reasons.

On the subject of capital punishment, whenever an atrocity has been perpetrated I have found myself very tempted to advocate reintroduction of capital punishment. But on reflection I am convinced that it would be counter-productive, because in my view the only way that capital punishment can provide a real deterrent is for the convicted terrorist to be given a summary trial and then executed first thing next morning. If we are to adhere to our fundamental principles of British justice, which I support, the entire appeal process has to be followed through, and the lapse of time that inevitably is entailed means that the colleagues of the convict have every opportunity not only to stir up public opinion, but even to take hostages. Those hostages can well be prominent public people who have no connection with the security forces or with any political organisation.

I may say, with great sorrow, that I wrote the sentence I have just delivered before a prominent Belfast public businessman had been kidnapped, mutilated and, I am told, had both his hands cut off, though I cannot substantiate that, and then murdered, his body later being found lying by the side of a road. That is the sort of thing we are up against.

So far as internment is concerned, we in the Alliance Party advised against it when it was first suggested in 1970, and indeed when it was introduced in 1971 it turned out to be counter-productive. Reintroduction now would certainly rally support for the Provisional IRA, and almost certainly would once again bring out on to the streets of West Belfast women banging bin lids on the pavement any time a security forces' patrol came in sight.

So, to try to be constructive, what possible courses of action can we consider? I shall try to float a few ideas for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and if the other noble Lords who have been good enough to put down their names to speak in the debate have better ideas, no one will be more delighted than I am to hear them.

On the subject of policing, in the 1960s the decision was made by the then Minister of Home Affairs to close quite a number of local police stations with a view to district centralisation and rationalisation, with more emphasis on mobile patrols. But in the event if we want normality restored, I think that the man on the beat—who is familiar with the locality, knows the residents and can spot immediately anything that might look irregular—is the answer, although I am sorry to say that the mobile patrols, with the Land Rovers, police, and soldiers with guns in their hands will be inevitable for quite some time.

I am aware that steps have been taken to tighten up control of police interrogation procedures and to improve the complaints procedure. This I welcome, because I think it is in the interests of the security forces themselves that any mud which may be slung at them in the form of allegations of impropriety should not stick.

So far as the law is concerned, I continue to feel that the absolute right of silence on the part of a suspect should be abolished. Indeed, I understand that in the Republic of Ireland—I learnt this only the day before yesterday—the law has been modified at least to limit the right of silence. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was good enough to write to me some time before I heard that, explaining what would be the legal complications of modifying the law on this matter in the United Kingdom. It is a matter of importance because the experienced terrorist knows all the tricks of the trade. Furthermore, I believe that the law relating to conspiracy should be implemented, or if necessary widened, so that not only those who have been engaged in acts of terrorism, but also those who are members of proscribed organisations, or who have been involved in the organisation of terrorism, should be able to have charges preferred against them.

Next, with the remission that is presently available I honestly feel that heavier sentences ought to be given in the case of terrorist crimes, because already, after only 10 or 11 years, there are at large unrepentant terrorists who committed quite serious crimes in the last decade. They are out again, and are dining out publicly on their alleged horrific experiences in the H blocks. Moving on to that point, I salute the Government for having refused, and stood firm against making, any concession towards the protesters in the H blocks, who have entirely brought upon themselves the disgusting conditions of squalor in which they are living. I similarly salute them for having refused to give any hint or indication that at any time they would entertain the idea of any amnesty towards criminals who have been convicted in the courts and properly sentenced. I sincerely hope that Her Majesty's Government's nerve will hold so far as this one is concerned.

My Lords, on the subject of cross-border security, I am afraid it is clear that terrorists are still able to bring explosives, weapons and ammunition into the North of Ireland from the South without much difficulty. Similarly, it would seem that when they have perpetrated a crime in the North they are able to escape to the South and take refuge there without great impediment. Indeed, in my own experience, security and Customs checks are now very much less noticeable than they were 10 or 15 years ago. The subject of sealing off the border has been discussed many times, and the main answer against it usually is the number of security force personnel who would be tied up in so doing, thus leaving other sensitive areas unprotected.

An interesting piece of information which came my way recently is that when there was trouble in Cyprus and there were terrorist incursions between the Greek and Turkish communities, the border was sealed off by being mined. The border there is somewhat shorter than it is in Northern Ireland—I think about 180 miles, or something like that; I have never been there—but it is not all that much shorter; and I understand that conditions there are different in so far as, in Cyprus, the border runs through mountainous territory where there is not a great deal of civilian traffic and no very intensive farming activities. In Northern Ireland, however, there are many farms, including those of certain noble Lords in the House this evening, which straddle the border, and this would cause a difficulty. What I am respectfully suggesting to your Lordships is that consideration should be given by Her Majesty's Government to drawing, not a new political border but a security line, which would circumvent those farms which actually straddle the border, and, by mining it, reduce the number of access points to a relatively small number.

One has to bear in mind that crossing the land border is not the only way to get from the Republic of Ireland to the North, and therefore, obviously, security forces would have to be deployed in watching the civil airports, the harbours and convenient beaches. But perhaps (I am not saying this must be the case, but perhaps) if the border were thus sealed, sufficient security forces would be made available to do that, and it would make life more difficult for the terrorists. The really determined terrorist is going to get in anyway; but if you make it more difficult, at least that is a step in the right direction. What I have suggested is rather unrealistic, your Lordships may perhaps think, but what I am saying is that if the Government of the Republic of Ireland are sincere in their stated determination to eliminate terrorism, at least this is something which ought to be considered.

Indeed, both Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic have stated their determination to eradicate terrorism in the British Isles. In my view—and it has always been my view—extradition is the only clean and effective method of bringing criminals to justice, and I think that maximum pressure ought to be put on the Government of the Republic, particularly now that they have a new Prime Minister, Taoiseach, to get them to agree to such a treaty. The Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction Act never seems to have been used to much effect, and I am sorry to say that the climate of opinion in Northern Ireland is that neither Government have had the will or the determination to really make it work. If both Governments do have that determination to eliminate terrorism, I suggest that a joint security committee should be set up. This would be purely for the purposes of liaison between the Ministers and the commanders of the security forces on both sides of the border, so that efforts could be better co-ordinated. I envisage no political flavour whatever to such liaison, but rather that co-ordination in strategy to defeat terrorism should be improved.

It is quite some number of years now since I first suggested that each unit operating on either side of the border should have a liaison officer with a radio rear link, so that in the event of anything happening one unit could immediately alert the other. The way things are at the moment, I understand, if the British Army want to alert the Irish Army to something, the British Army have to contact the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Royal Ulster Constabulary then have to contact the police in the Republic, the Garda, and then the Garda have to contact the Irish Army. This delay can be absolutely crucial.

One example of this is that not so very long ago there was a terrorist incursion from the South and a serious crime involving, as far as I can remember, rockets was perpetrated in the North of Ireland. Not only did the terrorists then drive 15 miles to the border in a lorry, which is not the swiftest form of transport, but they also took time off to attack another target, involving a prison officer, before they got to the border; and yet they were able to do that without impediment. A couple of them were injured during the course of this expedition. That was bad luck, but that is an occupational hazard for that sort of activity. They therefore had to go to hospital, and they were questioned in hospital. But when the Northern Ireland Office requested extradition, the answer was, "No". They were not extradited. This is why I say that promptness of action is of the essence.

To summarise, my Lords, Lieutenant-General Sir Timothy Creasy, shortly after relinquishing his office as General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland, stated that given the public will and determination terrorism would be defeated. This, in my view, could be done in three ways. First, if the public on both sides of the community and both sides of the border are in support of the security forces and in support of the respective Governments, they will provide the information necessary to convict the terrorist criminals. Secondly, if civilians feel sufficiently strongly about the security of the Province, they ought to do something about it; they ought to join the part-time security forces, the UDR or the RUC reserve. I have little time for the public bar heroes who say what they would do to sort the thing out, but who, if you say to them, "Why don't you join the UDR?", say, "Well, it would not fit in with my work", or "It would not suit the family", "My wife would not like it", or something like that. But I have even less time for, and I positively despise, the saloon bar and lounge bar heroes who deplore the situation but say, "I play golf at the weekends", "I go out sailing", or something like that. They are the people I despise, and if they are serious in deploring the situation they ought to get off their backsides and do something about it. Personally, I had to resign from the UDR when I stood for the Northern Ireland Assembly in 1973, and would have rejoined since, were I medically fit so to do.

The third point, my Lords, is that public aspiration in the absence of a devolved Parliament must be channelled through its public representatives, who now are your Lordships' House, another place and, in particular, the Northern Ireland Office. The public wish to see an end to terrorism and the establishment of political stability in the Province. For years, we have been hearing Ministers on both sides of the water and on both sides of the border saying that their Governments were doing all that they could. None of us, I suppose, really always does all that could be done. At the end of the day, perhaps, the ordinary man is right in saying that there is a solution if it could be identified and if there were the will to implement it.

My Lords, I conclude by calling upon Her Majesty's Government to take decisive action to end this running sore which has cost over 2,000 lives, tens of thousands of injuries and millions of pounds of destroyed property. I am not competent to come up with an instant solution—I do not think there is an instant solution—and I am not competent to make authoritative recommendations because I do not have access to the necessary security information. But "where there's a will there's a way"; and if more positive action rather than a policy of containment were implemented and seen to be pursued, then I am convinced that the vast majority of the population from all sides of the community in Northern Ireland would back Her Majesty's Government and the security forces to get this burden of anarchic terrorism off our backs. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

8.11 p.m.


My Lords, once again we must thank the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for opening a debate on Northern Ireland and its problems and for doing it so ably. Among such a distinguished list of speakers with so much personal experience of the problems under discussion I shall only speak briefly, to put a Liberal view. At the moment, in general, we support the Government policy. We seek only to offer criticism that is constructive. I do not see any value in the maxim that the duty of an Opposition is to oppose, where opposition is considered a merit in itself.

There are three areas in which solutions need to be found and worked for at the same time: political, economic and social and security and law and order. On the first point, we would have tackled the political conference somewhat differently; but, none the less, we wish the Secretary of State all success with his plans. On the second point, the social, environmental and economic problems, these were considered only a few weeks ago and I will confine myself to a few remarks only. The more I read and hear about and see in the Province, the more I realise what a great deal must be done to bring conditions of life there up to the standard which would be considered barely tolerable on the mainland. Such a standard of environment coupled with a large proportion of unemployed and low income levels must be a fertile breeding ground for dissatisfaction, despair and trouble making. It is essential in facing up to the problems of security that maximum effort also should be exerted in this field.

The third point is our subject tonight, that of security. We are not happy with the rigours of the Emergency Powers Act, the suspension of habeas corpus and the limitations on personal freedom by the power granted for detention and interrogation. But at present we have to accept reluctantly that the alternative would be much worse; and the workings of this Act are, rightly, reviewed from time to time. The Army and the security forces have to maintain a very difficult balance. On the one hand, they have to take the necessary steps to prevent the success of the terrorists and, on the other hand, they must not go too far lest they provoke further unrest and merely add fuel to the flames that they are trying to put out.

