§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff. West)
I beg to move,That this House, believing that people in every part of the United Kingdom are entitled to the free exercise of their religion, civil liberty, an impartial police force and the opportunity of choosing their parliamentary and local representatives by universal franchise and under fair conditions, and regretting that these democratic principles do not at present prevail in Northern Ireland, therefore calls for the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, to be so amended that the people of Northern Ireland are guaranteed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom the same democratic rights, impartial police, absence of religious discrimination and franchise as are today possessed by the people of Great Britain.Since I first gave notice to the House that I proposed to move this Motion today I have received a great deal of correspondence. Much of the correspondence has been both kind in tone and reasoned in its nature, although a great deal has been more colourful than reasonable. The part of the correspondence to which I want to refer before I turn to the terms of the Motion is that part which deals with myself. Many good people from Northern Ireland have written to me in obvious distress and quite sincere anguish because I should be dealing with this matter. They remind me that the Irish Press has said that I have visited Northern Ireland on only one occasion, and then to see a Rugby match, and secondly that I am a Protestant.
I say at once it is perfectly true, as the Irish Press has said, that on only one occasion have I had the privilege of visiting Northern Ireland, and I very much appreciate the warmth of the invitations that have now come from so many quarters during recent days that I should visit Ulster and see for myself. But I have never been to many other countries about which all hon. Members 558 in this House feel no difficulty about speaking when a debate arises. I have not been to Norway or to Spain, but on occasion I have taken part in debates in this House on both those countries.
Perhaps I might now deal in passing with this bewilderment, an obviously sincere bewilderment, on the part of many good people in Northern Ireland that I, a Methodist lay preacher, should be moving this Motion. They seem to feel that because I am a Protestant I should remain silent upon anything that affects non-Protestants—Roman Catholics in this case—wherever they may be. To me this is a political issue.
It is Toryism that stands on trial, for the Conservative Party has held a disputed sway in Northern Ireland ever since the Treaty was signed. Northern Ireland gives us fair indication of what the Conservative administration is like, how they fulfil their responsibility towards minorities, how they regard the liberty of the subject, and how they regard the issue of the franchise for the people. This House has a responsibility for ensuring that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, gives to every citizen of Northern Ireland the same fair play as his brethren enjoy in the rest of the United Kingdom.
This is not a question of the Partition issue. This is another issue altogether. We are concerned in this Motion with the conditions that prevail within the boundaries of that fair part of His Majesty's Realm. In our long and proud history, these islands have made many shining contributions to the well-being of the world. Not the least of those contributions has been the fact that we have established the rights of free men in a democratic community.
It is around the phrase "liberty of the subject" that are enshrined some of the most glorious episodes in British history, and I submit to the House that in a world torn with dissension, of clashing creeds and rival ideologies, it is of the first importance that we should see that within our own countries liberty in its fullest form is maintained. Today, democracy itself hangs in the balance, and hon. Members in all parts of the House are prone to point to other countries and say that the poor citizens there are liable to disabilities to which 559 the people of this country are not subject. We are all conscious of the splendid contribution which the Irish people have made in the defence of liberty during the recent war and other wars. There is no one who fights for liberty more fiercely than does the Irishman, and that makes our responsibility the greater today.
My first submission, therefore, is that we must recognise that the limit of our responsibility in this House lies in providing that basic principle of a modern democratic State. We have to see that a constitution free from repressive measures is provided, that minority rights are recognised and respected, and that a universal franchise which can be freely exercised without intimidation is available for the people. But, having provided all that, there remains the responsibility that we should see that the terms and conditions of that constitution are carried out, and under Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, that is the responsibility of this House.
I believe that since the Treaty was first signed there has not been a full-dress debate in the House on the way in which it is working out. There have been limited debates on aspects of it, but this is the first occasion, so I am informed, that the House has had an opportunity to debate the whole issue. I recognise that it is inadvisable for a superior Parliament to interfere in the day-to-day affairs of a Government in a land to which devolution of powers has been given.
§ Mr. Thomas
The hon. Member says "Hear, hear." It did not prevent his colleagues from Northern Ireland coming over here to vote against a health Act for the English and the Welsh. That had nothing to do with Northern Ireland, but they were here in force to vote against it. However, I do not want to be the one to arouse any passions. I beg the House, therefore, to see this Motion in the perspective of the principles I have laid down.
First, I invite the House to consider the question of the franchise in Northern Ireland. I believe that before God and man all his Majesty's citizens ought to be treated on an equal basis, that the conditions 560 of election that apply here in England, Wales and Scotland ought surely to apply in Northern Ireland. But I find, unfortunately, that this is not so, and that when it comes to local elections there is an old-fashioned antiquated system which has been adopted by the Stormont Government in this regard. Contrary to the whole world trend of extending the franchise, they have in Northern Ireland restricted the franchise and taken votes from people who already had the right to exercise them. Thus, when it comes to voting for the local councils and county councils, the lodgers and sub-tenants—and they have as many sub-tenants there as unhappily we have within our own shores—lose the right to vote. I do not want to go into that in greater detail, although I could do so.
I submit that the franchise of Northern Ireland for local government elections is undemocratic, is unequally distributed and is based upon a bias in favour of wealth and the well-to-do. It is the landlord's idea of democracy, or perhaps I ought to say the Conservative idea of democracy. We find that there is a company vote, and for every £10 of their valuation they are allowed up to six votes. This results in a most extraordinary position.
For instance, in Derry, of which I have some information, Sir Frederick Simmons, a former mayor, has five municipal votes under this system. Sir Basil MacFarland, another former mayor, has four votes according to the information supplied to me. In one case, three people in one house have 11 votes between them. Not for them the nonsense of one man one vote. Not for them this foolish idea that one man is as good as another before God and his neighbours. In local elections there, money in your pocket can mean an extra vote, and that, I submit, is unworthy of a democratic community.
Indeed, were universal franchise granted there as it is here, I am informed that 300,000 Northern Irishmen would have the right to vote in local elections who do not have the right at present. Out of a total population of approximately 1½ million persons, the actual number of registered electors in August, 1946, was 532,466. At the same time, there were about 820,000 persons over 21 years of age. If the universal suffrage demanded by the Northern 561 Ireland Labour Party were adopted, about 300,000 persons at least would be given the vote. The property qualification in Northern Ireland seems to me to be excessively weighted in favour of the already privileged. My hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Bartley), who is to second this Motion, will be able to deal with the question of Derry, where some remarkable operations have apparently been taking place.
I turn to that part of the Motion which deals with religious discrimination. This is a subject upon which we are all sensitive. I do not want to be guilty of irresponsible statements or generalisations, but my correspondence on this leaves me very disquieted. In an otherwise reasonable letter I received from Strabane and Lifford, I read:I see in today's paper your Motion re religious discrimination and would point out to you that such is not the case. We have an occasion to do what you are doing with the Communists, trying to keep them out of key positions.But that is the gravaman of the charge. That is a confession of the sort of thing which is a denial of democracy. It is only fair to say that the same gentleman writes:Is it not a pity in the bigness of your heart"—I believe that is ironic—that you wouldn't spend your sympathy on the Protestants of Spain and Italy?Let me say at once that I know little about Italy. I know something about Spain, although I have not been there. Religious bigotry in any part of the world is equally offensive to me. I am not here in a denominational sense. I am here in the name of decent conduct in a decent community.
I remind myself that we carry a special responsibility for Northern Ireland. If my correspondents had drawn my attention to Gibraltar rather than to Spain, I might have been on my feet in this House. If it was in Gibraltar that the Nonconformist chapels had been closed down, I should certainly have been here with my protestations. [Interruption.] I am told that these have been closed down in Spain. I am, however, dealing with that part of the Realm for which I am morally responsible, the same as any other Member of this House.
562 It would be possible for me to quote instances here, as I have had an abundant correspondence on this question of alleged discrimination, but I refrain, because I believe that if hon. Members want to bandy that sort of thing backwards and forwards against each other they are free to do so.
When I look at the recent history of Northern Ireland I begin to get a bit worried. I can understand Sir Basil Brooke with his long history of advocating discrimination. After all, in the case of his generation that is a hangover from the old days of intense bitterness. I can understand that, although I do not sympathise. But when I come to the younger generation, then I have cause indeed for disquiet. Surely among the younger generation there ought to be a greater spirit of toleration. I find, however, that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan) who is the youngest Member opposite, was supported at the election by the official Conservative Party; indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition went out of his way to write to Mr. MacManaway to hope that he would do his best to see that he was successful in West Belfast.
I should not like to underrate the hon. Gentleman, because I hold him in too high regard to suggest that he is not typical of his party; but what does he say? He has made a speech, and he is a responsible man. He was chairman of the Limavady Rural District Council before he came here. In the "Derry Standard" on Wednesday, 18th January, 1950,—this is not ancient history—there is this report of the speech of the hon. Member. Let me say at once that I can understand any fellow getting carried away when he is talking to his own constituents. I have often been grateful that the Press have not been present when I have been speaking; but this speech deserves to be put on record. He said:In Derry City and County, where we should have been on our guard, our majority has dropped from 12,000 to a perilously low figure … through the ruinous and treacherous"—strong words—policy, pursued unwittingly, perhaps, of handing over houses owned by Protestants wholesale to Roman Catholics. It is also caused by the great employers of labour in the North of Ireland employing Roman Catholic labour.563 That was said before the hon. Gentleman came to this House.
We all of us, from time to time, have been guilty of going a bit far in speeches; but the hon. Gentleman had second thoughts and, speaking on 27th January, as reported in the "Londonderry Sentinel" on 28th January, 1950, he comes back to this subject, when he says:When I said at Enaugh Lough that I felt that if fewer houses and jobs were given to Roman Catholics the position could be remedied, I was immediately subject to a bitter attack from the opposition.I can understand that.But I am not going to desist from my statements in this connection, for I firmly believe that it is due to the treacherous policy of allowing houses, farms and jobs to go to our opponents that we find ourselves having to fight for our lives today.I ask right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they take part in the debate, whether they will make it perfectly clear if that is their policy on this important subject. We have a right to know whether the hon. Gentleman, after he had made that speech, was officially supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The good people were asked to send the hon. Gentleman to this House, and they did so.
The manipulation of boundaries and the alleged gerrymandering of constituencies are subjects upon which others will be speaking in the course of the debate with much greater effect than I could do. I want to refer to the distribution of houses in Northern Ireland. I have received letters from both sides. Some tell me that a Protestant cannot have a house in a given area, and others say that a Roman Catholic cannot get a house in a given area. Surely the fact that houses—homes, above all—are the pawn of politics ought to be enough to shake this House to its foundations. The most distressing experience that I have had is to hear from correspondents waiting to get out of rooms to go into houses that they have been betrayed and told, "Unless you support us, you will not get a house." If that is true, it is the final condemnation of the way in which things are being run in Northern Ireland.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the question of a police force. No one speaks with his hand on his heart 564 more than the Conservative Party Member when speaking of the liberty of the subject. We all appreciate to what titanic degree the liberty of the subject depends on the civil police force acting without fear or favour in accordance with the King's Oath. Apparently in Northern Ireland there are two lots of armed police. There are the regulars, numbering about 3,000, and the "B" Specials, numbering, I believe, about 12,000. The House will appreciate how important it is that the police force shall be impartial, that it shall recruit impartially and its administration shall, above all things, be honest and fair.
I wish to submit to the House certain quotations. Mr. William Grant, who afterwards became the Minister of Health and Local Government in Sir Basil Brooke's Cabinet, speaking in the Parliament of Northern Ireland at Stormont on 11th February, 1936—I admit it is a long way back—said:I would like to point out to the Opposition that the Special Constabulary are composed entirely of loyal Protestant working men, who have taken the Oath of Allegiance in order to help the authorities to maintain law and order. There are no Roman Catholics among the Special Constabulary.In 1947, Mr. Edmund Warnock, Minister of Home Affairs, at a Press conference in London is reported in the "Irish Press" of 31st May, 1947—that is not a generation ago—as saying that the "B" Specials were exclusively Protestants, but he denied that they were recruited from a special source, which will be well known to Members from Northern Ireland. He added that they all belonged to his side of the House.
Democracy has received many definitions, but I am quite sure that hon. Members, whatever be their philosophy of life, will agree that democracy is impossible without an impartial police force. It is all the more serious when we bear in mind the Special Powers Act, which is in operation in Northern Ireland. I believe it has been in operation for 30 years and that that country—hon. Members opposite will correct me on this point if I am wrong—has never been without its Special Powers Act, under which a man may be arrested in the night, taken off to prison, kept there for a time, and let out eventually without any charge whatsoever being made against him. He may lose his living as a result. That is a terrible thing if it is done on 565 any scale. I do not care if 99 per cent. of the men that are suspected are guilty. What about the odd one?
In this country every man is innocent until he is proved guilty, and he has a right to defend himself. Innocent men may well languish in the cells of Northern Ireland and be denied the elementary rights of free citizens in a democracy. This makes small beer indeed of the right of the gas inspector to force an entry into a house to look at a meter. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been getting excited about the gas inspector having the right to inspect a meter. How much more excited would they be if he could go in and take the breadwinner off on the charge of somebody who did not like him, and afterwards find perhaps that the man was innocent.
The "Daily Express" is given to too much synthetic indignation on the question of snoopers from the Ministry of Food trying to get at the black marketeers in foodstuffs. They are not very uneasy about the rights of His Majesty's citizens in Northern Ireland. It is not snoopers they have there. It is armed police, and the right of arrest on suspicion without laying any definite charge. It is possible, of course, that the harsh knock of the policeman on the door at night would bring trouble to any home. There can be no redress whatsoever against him. I hope it will be made clear in the course of this debate that the House desires a police force free from any bias whatsoever.
The Special Powers Act, Section 2 (4), states:If any person does any act of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the preservation of peace or the maintenance of order in Northern Ireland and not specifically provided for in the Regulations, he shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against the Regulations.The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) has earned for himself considerable renown for the part he played at Strasbourg in getting the Charter of Human Rights approved. Human rights are not something to be played with, and I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he approves of a different standard in one part of His Majesty's Realm to another part of His Majesty's Realm? I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he takes 566 part in this debate, will tell us whether he thinks that that sort of regulation is good enough, and whether it is in harmony with the terms of the Charter of Human Rights. There is a publication in Northern Ireland called "The Voice of Ulster."
§ Mr. Thomas
I think that is a good thing. It was the official organ of the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland. I hope I shall be forgiven if I do not call that party the Unionist Party, because I am quite sure that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The Conservative Party of Northern Ireland published this before the election of the hon. Member for Belfast, West. I invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to listen carefully.There is not the slightest pretext … for Roman Catholics to sit in an English Parliament where their Church does not even allow them to take part in the Prayers with which every Session of Parliament is opened.I know there is a different atmosphere over there, and, as I come to my conclusion, may I say that I realise the danger of generalisation on such an important question. The correspondence from my Protestant friends in Northern Ireland has revealed to me that many of them quite sincerely feel that the present system is justified, but in the calm or, cooler atmosphere of this Mother of Parliaments we surely can deal with this issue free from all the passions and prejudices that have divided and even excited us in the past. I pray in my heart—and I am quite sincere in this—that nothing I have said today is going to make anything worse over there. I do not want anything worse. I want nothing but the best for the gallant people of Ireland, but when all that is said and done, having given due notice to the House, I should have lost my own self-respect and that of my friends in this House if I had not submitted this statement today.
I am disquieted about the policy which the Conservative Party pursue in Northern Ireland. I believe that the liberty of the 567 subject there is not as great as it is here, and that it depends upon extraneous factors that ought never to come into consideration. We are dealing with the rights of His Majesty's subjects. We are not tied to the terms of this Motion, we are not determined that this Motion must be carried as it stands. What I hope is that the House will have a full opportunity to debate the affairs of Northern Ireland, and that then we might have some hopeful and helpful statement from the Government.
§ 11.40 a.m.
Mr. P. Hartley (Chester-le-Street)
I am very pleased to have this opportunity of seconding the Motion so ably moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas).
In recent decades it is true to say that Irish affairs and their problems have been less understood in this country than they were previously. For some reason the people of this country have been left in the main in blissful ignorance about discrimination against the Catholics in the six counties of Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly in the rest of the United Kingdom there has developed a high standard of tolerance and understanding of all our activities. The fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, who is a Welsh Methodist, moved this Motion, and that I, an English Catholic, am seconding it, is evidence of the toleration and understanding which have been developed in the rest of the United Kingdom. No doubt there will also be Scotsmen taking part in this debate, and that will be further evidence of the development of understanding, tolerance and fair play now existing in the United Kingdom, with the exception of the six counties in Northern Ireland.
In fact it is true to say that there is no discrimination in the rest of the United Kingdom these days either against people of different political parties or of different religious denominations. Therefore, it is regrettable that the same stage of development has not been reached in Northern Ireland. Much more regrettable, as my hon. Friend mentioned by reference, is that some responsible statesmen and public men in Northern Ireland will not allow such a stage of understanding, tolerance and fair play to develop in those 568 counties. Not only do they advocate discrimination against Nationalists and Catholics but, almost to the point of incitement, they urge their people to exercise such discrimination. It is deplorable that in these days of civilisation, freedom and tolerance these things should be happening.
I hope that as a result of the publicity which will be given to this debate the people in the remaining parts of the United Kingdom will be must better informed about the discrimination to which the Motion refers, and no doubt many people will be alarmed and even disgusted at the examples of such discrimination that will be given today. The people of the United Kingdom generally are fair minded; they revolt against unfairness, much more against injustice.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
Will the hon. Gentleman permit me to interrupt? Was not the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland a Roman Catholic appointed by a Protestant?
