HL Deb 28 June 1996 vol 573 cc1176-93

2.25 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, we once more seek approval for the renewal of the current provisions for the government of Northern Ireland by direct rule. This we do with a certain sense of regret that it is necessary, once more, to renew what are in principle less than wholly satisfactory arrangements, despite our best efforts to operate them fairly, impartially and efficiently. But they clearly remain necessary. For the moment there is no measure of agreement in Northern Ireland broad enough for any system of government founded on greater local accountability.

We are now embarked on a process of negotiations that we hope will bring us closer to the goal of establishing such a system. The continuation of the direct rule arrangements for the time being gives us the opportunity to make progress in the negotiations.

The last year saw a series of significant milestones in our journey towards that goal. In stark and grim contrast was the end of the IRA ceasefire. Looking back at the elation with which the ceasefires in 1994 were greeted, this regression is deplorable. The IRA's latest attack in Manchester has provoked almost universal outrage, at home and abroad. But we must not and we shall not let ourselves be deterred by IRA violence from our search for a fair, comprehensive and lasting political settlement.

Let me outline some of the policies by which we have in recent years discharged our responsibilities under direct rule and which we shall continue to follow. They are comprehensive and interlocking policies, directed to achieving peace, order and good government in a society under threat from terrorism and subject to a significant degree of inter-communal division.

I begin with security policy. I assure your Lordships that the Government will not yield to the pressure of terrorism. It remains our priority to deal with terrorism effectively and resolutely, within the basic principles of fairness and the rule of law, recognising that the security forces' work needs to have the support of all sections of the community to be fully effective. We shall work to intensify still further the excellent co-operation we enjoy in security matters with the Irish authorities. We shall be ready to consider all measures that new circumstances may require, if they are in accord with the basic principles I have set out.

I make clear our deep gratitude to the security forces. Their work is challenging. Terrorist organisations have remained intact, and the IRA has continued to examine potential targets in Northern Ireland and to train personnel. There is continuing evidence of paramilitary involvement in drug dealing and racketeering. Murders have been carried out by terrorist organisations under the veil of action against drugs. Punishment beatings of a revolting nature have continued in both sides of the community.

I emphasise that terrorism will continue to be confronted with the greatest resolution.

Social and economic progress in Northern Ireland over the past year has, as I said, been tremendous, and I quoted evidence of that earlier. There is much welcome news to report—news which has often attracted little public attention. I was pleased that the CBI's latest regional trends survey revealed a continuing increase in manufacturing employment in Northern Ireland. Employment has been rising faster throughout the 1990s than the UK average. This year we saw more people in work in Northern Ireland than ever before. As I said, vacancies are at record levels. One of the most pleasing aspects is that long-term unemployment has continued to fall. It has dropped by 8 per cent. over the past year.

Perhaps I may expand a little on inward investment, for which 1995–96 was the best year ever. Thirty-five of the 63 projects negotiated were new investment or expansions by externally owned companies, investing £432 million, promoting almost 5,000 new jobs and safeguarding a further 1,083—companies such as Seagate Technology, Stream International and Fujitsu. We are now seen as a leading successful location for multinationals.

The most recent announcement of an investment of £113 million by F. G. Wilson (Engineering) Ltd—a joint venture of the American companies Emerson Electric and Caterpillar Inc., backed by the Industrial Development Board—shows how positively overseas companies now regard Northern Ireland as an investment location. All that is endorsed by a recent independent survey of inward investors by Coopers & Lybrand in April this year, which found that Northern Ireland is one of the most competitive inward investment locations in the United Kingdom. Those noble Lords who know the Province as well as I do will not be surprised that the main reason for that is not money, but people.

I spoke of the growth in export sales. In particular, exports to the Republic of Ireland grew from between £437 million in 1991–92 to £632 million in 1994–95, an increase of 45 per cent. I must confess that we have a trade deficit with the Republic of Ireland. But it has 3.5 million people and we have 1.5 million. There is no reason why we should not turn that deficit into a surplus, and it is our intention to do so. Some 72,000 manufacturing jobs are estimated to rely solely on sales outside Northern Ireland.

We celebrated the tourism figures in an earlier debate. The hotel investment plans scheduled both before and since the ceasefires are going ahead, including those of the Hilton Group, Stakis of Glasgow and Jury's of Dublin. Those three together account for some £33 millionworth of investment in the Province.

I turn now to political matters. The House will be aware that comprehensive multi-party negotiations opened on 10th June. Their purpose is ambitious. It is to achieve a new beginning for the totality of relationships within and between the various parts of these islands.

One objective of the negotiations to which we attach great importance will be to develop arrangements for government in Northern Ireland that permits a much greater local involvement than those whose renewal we are now considering. Any such new arrangements must be able to command support in the two main parts of the community. But a settlement of an exclusively internal nature would not in our judgment secure the widespread acceptance we seek. Any new political agreement must, we believe, address wider relationships not just within Northern Ireland, but within the island of Ireland and between the people of the two islands.

