§ Mr. Speaker
Perhaps I should indicate that I propose to invoke at least the spirit of Standing Order No. 16, the terms of whichpermit such incidental reference to legislative action as he"—Mr. Speakermay consider relevant to any matter of administration then under debate when enforcement of the prohibition would, in his opinion, unduly restrict the discussion of such matter.
§ 2.38 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
The situation in Northern Ireland, which we are met today and tomorrow to 3 discuss, is, by common consent, one of great gravity and tragedy. The whole country—not only Northern Ireland but everyone—hopes that, from our meeting, the collective wisdom of the House of Commons will be able to produce a contribution to a solution of this problem.
Of course we all know how difficult it is. Of course we all know that easy solutions do not happen. When feelings are so bitter, when memories are so long and when the fear that feeds on fear is so great, there can be no easy solutions. However, no one must lose hope, and I believe that we can do the best service for the country and for Northern Ireland if we can in some way point in the direction in which we can and should aim to achieve a betterment and, finally, a solution of this tragic problem.
The Government thought that for the convenience of the House we should proceed along these lines: that I should outline the attitude of the Government to the present situation, and that the Minister of State, Home Office, should speak later today and deal with points raised in today's debate, while tomorrow afternoon the Minister of State for Defence should speak particularly on defence and the military situation, with the whole debate being brought to an end and replied to by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We thought that this would be for the general convenience of the House.
May I start by saying, and I think that everyone will agree, that there are two separate factors in the situation—separate but inter-linked and reacting on one another. There is the security situation and there is the political situation. Both have to be tackled for a lasting solution. Both interact on one another but both are separate, and it is important to bear that fact in mind.
There is, above all, the traditional hostility between the two communities in Northern Ireland; the memories and emotions that stretch back not for generations but almost for centuries, with differences between the two communities not only in political affiliation and religious outlook but even in education and culture, and even in leisure activities. The deep, abiding and long-established difference between the two communities is one thing which we must recognise and cannot shortly or easily do away with.
4 There are the claims of those in minority community that they should all be treated as full first-class citizens and have full political status. This is a just and undeniable claim. There is also the fear, which is a genuine fear which we must all respect, and which succeeding Governments of both parties have respected, of those in the majority that they may some time be absorbed against their will in a united Catholic Ireland. These are fears and realities which I think we will respect throughout our debates. They have persisted for generations, and they have brought suffering for generations. They surely are capable of solution by agreement, and that agreement must come from discussion.
That is why I lay the utmost emphasis at this stage on discussion among all those concerned for the future of the people of Northern Ireland. There can be no going back on the pledges given by succeeding Governments in the context of the Ireland Act, about the Border. I think that this is common ground between us, and it is generally accepted. I do not think that anyone realistically believes that there can in contemporary circumstances be any change in the Border, nor do they genuinely believe that it is possible to enforce on a majority in Northern Ireland a change that it is not prepared to accept. This is one of the principles on which we must base the debate.
Again, we must accept, and do accept, that in no part of the United Kingdom can we tolerate discrimination, on grounds of religion, in public life and in particular in the most important things of daily life like jobs and houses. Further, we want to find, as the Government wish to find, and as is set out in our statement, agreed means whereby an active, permanent and guaranteed place in the life and public affairs of Northern Ireland shall be available both to the minority and to the majority community. This, as I see it, is the political issue before us.
But there is another conflict that arises from the actions of those who wish to establish by force a united Ireland; those who wish to deprive the majority—and not only the Protestant community but, I would say, the majority—of their rights by bombing, by terror and by murder. This is the declared policy of the I.R.A. In this case there can be no settlement by discussion and agreement. Force 5 must be defeated. There can be no compromise with violence. On this, I think that there is general agreement.
I should like here to quote two particular and brave statements made in recent days. The first was made by Cardinal Conway and the other bishops, who said that it is a fact that:in Northern Ireland at the present time there is a small group of people who are trying to secure a united Ireland by the use of force. One has only to state this fact in all its stark simplicity to see the absurdity of the idea. Who in his sane senses wants to bomb a million Protestants into a united Ireland?The Cardinal went on to say:Our main purpose in this statement however is to repeat unreservedly and without qualification our condemnation of this campaign of violence.Those were brave, important, fine words, and they were echoed by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who subsequently declared that he could not stay silent in the face of the Provisional I.R.A.'s brutal rejection of the Roman Catholic bishops' recent plea for peace. To do so, he said, would be moral cowardice:The Provisionals' reply to the bishops is the product of mad men living in a world of hate and inhumanity.However much we may disagree with many things—and undoubtedly in this debate many different views will be expressed about what has been done in the past and what should be done now—I think that we can all unite in the condemnation of violence so strongly put forward in those statements.
May I turn now to developments since the Downing Street Declaration of 1969, which I believe is an historic point in the development of the recent history of Northern Ireland. There has been great progress since that declaration, and succeeding Northern Ireland Governments under Lord Moyola and under Mr. Brian Faulkner have faithfully carried out their part in the declaration, as they have set out in a recent White Paper.
The police force is civilianised and is unarmed, and is operating entirely within the recommendations of the Hunt Report. A police authority has been established, and steps are in train to set up a public prosecutor. A Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration—Sir Edmund Compton—has been appointed, and he 6 has already carried out a great deal of work. There is a commissioner for complaints in local authorities and public authorities. Fair representation at elections to Parliamentary and local government is accepted, and universal adult suffrage, already applied to Stormont, has now been accepted for local government. Measures have been taken, and they are set out in the Northern Ireland White Paper, to ensure equality of opportunity in public employment. There is an anti-discrimination clause in Government contracts. A points scheme was introduced for housing allocation. There was the appointment of a Minister of Community Relationships and a Community Relations Commissioner.
These and other measures carried out have faithfully enacted the spirit of the Downing Street Declaration. It is very important that this should be generally known, because I am afraid that people have tended to cast doubt. I think that in doing so they are unwise. Of course, it is true that more remains to be done, but it is folly to disregard or minimise what has been done because those who do so, of whatever country, are not making agreement more likely but making continued discord more certain.
I turn next to the security situation, which over the past years has changed in two ways. I think that these changes in the security situation in themselves to a large degree stem from the reform programme itself. The problem for the security forces has changed from dealing with massive sectarian clashes on the streets of Belfast and other cities to dealing with a campaign of terrorism. It is really a different problem.
There used to be when my predecessor was in office, this terrible problem of clashes between two communities; a massive clash involving arson, murder and suffering of all kinds. This has tended to diminish a great deal, and the problem now is one of terrorism. Of course, there is often a middle ground between the two—often a shield of rioting young people can be used as a screen for activity against the security forces—but by and large the basic problem now is the men who shoot in the dark, the men who murder British soldiers at their posts, and the men who leave their gelignite bombs across the face of Belfast regardless of injury to men, women and 7 children. This is a totally different problem. In the concluding months of 1970 and in early 1971, there was this big change in the security situation. The British Army went there originally, and rightly, to protect the Catholic population in the serious communal riots that were then taking place. In late 1970 and early 1971, one saw a scaling-down in these riots and some grounds for hope for the future. But this did not suit the I.R.A., and in particular the Provisional I.R.A., whose only purpose is chaos and who seek to achieve their political ends by a breakdown of law and order. So in the first week of February this year we saw starting a new campaign of violence on a growing scale, instigated by the Provisional I.R.A. It grew month by month from February onwards. There was a violent escalation in July, and it is a fact that the amount of explosive used in violent bombing outrages in July was nearly treble the amount used in the precious month. There was an enormous escalation taking place in July, and this had begun without doubt to pose a threat to the whole economic life of Northern Ireland.
I am sure that we must constantly keep in our minds the economic problem of Northern Ireland because this is completely interwoven with the political and security problems. When I saw the Northern Ireland T.U.C. recently they rightly stressed to me how important that was. I should like to pay a very high tribute to the remarkable work done by the T.U.C. in Northern Ireland in keeping sectarian violence and conflict out of the workshops and shipyards. So far it is surprising to me, with all that is going on, that the economic life in Northern Ireland has not suffered more than it has. But the pressure in July was growing and growing very rapidly indeed.
It was against this background that the Northern Ireland Government decided, with the agreement of Her Majesty's Government, to introduce a policy of internment. I emphasise the campaign of terrorism on a rapidly in- creasing scale which was taking place already in July with the avowed and published intention of the I.R.A. to disrupt the life of the community. Their other intentions, apart from undermining 8 the social and economic life of the community, were to resurrect the communal struggle and to weary the people of Great Britain with the forces which would have to be provided to maintain law and order. This was the objective of the I.R.A.
Let us not minimise the danger involved. There are already certain signs of a recrudescence of communal violence, which is the target and purpose of the I.R.A. I am sure that many people in this country are weary of the presence of British troops. But present they are, and present they will remain, so long as they are needed in any part of the United Kingdom in support of law, order and justice.
Therefore, I now deal with the question of internment, about which much has been said and about which many strong feelings are held. In the face of this growing threat, which I have described, it was quite legitimate for the Northern Ireland Government to introduce a measure which has been used in the past with effect against precisely this same armed organisation, both north and south of the Border. If we consider the principle of internment, we will see that in Northern Ireland it has been used on several occasions. It was used in the Republic of Ireland during the war and after the war, in 1958–59. Indeed, last December Mr. Lynch himself threatened to use internment when faced with the possible danger of a secret armed conspiracy in his country. But what we have in Northern Ireland is not a secret but a publicly, openly avowed armed conspiracy.
Of course, internment, imprisonment and detention without trial are repugnant to anyone in the House. In the past I have said that I regard internment as a hideous measure, but I have also said that I do not regard it as hideous as a campaign of murder and terrorism. The object in the internment policy is to hold in safety, where they can do no further harm, active members of the I.R.A. and, secondly, to obtain more information about their activities, their conspiracy and their organisation, to help the security forces in their job of protecting the public as a whole against their activities.
As the House is aware, some who were originally detained have already been released. Those who are held now are 9 held only where there are reasons to believe that they are members or supporters of an organisation which advocates and uses violence for political ends, and this will apply to any member of any organisation that uses violence for political ends.
§ Mr. Maudling
People are interned solely because they are active supporters of the organisation which is using violence for political ends, and they are interned irrespective of anything else.
Some people say that surely we should release all these men and try them in the ordinary courts, and this clearly is the ideal. But the fact is, and the experience which I have quoted shows quite clearly that in dealing with an armed terrorist organisation of this scale, the normal processes of law just are not adequate for the security of the public. Simply alone for the reasons of intimidation it is impossible to proceed by the normal methods which everyone would infinitely prefer if it were possible.
As the House knows, there has been set up an advisory committee, to which any one will be able to appeal, and its main function will be to assess whether or when the internee's release can be safely permitted and, where appropriate, the committee will consider whether it can accept an undertaking on his part that he will not engage in violence on his release. All who are interned will be able to go before the advisory committee with legal advice if they wish it.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I have followed the right hon. Gentleman's argument, though I do not agree with it. If it is not possible to bring these men to trial for fear of intimidation, is it possible to publish a list of the names of these people involved, together with the evidence that the Government are depending upon to support their internment?
§ Mr. Maudling
The publication of actual names I will certainly consider, but a publication of evidence is precisely the point about intimidation that I made. If one publishes the evidence of people who are to give evidence, they are liable 10 to be retaliated against. But an advisory committee is being set up which I hope will start work before the end of this week. It is to be presided over by a distinguished judge. I am sure that the House will be glad to hear that among the members accepting appointment is an Englishman, a former judge in the High Court of Kenya, Mr. P. N. Dalton, appointed by the previous Government as a member of the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, and who is himself a Roman Catholic. I think that this will be an appointment which will command general acceptance and welcome.
Now that we have the appeals tribunal and the advisory committee, and now it is possible for people to appeal to it, it is extremely important to be clear about the various views in the House on what further, if anything, should be done. It is argued that some of the men interned are not in fact members of the I.R.A. and have not helped them, and this is a matter that can be argued before the advisory committee. But it is widely accepted that the bulk of them are members of the I.R.A. The I.R.A. have admitted that about 160 of them are members of the I.R.A. If people say that internment should stop at once, do they really say that we should now release a large number of avowed members of the I.R.A. to join their organisation which is conducting this campaign of terror and murder? [Interruption.] None of the organisations to which I have spoken, representing different interests in Northern Ireland, has advocated the immediate release of the internees in current circumstances.
I turn from the question of internment to the question of measures which should be taken now and in the future. I should like to outline what the Government believe to be the right and most hopeful course, but there are two factors in this problem. There is the security factor and there is the political factor, and both, separately but simultaneously, need to be tackled.
On the question of security, the present campaign against the terrorists will be continued with all the ability of the security forces to carry it out. We intend to strengthen the security forces. The U.D.R., which is doing a fine job in the protection of the public, will, I hope, 11 receive recruits on an ever-growing scale. Although the proportion of Catholics is not as high as I should wish, I am happy to say that it is showing no sign of falling, and this is very important. With its existing rôle I want to see a large expansion of the U.D.R., because it can do an immensely valuable job, and all who want to serve their country and protect the people of Northern Ireland against violence and terrorism can do that actively by joining the U.D.R.
There is one thing that we have made clear beyond peradventure, and I want to do so again today. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence, will tomorrow deal at greater length with military matters. What I want to make clear is that in the United Kingdom there is no place for any armed forces save the Armed Forces of the Crown. The U.D.R. is a distinct and valuable part of the Armed Forces of the Crown, and people who want to serve their country can do it best by joining the U.D.R.
I turn next to the political situation, and it is here that we must try to achieve a reconciliation between the two communities. In our statement we expressed a desire to find agreed ways whereby both communities—minority and majority—could be given an active, permanent and guaranteed position in the life and public affairs of Northern Ireland. That, surely, is an objective which should command the support of everyone in this House? It seems to me to be the objective of the minority. That is what they have been asking for, and I think rightly, and that is what we are aiming to do.
It seems to me that the grievances of the minority community are twofold. They are distinct grievances, but they are both extremely important to meet. The first is the grievance about individual discrimination. The argument is that because of his religion, a man is discriminated against in his chance of a job, in his career, in his chance of a home and in his whole future for himself and his family. The argument is that he is discriminated against because he is a member of a minority community. That is the first grievance—discrimination against the minority.
The second grievance—and I think the more subtle one in a sense, but equally 12 important—is the feeling of the minority community that, even if there were no discrimination between Protestants and Catholics, over the years they can see no prospect of playing a real, proportionate part in the public life of their country and in shaping its future development.
Those are the two problems, and I should like to consider how we should go about trying to reach agreement on how they are to be met, because this can be done only by agreement. It cannot be done by imposition, by diktat or by determination. The only satisfactory way of doing it is by agreement, and that is the basic purpose of the discussions over which I have been asked to preside.
Let me deal first with individual discrimination. I think that few would deny that when the reform programme is fully effective the bulk of the grounds for complaint against individual discrimination will have been dealt with—in particular in jobs and houses. That was the view of right hon. Gentlemen opposite who were the authors of and signatories to the Downing Street Declaration, which we fully support. I think that right hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree that when this is fully operative in the public sector, in Government, in local authorities and in public authorities, discrimination will have been eliminated.
Despite that, the tragedy is simply that the minority say that it is not working, that it is not happening, and that they do not believe it, while the majority say that despite what they have done the minority are still not appeased. That is the essence of the political problem. The minority do not believe that the reform programme is working, the majority believe that the reform programme has been useless because it has not brought reconciliation, and the extremists, at any rate, say that they were right to oppose it in the first place.
Trouble arises from three things. First, from too great an expectation of the speed at which results would be seen by individuals of changes of this kind in housing and jobs. A lot had to be got through in legislation and discussions with local authorities and the trade unions. A lot had to be done to make this effective, and it was bound to take time. One can readily understand the natural impatience of people, and it is inevitable 13 that there was a certain amount of overselling of the speed at which results could be obtained.
Second, it needs time to convince people of the effectiveness of the Commissions. This is particularly so of the Parliamentary Commissioner. We know and accept the impartiality and skill of men like Sir Edmund Compton. We know that he will investigate forthrightly and honestly any charges of discrimination, but in Northern Ireland, with the accumulated memories of the centuries, it is infinitely more difficult to believe that than it is here, and this again takes time and effort on everyone's part.
Third, there is the fear that a change of Government at Stormont would mean either the end or the reversal of the reform programme, or certainly the abandonment of the spirit of it. This is a genuine fear. There has been no wobbling at all by the Government of Northern Ireland, or by Mr. Faulkner. There has been no attempt to move away from the reform programme, but there is still a fear among the minority community in Northern Ireland that under another Government that might happen.
Our job in dealing with this problem of individual discrimination is, first, to do all that we can, on both sides of the House, to explain to people what has happened, to make them understand that the reform programme is producing, and will produce, the result that they want. We must do everything that is necessary to strengthen the reform programme and to increase its acceptability to everyone. Second—and I attach great importance to the words in our statement—I think that people want guarantees that the reform programme will not be set back. The purpose of our discussions, which I shall chair on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, and in which all other interested and responsible parties in Northern Ireland will take part, is to find an agreed basis for a guaranteed solution. The United Kingdom as such is participating in the search for that guarantee. I believe that this is the most fruitful method of dealing with the first problem, the fear of individual discrimination continuing against individual Catholics in their ordinary everyday lives.
I now come to the next question, that of the participation of the minority in the 14 public life and affairs of Northern Ireland. The problems are those of administration, of jobs, of homes, of roads and of development. I could quote details, but I shall not weary the House with them. I think it is fair to say that in the executive organs of government and in the various Commissions participation by the minority community has been provided for. In the Community Relations Commission, there are four members of the minority community out of eight. In the Police Authority, the minority community provide seven out of 22 members. In the Housing Executive, they provide four out of nine. In the Londonderry Development Commission, they again provide four out of nine. Those are examples of the right principle, that there should be a proportionate and proper representation of the minority community in the administrative organs of government. That principle has been accepted and carried on by the present Northern Ireland Administration.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain why, in devising a police authority with 21 members, where the minority would have seven members, the 14 Unionist places were chosen by the Unionist Government, and the seven minority places were also chosen by the Unionist Government?
§ Mr. Maudling
I think that the question of the nature of the appointments to these authorities is one that can be considered in the course of our discussions on the whole problem. It is in everyone's interests that the representatives of any community should carry the confidence of the people of that community. There is no doubt about that.
I come next to the question of decision making at the political level as opposed to the administrative level. This is a very hard problem indeed. The difficulty, it seems to me, is this. We are all supporters of the system of democratic election, of democratic assembly, based on universal adult suffrage, but, as I have said in the House before, in effect our system in this country works in practice by giving almost unlimited powers for a few years to the party that happens to possess a temporary majority in the House of Commons. This is acceptable because the party in government changes. But one must 15 recognise that there are different circumstances in a country where the majority does not change. I look forward, as I am sure we all do, to the time when the political battles of Northern Ireland are fought between Conservative and Labour and not between Catholic and Protestant; there will not be a lasting solution in Northern Ireland until that is so. In the meantime, it will obviously continue for a long while on the present sectarian basis.
Therefore, our job is to find, within the democratic system and within the democratic principle of an elected assembly, ways and means of reconciling the rights of the minority and the rights of the majority. This is the other great subject that I wish to discuss and which I have been discussing with the representatives of Northern Ireland political parties and others. Mr. Faulkner himself made a very big and important move in this direction with his proposal about the parliamentary committees. We should not underestimate the big gesture within the parliamentary system of bringing the minority party into full participation in the life and public affairs of the country.
I saw a statement today that Mr. Faulkner said that he is willing to discuss proportional representation in elections, a larger Stormont, a reformed and possibly larger Senate—all point which have been put to me by the T.U.C., the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Alliance Party, and all points which should be discussed. I am sure there is general will in Northern Ireland to see proportional representation. Certainly we would not wish to stand in its way. These are the sorts of changes in Stormont which I believe everyone now wants to consider and discuss. They cannot be considered and discussed until people sit down and discuss them.