§ Mr. Bartley
Yes, I admit that, but that does not alter the many examples of injustice which have occurred since then—in fact in recent years, almost in recent months—which will be mentioned in the speeches made in this debate. One can understand the coolness of our people in regard to this question, because such information as gets publicity appears so incredible that people are reluctant to accept it as true. That is the feeling in the minds of many people in the United Kingdom, but after today no doubt they will be better informed and will express what they feel about such discrimination.
I have said it is deplorable that such discrimination is not merely advocated and encouraged, but that people are almost incited to such actions against Nationalists and Catholics in these six counties of Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend referred to Sir Basil Brooke. In speeches which are fairly well known and which were made a few years ago, he urged the people to exercise such discrimination against Nationalists and Catholics in these counties. There are others, such as Mr. E. C. Ferguson, Member of Parliament, who said that because of the Nationalist majority in some parts of Northern Ireland, many Nationalists there must ultimately be 569 liquidated. Other official statements have been made by responsible persons. Major Curran, K.C., in 1946 declared that the Government party should disfranchise the minority and stated further, that the best way to prevent the overthrow of a Government was to disfranchise its opponents.
My hon. Friend rightly referred to the kind of disfranchisement which takes place against an opposition to the Government. Surely that cannot be acceptable to any fair-minded British person? We accept an opposition. We treat it equally, whether it be an opposition of political parties or of religious denominations. Then my hon. Friend referred to a more recent speech by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan). Surely that was deplorable and unacceptable to the people of the United Kingdom who value their democracy and their human freedom?
It is unfortunate, too, that in addition to the official encouragement given to discrimination, in local administration and in private and public employment, there is a response in Northern Ireland to this incitement. There is ample evidence of discrimination by local authorities in making appointments, one of which I read being outstanding. The Belfast Corporation advertised for, and proceeded to appoint, a town clerk. A Mr. Allen of Barrow-in-Furness was among the applicants, fully competent for the post. The selection committee recommended him for the appointment and the Corporation unanimously approved the recommendation. In the course of interviews they asked what was his religion. He was a Protestant. As I said, the recommendation was approved by the Corporation but, when submitted to the Minister of Home Affairs, sanction for it was not given. In the meantime it has been discovered that the wife of Mr. Allen is a Catholic. Surely we have never heard the like of that in other parts of the British Isles?
There are other examples in which the Derry Rural District Council and the Enniskillen Borough Council exercised similar discrimination against applicants for posts. We find in the Ulster Herald of 11th November, 1950 the British Legion condemning such discrimination and victimisation. A Mr. W. Sutherland, who 570 is area organising secretary of the British Legion, said:In my time at Area Headquarters level I have never seen any evidence of religion or politics in Legion affairs, but unhappily in County Tyrone due to the influence of religion and politics the ex-Service man falls between two stools in the matter of houses and jobs.There is a reference to a protest to the Omagh Council against the rejection of ex-Service men. At one of their meetings a letter was read from the secretary of the Omagh British Legion protesting against the appointment of a non-ex-Service applicant as a rate collector in view of the fact that several ex-Service men had applied for the position. A Mr. Charles Hunter, who partook in sharp controversy with Mr. A. T. Blair, said that the people who stopped at home and wore the sashes were more thought of than the men who went out and risked their lives. The Council had turned down Catholic ex-Servicemen just because they were Catholics—men who were quite able to do the job. He said that it was a shame and a disgrace and that he hoped he would hear no more talk about loyalty at Omagh Urban Council meetings; and the Council took no action in the matter.
I think it is fairly general knowledge that an excuse such as religion is made as a reason that a person is not accepted officially for employment by the Ministry of Labour in Northern Ireland. This also is deplored by the fair-minded Britishers in other parts of the United Kingdom, where it would not be accepted as a reason for rejecting a person who had been submitted for employment.
There are, likewise, numerous examples of discrimination against Nationalists and Catholics in the allocation of houses. I could quote a number of examples, but one or two will suffice. There was the case of the Omagh Rural District Council when about to allocate 40 houses. The Nationalists submitted the names of 22 families who were living in deplorable housing conditions. Not one of those 22 families was accepted. The whole of the 40 houses were given to Tories, some of whom were not married, or were married and with, perhaps, one child, while others were already so well housed that they refused to move into the council houses. What would our own local authorities have done? We take into account 571 the deplorable, distressing living conditions of the people in determining our lists of priority in the allocation of houses.
A further example was published only a week or two ago in the "Ulster Herald" of Saturday, 12th May. Again, a number of houses were being allocated, but applications were not determined on grounds of hardship, distress or deplorable living conditions. The report, after giving the names of all those concerned, goes on to sayA number of the successful Protestant tenants already occupy houses. One applicant with her mother and sister resided in a five-room house, while another—who recently was the successful applicant for a house near Omagh—returns with her daughter to Fintona There are two instances where the applicant, his wife and child leave four-room houses and come to swell the Unionist vote in the Ecclesville electoral district.Under the heading "Scandalous," one reads thatA Catholic applicant was living in one bedroom with three sons and six daughters and was refused a house; another mother lived with her five children—two sons and three daughters—in one room and yet another applicant's five sons and three daughters, whose ages ranged from 20 years to four years, lived in one room.A later passage in the report states that three of the successful applicants were policemen, two of whom were leaving houses. Both appointments for employment and applications for houses are dealt with in line with the policy of Northern Ireland to defeat, or even to liquidate, opposition to the Northern Ireland Government.
The third line of discrimination which is very common and is made much use of in Northern Ireland is that of the alleged gerrymandering. In the parts of Derry, for example, which by majority are Nationalist, a number of electoral divisions are reduced, but they are increased where the Tories and Unionists are residing in order to maintain the majority support of the whole area, even to the extent of going miles away from Derry to bring in the population of Unionist supporters to maintain the continuance in power of the Tories in Northern Ireland. This is in line with the policy as enunciated by Major L. E. Curran in January, 1946, when he referred to the danger of the three Border Counties, plus Derry, being controlled by the Nationalists. He said: 572The best way to prevent the overthrow of the Government by people who had no stake in the country"—He was declaring that people who belonged to the country had no stake in it!—and had not the welfare of the people of Ulster at heart, was to disfranchise them.All these means of discrimination to which I have referred are methods whereby this disfranchisement takes place.
This practice in Northern Ireland definitely is undemocratic. It is contrary to the rights of the human personality, and contrary to all our ideas of sense, liberty and freedom upon which the British way of life has been built up and practised in the rest of the United Kingdom and in other parts of Europe. It is, furthermore, condemned by the United Nations organisation. A memorandum issued by the Social and Economic Council in December, 1939, condemned these several kinds of actions regarding the allocation of housing, appointments to jobs in public employment, and the arranging of populations in electoral divisions which makes votes unequal in their relationship.
What would most of us do if we were subjected to the same discrimination in any part of the United Kingdom in which we were residing? Should we be resentful? Certainly, we should. We would fight it, as had to be done many years ago by our fathers. It is not surprising that people in the six counties of Northern Ireland should try to give expression to their resentment against this discrimination. We cannot blame them if sometimes they feel somewhat rebellious because of these injustices to which they are subjected.
It is not the first time that wickedness of this kind has been cleverly handled and details of it have been skilfully put out. In Northern Ireland, those who resent this discrimination are labelled as being dis-loyalists, whilst the Unionists and Tories are described as Loyalists. Surely the people who seek the maintenance and continuation of the principles on which our British way of life has been built up and practised are the people who are most loyal to the British way of life. It is wrong to label these people "disloyal." 573 They are loyal. They want to maintain and develop the British way of life to which we have so happily become accustomed.
I ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition to make some explicit statement of their position in this matter. Let them be consistent. I remind them that it is not many weeks since many of them were denouncing the Durham County Council for a policy of an alleged closed shop. I agreed that that was a restriction, but it is one that bears no comparison to that which exists in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The Government issued a direction to the Durham County Council to alter that policy.
We have also some responsibility, as a Government, in regard to Northern Ireland because the Acts on which this discrimination has developed were passed by the British House of Commons. Surely we ought to do something effective about the position in the six counties, in pursuing and proclaiming our democratic ideals and practice, because the six counties are a blot on the United Kingdom in that sense. We attend, in a representative capacity, the United Nations. It would add to our dignity, self-confidence and honour if, in defending and pursuing the development of democracy in other parts of the world, we first of all cleaned our own doorstep and made sure that democracy is allowed to thrive in these six counties.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim, North)
I have certainly no complaint at all to make with regard to the tone and temper of the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas). I hope very much that the high level on which he started the debate will be maintained. Before I deal with the actual terms of the Motion, I should like to draw the attention of the House for a moment to the constitutional implications to which matter the hon. Member referred in a sentence or two.
It is a Motion which seeks to criticise the legislation and administration of a parliament and government with respect to matters within their sole and absolute control, conferred upon them by a lawful Act of this House. Such a Motion is completely at variance with the conception on which the freedom and independence 574 of the many Parliaments within the British Commonwealth are based. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, is a Welshman. He represents a Welsh constituency. I believe there are people in Wales who would like to see a Parliament for Wales. We know that there are people in Scotland who ardently desire a Parliament for local affairs in Scotland. If those Parliaments ever come about, as I personally believe some day they will, how will Scottish and Welsh Members like it if the actions of those Parliaments in Cardiff and Edinburgh, or wherever they might be, are subject to constant criticism in this House? That is the serious constitutional question on which we ought to ponder before we pursue this matter much further.
However, the Motion is presumably technically in order because it seeks power to amend the Government of Ireland Act. It certainly has the advantage of enabling Ulster Unionist Members to answer some of the grossly distorted and inaccurate charges which are made against the Unionist section—that is, the section who wish to be united with this country—of the Ulster people.
Who are these people who are so constantly traduced and defamed? From some of the things that have been said we might think that they were a community of raging, roaring, ravening bigots, bent on the persecution of the minority within their territory. They are nothing of the sort. They are a quiet, decent, orderly, sober-minded and industrious people, whose origins go back to their forefathers from this side of the Irish Sea, largely from Scotland, and the West of England, who were settled in Northern Ireland in furtherance of an act of high British policy rather more than 300 years ago. From among them, some 150 years later, came many of those known in America as "The Scotch-Irish" who played such a great part in the foundation and development of the United States. Those are the people who are being traduced today.
Obviously, I cannot deal with all the matters that have been raised. Some of my hon. Friends will deal with them. I propose to deal mainly with the charge as regards the Special Powers Act and the question of what is called the partiality of the police force. I should like first to say a word about the local government franchise, which was referred to by 575 the hon. Member in moving the Motion. I happen to know a good deal about that matter because I was a member of one of the departmental committees and also of the Speaker's Conference, where these matters were considered.
It is well-known that the local government franchise in this country was only recently extended and that up to that time it was based partly upon a property qualification. All that has happened in Northern Ireland, the Government not being of the same complexion as here, is that that Government have not followed the British Government in so extending the local government franchise.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
Now I should like to deal with the question of the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. I am very sorry to have to go back upon past history, but in dealing with this question I must do so. I do not want to rake up the past. Those who are responsible for this Motion are responsible for any raking up of the past that must be done if we are to answer these charges.
The Special Powers Act was first passed in the early 1920's, when the Ulster Government and Parliament were being set up in face of a campaign of violence and lawlessness aimed at preventing their functioning, to which there can have been few parallels in modern history. Policemen were foully shot in the back and murdered. Machine guns and snipers raked the streets of Belfast with their bullets. I was there at the time and went through it all on the spot. I saw two Unionist colleagues of mine in the Ulster House of Commons murdered in the streets of Belfast, and one Unionist colleague of mine sitting in this House murdered in the streets of London. All this took place when the old Royal Irish Constabulary had been disbanded and before the new force had been set up.
The usual difficulty, always applicable in Ireland, existed in obtaining convictions by the ordinary process of law because witnesses would not come for- 576 ward and give evidence through fear of reprisals. So it became necessary to pass an Act giving the Government special powers to deal with the criminals, including the power of detention without trial. Unfortunately there was nothing new in this. It was what every British Government had done when we were responsible for governing Ireland in Gladstonian and subsequent days, through the various Crimes Acts and Coercion Acts, which in those days raised such great debates in this House.
As a result of these measures, the rebellion was overcome and all internees had been released by December, 1924. The Act, however, remained in force as a precaution, and with modifications has so remained to this day. From 1926 to 1935 peace reigned and no persons were interned. But in 1936 the I.R.A. began to raise its head again in the form of re-arming and drilling and the importation of machine guns; and ammunition dumps were discovered.
About this time the campaign was extended to Great Britain, and here too, in face of the threat, this Parliament had to pass an Act giving special power to deal with the situation. Twenty-four members of the I.R.A. received sentences of 20 years' penal servitude from British judges in this country, and one of them was hanged for murder at Coventry. I believe it is a fact—the Home Secretary will be able to say—that the British Prevention of Violence Act is still on the Statute Book.
Several persons were interned in Ulster during the war, but all had been released by December, 1945, and between then and 1950 there were no further internments. A year ago, in 1950, most of the regulations under the Act were suppressed, including the one legalising internment without trial. However, last year there was unfortunately a recrudescence of bomb throwing in Belfast, and a modified form of internment, limited to seven days only, was re-enacted a few months ago to deal with that situation. That is still in operation.
I now turn to the police. The hon. Member made a great point of the fact that the police in Northern Ireland were armed. I am very sorry that they are armed, or that they should have to be armed, but the police in Ireland have always been armed. In the old days, 577 when this Parliament governed the country, the Royal Irish Constabulary were an armed force and always had been, and the tradition was carried on in Ulster when we were given our Government. No one will be more delighted than I shall if the time ever comes when extremist elements cease their activities and the police force can become a disarmed force, as it is in this country.
With regard to the point about the police force being partial, I would draw attention to the fact that when the Ulster Government was set up in 1922 a committee was appointed to go into the question of recruitment for the police, and they made this recommendation:Suitable men should be recruited as to one-third of the new Force from existing Roman Catholic members of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Special Constabulary if available, and if this number be not available, to be recruited from members of that denomination.The proportion of Roman Catholic members of the force up to the one-third agreed upon was never achieved, but the following figures show the percentage of Roman Catholics in the Royal Ulster Constabulary in various years from 1923 to 1950.
In 1923 there were 19.54 per cent., in 1925 there were 17.8 per cent., in 1930 there were 17.8 per cent., in 1940 there were 16.6 per cent., in 1945 there were 15.8 per cent., in 1950 there were 15.5 per cent., and recruiting during 1950 showed a percentage of Roman Catholics of 16.07. I am very sorry that they have not been able to recruit up to the 30 per cent. that was recommended, but unfortunately there are people who advise that section of the population and who think that joining a police force is associating themselves with what they consider to be the British government of their country, of which they disapprove.
As regards these Special Constabulary—they are no longer called "B" Specials and "A" Specials but are now known as the Special Constabulary—that force also was raised in the troubled times of the early 1920's, and at that time was fully mobilised. It carried out much the same duties as those undertaken by the Home Guard during the last war, patrolling roads, guarding bridges, etc. It is recruited on a voluntary basis from men of good character, and any indiscipline of which there has been very little, is 578 punished by immediate discharge. There is no reason why Roman Catholics should not join the force, but unfortunately they are not encouraged to do so by their Church and other leaders. The Special Constabulary has not been mobilised for many years, but the organisation remains in existence for use in case of an emergency.
All the charges which are brought against the Ulster Government and people boil down to one main indictment, that the Roman Catholic minority are unfairly treated. If the spate of propaganda issued on the matter were to be believed, it would appear that no Roman Catholic ever got a chance in Ulster. That is absolutely untrue. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West, referred to a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan) in the course of his recent election.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
Yes, it was just before. I have the honour to be chairman of the Ulster Unionist Group of Members of this House, and naturally I am in close touch with the policy and views of the Northern Ireland Government. All I can say about it is that if the hon. Member made those speeches they were most regrettable and did not in the least represent the policy of the Government of Northern Ireland or of his colleagues here. After all, as the hon. Member very magnanimously stated, things are said at election time which should not be said, and I frankly say that if these things were said they should not have been said.
The exercise of religion in Northern Ireland is completely free, and there is no interference with it whatever. The Roman Catholic schools are, I believe, treated more favourably than they are under the Education Act here. Many Roman Catholics have occupied, and still occupy positions of power and influence in the province. My hon. Friend just now reminded the House that the first Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland was a Roman Catholic.
I wonder if the House realises that the first Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education in Northern Ireland was a Roman Catholic and held office for many years. I am fortunate in my constituency in having an admirable district inspector of the Royal Ulster Constabulary—roughly equivalent to a chief constable in 579 this country—who is a Roman Catholic. The former mayor, that is the one before the present mayor, of the largest town in my constituency was a Roman Catholic. A chairman of my local agricultural association,—which holds a very fine show every summer—who held office for 10 years was a Roman Catholic.
§ Mr. Mulvey (Mid-Ulster)
Is the right hon. Member aware that a former Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland had to apologise to his Unionist audience because he had four Catholic officials on his staff?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I am merely retailing facts within my own personal knowledge where Roman Catholics occupy prominent positions, and all I have mentioned are in districts where there is an overwhelming Protestant majority. For instance, the councillors of the borough where the mayor was a Roman Catholic were Protestants almost to a man. All these people, these Roman Catholics, are fine types of citizens; but they differ from the mass of their co-religionists in that they are willing to co-operate in the life of the community. The majority of that section of the population unfortunately remain aloof and spend their time nursing imaginary grievances and endeavouring to overthrow the constitution of the land in which they live.