The negotiations have now been in progress for three weeks. That is longer than many projected at the beginning of these discussions. The three independent chairmen have been appointed: Senator George Mitchell, General John de Chastelain and Mr. Harri Holkeri. We are extremely grateful to those gentlemen. All the participants have formally affirmed their commitment to the six principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the report of the international body under Senator Mitchell.

Discussions on procedural matters have followed. It is, I suggest, not unnatural that the participants should wish to reassure themselves in such important negotiations that the right procedures are in place.

We believe these talks can succeed. We shall press on with them with a view to reaching the most widely acceptable settlement. Any settlement would then be put to referenda in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic before being submitted to the respective Parliaments.

Whether Sinn Fein is in the talks or not is a matter for it and its associates. The talks will be taken forward in any event, with the greatest energy and determination. As the Prime Minister has reiterated, for Sinn Fein to take part the IRA will need to declare an unequivocal ceasefire. It will also have to show that the ceasefire is credible and lasting, and is not just a tactical device to enable it to enter the talks until such time as it is convenient for it to leave. The choice is Sinn Fein's. It is to the credit of the combined loyalist military command that it has not let itself be provoked into ending its own ceasefire.

An important complement to the talks will be the Forum, which had its first meeting on 14th June. The Forum is a deliberative body, but one, we believe, of great potential value in Northern Ireland. It will be able to debate ways forward in the development of dialogue and understanding between the communities in Northern Ireland, and more broadly. We look forward to the results of its deliberations.

My Lords, we hope that the negotiations will point the way to better arrangements for administration in Northern Ireland. In the meanwhile, however, we need statutory underpinning for the system of direct rule. I commend the draft order to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 4th June be approved [22nd Report from the Joint Committee].—(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

2.36 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn

My Lords, I thank the Minister again. I propose to be very brief because, in a sense, there is an overlap between our discussion on this present occasion and the discussion we had on the previous order.

This is of course a melancholy occasion. There is no alternative that anyone can imagine to the continuance of direct rule by the mechanisms of this order. We are speaking in the shadow of Manchester, the murder of Garda Detective McCabe—just a decent man going about his work of public protection—and now the gross killing of an independent journalist. When there are criticisms of the police and the emergency services in this country and sometimes criticisms of an independent press, which are occasionally excessive, we ought to remind ourselves of the sacrifices made in Manchester and of the sacrifice made by that noble woman.

I entirely reaffirm the Minister's remark that there is no way to progress without the closest possible co-operation and liaison with the Government of the Irish Republic. The Leader of the Labour Party made it plain after Manchester that, if the IRA thinks that it can shift the resolve of any government with this action, it is cruelly mistaken. We, on this side of the House, have made it unequivocally clear, time after time—and I repeat it now—that there can be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its people.

I would simply ask whether the Minister can give us a little more detail about the progress of the talks. I can fairly describe her present description as cautious hope. Certainly, caution is required, but it is nice to see a glimmer of hope. I also underline the fact that there has been restraint among the paramilitary loyalist groups, a restraint for which, in a curious way, they are entitled to have credit.

I take it that prisoner transfers are continuing, despite the explosions and the violence. Perhaps the Minister can reassure the House on that point.

Other than those specific questions and bearing in mind the overlap that I mentioned earlier, I deliberately ask no further questions because I believe it to be mischievous on some occasions to ask questions in a public forum which may be better addressed on a private basis.

2.40 p.m.

Lord McNally

My Lords, whenever one considers British involvement in Northern Ireland, I think of a couplet associated with the Spanish Civil War. I quote it from memory and so it may not be quite accurate. It goes something like this: We are here not for plaudits, medals, honours or pay; We are here because with our open eyes we see no other way". Although, as I said earlier, today saw my first intervention in this House on Northern Ireland affairs, I have been involved with Northern Ireland for nearly 30 years. As a young Labour Party official, I remember, in the late 1960s, arranging a meeting at the St. Ermin's Hotel for some young men from Northern Ireland called Gerry Fitt, John Hume, Austin Currie, Paddy Devlin and Ivan Cooper. They came with great hope and many positive commitments to peace in Northern Ireland.

Over the years I have seen hopes rise and hopes dashed. But one thing of which I have always been absolutely convinced is that the Ministers and officials involved in trying to find solutions to the problems of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom mainland have done so with a total commitment to the benefit of that Province. It has often been extremely infuriating to hear misguided views from the United States about our presence in Northern Ireland being some kind of British imperialism.

I remember the "Troops Out" movement campaigning along similar lines, implying that somehow British troops were there for some ulterior motive. I represented Stockport in the other place. I remember the loss of life of young Stockport lads who had gone to Northern Ireland with no sense of imperialism or anything other than a sense of duty.

