HL Deb 13 January 1987 vol 483 cc510-30

4.55 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Lyell) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th November be approved. [2nd Report from the Joint Committee.]

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 3) Order 1986, which was laid before your Lordships on 18th November 1986 be approved.

Perhaps I may begin by briefly reviewing the security situation in Northern Ireland. I believe that your Lordships will agree that it is this situation, coupled with the potential threat which it implies, which leads us to be clearly but regretfully of the view that there continues to be a real need for emergency legislation in Northern Ireland. This view was reinforced by the tragic and reckless bomb attack in Enniskillen last Friday in which Reserve Constable Ivan Crawford was murdered; by the shooting attack on a leading member ofthe DUP, Mr. David Calvert, the previous day, which he was very lucky to survive; and by the fact that there have already been two mortar attacks on the security forces so far this year.

In Northern Ireland in 1986 a total of 62 people died as a result of the security situation. Thirty-eight of those people were civilians; 24 were members of the security forces. Four of the latter were members of the army, eight were members of the Ulster Defence Regiment and 12 were members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve.

Those figures are a little worse than the comparable figures for 1985, but the violence is nowhere near the levels experienced in the 1970s. There is no such thing as an acceptable level of violence and each statistic represents its own human tragedy. That the situation is not worse is due to the unstinting efforts, courage and professional dedication of all sections of the security forces. They worked at an exceptionally high rate during 1986; the bald statistics do not and cannot tell the whole story. But I should record that more than 28,000 rounds of ammunition and nearly 5,000 pounds of explosives were recovered. During last year, 655 people were charged with terrorist-type offences.

The terrorist—any terrorist—has the capacity to kill and maim indiscriminately, and to put in fear those who stand in his way. That is why it is vital that the police and the courts have the necessary powers to bring him to task for his criminal actions. Hence we find the need for a temporary exceptional measure such as the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, which provides for certain departures from normal judicial procedures where terrorist-type offences are concerned, while being consistent with the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

My ministerial colleagues and I have made it plain that we do not wish to keep this legislation on the statute book for a day longer than is absolutely necessary, and it has been kept under constant review. The last major independent review by a judicial figure was completed in 1984 and your Lordships will know that a Bill is presently before another place which would make certain amendments to the 1978 Act. It will confer additional statutory rights on persons held in police detention under the terrorism provisions and establish a certification scheme intended to prevent paramilitary exploitation of the private security industry.

This Bill will be brought before your Lordships in due course. However, I am not able to say exactly when that will be as it depends on the progress which the Bill makes in another place. I should not like to pre-empt what may be said in another place or to spoil what may be said in your Lordships' House when the Bill comes before your Lordships. Until your Lordships' House has an opportunity to consider that Bill, I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the powers contained in the 1978 Act should be retained for a further six months. I commend the order to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th November be approved. [2nd Report from the Joint Committee.]—(Lord Lyell.)

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, for his introduction of the order, for describing the security position in Northern Ireland and for referring to the evidence which justifies the existence of emergency legislation.

In a democracy we are always aware that emergency legislation usually erodes the civil liberties of some citizens. Therefore our approach to the legislation or its continuation must be one of vigilance. The departure from normal standards of justice must be the least that is necessary in an emergency for the maintenance of order. It is for the government of the day to justify the derogation that it seeks. As the noble Lord has said, the derogation must be seen to be temporary. It should not be prolonged after the emergency has ceased.

I believe that there is a case for continuing the 1978 Act. The Minister has reminded your Lordships that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, which is being continued by this draft order, will shortly be amended or replaced and that its place will be taken by the new Bill which has been introduced in another place. As the 1978 Act is therefore in the process of being amended I do not propose on this occasion to repeat some of our well-known reservations about some of its provisions. However, the noble Lord the Minister should not rush to the conclusion that the Opposition are fully satisfied with the Bill as drawn up.

The Minister will know that in another place we have voiced criticism of the Bill, and we believe that that criticism is constructive. We therefore hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the amendments that will be tabled in another place and that when the Bill is introduced in your Lordships' House it will be more acceptable to those who are genuinely concerned about the maintenance of civil liberties.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 is, as the Minister has indicated, the product of terror in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1978. That terror has produced its toll. I, too, should like to take this opportunity to pay our tribute to the men and women who since 1978 have borne the burden and heat of the trouble in the Province. So at the beginning of a new year we pay tribute to those members of the security forces and the civilians who have died as a result of the violence. It is right that we should remember their families.

We also pay tribute to those who have been injured and to those families whose homes have been shattered by bomb explosions. The violence to which the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, has referred and the explosion which damaged 700 homes in Lisburn Road a week before Christmas illustrate once again the scale of the violence, notwithstanding the sacrifices, notwithstanding the vigilance of the security forces and indeed notwithstanding the existence of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act which we are renewing this evening.

The continued violence to which one has referred draws attention once more to the need for progress to be made on the political level in Northern Ireland, and at the threshold of a new year we trust and hope that the Anglo-Irish Agreement will be given an opportunity to bear fruit, though we accept that the fruit will not mature overnight. With those few observations, we are pleased to give our support to the renewal of the order.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, noble Lords may be surprised to see me rising at this point but I have to offer the apologies of the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, who is unfortunately locked into Worcestershire by the inclement weather. He has spoken to me on the telephone and has indicated that had he been here he should have wished to give general support to the moving of this order today, though, like the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, we have considerable reservations from these Benches about finding ourselves continually having to endorse emergency provisions of this kind.

Clearly we are going to have to live with this in general for a long time to come. One cannot see an end in the immediate future. Therefore we accept these orders with reluctance, hoping always that some better ways may be found to maintain the peace and ensure that that troubled community reaches a point when such orders are no longer necessary and the normal course of justice can be allowed to resume.