The other problem is executive government—the cabinet. As parliamentarians, we all know the realities of the situation. There are great and strong arguments for a broadly-based Government, particularly in a country faced with acute problems. On the other hand, government makes no reality unless there is collective cabinet responsibility, and one cannot create a cohesive Government if people do not denounce violence or if people are not prepared to accept the will of the majority on the fundamental point 16 about the Border which succeeding Governments have always accepted in this country.
Subject to those points, it is reasonable and desirable to see how it is possible to broaden the basis of government in Northern Ireland, and certainly to avoid the situation where a man of talent who can serve his country is debarred from doing so solely by reason of religious beliefs. What is needed now is discussion. There is no alternative except violence. No one is asked to abandon principles before entering discussions. We cannot treat with the men of violence. We can seek a solution with all men of good will.
As the House is aware, two processes are going on. Next week my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be having meetings; he has invited the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to have talks with him at Chequers on Monday and Tuesday of next week. My right hon. Friend's invitation was accepted by Mr. Lynch and by Mr. Faulkner without preconditions. The talks are not designed to produce instant solutions; that would be unrealistic. The purpose of the talks is to make possible the frank exchange of views in depth between the three Prime Ministers and, against a background of mutual understanding, to enable the three Governments to work more effectively to improve the situation in Northern Ireland. That is one level of the discussions.
At the other level are the discussions over which I have been asked to preside, between all interests in Northern Ireland, save the men of violence. I repeat the objects of the talks—to find agreed ways whereby there can be assured to the minority and majority communities alike an active, permanent and guaranteed part in the life of public affairs of Northern Ireland. I have already had useful talks with the Northern Ireland T.U.C., the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Alliance Party. I shall soon be seeing the Liberal Party and the New Ulster Movement, and many others outside the political world. [Interruption.] I hope the S.D.L.P. will agree to join these talks. No purpose can be served by a refusal. The political problem can only be solved by discussion. Refusal to discuss is an acceptance of continuing conflict.
17 The situation is very grave. It is of long standing. It is now crucial. But in a sense I think this may be of help, because there is a new compulsion on us and on all people in Northern Ireland to find a solution. We will sustain the fight against terrorism from whatever quarter it may come. The rôle of the Army is to maintain law and order impartially. They are impartial, and they are doing a job that no other army in the world could do. Why should they be other than impartial? They want to preserve the peace and they are doing it to the best of their ability.
I pay this tribute to the R.U.C. They are doing an extremely difficult job in difficult circumstances and are maintaining their morale in the face of great difficulty. The whole House should unite in support of the forces of law and order. I think equally this House should unite in finding means of bringing about a reconciliation between the communities, and this, I repeat, is possible only by discussion.
In conclusion, I ask this House to endorse this message to the people of Northern Ireland. First, we will oppose violence for political ends, by whomsoever it is used, and in any part of the United Kingdom. We will do it through the Armed Forces of the Crown, and in no other way. Secondly, we desire to achieve a reconciliation between the communities through collective wisdom, and assisted by the collective wisdom of the House of Commons, to achieve a reconciliation based on no discrimination against any individual on grounds of creed or religion, and based on achieving for minority and majority alike in Northern Ireland a proper, permanent, active and guaranteed part in the public life and affairs of their country. This is the message that I ask the House to endorse.
§ 3.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I begin by expressing the appreciation of the House that the Government have finally responded to the demand for the recall of Parliament. On the day that the House adjourned we were debating Northern Ireland here almost until the moment of adjournment. Four days later, with the House in recess, we learned that while the debate was actually taking place the Government were agreeing with 18 the Stormont Government a major change in policy—the invocation, under the Emergency Powers provisions of the Northern Ireland legislation, of detention without arrest. To this issue I will return.
Since the House debated Northern Ireland, six weeks have passed; 14 soldiers and 34 civilians have lost their lives. Last week when the 21st soldier was killed we read the grim headline in a national newspaper, "Murder comes of age". If we take 21 as coming of age, many of those soldiers never came of age.
No speaker in this debate will consciously use words which will exacerbate an excessively embittered situation. Strong feelings will, I believe, be expressed, but with moderation. But on one issue there can be no moderation—here, I know, I express, as did the Home Secretary, the unanimous view of the House—that is, in an utter and unequivocal condemnation of the use of violence and indiscriminate murder as a supposed means to a solution of the problem, violence which, in conception and in execution, is of the very essence of evil, violence which in its chosen methods represents not valour but the characteristic brand-mark of cowardice.
On the one hand, there are the cowardly attacks on a defenceless civil population, but, if I had to isolate one incident in a continuing catalogue of murder, I could think of no incident more cowardly, more calculated and more cynical than the one reported last week, based on the planting of a bomb aimed at the civil population, a bomb which was planned to lure British troops to dismantle it, in their desire to save life, in order that they should present themselves as a sitting target for the cowardly sniper.
It is history now—this has been confirmed by the Home Secretary—that every responsible leader of opinion, Protestant and Catholic, North and South of the Border, secular or church, has condemned this resort to violence. We had the quotations from the Home Secretary. But that is not all. Every responsible leader knows and has asserted, as every hon. Member here recognises, that violence, far from settling the problems which exist, is capable of indefinitely deferring any solution which can last, 19 any solution which is capable—as any solution must be capable—of winning the hearts and minds of the vast majority of Northern Ireland opinion, Catholic and Protestant, on whose acceptance any solution must depend.
Let no one anywhere seek—I am sure that no one in this House will seek—to explain or justify the actions which we have witnessed in these past weeks in terms of any glorification of their perpetrators as freedom fighters. They are, in fact, the actions of men sheltering behind a cowardly screen, every act designed not to assert but to deny freedom.
But if we are to condemn that violence, condemnation must extend to those on the other side who, speciously appealing to constitutional rights, indulge daily in talk of violence and threats of violence. In this inflamed situation, the House of Commons has the duty to condemn violence and threats of violence no matter from what source those threats may come. There is not only murder but petty violence. Last Saturday, The Times newspaper made assertions about responsibility for the burning of Catholic houses in the Ardoyne. These assertions can never be proved. Many Catholics believe that Protestants burned them, and many Protestants believe that it was Catholics who burned them; perhaps both took a hand at different times. But in an atmosphere of charge and counter-charge, of fear, and fear on the part of ordinary families, nothing will ever be proved, and the truth will never be known.
In an atmosphere of violence, terror and fear, the situation is over-charged and over-countercharged. It is our duty in this two-day debate to produce an atmosphere of coolness and sanity. We must condemn violence in action, in language or in provocative statement. And here I must include the: irresponsible statements of the Northern Ireland Minister of State for Home Affairs. His rebuke by Mr. Faulkner may diminish, as it was intended to diminish, but does not destroy the acceptability of those statements to a number of those upon whom the Unionist majority, when the crunch comes, must depend.
This debate must identify, in order to counter, the main elements of the Northern Ireland situation as we know it today. The first—here I echo the 20 thoughts of the Home Secretary and I believe what has been said on both sides of the House of Commons for many years—is the paramouncy of fear, fear of violence and of threats of violence on the part of a silent majority, Protestant and Catholic, who want nothing more than a right to live their own lives in their own way, including the right currently denied to so many of them, the right to work. There is fear of extremism on both sides, fear of the gunmen, of the explosive and the sniper's bullet; but, more than this, the fear of action making life intolerable for both Catholics and Protestants, the burning of houses and other actions driving right at the heart of family life. Each fears actions undertaken not, in fact, by known exponents of violence but in many cases by men as insecure and as frightened as themselves.
On both sides, this very atmosphere of fear distorts and exaggerates known facts, or non-facts, into rumours, turns rumours into legends, and legends into the ingot-hot material of hatred.
Against these facts, rumours, legends and this hatred, the House of Commons today and tomorrow has a duty to assert the rights of that majority who, as I say, want to live their own lives in the same spirit of freedom which every other citizen of the United Kingdom enjoys and, indeed, even takes for granted.
After fear, the second element in this situation is a pathological desire not only to live in the past but to exploit the past and this preoccupation with a long-dead past, dead except in the hearts of men who have a vested interest in invoking that past, can be and is being used to foment a situation already dangerous through the exploitation of fear. On 6th September, on British television we saw the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—he was here a moment ago, but I am not sure that he is here now—addressing Unionist extremists and invoking the spirits of what he called the men of 1912, 60 years ago. He would be better employed turning the minds of those whom he persuades to listen not 60 years back but five or ten years forward.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the people whom I was addressing were trade unionists organised by the trade union movement?
§ Mr. Wilson
Yes, and God help them if they listen to the hon. Gentleman. He should remember that we in this House, through the medium of television, can see and hear what he says when he is over there parading there as a man of God, and witness it in its deafening quality. It is not for any hon. Member to ask what God hon. Members here or anyone else worship, but when I see and hear the hon. Member for Antrim, North, I wonder what God it is he invokes.
In a situation dominated by fear, by memories, by the incantation of tribal war songs, and the exploitation by unscruplous men of that fear, it is important that this House should decide what the issues are and what the response of the House should be. We should lay down clearly what the issues are not.
First, the Border is not an issue, whatever aspirations may be asserted and worked for in the long-term future. The Downing Street Declaration of 19th August, 1969, said in Article 1:Nothing which has happened in recent weeks in Northern Ireland derogates from the clear pledges made by successive United Kingdom Governments that Northern Ireland should not cease to be a part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland or from the provision in Section 1 of the Ireland Act, 1949, that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The border is not an Issue …".Those are the words I drafted in the Downing Street Declaration. That remains the position.
One of the few heartening factors in the situation is that—as regards the immediate situation, and it is right to emphasise this—responsible leaders of opinion, both north and south of the Border have stated this in recent weeks. Let the House be clear. For Mr. Lynch, for leaders of the Irish Labour Party and leaders of minority opinion north of the Border—the House will have noted also the authoritative voice of Cardinal Conway on this—for leaders committed throughout their whole political lives to the peaceful reunification of Ireland to say this is an act of courage and statesmanship which we should recognise and honour, an act deserving of a response on the part of those of the other persuasion. The Border is not currently an issue.
22 Second, I reject the facile, so-called solution that Britain, and in particular British troops, should withdraw and leave the two embattled factions to fight it out, or, as too many are saying, to kill one another. Deep feelings about what our troops had to face may underlie this feeling and create the call for this so-called easy way out. There are those who invoke the decisions taken in India or Palestine, who feel that nothing so concentrates the mind as the certainty of self-government at the end of a stated period of time. That has been true in historic cases, but in this instance I do not agree.
What worries me is growing evidence—and I am thinking not only of the public opinion polls—that the crude doctrine that Britain should withdraw and let the bloodbath follow is becoming an instinctive reaction to the Northern Ireland problem as many of our people see the television and hear the radio day after day. How often must we tell them that this is not a quarrel on our doorstep even? It is within our house, within our national family.
Third, there is the suggestion of direct rule. As I told the House in April, the Labour Government—and I have no doubt that the Home Secretary could confirm that this is true of the present Government—had full contingency measures ready, including very brief and succinct draft legislation, for this purpose. But that is, and must be, a policy of the very last resort. We must remember that if it were to be appealed to nothing would be changed on the ground. The problem of security, fear, mistrust and hatred would still bestride the province, and the need to find a lasting solution would be as great as ever.
These are not the issues. The issue is how to end the violence; how to drive recourse to violence into narrower and narrower, and ultimately containable, circles; how to diminish sectional and inter-community hatred; how to guarantee to every citizen of Northern Ireland the civil rights and human rights which every other citizen of the United Kingdom enjoys without question, and to create confidence that this will be his permanent heritage.
In approaching this, we must recall the events and learn the lessons of the past two years, the two years since the Labour 23 Government decided, first, to authorise the use of British troops in support of the security authorities, and, five days later, to entrust the Army, under the G.O.C., with total responsibility for security operations in Northern Ireland. This was part of an agreement which, through the provisions of the Declaration quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, required, as he said, immediate implementation of the reform programme, reforms urgently necessary—indeed, a generation overdue—and the assertion of civil rights in Northern Ireland no less clear and guaranteed than those in the rest of the United Kingdom. These were specifically undertaken in that Declaration. The then Labour Government and their Conservative successors have stood by this requirement, an essential requirement, but one whose efficacy has been reduced by the fact that it was so long delayed and so long resisted. It is a serious fact that some of the essential components of reform, including the creation of a citizen police and the disarmament and disbandment of the "B" specials, are still resisted by a powerful group of ultras ever ready to turn back the clock to a policy of factional repression.
The House, I think, recognises the problem of the two successive British Governments, or any British Government. We have had to work throughout through a Northern Ireland Cabinet, and above all a Northern Ireland Prime Minister, under constant threat of political assassination by the hatchet men of the Right. It is that blackmail, not by physical violence, though they are increasingly using demands for the adoption of paramilitary methods as a demagogic weapon; it is that threat of the use of the political weapon, which has for years inhibited the effective devising of a political solution in time, at a time when a given political solution could produce results.
What that has meant for Westminster is that each British Government, while seeking to force the pace of reform, while seeking and having to seek to achieve 10 years of overdue reform in each single year, have had at the same time to temper their pressures and above all their public statements. On one occasion Captain O'Neill, now Lord O'Neill of the Maine, had to ask the Labour Government to agree to a moratorium in the 24 reform programme because the pressure of Right-wing leaders, some of whom became very important afterwards, threatened to bring him down. Those leaders were privately and publicly warned by our Government that any manoeuvring leading to his departure and the end of the reform programme would lead to an agonising reappraisal on the part of the British Government. In due course he was brought down, and his successor, Major Chichester-Clark, now Lord Moyola, embraced the reform programme now fully backed by Mr. Faulkner, who, indeed, took departmental charge of some of the most important sectors in the programme. Then the bully-boys moved in on Major Chichester-Clark, who in his turn had to face constant pressure and threats from the ultras in Parliament and at the grass roots. When he was replaced by Mr. Faulkner it was widely recognised that Mr. Faulkner is the last of his generation. Should blackmail threats, gut-reaction politics, drive him out, who can doubt that it will be the end, the end for Stormont, and a lurch into the constitutional abyss, perhaps worse?
That is one of the facts in the situation, one of the problems for the Government. The danger is underlined by recent resignations from the official Unionist Party in Stormont. What the Prime Minister does not seem to show he appreciates, though I suspect that he does appreciate it, is that south of the Border, too, within the present make-up of the Dail, Mr. Lynch is the best Irish Prime Minister we have, and the best Irish Prime Minister the right hon. Gentleman has. Mr. Lynch's courage, too, must earn our respect. He is entitled not to be undermined by such ill-considered actions as the Prime Minister's telegram, which I think was perhaps sent because of over-sensitivity to pressure from Stormont. We have seen recent evidence of that pressure.
Those are two of the facts, two of the difficulties, facing the Government, any British Government, in the present constitutional situation. Right hon. and hon. Members throughout the House recognise those difficulties. None of us will seek to add to them, but we have a duty in the Imperial Parliament to state our views on what must now be done. I used the phrase, outdated in other 25 respects, "the Imperial Parliament", because there is a danger of forgetting that Britain, this Parliament, this House, has a very special responsibility and a very special right to be heard and take control of the situation on behalf of all communities in Northern Ireland. First, it is the British Army which carries the supreme responsibility for security operations in Northern Ireland, and responsibility for security carries with it responsibility for dealing with all matters which can create problems of security, for dealing not only with the consequences of atavistic violence but with everything, from whatever side, which contributes to that violence.
Second, the British taxpayer is pouring out very large sums of money for Northern Ireland. To the existing Consolidated Fund provision we bear an apparently open-ended commitment in the cost, including infrastructure and transport, of the military operations, and soon there will be growing pressure for us to shoulder the cost of making good civil damage, not least the rebuilding of factories and other places providing vitally-needed employment. Where our money goes, our writ should run. Two hundred years ago the American colonials claimed, "No taxation without representation"; our taxpayers have the right to demand, "No taxpayers' money without effective representation", representation and, in the ultimate, control in determining the policies which directly and indirectly lead to the gravely-mounting toll of expenditure not only of money but of lives.
Third, the British Government and this House bear the international responsibility of defending in the councils of the world, including the United Nations and the European Commission on Human Rights, any action taken in Great Britain and Northern Ireland which derogates from internationally-agreed conventions about human rights obligatory on the United Kingdom. The Special Powers Act and action taken under it involving imprisonment without trial are breaches of those obligations.
I referred just now to the telegram the right hon. Gentleman sent to Mr. Lynch. Perhaps its tone, however indefensible, was meant as a proper rebuke to Mr. Faulkner, because Mr. Faulkner, contrary 26 to the terms of the Downing Street Declaration, sought to assert a non-existent right of the Stormont Government to make international declarations. This was laid down quite clearly two years ago, if not earlier, because the second article in the Downing Street Declaration was a clear warning, after the previous Northern Ireland Government had been tempted into making international pronouncements, thatThe United Kingdom Government will take full responsibility for asserting this principle"—that is, the principle of Northern Ireland domestic jurisdiction—in all international relationships.I should like to feel that this unfortunate telegram had one good result in that recognition of its perhaps provocative character led the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister to feel, despite his brusque "hands off" warning, that he should meet Mr. Lynch much earlier than had been planned and that there would have to be much earlier discussion about the internal situation, although not of the Border, nor any attempt to negotiate about constitutional questions in purely bi-lateral terms. Perhaps, too, he was influenced by some element of response to the widespread pressure—including from this side of the House but much more widely—for some move towards a political solution simultaneously with, not after, the measures taken to resist violence.
As we insisted, whatever anyone felt about the highly controversial use of internment without trial, and the still more controversial manner in which that weapon was used, it was our view, which a generation of history in the process of decolonisation has underlined, that whatever means of resisting violence the Government at any moment felt necessary to employ, it could have no future, no success, unless political means were employed pari passu to raise hopes and to insist on the realisation of these hopes—in this case, hopes about the protection of minority rights. One of the grave errors in the handling of this crisis was the fact that for five weeks there appeared to be no attempt to move towards any kind of political easement of tension. It was the Lynch talks which gave the first sign.
27 Another error—and I put this forward prepared to hear from the Home Secretary and his colleagues that we are wrong—was, I believe, the failure of the Home Secretary to visit Northern Ireland during this period. Even if he had nothing to put forward, as may have been the case in that situation, he should have gone to listen, to create confidence, to inspire trust, to give assurance. The House will recall that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) visited Northern Ireland first for three days beginning on 27th August, 1969, just one week after British troops had taken over control of security, and that he paid another visit two months later. I am sure that the House agrees that these visits had a real effect in easing sectional tensions, for this reason especially—that he met representatives of every organised party, every interest, every conceivable point of view, including—of transcendental importance—religious leaders. This should have been done in the present situation.
Starting now, we have the beginnings of a move towards talks. We wish them well, and I repeat the hope that I expressed publicly a fortnight ago, that those who have so far declared themselves unwilling to meet the Home Secretary will reconsider their decision—and not only they. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman himself will drop any preconditions for holding meetings, just as in the forthcoming tripartite talks between the Prime Minister, Mr. Lynch and Mr. Faulkner, Mr. Faulkner must be firmly told by the Prime Minister that he should desist from laying down on the radio preconditions for these talks, which he did in a most provocative manner on a B.B.C. programme last Sunday week. I have the text of the broadcast here. Mr. Faulkner refused to withdraw what he tacitly admitted were preconditions. We welcome the fact that there are to be talks but so far this is only an agreement to meet, an agreement to talk.
But some time someone in authority in Britain—and that means the Government of the day—will very soon have to do more than listen. Too much time has been lost. When the talks have gone so far, when the listening stops, the Home Secretary will have to put forward pro- 28 posals, for all that has come out of the Lynch talks so far—welcome as far as it goes, but dangerously little and dangerously late—is an agreement to meet, not of policy, but a willingness to talk, though as yet there is no evidence or hint of even the groundwork of a plan to deal with the political problems.