A correspondent who is considered to be reliable told me that the young soldiers are supposed to behave with the restraint and self control, as she puts it, not of angels but of archangels, often in the face of deliberate "aggro". At the same time she says, frankly, that unless one has lived in areas where disturbances are frequent and the full forces of the Emergency Powers Act are rigidly applied, one cannot know the strains and stresses of life involved. I understand that some people seem to be interrogated time and time again for no apparent reason. The other day, I read of the IRA being referred to as "scum". This is probably a more common occurrence than I knew of; and I note seriously what the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, said about an atrocity recently committed.

While the acts of terrorism must be condemned in the strongest terms, I still, from the mainland, despite everything, say that these are people and success must lie in showing them also that a happier future lies in peace and reconciliation than in terror and the bomb. I feel that I must repeat what I have said on a former occasion in this House: that if one relies on our national Press, one gets a distorted view of life in the Province, with the emphasis on disaster and despair. It still comes to me as a surprise to read some accounts of the good things that go on there: of the holidays where children with very different backgrounds meet, mix and relax: and of the acts of courage and concern that all too often go unmentioned. I noticed in the Alliance newspaper, in its last edition, the statement that it is of vital importance to realise that the community as a whole is not in a state of turmoil. I submit that a great many people on the mainland get a very different impression.

Last summer I was included in an official parliamentary visit to the forces in Germany. The great majority of the men had been to Ireland, some on as many as nine tours of duty. Very few said that they did not think the Army was doing a vital job there. They did not enjoy the task but they asked of the public one thing: Give us your support. I look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Carver, has to say on this subject. I trust that those who know Northern Ireland well will not disagree with me when I speak of grounds for cautious optimism. Believe me, I am still aware of the painful price that has yet to be paid.

8.19 p.m.


My Lords, I am conscious that, given the late hour, it falls to me to set a good example in brevity to Back-Bench speakers. I will do my best to do so. Following on what the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, has said, I am conscious also, given the subject that we are debating and the time at which we are debating it, that it is important to recognise the amount we are leaving out of what we discuss—in particular, the economic problems and the political problems which the noble Lord mentioned. I also do not intend to touch on those; although I think that that, in many ways, makes our discussion a little artificial. What I wanted to talk about briefly were the powers available to the Security forces and, in particular, the Emergency Powers Act, with reference to some research work which has been done by three researchers from universities in the Republic of Ireland, Queen's University and the University of Bristol, Boyle, Hadden and Hillyard.

The particular value of this research, it seems to me, and the reason for drawing it to your Lordships' attention, is that the authors start off by discussing the different approaches which it is possible to take in formulating a security policy: the approaches adopted by British governments over the last 10 or 11 years and the approaches that have been suggested occasionally as those they ought to have adopted. The authors go on to make some particular suggestions for improvements in the Emergency Powers Act.

I am very conscious, particularly as a former Government Minister in Northern Ireland, that it is quite impossible to be other than in favour of and supportive of the security forces and the emergency legislation which is in existence. That is true for most of the people who live in Northern Ireland. Either one is for the security forces and the legislation under which they act, or one is against them. There is no happy middle ground where people can say: "That is all right, but it would be better if you did it that way; you can improve things if you do it another way". That is the great weakness under which Governments and many other people have to work in the circumstances in Northern Ireland and given the pressures which there are.

The authors of this particular study suggest that our understanding of the problems facing the security forces and the British Government, and the usefulness of various alternative approaches which have been suggested, would be greatly increased if we clarified the various possible approaches on which security policy is based. They mentioned three: the war model; the detention model; and the criminal court model. To take those briefly in turn, the war model approach, that this is a war which we are fighting, is the one adopted by the Provisional IRA, but not by successive British Governments.

Although this is occasionally urged on British Governments, it is worth those who do so bearing in mind that just because this is the approach adopted by the provisional IRA, it does not necessarily mean that it is the approach that would be most successful for the British Government to adopt. The consequences that would flow—besides, I am afraid, the suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, made of sealing off the border—would be wide-scale detention; shooting suspects on sight; the taking of hostages in civilian areas, and so on.

The British Government—quite rightly—have ruled out the possibility of adopting such an approach for a number of reasons; in particular, the number of deaths of innocent civilians that would inevitably result. Maybe another reason which I think in my own experience was not sufficiently recognised in Northern Ireland was the effect of international pressure on a British Government and the significance in particular of the views adopted by the United States, the United Nations, our partners in the European Community, and so on. The British Government are subjected to pressures from other Governments in the world we live in, and quite rightly so. The approach that a British Government would have to take if they started to fight a war against the Provisional IRA would make our position internationally untenable. There are a number of other very strong arguments aginst that particular approach. I think that it is worth mentioning that probably the Provisional IRA's greatest successes in terms of recruitment and propaganda, nationally and internationally, have been on those occasions when they have got the British Government to forget that they were not adopting the war model—for example, when they introduced internment and, in particular, the special category status.

Turning to the detention model which the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, mentioned, and on which I will not go into in any great detail, this was tried with fairly catastrophic results. It seems to me that the best argument against its reintroduction has been the substantial decline in the numbers of deaths and injuries that has occurred since that particular approach was abandoned. Frankly, I find it difficult to distinguish selective detention from the internment that was used between 1971 and 1975, which, in all the public pronouncements that were made about it, was intended to be selective in operation, and in practice was said to be so by all those who operated it. I do not see how calling something "selective detention" alters it from what has been tried, with catastrophic results, in the past.

The third model, the one adopted by this Government and previous governments, is the criminal justice approach. It is important to recognise that this has substantial disadvantages as well as, I suggest, substantial advantages. This approach involves the police finding evidence against individuals, that evidence being produced in open court with rules applying as to whether it is admissible or not, and with rules about the finding of guilt and so on. However, in those circumstances, some people who are guilty, who have committed crimes, will go free because there will be insufficient evidence or because the evidence presented is not of a type which the court feels it is safe to convict on. In some people's eyes that is a major disadvantage of adopting the criminal court approach.

There are major advantages: in particular, that mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, in his speech—the importance of gaining and increasing the respect and faith which the ordinary people in Northern Ireland in all communities have for the institutions of the State, for the police force, for the court system, the judiciary, and so on. As the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, said, if that is the approach which is being adopted—and it is being adopted, as I understand it, by this Government, as by the Government of which I was a Minister—it is vital that things should not be done which tend to reduce the confidence and the respect that people have for the courts, the police, and so on. If that is done, the very objective which this approach is attempting to achieve will be reduced and nullified.

My Lords, I am conscious of speaking for some length, and I do not wish to go on for too long. I commend the paper and, in particular, the specific recommendations which it makes for amending the Emergency Powers Act, not only to the Minister but to noble Lords in all parts of the House. The approach adopted by these authors on the basis of substantial research over a number of years, that the emergency powers—in other words the detraction from the criminal justice model, from the normal process of criminal justice—while justified in the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland, should be only as great as is absolutely necessary. If the detractions from that criminal justice model are greater than are necessary, then the objectives we are trying to achieve—greater confidence in the police, the courts and the institutions of the State—will not be achieved. The reverse will be achieved and the policy will not have the desired effect.

8.28 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for the opportunity to discuss the security situation in Northern Ireland once again. We have had, as he said, over 11 years of terrorism. We have had over 2,000 people dead. Many of them were members of the security forces; even more were perfectly ordinary civilians. Against this background of 11 years of terrorism, I am afraid that it is very unlikely that any of us tonight can make any suggestion that is going to bring about its immediate end. It is certainly an opportunity to emphasise through Her Majesty's Government how long this has been going on—and those of us who live there feel that it has been going on far too long—and to say again to Her Majesty's Government that if anything worth while can be put forward, the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are prepared to put up with almost any inconvenience to bring this thing quickly to an end. Having said that, it is true to say that of course the security situation is a great deal better than it was. I have come to this House on many occasions when there has been nothing but a stream of incidents reported on every local news, day after day. Now, thank goodness, those incidents are very much fewer; but unhappily those that take place are usually very much more lethal.

Having said that the situation is better, there are still some aspects about which I am worried. Before I speak about those I should like to make two points about things which I am certain should not be done. They have both already been touched upon and I make no apology for mentioning them again, because I feel very strongly on them both. The first is internment. Call it what you like, it will be only the start of further trouble if internment is brought in. When it came in in 1971, it provided the entire Catholic community with a cause, and I cannot see any reason to think that if it came in again today it would have any other effect. It is a popular thing to shout and that is about all, except that, undoubtedly, if it happened it would lead to more violence, more rioting, the drying-up of such information as comes, and, I am quite certain, the tying down of a great many more troops in the streets of Northern Ireland. Happily, I think the numbers so deployed have been declining lately.

Similarly, I feel equally strongly on the subject of capital punishment. It is a very simple thing to shout about, as the simple panacea for all evils in dealing with terrorism. But, again, without dwelling on it, there is absolutely no doubt at all that for every execution that might take place, there would simply be worse and more horrific reprisals.

I do not want anyone to think that in what I say in this debate—and indeed this applies to what any of us from Northern Ireland may say—I am seeking to be critical of the security forces—far from it. I think that all of us are immensely grateful for the great service that they have given to us over very many trying years, and we all wish only to see the time come in Northern Ireland when they can move about without risk.

But there are, obviously, a number of things that worry us. The first that I would mention is the problem of the border, and the ease with which terrorists can go across it in order to do what they want, and then go back again with apparent impunity. Only last week, some wretched farmer was shot down in County Fermanagh while in his tractor, three miles from the border. I understand that the terrorists are known to have come across the border, carried out the shooting and crossed back again. I know full well the enormous problems of the Northern Ireland border—its length and the huge number of crossing points there are—but it still seems to me that some more effective way should be found of preventing these incursions from taking place.

It seems to me, too, that if there really is goodwill towards us on the Republic side of the border, and a desire to stop terrorism, this is the moment when they should play a part in stopping these incursions. I know people will tell me that, of course, they are deployed all along the border, but the fact remains that there is very little evidence on the ground when one goes across it. If this alleged goodwill exists between the North and the South, and the South is willing to help, then this is their chance to do so.

Way back last autumn, following the murder of Lord Mountbatten and the massacre at Warren Point, various meetings took place at Downing Street between Her Majesty's Government and members of the Government of the Republic, out of which came assurances that there was going to be great co-operation. One had the feeling that a great many things would be better. Quite frankly, it all sounded splendid at the time, but there is no evidence of any sort or kind that anything has changed.

There is one other matter I should like to mention. It is, so to speak, a military point—the question of the UDR. I make no apology for the fact that I have mentioned it many times in this House, but I feel strongly about it. There are far too many murders of Ulster Defence Regiment men and, for that matter, of Royal Ulster Constabulary reserve men. It is all too easy, because many of them live in isolated farmhouses and many of them drive milk lorries or whatever it may be. It is extremely easy for ambushes to take place. I am still totally convinced that something should be done to change the mode of operation of the security forces, particularly in the country areas. I feel that they must be able to react much more quickly. They can do that only if they operate in smaller units than they do at present, and the leaders of those smaller units should have rather greater discretion, allowing them to take immediate action when an incident occurs in their area. I do not think that this is a matter which should be developed publicly, but I hope that in his reply the noble Lord, Lord Elton, may be able to touch upon the possibilities. Even if he does not feel free to say too much, perhaps he will at least see that some consideration is given to it.