In view of the fact that the Bill is going through another place, and without at this stage wishing to commend it or otherwise, it would clearly be foolish to do anything to resist the order or to do anything other than accept it today. As the noble Lord has said, this matter will be dealt with in much greater detail when the Bill comes to this House and, I am sure, much more efficiently and eloquently by my noble friend Lord Hampton than I am able to do today. In the meantime, it has our support.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I rise to support this order and to thank my noble friend for his introduction. For me, this is a very sad day. Yesterday I took part in our church in the burial ceremony of Ivan Crawford. He was a young man, born and bred on Colebrooke. His father and all his uncles were involved in Colebrooke or Brookeborough. He was an upright, peaceful and dutiful man. He was one of the best citizens that you could possibly imagine.

He was doing his duty in Enniskillen, walking down the street, when a booby-trap bomb, triggered by wireless or remote control, foully murdered him. That bomb was made in the Irish Republic. The man who triggered that bomb was trained in the Irish Republic. Those bombs are not made by farm labourers. They are sophisticated bombs. I can tell your Lordships that the whole of our community is crushed by this tragedy. Our sympathy goes to his family and our admiration to him and his colleagues. I only wish that some of your Lordships had been there yesterday to see the fine standing and the smartness of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Women's Reserve and all their supporters. They are a real credit to our community.

Ivan's was one of the 82 murders in County Fermanagh for which only three people have been brought before the courts. The fact is that, being a border county, the refuge of the Irish Republic is there and these people cannot be touched. Immediately after that explosion a commentator said that an innocent passer-by might also have been murdered. Who is innocent? Nobody could be more innocent than Ivan Crawford and all those other people. I find the media's remarks about innocent people most offensive. This happened a few days after that evil prelate, Cardinal O'Fiaich, supported by the SDLP Member for South Armagh, said that Roman Catholics or Nationalists should not join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Ten per cent. of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are Roman Catholics. Those two people are justifying the murder of those 10 per cent. by the IRA.

Shortly after that the Foreign Minister of the Republic damned the Royal Ulster Constabulary with faint praise. He said that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has behaved all right since the Anglo-Irish Accord. What was it doing before? Worse than all that is the fact that there was not a squeak out of our Northern Ireland Office to defend the Royal Ulster Constabulary and [...]o say that for years and years it has been a fair policing service. What about the deputy Secretary of State who has been in charge of the RUC for many years? I find it intolerable that our Ministers do not defend our institutions. They do not, and I shall deal with that point again later. My heart is filled with sadness at having to raise these matters in this way.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, mentioned the Anglo-Irish Accord. I can promise him that that fruit, when it comes, will be sour as far as we are concerned. Parliament will find it extremely hard to understand why a vast number of Ulstermen, sensible people, do not accept what appears to this country to be a sensible arrangement for the governing of Northern Ireland. They see and they hear the strident and unacceptable tones of the Member for Antrim, North. It is unacceptable to us, the majority of the non-Republicans in Ulster, as well. Because this order is against the background of the Anglo-Irish Accord I felt I should try to explain why 100 per cent. of non-Republicans—I am not saying nionists—consider the accord is a betrayal.

First, Scotland and Wales, before they were to have a change in the form of their government, which was to be far less drastic or fundamental than ours, were given a referendum and they threw it out. But in democratic terms Ulster has spoken. In November 1985 200,000—and that is a lot of people—marched to City Hall to disapprove of the accord. At that point Unionists were told to have a good look at the accord and they would see good things in it. In January 1986 540,000 people voted against it, and on 15th November 1986, 300,000 people marched round City Hall. Can one get 100,000 or even 10,000 people to a political meeting? There must be something that those 300,000 people do not like, and they are reasonable, intelligent people. We are not being misled by loud-mouthed politicians. What we have seen we do not like.

In democratic terms it is a complete injustice. The Unionists civil rights have been eroded in a way that so far it has been impossible to get people to understand. Two-thirds of Ulster votes Unionist. One-third elects three non-Unionist Members. Under the Anglo-Irish Accord those non-Unionist Members have the right—and they use it—to go to Dublin and persuade Dublin that what they want is right. The Dublin Government then present the Republican case to our Government. Time and again, when the Member for South Armagh speaks, shortly afterwards the Foreign Minister for the Irish Republic echoes his views.

Our Government are under an obligation to do their utmost to meet the views of the Irish Government—the "three Republicans", or perhaps "two Republicans", because there are two SDLP Members. There is no such willingness expressed by the Government to listen to the views of two-thirds of the people. That is why we feel totally disfranchised. I must make it absolutely clear that I thoroughly disapprove of the boycott of the other place. I have said so and I do what I can to bring them back. Having said that, there must be some understanding that one vote for a Republican is multiplied by five.

There is no aspect now of Ulster life in which the Irish Government are not involved—appointments to health boards, appointments to the police authority and the spawning of legislation between the two Governments. That is why we do not like the accord.

As to the performance of the accord, in the past 12 months we have been subject once more to verbal bombardment by Ministers from the Dublin Government. The Irish Prime Minister bombarded the judiciary. He said that when the Lord Chief Justice quashed a case involving a supergrass it was in accordance with the Anglo-Irish Accord. In fact, he insulted our judiciary when he said that it was subject to political control. The judiciary in the South may well be—I do not know—but the judiciary in Ulster is not subject to political involvement.

That statement was bad enough, but where was our Secretary of State in defending our judiciary? There was not one peep from him. At a later date my right honourable friend the Solicitor-General did come out, in a speech which received no publicity, but I consider this lack of defence to be a disgrace. I give your Lordships a forecast. Although I utterly respect the decision of the judiciary to quash that case, I can inform your Lordships that it is my opinion that violence will increase this year and the Anglo-Irish Accord will have done nothing to stop it.