It can of course be fairly argued that we must have the talks first. I grant that, but it invites our reply that the talking should have started earlier, many danger-laden weeks ago. The House will recall that two weeks ago I outlined proposals which my right hon. Friends and I felt might provide the basis of a solution. I said then that they were certainly not the only possible solution but that if they were; not the best solution then the Government had the duty to state their reasons for rejecting them and also their alternative solution.
We started from the following propositions. Britain, the British Government and the British Parliament are now carrying in full, and overfull, measure the military responsibility, the financial responsibility and the responsibility in world affairs for the use of special powers and it is time that power began to match up to responsibility.
What is needed, in order to redress the balance in Northern Ireland in terms of human rights and human lives, is an assertion of British influence, to provide not, in my view, Westminster rule but adequate safeguards for all the people of Northern Ireland, safeguards guaranteed and made effective by the Parliament at Westminster. When I say "all the people", I mean deliberately all of those Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and non-Unionist, who wish to live their lives in peace and with assured rights. In excluding from this, as one must, I.R.A. terrorists and Orange ultras, we are still left with the mass of the population of Northern Ireland whose greatest need today is the assurance of security and confidence in their future.
My aim in putting forward these proposals was to restore the balance in Northern Ireland by bringing a new and necessary dimension into this dangerous situation; namely, the assertion of the ultimate authority of the British Parliament at Westminster in all matters required to give confidence to all the 29 people in Northern Ireland—security, the provision of economic and social welfare and human rights, including the use of emergency legislation.
Without going over all the 12 proposals again now, the House will know that they centred on the appointment of a Parliamentary Commission consisting of equal numbers of Westminster M.P.s and Stormont M.P.s, the Stormont representatives to be drawn in part from an enlarged Senate designed to include members capable of speaking for a wider range of interests and views than those at present represented in the elected Stormont Chamber.
The Commission, endowed with all the powers adhering to a Select Committee of this House, would be charged with examining all Stormont legislation within the Commission's remit, with a delaying power by a majority, or where necessary by a blocking minority—say, a third—subject to an overriding vote of the two Parliaments. It would also be empowered to recommend legislation in the area covered by its terms of reference, which in default of legislation by Stormont would be introduced in the Westminster Parliament.
The Commission would be required to report annually to the two Parliaments on the detailed operation of the Special Powers Act. In the light of such reports, it would be for Westminster to extend the life of this Act, a year at a time, by affirmative Resolution, in the absence of which the Act and special powers would lapse. The Act would therefore be in the control of this House, which is where it ought to be now.
The Commission would have a major responsibility in financial matters and, with its full right of access to books and accounts, would produce an annual report on Northern Ireland finance and the expenditure of moneys contributed through the Westminster Parliament. This would cover, in particular, expenditure on industrial development and enable the Commission to report on allegations that development incentives had been operated with a certain geographical, not to say constituency, selectivity. All subventions and other moneys for Northern Ireland would be the subject of annual votes in this House and Parliament would have the Commission's reports before it before the annual debate.
30 More long term, and affecting the composition of the present Stormont Chamber only after a General Election, is the widely canvassed proposal, mentioned today by the right hon. Gentleman, for proportional representation which, together with the proposed widening of the Senate, would guarantee a fuller and wider representation of the views of the minority.
Also of essentially long-term significance is the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East for a statutorily established All-Ireland Council, whose members would be chosen on the basis of their elected strength from the parties forming the Parliaments of Northern and Southern Ireland. It would be charged with the discussion of all matters of common interest to Ireland, North and South.
I understand that another of my 12 proposals, all of which were carefully studied by the Government—the temporary appointment of a Minister of Cabinet rank to act in a liaison capacity with the situation in Northern Ireland until the reforms are implemented—was frowned on by the right hon. Gentleman, from what I have read in the Press. I think it would be useful in the present situation but, of course, the appointment of a Minister must be a matter for the Government of the day and it is not integral to the Commission proposal. [Interruption.] We are dealing with a very different situation now from two years ago. I hope hon. Gentlemen will realise that. Once the Home Secretary has found his way to Northern Ireland, as there are now signs he will, it may not be so necessary to have a Minister of Cabinet rank.
The 12th and final proposal I made is urgent. The House may recall that in the debate on 6th April I proposed virtually a total ban on the private possession of firearms. Ministers appeared to take this proposal for what we might call general and complete disarmament seriously and undertook to consider it. Nothing has happened in some important months. Over these months there has been an increase in the number of guns in private hands. The development of bogus gun clubs, whose interest is in anything but sport for sport's sake and certainly not in inanimate targets, and the growing demand for a separate paramilitary force show how dangerous is the urge to civil war.
31 I was glad that on Monday night on television the Home Secretary rejected, as he has done today, the third force idea which has been so sedulously pressed by Orange extremists, boasting as they do of 100,000 guns held by organisations of members of the Ulster Special Constabulary Association, the former "B" Specials.
What we propose is a withdrawal of all existing licences and the most rigorous control of the issue of new licences under rules laid down by the proposed Commission and approved by Parliament. The much-vaunted 100,000 should be reduced to a few hundred or not many more, and then sweeps for arms and house-to-house searches would apply equally as between members of all political views. The security authorities and the courts would exercise, and would be seen to be exercising, absolute neutrality in search, in prosecution and in the infliction of severe penalties which unauthorised possession of arms would then attract. I trust that right hon. Gentlemen will give careful consideration to these suggestions, not just the one I have mentioned which is very important, but all the others. If they reject them let them explain why and let them outline their alternatives.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman in using the figure of 100,000 weapons would not wish to give an inaccurate impression. The breakdown is 67 per cent. shotguns, 13 per cent. .2 rifles, 2 per cent. other rifles, 12 per cent. air rifles, 4 per cent. revolvers and pistols and 2 per cent. other weapons. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to keep it in context?
§ Mr. Wilson
I have seen those figures. We all know—this House has passed legislation of a very penal character—that shotguns no less than some of the other weapons the hon. Gentleman mentioned can be used by dangerous men with dangerous ideas. I have also seen comparable figures for south of the Border, and I can tell the hon. Gentle- man that category by category there is a much higher proportion in the North than in the South. [Laughter.] This is not a matter for joking; we are talking about the means of dealing out death, and about the threats we hear almost daily from those on the extremist side. I am not 32 referring to hon. Gentlemen sitting immediately opposite. The proposals I ask the Government to consider are designed to give assurance about minority rights and civil rights, an assurance which is necessary for the political solution which alone can make resistance to violence effective.
We believe that this assurance can be achieved now only by asserting the authority of this House in matters for which so far it has borne an intolerable and increasing burden of responsibility but has enjoyed a derisory residuum of power. The responsibility to power ratio has been dangerously reversed so far as this country's responsibility for Northern Ireland is concerned. These ideas will I hope be pursued but there is a need in our view for even more urgent and immediate action.
Following the proposed Senate changes in Northern Ireland, if the Home Secretary's words are intended to mean that there will be early changes in the Senate then there should be established as a matter of urgency a Government of National Reconstruction, representing to a great degree the elected majority in Northern Ireland but including also responsible leaders of the Catholic community. I have said that we wish the talks on a Government-to-Government basis well but if these talks do not make progress—the tripartite talks or the others—then I would revert to the proposal I made in the April debate, deriving from the suggestion made some time ago by my right hon. Friend that it might be necessary in those circumstances to recommend that we should have an all-party conference of all parties in this House and all constitutional parties in Northern Ireland politics, to meet at Lancaster House or Marlborough House with no preconditions to see whether we can reach some kind of all-party approach. I hope that that will not be necessary; I hone that progress will be made in the Home Secretary's talks and the tripartite talks.
There can be no doubt that the sharp deterioration in the situation, the deepening divide between communities, owes a great deal to the decision, which was taken immediately after the House adjourned, to engage in the internment operations of 9th August and subsequently. The House will need much more evidence than it has had if it is to be 33 convinced that the dividend in terms of security deriving from the arrest of key criminals is an adequate return for the aggravation of tensions and inter-communal hostilities. My right hon. Friend described it at the time as a big gamble, and we shall need a lot of convincing that he has proved wrong in his forecast that the gamble would fail. This House has real ground for criticism of the Government's action.
On the day the House adjourned we had a serious, indeed grave, debate on the situation in Northern Ireland lasting nearly all day. A Government statement was asked for. The Home Secretary intervened and spoke for less than four minutes. That was a long period in relation to what he told the House on that occasion. The Lord President, winding up the debate, although he had listened very carefully to all that had been said and I have no doubt passed everything that was said on to his colleagues, was of course able to add nothing to what had been said by the Home Secretary. Within four days it became clear that the internment decision was being taken literally while the House was debating that issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame!"] It matters not whether the final decision was taken while the House was sitting or an hour or two after the House adjourned. Nor would anyone seriously suggest that the decision should have been announced in the House days or even hours before its implementation. Had that been done a phrase once heard in this Chamber centuries ago would have been true—the birds would have flown. [Interruption.] I ask hon. Gentlemen to listen; they are equally custodians of the rights of this House.
The House has the right to censure the fact that these discussions did not take place earlier and then the decision, if such a decision was to be taken, implemented and announced in this House. In other words, instead of taking the decision on Thursday and implementing it on the following Monday when the House had recessed, the Government should have got down to this, if that is what they were going to decide, earlier. After all, the matter had been publicly discussed for weeks. The Home Secretary was discussing it quite openly with Conservative backbenchers on 28th July. We all read that in every newspaper next morning.
34 Mr. Faulkner could have come at the beginning of the week and a decision could have been announced to Parliament instead of waiting for the Ministerial safe-haven provided by the long parliamentary recess. In these circumstances it is small wonder that the view is widely held in Northern Ireland—whether it is justified or not no one can say; I hope that the Government may tell us—that Stormont knew that the Apprentice Boys' March would have to be prohibited and felt that this would be politically unacceptable to the Government party in Stormont without the quid pro quo of internment.
There have been accusations of brutality in the conduct of the operations and of the arrests. The House will welcome the speed of the decision to set up an independent inquiry and the authority and promise of thoroughness which accompanies that decision. In a wider sense, I have been impressed, listening to what has been going on day by day on the radio or reading it in the Press, by the reaction of the Army authorities when accusations have been made from time to time about action taken in conditions of riot and murder when the Army authorities, instead of immediately rebutting the charge, as might be the obvious reaction and which has often been done, have simply demanded the evidence and promised a full investigation. That has been very wise.
The House will withhold judgment on allegations of brutality in the internment operation until Sir Edmund Compton's inquiry has reported. But there are other questions which we are entitled to have answered in this debate. Once internment—or, in the early stages, detention without trial—is resorted to, itself a deeply controversial policy, there can be no controversy so far as the initial holding of men of violence is concerned. But there is little evidence that the security forces got the men of violence—or anything approaching a meaningful proportion of them. The insolence of the public statements of those who escaped the net makes very unpleasant hearing.
The Government must be asked to answer these questions about this operation. First—and there is strong and unanswered prima facie evidence of this—if men were to be interned and held without trial for their political views, or 35 the Stormont authorities' conception of their political views, how many of them were no more than moderate civil rights S.D.L.P. supporters, men not encouraging—indeed, actively opposing—violence? If justice and security operations were meant to be even-handed, can the Government say how many were detained among those who had persistently threatened and advocated private enterprise violence on the Unionist side? I ask the Government to give the House the figures for the two sides concerning internment. I want them to give at any rate some limited evidence in this matter.
Secondly, who took the initiative in demanding internment in the lead-up to that decision put into effect on 9th August? The Army has supreme responsibility for security. We all know that. Did it demand it? No doubt in the end it assented, as one would expect it to do, and, indeed, as it is its duty to do, once the political decision had been taken. But the Army has tragically had to bear the consequences of the aggravation of the situation—and I am referring not only to the I.R.A. but to the intolerable riots which the Army has had to face. Did the Army initiate this decision and then insist on it? I know that the Prime Minister will give his consideration to these questions and decide how far he can answer them.
Thirdly, who drew up the list for internment? Who were the officials responsible? Fourthly, who approved the decision? Which Minister in Northern Ireland approved the decision? Did Mr. Faulkner personally examine each case and justify it, as he stated this week he had done in the decisions to make formal internment orders, or did Mr. Taylor have the main responsibility, as is widely thought? [Interruption.] Mr. Craig is not a member of the Government. I am talking about members of the Stormont Government.
Fifthly, were the criteria for detention agreed in advance with United Kingdom Ministers? Were the criteria for drawing up the list of those to be interned agreed and laid down by British Ministers responsible to this House? Was the operation in all its aspects endorsed and controlled by Her Majesty's Government? If not, why was H.M.S. "Maidstone" made available? If it was 36 so endorsed, let it be clear that we hold Ministers accountable to this House for the whole operation and for the charges of political selectivity in those who were arrested which have inevitably followed.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East) rose—
§ Mr. Wilson
I am asking Ministers for an answer. The hon. Gentleman will, I hope, catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.
The House has the right to an answer to these questions. It will not suffice to say that Stormont has unique responsibility for security operations. It has not. That situation ended on 19th August, 1969, when, as the joint communiqué stated,The G.O.C. Northern Ireland will with immediate effect assume overall responsibility for security operationsincludingfull control of the deployment and tasks of the Royal Ulster Constabularyin the security field. I hope that Ministers can give the full facts.
A great deal of the deterioration in the situation is based on the suspicion, which has now been documented, that the operation was instituted or was influenced by pressure from the Unionist ultras and that, so far from being limited to a sober, cool, clinical counter-violence operation, it was carried out on a politically selective, factional basis. This view is not confined to Northern Ireland minority politicians. There has been too much prima facie evidence in independent British newspapers and from investigations by British journalists of an "old boy" set-up operating on an "old scores" basis.
Because of the newspaper lock-out, very few hon. Members, except perhaps some in the far North and Hibernian fringe, will have seen the very serious report last Sunday by the "Insight "team of the Sunday Times. Since few hon. Members will have been able to read it, I think it right to put their conclusions on record in this debate.
It begins by quoting Mr. Faulkner's statement when making the formal decision to intern without trial the 219 men a week ago today. He said:I have made no internment order without being satisfied on evidence placed before me 37 that the person concerned was, and still is, an active member of the Official or Provisional wing of the I.R.A., or has been closely implicated in the recent I.R.A. campaign.Then specific cases were quoted calling this in question. The first quoted concerns a man of 77 years of age,credibly described as a man who would not have the strength to lift a weapon, let alone use it ".It goes on to say:A disturbing picture emerges from our own enquiries. Among those interned there is, without doubt, a 'hard core', perhaps 80 strong, of I.R.A. activists. This includes some very dangerous men. But the total appears to include many cases of men whose Republican connections amount to no more than inactive sympathy. There are several cases in which men have suffered from guilt by association—or seem to have been interned this time simply because they have been interned in previous crises.Case after case is cited—an old man, infirm and with failing eyesight, arrested and still in custody, even though he has to be led around the exercise yard and guided to the lavatory; another man with a heart condition and only one eye, the suggestion being that he was arrested… because he was photographed attending an I.R.A. funeral: a suggestion which is credible, because interrogations inside Crumlin seem to have been haphazard enough to support the idea that the security forces' information is often distinctly hazy.There have been strong suggestions of mistaken identity and the arrest of long-dead men not even on the official approved list. One allegation I have heard is that the authorities went to arrest a young man and, finding he was not at home, said to his old father, "You'll do" and arrested him without warrant or apparent justification. Is this fact or legend? None of us can know. The important thing is that these things are believed. I have quoted from the "Insight" team which has interviewed the people concerned. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Wilson
Hon. Members opposite have no right to take that view. This House has been kept from sitting after the decision was taken. I welcome the fact that we are meeting. Now that we are here we will assert the responsibility of this House for every action taken in the name of this country.
38 There seems to be a case for investigation going far beyond the allegations of brutality. The House will form its own view in due course on these issues. I wish to make one more quotation. I would not have done so, but the lock-out of the newspaper industry means that we are debating the situation in Northern Ireland without information which is germane to our debate. I wish to quote the judgment of those who have been studying this matter. I refer to an independent newspaper which supported right hon. and hon. Members opposite during the last General Election.
It said thatthe Government's prime concern has been to keep the Stormont system in being at almost any cost; and that has meant agreeing to virtually anything the Northern Ireland Premier of the moment might ask as the means to keeping his followers' hands from his throat …No nation can make systematic, large-scale use of imprisonment without trial and expect its moral health to survive unimpaired. It is sad, but it must be said: Mr. Maudling never more clearly showed his total failure to measure up to his Irish responsibilities than when he allowed Mr. Faulkner to confirm the internment of those 219 men …… the British Government is acting as the tool of a discredited Stormont Administration. That list of men in prison is not Mr. Maudling's list.The right hon. Gentleman can stand up and tell us that it is if he likes.It is not, in its entirety, the Army's list. It is a list authenticated by Mr. Faulkner with the Orange lodges at his back. The very least"—I am still quoting—that Mr. Maudling should have insisted on was that the judge to check it should be drawn from England.I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman announced this afternoon, several weeks afterwards, that he has now appointed a judge in whom many on this side of the House, as well as his own, will have confidence to handle the appeals committee.
The article goes on to say:It is on the sayso of Mr. Faulkner"—not of the Government responsible to this House—that the United Kingdom now joins the proud company of Greece, Portugal and South Africa as a country where a man against whom no charge will stick may still have his spirit broken by being held in prison without prospect of release".39 Those words require an answer, and the answer must be given in this House.
The internment decision and the manner in which it was carried through have created a new and grave situation in Northern Ireland. British Ministers are responsible to this House, and in the course of this debate the House and those whom we represent here have the right to much fuller and franker information on where the Government are going, or think they are going, in the weeks ahead and what, if any, constructive proposals they have for ensuring in the future, as has not been the case in the past, that this Parliament and the Government responsible to it assert the authority in Northern Irish affairs which the situation now requires.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
With what the Leader of the Opposition has just said, in one particular I find myself concurring, as, I believe, must every other Member of the House. I refer to the assertion of the overriding responsibility and duty of the United Kingdom Government and Parliament. What I have to say is based upon that presumption.
During the last few weeks, both my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, in referring to events in Northern Ireland, have used the word "war". I do not believe that that word is out of place or inaccurate as a description of what is in progress in that Province.
If it is war, it is a war which at present is being lost. At each phase, at each stage, during the last two or more years, we have heard optimistic forecasts that the back of the problem had been broken, the terrorist was discouraged, he was becoming random, hopeless and driven to acts of violence by despair. We heard this as recently as the announcement of the sequel to internment. The event, however, has been otherwise. The event has been that the disruption in Northern Ireland has increased. The damage to the economy has widened and is widening. The sense of insecurity for every man, woman and child in the Province is greater than ever before. I do not think that the point need be laboured. This House has not been recalled to 40 offer congratulations upon the successful progress of the campaign. It has been recalled to take counsel in a grave and deteriorating situation.
It must appear paradoxical that words like these can be used, and that such conditions can exist, when the enemies, apparently, are so numerically few and are confronted by some of the finest regiments and forces of any country in the world.
But the paradox is understandable. It is the same paradox as accompanies the success and progress of all terrorism. The terrorism feeds upon the growing hope that, somehow, it will be successful. It is that which potentialises the small numbers. It is that which disarms and silences the majority who would not wish it so, which stuffs the mouths of those who could give information, which terrorises those who would not otherwise harbour the evil-doers.
If we are to reverse the ill success of this war, we must find the means to bring home to the enemy that the war will not be won by them. We must deprive terrorism and violence of that hope upon which it feeds. I believe that for that purpose, certain very precise and urgent practical measures are required; but—and this is in tune with what, I believe, is generally held in these debates—practical measures in isolation from political measures, practical measures in a political vacuum, cannot seriously and lastingly be successful.