The last point I want to make is about employment. It may seem that this has nothing to do with security, but, in my view, it has a great deal to do with it and could have a great deal more in the future. In Northern Ireland, we are in a situation where the unemployment figures are back at the height they were at in the old days of the 'thirties. They are more than twice what they were, certainly throughout my political life. I shall not suggest for one moment that this has anything to do with the troubles or the causes relevant to this debate. But the fact remains that young men, with nothing to do and without any future, will turn to crime and violence. You have only to look around the world at impoverished countries, to look at Spain, Italy, Turkey and many of the Central and South American States. Terrorism flourishes, and always flourishes, in countries where there is a shortage of pennies. It certainly seems to me that terrorism, nowadays, is not so much about any cause; it is simply a war between the "have-nots" and the "haves". For that reason, it is thriving in Northern Ireland, and it will thrive even more if the unemployment figures go on rising.

As I said, it is inevitable that terrorism will increase against a background of massive unemployment. It is all too easy, when people go about offering young men so much to shoot a policeman, offering them a cut of the takings if they go out and do a bank raid, and arranging and setting up many other similar acts of lawlessness. All I would say is that unemployment and lawlessness go hand in hand, in my mind, and much greater efforts ought to be made to provide work in Northern Ireland, even if it is contrary to Government policy in other parts of the United Kingdom. It would surely be better to spend more money in Northern Ireland, and thereby save a lot of soldiers' lives.

There are no simple answers to this problem. Very often, people in Northern Ireland come up to one and ask, "Why doesn't somebody tell the army to go in and finish it?" Then you look at them and say, "What do you mean? Where are the army to go into and, when they are there, what are they meant to do?" Well, they look at you rather nonplussed. It is not simple like that. That is, unfortunately, the problem. The problem is what to do, and I am afraid that it is going to be a long, slow business. But so long as the will remains to fight against it, then I am quite confident that it is going to have an end.


My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, may I ask him whether or not he thinks it would be wise to have what would I call very selective detention? I understand that there are one or two individuals who are known by the authorities to have committed a lot of murders but that it is very difficult to convict them under the processes of the law, because witnesses are intimidated. In that case, surely it would save a lot of innocent lives if we had what I would call very selective detention.


My Lords, what the noble Viscount says is perfectly true. There are people—"godfathers", if you like—directing many of the acts of violence, who manage to remain immune to the law. But personally I still take the view that whatever form of detention, internment, or call it what you like, is brought in, it will still provide once again a cause for the Catholic community. One would see violence on the streets again on exactly the same scale as it was in the early 1970s.

8.42 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords who have spoken I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for giving us this opportunity to discuss this very important subject—very important for all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland; very important for the United Kingdom; very important for our Army. In the calm, secluded atmosphere of your Lordships' House, it is difficult to appreciate the strain under which so many people in Northern Ireland live, particularly those who live near the border and who give of their time to contribute to the security of their fellow men, particularly part-time members of the UDR and of the RUC Reserve. It has all been going on for so long now—for over 10 years—that we are inclined to shrug our shoulders and to regard it, in the unfortunate phrase of a former Home Secretary, as "an acceptable level of violence." But we cannot calmly accept that within the borders of the United Kingdom, for the Government of which these Houses of Parliament are responsible, men and women are blown up and shot by an organisation whose openly declared aim is to overturn that Government in that part of the United Kingdom, and whose leaders remain free to pursue that policy and to further it by violent and illegal means. To that extent, the security situation in Northern Ireland is serious, and has been serious over the last 10 years.

I would not accept, as some suggest, that it is deteriorating, but I do accept that it is not improving to the extent that most people hoped about a year ago. One of the principal reasons for that, I think we must realise, is that the nature of the IRA's campaign has changed. The split between the Provisional and the Official IRA, which took place many years ago, arose because the latter, the Officials, aimed for a Marxist People's Republic, covering the whole of Ireland, while the former, the Provisionals, were what one might call old-fashioned Fenians, whose aim was the more limited one of just getting rid of the British.

Now the Provisional Sinn Fein themselves have become Marxists, and pretty extreme ones too, as their recent Ard Fheis made clear. They have tightened up their organisation and are now much more akin to the other Marxist-orientated terrorist organisations. The attendance of fraternal delegates and the messages of support they received from other terrorist organisations in Europe and elsewhwere at their recent conference clearly revealed this. The adoption by the IRA of methods employed by such organisations has meant that preventive measures to anticipate terrorist' incidents are made much more difficult, as the IRA's organisation is much smaller, tighter knit, more secure and therefore difficult to penetrate. Incidents are now carefully prepared and primarily designed to keep the power of the IRA in the public eye. But less and less, I am sure those of your Lordships who live in Northern Ireland will agree, do they have the support of the Catholic population at large, most of whom are fed up to the teeth with the continuation of violence and with the repercussions that that has on the lives of all of them.

So what should we do? It seems to me intolerable, as it has always seemed to me intolerable, that those who direct and actively participate in this campaign should be almost completely free, as many of them are, to do so with impunity. Until they are brought to book, no number of soldiers, operating overtly or covertly, will be able to bring the violence to an end. There are, rightly, calls, as there have been this evening, for more effective action.

I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that there are basically three options or models on which action can be based. The first—what he called the military model—is by recourse to more drastic, more military methods—a virtual declaration of war, throwing away the restraints that are imposed by trying to carry on life in the normal way. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I am not in favour of this. It would, I believe, throw the Catholic population and the Republic back in support of the IRA and forfeit all the success that has been gained in this field over recent years. Moreover, I do not believe that in fact it would be effective in eliminating what might be called the godfathers.

To turn aside for one moment to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, about the border, my first contact with the Northern Ireland problem was the day I became the Chief of the General Staff, which, appropriately or not, was 1st April, 1971. I took office, as it were, at 9 o'clock that morning and at 10.30 I and General Tuzo were in No. 10 for the first meeting between Brian Faulkner and the Prime Minister of the day, Edward Heath. It will not surprise your Lordships to know that almost the first thing to be raised was the possibility of sealing off the border. There are very grave and, in my opinion, insuperable practical, not merely objections but obstacles to ever being able to make that effective.

I also happen to have been the Deputy Commander of the United Nations Force in Cyprus when it was first formed. I am afraid it is not the case that until the Turkish invasion took place there was any sealing off of any areas, except for the Turkish fighters themselves sealing off their own villages from Greek Cypriots, and vice versa. The sealing off of the border in Cyprus came when the Turkish army invaded—it was a very large army in a very small area, not in the mountains but in an open plain—and sealed it off by preventing any movement of any kind whatever by straightforward military means. That is not a policy that to my mind could possibly be applied to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The second option, therefore, is the one which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, called the detention model—a return to internment. Who the instigators and the directors of the campaign are is well known. Where they are is also generally well known, although it might not be if it were suggested that they were to be arrested. They are not arrested today, partly because there is no appropriate crime with which they could be charged, partly because, when there is, the methods, including the rules of evidence by which the courts conduct their busines, make it impossible to convict them; and some who have been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced are then given early remission, as much as 50 per cent. of their sentences, and set free again to resume their activities.

That, my Lords, seems to me the most absurd handicap that we should impose on ourselves. As the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, has just suggested, internment restricted to those who are the real directors of the conspiracy seems to many people to be attractive; but I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, that it has such emotional overtones that to resort to it would, I believe, also alienate a very large element of the Catholic population who at present do not actively support the IRA, and would encourage them to do so.

What then are we left with? We are left with the law itself and how it is administered. It is ironical that in some ways the laws applicable to terrorist organisations and those who support or publicise them are more severe in the Republic than in Northern Ireland. It seems to me that the first step should be to have another look at the law to see whether there are not new offences which could be introduced. The second step—and here I speak with great trepidation in a House which contains so many legal luminaries—is to take a really radical look at the way in which the courts in Northern Ireland conduct their business.

I do not pretend for one moment to be an expert in the law, except military law, but it seems to me to be possible that we may have something to learn here from the methods practised on the Continent under Roman or Napoleonic law—and I an thinking in particular of the procès-verbal, instead of questioning by the police. What I am sure must be looked at, and has in fact already been raised, is the right of the accused under our system to remain silent without, officially, any prejudice to himself; and Father Faul's advice, which I saw in the newspapers this morning, makes it quite clear what importance he attaches to that in a rather different sense.

I would also entirely support the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, and the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, in saying that I am totally opposed—for a number of different reasons, but also a perfectly practical one—to a return to capital punishment. I suggest that there could be considerable advantage in trying to bring together both the law and how it is applied, not only with the Republic but also with other European countries who are faced with a terrorist problem, as almost all of them are.

My Lords, it is right that the security forces should act within the law, but they have a right to demand that the law then makes it possible for them to do their job effectively within the law. If that is not possible they are tempted to go beyond it or they are liable to despair and frustration. I believe it is the right policy that those who challenge the authority of Government and of the law should be treated as criminals and that the task of dealing with them should, so far as is possible, be in the hands of the police. I am glad that the recent appointment of Sir Maurice Oldfield has already been accompanied by the removal of some difficulties between the Army and the RUC, but the application of the policy of primacy of the police must be flexible. What suits Belfast and Londonderry is not applicable round Crossmaglen. To a certain extent that may meet the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Moyola.

I am afraid that political initiatives now have very little relevance to this issue. The IRA and Sinn Fein, particularly with recent developments within them, are not influenced by any such modifications to the existing basic position. However, what is relevant, I believe, is good administration. If only the services which local government is meant to provide could be provided with greater vigour and efficiency to the whole population, wherever they live—streets cleaned, uninhabitable houses demolished, lights repaired and the people made to feel that the authorities, the Government, really care for them and serve them; and I do not underestimate the practical difficulties of this—that I believe could, not cure but greatly contribute to an improvement in the security situation.

But basic improvement depends, I believe, on two things. The first remains one of the most difficult—co-ordination and co-operation with the Republic. I think it is the greatest tragedy that in the murder of Lord Mountbatten the opportunity was not seized, as it might have been. The blame was divided among many people. It might have become the platform from which a greater degree of co-operation could effectively be launched. But we must go on trying. Secondly, it depends on changes to the law and how the courts operate, in order that those who defy the law, defy the authority of Government, defy the interests, security and wellbeing of their fellow citizens, should no longer be free to do so.

8.55 p.m.


My Lords, before I enter into the debate, looking around this Chamber, my heart goes out to those who are here tonight who have suffered from the terrorists of Ireland, and I wish it to be known that no good Irishman would ever wish to be associated with the things that have happened.

Having said that, let me now turn to the fact that in this debate tonight 10 out of 13 speakers are old Etonians; 99.99 Irishmen never made it to the bastion of education and security. However, that is not casting any aspersion on that great school. There is also one old Harrovian, and I am more in favour of him because I have family associations there. Your Lordships are all too blooming serious! You really make me feel that I am going to the undertaker, and I am not going to the undertaker. For heaven's sake, liven yourselves up! Do not be crying about past deeds and past acts. As I said before, there are people here who could literally cry, but they are not crying. For heaven's sake, pull yourselves together and do not be on about this and that and who is going to do the law and who is going to do the order!