May I give the House another personal recollection as an example of this non-co-operation? I had the honour to be the first Speaker of the first House of Commons in Northern Ireland. When we were starting that new Parliament the question arose as to who should read the Prayers every day in the House of Commons. I inaugurated a system under which the chaplains who read the prayers should be drawn if possible from all the different denominations; that there should be a roster; one should read the prayers one day and one another. I asked each of the Churches to appoint a chaplain as Speaker's Chaplain. The Church of Ireland appointed a chaplain. The nonconformists appointed a chaplain, and so did the Presbyterians and others. Of course, I asked the Roman Catholic Archbishop to appoint a Roman Catholic priest as chaplain, because there were Roman Catholics in the House. He refused.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
And to this day there never has been a Roman Catholic chaplain in the House of Commons in Ulster, simply because his Church will not appoint one. I merely give that as an example of the way in which the minority will not co-operate. If they are left alone the two religions get on perfectly well together. On my farm in County Antrim I employ men of both persuasions. They are the greatest of friends and get on admirably. The people who stir up strife are those like the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) —
§ Mr. Bing
As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to me, does not he think that strife was equally stirred up by his own leader, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who advised people not to employ Roman Catholics who were 99 per cent. disloyal; and will he disown him in the same way as he has disowned West Belfast?
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I have said, and I maintain, that in my view the people who stir up strife are those like the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch in his campaign of vituperation and vilification of the Ulster Unionist people. If all this supposed persecution of the minority really existed, one would expect that they would want to leave Ulster and go and live in the Irish Republic, or somewhere where they thought they would be free. But they do not go. On the contrary, they come in from outside, and large numbers of country houses in Northern Ireland have been bought up in recent years by Roman Catholic religious orders that have established themselves in this supposedly hostile Protestant land.
There is also the incontrovertible fact that considerable numbers of Nationalists vote for Unionists at the elections. Certain Unionists candidates at the last election for the Ulster House of Commons could not possibly have had the majorities they had from Unionist votes alone. I am quite sure that a number of Roman Catholic voters have always voted for me, and will continue to do so.
This Motion, unfortunately, cannot fail to stir up enmity and bitterness between the North and the South. Ulster Unionists are determined to maintain their constitution and their position within the United Kingdom. Equally, they desire to live in 581 friendship and amity with the Government and people in the South. In recent months there have been several instances of definite co-operation in a friendly spirit between the two Governments. Conferences have taken place between Ulster and Eire Ministers over the position of the Great Northern Railway in Ireland and agreement was reached. There has been co-operation over a joint hydroelectric scheme, and I see that discussions are about to take place between the two Governments concerning the protection of the fisheries in the River Foyle.
These friendly contacts are all to the good, but they are greatly imperilled by the conduct and actions of interfering busybodies from outside, like the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch with his constant attempts to rake up old sores and stir up bitterness and strife. I believe that all responsible political parties in Ireland, North and South, have nothing but utter contempt for the sort of course which the hon. Member is pursuing. I trust that the Motion sponsored by him and his hon. Friends will be decisively rejected this afternoon.
§ 12.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulvey (Mid-Ulster)
I do not propose to speak of the references made by the right hon. Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill) to the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). I am satisfied that the hon. Member for Hornchurch is treasured by the genuine Irish people of the North and the South, though no doubt he is not held in favour by those who adopt undemocratic methods in Northern Ireland. I noticed that the right hon. Member for Antrim, North, did not mention anything about civic rights in Northern Ireland, although he has endeavoured to show that Northern Ireland was the El Dorado of Western Europe. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that true democracy provides that civic rights for the general body of the people should be paramount in every rightly governed state.
On this question of what I call the mis-government of Northern Ireland, in many respects, I refer the House to an utterance by His late Majesty King George V when opening the Belfast Parliament in 1921. He said:I am confident that the important matters entrusted to the control and guidance of the Northern Ireland Parliament will be managed 582 with wisdom, with moderation, with fairness and due regard to every faith and interest.Hon. Members might ask themselves how that plea has been hearkened to by the Tories of Northern Ireland who comprise about two-thirds of the people there.
I think I can show the House that the prayer of His Majesty was flouted within a year of those words being uttered. The Tory Party, on assuming power in Northern Ireland, at once set about devising means to prevent the minority from enjoying a full measure of franchise and civic rights. They did that in one of their first pieces of legislation—the Local Government Act, 1922. That Measure afforded them the means to split up the local government electoral divisions in various areas. It enabled them to rig those divisions in such a way as to place the Tories in power over local government affairs where the majority of the electorate were represented by Nationalist and Labour supporters.
It must be puzzling to Britishers to know how this could be done. The general belief is that elections are democratic when there is a secret ballot and adult suffrage and when candidates can be nominated under conditions which apply equally to all parties. But in Northern Ireland, due to this gerrymandering of the constituencies, that is not so. The Tories brought this about in a very subtle way in order to defeat democracy, by an arrangement that is unknown in any other part of the Commonwealth. Sponsors of the Commonwealth and of democracy have no reason to show any special pride in Northern Ireland, because of the undemocratic tactics of the Tories who are in control there.
There is no reason why representative democrats in this country, including a Member of the Government Front Bench, should proclaim that Northern Ireland is the bastion of the Empire. It is rather strange that something built upon undemocratic foundations can, in any respect, be called a bastion. I say that Northern Ireland, where the question of democracy is concerned, is no credit to the British people or to the people of the Commonwealth.
I will describe how the Tories carried out their redistribution schemes in Northern. Ireland. They drew a line around one set of townlands in the rural 583 areas, or around streets in the boroughs of urban areas, by which they encircled the main strength of Nationalist and Labour, and left the rest to be divided into safe Tory divisions. I will illustrate what happened in Derry City. What happened there is what happened in almost every area. There is a population in Derry City of 29,000 Nationalists and 18,000 Tories. The electors in the City, as shown as the result of a recent compilation of voters, number 17,017 Nationalists and 11,061 Tories.
Hon. Members may ask how it was that Derry could get a city council controlled by Tories when there are only 11,000 Tories in the city against 17,000 Nationalists. But they succeeded. They fixed three wards for the city. They packed 11,067 electors into the South Ward—this number included 2,305 Tory electors—and they fixed the number of representatives of that ward as eight. They fixed the area for the North Ward, in which there were 4,905 Tories and 3,396 Nationalists and made the representation there eight. In the third ward, in which there are about 6,000 electors, they fixed the representation as four.
Despite the fact that Derry has an overwhelming majority of Nationalist and Labour voters, this corporation is Tory controlled. The corporation has 20 members of which 12 are Tories and eight are non-Tories. That is an illustration of what has happened all over Northern Ireland. No fewer than 17,017 fall into minorities as far as representation is concerned, while 11,061 get majority representation, and this has been effected by the way in which they arranged the boundaries of the wards.
The last redistribution scheme in Derry took place some time ago, but there have been other redistribution schemes since the Tories came into power in Northern Ireland. The fluctuations of population have been keenly watched by the Tory Party, and, whenever it became evident that there was the slightest danger of a Nationalist or Labour majority on the city council, the local Tories put up a new redistribution scheme to the Tory rulers in Belfast, who are always ready to sanction it. The scheme referred to was the last enacted in so far as Derry is concerned, but it probably will not be 584 the last, unless the powers of Northern Ireland Government are curbed by the Government of this country.
Derry City, for over a century, has had a Nationalist majority. There was a Nationalist victory on the city council there in 1920, when there were four wards in the city. Following that victory, there was another redistribution scheme put forward by the Tories in 1922, when they created five wards. In 1936, Nationalists and Labour formed 60 per cent. of the population, and there was another piece of Tory gerrymandering, when the number of wards was reduced to three, which is the present number, leaving two wards safe for the Tories.
I say that all this was arranged for a special purpose—to suit the Tories and keep them in power where the majority of the population and electorate were Nationalists. Except in three urban districts of Northern Ireland—Newry, Warrenpoint and Strabane—in which the Labour element is predominant and which could not be the subject of gerrymandering by the Tories, all the county council divisions, all the other districts and urban council divisions in Derry, Fermanagh and the border areas of Northern Ireland were rearranged by the Tories for their own purposes. The story of Derry City, as far as local government is concerned, is the story of all the other border areas, but in the matter of Parliamentary representation for the Belfast Parliament, there are some specimens of shameless redivision of constituencies.
Take again the City of Derry, with its 29,000 Labour and Nationalist supporters and 18,000 Tories. That city is largely Nationalist, and, for Parliamentary purposes, is one unit. The Parliamentary electorate numbers around 30,000, but the Tories made two Parliamentary, constituencies there, and, to do this, they had to take in a number of rural areas, some of them extending for six miles on either side of the city. Part of the city, a Nationalist area, was cut away to create the Foyle Division, but it was necessary to add many rural districts, some of them six miles away. A similar method was used to make the City division a Tory constituency. These two Parliamentary constituencies furnish a remarkable study in the practice and purpose of boundary manipulation. In 585 outline, the boundaries of these two constituencies is the same, and it would be very interesting if hon. Members in this House could see a representation of those two constituencies.
Take the case of County Fermanagh, which is represented by three Members in the Belfast Parliament. The Tories, by their gerrymandering, arranged the position in such a way that 30,100 Nationalists got one M.P., and I ask hon. Members to note that the balance of the population—24,307—got two Tory Members, one of them the present Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. There may be some hon. Members on the Benches opposite who consider that this gerrymandering is necessary, from the Tory point of view, in order to maintain the Tory majority in Northern Ireland, but that is not so. If there were no gerrymandering, the Tories of Northern Ireland could be assured of a majority by fair means.
I want to point out that, within a radius of 30 miles of Belfast, lies the Tory concentration in Northern Ireland. Inside that radius, which includes a quarter of the whole population of the six counties, the population is 77 per cent. Tory and 23 per cent. Nationalist and Labour. Outside that radius, in the remaining two-thirds of Northern Ireland, the Nationalist and Labour Parties are in a majority of over 50 per cent.
Apparently, the object of the Tories in gerrymandering the border areas for local government and Parliamentary purposes was to show the British people and the outside world that the whole of Northern Ireland favours the division of the country which was forced upon it by a former Government in this House and against the wishes of the Irish people. But there was probably a further and overriding purpose—to ensure that all power and patronage would be placed in the hands of the Tories.
I have proceeded so far and have said enough to show this injustice which is imposed on a minority in Northern Ireland, and I think these injustices will show every hon. Member that the position in Northern Ireland is not in accordance with the British way of life. The Premier of Northern Ireland and the lesser lights in his party, in their public utterances, are always asserting that in an administrative capacity they are living 586 the British way of life. Who, amongst hon. Members in this House, will agree with that assertion.
§ Mr. McKibbin (Belfast, East)
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? He goes on linking Labour and Nationalists together, but the Labour Party in Northern Ireland would vote with the Unionists, because they do not want the Nationalists.
§ Mr. Mulvey
I dispute that assertion, but I shall not go into it.
In 1945, both the British and Belfast Parliaments had before them pieces of legislation determining who should vote in local elections. The British Act extended the franchise to everyone of 21 and over. When the similar Act went through the Belfast Parliament, there was introduced a barrier to such a franchise which deprived of the vote thousands of people who formerly had it. I will quote an example to elucidate this point, and I think it will have the effect of making the position clearly understood by all hon. Members.
Take the case of a young man over 21 who is living and working in Manchester, London or any other British city. He has his franchise, and, when he gets married, because of the housing shortage he is obliged to live in rooms in the same house with other people; he and his wife would have no local government vote, if their marriage took place before 1949, until he goes to the valuation officer, has the rooms assessed and pays rates. That is one of the provisions of the Act of 1946 in Northern Ireland, and this provision knocks some thousands out of the local government franchise in Northern Ireland. I ask again who, amongst the hon. Members in this House, will say that such a legislative position is in accordance with the British way of life?
In Northern Ireland also there is the property qualification, which has enabled wealthy companies to have as many as six votes on a £10 valuation. This has been referred to by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Bartley), but I shall add something to what he said. He did not make clear Mr. Ferguson's statement at a Unionist meeting in Enniskillen, when he said:The Nationalist majority in County Fermanagh, notwithstanding a reduction of 336 587 in the year, stands at 3,684. We must ultimately liquidate or reduce that majority. The County … is safely Unionist.According to Mr. Ferguson, a Nationalist majority of 3,684 did not diminish the Tory strength in County Fermanagh, presumably due to the jerrymandering that had put the Tories in control of all the public bodies. He further said that this majority of 3,684 was a millstone around their necks, and they must liquidate it.
The denial of houses to people has already been referred to, and here is a significant passage from the November, 1949, issue of "The Voice of Ulster," the official monthly organ of the Tory Party in Northern Ireland:Vital as were the votes cast in Ulster's great Parliamentary Election last February, equally vital are Local Government votes. By the latter the Ulster people put into office those who can wield, for weal or woe, the power given by our Belfast Government. Nor is this power negligible when one considers the making of appointments, the letting of houses and the provision of health, medical and education services.There is a direction from a Tory official source to prevent the letting of houses for political purposes. Right loyalty are the Tories of Northern Ireland carrying out that direction. In the making of appointments, the most menial posts are not given to the opponents of Tories when a Tory supporter is after it. That is the position in regard to every public body.
With the permission of the House, I should like now to refer to the housing situation prior to the establishment of the Belfast Parliament. It is of interest to recall that in Tyrone, Fermangh and other areas in the North of Ireland, long before the Treaty, when legislation was passed in this House providing for the Labourers Acts, the Tory representatives from the North of Ireland opposed that Measure, just as they opposed the Insurance Acts and all similar services which would help the working class.
After the passage of the Labourers Acts in this House early in the present century, only public bodies controlled by Nationalists in Northern Ireland, or in that area now known as Northern Ireland, put the Acts into operation despite opposition from Tory members of those public bodies. The Nationalist-controlled public bodies were the first to 588 build houses for labourers, and Nationalist and Tory supporters in the areas which with which I am acquainted got their due proportion of those houses. But since 1921, when the Tories assumed power in Northern Ireland, the production of houses for the labouring classes did not concern the Tories and in Tyrone, Fermangh and other areas no houses were built until recent years.
As the old labourers' cottages put up in the rural districts throughout the Border Counties became vacant, when through the jerrymander the Tories got into control, those cottages were given to Tory supporters, who replaced the Nationalists all over the area. Recently the Enniskillen Urban Council built 66 houses and gave only six to Labour or Nationalist applicants, although the non-Tories of the area were in the majority.
A most scandalous decision was taken by the Lisnaskea Rural Council in County Fermanagh, who gave the tenancy of a cottage to a farmer who had sold his farm for £1,000 and rejected the claim of a Labour ex-Service man who had been through the Burma campaign, was wounded twice and was the father of four children. A similar scandalous proceeding was indulged in by the Omagh Rural Council who accepted the application for a cottage of a Tory farmer who only a short time previously had sold his farm for £2,000. At the same time this Tory-controlled council refused applications from non-Tory working-class men with large families.
There is this contrast to which I wish to refer. In Strabane, where the urban council is controlled by Labour, and where there could be no gerrymander, the council had two housing schemes, and in the allocation of those houses local Tory working-class supporters got their fair share. Mr. Hamilton, a Tory member of the council and the Tory agent for North Tyrone, publicly asserted that in the allocation of houses his party got a fair crack of the whip. The town of Omagh has since the war built 92 houses, most of which were given to Tories, some of whom they brough in from outside areas in the country.
I do not wish to go into this matter any further except to point out examples of the mentality in dealing with the question of houses. As far back as 1936, 589 the Tory members of the Omagh Rural Council asked for a change in the law in order to prevent Nationalists or Labour supporters from getting houses. They forwarded, through their Secretary, Mr. R. A. Parke, a resolution to the Chief Government Whip, which was summarised by Mr. Parke as follows:Briefly put, the object is to confer on rural councils the power to formulate schemes for the erection of labourers' cottages without representation"—meaning, of course, without applications coming from labourers—"so that when the cottages are completed they can be let to Tory tenants. We know that in the past cottages have had to be let to those who made representations, those most in need, and in the majority of cases these have been Roman Catholics and Nationalists. If this change in the law which we suggest is made, it is believed that it would enable the Tory Party to improve their position without risk from the other side.In other words, cottages were to be built by the Omagh Rural Council only if they could be let to Tory tenants. The Tory members of the council, in putting forward that resolution to Belfast, put it still more bluntly, for they said:We would point out that in certain districts cottages are required for Unionist workers, but we hesitate to invite representations as we know there will be a flood of representations from the Nationalist side, and our political opponents are only waiting the opportunity to use this means to outvote us in divisions where majorities are close.Briefly, the object of the Omagh Rural Council Tories was to get the Belfast Government to provide them with a piece of legislation which would obviate any inquiries as to who needed houses most and to have the houses all occupied by Tory supporters. I do not know what became of that communication after it was received in Belfast. I think I have said enough on this aspect to compel the Northern Ireland Premier and his friends to admit that they misrepresented the position to every British party when they stated that their policy in the administrative affairs of Northern Ireland was in accord with the British way of life.
§ Captain Orr (Down, South)
While the hon. Gentleman is looking for his place on the subject of Omagh, would he admit that out of 155 houses built in Omagh and district, 91 went to Roman Catholics?
§ Mr. Mulvey
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me during what period 590 that happened? I have the official figures of 92 built since the war, and 32 or 33 given to Nationalists.