Let me point first to the practical measures which I believe to be essential. It is absurd to fight a war with an open frontier across which the enemy obtains reinforcement, across which he withdraws and on the other side of which his bases lie. This is militarily absurd. It is absurd in every sense.
The first essential requirement is that the frontier should be, I do not say closed—I choose my words carefully—but that it should be controlled, and so controlled that unauthorised vehicular traffic across the frontier is for practical purposes impossible. Like so much else in the modern world, terrorism has been motorised and the success of the activity of the terrorist enemy in Northern Ireland is dependent upon the freedom to use the roads.
Of the practicability of this measure, there cannot, I believe, be any dispute.
41 I do not refer, except in passing, to the detailed assertion to this effect by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland. Whatever else was said about his statement on 13th September, what he said about the practicability of controlling the frontier has not, so far as I know, been disputed or denied.
I can, however, appeal to a higher source, because the Government themselves, in their current legislation—in the Immigration Bill—have inserted measures which would make it possible to remove the Irish Republic from the Common Travel Area and to apply at the frontier of Northern Ireland the same controls as apply at any other points of ingress into the United Kingdom. I am sure that Her Majesty's Ministers would not have wasted the time of Parliament in enacting what they regarded as inherently impracticable. I believe, too, that if the Government will consult, as I dare say they have done, the Army in Northern Ireland, they will be amply assured of the practicablity of control—of a sealing of the frontier except at controlled crossing places, and of genuine control of all vehicular traffic at those places.
My second practical proposition is one which is closely linked with the first and without which, I believe, the first could not be fully effective. There is in this country a strong and deep prejudice, more recently derived from the last war, but no doubt going back long beyond that, against British subjects at home carrying evidence of their identity. I believe it is quite natural that that feeling should be shared by our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland; but the time has come when, for them, it must be regarded as much the lesser evil.
I say again that it is absurd, in the middle of a war such as is being waged in Northern Ireland, that there should be no means or requirement for persons to be able to identify themselves. It is one of those measures which we repudiate in time of peace but which we recognise to be necessary in time of war.
Thirdly, unless the power and effectiveness of the Army is to be progressively diminished, we cannot continue to use the British Army in Northern Ireland in duties a large part of which are pure police duties. It is one of the most 42 basic of all military doctrines, learned in the early stages at any staff college, that one does not use an army for police duties, and that if one attempts to do so its effectiveness for that which only an army can do will speedily be eroded. From this I deduce, as it seems to me we must deduce, that a capability and morale of the police in Northern Ireland sufficient for carrying out police duties needs urgently to be restored.
It seems to me futile to job backwards to the events and the decisions of the second half of 1969, and I have no intention of unravelling any of the preceding organisation which was abolished or altered by the legislation of 1969 and 1970. What I do assert is that it is necessary in Northern Ireland to have a police force which is confident in itself, which is, when necessary, armed, and which is instantly available wherever it is required. These conditions have to be fulfilled if the Army in Northern Ireland is going to be able to perform its function of defending the United Kingdom and doing what an army alone can do in the maintenance of law and order in an emergency.
So I believe these are at least three of the urgent and practical steps which have to be taken if the losing of this war is to be halted and to be reversed; but although, of course, they can be effective at the practical level, although they would begin to convey to the enemy—and not only to the enemy but to friend as well as to foe—a sense or glimmering of a conviction that violence after all might not be about to prevail, they cannot by themselves achieve that psychological change which alone can bring peace and safety in Northern Ireland. Before that can happen, the actions, and the political actions, of the United Kingdom and of the United Kingdom Parliament have to be seen to be in accordance with the realities of the situation and of our own professions.
Now, the reality of the situation, upon which this war rests, is the intention of those who wage it to detach the six counties of Northern Ireland by force, and by the consequences of force, from the United Kingdom. This fact is accompanied by another; that the claim to these six counties, the assertion that they do not belong to the United Kingdom, is a claim fundamentally maintained as 43 part of its constitution by the adjacent Republic of Ireland. These are the realities, the political realities, underlying what is going on. If they were not so, there would be nothing for the gunmen to engage in violence about. The assertion which we make in this country and in this House, and on both sides of this House—which, so far as I can tell, we make unequivocally, as far as words go, on both sides of this House—is that Northern Ireland is, and foreseeably shall remain, in the face of any violence, an integral part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Powell
I am not speaking only for myself: I have heard that from the right hon. Gentleman.
With that reality and with that assertion our political acts are in such gross contradiction as to shake the conviction that we really mean what we say, and to instil in the enemy, the enemy of all peaceable people in Northern Ireland, the sense, the hope, the growing hope, that success somehow will come their way.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
Is there not another reality, that the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the Taoiseach himself, have utterly condemned the violence in Northern Ireland, and that the Hierarchy of the whole of Ireland, both north and south have equally done so for many years past and said that this question can never be settled by violence?
§ Mr. Powell
I will say now, in answer to the interposition of the hon. Gentleman, what I was going to say a little later. I am not saying, and I never have said, anything to the discredit of the Government of the Irish Republic or of its people. I have uttered no word of criticism of the action or the attitude of the Government of the Irish Republic. I have only referred to the fact, and it is an undoubted fact, and it is the background to the present violent attempt to annex part of the United Kingdom, that there is constitutionally, and more than constitutionally, embodied in the Irish Republic the assertion of a claim of right to the possession, the ownership, of the six counties of Northern Ireland.
44 Now let us look at the way in which, in the face of these realities, we act. We persist, in our law and in our administration, in asserting that there is no difference between the citizens of this independent Republic and the citizens of the United Kingdom. We insist that, although such are the facts, nevertheless all citizens of the Republic shall be free to come and go like British subjects in the United Kingdom, and shall automatically have the rights of a citizen—to vote, to serve on a jury. We assert this by our law; we assert this by our administration.
What can be thought of a Government and a country which, at one and the same time, profess to be maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom against armed attack upon one of its provinces and at the same time, by every practical act, are engaged in declaring that there is and ought to be no perceptible difference, no frontier, political or physical, between that province and a foreign country which aims at the annexation of it?—[An HON. MEMBER: "That is a contradiction."]—It is indeed a contradiction, and it is that very contradiction and our persistence in it which must give encouragement and fortitude to the enemy in Northern Ireland.
There may have been a time in the past when this fiction—it is a purely British fiction—which this House has insisted upon asserting, perhaps did less harm than good. That time has now passed; and until our political behaviour in this respect is brought into accord with the facts, we are guilty of encouraging the belief that violence in Northern Ireland will succeed.
There are other respects in which we do this, too. By our actions and words we encourage the utterly false notion that the enemy in Northern Ireland has aims other than the annexation of the six counties, that he has a grievance other than that the six counties are part of the United Kingdom, when there is no reform, no concession, no agreement, which will satisfy those who are responsible for events in Northern Ireland other than the defeat of this country and the annexation of the six counties.
Everything that has been done under the reform programme in the last two years must command the assent of this 45 House. Indeed, it would be impossible that it should not, since most of those Measures cause the administration and the law in Northern Ireland to conform more closely to those in the United Kingdom. But it seems to me that we have entered upon a new and dangerous phase, a phase of either self-deception or deception of others, if we imagine that by tinkering now in one way or another with the Constitution in Northern Ireland we shall do anything to lessen the incidence of violence.
Two years ago we were told: make the local government franchise in Northern Ireland uniform with that in the rest of the United Kingdom and we shall see the satisfaction which this will give to those who are anxious about civil rights. Today we are told: make the Parliamentary franchise in Northern Ireland different from that in the United Kingdom, and perhaps that will somehow bring about peace.
The very notion that by one alteration or another, however arguable in itself, of the constitution in Northern Ireland, the realities of this situation can be influenced is false and dangerous. Those who are conducting the war and those whom they hold in terror will not be in the least affected by any constitutional change in Northern Ireland. When they see my right hon. Friend and the Government of the United Kingdom engaging eagerly in this kind of discussion, as though that held the clue and the secret, they say: "So we have come a long way. Violence has already pushed the Ulster Government and the British Government a good way already. We will exercise this power further. We will string them along. We are winning. We are getting somewhere." That is the message to the enemy in Northern Ireland which is spelt out by conferences hero and now upon constitutional reform.
I referred previously to the basic factor in this whole situation, the contiguity of the Republic of Ireland, of which the basic aim is the embodiment in itself of the Six Counties. I believe that, with the best intentions, it was a profound miscalculation on the part of Her Majesty's Government to engage in a discussion about the affairs of Northern Ireland with the head of the Government of the Irish Republic. Here is the head of the Government of a country which is 46 the residuary legatee of anything which violence can do to shake the identification of Northern Ireland with the rest of the United Kingdom. Here is a Government which, for its own safety and existtence—perhaps its personal existence—dare not effectively do anything to counter what is going on in the North. Yet it is the head of that Government, as one of three co-ordinate heads of Governments, whom we ask to consult with us upon the affairs of the province, and to assist in controlling and overcoming of that violence, the very purpose of which is to bring about what the Irish call the reunification of Ireland.
The misconception which is implicit in this course of policy is a standing invitation to friend and foe alike in Northern Ireland to disbelieve that Britain and the British Government are serious, to disbelieve that they understand the realities, and to disbelieve that they mean to stand by what they have asserted: the defence of Northern Ireland's embodiment in the United Kingdom.
I have said out of doors, and I say again here, that the guilt for the innocent blood which is being shed in Northern Ireland rests ultimately with this House. If it is due to a belief that violence in Northern Ireland can succeed, if our laws and administration connive at that belief and support it, then we cannot disembarrass ourselves of the responsibility.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition throughout his speech this afternoon, and surely in the name of the House of Commons, said that the Parliament and Government of the United Kingdom cannot lay aside the responsibility for whatever happens and whatever is done in their name throughout the United Kingdom. So at last we find that it has come home to us and that we are called upon to take both practical and political acts, acts which we have hesitated, feared, to take, but acts which alone afford the opportunity of bringing peace in Northern Ireland. If we do not take those actions, if the Government do not take the actions and Parliament does not adopt those political attitudes. then the guilt will rest with us.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has, 47 as usual, been indulging in one of his dialectical exercises in which he hunts around for a grain of logic and then proceeds to pulverise it into dust. As always, he oversimplifies the question and talks about Ireland as being a situation of war pure and simple. Not even Sir Anthony Eden went further than to refer to Suez as armed conflict. As far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, we are dealing with war.
Therefore, we had all the Draconian measures which logically follow. Apparently we are not to build a Berlin Wall, we are not even to resurrect Hadrian's Wall, but we are to have persistent patrolling of the frontier to keep the enemy there without and to keep the enemy within contained. I therefore wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman supports the initiative taken by his leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, in holding the Chequers talks. He may find himself in disagreement with his leader, but that, of course, would not create a precedent.
The right hon. Gentleman then said that identity cards should be carried by the people of Northern Ireland. I can tell him that he has not taken the logic of his argument to its ultimate conclusion. If people in Northern Ireland had to have identity cards, everybody in the United Kingdom would have to have identity cards. Although the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts in law apply to the citizens of the Republic, in practice they cannot be enforced at either the ports of entry or the ports of embarkation. Therefore, to prove that certain people were not entitled to enter, everybody else would have to have identity cards to prove that they were entitled to be there.
There was no mention in the right hon. Gentleman's speech of hope or of people living together. There was no recommendation as to how communities of different persuasions and backgrounds can draw together. In that the right hon. Gentleman was being very consistent. The concept of armed police is the great message of hope that goes out from him. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was more in tune with that of a poor man's Carson or F. E. Smith than in tune with the speech of the Home Secretary to which we listened earlier. So much far the right hon. Gentleman.
48 The Home Secretary indicated that he is anxious to have talks with all shades of opinion in Northern Ireland. I welcome that. He indicated some of the possible political initiatives which might be taken. Perhaps for entirely justifiable reasons the Home Secretary did not indicate which of those initiatives he favoured. It may be, quite reasonably, that he wishes to reserve his position until he has heard all points of view expressed.
Although the Home Secretary did not indicate to the House what were the initiatives that he had in mind, I hope that he has given considerable thought to the possible initiatives and that he will go to the talks with constructive proposals whereby new initiatives may be taken.
If I may make only one criticism, I wish that the Home Secretary's speech had been made 10 years ago. Unfortunately, if it had been, it would not have gained very much support from those sitting behind the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, under our archaic procedures the speech would probably have been out of order then.
We are always told that we must not yield to violence. How much I agree. The fact is that the whole history of Ireland has been one of yielding to violence. Partition was yielding to violence—yielding to the violence of the Opposition in the House of Commons against the democratically elected majority of the House of Commons. The 1969 Downing Street proposals came as a result of violence, and their acceptance by Stormont came about because of violence.
I want to see that in the future we shall not so yield but will grant to logic what now we grant only to violence and that we will do so only on the merits of the case and not because of the violence and the threat which we are offered as a country.
I believe that our recall will have been fully justified if we can agree on the analysis of the problem, if the Government can declare their objectives, and if we can as a House of Commons be united on certain basic principles.
The Home Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition said—I agree—that the situation rests upon fear—fear of the 49 Protestant majority that they will be arbitrarily incorporated into the South, and, I must say, fear by some that the privileges which they have enjoyed and which inevitably involve discrimination against the minority will be ended. There is fear among the Catholics that the discrimination will continue and that agreed-upon reforms will be baulked because of a right-wing backlash. If that were to happen, it would not be for the first time. There is fear, too, that the Catholic minority will face reprisals by those who are taking reprisals for the violence of the I.R.A. gunmen. There can be no lasting progress until those fears of both communities can be understood, respected and allayed.
I share the view that we cannot tolerate or submit to violence from any quarter, and I emphasise "any". I deplore the cold-blooded murder of 100 men, women and children, many in the total being British Servicemen. It is not only the I.R.A. gunmen. It is those who gave encouragement to ex-' B' Specials to sign on the register. They, too, are inciting an atmosphere of violence. I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will realise the very grave dangers that he is running in inciting people in this way. There must be utter fairness between all communities. There can be no change in the Border without genuine consent.
Therefore, straight away I welcome the tripartite talks between the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of the Republic and the Prime Minister at Stormont. If the three principles—that relating to the Border, that relating to equality, and that relating to the non-toleration of violence—could be generally accepted, I believe that we would have made a useful start.
The fact that the meeting of the three Prime Ministers is being held is significant and is not without difficulty. Already two Unionist M.P.s have resigned from the party for no other reason than that Mr. Faulkner is to sit round a table with the Prime Minister of the Republic. It is an extraordinary thought that, although across another part of the Channel it is possible for France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium to sit down with Germany and Italy—their erstwhile conquerers—it is much more difficult for 50 the North to sit down with the South in Ireland.
I believe that this is perhaps the last chance that we may have of getting a peaceful agreement between the parties concerned at the Chequers talks. This is why I fervently hope that there will be a successful outcome. I do not think that we should underestimate the wish of the vast majority of Protestants in the North to live at peace with their neighbours. It is not their fault if from time to time, and all to often, they have been unscrupulously manipulated by politicians who have turned each election into a referendum on the Border.
Nor do I think that we should underestimate the sense of grievance of the Catholic community and the extent to which they have been discriminated against in the last 50 years. Were that not so, there would have been no need for the Downing Street Declaration; there would have been no need for the Cameron Report; there would have been no need for the hurriedly-pressed-on reforms. There might well be now no need for 12,000 troops in part of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that we want the pace of reform to be dictated in response to violence, nor should the pace be determined by reference to the likelihood of a Right-wing back lash. Already two Prime Ministers have lost their heads and are now in another place. The fate of at least two settlements which could have brought peace to Ireland have been baulked by a violent and unlawful reaction, not only in Ulster but in the House as well.
Therefore, I move on to the first question on which I asked for information; namely, internment. It is the most extraordinary situation that British troops were committed—quite rightly—to Northern Ireland to protect the Catholic community from Protestant Ulster gunmen—because that was the reason which was advanced and which has never been disagreed with—and yet when those who are a threat to the peace are rounded up there is not a single Protestant amongst the internees.
§ Mr. McMaster
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. Is he aware that for three days in August, 1969, the police were viciously attacked in Londonderry 51 until they were almost driven into the ground there, and it was only because the police were being driven into the ground by the Republican extremists that the Army were called in to restore law and order?
§ Mr. Thorpe
I do not think that it helps to go into the Sam Deveney case in Londonderry as to which Sir Arthur Young said that he died because of violence inflicted upon him after eight policemen raided his house but none of them would disclose information. It does not help to apportion the blame. I am merely saying—this is on the record—that the reason given by Her Majesty's then Government, and, as far as I know, not challenged by the official Opposition, was that British troops were sent to Northern Ireland ostensibly to maintain peace and to protect the Catholic minority who at the time were in fear of their lives. This may not have been the view of certain Ulster Unionist M.P.s, but it was certainly the view of the then Government, and it was not challenged at the time.
I therefore find it extraordinary that internment has been such an arbitrary weapon in its implementation, with the only people falling into the category of internees being those who happen to belong to the minority group.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is always anxious to be fair. He will, therefore, recall that the Deveney case—it was a most shameful case; I visited the house at the time—took place many months earlier than the occasion to which my hon. Friend referred—in August, 1969.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I am well aware of the date. I have read the facts. I do not wish to weary the House, and I am merely saying that this was the generally understood reason for the dispatch of British troops and why they were welcomed by the Catholic minority when they landed in Northern Ireland.
The tragedy now is that these troops are looked on by the Catholic minority as oppressors. And, because of the impartiality of the troops, they arc looked on by some extreme Ulster Unionists as 52 being partial in the discharge of their duties.
This House has every right to take a much greater interest in and therefore have closer scrutiny of the whole problem of internment, for we are, in effect, making an exception to our international obligations under Article 15 of the European Convention of Human Rights. To carve an exception out of that Article it is necessary for us to give notice to our partners. May we be told when that notice was given? I believe that it was given in 1956, simply because of the existence of the Special Powers Act. In something which acutely affects our international obligations and responsibilities under the convention we have a right to see that any exceptions are justifiably carved out.
Is it not a fact that the International Red Cross is now in Northern Ireland and is visiting the internment camps? I understand that this is so and I hope that this organisation will be given permission to publish any of its reports. I appreciate that the Red Cross does not publish these matters, but there are precedents for such reports being published when the host Government have agreed to publication.
On the basis that justice must not only be done but manifestly be seen to be done, I hope that however distinguished may be the judiciary in Northern Ireland, the judge who presides over the question is a member of the English judiciary—[Interruption.]—or of the Commonwealth judiciary.
I share the view of the Leader of the Opposition that the manner of the approach of our troops to complaints made against them is to be welcomed. They are the first to wish to have them investigated. It was unfortunate that in the first flush, so to speak, the Home Secretary did not accord legal representation to those who made complaints, but I am pleased that that has been put right.
May we be told what instructions have been given to the troops to protect their position? I have in mind instructions under Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. That Article applies to circumstances in which there is internal conflict. It is important that guidance should be given to the troops on this question.
53 This may be regarded as a contentious and controversial view, but because I believe that it is important that there should be the maximum degree of confidence in tribunals of this sort among all parts of the community and, while I have every confidence in the integrity of Sir Edmund Compton, who was the Commissioner in the United Kingdom—I have confidence in him from personal experience—it is unfortunate that the person in charge of this inquiry into alleged brutalities—[Interruption.]—should currently also be an employee of the Northern Ireland Government. I am referring, of course, to the inquiry into alleged brutalities on the part of the Army. Sir Edmund is currently presiding over it.
Reference has been made to electoral reform. The view often put forward is that even if one had had P.R.—if it had not been abolished in 1927—there would have been no difference in the outcome. I remind hon. Members that while that system operated, one was beginning to get a fusion of interests between the different religious communities.