Your Lordships must remember that there was no such thing as Northern Ireland 60 years ago, there was only Ireland. Northern Ireland was created by men, only a few and comparatively recently. While I am not saying that it should not have been created, I am saying that it was created (and this is literally true) under the threat of immediate and terrible war. That is history; so therefore do not get it into your heads that God made Northern Ireland, because He did not, you know. That is true, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, will come back to hear what I am going to say in due course, because I am not going to be doleful and I am not going to cry.

There has been tragedy in Ireland; it has been shocking, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that it can be mended. In the last debate on Ireland the noble Lord, Lord Elton, told us that Her Majesty's Government had spent approximately £4,000 million since 1969. These figures are coming out of the back of my head, so give or take a million or two. Let us be fair, £4 billion is an enormous amount of money to pump into something. Honestly, I believe you do not know a damned thing about Ireland, any of you. You are talking here and you are not Irish, you see. You do not know, You think you know but you do not.

If I can find it I am going to give a quotation which I wrote down because I thought it was most interesting. It was about a Catholic cardinal who came over from Australia; he made a speech, saying: If only England trusted Ireland as she trusted Australia, every Irishman would be a missionary of the British Empire". Get that into your heads. The Irish are not your enemies. The Irish detest terrorism; they do not want it. But, my God, you have got to face up to the fact that this thing must be settled and it must be settled by Irishmen. I detest using North and South; I say it must be settled by Irishmen. You talk about taking hostages or setting landmines and all this sort of thing. You must be out of your tiny minds to be talking about setting landmines and taking hostages. You must get down to a table like this and talk, Irishmen among Irishmen. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, said in the last debate that we must build a bridge. Well, all right, let us build a bridge. But you must have water to build a bridge and there is not any water; it is only a little man-made border. It can be sorted out; it can be discussed, it can be talked about.

Seriously, this is what it is about. Great Britain must realise that there is a greater enemy even than the IRA, and that is a hard thing for me to say; there is a greater enemy than the terrorist, and that is the Communist. I will tell you this much, the greatest bulwark against Communism in the world today is Ireland, North and South. England may one day wish for the help of Ireland, and I would be the first to hope that she would get it. She will not get it if you start talking about laying landmines across borders or taking hostages; it is monstrous to even hear tell of it. I will quote you now from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Thursday the 7th of this month in another place: … co-operation between the security forces in Northern Ireland and those of the Republic is extremely valuable. I am happy to say that it is working well and producing results ".—[Official Report (Commons), 7/2/80; Col. 717.] If the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland makes a statement like that, you must be mad to stand up here and talk about laying landmines. I have never heard such nonsense in all my life. You must really get down to normal discussion and conference. If Switzerland can live with a multitude of races, if Belgium can live with Catholics and Protestants—and I could quote a few more European countries; they are living together, they have one Head of State—why cannot we do it, why cannot it be done in Britain? I will tell you why it cannot be done in Britain, because there is just a small group of fanatical people, religious or mental, I do not know which; it is a small group that is stopping this country coming together with Ireland and making a happy group of people in Ireland.


Would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for a moment? Would he not agree that, whereas we all want to see reconciliation in Ireland, there is this fanatical group of terrorists who are now very much Marxist-orientated, who shot a man dead on his tractor the other day? How does the noble Lord think that entering into consultations—and I hope he was not suggesting that Her Majesty's Government should enter into consultations with the Provisional IRA or the Irish National Liberation Army or the UVF—would stop these people coming over the border and shooting a man on his tractor and blowing up 18 soldiers near Warren Point? Is he seriously suggesting that?


My Lords, what I am suggesting is that if Britain and the Republic of Ireland came together I would go over myself and sort that 1,500 out in about ten minutes. They are nothing; they do not count. They are just a small group of bandits. They have no say in the matter. But while you make suggestions like those you have made, you are making enemies of the peace-loving people of Ireland, and the peace-loving people of Ireland are not going to be friendly towards you while you make those statements. Those people, those bandits, those IRA, those Communists, call them what you like, are so infinitesimal in the overall population picture that if Britain and Southern Ireland would get together and talk these people would disappear like the mist on the mountain; they would be gone tomorrow.


I would be very glad in that case if the noble Lord would kindly go and "sort them out".


I will go when you cease to talk about laying landmines in Ireland.


My Lords, with the greatest respect, the noble Lord should address the House and not individual Members.


I am very sorry, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Elton. You have always been a keen critic of me and you are continuing to be so. I do not object to that. I am not going to belabour your Lordships much longer with my talk. I just want it to be known here that Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the people of Northern Ireland, want peace, but for God's sake let them talk. As a matter of fact I wish you would go away and let us talk together, and I honestly believe that peace would come about much quicker than pumping in £4,000 million to keep a wrecked ship afloat.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Leonard, sits down I should like to ask him whether he does not agree that, if those bandits destroyed the Government in Northern Ireland, they might then want to destroy the Government in the South of Ireland and we would probably have a Cuba to our West?


My Lords, they would not be there for five minutes. In fact, I had sat down, but I shall answer by saying that they would not last five minutes.

9.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by saying how grateful I am to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for opening this debate and for instituting it. The other day we discussed the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, and as I was walking through the lobby behind the noble Lord, Lord Peart, I heard someone say, "I have always been in favour of devolution for Scotland because nothing will get rid of the Scots quicker than devolution". Then another man said to him, "Well, there is one thing—they are much better than the Irish"!

I feel that we probably are slightly unwelcome in continually keeping this House up to a late hour, and I apologise to the staff who service us so very well. I, for one, will do my best to keep my contribution as short as possible. I wish for a moment to mention a change in perspective that has taken place and which I think is very significant. While the noble Lord, Lord Leonard, says that we should not cry, it is certainly something which is significant. The other day the headline on the news was "Kevin Keegan returns to England". The second headline was, "Two policemen blown up in County Fermanagh". I think that that is wrong, but it is symptomatic of the problem.

I wish to pay tribute to our Ministers, both past and present, for the efforts that they have made and are making on behalf of the United Kingdom. They have a most inconvenient job; it is very hard work and to a large extent it is thankless. Their families also have a very tough life indeed, and I should like to pay tribute to them. I should also like to point out that I met the noble Lord Lord Vaizey, on the way out tonight. He said that the debate was too late for him. I am very sorry about that because he said, "This is a United Kingdom matter and I do so strongly feel that we should take part in it". I should like to endorse that and to say that it is most encouraging that so many people not living in Northern Ireland take part in these matters and make such very valuable contributions. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord Carver, was quite the best that I have heard on this type of subject for many a long time. But then that is something that I would expect because he has very strong Ulster connections and Ulstermen make very good soldiers—nobody is better than an Ulster field marshal.

I have listened with great interest to those who have spoken, some of whom have been philosophising on the method and the theory of how democracy should fight terrorism. I should like, possibly on rather a lower level, to consider the results. However, before doing so I shall remind the House of the philosophy of the terrorists because our reaction must be against the way they operate.

The first duty of a democracy is to ensure that the law abiding citizen has the right to live and work in peace and harmony with his neighbour. That is the first and prime duty of any Government who call themselves a Government at all. The aim of the IRA, as expressed by various philosophers in writing, is to commit—and I am telescoping considerably what I have to say because of the late hour—so many acts of terrorism that the law abiding citizen believes that his lawful Government have not the will to defend him. Two results flow from that: first, there is a backlash with retaliation involved; and secondly, there is war-weariness and in the particular case about which we are talking two forms of war-weariness—war-weariness in the area of Ulster, and war-weariness in the rest of our United Kingdom, in Great Britain. Those are the threats and that is the problem.

As other speakers said, to meet those threats democracy has to suspend temporarily certain freedoms. We have, in fact, to suspend enough freedoms to convince the law abiding citizen and the IRA—that is the enemy—that violence does not pay. The question is: Have we changed the law enough or suspended enough freedoms to convince either the people of Ulster or the IRA that crime will not pay, and that they cannot succeed? If we fail to do that in Ulster, then I believe there is very little of the Free World which will be safe in the future.

How far do we think the Government have succeeded? I must say at this point that the Government must make greater efforts to convince the people of Ulster that they are determined to succeed. Too often we use the words "military victory". In terms of 11 years of violence "military victory" does not mean that we want to go barging around with Saracens and equipment like that. By "military victory" we must give the legal weapons—because we have decided that the law is the means by which we are to operate—to our forces of law so that they can carry out the tasks which we give them, which are to frustrate the terrorist and, if he commits an illegal act, to make sure that he is brought to book.

In my county—and this is why I said that I would be speaking on rather a lower level—we have had 51 murders in 10 years, which are all unsolved, out of a population of 50,000, for it is only a very small county. But in the smaller area of Lisnaskea, from where I come, there have been 30 unsolved murders in a population of 10,000. It is very easy statistically to multiply those figures and make them become irrelevant. But there is a certain relevance in that if they are multiplied up to cover 10 million people, which is the population of London, we get a figure of 30,000 totally unsolved murders. I cannot help feeling that if there were even 3,000 unsolved murders over 10 years, the Governments of this country would have found some way of changing the law so as to enable the forces of law and order to bring those concerned to justice.

In many cases the reason that they cannot be brought to justice is not that there are no witnesses; there are in fact many witnesses. But to ask a witness to come forward to a court of law is tantamount to asking him to commit suicide. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, when we talk about a military victory, we are discussing equipping the forces of law and order with laws that will enable them to carry out the tasks we give them; that is, in the first place, to prevent crime and, in the second place, to enable convictions of those who have been caught.

I hope that the Government will not be tempted to mine the border. I should be so very sad, so soon after my noble friend Lord Erne has taken his place in this House, to lose him when he is out doing some nefarious smuggling operation across the border! Seriously, I do not consider that that is a very sensible solution and I should certainly be very sad. I know that many people would agree with me.

I return to the question of the laws. The Government have blunted the weapons of the RUC by the acceptance of the Bennett Report. In the last 12 months they have not provided any other legislative equipment to enable our forces to recover the loss of the interrogation process. At this particular moment we in County Fermanagh are suffering a very severe attack from the IRA. We have made representations—I have done so personally—to almost all authority possible over the last four months when this began to occur. People in this area are very desperate at present. It is extremely necessary for the Government to convince the people in that area at once that the Government and the country have the will to win.

We are continually told that we cannot merely have a peaceful solution without a political solution; that is, that we cannot have a military victory without a political solution. One must look things absolutely straight in the face. The change of getting a political solution which is acceptable in the way that will change those who do not support law and order now, is very remote indeed. Therefore, it is very important that at the earliest possible moment the Government should get down to it and change the laws and the method of operation—after all, they have been in office for nine months—so that we can, in fact, convince everybody that we have the will to win.

Everyone here sees on the television reports of the funerals of those who are murdered. But that is not the end of the story. I think a great deal about the families who have been dealt with and comforted by doctors; of the absolute misery there is which is caused by terrorists. I shall probably be told that I am giving comfort to the terrorists in saying that they are achieving this. But in my part of the country we are without a Member of Parliament to express views, and if I do not express them here, and refer to the absolute horror of what is going on at present, I shall be letting the people of my county down.