§ Mr. Mulvey
I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the total number of houses built since 1934 when the gerrymander party got into power was 148. But those houses were confined to the North Ward and to the South Ward.
§ Mr. Mulvey
I cannot accept the figures given by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Harden).
I am mindful of the fact that a former British Government in this House were responsible in 1920 for an Act of Parliament which enabled the Tories in Northern Ireland to perpetrate these injustices on the people of Northern Ireland. I am forced to ask the question whether the authors of that British Act visualised that they were giving those people powers to be used exclusively for the benefit of one political party.
We have heard much of the threats of Tory representatives in Northern Ireland to liquidate or disperse all opposed to Toryism in the counties of Tyrone, Fermanagh and other districts. Quotations and statements of Tory leaders in this matter cannot be contradicted, and in this respect I have here an extract from a Tory weekly journal in County Tyrone which advocates such liquidation in another way. The right hon. Member for Antrim, North, mentioned that Roman Catholics are coming into Northern Ireland from across the border. I certainly feel that he is under a misapprehension. The "Strabane Weekly News" of 11th June, 1949, states:Every Unionist"—meaning a Tory—who sells or lets a house to an Anti-Partitionist is assisting Anti-Partitionists to win the local government representation in that area in the next election, and their action can only be regarded as treachery to their party.To let a house or to sell a house to an opponent of the Tory party in Northern Ireland is an act of treachery.
Further, with regard to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Antrim, North, that people were coming across the border, 591 I will quote to the House a statement by the Northern Ireland Premier in March, 1947, at a meeting at Londonerry. He attended that meeting for the purpose, I think, of inaugurating a fund to enable the Tories to retain their farms. He is reported as having stated at that meeting that he was pleased to learn that such a fund had been inaugurated in Londonderry, and that a similar scheme had been successfully in operation in his constituency in Fermanagh for a decade.
For years past, I have been thoroughly acquainted with that system of creating funds for the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland in order to enable them to buy houses into which to put their supporters. No Catholic can buy a farm offered for sale by a Tory, and no Nationalist can get anything in the way of a house or a farm owned by Tories. The Tories will not sell to them, because by selling to their supporters they create future votes.
It is rather disconcerting to Democrats that while there are no restrictions in the way of free elections in Great Britain, there should be these barriers against the franchise and this evidently unfair redistribution of electoral divisions in Northern Ireland. Irishmen who come to Great Britain are afforded, in the main, every facility for acquiring Parliamentary and local government franchise on practically the same conditions as Britishers. They are permitted to live here without residence permits, whereas in Northern Ireland persons from south of the border, except doctors, nurses, or some people of other professions, are not allowed to live there without permits, and all those people from the South, whether with or without permits, have to suffer restrictions in regard to the franchise, and must have residence there for seven years before they receive a Parliamentary vote in an election for the Northern Ireland Parliament.
Furthermore, advocates of Tory rule in Northern Ireland contend that all elections in that area are free and in accordance with every canon of justice. The last Parliamentary election there was in February, 1949. It was fought on a three-year old register, at a time when a new register was in the course of preparation and would have been ready six weeks later. The campaign, in which there were Tory, Labour and Nationalist candidates, 592 had no parallel in its phases of violence in the history of Stormont elections due to the activities of Tory followers. Labour and Nationalist candidates were attacked in many centres in the Belfast area.
In the counties of Derry, Antrim, Down, Armagh and Tyrone, Tory followers attacked some Labour and Nationalist meetings, which they dispersed, and also attacked the houses of their opponents, thus causing considerable damage. In the subsequent claims for compensation for damage to property, Justices Sheil and Porter of the High Court deplored the bitterness which the elections evoked and the damage caused to property. Sir Basil Brooke, the Premier, said during the election campaign that he would regard it as an overwhelming victory if Labour were defeated. He got his victory; Labour was defeated.
I shall now briefly refer to the question of discrimination. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory) has said that it was British policy some centuries ago that sent people from Scotland and the West of England to make their homes in Northern Ireland. That happened in the bad old days of Imperialism and British policy at that time was to hold Ireland under subjection. British policy for centuries was to divide and conquer, and in that way she retained her hold on the country.
In the Government of Ireland Act I should say that the British Government recognised that a large proportion of the people in Northern Ireland differed in religion from those Tories who would have Parliamentary control of affairs, and to assure public opinion on this score they inserted a provision by which the Belfast Parliament would be unable to make a law which would either directly or indirectly give preference, privilege or advantage or impose any disability or disadvantage on account of religious belief.
I feel that I have already taken up too much time on this question, but I should like to say that the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland made the position quite plain when he proclaimed that his Parliament was "a Protestant Parliament for a Protestant people." The second Prime Minister then gave voice to the same words, but the present Prime Minister, in a speech at the 12th July meeting 593 in 1933, urging the non-employment of Catholics, said:Many in the audience employ Catholics but I have not one about my place.He said, as reported in the "Londonderry Sentinel":The amount of talk and print produced by my statement on the question of disloyal Roman Catholics is phenomenal. I assure you, however, I have not lost one night's sleep over it. I want to make it perfectly clear that the man I am attacking is a disloyalist. At the last 12th of July meeting I said what I said after thinking out the whole question carefully. What I said was justified. I recommend to those people who are loyalists not to employ Roman Catholics 99 per cent. of whom are disloyal. I want you to remember one point in regard to the employment of people who are disloyal. There are often difficulties in the way, but usually there are plenty of good loyal men and women available and employers don't employ them. You are disfranchising yourselves in that way. You people who are employers have the ball at your feet. If you don't act properly now, before we know where we are we shall find ourselves in a minority instead of a majority. I want you to realise that having done your bit you have your Prime Minister behind you.I ask the House, in view of the conditions which exist in Northern Ireland, to take a serious view of the position so far as local government and discrimination are concerned. I think it is the duty of the democratic Government of this country not to evade responsibility, because the British Labour Party has time and again within the past 30 years reported on the conditi6ns that exist in Northern Ireland and has protested against those conditions as undemocratic and un-British.
A Commission of the Council of Civil Liberties in this country, composed of representatives of all British parties, went across to Northern Ireland and they reported on the spot what they heard and saw. They came back and reported here in this city, and their report confirmed the British Labour Party's view that the conditions in Northern Ireland would not be tolerated in this country and that those conditions were undemocratic and un-British.
While Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, how could the democratic administration of this country allow the continuance of what I call the totalitarian system in Northern Ireland? Why should they not devise means to create a 594 situation very similar to the situation in this country? The situation in Northern Ireland would not be tolerated for 24 hours in England, Scotland or Wales. I appeal to the Government to take up this matter very seriously. I do not wish to introduce threats, but discontent and unrest prevail in Ireland while this system continues, and I earnestly ask the Government to take a serious view of this matter and to act quickly.
§ 1.16 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I find myself in a slightly difficult position. I was going to make a most violent attack on the proposer and seconder of this Motion, but I am so grateful to them for certain action they have taken, to which I cannot refer, that I do not feel I can attack them. I must say to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Mulvey), who is a respected Member of this House, that his speech was a sad declination from the days of the eloquence of the Irish Nationalist Party—Tim Healy, Jerry McVeagh and many others. The hon. Gentleman's speech had about as much relevance to the constitutional point we are discussing as would the minutes of the parish council of Puddleton-on-Sea.
I want to refer to this question of the constitutional position, and I will commence my observations by saying this. It would be hard to imagine a more inappropriate date and period for this debate. One would have supposed that while certain important events were taking place at this moment in Northern Ireland, at any rate some primary sense of decency would have impelled the choice of another day for an attack upon the Government of that country, and I hope that the Socialist Party will lose quite a few votes in the constituencies generally as a result of this discussion.
§ Mr. G. Thomas
May I assure the noble Lord that I deplore as much as anyone the clash of events, but he will know that once having given notice to move the Motion it was either today or not at all?
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman was perfectly entitled to withdraw his Motion. However, that is a matter for him. I do not wish to pursue that subject. Indeed, it would be out of order to pursue it further. But the House and 595 the country will note the occasion chosen and the support which this debate and the arguments used by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) will receive in some parts of Ireland. I should have thought that a sense of patriotism and respect for British rights might equally have impelled hon. Members opposite to censure, not the Northern Irish Government, but the Governments, for example, of Persia, Egypt, or even Eire.
The Liberal Party was once described in this House, I think by Lord Randolph Churchill, as the friends of every country but their own, and I must say that that Liberal obsession is partly responsible for the miserable condition of the Liberal Party today—the feeling that one cannot rely upon Liberals to support the interests of this country at home or abroad. The Socialist back benchers have stolen the copyright but changed the title.
The slogan of those Socialists below the gangway, at any rate, is that we should be the enemy of the Government of every country that is friendly to this country, especially the Governments of the United States and Northern Ireland. They are described as shabby moneylenders, and they are described in the paper of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Foot), who I hope will address the House later, in even more aggressive terms. In other words, hate the people who like us, but be friendly to the people who hate us. That is the policy of those who were well described by an hon. Member opposite as the crackpots and frustrates of the Socialist Party.
A far more serious question arises than this on the subject of this debate. That was referred to in the brilliant speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party in this House. I should like to call the attention of the Home Secretary to this point, and perhaps he will have something to say on the subject, because I think it is an interesting one.
The debate is, of course, in order, but there has always been in my long recollection of this House, and I think that it goes back further than that, an unwritten rule of the constitution, not, of course, enforceable by the Chair, but hitherto scrupulously regarded by this House, 596 which has been broken by the proposer and seconder of the Motion. I would, at the risk of repeating what has already been said, put what I believe to be the position. I will give way to the proposer or seconder of the Motion if they differ from my constitutional concept in this regard.
It is that where total or partial self-government is conferred by Act of Parliament on any Commonwealth country, there is no previous instance of a Motion to amend that Act being proposed in this House, or of an amending Bill being brought in, save at the request of the Government of the country affected. We had a good example of that in the recent Amendment of the British North America Bill. I ask the question, and I hope that the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) will answer, if this is to be the prelude to a whole series of similar motions, in order to discuss, for example, Apartheid in South Africa or the position of Quebec in Canada. It would be extremely interesting, but always extremely pretentious for this House to have a lot to say, for example, about what goes on in the province of Quebec.
From the speech of the seconder of the Motion it might be supposed that the Catholic religion had never been guilty anywhere of any discrimination of any kind. Are we to have a discussion in this House about the recent actions of the Prime Minister of Australia? By the form this Motion takes, we can discuss what goes on in any one of the Commonwealth countries.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
Surely the distinction is that the Dominions to which the Noble Lord has referred are subject to the Statute of Westminster, whereas Ulster is not. We are responsible for its laws and its functions to a large degree.
§ Earl Winterton
That is not the position. I say that where partial or full self-government has been conferred on a country it is a complete innovation for a Motion of this kind to be brought forward. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If that is the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite—and I have had no answer on that point—it will be interesting to see if they put down a Motion that the Government of South Africa Act should be reviewed because of the 597 Apartheid. I think that there was a threat at some of the Leftish newspapers that that was the intention of certain hon. Gentlemen. I say to the Home Secretary that, if that is so, some of us, irrespective of party—and I am sure I shall have the support of many hon. Gentlemen in responsible positions above the Gangway opposite—will put down a Motion altering the Standing Orders, because we are not going to have the Government of different sections of the Empire interfered with.
§ Earl Winterton
I have already given the reason for my contention, and no one has denied that there is no previous example of this form of attack.
I would appeal to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, who quite rightly was referred to by my right hon. Friend below the Gangway as a respected Member of this House—though I would not go quite so far as my right hon. Friend in the admiration he expressed for the hon. Gentleman—to withdraw his Motion. He played an interesting part in putting it forward. He said that he was a lay preacher—a good Christian man coming to this House and asking it to accept impartially his view of the case. I thought that there were a good many things in his speech which were not at all impartial. While we all respect the hon. Gentleman, who is a popular Member of this House, in view of the utter impropriety of bringing this Motion forward on this particular day and in view of the breach which he has made in the constitutional position of the House vis-à-vis the Commonwealth, it would be a grateful act on his part, having put his case, if he withdrew his Motion before the end of the debate.
We have had a long accusation by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, who has just resumed his seat after a speech of three-quarters of an hour, and who has now quite rightly left the Chamber to get some teetotal refreshment—incidentally, no one listened to his speech, including his own supporters—about the subject of gerrymandering, and we heard a great deal from the mover of the Motion about gerrymandering, Has he 598 never heard of a certain Act of Parliament passed in the last Parliament which gerrymandered the electoral law of this country so that this side of the House was deprived of votes? Has he never heard of how the universities were gerrymandered out of representation? It is no use the Under-Secretary saying that they were not; they were.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey de Freitas)
I thought that the Conservative case was that the university seats were held by the Independents.
§ Earl Winterton
I accused the Government and the Home Secretary of having gerrymandered the electoral law in the last Parliament.
§ Mr. Paget rose—
§ Earl Winterton
I cannot deal with the Under-Secretary and a potential Undersecretary at the same time.
The next point the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, made, was on the question of the allocation of houses. He suggested it was quite unheard of that in this country there should be political bias where houses were concerned. He suggested that that was quite unknown in the Socialist Party. It may be a pure coincidence, but I know from my own personal knowledge that there are a number of Socialist councillors in boroughs controlled by the Socialist Party who are living in council houses when there is a large waiting list of people for those houses. I should have thought the last person to talk about that sort of thing was any Member of the Socialist Party.
Lastly, I should like to refer to the question of the police force. Reference has been made to the whole question of the police force in Ireland and the action generally which has to be taken in Ireland to safeguard law and order. The position there cannot be compared with the position in this country. In the year 1922, 230 people, loyal subjects of the King, were killed by the I.R.A. I do not know if they were the allies of hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway or merely fellow travellers with them. To hear some of their speeches one would think that they were their allies. Two hundred and thirty people were killed, including two members of the Northern 599 Ireland Parliament. I remember to this day the indignation that aroused, and the kind of speeches made by hon. Members opposite today would not have been made in the House on that occasion without their having been shouted down. I remember the furious indignation when Sir Henry Wilson was murdered. Does the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) suggest that that is right?
§ Mr. Peart (Workington)
I did not suggest anything of the sort. I condemn excesses on either side. I think the noble Lord is indulging in a little display of imbecility.
§ Earl Winterton
I am glad to have such a tribute from the hon. Member, because it is far better to be attacked than supported by the hon. Member. I could not have had a greater compliment paid to me, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not pay me any tribute in the future, because I should be very much ashamed of myself.
I was going on to say that I would appeal to the sense of fairness of hon. Members opposite. Although I am attacking them in a political sense, I know that they are courageous Members. It takes courage to attack one's own party, as does the hon. Member for Devonport, and I have a fellow feeling for him because of the sort of thing I have done myself in the past. I appeal to their sense of fairness to realise what these men, such as the police and the Special Constabulary, are going through in Ireland. They are armed police, but they were armed, as has been pointed out, by the British Government. There is no parallel in this country.
I can quite sympathise with my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland, as can anybody who has roots in Ireland, and I have considerable roots there. Considerable bitter religious and racial hatreds have always existed in that country, and there is nothing like them here. It is easy for hon. Members to plead that as we have not such conditions in England they should not exist in Ireland. The answer is that they have always existed in Ireland, and the situation is not the same. I deeply regret—
§ Mr. Mulvey
I am reluctant to interrupt the noble Lord, but he said that everyone realises that bitter religious differences exist in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Mulvey
I do not think that any bitterness in that way exists in any part of the country, and I could not let that go without challenge.
§ Earl Winterton
That is nonsense, and I notice that Members on both sides of the House said so. Did the hon. Member never hear of Dr. Browne and Southern Ireland? Has he never heard of the feeling between Catholic and Protestant, between the I.R.A. and the rest of the country? If he has not, I do not know why his constituents sent him here, because everybody else in Ireland knows of these things.
I say that in considering this matter we must remember the background of intense bitterness, and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill), in his most eloquent speech, that it ought to be the duty of this House to try to heal the divisions and bring these people together instead of putting forward Motions of the kind that have been proposed and sponsored by the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing), who keeps saying "Hear, hear."
§ Earl Winterton
I am not concerned with what the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland says. I happen to be a Member of this House who is entitled to express his opinion, and I shall express the regret, which many hon. Members here share, including a lot of responsible Members of the party on the other side, that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West should be sponsoring or even supporting this particular Motion, not only because it is inappropriate at this particular time, but because it has done nothing to help what is wanted in Ireland and that is to make less prominent the differences existing 601 there which are part of the background of that country.
I only want to say in conclusion that I speak with pride as one of the English Members who was associated with the Ulster Movement from its very start in 1909, when Ulster was first threatened by the action of the then Liberal Government. The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland—perhaps the phrase "vast majority" is not the right one—a very big majority of the people of Northern Ireland never want to be separated in any way from the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend and others in this House will remember the days when we implored the Liberal Party not to pass the Home Rule Bill in the way that they proposed. They laughed at us and told us that things were not as serious as that, when we said that they were bringing about conditions of civil war. We told the Government that Ulster would never agree to be joined to a Dublin Government for a whole variety of reasons, many of which are well-known, but principally because they are loyal to the British flag. Today the people of Northern Ireland will never consent to the joining of Northern Ireland with any Government in Southern Ireland.