If, for example, one considers the local government election results in Protestant areas, such as the Shanhill Road, and Catholic areas, such as the Falls Road, one sees that each returned three local government councillors with a substantial minority of the other's group in that return. The Catholic area invariably returned two Catholics and one Protestant while the Protestant area invariably returned two Protestants and one Catholic.
If one has a single-Member constituency, one is bound to get polarisation, not only among the Unionist nominations but vice versa because within each group there must be selection. It follows that the Unionist candidate must almost inevitably be a hard-line Protestant and the Nationalist a hard-line Catholic.
This system operated for about seven years in Northern Ireland following 1920. However, it has continuously operated in the Republic since 1920. There, in consequence, one does not have religion determining the political persuasion of the individual Members of Parliament. One finds overwhelmingly Catholic areas often returning Protestant M.P.s, and there have been Protestants in every Irish Parliament since partition. The great issues are not simply between the parties 54 but often within the parties, moderates versus extremists.
Cannot the same be said about Europe generally? It would be impossible to have meaningful elections on the basis of only single-member constituencies with pro-Common Market or anti-Common Market candidates from one's party from which to choose. There must be opportunities for shades of opinion within parties. Indeed, within the Unionist party there is the world of difference between a Craig Unionist and an O'Neillite Unionist, and each should be represented. While at the moment there is a premium on extremism, I believe that only by this type of representation will one get moderation. Indeed, I doubt whether under such a system Captain O'Neill would have been forced out. I believe that most Unionists would have shown their preference for moderation rather than extremism.
This is why we need a system which gives guaranteed rights to minorities and which also gives to the electors of the major parties an opportunity to choose between varying shades of opinion within those parties. In Eire there has been no polarisation, and it was largely to prevent it and to ensure representation of minorities that a Liberal Prime Minister introduced the system under the 1920 Act when setting up the Constitution of Northern Ireland.
It is natural that the question of arms should have been raised. All arms should be handed in. I was staggered by the ease with which the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) gave a rundown of the armoury situation. If what he described were the case, it would surely not be as difficult to find the arms as we have been led to believe it is.
A vital question which we must ask ourselves is this. If we accept that there can be no alteration in the Border without the genuine consent of the people in the North and the South—ensuring that there is no discrimination and that there is utter fairness—one is surely entitled to go on to ask just what are our long-term objectives and vision for Ireland.
Would it not be fair to say that, with the exception of the most extreme bigots, 55 all of us wish to draw closer to our European neighbours, not least in Ireland? We are currently discussing the possibility of going into a united Europe of 10 countries. Some people, for reasons which I understand, even if I differ with them, find themselves in opposition to that view, but the logic of the case is that we also wish to draw closer to those who live in these islands, and I therefore believe that an all-Ireland council is one way of bringing that about.
This development will need, first and foremost, a united condemnation of violence by the three Prime Ministers meeting at Chequers. This is needed more than anything else. It is a pity that another initiative will not have been read, because of the newspaper strike by many more members of the public.
I refer to the possibility of dual nationality. The position of the British United Kingdom citizen in the Republic of Ireland and that of the citizen of the Republic in the United Kingdom is very special. The British Nationality Act recognised the act of secession but for all practical purposes enshrined most of the continuing rights as though it had never happened. The citizen of the Republic, provided he has the necessary residential qualifications, may vote at local and Parliamentary elections in this country. The citizen of this country may vote only at local elections in the Republic of Ireland. By the British Nationality Act, Irish citizens were not United Kingdom citizens but they were expressly defined as not being aliens. Because we are a common travel area the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts are not enforced, although in law technically they apply.
I should like to see the possibility being considered of dual nationality for those who would opt for it, so that men and women honourably could owe allegiance to both countries. I know that there are difficulties in international law. The Hague Convention of 1930 highlighted some of the problems. There is the problem when one country is a belligerent and the other is neutral, and there is the problem of a possible conflict in international law. But if we cannot have dual allegiance—and this possibility that Sir Winston Churchill offered to the French 56 people in 1940 was not merely a theatrical gesture but a genuine effort to try to draw nearer to those on the other side of the Channel—we must try to see if we can accord privileges of a mutual and reciprocal nature as between citizens of the Republic and those of the United Kingdom. That is precisely what the Six have successfully worked to do ever since the Common Market came into being.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
Is it the right hon. Gentleman's proposition that, in effect, Southern Ireland should become part of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Thorpe
No, I am saying no such thing. I am saying that the great difficulty—which, if I may say so, the Prime Minister went a very long way to allay, and it was very much appreciated in the Republic—was the idea that a person who lived in the North or South was in some way being traitorous or treasonable because he had a dual allegiance to the North or South. It is not dishonourable to want to end the Border by democratic means, in the same way that there is nothing dishonourable in wanting the six counties to remain part of the United Kingdom. Both are logical and honourable positions, but if we have the position in which a citizen of Southern Ireland can already vote in local and parliamentary elections in this country by being here on the qualifying date, we have gone a very long way to accepting the concept of dual nationality.
Surely it would be the supreme irony of politics if at the very moment when, as I say, France and Benelux are working closer and closer with their former enemies, Germany and Italy, when we in this country are about to take a decision whether we become part of the Europe of Ten, we cannot get a peaceful situation within these islands.
I believe that the troops went in in an emergency, and the great vacuum is that there has been no long-term objective. I believe that the Border cannot be changed without the consent of the people of the North and of the South, but I want to see the improvement in relations between North and South, when the genuine will of the people of Ireland will be for the reunification of Ireland. My vision is to see the wounds of Ireland bound tip, and Ireland one once again.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
So far in this debate we have been somewhat mercifully spared reference to 50 years of misrule in Northern Ireland and much of the history to which we have so often been treated in the past. This is a welcome fact because there has not been provoked the reaction of allegations of 50 years of sterile and unparticipating opposition, which is the natural reposte.
It is a sad reflection of the state of affairs in Northern Ireland today that there are some of us here who ardently in the past wanted change and sought for change and advance in Northern Ireland but today find ourselves advocating some measures which must at the very least be called repressive even if, as one hopes. they are only temporary.
Those of us who believed in what has now come to be known as the reform programme, and who supported and perhaps took some past in it, even in writing it, and who fought those reforms through did so because we believed them to be right in themselves. But we also believed them to be expedient, because it was obvious to any reasonably intelligent observer that there was about to begin an ideological struggle for the future of the whole Province.
To win that struggle we needed the support of many in Northern Ireland who had previously had very different aspirations from our own, and the time would come, as we knew, too, when we would need also the support and understanding of the British people. We needed above all to show those in Northern Ireland—the minority if one cares to call it so—that the British way of life offered something better than any alternative. The reforms were not. as I remember, conceived by Lord O'Neill or anyone else as something with which to appease gunmen, as one of my right hon. Friends suggested the other day. They were conceived because those who conceived them believed it right to meet and remove the legitimate grievances of ordinary decent people. I am very glad that to some extent there has been success in this field.
But here I have some criticism of successive British Governments, and I do not mean to offend anyone when I say this. There is no doubt that in past years the last Administration believed—and I can- 58 not blame them for it—that they were contending, in the Northern Ireland Government, with a political faction the very opposite from or hostile to their own. But they went a very long way to destroying the credibility of the Stormont Government. In fact, many of them would today say, I think, that they went too far, and regret that they have destroyed that credibility to the extent they did.
The simple fact is that today if the Stormont Government puts out a statement about the reform programme, about what they have done and intend to do, that statement carries remarkably little credibility not just with those in the minority in Northern Ireland but in the world further afield. So it is up to the British Government, and it can only be the British Government who have sufficient credibility to do it, to spread the word in the world about what has been achieved. I must say that although we have had statements about the achievements from individual Ministers, this aspect is somewhat understated and underplayed. I hope that something can be done about it.
It seems to me that democracy itself is under attack in Northern Ireland at the present time from two quarters; from the bomb and the bullet, and also from those in the minority who have withdrawn their consent to even acquiesce in government. The use of the bomb and the bullet is intolerable and, as has been said, force can only be met with force. The withdrawal of consent is a much more difficult proposition. Democracy being the tender plant it is, if a large section of the minority is determined to withhold its consent, to indulge in civil disobedience and withdraw from public life, democracy itself is inevitably threatened.
I would at the moment, with some broad exceptions, divide the minority in Northern Ireland—and I shall come to the majority later, in case anyone becomes impatient—into three categories. There is the I.R.A. and its associates which, as has been said, is a very small minority indeed. But there are those who are practising naked political opportunism, and among them, though not all of them, are those who believe in the practice of civil disobedience—
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
If the hon. Gentleman could contain his impatience, no doubt he will be able to give us one of his very eloquent speeches and persuade us of his wisdom.
There are those who practice political opportunism, but there are others who genuinely believe that by the practice of civil disobedience they are trying to regain, and may regain, control of areas which are presently under the sway of the I.R.A. I have not been in the least unfair in saying that. But the largest number of people with whom we are dealing at present are simply frightened men and women. There are some splendid exceptions, one of which I shall quote later if I have the chance.
The I.R.A. speak for themselves. It is obvious what their attitude is. We know it only too well. The opportunists are typified by the man who says one day, "The real divide can be conquered only on the basis of trust", and "There can be no future for the community without reconciliation", and then shortly afterwards leads the Parliamentary Opposition, in the face of an unprecedented offer to participate in government, to withdraw from the elected Assembly, a withdrawal from public life on a sectarian basis, and into campaigns for civil disobedience and for the non-payment of rent and rates. That is what I mean by political opportunism.
But the real point concerning all three categories is that at present there is not one of them to whom one can talk. Or, at least, one can try to talk to them but one cannot expect any kind of agreement which may be reached to be carried out. One can continue to try talking, and I hope that we will. I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is trying to do about this. But we are dealing with frightened men who have the shadow of the gunman constantly by their side. We are dealing with people who are not masters of their own decisions. Magnificently as it has behaved, the Army should not continue to make truces with frightened men who are in no position to deliver their side of the bargain. Londonderry has had a horrible experience of that in the last few weeks.
Many solutions have been canvassed. We have heard a number of them today. I hope that they will continue to be dis- 60 cussed. There is some talk about the possibility of a Council of the British Isles for Economic Affairs. Possibly that is a very interesting suggestion in the light of the fact that both countries will possibly enter the E.E.C. Possibly on top of that could be thrown in the idea of a Council for Defence of the Border, because tomorrow the defence of the border may become just as relevant to Mr. Lynch as it is to Mr. Faulkner today, judging by the programmes on which we are assured the I.R.A., in one form or another, are about the embark.
That is the sort of situation in which one provides a forum where matters of mutual interest on a tripartite basis could perhaps be discussed, and without any constitutional issues being raised. That would have to be a precondition.
Then there is the talk of the enlargement of Stormont and of the Senate. There is talk of proportional representation, an examination of which I should not rule out. although I find it curious that we should have this suggestion from people who, up to now, have been telling us in Northern Ireland that we must stick very closely to the British pattern. I exempt the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party because I know that he wants this pattern throughout the land. In that, he was completely consistent.
There is the possibility of periodic referenda: of discussing the ending of religious segregation in schools against the particular background of Northern Ireland. That may be the best long-term solution of all, but it is a long-term solution. These are all matters which can be discussed. But if they are discussed now and if agreement can be reached, the question in our minds must be, in the present circumstances, whether that agreement will be observed and whether those who come to that agreement are capable of seeing that the bargain is observed. I fear that at present they are not sufficiently masters in their own house in order to be able to reach such agreements, any one of which might well be sensible, and at the same time be anathema to the I.R.A.
Any observer who went to Northern Ireland last weekend and who watched the situation there through the pall of fear which presently exists will have come to the conclusion that the absolute first 61 priority at present must be the defeat of violence now and as speedily as possible. That must come before anything else. I am all for trying to get talks going all the time and for everybody talking to each other as much as possible. But the defeat of violence comes long before anything else can really succeed.
Possibly I have already made it indiscreetly clear that internment is something that I dislike very much indeed. I see no point in pursuing today certain criticisms as to how internment was introduced. I simply bow to the judgment of those who say it was necessary at the time. I was disappointed that the Leader of the Opposition, taking a rather simple view, proceeded to read to us in some detail from the Sunday Times. I have often met bigotry in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, but I have seldom met prejudice as strong as the subject of Northern Ireland as I have ever found it in the Sunday Times.
Clearly it is unrealistic at this stage, for reasons very well put on the television by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, to make a condition of talks on anybody's part the release of all internees. One wonders how such a suggestion sounds in the ears of those who witnessed the vicious explosions and the death and injury at the Electricity Board and at the Community Relations Centre. That suggestion is simply out.
I am critical on another point about internment. On introducing internment, I do not think that it makes any sense at all to do it on its own. One has to follow it with other measures. If one must be repressive, then be repressive. Get on with it, and bring the measures to an end as quickly as possible.
There has been a good deal of hypocrisy about internment. At different times many of us have had conversations with leading members of the opposition over the months before internment was introduced. They have said that the situation in Northern Ireland is terrible and must be brought to an end. They have said, "You must pick up these evil men, these gunmen". We have said Yes, that would be nice, but on what charge?" They have said, "Charge? Do not worry about a charge—frame them". That is a somewhat odd commentary on people who have started a civil rights movement.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Even if one questions them further, they would say, "If you have to use the Special Powers Act, it is a pity that its name could not be changed", but that they would be making a bit of a protest if it was used.
§ Mr. Orme rose—
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He has been shouting all afternoon. Those who said it will recognise what I am saying.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I do not know whether you heard the hon. Member refer just now to some members in opposition who, when protesting against the policy of internment, said, "Why do you not arrest them?", and the hon. Member said that the reply was, "On what charge?". The hon. Member has just told the House that the unnamed Members of the Opposion said, "Why do you not frame them?"
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
With respect, what the Chair has a right to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is to defend the opposition. If the hon. Member is referring to Her Majesty's Opposition in the House, and if he will not give way to enable us to elicit the truth, then it is up to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to defend the rights of hon. Members of this House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am perfectly aware of that. I think that on the whole hon. Members would agree that I do defend their rights. I shall continue to do so as long as I sit in this Chair. But nothing has been said which is out of order.
§ Mr. Will Griffiths
Mr. Deputy Speaker, are you saying that if an hon. Member says in the House that Members of the Opposition asked, "Why do you not frame them?" that is not a serious matter, calling for some comment from you or from Mr. Speaker? Is that what you are ruling?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am ruling exactly what I said, which is that as 63 far as I am aware there has been no breach of order.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
It is strange that the hon. Gentleman should take offence so quickly because I was referring, not to a member of the Official Opposition in this House, but of the opposition in Stormont. There are many hon. Members in this House who know the truth of what I have said, and there are many who would be prepared to say this afternoon that there has been a great deal of hypocrisy about this.
It is hopeless to introduce internment on its own. One has to go further and here, to some extent—and I said this in an article in The Times the other day—I find myself in agreement with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who said that we have to do something about cratering the roads, that we have to stop the traffic over the Border of men and materials. We have to blow up and crater the great majority of roads between the Republic and Northern Ireland. On the roads that are left open there should be specific closing times, as there are not at the moment. The Customs officer just waves someone across the Border. He dare not challenge him to find out whether he is carrying any submachine guns in the boot of his car. What is the Customs officer to do if he does discover such a situation?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue. I do not want to he rude, but I must get on.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
At the same time one has to be prepared, on the advice of the security forces, to use vehicle curfew. All these things are difficult militarily. Of course there are difficulties. Propositions put forward last March for dealing with the situation in Northern Ireland were regarded as difficult militarily, but very few people today would suggest that those propositions, if pursued, would not in all probability have brought us very much further down the trail towards the winning of this campaign.
64 Furthermore, identity checks—though I dislike the idea—will have to be established for those crossing the frontier and, if necessary, for those crossing from Northern Ireland to Britain, and vice versa, even though that will mean Northern Ireland citizens, British citizens, carrying some kind of identity. In the present exigency I am certain that they would be willing to accept that.
There are two matters about the security forces that I want to mention. Not very much has been said about the nuts and bolts. The police have been having a particularly difficult time during the last two months, but they have behaved splendidly. It is now necessary to take certain action to raise their morale.
There are some measures which could be taken which I do not propose to mention here, but I do say that the whole question whether or not troops are to guard police barracks and the dependants who live in the houses nearby must be settled. This is something that is worrying police personnel very deeply indeed, and in this connection I find it extraordinary that at this juncture of our affairs in Northern Ireland 500 troops have been shipped out of the country during the last few days. It does not seem to me that we have reached the situation when that ought to be happening.
There is also the problem that arises from the use of police radios. I do not know whether remedial action can be taken. These radios are not as good as those used by the Army. Police messages can be picked up by anybody who is listening on another wireless, and even on a juke box in a town hall in a town near me.
Recently there was a fatal accident in a difficult area. The police were called, and when they arrived they found themselves under a hail of fire from snipers. When they withdrew to let the Army come in, Army personnel found themselves in the same position. This happens because the arrival of the police is forecast over the radio, and the message is picked up on another set.
I welcome the localisation plan for the U.D.R. I do not want to see the quality of the recruits decline in any way, but something must be done to speed up what is a necessary but at the moment extremely clumsy vetting system which takes five weeks, and sometimes very 65 much longer. It should be done in about a fortnight. I am not suggesting that a Peer of the Realm should be exempt from any of these things, far from it—probably the reverse—but it is rather absurd that a Peer of the Realm who has had long Crown service should, when he gives two referees, be asked for a third, when the first two are the G.O.C. Southern Command, and Her Majesty's Lieutenant for his own county. It seems to illustrate something less than a sense of urgency, and I hope that something may be done about this matter.
There has been a great deal of talk today, and at other times, about a Protestant backlash. I am the first to acknowledge that we have some desperate extremists in the Unionist Party, or on its fringes—and I have suffered at their hands—but there is a great deal too much loose talk about a Protestant backlash. I say—I hope without contradiction—that in the face of what has happened to Protestants over the last few months they have behaved with an extreme restraint, which honestly I did not believe was possible. This has happened in the face of deliberate attempts to stir them up, such as the throwing of bombs which injured 27 people in the Sandy Row public house only yesterday. This is a deliberate campaign.
There is talk of those who wish to register and offer their services. They tend, in this House and elsewhere, to be condemned a little too quickly. The truth of the matter is that most of them—and they run into tens of thousands—are ordinary decent citizens. Ironically, many of them supported Lord O'Neill and his reforms, but they have now been driven to such a pitch of frustration that they want to find some other way to help their country, and they are looking for a means of doing it. There is a great deal too much in our own attitude—and perhaps in the Government's attitude, too—of "Thou shalt not", instead of some real attempt to encourage them to do something worthwhile, such as going into the U.D.R. or the Police Reserve—and there may be other alternatives—and I hope that we shall get a lead from the Government on this.
There has been much talk in the House about the minority. It is time that some of my hon. Friends said something about 66 the position of the Ulster Protestant. At the moment he feels that for three years he has been the victim of a campaign of vicious, hostile propaganda. He feels perplexed and hurt. He cannot understand why he does not have the sympathy of the British people, why they do not appear—I use the word "appear" advisedly—to be standing behind him as he stood behind them during the last war. He is angry and threatened, and that is a dangerous situation, indeed. If we can send out some message of encouragement today to those people we shall render a great service not just to the Protestants themselves, but also to the minority.
On the subject of licensed guns, which was mentioned again by the Leader of the Opposition—I do not want to say very much, because one can say unfortunate things, and say something which would be irresponsible—I suggest that anyone who believes that the withdrawal of licensed guns would help should, before he says that again, go to Northern Ireland and appreciate the situation as it is today. I think—and I do not want to go far in this, for obvious reasons, which hon. Members will appreciate—that if an attempt were made now to call in these guns a difficult situation would arise. I mean what I say, but it is better to go no further. I ask those who advocate that course to study the situation for themselves.