I repeat, the Foreign Minister attacks the police and no defence is put forward by our Government. The Dublin Government have failed to ratify the European Convention on Terrorism. There is nothing from our Government saying that they should have ratified it, but that was part of the Anglo-Irish Accord. The Dublin Government approved of extradition but it is not to take effect for 12 months. Either it is right to have it or it is wrong.

An order has come before the House twice a year since the Act was passed. Northern Ireland Ministers have said time and again that co-operation with the security forces of the South is first class. But when are we going to have results? Could we not start on the accord? Could we not harmonise some of the laws in dealing with terrorism? The Dublin Government have some very good laws. We have some very good laws. The Dublin Government should accept seven-day detention. They should give their army the same powers as ours. The free state army cannot stop a car without a Garda being present. They cannot talk to anybody or do anything. They are totally and absolutely powerless. Could we not jointly ban Sinn Fein from going on television in the way that they have in Dublin? Let us have some evidence that the accord is not just one-sided.

The Government said that we would get reconciliation. The fact is that intimidation has increased enormously. The housing executive alone had to deal with 1,000 rehouses this year. The Government have said that their preferred route is devolution. If there ever was a route to devolution it has been closed with the Anglo-Irish Accord. There is no route that way and the Government and Parliament must accept that. No Unionist can ever again sit down in a devolved government and be re-elected. He can sit down but he will be shot after that, either physically or metaphorically. There is no route down the route of devolution.

The accord has other intentions. It was supposed to save President Reagan's Senate. It has not done that. It was supposed to bolster Dr. Fitzgerald, but it does not look as if it has done that either. We were to have the European Convention on Extradition and were promised more security. I should honestly like to know who really believes, and made our Government believe, that more security could be produced from the Irish Republic; after all, they have been fighting this for the same number of years as we have.

One of the reasons why we shall not get extra security is that the Garda is politically controlled.

Every member of the Garda from superintendent and above is appointed by the Minister of Justice and approved by the Cabinet. With such unstable governments as they have, there is a very long period in every year when no superintendent is going to stick out his neck more than the minimum. People will not take risks.

The truth is, too, that the Garda does not have the equipment. I have not been as rough on this aspect before, although I have known it for years and years—and, goodness knows, with the number of dead people in my area I would want anything which would prevent more deaths—but the fact is that the Garda does not have the equipment or the manpower to do much more. It does not have the leadership to take on hard men. For instance, where is the secure radio? Where is the team of fit, well equipped young men to carry out surveillance? The days of intelligence gathering in a pub are gone; it results from hard work and surveillance. The men and equipment are not there, your Lordships can take it from me. It is a hard grind and there is not the slightest sign that Dublin will produce them at all.

The Government can bluff by saying that they will not answer these questions because it is not in the public interest. I have kept quiet for too long. It is time it was said that the Garda does not have the stuff with which to do the job. Every week there has been a mortar attack around the Border. A mortar attack is a cumbersome operation. One cannot just pick up such a weapon, put it under one's arm and do something with it. It has to be put on a vehicle, and that means a major operation. Yet the Garda cannot stop this weekly mortaring. I cannot believe that it could not be stopped. That is how I see the accord working. The co-operation about which we hear is when British soldiers or a member of the RUC happen to put one foot across the Border and then they are arrested. That is not the kind of co-operation that I like.

I hope that this House has some idea of why we in Ulster will not accept the accord. We are being parcelled and packaged for delivery to a United Ireland. My Lords, I support this order.

Baroness Phillips

My Lords. I do not wish to intervene in the political arguments which the noble Viscount feels so strongly and with which I sympathise, but before he sits down will he agree that "evil" is a rather strong adjective to apply to a Catholic Cardinal?

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, "evil" is a subjective concept. I think the word is correct.

5.22 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I rise not to support or reject this order—indeed, in the many years that I sat in another place I found that I had to object to the order for many reasons—because, as has already so rightly been pointed out by a previous speaker, since the creation of the Northern Ireland state we have always had to live under emergency legislation. For many years it was the Special Powers Act and since 1972, following the abolition of Stormont, we have had the emergency provisions and the Prevention of Terrorism Act. So under any circumstances I cannot lend my support to this legislation, although I understand the need for many of its provisions.

My reason for rising to speak today is to try in a few minutes to bring to bear the reasoning of your Lordships' House on the realities which exist in Northern Ireland—not on how people would like things to be or how they hope they may turn out in the future but on the realities of life in Northern Ireland and most of all the political realities. I speak with some experience of politics in Northern Ireland. For 10 years I was the Leader of the SDLP, which is one of the major political parties in Northern Ireland. Therefore I understand the reasoning behind the discussions which took place within the confines of that party and within the minority community in Northern ireland.

It is now 14 months since the signing and implementation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which was intended to bring about reconciliation in Northern Ireland. It was meant to bring the two communities together, to allay the suspicions and fears which existed among the minority population and to give support to the Unionist position for the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. That is what it was alleged to do. I expressed my reservations at the time and since then I have had no reason to reassess them.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement was intended to draw the Catholic nationalist minority community away from supporting the violence of Sinn Fein and the IRA, on the grounds that there was to be set up an Anglo-Irish inter-governmental conference of which there would he two joint chairmen: one would be the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the other, who would represent minority interests at that intergovernmental conference, would be the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic, Peter Barry. Any fears and suspicions held by the minority community would be voiced by the co-chairman of the conference; namely, Peter Barry.