I shall follow the example of the noble Lord, Lord Williams, and be brief. We on these Benches wish the present talks well and the initiatives that the Government have taken. We support the Government's stand so far as concerns Sinn Fein's participation in those talks.

Let me speak as a native of the North West who experienced the bombing in Warrington and more recently the bombing in Manchester. Also, last night I was in the City of Birmingham discussing the emotional scars which are still present as a result of the Birmingham bomb. It is sometimes said that we do not understand the IRA. I sometimes think that the IRA do not understand the British people. We will not be bombed into a solution to the problems in Northern Ireland. What impresses me each time it commits an outrage is the community and the political solidarity that emerge in those communities. Manchester has a reputation for robust political division. All parties on Manchester City Council were united in defiance of a terrorist outrage, with a commitment to rebuild that city and the city centre. Every time these outrages have occurred in the City of London, in Warrington, Birmingham and Manchester, the reaction and the resolve have been the same; namely, that we on this side of the water and in all parties are committed to a solution in Northern Ireland which comes from the people there and which has the support of both communities. If they can achieve that, they will have nothing but the good wishes of the rest of the United Kingdom.

2.45 p.m.

Lord McConnell

My Lords, I support this order because there is no alternative. We are not offered any choice and therefore we must support the only method presented to us for the government of Northern Ireland. But I believe that the prime consideration of the Government at the moment should be defeating terrorism. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness make reference to that in her opening speech.

I congratulate and support the President of the United States on a recent statement that he made. The Times newspaper of yesterday reported President Clinton as admitting that he could think of little else in the wake of the Saudi bombing and that he would make the defeat of international terrorism his priority at the G7 meeting. The President said, My first order of business will be to focus the strength and energy of the G7 on the continuing fight against terrorism". He went on to say, The United States will lead the way and we expect our allies to walk with us hand in hand. We cannot tolerate this kind of conduct". He went on to say that the Saudi attack underscored the struggle of all who believe in tolerance, freedom and security. He also referred to the fact that the world faced a new peril that included rogue states such as Iran and Iraq, drug smugglers, those who deal in weapons of mass destruction and terrorists who strike not just in Saudi Arabia but also in the Tokyo subway, on the streets of London, in Israel and in America's heartland.

It is indeed encouraging to hear those words attributed to the President when one thinks back, not very long ago, to the time when he welcomed to the White House the head of a party which would not denounce terrorism although, admittedly, on a second occasion he thought better of it and did not repeat his first error. I am also glad that our own Prime Minister also condemned the bombings. I believe that he will support the President in the G7 discussions.

Appeasing evil not only degrades any government or body that does it, but it also achieves nothing. The Government are taking a firm stand at the moment against those who will not renounce terrorism. I hope that they will not, as has happened in the past, have secret talks with terrorists, whether it be through Ministers or, as happened on certainly one occasion in the past when the Government said that there was no ministerial contact, using civil servants to act as messengers from the Government to the terrorists' supporters. I hope that the Government are going to stand firm. I gain some encouragement from the words which the Minister has uttered in the House today.

I believe that there is a much greater prospect of coming to some reasonable agreement among those who are negotiating in Northern Ireland without the presence of Sinn Fein because it is obvious that Sinn Fein will not accept anything except capitulation to its views. Our future ought to be decided by our own people—and by those of them who are against violence. At the moment there is too much interference by a minister of a foreign government who has been brought into Northern Ireland. That is something that we could well do without, particularly when he represents a country which persists in its chauvinistic claim (through Articles 2 and 3 of its constitution, which it resolutely refuses to alter or to seek the consent of its electorate to alter) to part of the territory of the United Kingdom.

Indeed, 85 per cent. of the voters in the recent election were against the terrorists—and those 85 per cent. are, I believe, the people who are entitled to try to mould our future without having to kow-tow to the other 15 per cent. Furthermore, I believe that that figure of 15 per cent. is inflated, possibly for the reasons given earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, and by the appearance of the odd success. Whenever there is any appeasement people say, "Oh yes, that party is very good and is getting somewhere. It has achieved something", and that in turn increases its vote. If that party was seen not to be successful, I think that its vote at any future elections would be very much less.

The Government should turn their attention to local government in Northern Ireland, which is nearly powerless at the moment. We have undemocratic quangos and our local authorities do not have the kind of power enjoyed by other local authorities in the rest of the United Kingdom despite the fact that members of those local authorities are getting on peaceably and agreeably with each other more and more.

We should try to get more agreement with the Irish Republic on measures against terrorism. Hot pursuit, for instance, comes to mind. When the security forces are on the heels of terrorists, once the terrorists get to the Border the Army and the police have to stop and the terrorists just wave bye-bye to them as they cross the frontier.