On the tripartite talks, I simply say that I cannot agree with the Leader of the Opposition that what Mr. Faulkner said was out of place. The Leader of the Opposition should realise that if Mr. Faulkner had not said that he would have lost what support he now commands. He has to make it clear that there is no question of discussing the constitutional position. Though I am termed a Moderate, I should not be supporting him if I thought that there was any question of discussing the constitutional position. I do not hold out great hopes of these talks, but I hope that I may be wrong. It seems to me that with one Prime Minister saying he cannot discuss the constitutional position, and another saying that he is not going to do anything to help about controlling the terrorists in his own realm, that he cannot go any further, the prospects are very poor, indeed.
67 What I fear is that with these talks in the offing it will be said as a result of today's debate that it is too delicate a situation in which to take any further action of a major kind to bring this terrorist campaign to an end now. I can only say that we do not feel that we can any longer afford to deal in delicacies. The campaign against the terrorist must be prosecuted with total vigour and without let up.
I saw the other day what a reporter wrote of the I.R.A. He said:The uncomfortable truth is that such methods"—he was referring to the use of violence—although overwhelmingly condemned, have a habit of achieving their end.Some of us will recognise those words. Surely it is time to cry "Stop" when we find these sorts of methods being used within the boundaries of the United Kingdom.
I said before that I would try to quote something from a man who is clearly not frightened, a member of the minority. This seems to me to be something of such courage that it ought to be heard further afield. It is part of a letter written by a venerable Roman Catholic priest to some of the local newspapers:The methods of our self-appointed warriors of today"—he was writing of the I.R.A.—the innocent-looking brown paper parcel with its corrosive incendiary, the suitcase with its time fuse in the hotel locker, the booby traps in ladies' lavatories—can one sink lower than that? What hurts the Catholic men and women of Belfast above all is the attempt—alas, too diabolically successful—to confirm the impression that all Protestants have no alternative but to look upon Catholics as snipers, arsonists, geligniters, cut-throats and murderers. One must try, difficult as it is in charity, to believe that many exasperated Catholics have allowed themselves to be misled, but Belfast Catholics are a kind and good people and they have decades of experience of the goodness and kindness of their Protestant neighbours. So all of us, Protestant and Catholic, say to the gunmen, the 'geligniters' the 'petroleurs' the 'nail bombers', the 'booby trappers'—'Get off our backs. Get out. You don't belong to the kindly boys and girls of the civilised Protestant and Catholic community. Get out. We are not only ashamed of your cowardly and contemptible and disgusting tactics. We forgive you but we despise you. Get out'.There, at any rate, is one man who is not too frightened to speak his mind.
68 There is a man of real courage. There are still plenty of men of courage and dedication on both sides in these difficulties which we face. The last two Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland and their supporters—I do not think the House realises this—were asked to show a kind of courage which is not generally asked of politicians in this country in this century [An HON. MEMBER: "They were brought down."] I do not know whether they were brought down because of that. At least, it is one thing to look back at with pride—the courage that people like that showed.
Yeats once wrote, "The best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity." The best cannot afford to go on lacking all conviction. But they will show it much more readily if they now get from the British Government a clear declaration and some illustration in the next few days that there is a determination to bring to an end the murder, the arson, the rule of the bully, in a part of our own British territory.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
This is the first occasion on which I have sought to address the House on the turbulent subject of Northern Ireland. Nor do I claim to be any specialist on this subject. However, I do have a certain degree of experience behind me about divided cities, the problems arising from divided cities and the poisonous political gases that can arise from those divisions. The three cities I speak of are Trieste, Jerusalem and Berlin.
Only 24 hours ago I was talking to one of the negotiators who will shortly be meeting an East German team to talk about easing the situation for the citizens of West Berlin. He will be meeting a person who for more than 20 years has described him as a Fascist beast, a hyena, an imperialist, a pig, a rat and a traitor. He will shake his hands. He will forgive those 20 years of insults and he will try to negotiate better conditions for the citizens of Berlin who are not concerned with the great power politics of the world but who are concerned with problems such as whether Onkel Friederich can visit Tantie Hilde on the other side of the wall.
That wall recalls something which I feel I should bring to the attention of the 69 House. It is very easy, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) did, to extrapolate a series of military solutions to this problem. It is the easiest thing in the world. One can draw graphs and plan deployments. We can all play the game of being armchair Clausewitzes. But we in this House have certain traditions to observe, which derive from the fact that 300 years ago we were fighting the same sort of conflicts which certain people in Northern Ireland are fighting now. We believe in a certain restraint in the use of the Armed Forces of the Crown. If the logic of the right hon. Gentleman were pursued in dealing with the security situation we would not have British troops operating in Northern Ireland applying those restrictions. I can think of very few British soldiers who would be savage and brutal enough to do so. We would have to import either the Volkspolizei or the Volksarmee to do it. So we have decided as a Parliament, as we decided 300 years ago, that we would use military force in civil situations with restraint.
The second point from a non-specialist is this. This House is supreme also in Northern Ireland. Its writ runs in Ulster. It runs in Belfast as it runs through Battersea. That has to be asserted again and again. In spite of the delegation of authority that was implicit in the 1920 Act, in the last resort Northern Ireland is ruled from here. It is this Parliament which bears that responsibility before the eyes of the world.
Here again it is very interesting when one travels, as most of us manage to do during the recess, to see this problem portrayed on foreign television screens and commented upon by foreign political commentators. There it is made increasingly clear that the ultimate responsibility for political development in Northern Ireland remains with this House and must remain with this Government. I find it very difficult to engage in detailed arguments about constitutional reforms, voting patterns and patterns of representation, whilst this poisonous, gaseous atmosphere still persists.
Much as I respect the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), much as I respect his family and the efforts of his brother when he was Prime Minister, I cannot send from my corner of this House any kind of special greeting 70 to Protestants who march beating their drums, celebrating the victory of a dead king and a totally dead cause. Militant armed Protestantism, so far as we in the United Kingdom are concerned, has been dead for 300 years. We do not have to go through the monstrous business that led to the 30 years war in Central Europe, however ritualised it is.
I do not know how many of my hon. Friends I carry with me in this refusal, but I totally refuse to send any kind of greeting or friendly message to people who keep alive the memories of a battle fought in 1690 and who keep alive the hatreds which made that battle inevitable. I refuse to do it. In any case, why should I refer to fellow citizens as Protestants, as Catholics or as Jews? We do not do it in this House. We are not elected as Protestants, as Catholics, as Jews, as Seventh Day Adventists, as deviationist Marxists, as orthodox Marxists, or whatever it may be. We are elected as citizens of the United Kingdom and as members of political parties. We regard ourselves as such, and our relations with one another, within parties and between parties, are conducted as though religious differences were no business of this Chamber—as, indeed, they are not.
Those who on either side of the conflict in Northern Ireland resurrect those long-buried hatreds are not only guilty of a crime against order in Northern Ireland but are guilty of a crime against democracy itself as incarnated in the structure, procedures and membership of the House.
When there is talk of making war, it is necessary that a message should go out from this House as a whole. We are not at war with the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. British armed forces, unfortunately, are at war against a group of gangsters and thugs who have no more connection, in my view, with the sublimities of the Christian religion than they have with the original concept of the Irish Republic. Many people have denounced these gangsters in the name of the Catholic Church, and they have denounced them also in the name of law and order. I think it necessary from this side of the House to denounce them in the names of James Connolly, James Larkin and Patrick Pearse, men who fought in 1916 but who would never have 71 been associated with terrorism of this kind, men who, although they took arms in hand to establish the Irish Republic, did not fire on innocent children, did not throw bombs in public streets and did not shoot people in the back.
I denounce them from this side, as, undoubtedly, others will, in the spirit of great Socialists like Larkin and Connolly. These Provisionals, these terrorists, have nothing whatever to do with any concept of a united Ireland, with any concept of religion or with anything which I can find either civilised or decent, and whatever is done to suppress them I shall totally and absolutely support—even though someone who is about to live near me may disagree with some of my views.
That brings me, by a natural process of reasoning which is not quite clear at the moment, to the question of internment. I shall not read out lists of names. We have all received documentation from the National Council for Civil Liberties and other bodies. However, since the charges are under investigation, I feel no compulsion to repeat all the names or to recount all the incidents, for I have total confidence in those who are conducting the necessary investigations.
There is, however, an important point to be made in this connection. Recently, I was in a certain newspaper office—it was the Tribune office; I may as well give the House that fact since sitting next to me is the editor of the New Statesman—when I was telephoned by an anguished member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, a man to whose moderation the Home Secretary has paid tribute. He was almost in tears at the other end of the telephone, and he reeled off a list of names of people who, he told me—I accept his assurance as, I am sure, the Home Secretary would accept it—could have had no possible connection with I.R.A. activities in either their orthodox or their Provisional form.
It is obvious to me that whoever drew up the list drew it up largely under the inspiration of Orange lodge meetings rather than in the ice-cold judicial manner in which such an operation, even assuming it to be necessary, should be conducted.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
Will the hon. Gentleman please take it from 72 me that internment was never discussed at Orange lodge meetings?
§ Mr. Fletcher
It seems to me, as an outside observer, that it is almost impossible to distinguish between the Unionist caucus meetings in Stormont and Orange lodge meetings. I find it impossible to distinguish between the two, and it was certainly expressed to me over the telephone that people who were in no way associated either with violence or with the advocacy of violence had been swept into the net. Far from taking the poisonous gas out of the situation, it has pumped more poison gas in, as the death toll has revealed.
In my view, it is essential, in asserting the authority of this House, to define very clearly and precisely—I understand that the Minister of State will be doing this—the political aims which British forces are now serving in the Province, and to do that not so much for our edification but so that the people of Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant alike, may know in what context those forces are operating.
I think that we, too, in this House can send out signals. We can send out signals to both Government and Opposition in Northern Ireland that, if certain things are not done within a certain period of time, many aspects of the 1920 Act which have lain dormant for years can be made active by a decision of the House of Commons.
I come now to one thing which, I believe, could be done and which might provide a useful addendum to the list of proposals provided by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who, as usual, has stolen most of my thunder and at least half of the best part of my speech. Without even waiting to institute some of the constitutional proposals which he has put forward, we can, I believe, do something in this House to signify to Northern Ireland as a whole that we remain the repository of authority for Northern Ireland, to remind all the citizens of Northern Ireland that it is a Province of the United Kingdom, and to give an assurance, an assurance badly needed since the minority community is now filled with increasing suspicion. Most hon. Members will have received, as I have, a document written by some 73 distinguished Catholics—their names are not known to me—about what is happening to the reform package. They are very critical of certain aspects of it.
We must ensure that these people receive an assurance from us, in a practical fashion, that the machinery of Government itself can be changed. It is easy to draw up a beautiful constitution. The most democratic constitution, on paper, that was ever devised was the 1936 Constitution for the Soviet Union devised by Stalin. It certainly impressed Sidney and Beatrice Webb, two of the most intelligent fools in England at the time. It was great on paper; it impressed many visitors. But in fact it was a totally meaningless scrap of paper. The minority community must be assured by actions rather than promises or constitution-building that they will have the opportunity to take their rightful place at all levels of public administration, which includes not only representation in Stormont but representation on judicial bodies and so on.
Without even waiting for the dramatic change that proportional representation would make, we might fairly quickly introduce the mixed system used in the Federal Republic of Germany, which is a combination of proportional representation and constituency representation.
But the most important thing we can do is to establish an Irish Grand Committee in this House. Since we have a Scottish Grand Committee and a Welsh Grand Committee, why not have an Irish Grand Committee and invite people from Stormont to come here and participate in its proceedings? Let us do that right away, by a decision of the House. Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, and we can do that even before this debate concludes. It is the most emphatic signal we can send to the people of Northern Ireland that the promises implicit in the Declaration of 1969 and equally implicit in the Home Secretary's speech today will be fulfilled.
When I began, I said that only 24 hours ago I was in the divided city of Berlin, and that I had been talking to the man from the Berlin Senate who will he principally responsible for conducting negotiations with its East German opposite numbers to make life easier and to make traffic conditions easier on the road 74 and rail connections between West Berlin and the Federal Republic. I said that he would be sitting down with a political propagandist who has called him every name in the farmyard, with the exception of a duck, for the past 20 years. I say to my own friends in the Social Democratic Labour Party—they cannot hear me directly, but this will go through to them—that I see no reason whatever now why they should not participate in the forthcoming talks. That would be helpful, and I ask them, as someone who has severely criticised the internment policy, who has invoked the great spirits of Larkin and Connolly, to think again, because I and most of my hon. Friends would not regard participation by them in the talks as a betrayal of any of those ideals to which I know they sincerely adhere.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
It is right that we should be here, because we are in fact, though not in law, in a state of war, war with well-armed and ruthless men resolved to destroy the Union in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton. South-West (Mr. Powell) said that this is a war which we are losing. Certainly, it is not a war which we are obviously winning, because important parts of a province of the United Kingdom are dominated, or at least terrorised, by urban guerrilla forces interested not in civil rights, now enacted at Stormont, but in civil war; concerned no longer for reforms but for revolution; and as much devoted to the principles of the Catholic Church as was Fidel Castro, who was described as a zealot for Catholic social action during his struggle for power. That reminds us that it is Cuba that is taken as the model of the all-Ireland Republic for which, for example, the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) stands. What is the position in Cuba and countries like that of civil rights and of the Catholic Church?
Fidel Castro was one of the classical exponents of the art of revolutionary war, and his republic is hailed as an exemplar of victorious rural guerrilla warfare. But I do not think that that is true. The peasantry played a not very conspicuous part, and did not muster many recruits until the struggle was nearly over. Contrary 75 to earlier textbook theory, it was the urban terrorist and saboteur who played the crucial part. There is nothing very new in that. It was the case among the Ustachi of pre-war Croatia and the Igrun Zvai Leumi in Palestine under British mandate. The Kasbah of Algiers was the main wasps' nest of revolution there. Neither Fidel Castro nor Mao Tse-tung. however, acknowledged the debt they owed to the urban guerrilla fighter such as we see in Northern Ireland today.
The methods of the Provisionals, all those acts not of valour but of cowardice, as they were well described by the Leader of the Opposition, are listed in the "Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerrilla," written by the Brazilian, Manighella, who, since the death of Cha Guevara, has been the popular exponent of urban-based revolution. Urban guerrilla warfare is now a phenomenon of many lands. Its use of terror and of indiscriminate murder—Manighella uses the phrase—makes indispensable the employment of such repugnant measures as internment, under proper control and judicial supervision.
When my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary described the use of internment in Northern Ireland earlier in the debate Labour hon. Members cried, "Put them on trial." Those in the House and outside who say that either do not understand the kind of war that is being waged against us or are on the wrong side. It is the inability to put the real criminals on trial and to secure conviction that makes necessary what my right hon. Friend described as this hideous expedient.
When, greatly daring, I ventured to write to the Apostolic Delegate representing the Pope in this country regretting that a statement of His Holiness appeared to condemn our use of internment, although I received many letters of approval from Roman Catholics, clerical and lay, on both sides of the border, I was criticised by one correspondent in the Catholic Herald, who said that I had made an unfair comparison in my representation when I had said that that method of internment was used on both sides of the border, because it had been used in the South only in time of war. The fact is quite different.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon
The hon. Gentleman has spoken about His Holiness the Pope and his comment on internment without trial. Is not it true that His Holiness, or his predecessors, equally condemned internment without trial in Communist countries?
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
I do not know, without looking it up, what statements have come from the Holy See about the imprisonment of people without trial in Communist countries. We are dealing with internment employed against the I.R.A., and when it is said that any detention of persons and suspects without trial is to be condemned, all we are saying is that we should leave at large the instigators and the perpetrators of the most horrible crimes. In conditions of urban guerilla warfare and terrorism, it is impossible to bring these people to trial with any prospect of conviction. This is the reason why this repugnant method has been employed in Northern Ireland and why it was also employed in the South. I do not think that there was much criticism in this House of its employment in the South. Perhaps it would not have been for us to make any criticism but I think that it was widely recognised that when the Dublin Government employed internment they were fully justified in doing so.
The Dublin Government were not able to bring all these people to trial. Internment, by proclamation under Part II of the Offences Against the State Act, was employed from July, 1957, until March, 1962. Altogether, 206 people were detained at the Curragh and elsewhere between July, 1957, and March, 1959. The last detention order was only signed on 15th December, 1958, and the last detainee was released in March, 1959.
Is internment south of the Border all right but north of the Border all wrong? Are we to say that south of the Border they never make mistakes but that north of the Border they do? Are we to say that south of the Border such a power would not be used arbitrarily but is likely to be used arbitrarily in Northern Ireland? I do not think so, any more than I think that an Offences Against the State Act is all right and a Special Powers Act is all wrong.
The use of internment in the Republic brings it home to us that there is no 77 border to subversion. It was in the Dail in 1966 that the Republic and the world were informed of the I.R.A. plan for an "armed stand" in the heart of Belfast and an appeal to the United Nations—a United Nations which has been known to condone subversion and revolution in the name of liberation.
Whatever is thought in this House of partition—and here to some extent I part company with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—I do not think that it is the aim of the Irish Republic to make use of what is being done in the North. I think that the Government of the Republic are very much frightened of what is happening in the North. I am certain that Mr. Lynch and the Republic are as much menaced by the I.R.A.—perhaps more so—as are Mr. Faulkner and the United Kingdom. I agree that the Border should be sealed or brought under effective control. I cannot understand why this has not happened before. I would welcome the co-operation of the Irish Republic I do not know, but I believe that there has been co-operation between the security services of the two countries.
I also believe, however, that if there is insufficient co-operation in the South. it is in large measure due to fear and not to any desire not to bring under contol forces of subversion which are determined to destroy the established order throughout the whole of Ireland and not merely in that province of Ireland which is an integral part of the United Kingdom.
I now want to ask one or two questions about security measures by the authorities of Northern Ireland and of the United Kingdom.
Many of us have been pressing for the formation of permanent elements of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Where do we stand with regard to that? The late Administration disarmed and in large measure, I believe, demoralised the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They also stood down the Ulster Special Constabulary. I have no reason to hold any brief for the "B" Specials, but whatever the criticisms one could make of that force, when the late Administration stood them down they virtually put out the eyes of public security, particularly on the Border, because, with all their faults, and all their virtues—and I believe as a Catholic that they may have had some virtues as well 78 —they were men who kept their arms at home, had complete local knowledge and at once recognised a stranger who passed from the South across the Border and back again.
Finally, I ask the Government what action is being taken to counter the psychological war being waged against us both at home and abroad. The violence and cruelty so often stigmatised as purposeless have the clear purpose of distracting us from the struggle. The other day my bank manager asked to see me. I thought it was about my overdraft but it turned out that he wanted to discuss Northern Ireland. He said, "Why should our soldiers be shot down in cold blood? Why should not these people fight it out for themselves?" What one might call this "Kilkenny solution" is widespread in the minds of the public. Why is this? It is because it is not sufficiently brought home by Ministers and Members of Parliament, by those who know, that these are in fact our people, that these are people who fought with us in the war, that these are people who made it possible for us to survive because at least we had the use of some ports in Ireland at the time of the submarine campaign against us.
It would be as well if when the Home Secretary addresses this House and when other public figures speak on Northern Ireland they were to desist in future from speaking about the "British Army" because if one speaks about the "British Army" and what the "British troops" are doing in Northern Ireland, one at once creates the atmosphere of a colonial campaign. This is not a colonial campaign. This is the defence of the Realm. This is the defence of the United Kingdom. We have not sent the British Army. The Army is acting in defence of part of the United Kingdom; and if, which God forbid but which is by no means impossible, urban guerrilla warfare spreads from Belfast to Birmingham or Liverpool we shall not then be sending the British Army as an external force to Birmingham or Liverpool. It might happen in parts of London, for all I know, in five or ten years hence or even earlier, and we shall not then talk of sending the British Army. We shall be sending our troops to defend our people without distinction of religion or ethnic origin.