However, one of the most crucial elements, then as now, was the minority's attitude toward the RUC (the Royal Ulster Constabulary), because there can never be any hope of a political solution in Northern Ireland unless the vast majority of the population in Northern Ireland (as indeed would be the case anywhere else) give support to the forces of law and order. What is the present position? Has the SDLP, the party which I formerly led, made any progress over the past 14 months in recognising and accepting the RUC? Until that happens and until that police force is accepted by the overwhelming majority of the population, one cannot hope to bring about an end to terrorism.

Sadly I have to tell the House that there has been absolutely no progress made in that direction. The SDLP has not departed by one single inch or centimetre from the stand which it previously took. That political stand taken by the SDLP totally infuriates the Protestant majority community in Northern Ireland, which sees that concessions have been made to the SDLP but that after having obtained some favours from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, absolutely no reciprocal response has been offered.

I understand why the SDLP has not moved, but sadly that is what I have to tell the House. No Government can govern effectively any community or country if they do not have the support of the population and support for the security forces. Indeed, it was the minority's withdrawal or rejection of support for the RUC which led to the abolition of Stormont by the Conservative Government. The minority community had no faith in the RUC—and perhaps I may say here that at that particular time I did not have a great deal of faith in the RUC, though I am the first to admit that since then there have been dramatic strides made by the RUC and dramatic changes have taken place, so that I now fully accept that the RUC is acting as a police force in the interests of the whole community in Northern Ireland and that it should have the support of that community.

However, the SDLP is an opposition party. It is opposed to the Unionists and opposed to every facet of Unionism. This opposition is based on political, cultural and other grounds. The one ace card that the SDLP has to play is non-acceptance of the RUC. The SDLP says to a succession of governments here, both Labour and Conservative, "We will accept the RUC if you make such and such a concession to us". After that concession has been made it says, "We cannot accept it yet and you must make another concession to us", and so it goes on. Once the SDLP has thrown away that major poitical ace of non-recognition of the RUC it has no further cards to play and that is why it is holding on to it.

One would have hoped that the SDLP would have supported the RUC. The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, has already referred to the fact that 236 RUC policemen and officers have been killed since the onset of the present troubles (the last was killed in County Fermanagh), and one should remember that. However, Peter Barry, who is the joint chairman of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and allegedly the voice of nationalists at this conference, made a television broadcast in which he was asked whether he now thought that the time was opportune for members of the minority to join the RUC. He said yes, he thought the time was now opportune. Within two days, a spokesman for the SDLP was saying, "No, no, no, the time is not opportune for the Catholic minority community to join the RUC." Who is the voice of the minority in the Anglo-Irish Inter-governmental Council?—because Peter Barry's sentiments were totally cast aside. In fact, the deputy leader of the SDLP said, in response to a question, "Peter Barry does not speak for me." So Peter Barry is asking the Catholic population in the North to join the RUC but the political leaders in the North are saying, "Don't join the RUC." Then the deputy leader of the SDLP said, and I quote directly from his remarks: We are not going to have, during the rest of this century, a situation in nationalist areas where there will be support for the RUC. So here we have a prediction by the deputy leader of the minority party that for the rest of this century we are going to have a position where 30 or 40 per cent. of the population in Nothern Ireland is not supporting the forces of law and order.

Let me tell the Minister that I make this prediction, sadly but confident that I am right, that into the next century you are never—and I underline the word "never"—going to have a political spokeman for the minority in Northern Ireland advising the Catholic youth to join the RUC.

The ecclesiastical voice of the Catholics in Northern Ireland, Cardinal O'Fiaich, recently entered into the controversy as well. He said that the time was not right for Catholics to join the RUC, particularly in view of the Stalker affair. Prior to the name "Stalker" ever being heard in Northern Ireland, the Catholics were finding a reason for not joining the RUC. Five years before that, they were finding reasons not to join the RUC and before that they were finding reasons not to join the RUC. The 10 per cent. of Catholics who are in the RUC have joined that force in spite of their political leaders and in defiance of their political leaders.

I have here a quotation which I regard as very sad. The assistant chief constable of the RUC, Mr. Cahal Ramsey, who, in my estimation, is a good Catholic and a damned good Irishman, has spent his lifetime in the RUC. In response to the Cardinal's remarks about not joining in the non-acceptance of the RUC, he wrote a letter to the Press and in one paragraph he said: As a long serving member of the police service and as a Catholic, I must, with sadness, protest at these unfair and indeed unjust references. From them it could be inferred that I and other police officers of the minority community, past and present, are somehow less than full members of the Catholic Church and, indeed, less than Irish. Nothing could be further from the realities of the situation. I would support those sentiments as expressed.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord a question. He told us that some years ago at the time when he was leader of the SDLP, he himself was against Catholics joining the RUC. But he said that since then there had been dramatic changes. Could he just say one or two words about what those dramatic changes are?

Lord Fill

There have been dramatic changes. I hope the noble Earl is not supporting the plea that has been put forward that Catholics should not give support to the RUC, because if anyone is admitting that suggestion, then they are expressing sentiments which are bound to lead to continuation of our present troubles. I was one of the men who was hit on 5th October 1968 as I led a Civil Rights march in Derry and I was beaten up by the RUC on that occasion. The RUC at that time were acting under the instructions of a Unionist Minister of Home Affairs. There is no doubt that the RUC, as it was then, was totally different from the way it is operating now. There is a police authority now and RUC actions are subject to discussion in this House.

At the time the RUC could not be mentioned in this House or in another place. It was regarded as being a matter for the then Stormont Government. So in this House and in the other place, that is the reason why we are discussing this legislation and why there is a Bill going through another place to get to the Committee stage. The RUC and even its members are now open to very close scrutiny. The very fact that an assistant chief constable who is a Catholic and an Irishman is second in command of the RUC is in effect tantamount to admitting that great changes have taken place in the RUC.