The second point is that at that time Ulster was supported by the entire Conservative Party. I always will remember Mr. Bonar Law standing at the Box in the old House and saying that he had the whole party behind him. It did not please the Liberal Government and it did not very much please the present Leader of the Opposition, or any Member of the Liberal Party. I remember, as if it were only yesterday, Mr. Bonar Law recalling what Lord Randolph Churchill said—"Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right." He was supported by the whole Conservative Party at that time, and he rightly said that if it was decided to confer self-government on Southern Ireland—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but the Liberals lived to regret it. We got our way, and I can assure hon. Members now that never will the Six Counties of Northern Ireland go into Southern Ireland.
§ Earl Winterton
I was referring to an historical situation. I am not prepared to enter into any discussion of this sort as to the attitude of either party in this House as to how threats of violence should be met. I thought that our re-armament programme was an answer to threats of violence, and it is supported by hon. Members opposite. I understood that we told the Russians that in certain circumstances we would use this re-armament, otherwise it is quite meaningless. I was referring to the historical fact of the great victory which was won for loyalty, because the majority of the people of Northern Ireland are loyal to the British Crown and Flag.
The third thing I wish to say is that the people of Northern Ireland have always been menaced by certain evil forces south of the border. I emphasise "certain" evil forces, who would have no hesitation in entering Ulster to murder, rob and mutilate the majority of its people for the simple reason that they are loyal to the British connection. I do not know what the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) is laughing about, but that is the reason why certain precautions are being taken in Belfast today.
§ Mr. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I was laughing at the way the right hon. Gentleman answered the question put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). Did the Conservative Party still maintain that it was right to get their way by use of force as they did on a certain historical occasion?
§ Earl Winterton
I have already said that I was referring to an historic situation. It would be as well if the Liberal Party did not refer to that, because if anything put them down and placed them in the miserable condition they are in today it was the attitude that they adopted over Ulster.
I shall be very surprised if the Home Secretary, when he comes to speak, does not agree with much that I have said, although he may not say it in perhaps as violent a way. Nevertheless, it is going to be difficult for him to disagree with 603 some of the things that I have said, unless he is going to adhere to the wishes of some of his hon. Friends below the gangway and add to the multifarious troubles of the Government and bring in a Bill to amend the Government of Ireland Act. As I said, unless he is prepared to do that he will be in an awkward position if he does not agree with a lot that I have said. I say that in such circumstances the Government of Ulster are justified at all times in taking certain steps in the curtailment of liberty which we had to take here very reluctantly during the war—for example, 18B.
I would only add that history, especially the story of the Boston tea party, shows the extreme unwisdom of this House attempting to question the attitude of or dictating the policy to the majority of any of the Dominions or self-governing countries overseas. A perfectly fair point was put by one hon. Gentleman opposite, that one cannot say that Northern Ireland is in exactly the same category as the self-governing Dominions, but the general principle and the background remains. I do not think hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are responsible, will disagree with me when I say that once we start saying that because we do not like something a Government have done—it may be in South Africa or Canada—we will criticise it in this House; we shall break up the British Commonwealth. Therefore, I deplore the Motion and hope it will not be passed.
§ 1.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
The House has just been treated to one of those cool, benign, closely reasoned orations which we have come to expect from the Father of the House. The noble Lord said in the course of his speech that he did not want any compliments from this side of the House and I do not propose to pay him any compliments. I merely wish to say that I thought he was at the top of his form.
I thought, however, that he started his speech in rather poor taste in the comments he made on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Mulvey). Certainly this House and this country owes a great deal to Irish oratory, but there was no call for the remarks made by the noble Lord on that subject. He is no Demosthenes himself and it 604 might be said of him, as Junius said, that his only claim to oratory was that he spoke like Demosthenes when he had the pebbles in his mouth. Perhaps the noble Lord should not be so harsh in some of his criticisms of other speakers.
The next part of his speech was devoted to sneers against the Liberals. I hope they will intervene in this debate on civil liberties and, if so, no doubt they will take care of that subject themselves. The noble Lord then went on to suggest that we should have raised any other subject than this. We should have discussed Persia, we should have discussed Egypt, we should have discussed the situation in the Republic of Ireland—any other subject than this one. Is it really so wrong that we should discuss the civil liberties of people for whom we are responsible in this House?
That brings me to the next point which the noble Lord made, when he tried to suggest that there was something unconstitutional in raising this matter in this House in the way in which we have done. It is not unconstitutional at all. Indeed, it is expressly provided for in the Act which the noble Lord assisted in getting through this House of Commons. He ought to have read his own Act—the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, Section 75.
I looked up the debates. Maybe the noble Lord was not assisting. Maybe he was only trying to assist.
§ Mr. Foot
Perhaps the noble Lord was aiding the Government of the day in the same way that he has come to the rescue of the Ulster Members today. The noble Lord really thought he was putting to us a very tricky question when he asked whether we would propose to have similar debates about the situation in South Africa or Canada? But the situation is entirely different. As my hon. Friend pointed out in his interruption, there is no Government of South Africa Act, 1920, there is no Government of Canada Act, 1920, with a section in it like Section 75, which reads as follows:Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland or anything 605 contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof.That does not apply to any of the self-governing Dominions. Therefore, there is no parallel, and the tricky question which the noble Lord put to us is, Of course, irrelevant.
Not that I would mind on certain occasions having a debate on some things that may be happening in other parts of the British Commonwealth. That would be perfectly proper and perfectly in accord with the traditions of this House. Debates used to take place here about civil liberties in Naples. If we could discuss civil liberties in other countries, in debates raised by the Liberal Party at that time, surely we can discuss civil liberties in all parts of the British Commonwealth but, most of all, in those parts for which we in this House are still responsible.
The noble Lord then went on to say that we must recall the background to these events. The right hon. Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill) said that also. It is quite right, and I should like to recall some of the background. The right hon. Gentleman referred to some people who were killed. Naturally his feelings were strong about it, as also were those of the noble Lord. But they were not the first people killed in Ireland, they were not the first people who were murdered, they were not the first people done to death in frightful circumstances. So it is no good hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House trying to dismiss an argument about civil liberties by saying that some people were murdered in the most disgraceful circumstances. [An HON. MEMBER: "Thirty years ago."]
Who is responsible? I do not think this is exactly relevant to the Debate. However, as the main argument for the special powers existing in Northern Ireland, and the main argument used by those who have spoken in defence of the Northern Ireland Government has been this question of the background, we have the right to ask, who is responsible? I will not give my opinion, but that of someone else whose name may be recognised as I read his words:The Prime Minister"—606 he was Mr. Asquith in those days—asked in one of his great speeches, 'If Home Rule were to fail now, how could you govern the rest of Ireland?' Captain Craig, an Ulster Member, a man quite representative of those for whom he speaks, interjected blithely, 'We have done it before.' Now observe that here is a man appealing to the good feeling and good sense of the British democracy. Here is a man claiming to be a rebel himself and asking for special consideration, asking that he shall not be ridden rough-shod over, and, in the very midst of this agitation, of this act of his, he shows the kind of measure he would mete out to others. There you get the true insight into the Tory mind. Coercion for four-fifths of Ireland is a healthy, exhilarating salutary exercise, but lay a finger on the Tory fifth—sacrilege, tyranny, murder! 'We have done it before and we will do it again.' There"—said the Leader of the Opposition—is the ascendance spirit. There is the spirit with which we are confronted. There is the obstacle to the peace and unity of Ireland. There stands the barrier which, when all just claims have been met, and all the fears, reasonable and unreasonable, have been prevented, still blocks the path of Irish freedom and British progress.That is what was said by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) speaking at Bradford on 14th March, 1914.
Therefore, it is no good hon. Gentlemen trying to dismiss the argument about civil liberties by saying, "It was all due to some murders committed by the other side." I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition would retract that statement—it is notable that he did not turn up on this occasion—but at any rate his view in the height of those controversies, when the fighting was going on and when more difficulties were feared, was that the chief responsibility rested with the Conservative Party of this country in alliance with the man who subsequently became the ruler of Northern Ireland, and who carried through and exercised the powers which we have been attacking in this debate and to examine which we put down this Motion. Therefore, when the question is asked, "How did the bitterness arise?" we have a right to reply as we have done in that sense.
We were all very interested in one particular statement by the noble Lord. We always treat the Conservative Party charitably. We do not imagine that the noble Lord speaks officially on their behalf, but perhaps he gives an indication of the way their minds are running. As 607 for his defence of the use of force against the constitutional Government to which he may have been a party in those days before 1914, it was at any rate interesting to hear him indicate that he might be in favour of the same kind of thing again.
§ Earl Winterton
I never said that. What I said was that it seemed to me to be a very odd question to put. The point then put to me was whether I would be in favour of force today. I thought that hon. Members meant force in the world generally. I said that otherwise the whole of re-armament would become meaningless.
§ Mr. Foot
I think that the noble Lord really had a closer grip on the questions that were being put to him than he now indicates.
I am not interested in going back particularly to what the Conservative Party did about this in the past. I am interested, however, in the attitude which the Labour Party took in the past to these measures, because the Act which we are seeking to amend was an Act which was strongly and bitterly opposed by the Labour Party at that time. Of that there is no doubt whatever.
The rejection of the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill in 1920 was proposed in the House of Commons by a most respected leader of the Labour Party, Mr. J. R. Clynes. When the Division took place, he carried with him into the Lobbies such other great names in our party as Arthur Henderson. They all took the same line against the Act which we are seeking to amend. That ought to lead to some spirit of tolerance on the part of the Government Front Bench in dealing with this debate, because it cannot be so improper that some Members of the Labour Party today should inquire how an Act has worked when that Act was opposed by the whole of the Labour Party at the time it was passed through the House of Commons.
Not merely did the Labour Party oppose the Bill on Second Reading, but on the Committee stage, so objectionable did they regard it that they withdrew and said that they could take no further part in the proceedings. Not merely did they oppose the Bill; they opposed it precisely because of some of the fears which they had then and which we claim today have become realities.
608 Let me quote one or two statements by Mr. Clynes when he proposed the rejection of the Bill. He said:My colleagues for whom I am speaking wish me to say that we oppose this scheme of self-government, because it provides a form of partition founded on a religious basis ….He went on to say:… vested interests would be created which would be more difficult to remove in the future than it is difficult to remove them now.Our claim, indicated in the Motion, is that a vested interest has been created which has operated unfairly for the minority of the people living in the six counties. A further question, which is most apposite to this debate today, was put by Mr. Clynes in 1920, when he said:Are you … to place the minority of Catholics in the six Protestant counties in the keeping of their Protestant fellow-countrymen on conditions that would leave them in a state of permanent minority and helplessness so far as the work of the Northern Parliament was concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920; Vol. 127, c. 949–50.]That was what was done. That is what has happened. That is what the Labour Party protested against at the time, and it is why some Members of the Labour Party think today that it is perfectly right and proper for us to examine how that Act is working and is being put into operation.
Some people have expressed doubts whether the Act has worked in that fashion; whether, to take one example, religious discrimination has been practised; whether the minority has been unfairly used. These doubts sound strange on the face of it, because to use the Act in that way was always the intention of the Ulster Unionists who gave it their approval. They said so at the time. When the Bill was going through the House, they indicated quite clearly what they proposed to do and how they intended to use their power in the six counties.
Let me quote what was said in that debate by Captain Craig, at that time M.P. for Antrim, who later become Lord Craigavon:… we … see in this Bill"—which became the Government of Ireland Act, 1920—the realisation of the objects which we aimed at when we raised our volunteer force and when we armed ourselves in 1913 and 1914."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920; Vol. 127, c. 985.]609 In other words, they saw in this Act, which we seek by the Motion to amend, the realisation of the conspiracy which the Tories and some people in Ulster started before the 1914–18 war and which the noble Lord has defended in the debate today.
But Lord Craigavon went much further. He gave a most interesting and authentic account of how the six counties Parliament came into existence and of the manoeuvres and intrigues that took place behind the scenes in Parliament in order to bring it into operation. Ulster is not composed of six counties, but of nine counties. It was reduced from nine counties to six by an intrigue between the Coalition Government at that time and the Ulster Unionists. The Ulster Unionists betrayed a solemn covenant they had made with the Unionists in the Other three counties of Ulster. They betrayed it for what purpose? Lord Craigavon revealed the facts quite clearly in the debate. He said:If we had a nine counties' Parliament, with 64 members, the Unionist majority, would be about three or four, but in a six counties Parliament, with 52 members, the Unionist majority would be about 10.He said that that majority in the nine counties' Parliament would have been too small, and that:A couple of Members sick, or two or three Members absent for some accidental reason, might in one evening hand over the entire Ulster Parliament and the entire Ulster position …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th March, 1920; Vol. 127, c. 990–1.]I never thought we would be able to teach Lord Craigavon anything in matters of discipline, but perhaps he did not quite realise the possibilities. That was why it was done. He said that they "took as much of Ulster as they could hold." In other words, they carried off part of Ulster in defiance of a solemn covenant they had made, precisely in order to get an area which they could hold and hang on to for ever. That was the whole purpose and object of the scheme. In other words, the Northern Ireland Parliament started with one giant gerrymander, and they have been gerrymandering ever since.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
If my hon. Friend is arguing that one should count heads to determine to which part of Ireland the three Ulster counties should belong, is he aware that Monaghan, 610 Cavan and Donegal had in fact a majority of Catholics?
§ Mr. Foot
That is not the point. My hon. Friend can read what happened in the debates which took place at the time. An Amendment was moved—I believe that the noble Lord supported it—which proposed that the other three counties should be included. The reason they were excluded was not that there was a majority of Catholics in them, because if that was the reason two more counties from the North would have had to be given to the South. The whole purpose was to have a Parliament which for ever, as far as the human eye could see, would be dominated by one party and in which they would be able to rule as they wished. I would describe it as a giant gerrymander, and that was certainly the view of the Liberal Party at the time. It was the view of the Labour Party at the time, and is the origin of the matters we are discussing today.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
Surely the hon. Member is aware that the Ulster Unionist Party never voted for the Act.
§ Mr. Foot
It is quite true that they never voted for it. They would have preferred that they should stay as part of the United Kingdom Government—I do know, however, that they gave approval to the Act. The speech of Lord Craigavon in that debate makes it quite clear. He said in effect, "We are not voting for the Act but we are strongly in favour of this proposal going through in these circumstances, because this is the way in which we can rescue our position." They did not vote for the Act, it is true, but they entered into the conspiracy with the Government backstairs in order to carve the three counties they wanted out of Ulster in order to rule it.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hyde (Belfast, North) rose—
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot give way to the potential father of the House while I have had to spend so much time dealing with the Father himself. I have already given way earlier to the noble Lord.
It is said that there is no discrimination. The facts are very simply proved. Since the Tories and Unionists established the control of the Northern Parliament which they wished to establish, not merely have 611 they taken steps persistently to ensure that they will maintain their majority in the Northern Parliament by manipulating the franchise, but they have taken similar kinds of steps to ensure that they will have control over practically every other institution in the six counties. They have stuffed every public authority in Northern Ireland with overwhelming majorities, chosen on the basis of this discrimination. Talk about jobs for the boys; there has never been the principle of "jobs for the boys" applied on anything like the scale on which it has been applied in the six counties.
In refutation of this claim the right hon. Member for Antrim, North gave an example. I think it was the Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, who was a Catholic. All I can say is that he was the first of the few, because if we go through the whole list we find very few Catholics in prominent public positions in the six counties. I propose to give figures. The Catholic minority in the six counties is just under 34 per cent. I will let hon. Members judge for themselves what should be the proportion of Catholic representation on various bodies.
I shall begin with the Transport Authority, where the total number of members is 10 and the minority representation is nil. The Electricity Board, with a total number of members six, has a minority representation nil. On the New Industries Advisory Committee, the total number of members is five and the minority representation is nil. On the Sites Committee the total number of members is three and the minority representation is nil. On the Housing Trust the total number of members is five and the minority representation is nil. This sounds like Tottenham Hotspur at the top of their form. On the Tourist Board the total number of members is 10 and the minority representation is one. On the Planning Committee the total number is 15 and the minority representation is nil. On the National Assistance Board the total number of members is five and the minority representation is nil.
On the Belfast Water Committee the total number of members is 15 and the minority representation is two. The Belfast Harbour Commissioners, total number 22, have a minority representation of 612 none. On the General Health Services Board the total number of members is 26 and the minority representation is one. The Hospitals Authority has a total of 33 members and a minority representation of four. On the Tuberculosis Authority, with a total of 16 members, the minority representation is one. There we have a dozen or more of the main public boards and authorities running affairs in the six counties. They have a total of 171 members, and the number of Catholics sitting on those local bodies is exactly nine.
How does this all come about? By accident? Or does it come about by design? I do not think anybody in this House has any doubt how it comes about. I could read out a further list, a similar list, with figures equally emphatic, covering the chief officials of the Stormont Government with salaries of over £700 a year, under the Civil Service of the Stormont Government. Take the officials of the Parliament itself. The Protestants number 27 and the Catholics none. The figures in the Ministry of Finance are: Protestants 118, Catholics seven. I could go through a long list, showing that in all these bodies which comprise the higher-paid officials of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland, instead of having anything like a 30 per cent. representation, the Catholics have something more like five, or at the very highest 10, per cent.