We are coming up to the tenth anniversary of the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I should like to make a plea that this be made a really special occasion. I and many others have put in a plea that the bounty for going to camp and certain training periods be increased. But that is not everything. We want something else to hang our hat on, to recognise what these people have done. Night after night, in our area three nights a week, they are out and carry on normally in their normal jobs. These people deserve the greatest credit, but they also deserve some form of recognition in the way of a great occasion by which their work can be recognised. I should also like to pay tribute, as did my noble friend Lord Moyola, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to the Army. Goodness knows! they have had a tremendous task, and they have done it almost faultlessly. Because it is the tenth anniversary of the formation of the UDR, may I say: Please make it a really remarkable occasion.

9.21 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by expressing my appreciation of the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Leonard, as one of the many Etonians to whom he referred. He and I both hail from the County of Leitrim in the Republic, which is perhaps the poorest county in Ireland. It is one of those curious facts that Leitrim sends no deputy to the Dáil but does have two representatives in your Lordships' House.

We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for putting down this Motion today. I must admit that I was surprised and sorry that, like the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, he sought to put so much blame for what is going on in Northern Ireland on the Republic. As one who comes from just eight miles from the Border—I am within sight of it I should like to say how fed up the people in the Republic are with this continuing pretence—and I must call it a pretence—that our Government, our army, and our gardai, through collusion and sympathy with the terrorists, are in some way contributing to what has to be regarded as the British failure to end terrorism in the North.

I would ask your Lordships to consider the facts. In the first place at least 90 per cent. of the incidents in the North have no connection with the border at all. In all those cases those who are responsible are walking about—although they may be known as terrorists—in the North and not in the Republic. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Moyola, admitted—and the same fact was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Carver—that there are many known terrorists at liberty in Northern Ireland. If this is so in the North where the trouble is going on, it is to be expected that there must be some known terrorists at liberty in the Republic. It is all very well to talk about such known terrorists being present, but as is being found in the North it is not always easy to arrest them. A further point is that not once since the new legislation has Belfast sought the prosecution of any terrorist or any criminal in the Republic for offences committed in Northern Ireland. As your Lordships know, this is permissible; a fugitive offender who commits an offence in the North can be tried and found guilty in the courts of the Republic, but on no single occasion has any request been made or such prosecution to take place. I wish to talk about the situation on the border because I know it quite well and cross it quite frequently. I can only say that if the Republic is not doing all it should to stop terrorists from crossing it, the security forces and police in the North are doing far less. If I were to set out to drive to the house of the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough—which does not seem very likely at present and cover the 22 miles as the crow, or guided missile, flies between my house and his, I could drive by three different routes—Swanlinbar, Ballyconnell or Clones—and I could guarantee that if we saw any sign of security forces at all, customs officers, police or army, they would be on my side of the border and not on his.

As a matter of fact, I once had to take a consignment of 50 live white rabbits to Sligo in a trailer behind a car and, because I had someone staying with me who wanted to see the North, I agreed to go via Enniskillen, and of course my trailer could equally have been filled with 50 Armalite rifles. I was stopped by the Customs at Swanlinbar, who in their disbelief came out to check on what my cargo was and to look at it; I then crossed the border, where there were no Customs officers on duty and no army or police on duty. I drove on and out through Belleek, where again there were no signs of security in any form, on the so-called Northern side of the border, until I crossed into the Republic, where I was again stopped by a police patrol who wanted me to account for my movements.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord to tell me whether, if in fact he had been carrying 50 Armalite rifles, he would have gone along a road which was covered by a Customs post?


My Lords, if I had been carrying Armalite rifles I would have gone by a different road where I know there are no Customs posts; I would have gone via Ballyconnell. I was, of course, with a trailer, arousing suspicion, but if I had been driving an ordinary saloon car I would have driven straight by the Irish, the Republican, customs without being stopped; they do not stop cars. I was finally stopped by the Garda when I entered County Donegal after leaving Belleek, but there was no sign of the British security forces at any time, and that is typical of the way it invariably is.

As the noble Lord, Lord Carver, mentioned, there is already draconian legislation in the Republic, every bit as severe as it is in the North and much more severe than would ever be acceptable in Britain, and the prisons of the Republic are overflowing with terrorist prisoners, this despite the fact that, though opposing violence as a means to securing it, the great majority of people in the Republic share what is the IRA's, the Provisionals', desire for a united Ireland. I therefore hope that the Republic will not be made a scapegoat for the lack of success by the British security forces in the North.

I want to mention one further point. The noble Viscount, who is still in the Chamber, referred to what he described as barging about in Saracans—the sometimes very aggressive activities of the army in Northern Ireland, particularly in cities. I have been in the Catholic ghettoes of Belfast when the army have been maintaining a high profile and have evidently been in force in the street, barging about in Saracens. Then suddenly—no one ever knows why; but for some reason or another—there is no sight or sound of them. I have seen how at once the tension and bitterness in those unhappy areas diminish—that hothouse climate in which terrorism breeds. Consequently, just as happened—as my noble friend Lord Melchett mentioned—on the ending of internment, there is at once a much less tense and a much less active reaction from the terrorist forces. I indeed believe that so long as the arrests, the shooting, the imprisonment and the maltreatment of the paramilitary forces continue, the violence will go on. In every case where one man is taken, three or four will spring to take his place—so the army tends to be the IRA's most potent recruiting sergeant.

I ask the Government to consider the possible withdrawal of the army for a trial period of a month, and then see the kind of reaction there would be when this continual irritant is removed from the ordinary people of Northern Ireland. What is there to be lost? If there were incidents, the army could be sent to deal with them. But if the army were removed first of all to barracks, who knows what the result might be, and perhaps eventually in the not-too-distant future the gradual removal of the army from the Province would prove possible. I believe that it is only when that can be done that peace will come to Northern Ireland.

9.33 p.m.


My Lords, I imagine that this must be the first occasion on which we have had 50 white rabbits in the middle of a security debate. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, has not convinced me about withdrawing the army, and I do not imagine that he has convinced very many others of your Lordships. We are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Leonard, for making us smile in the midst of a serious and sombre evening, and I concede that he has a serious point as well.

I should like to join in the eloquent tributes that have been paid this evening to the victims of violence and terrorism and to the members of the security forces, with whom I include the members of the Prison Service, as well as, in particular, the wives and families of all the members of the security forces. Having said that, I should perhaps add that I join in the debate with a little diffidence since I am not a resident in Northern Ireland. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Elton just one question this evening: What steps are being taken at the present time to prevent the recruitment of boys and young people into the terrorist organisations?

My information is that boys and young people, sometimes still at school, are persuaded to run simple errands or to carry messages for terrorists, and that they are then rewarded for their pains. This goes on a little further, until gradually, step by step, they become fully-fledged terrorists themselves. This process of persuasion is of course much easier where young people are truanting from school; much easier during the holidays and much easier, as has already been mentioned, where young people remain unemployed for some time after leaving school. I should like to suggest that we need a concerted effort by parents, by schools, by community and youth organisations and, of course, by young people themselves, to prevent this process of recruitment. In England, parents are by now quite used to warning their children not to accept sweets from strangers or offers of lifts in cars; and in Ireland a similar vigilance, I believe, is necessary to overcome enticements and recruitments into the paths of violence.

I should like to go one stage further and say that in my belief security by itself is nothing like enough. The point has already been made tonight that politics, economics and security are inextricably interwoven. I think it perhaps needs saying from these Benches that security is not enough. It needs saying, I suggest, because some (perhaps only a few, but at least some) Ulster Unionists have given at least the impression that all would be well once security problems were overcome. I think they know in their hearts that even when violence is at an end there will be some massive problems still to be overcome.

I think it is fair to say that the position in Northern Ireland is something of a stalemate at the moment After 10 or 11 years the terrorists have not won, but neither have the security forces. That, in my view, is the reason why the present political talks are so extremely important; and that, I suggest, is why the debate we had last December on the economic and social problems was somewhat significant. I would go further and say that the European dimension to Irish affairs is becoming more and more urgent and important, and with it, of course, go very considerable implications for regional and social policy.

Those, my Lords, are some points of progress and of hope. Behind them and beyond them, I believe, we need a real movement of the minds and hearts of people. We need a coming together of the people, not only of Britain but of the whole of Ireland. I go back to something I mentioned in December in your Lordships' House. I believe we need a movement towards the politics of forgiveness. If we could perhaps just look for a moment at what has happened since 1945 or 1950 in France and Germany, we see there that there have been three major wars in less than a hundred years with millions of deaths resulting. Yet since 1950 great statesmen, such as Adenauer and de Gaulle, have come together; they have been followed on by Herr Schmidt and Mr. Giscard d'Estaing; and hostilities between those countries are now inconceivable; co-operation has won the day.

I believe that it is up to us not only to understand but to make it quite clear to everybody that the group of Anglo—Celtic islands are totally and completely interdependent. It is up to us to forge the instruments that will be necessary to acknowledge that interdependence and to make it work peacefully. Then security will perhaps be a thing of the past. But, first, we need to kindle the desire for mutual forgiveness and co-operation in the hearts of people in Britain and in all parts of Ireland.


My Lords, I have listened with interest to your Lordships' views on Northern Ireland and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for drawing our attention to this momentous task. In Ulster since 1969—and I hope you will forgive me for repeating these figures; but they are important—there have been 1,450 civilians killed, 135 RUC killed and 450 soldiers killed. The total number of civilians and soldiers wounded to date has been 22,733. These are staggering figures. The annual cost of supporting the Army in Northern Ireland amounts to £81 million and the RUC, £125 million. Public expenditure on governing the Province is £2,200 million. This vast and appalling cost comes on Her Majesty's Government and, therefore, ultimately, on the taxpayer. The destruction of private and public property has been enormous and the compensation falls also upon Her Majesty's Government.

What have Her Majesty's Government achieved, and what are they going to achieve against a now more expertly-led terrorist organisation which is continually reinforced by ex-inmates of Long Kesh? That the situation is ever worsening can be substantiated by recording the terrorist achievements of the last two years of the civil war. The reason for the deterioration is due to four factors which have caused the downward trend. The lack of political motivation over the past six years has caused the Ulster population to accept the terrorist environment as part of their natural daily life. Some relish the situation as it allows them to breach numerous petty civil laws and even to evade tax. The security situation has also deteriorated owing to the emergence of the RUC as an anti-terrorist force to be reckoned with, which is being given by the Government a superior role to that of the Army, who have been involved since 1969. This has caused friction and petty jealousy which detract from the sole purpose of combating terrorism. The IRA are no longer representative of the Roman Catholic population. They are now a highly trained and financed organisation operating on an international basis. They no longer require local community support but rely on known "Godfather" figures living in Ulster, and also on foreign support to organise their acts of destruction. As long as these proxy murderers are allowed to survive, the IRA will continue to carry out successful acts of human and economic devastation.

As my noble friend Lord Moyola and the noble and gallant Lord opposite have said, the failure of Warren Point and the Mountbatten murder to improve the resolve of Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic towards the border security problem, has made it patently obvious that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic cannot agree or co-operate. This apathy was proved by a recent opinion poll on the attitude of the Irish population towards the Ulster situation.