However, I come back to the fact that you cannot govern Northern Ireland when 30 or 40 per cent. of the population there do not support the security forces—namely, the RUC. I quote again from the deputy leader of the SDLP, who said that they would not be accepted in nationalist areas. There are very many Catholics who do not live in nationalist areas: they do not live in the Bogside or Ballymurphy but all over Northern Ireland and they have to depend on the RUC for further protection.

So can we ever get to a stage where the population in Northern Ireland would give support to the forces of law and order who are the only forces who can protect them? I have already said that the non-recognition of the security forces is the political ace card which is at present held by the SDLP. I do not think that if the Cardinal were to suffer a nervous breakdown overnight or if the SDLP were to suffer a nervous breakdown and, tomorrow morning, make a statement that they supported the RUC there would be hundreds and thousands of young Catholic men rushing into RUC recruiting stations. I do not believe that that would happen. I do not believe the SDLP would have that authority. But one of the saddest things is that I was speaking recently to someone who supported the SDLP and I voiced my objections as I am doing in your Lordships' House this evening. He said, "You see how difficult it is. If the SDLP asked young Catholic men to joint the RUC and then they went out and were killed by the IRA, how would the SDLP explain that away?" To me it is an awful admission of the impotence and ambivalence of the SDLP as a political party if they are frightened about what the IRA would do to people whom they have asked to join the security forces.

That is the main part, that is what this Bill is about, that is what the next Bill, when it comes from another place, will be about. It is all about the security forces and what action can be taken by the security forces to stop the depredations and the ongoing campaign of violence by the IRA.

I would appeal, as a former leader. I am quite well aware that this appeal will fall on deaf ears, but I would appeal to all those Catholics who live in Northern Ireland and depend on the RUC for their protection—because the IRA cannot give them protection, the UVF and all the other organisations cannot give them protection. I would appeal to all those who have to seek the protection of the RUC, irrespective of what Cardinal O'Fiaich may say. They all know Cardinal O'Fiaich, and no one can take this away from him: he has had many many predecessors in the past who have felt the same way, he is a constitutional nationalist. In other words, he does not want to see the state of Northern Ireland existing. The RUC are upholders of the law in Northern Ireland, they are there to see that the constitutional position exists. So how can the Cardinal, who is a dedicated nationalist, and the SDLP give support to the RUC, which is there to ensure the continuation of the state of Northern Ireland, when they are politically and, indeed, ecclesiastically opposed to it? It is a contradiction in terms. So anyone who expects that as a result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement the SDLP will throw away their ace is not living with reality.

There is only one other matter I wish to speak on here, and that is the Diplock Courts, which again have caused a great deal of controversy. The question is, should there be one judge, two judges, three judges? I say again, and I only do this to put a rubber stamp on what I have said in the House before, that it is impossible to bring back the jury system in Northern Ireland at this time. But juries are not the be-all and the end-all of justice, whether in Northern Ireland or in this House. There were three juries here in this country, those which sat in deliberation on the Guildford bombings, the Annie Maguire case and on the Birmingham bombings. Those three juries were totally and absolutely wrong in bringing in "guilty" verdicts. We know that very well. I know it may be hard for British people to accept that, but these cases have attracted public attention in the last few years.

I was on a deputation to the present Home Secretary last week. I understand that within a few days he may make a statement and refer one of the cases, that of the Birmingham bombers, to the Court of Appeal. I have not been much involved in that case, but I have been involved in the Annie Maguire case. The members of this family have already served 10, 12, 14 years' imprisonment. They are now released. They would have no need to continue with this campaign to prove their innocence if they were guilty, but they are innocent. This case will continue to be brought before the House and before the country until those people are totally exonerated of a crime of which they were not guilty.

We shall have an opportuntity to discuss the new Bill when it arrives from another place. I finish by making an appeal to the political leaders in Northern Ireland and, most of all, to the Catholic minority community to give their support to the RUC because it is the only force that can protect them from the machinations, the depredations and the murderous activities of the men of violence from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend this question about the RUC? Would he agree that the main change that has happened in regard to the RUC is that they are now strongly opposed by a very great number of the Unionist population? That is a factor that has not been brought out, but it seems to me to be very relevant.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, although I had intended to limit my remarks, let me make this quite clear. Given that the state was set up on the basis of Protestant and Catholic head counts, that is, two tribes, if one pleases one tribe, one does not please the other.

Early in 1985, before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was implemented, the RUC, at the behest of the British Government, were given a dry run in a place called Portadown. The Unionists had been marching in a very provocative way over a number of years, and deliberately set out to provoke the minority population in Portadown. The British Government told the RUC—and I am certain that they were under political instruction then—to do what they could to stop these very provocative parades. What they were in effect doing was to see whether the RUC would use force against the Protestant population and, if they could be sure that the Protestant population would be met with the force of the RUC, then it would be a sign that they could go ahead with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. They therefore did that, and it has happened in many cases since Portadown.

One is dealing with words, and words in Northern Ireland have a different meaning and complexion from what is understood over here. If a political leader in Northern Ireland says that the RUC were acting impartially last week, do your Lordships know what that means? It means that they were knocking hell out of the other side. That is exactly what it means. That is why Peter Barry, the co-chairman of the Anglo-Irish council, said that the RUC acted impartially in Portadown, and elsewhere—because they were beating hell out of the Orangemen.