The Minister referred to any agreement being the subject of referenda. I am never quite sure whether the word "referendum" has been absorbed into the English language and whether its plural now has an "s" at the end instead of an "a", but I see a noble Lord who is an authority on the matter looking sternly at me. If there has to be a referendum in the Republic, does that mean that the Republic will have a veto on any agreement that is reached in Northern Ireland? If an agreement is reached by the people of Northern Ireland, approved by them and then put to a referendum in the South, can the people of the South turn round and say no? It is not their country. It is up to the people of Northern Ireland to decide.

Finally, I would like to look to the future. I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Williams, say that there would be no change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland without the consent of its people. If it is ever necessary in years to come—I hope it will not be—I shall bear that in mind and remind him of those comments if the occasion should arise. I follow the example of other speakers by being reasonably brief and simply say I support the order before the House.

2.55 p.m.

Viscount Brookeborough

My Lords, I thank my noble friend yet again for the introduction to this order. First, I want to express sympathy for those who have suffered over here as a result of the recent IRA bombs and those families of the Garda officer and the journalist in the Republic. We in Northern Ireland know only too well what trauma, misery and anguish are caused by such treacherous attacks. I know that the people of the Province understand and really feel for the victims and their families.

Sinn Fein/IRA's conduct recently has shown its members up for what they are: incapable of involving themselves in any democratic society. I must congratulate the Government on getting us this far during this process—I am not sure that we can really call it a peace process—and also add my thanks to the Members of the Opposition parties for standing by the Government and creating a united front. It is important not only that they do that, but that the governments of the Irish Republic and the USA are doing the same.

In addition to what has been happening recently in the Republic and over here, there is continued organised crime, intimidation and horrifying thuggery going on in the Province. It is therefore of great credit to the Government and the security forces that matters are not a great deal worse. I do not wish to spend time on the security situation in the Province, and everything that I have said in the past still stands. Our security forces, including the police and the Army, are doing a truly magnificent job.

I should like to look for one moment at the recent election. The results have been analysed and dissected a dozen times, but one factor is sometimes missed by people over here—the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, mentioned it to a certain extent in the previous debate—and is sometimes not fully understood. Sinn Fein's vote of 15 per cent. was in fact 10 per cent. of those eligible to vote. People ask: why so many? The Sunday Tribune—a Dublin paper—did a poll of Sinn Fein voters soon after and found that over 90 per cent. wanted it to call a ceasefire and go to the talks. In addition, over 60 per cent. said that it should hand over its weapons. One can see therefore that the vote was not in favour of the IRA and its tactics.

A couple of days after that I heard a reporter on the radio interviewing several Sinn Fein voters. They all took roughly the same line—I accept that there is a small minority who may take another line. One person put it particularly well when he said, "I am not Sinn Fein. I am SDLP. I do not want violence and I am anti-IRA. But I voted Sinn Fein to try and get its members to go to the talks". It is quite revealing and we should not despair at the size of the Sinn Fein vote. Perhaps it would not be so high now after Manchester and the murders in the Republic. People were giving it a chance; the whole world has given it a chance which it has rejected.

There is also some hope that the teams at the talks may progress things. The characters involved are quite surprising; for example, a prominent catholic on the Ulster Unionist side and Conor Cruise O'Brien in Mr. McCartney's team. There is also some hope that the Reverend Ian Paisley's stance may moderate. What a tragedy that Sinn Fein is excluding itself.

On the economic side my noble friend the Minister has been tireless in her endeavours to press forward economic progress—and she has succeeded. Although tourism took a small step back on last year, it is well up on two years ago. My noble friend is now an accomplished globetrotter in her search for new business and I know that we in the Province are greatly in her debt. There is one area where we in Northern Ireland can rightly ask our Government for changes; I refer to the way in which we are largely a Civil Service-run Province. I know that my noble friend does not put up with Civil Service stonewalling in her department, but it does not always seem that way with other portfolios. Consultation, and decisions taken, as a result often fall short of the mark of excellence. For instance, during the past year there has been consultation about the number of education boards we need. Two days ago there was an announcement that they would be reduced from five to three. That is probably a good thing, for all I know. Education was never my strong subject.

But why was there then such outrage at the decision? I know that the option taken was not one previously discussed, but, right as it may be, why on earth was not the ground better prepared? The local boards, schools and parents, feel totally undermined by that failure in Civil Service management.

One more example is the decision on the fluoridisation of water. The Health Department, through the boards, asked for consultation with the district councils and the local health councils. It received views. All 26 district councils and the four health councils indicated that it was not wanted. However, the health boards recommended it to the Government. The rights and wrongs of that are not for me to decide, but what happened indicates a severe lack of management skill in preparing the ground with persuasive argument but then ignoring the result.

How can the Government seek to achieve sensible compromise on more important matters when failures at that level undermine the people's confidence? I ask my noble friend to give the reasons behind asking for consultation but then walking right over the top of the result in the other direction. Northern Ireland, and its future is about compromise. It is about trust. It is about taking note of people's views when they are asked for, or at least they should be told why they are not being taken note of. One cannot discard the views of 100 per cent. of those consulted and impose something without first convincing those people of the argument.