79 Then there is the psychological war being waged abroad. Two days ago I was at a gathering of European politicians and bankers and other highly intelligent and usually well-informed people. They were amazed to learn some of the true facts of the situation in Northern Ireland. A retired member of the West German diplomatic service complained to me—I have not confirmed this—that he cannot take up a newspaper in his country without our troops in Northern Ireland being described as the "British occupation forces". What representations are being made by Her Majesty's missions abroad? What is being done to see that the correct facts are placed before our allies and other countries? Finally, I do not think that constitution-mongering will help very much—elaborate schemes of weightage, providing for so many jobs to be filled by Catholics and so on. I do not like dangerous talk of political solutions because those who think of political solutions are those who think of the operations of our troops as a colonial campaign.
The reforms are good; let them be applied to the full. I look forward to the day when there will be Unionist Members of Parliament of my faith sitting here and at Stormont.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I agree with the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on one point and that was when he said that it is right that we should be here. My own feeling was that as soon as a decision was taken to employ the policy of internment this House ought to have met. Internment involves a very serious decision of principle, the decision to shut people up, not for anything we can prove they have done or bring them before a court but because of the kind of people we think they are or the sort of things we think they might do. We used this instrument, but in a terrible extremity, in the last war, in the 1940s. We used it over a limited period and under very severe safeguards.
It would be quite impossible to employ the policy of internment in this island, in this part of the United Kingdom, without summoning this Parliament to pass legislation to that effect. I felt that the moment we began to apply it in Northern 80 Ireland this House would have met. Now that we have met what have we learned about it? From the Government not very much in my view. From a layman's judgment of what has actually happened affecting the security of people's lives and the lives of our troops there appears to be no grounds for supposing that the policy of internment has made the situation any easier or any more fortunate. I trust that before this debate ends tomorrow we will have a reply to the extremely pertinent questions about the working of the internment policy asked by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
When we find ourselves applying a policy to which there are grave objections in principle, a policy only to be justified in great extremity and one which, as far as we can see in the present circumstances, is not making things any better, we are obliged to ask ourselves: is not this happening because the whole premise on which this is based an impossible one? This I have thought for some time, this I suggested in the debate when the House met shortly before the recess, and I see no reason to revise that opinion.
Our troops are being placed in an increasingly impossible position. My own judgment is that they have behaved—and I think that no one questions this—with great courage. I believe, too, that they have behaved with great restraint and propriety. If there are any particular accusations to the contrary I trust that they will be investigated. Our troops are being placed in an increasingly impossible position, and I am bound to say that my sense of the impossibility of all this was strongly reinforced when I heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton. South-West (Mr. Powell).
In order to make it work what did the right hon. Gentleman propose? If we look at the list of things he proposes to make it work we become convinced at the end how impossible the whole situation is. There has to be vehicular control of frontiers. This would probably need, to make it effective, control of the coasts as well. I would be interested to know what the Ministers who would be responsible for providing the resources and manpower to make this work have to say about that proposal. There was the proposal for identity cards. As the right 81 hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) pointed out, it would mean that sooner or later we would all find ourselves carrying them.
There was the proposal that since an army is not appropriate to police duties there has to be our old friend, a new kind of Northern Ireland police force. The right hon. Gentleman did not ask the basic question: how would we be sure that such a force was one in which all the people of Northern Ireland could have confidence? The right hon. Gentleman has an attractive incisiveness of manner; such is the incisiveness of his manner that if we are not careful it convinces us that what he says makes sense.
The startling thing is that when we add up these proposals I do not believe that there is anyone in any quarter of the House who has actually had responsibility for trying to make things work, governmentally who believes that what the right hon. Gentleman suggests can be done. Perhaps in courtesy to the right lion. Gentleman the Government before the end of the debate will make their views clear on this point. I always feel when listening to the right hon. Gentleman—I am so impressed with the apparent logic of what he says—that it is like listening to an account of the effects of the whole working of the universe if we first grant the premise that the moon is made of green cheese or that a circle has four corners. Granted these extraordinary premises, it all follows with the most dazzling logic. He has shown us that to make the situation work we need to do a series of things which I do not believe any responsible person believes can be done. I am therefore reinforced in my conclusion that we are faced with a situation that is in the end impossible.
If it is to be sorted out we have to accept, scandalising as it may be to many people, the proposition that the whole island of Ireland has to be a single republic in the closest and most friendly relationship with Great Britain, as we could have had 50 years ago by offer from President de Valera if we had taken it up. When I say this I know that I shall be told two things. The first is that I have no idea of what people in the North think and how totally impossible this is. I dare say, but the history of Anglo-Irish relations is littered with occasions when people have been told that a solution was 82 impossible and 20 or 30 years later others have had to go back and pick up what had previously been called impossible solutions and endeavour to make them work in circumstances far less favourable than might have existed earlier.
The second thing that I shall be told is that I am siding with the terrorists. I do not think that any on the Government Front Bench will use that argument because they have enough experience of how often it has been used. Far back at the beginning of this century anyone who questioned the wisdom of waging the Boer War was told that he was pro-Boer. In the 1920s anyone who suggested that it might be a good thing to give home rule even to Southern Ireland was told that he was a friend of the terrorists, while more recently anyone who suggested that some day Cyprus would be an independent country was told that he was a friend of the terrorists. I share fully the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Raymond Fletcher) in condemning the use of the methods of terrorism and violence for any cause whatever. What I do say is that internment, the impossible position of our troops and the employment of terrorist methods arise from the fact that we are trying to maintain a connection which cannot be maintained.
What does that connection mean on both sides of the Irish Sea? On the Irish side, it means an irreconcilable situation in Northern Ireland. We can talk until we are black in the face about the latest proposals for this, that or the other method of conciliation or of repression. I do not believe that they will work. Some of them will be useful on the way if it is accepted that the objective must be a united Ireland.
What does the present situation mean on this side of the Irish Sea? The hon. Member for Chigwell was greatly concerned to make the point that the people of Northern Ireland were, as he put it, "our people". I can well accept that of the ordinary folk of Northern Ireland. But I ask him to consider something he may not have considered before. What does somebody like myself, a Labour Member of Parliament representing British working class people, think of the Northern Ireland representatives we have had in our Parliament over the years? We have only eight Ulster Unionists in 83 the House now. In the past we had 12 or 13 who could always be relied on to vote, without any regard for the merits of the issue and often without any knowledge of it, for any reactionary measure on rents, education or social services to the disadvantage of working people in this country. They had no knowledge or understanding of and no sympathy or regard for the people whom I and many of my hon. Friends represented. Therefore, when we are asked to consider this question of the union, some hon. Members must realise that this is how we have seen the situation for a good many years.
For these and other reasons, we must think in terms of a united Ireland, whether we like it or not. It need not be a disaster for those in the North who at first dislike it—most of them Protestants, some of them Catholics. But Protestants are a tiny minority in the Republic. In a united Ireland, they would be a very substantial minority and would be in a position to secure their rights. The sooner they accept that this will happen, the better bargain they will be able to make.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The right hon. Gentleman was a senior and distinguished member of the Labour Government which drafted the Downing Street Declaration with the Stormont Government. Is he saying that the promises which he, as a member of that Government, gave arc worth nothing, even though the Stormont Government fulfilled and are fulfilling their pledges? Is the basis of his argument against the link between Ulster and this country merely that the Ulster Unionists have on occasions in the past—and I did not agree with everything done in the past—objected to and voted against Labour legislation? Is that the right way to approach such a serious situation as this, when lives are at stake?
§ Mr. Stewart
I certainly did not advance as a reason for what I said solely the behaviour of Ulster Unionists in this House. What I do say is that it is a factor which has been gravely underestimated and has never been understood properly by right hon. and hon. Members opposite, and it is time that they began to think about it.
84 What has happened since the British Government took over in 1969 responsibility, through the British Army, for maintaining order in Northern Ireland and since the Declaration to which the hon. Gentleman has just referred was made? It has been totally impossible to achieve reconciliation. Some aggressive, violent comments have been made by certain hon. Members, and it has been demonstrated since that Declaration was made that the policy of reconciliation which we hoped would spring from the steps which we took in 1969 will not work. We must therefore consider what will work in future.
If people in the North merely say blindly, "This will not work; we reject it; we will not have anything to do with it"—and I know the kind of things that some of them say from letters which I have received since I last spoke on this subject in the House—there is no future in this. But there is a future in considering the part which they could play and the position which they could occupy in a united Ireland. Immense responsibility will rest on the Republic of Ireland as it is now constituted to make it clear that it is capable of being a State in which people of different traditions and different religious beliefs and a history which is in part shared and in part bitterly divided can live together.
A great responsibility will rest on the Catholic Church, to which the great majority, although by no means the overwhelming majority, of people in a united Ireland would belong, to make it clear to its followers the degree of tolerance and patience which they must show if the concept of a united Ireland is to work. I say this strongly and out of a deep conviction. I know very well all the objections which will be raised to it, but I say it in the deep belief that after all those objections have been made and the policy which I am advocating has been rejected, 10 or 20 years later and goodness knows how many lives later this policy inevitably will have to be accepted. The sooner we realise that, the more fortunate will be the circumstances in which it can be brought about.
§ Mr. Speaker
In nearly four hours' debate we have had eight speeches. I have a very long list of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to speak. I 85 hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
Were it not for the seriousness of the situation in Northern Ireland, I could treat the remarks which have been made in the House today as laughable. I believe that the Celtic character which I and many people who practise in the courts know about has taken over the minds of people who should possess a great deal of common sense.
Ireland has a great story teller tradition. From pre-Christian times, these were respected people who used to travel round the country creating images out of shadows and great events out of non-existent occasions. The story teller survived St. Patrick; he survived compulsory education. Today, the news media and television have given him a new lease of life because the Republican stories from Ulster fit in so neatly between pornography and crime on the television.
It is sad to think that the news media have always given the Republican case but have failed to give the Ulster Unionist case—the case of the law-abiding majority, which contains Roman Catholics. The news media prefer to insult the majority who have shown the greatest possible restraint and forbearance during the past 12 months.
I am conscious of your remark, Mr. Speaker, about the limitation of time, but there are one or two things that I should like to say. When I practised at the Bar in this country, I was aware, as I am sure that every member of the Bar is aware, that whenever a citizen of the Irish Republic appeared as a defendant in a case, one was bound to receive a most outlandish explanation of his innocence. The trouble is that juries, hearing a wildly prefabricated story, sometimes have a doubt created in their minds. They cannot comprehend that anyone could brazenly concoct such an improbable story expecting it to be believed and, therefore, it must be true.
I could quote numerous examples. That is what is happening today. All sorts of wild accusations are accepted as the truth. For instance, we had a case in Londonderry only a few weeks ago of a young boy of 14 who had been throwing stones at the soldiers. He was 86 caught and placed in an Army vehicle. A television crew immediately arrived. They interviewed the angry and hysterical crowd, which grew larger and larger as news of the incident spread around the Bogside. That hostile crowd surrounded the Army vehicle and insulted and taunted the soldiers who were trying to maintain the peace.
The television commentator, who in this instance was a very sensible man, interviewed people in the crowd. They described how the poor little boy had been beaten up and how his head had been split open and the blood was pouring down his face. It seemed that the people of Bogside were eager to get these gruesome details over television to the British people and to the world. They were giving the gruesome details with apparent truthfulness, so much so that they must be believed.
The television commentator, however, waited beside the Army vehicle and shortly afterwards the boy was released. Was he carried out on a stretcher? Was he half dead? No. Had his head been split open? Did he have a single mark or injury? Not one. The boy's only complaint was that when he was being detained, the soldier had twisted his arm behind his back and in that particular arm he had suffered polio. The soldier who arrested him could not have known that the boy had had polio in the arm. Certainly, at the time he was arrested, the arm was quite capable of flinging stones at the British soldiers.
No lie is too big if it discomforts the law-abiding majority of Ulster people and the democratically elected Government of Northern Ireland. No accusation is too false as long as it serves its base purpose. The cold-blooded murder of British soldiers, police and civilians and the mutiliation, fear and intimidation, even of their own co-religionists, are all weapons in the hands of the Republican terrorists. In the eyes of those Republicans, every death and every allegation is a stepping-stone towards their goal of a united Ireland.
The situation in Northern Ireland is so serious that the Roman Catholic Primate made an announcement, which was read out by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. In it, he said that 1 million Protestants could not be bombed into submission to an all-Ireland Republic.
87 He rightly condemned the violence because he knows the terrible consequences if civil war should ungulf us all.
The Cardinal's condemnation has not, however, found acceptance among all his clergy. I shall quote only one example. I wish to refer to the brother of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), Father McManus, who appeared in court in County Fermanagh a short time ago. He is a member of the Redemptorist Order, and he issued a statement. It was not something that he said in the heat of the moment but was a statement carefully prepared for the people of Ireland.
In that statement—I can read only parts of it briefly—he stated his position in respect of the Irish Republican Army. He said:I want to state publicly and unequivocally that I am in sympathy with the I.R.A.—indeed, 'sympathy' is too weak a word … I cannot join them "—the patriots—in the fight for freedom of my country, but the very least I can do is speak up for them when they are being slandered and vilified by unscrupulously vicious propaganda. The oppressors of Irish freedom"—I presume that by the word "oppressors" he referred to the Westminster Government, this Parliament, the British Forces and Stormont—call the I.R.A. terrorists and murderers, but I call them by their proper titles; I call them freedom fighters. I call them heroes; and I venerate their dead as martyrs for Ireland. And I know that any true Irishman—or indeed any (informed) honest and fair-minded—thinks and feels the same way.… I abhor the deceit and hypocrisy that condemns these men and women who are sacrificing their lives for the freedom of Ireland.The author of that gospel of hate approves the murderous campaign of the I.R.A., including the callous and cruel slaughter of the three young Scottish soldiers who were lured to a lonely hillside outside Belfast. I do not know what the Scottish parishioners of St. Mary's Church, in Perth, to which Father McManus is attached, make of that doctrine, but it ought to illuminate for this House and the people of this country the dark inner recesses of the Celtic mind where Ireland is concerned. It clearly indicates that their goal is a united Ireland and that any foul means to that 88 end is justifiable, including the destruction of the law-abiding majority.
I do not, however, believe that Father McManus represents all Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. I do not think that what he says is typical of Roman Catholic opinion, in spite of the irresponsibility of the Republican representatives at Stormont in withdrawing from that Parliament and organising disobedience on a wide scale.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is present. I believe that if he had been in Northern Ireland when the decision was made that the S.D.L.P. should withdraw from the Stormont Parliament, he would have prevented it. I give him credit for that. There are some Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland who still play their full part in public life despite the civil disobedience campaign.
In my constituency of North Down, the leading article of one of our local newspapers, the Down Spectator welcomed the courageous stand and the courageous speech made by a Roman Catholic councillor who had publicly dissociated himself from the civil disobedience campaign.
All over the country, the Republican Members of Parliament have called on the minority to withhold rates and rents and not to serve on public bodies. Every courageous stand usually involves some sacrifices. However, the civil disobedience campaign is not of that order. It involves gain for those taking part; the rent and rate payers will gain financially because the organisers state that the arrears of rent and rates will never be paid. It is a case, as always in Ireland, of having one's cake and eating it.
There was the famous declaration made in Dublin by one of the Ministers of that friendly State—that being the description applied to it by the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart)—who declared,We will hurt the English in their pride and in their pocket.He made that statement in the Republic in about 1947.
Although those people—at the dictates of the S.D.L.P.—will not pay their rent and rates, none the less they will accept British Social Security money. Mr. Currie, who is a member of that party, held a public meeting in Coalisland on 89 16th August, and the "responsible" advice which he gave to the minority in their relations with the Stormont and Westminster Governments was this:Take every bloody penny that you can get your hands on. Take your supplementary benefits, your sickness benefits, your family allowance benefits, your unemployment benefits, and you take twice as much as you can bloody well get your hands on.That was the "responsible" advice of a member of the S.D.L.P. which clamours to play a part in Ulster life. I say that it is not giving a lead to the minority in Northern Ireland. It was a nauseating speech, a revolting speech, for any Member of Parliament to make, and that is the sort of provocative speech which has built up a deep and smouldering resentment among the loyal majority of people in Northern Ireland. Of course, this campaign unfortunately supplements the work of the Irish Republican Army.
We have heard in this House, and we have heard on television and read in the Press, so much about the minority—and I am as much concerned about them and their position as is any other Member of this House—but is it possible for this House really to comprehend the atmosphere there, the fears and the feelings of the majority in Northern Ireland, and what it is like there when every night brings fresh terror, but the daylight brings no respite? Blasted by bombs, torn apart by bullets, a state of war exists in Northern Ireland. In the last war the news media were used to bolster the morale of the British people. Far from sustaining and encouraging the patience and forbearance of the Ulster people—and they have been truly remarkable—the news media, particularly television, rub salt into their wounds and drive them steadily to breaking point. Of course, the effect on the morale and temper of the Army is incalculable.
I want just to put three instances to try to bring to the minds of hon. Members the atmosphere in Northern Ireland. There was the bomb scare at the electricity headquarters in Belfast. It was deliberately meant to bring the office staff within reach of the explosions. When that explosion occurred hundreds of young girls ran wildly around, badly injured, some mutilated for life; and a young man, one of my constituents, was killed. Shortly afterwards, bombs were exploded in the busy streets of Belfast 90 during the daytime, and we saw and heard on television a man lying screaming on the footpath, and women full of anguish and fear.
That is what the people of Belfast and of Northern Ireland are putting up with—with great courage and forbearance; and certainly the Leader of the Opposition at that Box should have given them some credit for that and given them some encouragement. As has been mentioned in this House, bombs have been placed in women's lavatories. Republican terrorists have telephoned Protestant schools warning them that a bomb has been planted. The young daughter of one of my constituents came home distraught from school after such an incident and her nightmare was something which her parents would prefer to forget.
Then there is the case of an old woman I visited who lives near the Ardoyne. She is elderly and widowed and lives in a little house, spick and span. She lost her husband and her two sons fighting beside English and Scots and Welsh soldiers against tyranny and for freedom from fear. Today she is defenceless. As I talked to her she burst into tears frequently. She is living now without the means of defence which she should have.
I have the greatest admiration for the British Army, for the officers and soldiers. The right hon. Member for Fulham said that the Army should be withdrawn and that it is has been put in an impossible position. The Army in Northern Ireland is in an impossible position. I have talked to young soldiers and talked to officers and what they told me was not what I have heard from the benches of hon. Members across the way. In fact, one young soldier, who came from a Labour constituency, who did not vote in the last election, told me that his family had voted for the Labour Party all their lives because it worked for them unlike the Tories; but he told me that after what his Member of Parliament and the Labour Party are doing to the Army when they are facing the enemy, none of his family would ever vote for the Labour Party again.
They are in a difficult position. They see some hon. Members opposite—I mean only some hon. Members opposite: I know there are hon. Members 91 on the Labour benches who support Northern Ireland—they see some hon. Members of the Labour Party who are anxiously trying to get the Republican vote in England and they regard it as mischievous. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] I see the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the debate for the Opposition laughing, and I think that he, perhaps, may have some Irish constituents, too. But the soldiers feel very angry, and they feel strongly that whenever a sniper fires at them they should have orders to go into the area where the sniper is and search it. In the Ardoyne, four young soldiers were killed within six weeks. That is a hostile area and yet the soldiers cannot harass the gunmen as they ought to be harassed.
I want to close by referring to the future, because we ought to dwell on the future as much as the present. The Stormont Government announced that a consultative document would be published about ways of making useful changes in the Stormont Parliament. Over a year ago I made a speech asking for the size of Stormont and of the Senate to be increased. I suggested that the Senate, which, to my mind, at the moment is certainly far from useful—I do not want to put it in any worse light than that at the present time—might be improved if the senators were elected by the direct vote of the people, three senators from each Westminster constituency.