Lord Kilbracken

My Lords, for the first time.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, yes, for the first time, but that is what impartiality means. Therefore, the RUC are caught: if they are being impartial to one side, they are beating hell out of the other side. That is the way it has ever been because of the circumstances in which the Northern Ireland state came into being.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I must make a correction. The RUC operated against the yobs in the Shankhill many times, including when Constable Arbuckle was murdered, to take one incident. The idea that the RUC never operated except in one way is not true or fair. They are now a brilliantly led, brilliantly equipped and brilliantly trained force operating with total impartiality, and that is what matters, not the past.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, first, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for not having been able to hear the whole of his speech. I was called out of the Chamber to speak to an unfortunate member of my family stranded by a blizzard.

I welcome the intention of the Government in the near future to introduce a Bill amending the original Act that we are discussing tonight and implementing some at least of Sir George Baker's recommendations. We shall be able to debate the adequacy or otherwise of this in due course.

I should like to mention two or three recent documents that have a bearing on the order. The first is The Times editorial of 8th January. This concerned the three cases already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. I should like to draw that to the attention of the Government. I go on to touch on the question of the transfer of prisoners from English prisons to prisons in Northern Ireland. We have recently had a major statement from the National Association of Probation Officers which I ask the Government to study very carefully. I understand that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Northern Ireland will have a chapter on this very subject in its forthcoming annual report, and we look forward to reading and studying that.

I hope that, with the aid of those two documents, the Government will be able to be much more forthcoming on this subject than they have ever been in the past.

I should like to mention next a document entitled Co-existence in some plural European Societies. This is Report No. 72 of the Minority Rights Group. It deals with the situation of the Germans in North Italy, Swedes in Finland and the numerous minorities in Belgium. In all these areas, considerable progress has been made since 1950 in dealing with problems nearly, if not quite, as intractable as those of Northern Ireland. I hope that we shall have an opportunity to debate the report in your Lordships' House on 11th February.

I come now to a recent statement from Amnesty International. This deals with the unfortunate situation that has arisen in recent years over fatal shootings by the security forces in Northern Ireland. Since the autumn of 1982, 34 people, of whom 18 were unarmed, have been killed by the police or the army. This is a serious matter. It has concerned Amnesty, which has been corresponding with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland since October 1985. Amnesty went on to issue a press release in September last year, of which the reference number is EUR 45/01/86.

I suggest that it is quite insufficient to say that the proposed new Police Complaints Commission will be able to put these matters right. We are already faced with an unsatisfactory situation. The Commission will be able to consider complaints only once they are made, and no doubt with a fixed starting point.

We should perhaps look briefly at the other safeguards. Criminal charges against members of the security forces are said to be one, police investigations another and coroner's inquests a third. In my view, none of these safeguards has proved effective or adequate up to now. I do not really see how they can do so in future.

I urge the Government not to brush aside the representations made by Amnesty. The loss to the public service of the County Coroner for Armagh and of a distinguished police officer in the person of Mr. John Stalker should be warning enough.

Amnesty International suggested a judicial inquiry. No doubt that is not the only suggestion that could be made. The Government may find a more suitable and effective procedure, but nevertheless I beg them not to ignore the matter as something unworthy of their consideration. To do so would be to concede a propaganda victory to terrorism and unnecessarily to offend many law-abiding people in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and elsewhere throughout the world.

I conclude by saying a word about the petition currently being circulated in Northern Ireland against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. One may perhaps be pleased that the Unionist parties have adopted a tried and known constitutional method of making known their point of view. However, the conduct of that petition is an important and delicate subject. I therefore appeal to those persons and organisations in Northern Ireland which are able to monitor and verify the methods used and the procedures involved in this petition to do so extremely carefully. It is obviously not something in which the Government can interfere or be involved. I think that I have probably said enough to show the sensitivity of this matter and our hopes that the petition will be conducted in a highly constitutional and proper manner.

Lord Blease

My Lords, I support the reasoned and relevant remarks in support of the order made by our Front Bench spokesman the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies. I warmly welcome the tribute paid by the Minister to the work done by the security forces in their efforts to contain communal strife in Northern Ireland, to deal with the brutal acts of terrorism and paramilitarism, and to carry out the normal policing duties required in a society such as ours.

I express my sympathetic understanding of the strong words used by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. He has made courageous statements in his area—one which has been dominated by terrorism and brutality for a long time. It takes a man of courage to stand up in that area and denounce terrorism in the way that he has. At the same time, I join with him in his words of sympathy to the families of those who have recently lost their loved ones through savage acts of terrorism. I know that other noble Lords will join me when I say that.

I commend the action of the noble Viscount in presenting his forthright views to the House, whether we agree or disagree with him. He has had the courage to put them on the record in this House. I support fully what he said about the boycotting of another place by the elected representatives of Northern Ireland. They are doing a disservice to all the people of Northern Ireland and to the principles of parliamentary democracy.

The Government should examine urgently every possible way of strengthening the democratic processes and upholding law and order. Some of what we have heard tonight has been a rehearsal of the forthcoming debate in this House on the Bill which is now being debated in another place. I await that occasion with interest. I support the order that is before us.

The Earl of Perth

My Lords, I rise rather unpremeditatedly because of a remark made by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough. He said that the cardinal is an evil man. The noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, queried his use of that adjective. As I understand it, the noble Viscount said that he used the word in a subjective sense. I do not know what that means.

I went to the trouble of looking up the word in the Oxford English Dictionary. I found there that when it is applied to persons it means "morally depraved", "bad", "wicked" or "vicious". I cannot believe that the noble Viscount meant to use the adjective in that sense. It does not help us to achieve what we want, namely, something better in Northern Ireland. I understand his view on many points, but I hope that he will reconsider what he said.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, with the leave of the House, having heard the noble Earl, I shall substitute the word "bad', because it was a very bad thing which was done.