There is discrimination, and nobody can deny it. Nobody on the other side of the House, so far as I can see, is attempting to deny it. This is a state of affairs in which the Catholics have nothing like the representation they ought to have, yet the discrimination argument can be dismissed as blithely as the right hon. Gentleman tried to dismiss it when he was putting his massive case for Ulster, quoting as examples the one or two Catholics who have been appointed. The event is so rare that the right hon. Gentleman picks it out and uses it as a powerful retort.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who introduced this debate in such a brilliant speech, dealt with many of the facts. Other hon. Members on this side will deal in the same way with different items as I have tried to deal with the charges about religious discrimination. My hon. Friend should make no apology for having introduced this subject. He said that he spoke 613 as a Nonconformist. Everyone in the House knows the faith that he holds and the eloquence with which he defends it, and it is certainly no departure from nonconformist principles or from Labour Party principles that we should speak in favour of Irish freedom. I beg the Government to consider this Motion seriously and to realise that it is proper for us, and right, and indeed our duty, to raise the issue of civil liberties when they are abrogated in areas for which we are responsible.
I ask the Government finally to remember that this Labour Movement of ours owes a big debt to a long list of great Irishmen. We cannot read any part of the history of the Labour Movement of Britain whether it is the story of the Chartists or of our early victories in the 1900's, when Michael Davitt came over to support us on Labour platforms, without realising the close association which has existed between the Labour Party here and those who have fought for the same ideals in Ireland. Therefore, I believe that my hon. Friend who proposed this Motion was acting in the true tradition of the Labour Movement.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Haire (Wycombe)
It was worth coming 200 miles from my unit, where I am serving my 15 days in the Royal Air Force, to hear the two opening speeches of this debate and the speech of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). I am supposed to be refreshing myself in the methods of defence of the Kingdom and Commonwealth, but I am pleased to come here today to do a bit of defending of my own native heath where I was born 43 years ago.
I lived for 33 years in Northern Ireland. When I hear my native country described as it is frequently described in this House, believe me, it is a totally different country from the one in which I lived for all that time. I beg my hon. Friends below the Gangway not to be moved emotionally by this problem of Ireland as so many of our predecessors were. It would have been quite impossible 50 years ago to have had dispassionate speeches on the Irish problem like these in this House, but today we can do so. I beg my hon. Friends to clear their minds of emotional content in this respect, and to get down to facts. My 614 hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) told us that Toryism was on trial, but in these Irish debates I believe that truth is on trial.
I submit that bigotry and bias have been gradually disappearing from Northern Ireland. Such discrimination is only fanned when someone malicious throws yet another bomb. My hon. Friends find the substance of their arguments in the 1920s and the 1930s. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) rarely goes beyond 1935. My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport said, "Do not let us go back to 1922, when we had those horrible murders—232 men killed." Very well. Let us come up to last week—four men shot in Belfast; and a bomb was thrown the other day, requiring very special precautions to be taken in connection with the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Belfast today.
From my knowledge of the speeches which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch has made on this question in this House, I should say that judging from the reaction of the people of Northern Ireland to them he is guilty of the very discrimination which he condemns. He fans the sectarianism which he seeks to destroy. I believe that the curse of Ireland in the past has been the fanatics who have attempted to legislate for Ireland. Every time that we have nearly achieved peace in this age-long cold war somebody drops a bomb—we have a bang. Now we have a Bing. It is the Bing-bang boys in Irish history who have done all the damage, because they whip up passion and resentment which puts back the clock towards a greater unity.
I can assure my hon. Friends below the Gangway that if they ever wish to see Labour representation for Northern Ireland in this House they are going the wrong way about it. There is no better way of consolidating our good fellow trade unionists in Northern Ireland behind the Unionist Party over there than by carrying on this war on alleged discrimination. When my hon. and learned Friend goes to Belfast he is not always in the habit of calling on his friends in the Northern Ireland Labour Party. It would do him good to know of their reactions to his purely Nationalist approach to the problem of Northern Ireland. Will 615 my hon. Friends below the Gangway and elsewhere believe that it is pure Nationalist politics they have heard today from this side? From Members on the opposite side of the House they hear Unionist politics. Somewhere between the two the truth lies. The truth is not all black nor all white, but it is not so black as my hon. Friend has painted it.
I am convinced that if there were a Labour Government in Northern Ireland today there would still be the same kind of attack by the Nationalists, who do not want a Northern Ireland Government at all. Their opposition is not to a Tory Government; what they want is a united Ireland. That is the reason why the Special Powers Act, 1922, was first passed. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill) pointed out in what I considered to be a speech full of facts, the I.R.A. element and the Nationalists of Northern Ireland were determined the Government of Northern Ireland would be sabotaged and should not work.
So the Special Powers Act had to be introduced to defend the people of Northern Ireland, whatever might be their party, just as in 1939 we had to introduce in this House the Prevention of Violence Act to prevent outrages like that at Coventry where five people were killed by an I.R.A. bomb. That Prevention of Violence Act is still on the Statute Book. It has been continued by us in this House each year in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and if my hon. Friends are very concerned about it they will have a chance in December of repealing it. But we know perfectly well that if bomb outrages such as have been occurring in Belfast throughout the last 30 years were to continue in this country we should certainly continue to have a prevention of violence Act.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, in a very amiable speech, was guilty of using the "Tribune" pamphlet of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch as the bible of Irish politics. It is perfectly well known by those who try not to take a biased view about the matter that that pamphlet will never be quoted as a text book of Irish history or as a guide to current affairs. My hon. and learned 616 Friend has been guilty of the most selective propaganda in that "Tribune" pamphlet.
We have heard a lot about housing discrimination being shown by Unionist councils. We have heard the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Mulvey) tell us about Omagh and how the good Nationalists of Omagh were done down. Have we not all heard in our constituencies how applicants for houses have been done down by biased party politicians? I do not intend to use that kind of argument; it was used by the Father of the House. I ask my hon. Friends whether we cannot look at the record of some other councils in Northern Ireland, because believe me there is bias on both sides. Let us go to Newry, for example; let us go to Strabane or Kilkeel or Warren-point, which all have councils on which there is a Nationalist majority.
We have heard a lot about Londonderry where the Nationalists are supposed to be gerrymandered almost out of existence. Let us look at the facts. In Londonderry 613 houses have been allocated to Nationalists and 262 to others by a council alleged to be gerrymandered in the interests of the Unionists. Let us look at the housing figures for Newry. We might as well have the facts on both sides of this problem. The council has let 120 houses on a points system which gives a civilian who has resided permanently in the town a completely unchallangeable advantage over an ex-Service man who, by having committed the crime of joining the Forces, seems to be permanently done out of acquiring a house. In Newry the ex-Service man is regarded by Newry folk as a traitor and will not stand a chance of getting a house.
My hon. and learned Friend is always pleased to use Press cuttings for the purpose of his interventions in these debates in this House. I turn to the Strabane Press. Out of the first 60 houses which the council there let, 54 went to Nationalists. Once again I beg my hon. Friends not to be carried away by a few one-sided facts on housing allocation in Northern Ireland.
§ Professor Savory (Antrim, South)
Would the hon. Member add that out of 40 bungalows only three were allocated to Protestants and 37 to Roman Catholics, and out of 72 houses only 617 seven were let to Protestants and 65 to Roman Catholics? That is now—today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?".] In Strabane.
§ Mr. Haire
I am glad that the hon. Member has brought me right up to date, to June, 1951. I confess that my figures are a few months old. Do not let us become too aged in our facts.
My hon. Friend the Member for Devonport has just given us a description of how our various bodies in Northern Ireland do not contain any minority representatives. He spoke about the Housing Trust. It would be useful to Members here who are interested in housing to look at the work of that trust. If it is possible for local authorities to show discrimination, the same is not so, I think, on the Housing Trust of Northern Ireland. In Belfast, there has not been a single protest to the corporation about the allocation of houses by that trust. If my hon. Friends listened to the long list of various bodies and the representation on them which my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport gave, they would think that there was most violent discrimination. I must confess that most people in Northern Ireland do not go around counting Protestants and Catholics like that.
When I was at Queen's University, Belfast, we did not go round counting which were the Catholic professors who were teaching us and which were the Protestant professors. I had some excellent friends among the Catholic community, but I was not ostracised as a result of that. I ask my hon. Friends, when they try to use this argument about the lack of Catholic representation, please to remember that there is as much bias on the Catholic side about entering those organisations as there is on the other side about trying to keep some of them out.
I know no part of the world where—and I regret to say this—the priesthood is more militantly political than it is in Ireland, and that certainly applies to Northern Ireland, with a few honourable exceptions. There was, for example, a letter in one of the Northern Ireland papers. Here is a Northern Ireland priest telling the writer of this letter:After Mass in a County Antrim town I had a long chat with an elderly non-political priest. 618 He told me that of the 200 or so working people in his flock, 99 per cent. are happily employed by Protestants.The facts are that in Northern Ireland 80 per cent. of the Catholics are employed by Protestants and get on with the job, and there is little discrimination.
There is very much more that one would like to refer to. If my hon. Friends really want to know what is the power of the Church in Northern Ireland in the way of keeping Catholics out of those those appointments, will they just cast a glance over to Dublin to what happened two or three weeks ago, when Dr. Noel Browne, then Minister of Health, attempted to introduce a partial free health service rather like ours? He was condemned by the Catholic heirarchy and told to resign—and had to—and as a result of that the Government later fell. There is the rule of the Church in Ireland. It is much better to recognise that Southern Ireland is ruled by a Catholic theocracy and that Northern Ireland—I do not say that it is at all easy—is attempting slowly to get rid of this bias which has beset us in the past.
I realise that I am over-stepping my time, but in fact so much has been said in this debate which can be challenged by actual figures that I hope I may be spared just a minute longer. When we look at the Special Powers Act so condemned by those interested in civil liberties, I think it right that we should know that though there have been a certain number of internees throughout the 20 years, and I can give the figures year by year, they have, in fact, been released when things settled down. We have periods of peace and periods of strife in Northern Ireland. At this moment, as a result of the bomb outrage last week there are, I believe, 13 men detained. But as the right hon. Member for Antrim, North said, under the powers introduced by the Northern Ireland Government those men cannot be detained for more than seven days. So I understand that they will be released next week; that is provided they are not charged.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West has taken a very keen interest in the teaching profession. I have known him on many occasions defend the teaching profession in this House, and I should have thought that if he had been 619 looking for evidence of discrimination he might have looked at the Catholic side as well. Let us look, for example, at the training of teachers. I was trained as a teacher in Northern Ireland. As a male trainee I never had the opportunity of mixing with my Roman Catholic colleagues, not because we did not want them, but because they were not allowed to attend Stranmillis Training College.
There could be no agreement between Stormont and the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland about the training of teachers. Therefore, in fact, though the women Catholic students in Northern Ireland went to St. Mary's Training College in Belfast, the men students had to come to Middlesex, to Strawberry Hill. That went on right up to the end of the war. In fact, men students are now trained at St. Mary's in Belfast.
The most important point I want to make, however, is with regard to the emergency training scheme. At Larkhill emergency training college in Belfast we were training teachers to staff the additional schools in Belfast. What did we find there? The Catholic Church did not sponsor students to it, but some did have the courage to come. In fact, 32 men and two women Catholic students did have the courage to come to that emergency training college, and what was the result? Not one of those students got a job in a Catholic school in Northern Ireland. They are today teaching in England and are lost to Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Haire
I am not aware whether they have applied at Protestant schools; they prefer, as my hon. Friend knows, to try to get jobs in Catholic schools. The same thing applies to nursing. So many contentious things have been said about this side of the hospitals in Belfast that I should like to have time to quote something in contrast.
Do not let my hon. Friends below the Gangway think that I am wholly supporting the Tory regime in Northern Ireland. I believe they have much to do to reform things in Northern Ireland, and they have had many years of power in which to do it. I agree with my hon. Friends below the Gangway that 620 the local franchise does call for some review, especially on the qualifying period. I believe that there should be some review of the Senate in Northern Ireland, because if we continue to have one side so overwhelmingly represented in the Lower House in Northern Ireland, it would be useful to have in the Senate representation of other elements in the country. I should like the Government of Northern Ireland to repeal the Trades Disputes Act, and I should like them to consider whether the uniformed celebration of the 12th July serves any really useful function.
If my hon. Friends are going to vote this afternoon on this problem from emotionalism, I repeat that they will be making a mistake. They must give careful thought to this problem. I beg of them not to be guided by their feelings, but by the facts.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles (Down, North)
This Motion, although it was so moderately and temperately moved by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), and seconded by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Bartley), is likely to do more harm than good in Northern Ireland. As the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) has said, religious differences were settling down and certainly they are far less today than when I was a boy.
Regarding this Motion I see that the hand is the hand of Esau but the voice is the voice of Jacob and that is the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing). I believe that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch is glad when there is trouble in Northern Ireland. It is a very curious thing that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Mulvey) is allied with him. The hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch fought in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side, the side that murdered more Roman Catholic priests, and tortured them, than has been known in the last 50 or 100 years of history. Politics make strange bed-fellows. I have a genuine respect for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid-Ulster. He has lived all his life in Northern Ireland and his are views which he holds genuinely. He is not speaking to stir up trouble: he is speaking from general conviction.
First, there is this charge of gerrymandering. My Parliamentary elections 621 are conducted in exactly the same way as they were in my last constituency of Blackburn or as they are conducted anywhere else in England, Wales or Scotland. I can well remember the Speaker's Committee coming over to Northern Ireland. I was called as a witness. As my constituency was largely by the seaside, I wanted to get down towards Strangford and Ardglass and in that direction towards Newcastle.
The Committee refused my application, but because of that I do not charge them with gerrymandering. I believe that it was an honest and fair Committee. Any reflection of gerrymandering on the part of that Committee would be one on the Speaker of this House. That Committee produced 12 members in Northern Ireland. Ten were Unionists and two were Nationalist—a proportion of five to one. What is the proportion in the Stormont Parliament? It is far less in those constituencies which are supposed to have been gerrymandered. The proportion there is only four to one, instead of five to one.
In the local constituencies, the county councils and rural districts, we have a different franchise from that in England. I remember the right hon. Gentleman the present Foreign Secretary speaking on the question of the lodger's vote. He said that the lodger's vote was a farce. The son of the house may be living with his parents, and he has to pretend to own some furniture. The Foreign Secretary was strongly in favour of abolishing that vote. It has been abolished in Northern Ireland also.
I agree that we have Tory principles. We believe that the people who pay the rates are the people who should have the votes in these local councils. Again and again I have heard the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister say to the Leader of the Opposition, "You disagree with me because I hold Socialist principles which I have a right to hold." In the same way, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that the people in Northern Ireland have the right to hold Tory and Conservative principles. We admit that the valuation and the voting is different under the local councils system, but it is only because of the difference of opinion in the Stormont Parliament.
What are the facts on housing? There was a debate on housing in the Northern 622 Ireland Parliament on 30th May when Dame Dehra Parker, the Minister, referring to ex-Service men, said that under Nationalist-controlled councils they had a poor chance of getting houses or anything else. She said that she had no power to interfere in the allocation of houses but she got just as many letters from Unionists complaining of housing needs as she did from Nationalists. In Newry the Nationalist-controlled council had let 120 houses on a points system which gave civilians who had resided permanently in the town a completely unchallengeable advantage over any ex-Service men who, by committing the crime of joining the Forces, appears to have forfeited every right to a house. I could continue and contradict what was said about Omagh.
§ Professor Savory
Will my hon. Friend give the exact figures for Newry? Of 497 houses, only 17 went to Protestants and 480 went to Roman Catholics. That is a town controlled by the Roman Catholics, and that is the generosity they show to Protestants.
§ Sir W. Smiles
These are the rules of the Government of Northern Ireland for the allocation of houses. Houses are given to persons who are not already in occupation of adequate housing accommodation; persons whose houses are unfit; persons whose houses are overcrowded; persons, or members of their families residing with them, suffering from tuberculosis; the occupiers of hutted or other temporary accommodation; and a further preference is given if they have served in the Armed Forces or the Merchant Navy. These are the rules under which the local councils have been advised to work in Northern Ireland.
We have been charged with religious bigotry. What are the facts? There were 340,000 Protestants, Presbyterians and Methodists in Eire before the separation. Today that number has been halved and there are only about 170,000; but the number of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland has increased by 8,000. Can there be bigotry in Northern Ireland when the population of Roman Catholics is increasing all the time, or is the bigotry in Eire where the number of Protestants has declined?
Hon. Members have talked about discrimination in employment. Many years 623 ago I served my time as a engineer in the shops of Northern Ireland. I know what it was like. I worked alongside Roman Catholics and Protestants. I did not know the job, and they all did their best to teach it to me. Recently a Roman Catholic told me that one of the big linen mills in Belfast allowed all its Roman Catholic workers to stay away from work for half a day to attend the funeral of their parish priest. That is not evidence of religious-bigotry. For all I know it may be done every day in West Cardiff and Hornchurch, but I have not heard of it. But there is bigotry in Ireland. It is dying down in the north, and it is only debates like this that make it worse. I sincerely hope that this debate will not lead to further bomb outrages or murders in Northern Ireland.
§ 2.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Down, North (Sir W. Smiles) on making the shortest speech in the debate. I had hoped that by this time in the afternoon we should have been able to collect a good many voices from speeches that had been made but, for one reason or another, speeches on Irish subjects in this House appear to run rather to length.
§ Professor Savory
Would the right hon. Gentleman observe that the supporters of the Motion have already taken 143 minutes of the time of this House?
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member has been making the speeches of some of his friends on his side of the House. I ask him to allow me to make my own in my own way. I had hoped that I had made a fitting comment on the point he wanted to make. I do not accept him as an infallible authority on mathematics. There are many other subjects on which I would accept his word.