In conclusion, I support the order and wish the Government well in the coming year.

3.2 p.m.

Lord Cooke of Islandreagh

My Lords, the approval of this order (the Interim Period Extension Order) is the most important piece of legislation in respect of Northern Ireland which comes before this House each year. It determines how Northern Ireland should be governed, and all other legislation and orders stem from it. I support the order. I recognise that at the moment there is no alternative.

How different is the situation today from what it was this time last year. Last year we had enjoyed some eight months in which the IRA had not attacked communities anywhere in the UK. In Northern Ireland the effect was dramatic, because we had been under attack and seige for 25 years. Almost half the population had not known what it was like not to be threatened by violence.

The IRA had refused to declare the ceasefire permanent, but there were high hopes that it would be permanent, and talks were planned in which all democratic political parties in Northern Ireland would discuss and, it is hoped, reach agreement on how Northern Ireland is to be governed in future.

That period of ceasefire had enormous benefits. It brought home to people who had become almost used to violence, just how dreadful it is. It showed what life could be like without threat. I wish to acknowledge the part played in that by government, and, in particular, by the Prime Minister who, in the interests of peace, accepted the risks.

Now, 12 months on, the situation is entirely different. Three people have been killed and enormous damage done at Canary Wharf. There have been several minor incidents, and only by great good fortune has Hammersmith Bridge not been destroyed. To think of that is horrifying. Now the centre of Manchester has been devastated, and 200 people have suffered injury. We have had almost nightly so-called punishment beatings of a revolting and horrific nature. I join the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, in expressing sympathy for all those who have suffered in the recent so-called incidents.

It is now obvious that the ceasefire, which we so much enjoyed, was tactical. There was no intention of it being permanent unless the IRA's demands were met in full. It is obvious that any future ceasefires will be tactical, with the threat of renewed violence if immediate demands are not met. It should also be quite clear that the IRA has no intention of decommissioning—of giving up their stocks of bombs and guns—until all its demands are met. IRA/Sinn Fein do not hide its objectives. "An overall settlement", as it terms it, will require the Brits to leave in a very short time and Protestants also to go if they do not accept the settlement which includes rule from Dublin on IRA/Sinn Fein terms. I mentioned Protestants because the IRA is a very sectarian organisation.

The Northern Ireland Office appears to be blind to reality. It has not understood the significance of recent IRA action and continues to believe that a purely political solution is possible. It continues with the contrived structure for the talks with the sole objective of attracting Sinn Fein and fudging in one way or another problems such as decommissioning. It is proposed that a very eminent American citizen, the chairman, will be the sole arbiter as to whether Sinn Fein/IRA can be admitted to the talks and whether it will discuss decommissioning with serious intent to act. Subject to an IRA ceasefire, Sinn Fein is offered talks on the constitution of Northern Ireland, on the police structure, on parity of esteem and on equal rights for minorities which inevitably borders on joint jurisdiction. At those talks the Dublin Government will play an equal part to Her Majesty's Government. In Strand 1, concerning Northern Ireland matters, they are nominally not represented but that is only optical and in effect they will be there.

In addition, the two governments have presented a framework document for further change, and promise cross-border institutions which have no practical value but are seen by unionists for what they are; a half-way house to an all-Ireland Government. The confused language used in the framework document has been interpreted to read that the Governments will enforce this framework if the parties to the talks do not reach agreement on it.

The majority in Northern Ireland in favour of the union are perhaps a little slow and we are not always very articulate. But the enormity of what has happened to part of the UK is beginning to sink in. It is now realised that the Northern Ireland Office has been taking its instructions from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, which is the political power house of the pan-nationalist front so carefully constructed by the Hume/Adams partnership.

Very strong feelings are beginning to build up. Unionists who were regarded as moderate unionists are now hardline but it is still beneath the surface and is not yet obvious. I regard the present situation in Northern Ireland to be potentially as dangerous as at any time during my lifetime. Resentment is growing at the manner in which the majority of people in Northern Ireland have been ignored. There is even a feeling of betrayal.

All that has taken place under direct rule. The influence of the Dublin Government in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland increases by the day. That is not acceptable to the majority. The chief constable was entirely right to make his statement last week. He said that if the IRA attacks Northern Ireland the loyalist paramilitaries will react. A very nasty, unpleasant situation could result. He also stated that targets in the south would be attacked. The possibility of something approaching civil war in both parts of Ireland, only 12 months after it was peaceful, is quite terrifying. There is a widespread conviction that that is a result of dual sovereignty in political matters in recent months.

I shall be bold enough to offer advice to the Government. They should realise that a purely political situation is no longer possible. We have a very urgent security problem. I recommend that the Government should talk to Mr. Bruton about the development of a joint security plan. Mr. Bruton may be found to be very ready to discuss such a plan now that the citizens of the Republic of Ireland have learnt that bomb factories and arms dumps exist in their territory.