Before I conclude, I should like to pay tribute to the magnificent way in which the British Army, the UDI and the RUC conducted themselves during the past traumatic decade. They have been a fine example to us all, and what I should like to say will in no way detract from my respect and gratitude for their achievements in probably the most difficult time in the history of Anglo-Irish relations. One begins to wonder seriously if it is really essential for British troops to remain in the Province, to be used as targets and be slowly picked off one by one with virtually their hands tied behind their backs. Now their presence provides the sole reason—I repeat, the sole reason—for a non-representative bunch of thugs to ravage peaceful country. For how much longer can this be tolerated? If the present political attitude in Ulster and the lack of co-operation in the Irish Republic remain as it has done for the past 10 years, there will be no military solution, and our troops would be better preparing for a far more dangerous threat from Eastern Europe.

9.46 p.m.


My Lords, speaking as one in your Lordships' House whose home and family are in the Province, I wish to say to all the noble Lords who have spoken that I greatly appreciate the thoughtful and understanding way in which they have taken part in this debate. I also wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, for kindly sending to me an outline of his speech. I should not like to embarrass him this evening, but I know of his courage affecting a close relative of mine during his period of service with the UDR against a riotous mob; and I have spoken to him privately about this. He has displayed tremendous courage on several occasions. We have had, in my opinion, an earnest and heart-searching debate. There are of course many matters on which I should like to express a viewpoint, but I know that at this late hour noble Lords want to hear what the Minister has to say about this crucial and difficult subject. So I shall endeavour to be brief in my remarks and not impose upon the goodwill and tolerance of your Lordships.

There are two aspects about security that I should like to mention. The first is the bi-partisan approach, and the second is the co-ordinating of community efforts in support of security policies. Concerning the bi-partisan approach, since the upsurge of communal strife in Northern Ireland in 1969, the subsequent emergence of para-military groupings and the politically motivated terrorist campaigns, there has continued a bi-partisan approach by the three major political parties at Westminster to policies and to matters concerning security in Northern Ireland. Speaking from these Benches, I wish to indicate that this bi-partisan approach to security matters still stands and is based on the principle that the policies are in accord with the authority of Parliament. I wish also to say that I support the position taken in the Government's working paper, Command Paper 7763, which states that in the foreseeable future, given the Government's overriding commitment to combat terrorism, responsibility for law and order will also remain with Westminster.

In this connection, it will appear that the present talks and the search for an acceptable political solution to Government in Northern Ireland are failing to come to any early solutions. Whatever may be the problems to obtain the long-term security arrangements, while this political situation prevails, we must address ourselves to the short-term security issues while the search goes on for a political solution. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, put forward a number of points in this respect, and the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, also referred to the short-term needs and security. Here I would echo a word of caution just as others have done in this respect. We all recognise that we cannot obtain political stability at the cost of injustice, and if there is any attempt to impose it, it will make the security situation worse.

At the same time, it is a great pity that a common interim arrangement on two crucial areas of concern in Northern Ireland—namely, security and unemployment—could not be agreed between the Government and the Northern Ireland political parties, while the search for a political solution continues. It is morally indefensible for the political leaders and their party followers in Northern Ireland to allow the present suffering and hardship to remain, without reasonable action to alleviate this misery, because of their failure to achieve common action on security and unemployment. It is surely morally and politically wrong that this human suffering should be used as a bargaining counter for their respective long-term constitutional objectives.

I welcome the call made this week by the Social Democratic and Labour Party for a common front against unemployment. Much could be achieved, if all concerned met and considered in positive terms the tragic unemployment problems and the need for industrial growth. If it is possible to reach agreement about a common interim arrangement concerning employment, surely it is not beyond the reason of people of good will to reach an agreed interim arrangement about security matters, without loss of any principle of substance. I know that there are critical questions of how to police those who do not identify with the Government in a way which is tolerable to them, and which is within the law.

I feel sure that if questions are tackled on the basis of the sanctity of life and the value of human dignity, there can be ways found to overcome the issues and to reach common ground for dealing with security and terrorism. May I ask the Minister whether he will see that every encouragement is given to Northern Ireland political leaders and their parties actively to consider possible arrangements with the Government to deal with security and employment matters.

I should now like to say a few words about the co-ordination of community efforts in support of security policies. The noble Lord, Lord Carver, spoke with keen insight and great understanding about how this may contribute to the solving of immediate problems and of long-term issues. Last November, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr. Atkins, announced the appointment of a new staff under Sir Maurice Oldfield to assist the Secretary of State in improving the co-ordination and effectiveness of the fight against terrorism. I am sure that this new joint staff co-ordinating team is highly professional and efficient. But may I ask the Minister whether attention has been given to the need for all Government departments in Northern Ireland to be effectively consulted and advised about the relative co-ordinating policy matters emanating from the work of this new joint staff team?

Without going into detail, it will be obvious from the statements made by the present Northern Ireland Secretary of State, and by others who have held that office, that security forces, however professional and effective, require the goodwill and positive support of all law-abiding people. To encourage this goodwill and to obtain positive support as many elements as possible of the social fabric must be suitably involved in the general environment of peace-keeping, and in efforts to uphold human dignity in all sections of the community.

The noble Lords, Lord Hampton and Lord Hylton, and others, have referred to the good that is going on within our community. It is not all evil men. I should like to emphasise that the noble Lord, Lord Carver, has placed a good deal of faith in the involvement of the community in assisting reconciliation and in finding methods of peace-keeping. Northern Ireland is presented as a place where bloodthirsty bigots of various obscure sects murder each other incessantly, for reasons which no sane person can fathom. There is much more to Northern Ireland than that. It is not a place inhabited only by evil men. No one will deny that a few exist and, whatever else he said, the noble Lord, Lord Leonard, at least, made that point. But there are a few who exist and they threaten all civilised life. But it is also a place of decent human beings, seeking to live with dignity and in pursuit of happiness and peace. It is a place where much is being done to promote justice, achieve peace and obtain reconciliation.

I should like to invite the Minister to consider the valuable contribution that has been made to these ideals of peace and reconciliation by various elements in our community. I am thinking of education—of schools at both ordinary school level and at higher education and adult levels. I am thinking also of the Northern Ireland Council for Social Services, of the Churches' Central Committee for Community Work, of the leisure centres, the Arts Council, the Sports Council and industry, both management and trade unions. I am wondering whether the Government could think of ways in which these organisations, these bodies in the Province which are of good standing and which are publicly accountable could in some way be embraced either in a coordinating committee or brought into joint ministerial meetings which could be provided to assist in this kind of work. They do need assistance, both financial and encouragement.

To the credit of the Minister, may I say that he has endeavoured to assist, in his own way, in the field of education. He has encouraged a number of bodies to destroy the myths that arise from the teaching of history. By his attendance and by his advice at these particular gatherings, much, I think, can be done. However, I still feel, in the light of recent statements by educational psychologists in Northern Ireland that there are terrifying weak spots in education, that we ought to see whether something more can be done in this respect.

I mentioned in passing the questions of deprivation in our community and unemployment. Perhaps I may close with words which are better said and better conveyed than any words of mine. They were said by the Lord Privy Seal, Sir Ian Gilmour, in The Sunday Times of 10th February. He is quoted as saying: A free State will not survive unless its people feel loyalty to it, and they will not feel loyalty to it unless they gain from the State protection and other benefits. The beneficence of competition and the dangers of interfering with market forces will not satisfy people who are in trouble. If the State is not interested in them, why should they be interested in the State? I am afraid, sadly, that that reflects the position of many of our young unemployed people in Northern Ireland. For that reason, I plead for something to be done to ensure that their time can be occupied in other ways.

9.58 p.m.


My Lords, I last spoke to your Lordships about security in Northern Ireland on 12th December. That is only 64 days ago. Since then there have been a number of tragic incidents, but your Lordships will not be surprised that there has been no dramatic change in the overall circumstances meanwhile. Indeed, though I share your Lordships' anxiety about so vital a matter, I question whether much constructive good would be done if we were to continue to have debates on the subject regularly every two months. But in fact there have been some changes in this short period and I am glad, therefore, to take the opportunity offered by the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, not only to place before the House the bitter record of continuing and barbaric atrocities, but also to set beside it some of the achievements of our own security forces and then to consider briefly what I believe to be the grounds for an increasing confidence that eventually we shall win this war.

First, the record. It is a stark reminder of the misery that terrorist enemies can inflict upon a civilised society, a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Westbury, so movingly drew our attention. In the space of those nine weeks, 30 people have been killed. Thirteen of them were civilians, two were prison officers, four were members of the UDR, five were policemen and six were regular soldiers. My Lords, those figures tell a very dreadful tale, but, merely because they are figures, they can only suggest the shape of the truth; they do not project the reality. Only when it is your own father or son, your own fiancé or lover, who is suddenly wiped out of your daily life; only when the whole of your own future is left suddenly empty and deprived of one beloved presence, or maybe more, does the full, sordid, degrading horror of terrorism become completely real.

That is why this problem is one which has to be tackled with both urgency and compassion. Blood is not the only exaction of the terrorist. There has also continued to be a good deal of material destruction. Bombs have caused considerable damage in Armagh, Aughnacloy, Kilrea and Belfast and 20 buses were destroyed or damaged by terrorist devices in the Falls Road bus depot on 1st February. The bomb, my Lords, is an indiscriminate and cowardly weapon. It very oftens kills or maims others than those for whom it was intended. Less often it destroys those who seek to use it. On 17th January, when a bomb exploded on the Lisburn-Belfast train, it killed the IRA terrorist carrying it. We were all sickened to learn that in that unexpected act of grim and summary justice two passengers, wholly unconnected with the exercise, were burned to death at the same time.


My Lords, as a former bomber pilot may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that bombs are also used by Her Majesty's forces?


My Lords, it would be possible to extend this debate to cover the philosophies which relate to war between States in a conventional manner, but that would not be within the conventions of this House.

My Lords, I have presented to you one side of the picture. There is another. It would be very wrong if either this House or the media were to look at the one and not the other. It is not always dramatic—indeed for the most part it cannot even be seen. We do first of all have to remember that whenever the vigilant presence of the security forces prevents a terrorist attack taking place, we, the public, know nothing about it. For this reason therefore, the great majority of our successes—and they are very many—are unknown. I would like it to be conveyed to every soldier who at the end of a tour of duty has reason to complain that it has been boring or uneventful (and such there are, for I have met them) that this is the best possible indication of the success of his contribution to the campaign that he could hope to achieve. But some security successes do result in moments of high drama. Many of your Lordships will recently have seen on television a bomb being neutralised by an Army Ammunition Technical Team. They were dealing with a radio-controlled device containing 600 lbs of explosives. It is difficult to find words to describe the skill, the courage and the self control of men like these—let alone to give them adequate praise. This was the third major device they had dealt with in the 9 weeks that we are considering. Some of your Lordships may be able to imagine yourselves doing theft job. I cannot. My admiration for them in unreserved.

There have been other successes, less dramatic but very important. The security forces have recovered 23 weapons and 3,277 rounds of ammunition; 101 persons have been charged with terrorist offences. These include 12 for murder including the murder of policemen and soldiers and 14 for attempted murder.