The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said that he thought that I would have to agree with a lot that he said. May I say that, even when I did agree with what he said, I did not agree with the way in which he said it. One of the difficulties of all these Irish debates is the fact that too often the most reasonable statements are put forward in such a way as to excite 624 the maximum of animosity. That goes for both sides of the question.
I am not here to defend the Northern Ireland Government. Nothing, I imagine, would terrify them more than to know that I was likely to do that I have the friendliest relations, on administrative matters that come within our joint competence, with the Ministers of Northern Ireland. I have visited them in Northern Ireland and they have visited me here. We discuss the administrative matters that are our joint concern in a quite dispassionate way, and we have managed generally to co-operate to the benefit of this country and of the people for whom they are more particularly concerned.
I want to make this quite clear. It is no part of the duty of the Home Secretary in this country to defend here the actions of the Northern Ireland Government. If they impinged on any subject which had not been transferred to them, it would be my duty at once to assert the authority of this House and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but in the Act we have delegated to them certain quite specific functions, and they must answer for them to the people to whom they are responsible.
The 1920 Act dealt with this question of religious discrimination, and I know of no charter in the world dealing with the subject of religious discrimination which is more firmly worded than this. It is certainly far more firmly worded than the great first amendment to the Constitution of the United States which was passed on the advice of Thomas Jefferson, and I think I ought to read this Section of the Act to the House to make quite clear what the position is. Of course, the 1920 Act was passed to apply to both Southern and Northern Ireland, and it was not until 1922 that the Southern part of Ireland became a Dominion. Therefore, this Section refers to both:5. (1) In the exercise of their power to make laws under this Act neither the Parliament of Southern Ireland nor the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make a law so as either directly or indirectly to establish or endow any religion, or prohibit or restrict the free exercise thereof, or give a preference, privilege, or advantage, or impose any disability or disadvantage, on account of religious belief or religious or ecclesiastical status, or make any religious belief or religious ceremony a condition of the validity of any marriage, or affect prejudicially the right of any child to attend a school receiving public money without 625 attending the religious instruction at that school, or alter the constitution of any religious body except where the alteration is approved on behalf of the religious body by the governing body thereof, or divert from any religious denomination the fabric of cathedral churches, or, except for the purpose of roads, railways, lighting, water or drainage works or other works of public utility upon payment of compensation any other property, or take any property without compensation.That is the idea of religious equality that was inserted in this Act, and, concerning the Government of Northern Ireland, so far as the strict letter of the Section is concerned, no one can contend that there has been any breach of it, but I understand the complaint to be that, in administration, the spirit of that Section, somehow or other, does not appear to have been observed.
May I say that, when it comes to administration and to actual appointments, the issue is a very difficult one? Of course, if anybody said, in the course of an appointment to a Civil Service post, "What is your religion?", I would regard that as a breach of that Section. I believe, as a member of a profession which is subject to a religious test, just like my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) has been subject to a religious test in his profession, that people do not act like that, and anyone who has been concerned with administration knows the difficulty of finding out, after an appointment has been made, what has influenced the other people sitting with him in making the appointment. If a man was so foolish as to say, "Well, I am not going to vote for So-and-so, the candidate we have just seen, because he is a Catholic or a Protestant," I have no doubt that the appointment could be upset, but that is not what people do.
If I may, I will give the House an example which is within my own personal experience. My wife and I sat together as members of the Establishments Committee of the Surrey County Council for nine years. Many appointments were made in that time to senior posts in the Council's service. We both voted honestly and we never voted for the same candidate in any of these appointments. Religion and politics did not come into them, but there were other things. One set of qualities appeals to one person, and another set to another, and, when one comes to the last two or three people in 626 making an appointment like that, it is very difficult indeed to choose between them.
I feel quite sure, from what has been said on both sides of the House—and I particularly welcome what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill)—that this House feels very strongly that, in making appointments, whether it be by public authorities or by private individuals, religious discrimination should be entirely wiped out. I am as good a Nonconformist as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West, but I non-conform more than he does. I have known, from my association with Nonconformist chapels, the way in which, quite rightly, a man with some position to give will give it to a lad or a girl from his own chapel, because he has a certain feeling of affinity, and I should not like to say that that kind of thing will not always occur. Many people honestly try to do their best and to give the job to the person best suited for it.
I welcome what was said by the right hon. Member for Antrim, North, that these appeals to people of one faith or the other only to employ people of their own faith are greatly to be deplored, and, we hope, will cease. Of course, it is very difficult for a mere Englishman to get into the kind of spirit that has been evinced in some of the quotations which we have heard today.
This House has delegated these things to Northern Ireland, and this House found it necessary, when the Irish Republic was established, to differentiate between the Imperial franchise in Northern Ireland and the franchise in this country. Whereas in this country residence on a particular day qualifies a British subject or a citizen of the Irish Republic for inclusion in the register, in Northern Ireland, we had to enact that there should be a three months' residence qualification. The reasons for that were fully argued at the time, and were accepted by the House, It is true that the Northern Ireland Government, for their Parliament and their local authorities, have enacted a longer period than three months—what I regard as a very long period indeed—but again, we placed the responsibility on them, and they have to justify what they have done to their own constituents.
§ Sir H. O'Neill
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is quite correct about the residence qualification for voting for the Northern Ireland Parliament. While it is true that it is only three months, there is, of course, also the seven years during which the person concerned would have had to be resident in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Ede
That is what I was saying. Previous speakers have taken so long that if the House is to have the pleasure of hearing my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) after the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), it will be necessary for me not to be interrupted too much. It is quite true that the person has to have resided for seven years in the United Kingdom before he can qualify for the Northern Ireland register.
My two hon. Friends who moved and seconded this Motion did not once mention the problem which an open border presents to the people responsible for the government of Northern Ireland. That is a very great problem indeed, and one with which they have dealt in this particular way. We in this House have to be thankful that during the war Northern Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, for had the harbours of Northern Ireland been denied to this country at that time, the problem of the Western Approaches would have been more serious than it was. I do not think it is too much to say that during the year that we stood alone, the problems of defending and victualling this country would have been almost insuperable had those harbours been denied to us.
We have to face the fact—a fact which I know is always in the minds of the Northern Ireland Government—that there is a small minority of people to the south of that border who contemplate and openly utter threats with regard to invasion across that border.
§ Mr. Ede
I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Antrim. South (Professor Savory) has not been able to make his speech, but I am bound to say that I was dreading that he would. Because he often persuades my hon. 628 Friends to vote against the way he advises, I must admit that I had viewed his intervention with some fear.
We have to face up to that situation, and any Government is entitled to take reasonable steps to see that it is not overthrown by people who would put such threats into operation. I am not saying that these threats have the approval of the Government of Southern Ireland, but I am saying that the existence of such people and the continuation of such threats are facts that we cannot ignore. The Government of Northern Ireland have to live, not in an island as we do, but in a smaller part of an island with an open border. They have to deal in legislation with the problems which that situation creates, and they have chosen certain lines with regard to the franchise.
It is not for me—indeed it would be wrong of me—to say whether I think seven years is too long or too short a period, or whether it is the right period. But that is the period which the Northern Ireland Government have chosen. I know of no other example in the history of the world—and let us realise this—of the way in which we have treated the problem of Southern Ireland and its inhabitants when they come into the United Kingdom. Southern Ireland, of its own volition, declared itself a foreign country, and we took no steps, other than this very small one in Northern Ireland, of insisting on a three months' residence, to impose any disability on any citizen of Eire regarding the privileges that he enjoyed while Eire was still one of the Dominions of the Crown.
There is also the question of the police. I was horrified when I took office to find that in Northern Ireland inquiry is made as to the religion that a policeman professes. Let us face up to how that came about. There was a committee that sat as soon as Northern Ireland was created. They recommended that one-third of the posts in the Royal Ulster Constabulary should always be guaranteed to Roman Catholics. To my mind, it is a horrible thing to go to a policeman and say, "What is your religion?" That is his own private concern, and I hope that never in this country will any policeman be asked his religion. May I say that if I heard of any chief constable, watch committee or standing joint committee attempting to 629 get a nominal roll of the police force by religion, they would get a very stiff letter from me.
But that was what was done, and from that time to this—the figures were given by the right hon. Member for Antrim, North—that one-third has never been asked for by persons of Roman Catholic persuasion. I am bound to say, however, that I could wish, having regard to the composition of the population of Northern Ireland, that there were more Roman Catholics in the force. I only wish that they could be enlisted without any one knowing whether they were Roman Catholics or Protestants. That is why that apparent discrimination has been made.
May I also say that I regret that there should be any armed police force, but the past history, and the history of the not distant past, and, indeed, of the very immediate past, do present to the Government of Northern Ireland problems with regard to the police that happily do not confront me. Two or three years ago, at the time of the De Antiquis murder, I was asked in this country to consider whether the time had not come when I should arm the police force. Fortunately, we have been able to avoid having to do that. We are very fortunate indeed, for we are one of the few countries which have no armed police force.
I recollect on one occasion being entertained to dinner by Lord Woolton, for he and I, it so happens, belong to the same religious denomination. We had with us the most distinguished Minister of our denomination in the United States of America, and when we told him that our police were unarmed, he just would not believe us. I think most people in the country would believe something if both Lord Woolton and I said it in one another's presence, but he would not believe that in a great city like London we could have an unarmed police force. It is a very great tribute to the high standard of civilisation which we in this country have attained.
Unfortunately, the problems confronting Northern Ireland have been such that those responsible for the police have felt that for the safety of the police themselves it was necessary that they should be armed. I regret it, I believe this House regrets it. I believe the Government of 630 Northern Ireland regret it. But we have to face, in matters of police administration, unpalatable facts when we are brought face to face with them.
This Motion asks that the Government of Ireland Act should be amended. Of course, the exact amendments that would be required have not been specified. I should like to see an amendment of any Act that could ensure in an actual appointment that we could avoid religious discrimination. I told the House many years ago what happened to me when I was an applicant for the headmastership of a school. There was a clergyman on the board who wanted to find out what my religious denomination was, but he was not allowed to ask because it was a council school. Then he asked, "Do you play the organ?" I knew that I had been caught out. I said, "Well, I cannot play it, but if the sermons are good I will blow it." I did not get the post.
What is needed—and this Motion deals mainly with administration—is the spirit of co-operation among all the people. I have said that there are 33⅓ per cent. of the posts in the Royal Ulster Constabulary available to Roman Catholics if they will come forward to take them. I know only too well from my connection with Northern Ireland that one of the troubles is that people will confuse political differences with religious differences. There are some Catholics who are Unionists and there are some Protestants who are not Unionists. The father of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) was a staunch Protestant, but he sat in this House for many years—I believe nearly a quarter of a century—as a Nationalist Member.
I hope that one of the results of today's debate will be to let the people of Northern Ireland, irrespective of party and sect, know that this House earnestly desires to see the day when the bitter feelings that now divide people are assuaged, and when it shall be possible for every citizen of Northern Ireland, irrespective of party or sect, to participate in the Government of his country, as we believe the great mass of the people of Great Britain participates in the Government of this island. In the hope that relics of the old bitterness may not be given in the minds of men the prominence that too often they have been given in debates such as this, I trust my hon. 631 Friend will feel that, having placed this Motion on the Order Paper and having had this discussion, it will not be necessary to proceed to a Division upon it.
I want to be quite frank; I must not mislead the House. I could not advise the House to accept this Motion today. I do not go as far as the noble Lord the Member for Horsham in his view of the constitutional position. I think that Northern Ireland is in a slightly different position from that of a self-governing Dominion. I think it would be unwise of this House to exercise too meticulous a control over an area to which it has given self-government, but I hope—and I repeat this—that Northern Ireland will listen to this debate, rather more, perhaps, to the spirit that has animated us than sometimes to the exact words which have been uttered, so that we may get nearer to the time when the full co-operation of every citizen in Northern Ireland in the government of that province may be assured.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
May I first of all acknowledge with gratitude the courtesy of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), who was good enough to send me a note as to the subject he intended to raise in the House, and, in thanking him for that, I should like to re-echo what has been said from so many quarters of the House, that he put forward the case with moderation and objectivity. But on the main point, I should like to re-echo what the Home Secretary has said, and that is that it is my earnest desire, and I am sure the earnest desire of right hon. and hon. Members who sit with him, that these bitternesses which still linger on should disappear and that we should look forward to the co-operation which the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned and which was hoped for by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Sir H. O'Neill).
I agree entirely—and this is a rarity which perhaps justifies my mentioning it—with the Prime Minister when he said, on the last occasion on which we were discussing these matters, that the exercise of restraint in the discussion of Irish affairs is still one of the primary 632 needs and requirements of politicians. I hope that nothing that I say will transgress the rule which I gladly accept, but I do want to say one general word and, if I may, give one general warning.
There are two methods of logical reasoning with which I am familiar, even if I do not follow them. One is the deductive and the other is the inductive. The deductive proceeds on the a priori method, and the inductive tries to examine the whole field and draw a principle from it. But there is no method of reasoning more dangerous than that which first selects the matters to be examined and, having made a careful selection of what is to be examined to suit one's own case, draws the principle from these.
I felt when I read the pamphlet of the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) that there had been that selectivity on an a priori basis which ruins the result. Therefore, I want to try and examine the problem generally, and I hope to meet the points which were put by the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, when he opened the discussion. The Home Secretary has given his account of some of them. Had he not been here today, I could have quoted what he said on the last occasion, because it struck me at the time. I remind the right hon. Gentleman of what was said very recently by an impartial observer, the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament. He said, as recently as April:My own impressions of Northern Ireland are of a prosperous country with a cheerful, happy and friendly people—with its economy firmly rooted in the soil but balanced with extensive industries.I think that it is only fair to take account of what observers from further away have seen.
What I feel is a strong point, which has already been brought up in the debate, is that the complaints that have been made and the selection of speeches that have been made cover a very long period. One was a speech made—and I know this because I have gone over the ground—in 1925, and another was a speech made in 1934. If we are to take the view that no politician is ever going to improve after 26 years, then we must be even more pessimistic than we sometimes feel.
633 Before the war, there was not an exodus from the country but an influx. Since the war, I think that the worst figure that can be quoted is 1.9 per thousand people having left the country, which is a very tiny figure; so that did not cause an exodus. The other point which we ought to bear in mind is that after the elections, which have been mentioned a lot, there was not a flood of cases coming to the courts complaining about electoral offences or offences connected with the elections. I remind the House that the judicial service is a reserved service and one against which I do not think any complaint would be or could be levied.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for explaining that point, which I put in a rather short form. It is most important that people should know that.
There is a further point which I wish to put before the mover of the Motion, because I am anxious to get his respect, at any rate for my intellectual argument, and I hope to get some agreement. It is that in the economic field there are three remarkable circumstances. I am not going to argue the details, but I put them forward for attention. One concerns the Acts which have sought to bring in a diversity of industries if linen and shipbuilding were caught by depression. Coming from a great port myself, I know the importance of attempting to diversify industries, and I think that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West has had similar experience.
The second is the intimate connection between the Ministry of Agriculture and the progress of agriculture, including research and inquiry into marketing and things of that sort. The third is the question of the social services, and here I should like to quote what was said in May, 1949, by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) in this House:It is quite clear that many Catholics in the Belfast constituencies this time voted for partition. I think the reason is very clear. Many people of both religions in Northern Ireland recognise that to go in with Southern Ireland would mean the loss of many of the 634 social services they now enjoy, and in some industries of the good wages they earn in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members may not be aware of the great disparity which exists between the social services in Northern Ireland and those in Southern Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th May, 1949; Vol. 464; c. 1907–8.]I am quoting the hon. Member because of his knowledge and the powerful way he expressed that point of view. These are important matters and must be taken into account.
A charge of gerrymandering at elections is something which always has to be considered. The House will remember that Northern Ireland changed from proportional representation to single member constituencies after two elections following the setting up of a Northern Ireland Government. In elections to the Northern Ireland Parliament, the change showed little difference between one side and the other. It made no obvious difference to the results, which is a remarkable fact to be borne in mind.
I think I was the Minister in the days of the Coalition Government that pleaded with the House about the extension of local government franchise in this country. Therefore, I have no arrière-pensée about it, but I emphasise the point. The Home Secretary emphasised that, if there is an independent Parliament and if it is given certain delegated subjects on which it has power to legislate, then it is very difficult to interfere if it takes a very different view from us. Any local Parliament, even if it is short of Dominion status, without power delegated to it to deal with local government and law and order, would find it almost impossible to function at all. That is the difficulty. On that point I welcome the fact that the views of this House have gone out but I ask whether that is not the point at which we should stop, rather than seek to interfere with a Parliament in that way.
The next point I have in mind to deal with is the question of the police. So much has been said, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North, gave the figures, that I shall not go into them again. Again I would like the House to remember the points that have emerged. First, that with regard to the Royal Ulster Constabulary there has been a desire and an attempt to get 33 per cent. of Roman Catholics. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the question of religion had to be introduced if we 635 were to try to keep that balance. Actually the Government have succeeded in getting only between one-fifth and one-sixth on the average. One hopes that will improve. With regard to the specials, this is a branch that has not been mobilised for well over a quarter of a century. They do now six days training a year and occasionally supply drafts for occasions when the police have to be supplemented. So that although they exist and are there, they have as an operative mobilised force passed into the history of other days.