The present talks should be suspended as they were contrived in a manner solely to appease Sinn Fein. They should be reconvened under straightforward democratic principles. Unless it becomes clear—and I find it difficult to understand how that could be possible—that Sinn Fein has become a democratic political party, it should not be included. Those new talks should discuss fair and equal treatment for everyone and the development of devolved administration in Northern Ireland similar to other parts of the United Kingdom. There should be no assembly in Northern Ireland. As an integral part of the United Kingdom, it is not needed. I do not believe that the citizens of the Republic, who were getting on very well on their own, have any wish to become involved in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. Our Government must see to it that Northern Ireland is governed from Westminster without interference in its internal affairs.

Very simply, the Government must remember that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and should be governed as any other part. I earnestly hope that in 12 months' time we shall commend the Government on restoring peace and good order in Northern Ireland. But in the meantime, there is not a day, not even an hour, to be lost.

3.13 p.m.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

My Lords, in the previous debate my noble friend on the Front Bench recalled the success of the economy in Northern Ireland in which she has played such a large part, as has been recognised on all sides of the House. The sum of £3.6 million added to the defence costs is borne by the taxpayer. In mentioning defence costs, I wish to associate myself with the remarks made on all sides of the House in commending the work of the defence forces and the police in the Province. But of course, the whole nation will be better served when those costs are diluted by peace.

There is a particularly difficult upsurge in terrorism at present, with the IRA renewing its war aims. As has already been mentioned, there was the bombing in Manchester, the killing of the Irish gardai and the murder of the Irish Times journalist in Dublin, to mention only those in the immediate past. The forces of terrorism are inextricably linked, as my noble friend on the Front Bench said, with fraud, protection and drug rackets. The elimination of those sources of funds will help to bring peace.

In the meantime, the recent meeting of heads of state of the G7 is particularly timely and may perhaps herald a new era of international co-operation in opposing the forces of terrorism and in particular the successful raid by the garda on an IRA bomb factory may indicate a renewed effort to starve the terrorists of their equipment and arms.

The co-operation of the Irish Government is vital in all matters concerned with Ireland. I believe that one encouraging sign is that their historic patience, not to say ambivalence, in relation to the Sinn Fein/IRA relationship is wearing rather thin. We must keep pressure on both those factions—that is, if they are to be described as different factions—and starve them of their oxygen. After all, we are only fighting a tiny minority, as my noble friend Lord Brookeborough and the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, said. There is no mass movement supporting unification. Indeed, the costs that we have just approved would be a burden that, I believe, the Republic would be reluctant to absorb.

While we may call, and rightly so, for the surrender of arms by all paramilitary factions—and it is opportune now to mention that the unionist paramilitaries have maintained their ceasefire—it is not so much the surrender of arms as the elimination of war-making capacity that must be our joint aim. Having said that, I commend all that the Government have done to date and support them in their efforts to continue the search and the fight for peace.

3.15 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am sorry to say that my noble friend Lord Fitt has insisted that I should speak before him. My noble friend is certainly better qualified than myself and, indeed, better qualified than anyone else in the Chamber to speak on such matters. In my opinion, he is one of the heroes of our time.

I have only one advantage over other speakers in the debate, in that I have been longer on the planet. I do not know whether anyone present in the Chamber had been born at the time, but I visited Lord Craigavon in 1934. I was writing a book on the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 which has since become a standard work. Lord Craigavon, who served under my father in the Boer War, greeted me hospitably. Of course, being an Ulsterman, he did not give anything away. He insisted that I should drink whiskey. He kept saying, "It's Irish whiskey". I never forgot that that great Ulsterman insisted that, so far as he was concerned, Northern Ireland was Ireland. Indeed, he insisted on Irish whiskey. But perhaps that was because he manufactured Irish whiskey, or so I believe. At any rate, that was my early experience of Northern Ireland.

When people talk about terrorists in England they naturally assume that we mean the IRA, but what about the Protestant paramilitaries? We did not hear much condemnation of them, did we? Yet they have committed more murders than the Catholics over the past few years. Therefore, perhaps we might hear a little condemnation about them the next time that some of our passionate Unionists speak on the subject.

However, let us take, for example, the noble Lord, Lord McNally. He was a very helpful political adviser to my noble friend Lord Callaghan when he was Home Secretary. But what did my noble friend say on his return from Northern Ireland? He said: "Too many guns". Then, Mr. Maudling, another Home Secretary, said on his return, "What a bloody awful country. Give me a whisky and soda". However, that was different.

I repeat what my noble friend Lord Callaghan said; namely, "Too many guns." But where did those guns come from? Perhaps some of the Protestant Unionists opposite may remember that the guns were brought in by the Protestants and the Unionists. I suppose that I am one of the few people present today—although there may be others—who has actually stayed in the house of a leading member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, which is a paramilitary force among paramilitaries. He was disappointed because I had not known Carson. When one thinks of Carson and the leaders of the Conservatives in this country before 1914, one remembers the slogan: "Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right".