6 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, your Lordships will agree that we have had a short, useful and interesting debate. As all noble Lords have said, the debate on the order is overshadowed by the Bill which is currently before another place. I have been put on notice that your Lordships will wish to cover a wide range of issues, perhaps even wider than those we have discussed this evening, when the Bill comes before the House. In view of the short and simple order before us, I believe that your Lordships will agree that I should not comment in detail on all the issues which have been raised. I hope that we can profitably and more reasonably discuss some of them when we discuss the Bill.

I should like to deal briefly with some of the general points which have been made by your Lordships. As far as I can, I shall answer the specific points which have been raised, but if I miss any I can assure the House that I shall write as briefly and succinctly as possible to those of your Lordships who raised them.

One general point made by several of your Lordships, especially the noble Lords, Lord Prys-Davies and Lord Fitt, which is central to the Government's approach to the emergency legislation before us is that of securing public confidence in not just the security forces (the main theme of the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt) but, above all, in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. The Government's view is that that is fundamental to the success of security policies in Northern Ireland. We keep under constant review all aspects of the process of criminal justice, especially those procedures which apply to persons suspected or accused of scheduled offences in Northern Ireland. That is the context of the Bill which is in another place and is the background to this order.

I am sure that your Lordships will acknowledge that the Government's current legislative proposals reflect our concern to ensure that any departures from normal procedures are as limited as they can be, always taking into account the background of the continuing terrorist campaign which was spelled out to us this evening by my noble friend Lord Brookeborough. The proposals also reflect our concern that the basic rights of everyone suspected or accused of scheduled offences should be fully protected.

Many points have been raised this evening by your Lordships and perhaps I may begin with those made by the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies. He pointed out that the order before us is once again a derogation from the normal procedures. We accept that, and I am sure he accepts that we have derogation from the normal procedures that we should like to see. He knows the background. We renew these orders on a regular basis and are most grateful for what he said and his understanding of why the order is being introduced tonight. We are particularly grateful for the support he expressed—support which I am sure will be shared by your Lordships—for the courage and steadfastness of all the security forces.

The noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, was kind enough to warn us of the weather which has prevented his noble friend Lord Hampton from joining us this evening. We hope that he will be able to join us on a future occasion when the weather will have improved slightly. However, we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, for his helpful comments and for the proxy comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, on the reasons why we wish to renew the order again this evening.

I turn now to the trenchant and forthright remarks, as one would expect, from my noble friend Lord Brookeborough. We should all accept, I am sure, the very deep feelings my noble friend expresses when somebody we know well in our community is brutally murdered. He expressed views that I am sure all of us would wish to express in such circumstances. We should have felt such feelings ourselves had we been in the same position. Indeed, my noble friend's remarks stress what I set out in my opening remarks; that terrorism is not just a matter of statistics but of each and every individual tragedy. What has happened shows us what is involved in terrorism, especially in Northern Ireland.

My noble friend went on to make a number of trenchant remarks about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The main thrust of his speech underlines and reinforces the need the Government feel to develop even closer and more comprehensive cross-Border security co-operation. I believe that he and indeed all your Lordships, including the noble Lords, Lord Blease and Lord Fitt, would accept that this is not a situation we can achieve overnight.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, does my noble friend not think that 16 years is quite a long time for it to start?

Lord Lyell

My Lords, my noble friend made a number of trenchant remarks in referring to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If he wants to go right back to the elements of 1968 and 1969 I probably can do that, but perhaps not tonight; perhaps on another occasion. We may indeed find one or two interesting things that were said by my noble friend's father—as I recall, my bedside reading in the Cameron Report of 1969. There were some interesting things said there as well as elsewhere. However, I shall not trail herrings of any colour around your Lordships this evening. I hope that my noble friend and indeed all your Lordships will accept that cross-Border security co-operation is not something that can be achieved overnight. However, I stress that we are laying the groundwork and we look forward to securing solid benefits. I reiterate those two words.

I also wish to stress that Mr. Barry, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland, has expressed the view that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is a force which offers an appropriate career for members of the minority community. I do not think I should go into his expression further, but certainly in normal cases such as this it reflects the varying degrees of Irishness of the young man. I leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and to my noble friend as to how they take Mr. Barry's views.

I want to join my noble friend and also the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, in calling on the SDLP to demonstrate equivalent support, whatever form it might take, for the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I have noted many of the comments to which the noble Lord, Lord Fitt referred. I have seen them in the newspapers and heard them through the media, and they strike a rather harsh chord with me and perhaps also with many other Members of your Lordships' House.

I regret that my noble friend Lord Brookeborough feels that my ministerial colleagues and I do not give the support he believes the Royal Ulster Constabulary deserves. I certainly reject that because we really do everything we possibly can to support that body. However, I think that if I were in my noble friend's position, having attended a funeral yesterday in sad circumstances, I should express the same feelings. But I stress to him that we give our utmost, total support to the brave men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

My noble friend's view of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is well known. I cannot say that I go along with his attitude, which I think is needlessly negative. I hope he will at least accept that the Government remain ready and willing—indeed keen—to listen to and take account of the views of the Unionist community. I think it is a matter of profound regret that with only one or two very brave exceptions (and I include of course my noble friend here) the entire bulk of the political representatives of the Unionist community—I will not delve into the varying strands of Unionism—have completely withdrawn from normal political debate. I shall say fairly mildly that we hope they will return.

My noble friend's comments on the Anglo-Irish Agreement would go further. I stress to him that the Government entered into the agreement because we firmly believe that it is in the long-term best interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. I hope we shall all be spared until the next century to see whether the predictions of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, come true. He has had notable success with his predictions in other fields and I might take a modest wager with him, but perhaps not tonight. I stress that the agreement does not adversely affect any basic Unionist interest: I stress that once again. Certainly we believe that it will facilitate progress towards devolution on a basis of widespread agreement in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. I hope that my noble friend will take that as read.