With regard to the Special Powers Act, I do not think it is relevant to follow the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) in attributing blame even as far as he went, I am anxious that the ashes of old fires should not become any redder for what is said today. Therefore, I simply ask the hon. Member, or anyone who is considering the question fairly, to remember this: suppose in an area with a population of 1½ million we have a year when there are 232 people killed, nearly 1,000 wounded and about £3 million of property destroyed by fire or explosion; and where we also get the point—I do not think the hon. Member for Devonport had this in mind—that many of the 232 were murdered for giving information to the police, and many more were tarred and feathered and chained to railings for the same matter. These are the figures for 1922.
Faced with that situation is an infant Government which has just taken over—a difficult situation, an open border, and beyond that border the troubles. The hon. Member will remember Rory O'Connor and the fire in the Dublin Four Courts. Again I do not want to go into detail, but he will remember the situation there. Facing that situation, and believing that the ordinary course of law will not work for these purposes, the answer was special legislation, the Special Powers Act.
The Government of Northern Ireland were not alone. As we have been reminded—certainly the right hon. Gentleman and I were in the House on the night that this country passed the Prevention of Violence Act—we are all only human. I remember very well when the Bill was in course of discussion in Committee and the news came through that there had been another bomb outrage 636 and a clerk in Kings Cross Station had lost his life. Even in our calmness—we are, as assemblies go, a very calm assembly—I can remember the impression. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman also will remember it, although it was a dozen years ago.
There is another example. In the Republic of Ireland there are statutes giving emergency powers, which were put into operation at about the same time in 1939, and, like the Northern Ireland statutes, have been reduced in their extent of operation as the situation got better. And so we must not put the Northern Ireland Government in a particular category of its own. That, I hope the House will agree, is a point that might well be remembered.
The only other point with which I have not dealt is the general charge, if I may put it that way, of religious discrimination. I have seen a good many constitutions for which this House has been responsible. I cannot remember any one that has put a governing law in clearer or stronger terms than the Section which the right hon. Gentleman read out. One has to remember the double pressure. There is the direct pressure which affects the Protestants in relation to Catholics. Those of us who are Protestants regret it as much as anyone else. But there is the counter pressure, which, I think, is a definite factor and which prevents Catholics coming in and co-operating when the situation is open.
I, like the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, am almost entirely of Celtic blood. I was brought up in a Gaelic speaking house. I know the troubles of the temperament which comes with the blood. But surely, in 1951, we have suffered enough, even if we have not learned enough, to try to get over the tragedy of the long memory of our race. I hope, therefore, that we can do so and that this debate will look forward to an improved state.
There is only one other matter which I should like to mention, because I should not like the debate to conclude without one other reference to it: the services of Ulster during the war, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. It was not only a question of the situation, of the military genius of the five field marshals which a million and a half people produced, 637 or of the industrial output of bombers, flying boats, warships and merchant ships. All these were great things. But I feel that the hon. and learned Member for Hornchurch has done less than justice, and stopped short this side of generosity, when he said, rather contemptuously:The real strength of the British Commonwealth does not depend on the possession of a few military bases in the Northern East corner of Ireland.I shall not quote my right hon. Friend, because I do not want to introduce, even by a side door, any politics. I will leave it in the words of General Eisenhower, who said:It was here in Northern Ireland that the American Army first began to concentrate for our share in the attack upon the citadel of Europe. From here started the long, hard march to Allied victory. Without Northern Ireland I do not see how the American forces could have been concentrated to begin the invasion of Europe.I ask the House to note these words:If Ulster had not been a definite, co-operative part of the British Empire and had not been available for our use I do not see how the build-up could have been carried out in England.It is relevant to admit that one of the qualities of the people whom we are discussing is a great love for our own country. It is highly relevant, and I am not in the least ashamed to mention it. When that is considered and all these reasons are weighed, I join my plea to mat of the Home Secretary that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West, will not press this matter to a Division today.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
The whole House probably welcomes the tone of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) and of the Home Secretary in their approach to this matter. If we do—and I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we do—owe a particular debt for their services in the war to the people of Ulster, he will agree with me that we owe it to them whatever their religious faith or political views may be. It is because we want to see not only the majority but the minority of the people in Northern Ireland given their full rights that we have raised this question today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Haire) said that truth was 638 always one of the first casualties in an Irish debate, and immediately himself gave an excellent example of it. If we have any duty in this House, it is that we should on all sides be quite certain that we denounce violence and the use of violence for political purposes. If we have any other second duty, it is that we should not pretend, or lead people to believe in order to justify an action, that some violence has taken place when in fact it has not.
My hon. Friend, and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, North (Sir W. Smiles), proceeded to justify various acts in the North of Ireland because he said that some bomb outrage had occurred. What is the truth of it? Let me quote from the "Daily Mail," which I think my hon. Friend—to judge from the tone of his speech—and the hon. Gentleman opposite will both accept:TIN STARTS A BOMB RUMOUR.—Belfast police headquarters, in an official statement last night, disposed of rumours yesterday that a bomb attack had been made on barracks the previous night.Responsible Members of this House should not go round inflaming opinion by saying that outrages of this sort have occurred when no such thing has taken place.
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask the hon. and learned Member one question? I presume he reads the newspapers. Does he realise that a bomb was thrown at the barracks of the Constabulary in Southern Ireland at the same time and that notes were attached to it saying: "We will kill the King and Queen if they go to Ulster?"
§ Mr. Bing
I hope hon. Members will not interrupt me too much. We should reserve interruptions for Members like the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Teevan), who no doubt will have something to say in the course of my speech. The date was 29th May, 1951. If we are to avoid violence, and there is no more urgent duty on this House, it is 639 essential we see that the democratic liberties are open to everyone. For that reason I particularly welcome the appeals which have been made from both sides of the House to attempt to get away from sectarianism.
But hon. Members opposite must go a little further than that. It is no use coming here to this House and denouncing things of that sort and then hurrying back to practise it in their constituencies in order to secure another seat. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) sent via Mr. MacManaway a message of support to one Member for Belfast, West. But what were the first words of the hon. Member's election address?Once again the Protestant cause is menaced.If hon. Members opposite are really sincere in not desiring sectarianism they should not endorse candidates who make a purely sectarian appeal.
Let me take history just a little more up to date. We are sorry that the hon. Member who was recently returned for Londonderry (Mr. Wellwood) is not with us. On his nomination paper he was proposed by a Mr. Drennan. These are the qualities that Mr. Drennan thought desirable in a public representative. Speaking at a meeting with the hon. Member for Belfast, West, and referring to the General Election and the return of Sir Ronald Ross, he said that they should also return to local authorities members who would not be afraid to support the Unionist cause when houses became vacant. That is the practice of the sort of sectarianism of which one complains.
One really needs to go a little further than just to say that these things all happen by accident. Here is a document the "Voice of Ulster," which is issued by the Ulster Unionist Council, an official body. They put on the front a Union Jack in three places. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the matter with that."] I do not believe in having the Union Jack put on the front of a sectarian document—
§ Mr. Bing
—which calls upon people to watch the candidates who are being adopted to contest one's constituency. The right hon. Gentleman says, "The 640 hammer and sickle." Under the hammer and sickle, at any rate, there is perhaps not this degree of discrimination. I quote:Watch the candidates who are being adopted to contest your constituency for the General Election. Ask them if they are Roman Catholics.I will not read the passage which follows because it is so offensive. It goes on to make the most deplorable reference to the conduct of Roman Catholic Members of this House during prayers in the House. It is completely untrue.
§ Sir H. O'Neill rose—
§ Sir H. O'Neill
May I draw the attention of the hon. and learned Member to the fact that this article in the "Voice of Ulster" was a reprint of an article published in a British magazine on this side of the Irish Sea called the "Churchman"? It was not in any way published in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Bing
It is just this sort of difficulty that we are up against. Every time it is not their fault. These are not the people who are encouraging sectarianism. They just happen to have reprinted something else, without any responsibility for it whatsoever. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Professor Savory) is the Secretary of the Northern Ireland Group, and when I called his attention to it he was kind enough to inform me that no member of his group had read their own official publication, and all of them disassociated themselves from it. But they must really know what is going on. This is being carried on by their official organisation. This is put out by the people who run the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, and really we ought to have from the Front Bench some statement that that is not in fact the policy of the Conservative Party.
May I now say a word or two about the speeches from hon. Gentlemen opposite. First I wish to deal with the speech of the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). The noble Lord put forward a very valuable constitutional principle, which was this, that it was quite right for 12 members to come here from Northern Ireland and deal with every domestic matter here, but that it 641 was completely wrong, contrary to the constitution and an offence against our democratic principles, that we should ever discuss any of the problems of the areas which these 12 were elected to represent.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. and learned Member must not misinterpret me, although misinterpretation is his principal business in this House. I said nothing of the sort. If the hon. and learned Member had done me the courtesy of listening, he would know—and I challenge him to deal with this now—that I said it is contrary to every principle of constitutional law in this House to criticise the doings of a country overseas upon whom self-government has been conferred by act of this House. Let him address himself to that point.
§ Mr. Bing
If the right hon. Member paid as much attention to these matters as the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), he would know that even if a road is stopped up in Northern Ireland it may be the subject of a negative Prayer in this House. It was only owing to the good nature of hon. Gentlemen opposite when we had a great number of Prayers that we did not have one down to deal with that. This is a subordinate Parliament where Members are sent to deal with the various problems. This House would be failing in its duty, and there would be an injustice done to the people of Northern Ireland, if we did not take into account and deal with their problems.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, North (Sir W. Smiles), thought that the franchise in Northern Ireland was quite proper and in accordance with Conservative principles. It is a franchise which dis-enfranchises 40 per cent. of the electorate in the poorer areas. It disenfranchises 40 per cent. of the electorate in the rural areas for local government. Is that a Conservative principle? Perhaps we may be told. I will give way to the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he likes. Is this just reserved for the people of Northern Ireland or, if the Conservative Party came into power here, would they introduce a similar measure?
§ Sir D, Maxwell Fyfe
As the hon. and learned Member has asked me, I would remind him—as he probably was not listening to that part of my speech, and I do not blame him for that—that I 642 happened to be the Minister who in this House moved the extension of our own local government franchise to its present position. The point I made with regard to Northern Ireland was that if we are to have any Parliament at all that is a matter which that Parliament deal with.
§ Mr. Bing
It is, at any rate, worth knowing whether there are two Conservative policies, one for Northern Ireland, which dis-enfranchises the people, and one for this country. The fact is that the Conservative Party are in power in Northern Ireland. Have they imposed a policy there which they would never think of imposing in this country? It is important to know.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, North, described the principle upon which this worked. I think he said he was proud of it. That principle was that those who paid a £10 or over rate should be those who should be entitled to vote. He omitted to say that most of the people rated at this £10 value were de-rated in one way or another and did not in fact pay, and that the bulk of the funds expended by local authorities were found not in Northern Ireland but, very often, outside Northern Ireland by the people of this country. The people of this country who find the money have a right, at least, to say that their money should be used to house people impartially and not to house people from one side or the other.
Hon. Gentlemen have spoken, as they often do, of loyalty. There were a great 643 number of people from Northern Ireland who served in the Armed Forces. We all can be proud of that. Some were of the Roman Catholic faith and some of the Protestant faith. There is no particular reason why we should discriminate between the one and the other. I should like to give just one example of how this discrimination works in the hands of those people who describe themselves as the most loyal. I published in a pamphlet I wrote on the subject a labour exchange card in relation to the point.
There was a disabled ex-Service man who happened to be a Roman Catholic and who happened to commit the offence of marrying after he contracted his disability. As hon. Members know, the Members from Northern Ireland joined with other Conservative Members in denying anybody in these circumstances any rights whatever for pension in respect of his children. The man sent his youngest child, a girl of 14, out to seek work. She went to one of the leading mills in Belfast. How was she treated? She was asked her religion, and when she admitted that her faith was that of her father she was refused a job at 7s. a week. This is the daughter of a man not receiving a pension to help him support his children, and who was three times wounded in the last war.
I am accused by hon. Members of raking up all these things. It is not I who rake them up. It is hon. Gentlemen opposite who do these things in the North of Ireland. What they complain about is that they are mentioned in this House. It is quite all right to practice discrimination. The only thing wrong is when someone happens to mention it in Parliament.
I come to the question of gerrymandering. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Derby said, as I understood him, that the Northern Ireland Government was probably a democratic body, because the majority was the same now as in 1921. We would not necessarily consider the electoral system here just if the Labour Party had the same number of seats now as it had in 1921. That is not necessarily a criterion of democracy. The real gravamen of the complaint is that in local government areas where there are 644 admitted—as there were by Mr. Ferguson, a Member of Parliament who became Crown solicitor—to be majorities in opposition to the Unionist Party, as there is in the whole county of Fermanagh, somehow or other they secure a majority on every single council in the area. Then that majority is used for the purpose of diverting houses to the particular faith. Of course, it is equally reprehensible if another religious faith replies and does the same thing in the other direction.
The most shocking revelation in the whole of this debate was the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe who knew to a man the religion of everybody who got a council house. I do not know how one checks these figures. All I can think is that they could only have been compiled by councils who allotted houses on the ground of religion and not on the ground of need.
§ Mr. Bing
It does seem to me to appear to be the fact that the councils make this inquiry before they let the houses, and that we should condemn this practice, not only from this side of the House but from both sides. I hope I shall have hon. Members with me when I do that.
Now let me come to the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he said that the fact that there were not many prosecutions after the last election showed that things were going pretty smoothly in Northern Ireland. When we come down to cases of personation and that sort of thing, they apply a somewhat different standard in Northern Ireland, particularly when dealing with Unionist cases, than would appear to be the case elsewhere. May I quote one case? This was the conviction of a Tyrone elector for voting twice, which was quashed. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate the legal reasoning when I come to it:John Cunningham, a well known farmer and mill owner, who had registered a postal vote at the last Imperial Parliament election, proceeded to the polling booth, and, when challenged by the Nationalist agent, insisted on getting a vote as he had always in the past voted twice.645 Following upon this, he was convicted, and the case came forward to appeal. The judge—not, of course, appointed by my right hon. Friend, but I am sure it would not have made any difference in the decision, and I am not criticising that—the Quarter Sessions justice appointed by the Government of Northern Ireland held the view that this conviction was wrong, because, as he had always voted twice, he did not know that he was not entitled to do so.
Let me just say a word or two about the police. It is all very well for hon. Gentlemen on both sides to come forward here and say, "Let us recruit both religions into the police force." If one studies the changes made by the Northern Ireland Government in the regulation of the police force between the time of the R.I.C. and R.U.C., we notice a very significant change. The R.I.C. were prohibited from being members of the Orange Order, the secret society which supports the Conservative Party in Northern Ireland, and a rule was made by the Northern Ireland Minister for Home Affairs immediately the Northern Ireland Government took over to entitle them to be members of the Order, and, indeed, a special lodge was made for the purposes of the police. If we have a secret society operating within a police force, which is expressly restricted to one particular political faith, it is a little unlikely that persons of another faith who join it will have much hope of either promotion or consideration. These are the sort of things with which this House should deal.
I do not want to—indeed, I cannot—take up any more time, but I would make one personal remark in concluding. I have been attacked, I am sure very fairly and honestly, by a large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who say that I am the author of all the religious difficulties, of all the bitterness and the sectarianism which exists in the North of Ireland. That was the case put forward by the right hon. Member for Antrim, North.
I have tried, and I believe that everyone on this side has tried, to cure and to do what I can to cure religious bitterness and intolerance. But one cannot cure such religious bitterness and intolerance by ignoring it, or by pretending that it does not exist, and by just whiting the sepulchre. With the indulgence of the 646 House so to do, I will just read to it a few words which I said on one occasion, and perhaps the House will permit me to explain what that occasion was. It used to be usual in Ireland on Easter Day for people to go to the churchyards feeling that it was a day when they were particularly close to those who had died and to offer their prayers for the dead and for their reunion with them. The Northern Ireland Government took the view that because Easter Day also coincided with the Easter rising, the gates of the cemeteries on this day should be locked and that people should be prohibited from visiting them.
After 30 years, some of us thought that this arrangement had gone on quite long enough, and that, therefore, come what may, whether we were imprisoned under the Special Powers Act or not, we would go to the cemeteries and say a few words at one such grave. It happened, whether by coincidence or not, that the ban was not imposed on that particular day, and so I went and said just a few words at the grave of a Presbyterian weaver who died long ago, and who took part in the revolt of 1798. If I may trouble the House with what I said on that occasion, it will, I think, make clear the sort of views which we on this side hold. I said:We are not here today to pass judgment on the dead. In any civil war, as in any war, men fall on either side who have been inspired with equal motives of duty and honour. If war, whether it be civil or national, teaches us anything, it is how terrible is the arbitrament of the sword and the gun, how dangerous is any conflict which may spread like fire so far beyond its original confines, and what misery must attend any recourse to arms, whether it be in a national or internecine cause.Standing at the grave of one who took part in the rising of '98 and remembering those who fell on both sides in the Easter Rising of 1916 and the civil war that followed, surely we have one supreme duty—to seek a peaceful means to resolve our differences. To this the United Irishmen show us the path. The Protestants among them continually called for the removal of disabilities imposed upon the Catholics, and the Presbyterian volunteers of Belfast subscribed to the building of a Roman Catholic chapel. They stood for full civil liberty; they stood for a free franchise by which every man, whether he had any property or not, had one vote; they subscribed to the conception that the interests of Ireland were one, and that the Protestants should seek to find a common way of life with Catholics.Cannot we today find in these ideals a path which will lead us out of the barren wastes, of religious conflict, of enmity of one 647 part of Ireland for another, and of hatred of one another because of our social and political views?
§ Mr. G. Thomas
In view of the statements of the Leader of the House and of the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe), I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.