It will be interesting to know whether noble Lords still use that slogan; in other words, that fighting is all right for the Ulster paramilitaries. But perhaps that is not the case, I do not know. Indeed, there is no suggestion of it. We are told that it is natural. However, when terrorism arrives on our doorstep—

The Earl of Clanwilliam

My Lords, will the noble Earl permit me to intervene?

The Earl of Longford

Yes, my Lords; when I have finished the sentence. I was about to say that murder by Ulster Protestant paramilitaries is just as bad as murder committed by anyone else.

The Earl of Clanwilliam

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for giving way. I should just like to point out that, as I said, the Ulster Unionist paramilitaries have declared a ceasefire and maintained it despite the resurrection of the wartime effort by the IRA.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, they have done so for a short while, but, as I said, over the past few years they have killed more Catholics than the Catholics have killed of them. That is a fact. For the moment, I am glad to say the Protestant paramilitaries are controlling themselves. I only hope that the IRA will do the same. I cannot think why it does not; it cannot possibly be in its interests to do otherwise.

The noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, said it was a question of too many guns brought in by the Protestants before the war. Later the Catholics brought in some guns but not on the same scale. I have no means of assessing the situation but I would guess—unless anyone here can offer a better opinion—that the Protestant paramilitary forces are more heavily armed than the Catholics. Let us not talk as though all terrorism is Catholic terrorism. That is quite lamentable.

What do we make of the situation today? In my opinion there is one easy answer—I put it in three words—"Back to Sunningdale". That ought to appeal to Conservative Members opposite, because Sunningdale was introduced by a distinguished Conservative statesman, Sir Edward Heath, together with the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw. It was a fine idea and it worked extremely well. The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, is better qualified to speak of it than anyone else because he was one of the leaders of the new government which was set up. It worked extremely well because it restored the confidence of the Catholic community. I was in Northern Ireland soon after the time of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. What was the situation among Catholics then? They were terrified of the Protestant paramilitaries, whom they assumed to be in league with the police. That was the situation. The Army was sent there to protect the Catholics. Let us get that quite clear. The British Army was sent in large numbers to protect the Catholics in Northern Ireland. We must never forget that. It was a case of the Protestant menace threatening the minority.

Things have moved on since. As I said, Sunningdale was a wonderful idea and it worked extremely well. Protestants and Catholics were getting on perfectly together. People may ask how all these paramilitaries can exist at all. As regards the Catholic side, it is because they are frightened of the Protestants. Of course most Catholics do not favour violence, but they do not repudiate the IRA. They would not bring to an end—

Lord Dubs

You have spoken for six minutes. You are only allowed to speak for four minutes.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, my noble friend tells me that I am only allowed to speak for four minutes. I am glad to have said what I have said. If he wishes to stop me speaking, I must put up with it.

3.22 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, I have been provoked into speaking in this debate for a few moments. I suggest that the members of the Northern Ireland Forum should read the report of this debate. It may give them serious thought as regards the future of Northern Ireland.

This is an order that we cannot possibly refute because without it every other order or enactment falls into disrepute in Northern Ireland. There is now a Forum taking place in Northern Ireland. I desperately hope with all my heart that it will arrive at some conclusion. But let us not be too optimistic about that because there are insurmountable obstacles to be overcome. I have no great faith in some of the representatives who were elected to that Forum on the basis of the regional list. The Government went out of their way to make certain that people who had been involved in paramilitary activities—people who had been convicted of murder—would be assured of getting a seat on the regional list. I make no apology for saying that it makes my blood run cold when I see as a member of that Forum, elected to the regional list, a man by the name of John White, who brutally murdered my close colleague, Senator Paddy Wilson, in 1973 purely and simply because he was a Catholic.

Reference has already been made to the fact that one of the Forum representatives—a Unionist—is a Catholic by religion. I desperately hope that people within that Forum, irrespective of their religion, will give their allegiance either for the Union or against the Union. We hear repeatedly that 25 per cent. of those in Northern Ireland who are Catholic by religion stand in favour of the Union. If that figure is true, those in Northern Ireland who are Catholic by religion but who support the Union should make their presence felt. Some members of the Protestant religion may not be fully in support of the Union and may eventually give their allegiance to some form of an alliance with an Irish Republic. While we have those tribal divisions—Catholics vote for the unity of Ireland; Protestants vote for the continuation of the Union—we shall never reach any settlement in Northern Ireland.

It is true that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to see a reinstatement of the ceasefire. They wish to see an end to the violent campaign with which we have had to live for so long. But many of them want that peace to be brought about on their terms. Now that the Forum has been elected, the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland are gathered there, it is in the interests of all the people in Northern Ireland that some political accommodation must be found.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, "Back to Sunningdale". I desperately hope that some realignment of politics would make that possible. I make an appeal; my voice may not be listened to with any seriousness. If the official Unionist Party, the SDLP, and the Democratic Unionist Party—which represent overwhelmingly the people of Northern Ireland—take it into their heads to do so, they can reach a political settlement which will be supported by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland. I only hope and pray that they will listen to my advocation of such a course because then and only then can we envisage peace in Northern Ireland.