He was also somewhat critical of the abilities and the equipment of the Garda. I would not want to let that pass without stating my confidence in the will of the guards and of the Irish Government to play a full part in the eradication of terrorism. This may well involve changes in the structure and equipment of security forces in the Republic; but certainly my noble friend and your Lordships have the Government's assurance that we shall continue to keep up the pressure on this aspect.

My noble friend suggested that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was something of a monolith, and was at a halt. I stress to him—and I hope he will pass on the message to every one of his friends and every Unionist in Northern Ireland—that the offer of talks made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the 25th February last year still stands. The Government are indeed prepared to operate the agreement sensitively in the context of talks about devolution. I hope that my noble friend will take that on board.

He made one other comment which I noted with interest. I think he was referring to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and he said, "What we have seen we do not like". I hope that I have quoted him correctly. If I have not, I apologise. However, we can check in the Official Report tomorrow. Those words might be understood slightly differently in Scotland, England and Wales. It is a matter of profound regret I believe to all of us that political expression in Northern Ireland about the Anglo-Irish Agreement has taken the tone that it has and that we are not able to discuss this agreement either in your Lordships' House in reasonable tones or in another place. I stress again, I hope my noble friend will take this on board, that the offer given by my right honourable friend on 25th February of last year still stands.

We cannot be responsible for anything that is said by the Taoiseach or the Republic's Government. I hope that my noble friend will beware of commenting on judicial decisions. I was always taught when I was young to respect the decision of the referee on the sporting field. I believe that it is very valuable advice that we should not cast aspersions, whether or not we agree with judicial decisions, especially if they affect matters in Northern Ireland.

My noble friend also commented on one or two aspects of secure radio. He commented about fit young men carrying out surveillance south of the Border. I shall leave his comments because this Government simply cannot answer for the Government of the Republic.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, made a notable contribution to our debate this evening. I enjoyed his remarks about impartiality. Doubtless he reads, as I do, that notable organ, the newspaper in County Fermanagh the Impartial Reporter. My noble friend Lord Brookeborough often appears on the pages there. But I believe that nobody would wish to cast aspersions on that excellent newspaper. It is indeed a paragon of impartiality in Northern Ireland. It is to my mind and to that of many noble Lords a source of interest and no little amusement.

All of us noted the reservations of the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, with regard to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Indeed, we noted the crucial element of the agreement that he sought; that was acceptance by the minority community of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. However, the most valuable point that the noble Lord made was that the minority community who live away from what he termed nationalist areas depend upon the Royal Ulster Constabulary for their protection, for impartial policing. I go much further than that. Every one of us in Northern Ireland depends upon the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We are immensely grateful for all their tremendous efforts.

The noble Lord also referred to the two cases with which your Lordships will be familiar, one of which was the Maguire case. I hope that he will not expect me to comment on them this evening. He knows the usual procedures with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Office, who is considering the points raised by the noble Lord both here and through other channels.

The noble Lord raised one point about what we tend to call the Diplock courts. Perhaps I may try briefly to cover that point for him. The noble Lord and your Lordships will be aware of the subject of scheduled offences in Northern Ireland. The Government are certainly not at present persuaded that the establishment of three-judge courts for the trial of scheduled offences would offer any particular advantages over the present arrangements. There are a number of reasons for this. I could set them out and give the varying numbers of statistics, but I hope your Lordships will accept that we can leave this matter until another day.

We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. We are disappointed with the attitude of the SDLP to members of the Roman Catholic Church joining the RUC. We would wish to support them very greatly if they wish to join.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised a number of points. I believe that one dealt with the transfer of prisoners to Northern Ireland. I see that he nods in assent. Whenever someone is convicted and is to serve a sentence the presumption in law is that that prisoner will serve his sentence in the jurisdiction in which the sentence was imposed. The transfer of prisoners from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is by law a matter for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary or for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Although it is the practice—and I use that word advisedly—for the authorities in the receiving country (that is the country where the prisoner may have expressed a wish to spend his sentence) to be consulted before any transfer is made, I stress that all applications for transfer are considered on their merits against the background of the policy criteria. If a prisoner, regardless of the nature of his offence, had incicated by his behaviour, and above all by his attitude, while in prison in Great Britain that he could not be relied upon—and I stress that—subsequent to his transfer to co-operate in the normal prison regime, it would be unlikely that his request for transfer would be granted. I think that your Lordships would accept and understand perfectly well why that might or might not be so.

The noble Lord, also referred to the Amnesty International report. He mentioned that a number of letters had been written. I am able to tell him that Amnesty also wrote to me. Arrangements are being made to give an adequate reply to Amnesty and to the organisations that wrote to us. I am able to tell the noble Lord that the Government take such allegations very seriously. We look forward to the resolution of the cases which are currently being investigated by Mr. Sampson of the West Yorkshire Police. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will make a statement on the public interest aspects of this report at the earliest possible moment. However, the mechanics of the petition which is currently being promoted by the different strands of unionism in Northern Ireland is a matter for them, as I am sure the noble Lord will accept.

We are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blease, for his comments and for the intervention—I hesitate to say erudite intervention—of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who took my noble friend to task on one or two of the words which had been used about the Cardinal. Your Lordships will understand that I do not wish to enter the discussion on definitions; I do not have a dictionary with me. But we are grateful for the interest shown by the noble Earl.

I hope that I have covered all the important points raised by noble Lords who have spoken in this evening's debate. If there are any that I have missed I assure your Lordships that we shall write to you as briefly as possible. I look forward to having a full debate on our legislative proposals in due course. Pending consideration by your Lordships of the Bill which is currently before another place, I recommend that we approve the order before us to allow the 1978 Act to continue in force.

On Question, Motion agreed to.