This brings me to the security forces. Inevitably and tragically part-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment are frequently targets for the Provisional IRA murderers. I sometimes wonder if there is enough public acknowledgement of the patient and courageous endurance of that remarkable body of men. I welcome what has been said about them. The work of the permanent cadre of full-timers is as vital as that of any of the security forces, but it is to the part-timers that I would draw your Lordships' particular attention. Some of your Lordships, notably including the' noble Lord, Lord Dunleath himself, have served with them and know the burden they carry. To do a full day's work, and then return home not to slippers and the "telly" but to uniform and flack jacket and then to go out again in every kind of weather to keep the peace in the face of concealed and un-uniformed gunmen: to return with the milkman; to change into day clothes for breakfast and then go back to work; to do this every fourth night, sometimes every other night, week after week and month after month and to do it not to public acclaim but very often without the knowledge even of your own workmates for fear that you may become another off-duty target—that, my Lords, requires a dogged courage and a level of sheer physical stamina that makes these men and women citizens twice over in our troubled society. They are the hallmark on our people's determination to defeat the enemies of society. Both they and their families deserve the greatest praise and gratitude.

In saying this I do not wish to belittle the diligence and courage of the other soldiers who also shoulder very heavy and dangerous burdens. They have also earned our lasting respect and gratitude in an unremitting and thankless, but vital struggle. Nor can I let this occasion pass without acknowledging the admirable service of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This is a dedicated, effective and, I am glad to say, growing force of men and women who are at the essential heart of the campaign against terrorism. Their work demands patience as well as courage, and tact as well as resolve. These qualities they give without stint.

May I turn to some of the points your Lordships have raised. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, speaking of the RUC, spoke about their levels. The Government, by their determination to restore peace in Northern Ireland, have imposed a considerable and increasing burden on the forces responsible for enforcing the law. It has always been our policy to ensure that these forces have adequate manpower and resources to carry out this task. This was clearly demonstrated in August last when the Secretasy of State increased the strength target of the RUC from 6,500 to 7,500. This increase in manpower has been matched, as I told the House on 12th December, by the provision of better and more equipment, accommodation and services. The emphasis has been placed on improving the communications, control and mobility of the force. This technological development is being backed by a massive programme to build, extent and refurbish RUC stations throughout the Province. It is no exaggeration to say that the RUC is one of the most modern and best equipped forces in Europe.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, wished that it would be possible to extend the law of conspiracy wide enough to embrace more offences than it at present covers. It is already sufficient to convict all who engage in the planning of terrorist crimes. The difficulty is not to decide on the law under which the charge should be brought, but to find the evidence that will support the bringing of it. Evidence is suppressed by two factors, sympathy and fear. It is the security forces who have the primary role in combating this fear.

If I may quote a remarkably perceptive and sensitive speech made by the General Officer Commanding, Sir Richard Lawson, earlier today, I can best illustrate this theme. He said: The security forces can only do so much and the rest is up to the people. As we go about the business of cutting out the terrorist with the skill of the surgeon delicately removing a growth so that it does not damage the vital tissues surrounding it, the people of Ulster will need to remember the lessons of the past and accept that violence breeds on fear. If you remove the fear the men of violence cannot remain. This, I hope, gives to every man and woman of goodwill in this Province of Ulster a clear part to play, as the soldier and the policeman tackle their legal task of eradicating crime". We are fortunate to be served by a soldier who is at once so articulate and so accurate in his perception. He knows his duties. Very courteously he reminds us of ours.

My Lords, I note Lord Dunleath's concern about the early release of what he calls unrepentant convicts. While the Government keep the law relating to terrorism under constant review, I do not believe that the efforts of the security forces are hampered or frustrated by the level of penalties currently available for terrorist types of offences. The maximum penalties available to the courts are adequate. The use made of these powers is a matter for the discretion of the courts, who have the facts in each case before them. As far as remission is concerned, the present remission scheme for prison sentences in Northern Ireland, which was introduced when special category status was ended, reflects the Government's determination to treat terrorists as criminals and to deal with them according to the process of law. Whatever the offence, remission is conditional on good behaviour, both in prison and during release. There is no remission for a life sentence, which is the only sentence available for murder. Nor is there any remission for those who deliberately create for themselves conditions of squalor in the H blocks in order to seek the sympathy of an incredulous public for deeds of violence which that public rightly and continuously abhors.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, proposed a new structure of consultation across the border. The noble Lord, Lord Carver, showed himself acutely interested in this subject. There is in fact, already close co-operation over security matters between British authorities and those of the Republic, at many levels. The RUC and Garda consult regularly on counter-terrorist measures, from working level up to meetings between the Chief Constable and the Garda Commissioner. Government officials and Ministers also meet from time to time, all with a view to increasing the effectiveness of the campaign to defeat our common enemy, the IRA. We could only welcome a greater enthusiasm on both sides of the border in the pursuit of this.

The arrangements for communication between the security forces either side of the border are considered to be satisfactory. Naturally, I shall not reveal what they are, but noble Lords should note that the Irish Army does not have the same legal status as our troops and can only act on the instructions of the Garda in counter-terrorist operations.

The noble Lord then continued his survey of the border and talked of redrawing it and reducing the number of crossing points to restrict the movement of terrorists. I fear that a redrawing of the border would not be welcomed by the local communities North or South, and, nor would it restrict the movement of terrorists unless obstacles such as fences or minefields were constructed. By themselves these passive, but formidable defences, would be useless; they would require both static guardposts and mobile patrols to keep the obstacle under surveillance. The consequences would all be unwelcome: those most affected would not be terrorists, but the law-abiding citizens north and south whose commercial, social or family interests depend on regular cross-border travel.

The static guardposts would require unacceptably large numbers of the security forces and would provide a tempting target for small numbers of determined and mobile terrorist. The barrier would be pierced at many points by navigable water. Its length would ensure that before long it became porous in other places and its flank could be turned at either end by a short and easy sea-crossing at a variety of points.

Finally, our country's enemies would waste no time in drawing unfavourable and plausible parallels with the frontier barrier which divides East and West Germany. The concept would be repulsive to a great many people besides the noble Lord, Lord Leonard, who rightly spoke out against such measures.

No, the answer to effective cross-border security lies in the close cooperation of the security forces of the Irish Republic with the RUC and the Army, in preventing the terrorists from seeking refuge in any part of Ireland. Although there has not yet been a further meeting with Irish Ministers since that on 5th October, the momentum established then in security co-operation has not been lost, and co-operation between the security forces either side of the border is good. The Government continue to believe that the best way to make progress in defeating our common enemy, the IRA, is through friendly relations and effective co-operation.

The noble Lord raised other points which I shall touch on briefly. As regards extra-territorial prosecutions, I would say that the numbers are limited to specified offences committed after 1st June 1976, when the legislation came into force. They have proved difficult to mount in practice largely because, as in all prosecutions, they are dependent upon securing evidence. That is a condition which I have already referred to north of the border, and it is a condition which is common to a great many of the problems that we have looked at this evening. Your Lordships are aware of them and I shall not dilate upon them further.

In conclusion, the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, urged in somewhat general terms more vigorous action, and a number of noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Westbury, had the same sort of thing in mind. I shall not read the whole of the speech which the GOC made earlier today, but I commend it to your Lordships. I do not doubt that it will be widely reported. May I just take a summary paragraph of a few lines, in which he said: This is the time for a cool head and sustained courage as we devote our efforts to intensifying and sharpening the operation of the security forces, so that they can be used as a rapier to destroy the terrorist as opposed to a broad sword cutting a swathe through the crowd ". The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, provided welcome words of support for the political initiative at the conference. He suggested that terrorists might be susceptible to persuasion. I think that that was something which the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken, had in mind, though I believe that the dramatic and dangerous withdrawal of troops which he suggested might have the opposite effect to that which he wished, not only on the terrorists but on those who want to protect themselves from the terrorists. I can see nothing but disaster resulting from that.

In commending the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for his brevity, may I take up a point which he made on the question of the article in Fortnight, and welcome the opportunity to comment on that interesting publication. Much of the authors' analysis is, indeed, acceptable. In particular I am glad to note that they endorse Her Majesty's Government's policy of relying upon normal, if modified, criminal procedures to deal with deeds which are perpetrated as if they were acts of war. However, I note that the material on which the article was based dates in the main from before the implementation of the Bennett recommendations. Some of the changes advocated in it are, therefore, superfluous.

I am aware of the allegation that methods of interrogation continue to be unnacceptable. I would not accept that allegation solely on the evidence produced. I would also ask the House what we consider to be unacceptable treatment under the circumstances. The proportion of those who plead guilty suggests to me that the majority of those interrogated are, in fact, terrorists and that they regard themselves wrongly but passionately to be soldiers in a stealthy and rather disgusting war. We have seen the senseless brutality with which they wage that war. But what, I ask your Lordships, would be the method of interrogation which they would apply if they were to capture a member of our security forces? Any noble Lord who thinks that they would allow the Bennett rules, the Geneva Convention or any other humane guidelines is, frankly, in Cloud Cuckoo-land. After an IRA interrogation you do not find a man who has had a degrading experience; you find either a man with no knees or, more simply and more likely, a corpse. If noble Lords believe in fair play, let us remember that.

Nevertheless, I can assure noble Lords that Her Majesty's Government continuously keep the methods of the security forces under review and that in this function they are constantly and sometimes vigorously and tendentiously supported by a number of voluntary agencies as well as the Standing Advisory Committee on Human Rights and the pressure of international opinion, to which noble Lords have referred.

The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, and other noble Lords were interested in the question of detention, which was also referred to as internment. Detention, which is provided for in Section 12 of the Emergency Provisions Act, has not been used in Northern Ireland since 1975. The Government are fully aware of the dangers to which the noble Lords, Lord Carver and Lord Moyola, and others have referred. If the Government had absolute confidence that we could continue to do without that power in the foreseeable future, then the case for dropping this section would be overwhelming. However, our revulsion against it in principle and our determination not to use it except in the last resort are no safeguard against the Government being compelled to do so by some development in the security situation. The Government are determined that the courts shall be used to convict terrorists so that whatever their proclaimed cause they can be seen for what they truly are—common criminals. But before recommending that this section should cease to have effect, we need to be absolutely sure that there is no possibility of having to come back to the House to ask that the detention provisions be reintroduced.

The noble Lord, Lord Moyola, raised a number of points on the UDR, including the need for a quick-response system. He rightly said that this could not be publicly discussed. I can assure him that I shall take his message down the corridor to my honourable friend who is in charge of these matters, with those words of advice. He and several noble Lords rightly connected the security situation with a wider picture: the question of employment and the shortage of jobs, and the fact that it is all too easy for the devil to find work for idle hands to do. We are aware of this.

My speech is lengthening. I do not want to go into a review of the Government's policy on social, economic and industrial matters. However, I should like to take this opportunity to tell your Lordships that we take constructive initiatives in this field. Today we have announced the introduction of a project in Belfast for the development and production of a very nearly revolutionary kind of aircraft. The project is called the Learfan project. It is funded equally between the Department of Commerce and Learfan at a rate of £7 million. We hope to see 200 jobs out of it by the end of 1980, building up to 1,250 in five years. We would hope to see the first plane airborne in 1982, and thereafter production rising from 100 to 300 a year. That is a bit of hard news, and a bit of good news for a change, and I hope that noble Lords will welcome it.