3.27 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield

My Lords, we have had a most interesting debate. I thank noble Lords for their unqualified support for the order which we all regret but see as necessary. I am extremely grateful for the bipartisan support the Government receive on these matters. It makes it possible to hope at least to start to build the foundations. It is appreciated that when we are shoulder to shoulder with the Irish Government in the fight against terrorism that action is likely to be effective.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, supported by other noble Lords, rightly drew attention to the great sympathy we feel for the family of Garda McCabe and for the family of the journalist so outrageously murdered in Dublin at traffic lights—and, as was stated in the Dail, for the attack on the state that that represented. We express sympathy to those people of Manchester going about their business. I found it particularly moving that many were buying cards for Father's Day. Without a thought for Ireland in their minds they were subjected to an act of terrorism. I share with your Lordships the pain felt by many people in Northern Ireland, and, I am sure, throughout the island of Ireland, that it was their countrymen who inflicted the injuries and scars that day. There was revulsion against the attack being spread to innocents with no involvement.

However, I still today feel greater optimism than perhaps has been expressed in some quarters. We are working to build for peace and the majority of people in the Province feel that way too. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, recognised that more than 85 per cent. of the Northern Irish nation totally abhor and reject violence.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams, asked me two questions. I assure him that the Government remain committed to their policy of repatriating prisoners under the terms of their international agreements. His more difficult question concerned the progress of the talks. Some would suggest that continuation of the talks is progress, and the noble Lord expressed a mood of cautious hope. He is right. I believe that we are making gradual progress. We all wish to move faster to the substance of the negotiations, but there are personal timetables which, like the timetable for forgiveness, are no matter for politicians. They are personal and have to move at their own speed. There are also important points of procedure to consider.

We believe that there is a real wish on the part of those involved to work for success. Probably by hard, protracted slog, success is within our grasp. I say to those who have hesitation about the success of the elections and the consequent talks that participation is more inclusive. There are voices at the table who have never participated in political discussions before. I am pleased that some of the voices are of women who have a contribution to make towards building the future.

I plead that people should recognise that the discussions may take place in Northern Ireland but that they are watched globally. Words flying around rather than paving stones is progress. However, discourtesies flying around between people in Northern Ireland is not the message we wish to see in developing, building and helping the Province to grow. I pay tribute to my colleagues involved in the talks for their patience and that of those who have been prepared to accept chairmanships.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, questioned the involvement of the Irish Government. If the Irish Government are to continue their readiness to remove Articles 2 and 3, they will need to go to their constituents for support. Co-operation on security with the Irish Government remains of vital importance. Like us, the Irish Government are determined that the scourge of terrorism should never again be allowed to set the course. Much co-operation already takes place and there are constant discussions between the relevant officials and security forces. I assure noble Lords that the Government will never walk away from their responsibility to protect their citizens. It is a role of government.

The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, strayed into the hypothetical situation of whether the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, should have responsibility for such matters at a future stage. I assure the noble Lord that the matter is hypothetical. I am glad that he recognised it as such.

We heard from my noble friend Lord Brookeborough of the need to establish trust, not only between communities but between those in government and those who are affected by government. I have always felt that one of the strongest advantages in Northern Ireland is that its size means that one never has to make a decision without being able to visit those whom it affects. That gives my colleagues much comfort also.

We must build trust and recognise that we are all working for the future of the people of Northern Ireland. Those of us in public service have a duty to serve them. The noble Lord, Lord Cooke, rightly paid tribute to the role that the Prime Minister played in building on the situation. I extend that tribute to the role played by the Taoiseach in being 100 per cent. committed to the rejection of violence. I pay tribute also to the role played by President Clinton. Unfortunately, what we hear from Lyons is that terrorism is not exclusive to Northern Ireland. We have, and the noble Lord has, long and painful experience of it. It is something that we shall all work to dismiss. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cooke, that the Northern Ireland Office writes its own policies. Its policies are to bring forward a situation in which Northern Ireland people make their decisions about the shape of the future by majority consent.

I was pleased that my noble friend Lord Clanwilliam joined in the debate. My noble friend identified how much we have to do, but also how much work is going on. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, drew attention to the fact that many young men left the North West to serve from a sense of duty. I say to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that the issue is not whether killing Catholics is wrong, or killing Protestants is wrong. Killing people is wrong. When we can work towards the situation that was the aim of Martin Luther King, whereby his children were judged by their character, not their colour, we shall have made real progress in Northern Ireland. We have much progress still to make. But I believe we can aim to work towards that progress. I thank noble Lords for their support in helping us continue along that road. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.