The noble Lord, Lord Carver, in an intensely interesting and authoritative speech, touched on a number of matters which have overlapped with others. He also introduced the matter of the right to silence, to which I shall revert in a moment, but I should like briefly to refer to it at this stage. Considerations of practical results as well as of principle apply in this area of the so-called right to silence; the right of a suspect not to answer questions put to him in interrogation without having guilt or any other adverse inference drawn from his silence. It is a critical area in the application of the law to terrorism because of the general scarcity of external evidence—and here we come back to it again—in these cases: that is from independent witnesses, forensic sources, and so forth. A suspect may thus well secure immunity simply by declining to answer under interrogation.

It is of course right to feel intense frustration if he is able as a result to go free, when persuasive information about his involvement is to hand but cannot be led as evidence in court. But it is quite another matter to determine in what way and to what extent the protection afforded by the right to silence can properly be removed or modified, and with what practical result. I will not list the questions; they are many, and they are being looked at today in relating to the law of England and Wales by the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure.

Your Lordships are in the midst of looking at some aspects of them in your own consideration of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill. We are no less determined to consider any reasonable change in the law of Northern Ireland, consistent with fundamental legal principles, which offers a good practical prospect of helping to overcome the obstacles before us. But, for the reasons that I have referred to, we cannot be sanguine that this avenue will lead to any major breakthrough.

The noble Lord, Lord Carver, also referred to the close relationship between good security and good local administration. I am glad that he did so. The relationship is indeed a close one. Successive Governments have recognised that Northern Ireland's deep-seated social and economic problems need to be tackled. Our objective is to improve the opportunities open to, and the living conditions of, ordinary individuals. This is not only right on grounds of social justice but we also know that terrorists exploit unemployment, bad housing, shortage of social amenities, and so forth.

We are devoting a large amount of money and effort in an attempt to overcome these problems. You might say that the £7 million I have referred to was part of this attempt. Expenditure of central Government resources in the Province is running at a rate of roughly 30 per cent. above the average for the rest of the United Kingdom per head of population. This policy will take time to take effect, and the tide of economics in world affairs is running against us; but in the short term all branches of the Government machine are urged to be responsive to genuine concern of people living in deprived areas. Machinery exists to ensure close liaison between the security forces and those responsible for the civil administration. We are very much alive to the problems in question, both in their own right and in terms of the bearing they have on security. We are doing our best. We listen to advice. I heed the noble Lord's enthusiasm in this cause.

It was a pleasure to hear the noble Lord, Lord Leonard. Although he brought a lighter vein, he brought a very sincere mind to the problem. We passed each other almost, as it were, because I was translated from Shadow Minister on Wales to a junior Minister in Northern Ireland, and he has his origins in the island and has finished up in the Principality. He urged us to get down to the table like this. I have seen the conference at the table. It is not like this; it is round, and this is square, but otherwise it is the same. We are trying to build bridges, I assure him of that.

The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough—forgive me for going at this gallop but I do not wish to detain your Lordships for much longer—very movingly I thought, introduced his speech by saying that sometimes the rest of the country gets the perspective wrong. I agree with him. I believe that much of what he said has been or will be covered by what I have been saying. However, I know his corner of the country, thanks in part to his own hospitality, and I would mention the fact he referred to.

I recognise the concern which he rightly expressed about the recent flurry of attacks on the security forces in County Fermanagh. It is always a cause for worry when violence blows up anew in a district which has previously been quiet for some time. The security forces are, naturally, paying special attention to the position there. Noble Lords will not expect me to go into detail, but I can tell the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, and the House that the responsible commanders are not dismayed and are taking the necessary action. I trust therefore that, though these words may carry scant comfort to those who feel afraid at night, the noble Viscount may be assured that the situation is not and will not become out of hand.

I have referred already to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbracken. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was interested in the way in which recruitment of young people to the Provisional IRA is inhibited. I know what he is talking about; he is talking about what in Rhodesia they call the Mujibas, runners for terrorists who later grow up and become terrorists themselves. I see it as the function of Government and largely the function of my own department to engage the sympathies of young people with the society in which they live to give them an active and meaningful role in that society.

This means the maintaining of a high level of dedication and professionalism in the schools' staffs. It also involves the important but self-effacing work of the Community Relations Branch of the RUC. It further involves a programme of opportunities for young people and provision for their leisure, and I am responsible also for sport and leisure. I was happy to announce earlier this year that we intend to keep the level of provision in this sector for youth in broadly the same range as it has been in the past; in other words, this is an area of my budget which I am trying to shelter for precisely the reasons the noble Lord adduced. We wish to keep people happy and occupied, not bitter and disoriented.

I understand the depth of feeling with which the noble Lord, Lord Westbury, spoke, and I would say a word of reassurance to him. He spoke of the friction between the police and the Army. I honestly believe that that is a thing of the past. We have had many changes in things over the last few months and some of them have been referred to, and the noble Lord, Lord Blease, referred to them as well. I think the co-operation between the police and the Army has not been so good these many years, and we shall see the fruits thereof.

The noble Lord said kind words about the bi-partisan approach, and I warmly welcome what he said. Like us, he supports the authority of Parliament; like the working paper, he believes that security must be reserved to the Westminster Government; like us, he believes there must be agreement in the Province over a wide range of things; and like all of us, he hopes this could be extended to include the operations of the security forces. Whether this can be brought about through the leaders of the political parties there, or through the more wide and social approach which we have been discussing, I would not presume to judge at this moment.

He talked about co-ordination of policy. Co-ordination is for Sir Maurice Oldfield perhaps of a slightly more specialist order than he thought. It is the job of political Ministers to co-ordinate the efforts of their departments, and that is our endless aim and we try to do so in order to establish a healthy economy, increased employment, a more contented society and one which has a common loyalty. He spoke, and I share every word he said, about the important contribution education can make to the development of a corporate and loyal spirit. As I say, loyalty must be neutral.

May I conclude by referring to the approach of my noble friend Lord Brookeborough to the philosophy upon which our conduct of this campaign is founded. He appealed to the supremacy of freedom, and then almost in the next breath he proceeded to ask whether we had discarded enough of that freedom to be convincing. Is not the central paradox always this? When a free society comes under terrorist attack, it is exactly those elements that constitute its freedom that it is easiest to jettison in order to make it more defensible. But if we throw away too much, we are left with nothing that we would wish to defend.

I have often heard proposals made for the Province that would lead rapidly to a society safe from criminals, but which would make it very unsafe indeed for honest men and women. It really is not safe to make the assumption that no one would be brought before the courts for a terrorist crime if he was not a terrorist. That being so, everyone who comes before a court must be given that fair trial, and under English law hitherto that has always meant that innocence is assumed until guilt has been proved. If noble Lords propose taking that protection away from those who are prosecuted, they want to consider whether it will be only the guilty who suffer.

Similarly, many of us cast envious eyes towards the Continent where there is a supposed absence of a right to silence. I have dealt with this already. The noble Lord, Lord Carver, has also referred to it, so I shall follow it up a little further. In fact there is no such absence in the courts on the Continent, but only at the preliminary hearing when a magistrate determines whether or not there is a case to answer. If the accused remains silent, the assumption is that there is a case to answer—that there is a case, and that he is reserving his defence. Once the case is brought, however, there is a presumption of innocence just as there is here.

The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, referred also to the Republic's law on silence. I do not want to go into a series of historical justifications, but the fact is that that law worked for as long as the penalty one received if one did not recognise the court, and were therefore assumed guilty, amounted to two years. When it became longer the game was not worth the candle and people objected to being convicted on the evidence of one witness—a policeman. That objection was heard by the court and the presumption of innocence was again restored.

If anyone thinks that it would be a good thing to bring in presumptive guilt, or guilt by association, let him look at the America of Senator McCarthy's day and think again. I do not say that either the law or the rules on admissibility of evidence are perfect, but this I do say: in talking to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State the burthen of this debate I shall know that he, like me, sees our struggle as a fight against a threatened tyranny and as a fence of an established freedom. He would be very hesitant indeed about any reform that might turn that proposition on its head. This is just another way of saying at greater length, and less eloquently, what the noble Lord, Lord Blease, said very succinctly. We do not wish to buy political settlement at the price of injustice.

To understand terrorism properly one must think of it not only in terms of a battlefield, but also in terms of something rather different—say, an aquarium. The terrorist is like an ugly predatory fish—a pike, a piranha, or possibly a leech—and the society in which he moves is like the water in the aquarium. He can operate only within certain levels of salinity. I believe that the most gradual, but the most important, change that is taking place on the security scene is a change in the salinity of the water. Increasingly people right across the Province and beyond its borders are sickened by the trail of torn flesh: shattered buildings, and broken hearts. Increasingly they recognise it as an obscene trail that can lead only to the destruction of democratic society, no matter in what country it finds lodgment. Their character was amply illustrated, as the noble Lord, Lord Carver, said, by what was said at the Provisional Sinn Fein Ard Feis. Fewer and fewer people want that sort of an ally in pursuing their own aims. That is why I think the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, was wrong to refer to a stalemate in the system.

May I emphasise to my noble friend Lord Brookeborough that the constitutional conference is a part of our effort in this field. Civil agreement will not of itself eliminate terrorism, but it will make its own contribution by adding salt to the water.

May I quote no less an authority than Mr. Gerry Adams of the Provisional Sinn Fein itself. Speaking to Time magazine last November, having claimed that the main aim of the IRA was to get the British out, he coupled with it another aim of equal priority. I quote: The movement wants to see the creation of a decentralised socialist State. Obviously, even the term united Ireland means that the Government that has been set up in the Republic must come down. The working-class majority from Ulster—Protestants and Catholics—don't simply want to be absorbed into a decadent State. The Republic has got severe economic problems: high unemployment and all the ills of an unjust society whose wealth is controlled by a very small group. Obviously Gerry Adams said, that Government has to come down, and they know it". Small wonder that few people of any reasonable political persuasion want to work in double harness with people like that. It is this determination to overthrow the society of all citizens in every part of Ireland, coupled with the chosen means of brutal and merciless terror, which has begun to change the hearts of men and women against violence. When that change reaches a critical point, the terrorist will find himself without a bolt-hole. He will at last be as exposed as our own security forces have been these many years. That day, towards which our soldiers and policemen, our regulars and reservists, continue to sustain us with unexampled courage, cannot arrive a moment too soon. Her Majesty's Government, gladly acknowledging the debt of gratitude which we owe them, will continue to strive to do all in their power to hasten its coming; and if your Lordships have spent a little longer on this debate than might have been expected, I hope that will be taken as an indication of the intense importance of the matters under consideration.


My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the Minister, but I should like to thank him very much indeed for a very detailed and very helpful reply. There is one point about the coordinating committee. I do not want him to reply to it now, but I should like to take it up with him privately. The coordinating committee's role I understand. What I said was that it impinges on other Ministries in Northern Ireland, and I think that that is an important aspect of it to be considered.


My Lords, my door is always open to the noble Lord, Lord Blease.

10.37 p.m.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank all those noble Lords who have participated in this debate. As I said, I was trying to be constructive, to float ideas and to expose them to the collective expertise of this House; and, indeed, they have been very carefully considered by your Lordships, particularly the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Carver, who gave us a most interesting speech. I have got a lot out of this debate, but one of the main things is a vague feeling that there is not a great deal of acceptance for the suggestion that was put to me that the Border ought to be mined. I will take that home with me. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.