I welcome this opportunity which the Ulster people will have of seeing what can be done to improve the House of Commons and the Senate of Northern Ireland. All this is for the good of Ulster, for Protestant and Roman Catholic alike. Since the local government reform there has been a reduction in the number of elected representatives. It is therefore vital to increase the size of the House of Commons, because that is to where the power has shifted.
Protestants are attacked in Northern Ireland. Yet, all that they want is a life which is peaceful, prosperous and decent. They want it not only for themselves, but for their Roman Catholic fellow citizens as well.—[An HON. MEMBER: "Not true."]—The hon. Gentleman shouts "Not true". Little does he know 92 of the opinions of the Ulster people, because he is prejudiced in his approach to them.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Fulham should so easily dismiss the pledges given by the Labour Government in the Downing Street Declaration.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
—the then Labour Government made certain solemn pledges. The right hon. Member for Fulham has said that all those pledges can be dismissed and that we must have a united Ireland. If this is the attitude of such a responsible and distinguished member of the Labour Party, what faith can the people of Northern Ireland have in any pledge given in this House of Commons in the future?
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
We have been countenanced by the television media, which has been so vilified by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), that a wise Minister in the Stormont Government said that we should be careful what we say in this House in the next 48 hours because we might possibly be treading on the lives and security of the Irish people. We have just heard a bitter extreme speech, which would have been better made somewhere else, not in this House today. I have no intention of emulating the example set by the hon. Member for Down, North.
In the context of what has been said here today I might say that this is not the first trouble that Ireland has had. I suppose that I am standing here because of the tremendous poverty, trouble and famines of 135 years ago.
As an Irish Catholic and as a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, which indeed makes me a Catholic, I take the strongest objection to those who talk about Catholics in the context of those three young Scottish soldiers who were killed. The hon. Member for Down, North was in the House when I made a speech on Northern 93 Ireland in April. He must have been in the House, because he is mentioned in my speech. On this matter about the three Scottish soldiers who had been killed, I said:I do not know who killed those soldiers but whoever it was, may God forgive them, because I know of nothing that could have set back so far the cause of peace in Northern Ireland as the dastardly killing of these three young immature Scottish soldiers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th April, 1971; Vol. 815, c. 296.]As someone who has an affiliation with the whole of Ireland, both North and South, and who has served his country here, as has my family, I take strong objection to some of the things which are being imputed to the Catholic people of both Ireland and this country. The hon. Member for Down, North knows perfectly well that real responsible opinion, not the opinion of one Roman Catholic priest—God knows, they have had plenty with which to put up—but the whole of the hierarchy of Northern Ireland, including Cardinal Conway, has condemned utterly and completely the violence which has been and is taking place. The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic has repeatedly condemned that same violence. Indeed, who in his senses could pay any testimony to the dastardly deeds which have been perpetrated by many of these people?
Some of us have had Army experience. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out what a dastardly crime it was to place a bomb against a brick wall for sappers to come along and dismantle and to be shot down by the cowardly people who shot those three young soldiers. I do not think that by any stretch of imagination, for whatever cause, the murder of anyone in Northern Ireland can be justified.
I want to be careful about the type of speech which I am making. I do not want to inflame anybody. My family and I have lived in this sort of atmosphere for 150 years. The position is not hopeless. This atmosphere of hopelessness which has pervaded this debate and has continued in Ireland for so long is not as hopeless as would appear. Many of us have lived through it. Not only have we lived through this kind of situation in which violence has been used, but many of our families were deprived because we were Catholics. The 94 hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) knows, as does Mr. Speaker with his long experience and knowledge of Merseyside, that there was a time in Liverpool's history when, if a job became vacant, the notice on the dock road stated that no Irish or Catholics need apply We lived in the ghettos and put up with the poverty, but eventually we found our way into the House of Commons, into the council chambers of this country, and into the professions. I say to people who love their country, as I love mine, that it can be done, that it can be done well, and without a gun.
I say to the people in Northern Ireland and in the South who constantly say that the use of the gun is the only way that it can be done—there are people in responsible positions in Ireland who should know better—that it worked before and that it will work again. The people who support the violence are, as Cardinal Conway said, setting back not only the cause of Northern Ireland but the cause of the whole of Ireland and its peace and progress.
I object to the fact that the British Army is put in an impossible position. I might agree with the hon. Member for Down, North in this respect. Sometimes I feel that the politicians are putting it into an impossible position. It would be a dreadful thing if we were using the military initiative of British troops to save pressures on an inadequate political party or Government in this country.
Every time we open our mouths we can put the life of one of our soldiers in jeopardy. If I have any influence with my Catholic confreres in Ireland I want to make it clear to them above all other things that we are not talking about the Black and Tans, although that description is applied all too often. We are talking about the British Army. No other Army in the world could do the job which the British Army is at present called on to do.
Those in the North of Ireland must surely understand the difficulties that our troops are in. This is not the Britain of 50 years ago. The Irish people can come to these islands and work here in dignity. They do not just draw social benefit. They man our hospitals, build our docks, and make a massive contribution to the whole country. Let them be praised for it. This is a country which welcomes 95 them. It is not a country which wants to deny them their freedom. It wants to see their freedom increased.
Everybody knows that the Border is an issue and always will be an issue. Is it an issue about which people must blow each other up? Are there not greater problems in the world? The trouble is not how to get rid of the Border. How stupid can these people be? One could get rid of the Border one morning and there would be more trouble in Ireland the next day than there had been before, and people should realise that.
It is essential to unify people. What is the sense in someone claiming to be a Christian when he cannot in any circumstances try to live with his neighbour but must resort to what is being resorted to in Northern Ireland?
Not for 50 years but for 150 years, to the knowledge of my family, there has been tremendous discrimination against the Catholic minority in the North of Ireland. Whether it has been based on fear, on hatred, or on bitterness, the plain fact is that it has been there. I sometimes wonder whether the people have nothing in common. Have the people in Shankill Road and Falls Road nothing in common?
In my constituency we found what we had in common. The Protestant, the Orangeman, the Catholic, the Jew, the Non-er, found what we had in common and we dropped this nonsense of hating each other. We joined trade unions and political parties. We got rid of the slums and the poverty.
I believe that this is the way ahead. These are not hopeless words. It can be done and it has been done. Things were difficult on Merseyside and in Glasgow. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is not in his place. However, hon. Members representing Liverpool constituencies are here and they know as well as I do that in Liverpool we had men like the hon. Member for Antrim, North. We had the Rev. Dr. Longbottom, the Rev. George Wise, and the Rev. Kensit. They would make the reverend and hon. doctor from Antrim, North look like a selling plater, if I may use a sporting term: he would not be in the same class.
96 Eventually we became so tolerant on Merseyside that we made the Rev. H. D. Longbottom Lord Mayor of Liverpool. The bitterness has gone. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said in his last speech on the question of Northern Ireland, the only raucous voices heard there today—they have no religious significance—are at the football grounds of Liverpool and Everton. Even though there has been all this injustice and discrimination in Northern Ireland, are the people there to go on in the same way for ever and a day just because it happened yesterday?
We represent the will and the mind of the people of the United Kingdom. It is important that the Irish people as a whole learn what we are thinking. We wish them no harm. We want peace, and we hope that peace will lead to unity. That is the only expression of will that we hear in this country. The anxiety we hear is about the fact that our troops are placed in this awful situation.
The Government are trying to play down the argument about guns. One hundred and six thousand guns of any kind are too many. If there were 106,000 guns on Merseyside, no matter what type of guns they were, I should be a very frightened man; and Merseyside is bigger than the North of Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has told me that one licence can cover six guns. We are talking only about licensed guns. What about all the unlicensed guns? The Government will have to take action. They will have to stop raiding one section for guns and not the other. They will have to try to be as impartial as they say they are.
I have said sufficient. There is much that could be said, and much more will be said. I support what was said earlier by my right hon. Friend. A new approach is needed. We must keep saying to people in Northern Ireland, "You are not in a hopeless mire. You can get out of it. Others have got out of it before you".
It has been said today that some of these people served in the Army. It was not only the Protestant people who served in the Army. The hon. Member for Garston was a member of the Territorial Army on Merseyside. If he had implied to the troops under his command 97 that they were either this or that he would have been laughed out of his regiment- We all served our country. We did the best we could. If one wants to boast about it, most of the generals in the British Army were Irishmen. We had our own percentage of V.C.s. We all got along very well together.
Something has gone wrong. The Government have lost opportunities in the last two years. The initiative that was gained by the presence of the troops in 1969 has not been followed up. I was one of the first Members to ask for the presence of the British Army in Ireland in August 1969. Everyone knows what by beliefs are and the ideals for which I stand.
Having supported the sending of the British Army to Northern Ireland, I want our people who are in the British Army to have a reasonable chance wherever they go. I want to stand with them as a man who was once a soldier and say to them, "I have sent you there. You will have the support of the House of Commons—a united House of Commons, including myself".
I make this appeal once again, as I have so often, to the Catholic people of Northern Ireland. The terrorising, the bombing and the indiscriminate murder do not constitute the way ahead. If they want to see the way ahead it is there and, if they look for it, the light is shining very bright for them if they will only follow it.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am pleased to speak following the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) because we both come from the same area of Merseyside. He is a well-known Catholic and I am a Protestant. As a Protestant and Sassenach, I had the honour of becoming Honorary Colonel of the Liverpool Irish.
I listened with great interest to what the hon. Gentleman said about past discrimination. I have a Catholic president of my association and a Catholic ex-chairman. That would have been impossible before the war in any Conservative constituency on the periphery of Liverpool. This is why what has happened on Merseyside is something which Ulster should consider.
98 Had what is now happening in Ulster happened in the 'thirties, there might have been bloodshed on Merseyside. Yet the Liverpool Daily Post, one of the few national newspapers to be published today, speaks of 500 Protestant refugees, women and children, from Belfast having found a "haven of peace" in Liverpool. Liverpool and Bootle have something to offer, therefore, but before coming to the detail of this I wish to tell hon. Members about an invitation which I was happy to accept some time ago.
Just under two years ago I was invited by the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland to go to that country and see the problems for myself. While there I stayed with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) and I am grateful to him and my hon. Friends in Northern Ireland for enabling me to see the appalling problems in that country.
I was privileged to go to Bogside at a time when neither my hon. Friends nor the Army were able to go there and I went to Nogo Land in Belfast, where I had a long talk with Father Murphy. I also saw the then Commander-in-Chief and others in authority and I returned to Britain much depressed by what I had seen. I was even more depressed by some of the ideas to which I had listened, and I was therefore full of foreboding. Nothing that has happened since has surprised me.
Before coming to the details of the possible lessons which Northern Ireland can learn from Merseyside there are some broader questions which should be asked. For example, why do some people think that just because two races live on an island, they should be under one government? The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) referred to this. One might as well argue that the Dominican Republic must be governed by Haiti, or vice versa, or, because Spain dominated the Iberian Peninsular, it should govern Portugal. The hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) will recall that at the many Inter-Parliamentary Union conferences that he and I attended in the 'fifties and early 'sixties, there were at least two M.P.s from the Dail speaking of the necessity to do away with the Border. At the time, the Cyprus problem had not developed into warfare. It must be obvious to all that the Northern Irish, 99 many of whom came centuries ago from the lowlands of Scotland, would not succumb to what they regard as an alien Government. In the same way, I doubt whether direct rule from Westminster would me easy, such would be the civil non-action of those who support the Stormont Government and on whose work much of the administration and social services depend.
There are, however, certain steps that could be taken to lessen the problem. I do not expect my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South to agree, but I understand that at the time of partition it was proposed that a Boundary Commission should consider a rectification of the frontier on both sides of the Border. There was a leak and it was thought better to compromise with a package deal. It was a question of six counties or none. The Border has since remained as it was at the time of partition.
I have never seen a map drawn, polling district by polling district, as to what people would opt for were they to be given the chance of deciding whether they would like to live either under the Government of Eire or Stormont. Why should they not be asked? Why should not an international observer team ensure that the dead did not vote and the living not vote more than once—a habit the Irish seem to enjoy even abroad, though I have never understood why they should have a vote on how the British should govern themselves almost immediately they arrive here!
I am not in favour of a referendum in a united country, but I believe there is much to be said for showing the world in detail what each small section of the Northern Irish want. From the ensuing map it should be possible to excise what some might consider to be at least part of a cancer in the body politic of Ulster.
However odd the new frontier might look—however much it might resemble that betwen Israel and Jordan before the Six-Day War—if only a few polling districts were to opt for government by Dublin, what a triumph that would be for Stormont. But whatever were to happen, I accept what the hon. Member for Bootle said about there remaining pockets inside Protestant British Ulster 100 which, even with incentives to move the population or in some other way to lessen them in size, would and must remain inside Protestant Ulster. This is all the more reason why they must be treated as equal citizens, and despite all that has been done to meet their wishes in the last two years—to do away with the gerrymandering and selectivity of the past by committee, P.R. and particularly by mixing up housing estates; the reverse of what is happening today—I believe that we should try to get sanity to replace bigotry.
Knowledge of what has happened in the last couple of years in Northern Ireland should be made more widely known. This was brought home to me not long ago when I was in the Baltic. I found in the Scandinavian States that they were unaware of the advances that had been made towards equality in Northern Ireland.
We in Liverpool have been lucky, thanks to Hitler's blitz, the common sense of successive archbishops and bishops of Liverpool and our housing programme, which takes no account of what is the religion of any applicant for a house, to do away with the Protestant-Catholic battles of the past.
In the old days a highly populated and Protestant St. Domingo or Netherfield Ward lived on a hill overlooking even more highly populated Catholic wards. Now most of the erstwhile inhabitants of hill and valley have gone to the periphery of Liverpool or to new towns such as Kirkby, Runcorn or Skelmersdale. There they are mixed up together and live in peace.
When I talked to Father Murphy he spoke about renewing housing, but said that his flock must remain together. I have received similar answers from Protestant leaders. And so religious ghettos are perpetuated.
It is a relief to know that the emnity in some areas has not spread to the work bench. Ulster has already lost too many jobs because of civil disorder, and I fear that unless some compromise is reached many more will be lost. This is, of course, what some people want. They want to use certain Catholics and others as tools to bring down the fabric of society not only of Northern Ireland but of the country as a whole. The gunmen are using many innocent people to their own ends.
101 I make a plea for some compromise to lessen the problem, in the hope that when Britain and Eire are two new partners in the enlarged Common Market the Border will become much less important.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
We have just listened to a very reasonable and, if I may say so, humanitarian speech from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney), and in a sense, therefore, I think not perhaps as useful—and I hope that the hon. Member will not misunderstand me—in this debate as it might have been. In a curious, perverse sort of way I thought that one of the most useful speeches was that of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), because it brought into the House a little of the depth of feeling of bigotry and prejudice which has so permeated this whole dispute.
I have felt that a number of the speeches we have heard today have been based on the British tradition of rationality. We all believe that there should be a solution to problems; that if men will only sit together, argue and talk, above all in this House, goodwill will prevail and a solution will emerge. What worries me is that in the Northern Ireland situation we may have a problem to which there is no solution. I know that that is a frightful thing to say; no one would like to contemplate it, but there are problems which go on and on because people can find no solution. I am worried lest the depth of feeling, of prejudice, in the two communities in Northern Ireland has reached such a pitch that it will be very hard to build any bridge between them.
Let us be quite clear what the British Government have been trying to do in Northern Ireland, and this applies to the last Labour Government and to the present Conservative Government alike. The policy they have followed has been consistent. They have said, "We must convince the minority in Northern Ireland that it can live under a Government elected by the whole of the people in Northern Ireland in a spirit of fair play and justice; that a Government properly elected in Northern Ireland can at least earn the acquiescence of all the inhabitants there."
In order to achieve this objective, first the Labour Government and then the 102 Conservative Government brought in a reform programme. They pushed the Unionist Administrations in Northern Ireland—some members may have needed pushing, some may not; I do not pursue the point. There are many moderate men in the Unionist Party as well as extremists. The British Government insisted on a reform programme designed to convince the minority that they could live without discrimination under a Unionist Government which was substantially fair.
That has been the policy, but we have been too slow tonight in this debate to recognise that up to now it has failed. It has gone from one failure to another, though not in terms of the implementation of the reform programme—that has been introduced and carried through bit by bit. We have had a White Paper from the Government of Northern Ireland telling us of the bits that have been put into practice. But the policy has failed in the sense that the two communities are wider apart now than they were two years ago, so that introducing and pushing through the reform programme has not achieved its objective in this sense.
So we are here today in this recalled House to consider what the Government can do and what Britain can do to get the idea behind that programme going again, that is of trying to get the two communities closer together so that there is a possible future in which they will live together in reasonable peace and amity.
Let us look at the proposals which could be put or which have been put before the House to achieve this objective. We have a series of proposals put to us by the Home Secretary, based on getting political leaders to meet round the conference table. The right hon. Gentleman continually said: "Let us discuss. Let us have talks." But I have to ask: "What good will those talks do?" I can see some point in talks between Mr. Lynch, Mr. Faulkner and the British Government. They will help Mr. Lynch if he gets certain reform concessions for the minority out of Mr. Faulkner. They will help Mr. Faulkner if Mr. Lynch says that he will try to close the Border and crack down on the I.R.A. in the Republic of Ireland. I can see that both these political figures could 103 get something out of the talks for themselves but I do not see any evidence of anything which could ease the position on the ground in Belfast and Londonderry.
If there is a second round of talks between party leaders, can they guarantee results. Suppose the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and other leaders all shake hands tomorrow round the conference table, will one gunman put away his gun in Belfast? I hope so, but I do not see any evidence that these men can deliver in the sense that they can call it all off. So I am entitled to ask of the Home Secretary: "With all the talks, what evidence is there that they will produce the result you want, and if they do not, where do you go then?".
That is the problem. Hon. Members will go back on holiday tomorrow night and meanwhile I suspect that things will go on much the same in Ulster; that despite the talks, the slow progression towards civil war will continue.
What alternatives have been offered from other sources in the House? One alternative is put forward by certain elements in the majority side in Northern Ireland. In a sense I thought that they were hinted at in what I thought was the most moderate and impressive speech made by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). But his position was basically the majority position that before the two communities can be brought together, it is necessary to root out all violent elements, and I presume he means ending the present situation by force. And there are some in the North who are saying: "Let us clean this up; let us go in with all our guns firing'—I do not say that anyone here advocates that solution but it could be tried, were we a more ruthless community. But it would fail. There is no evidence to show that a small minority supported by a sympathetic surrounding population cannot maintain the present level of terrorism indefinitely. Indeed, if the present internment episode proves anything it is that this is just what will happen. So there is no chance of ending this by sheer force.
Secondly, there is the solution advocated, not in this House but by some commentators in the Press, that the 104 British should pull out; that we should give independence to Ulster. Let us be clear what that means. It means in practice precisely the same as a forced solution. It means leaving it to the majority to bash the minority into submission, because if there was a desire to proceed by reconciliation, this could be done now without giving Ulster independence. So I see no way forward in the idea that we can wash our hands of the matter and leave the majority to deal with the minority, so that there would be no further responsibility for Britain.
There is a third proposal, put eloquently by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart). He said that the ultimate solution must be an all-Irish union. What I want to ask him—and I am sorry that he is not here—is: how does he think he will enforce this? How will he do it? In the first place, the million Protestants in the North are not all that outnumbered by the 2½ million Catholics in the South—certainly not in terms of determination. We saw what happened in 1912 and in 1920, when the million Protestants in the North were determined to fight it out, rather than be united with the South. On this evidence it is, if I may say so, a rather impracticable alternative to suggest. Apart from that, any visitor to Dublin will appreciate that most people in the South do not really want to try and absorb those one million Ulster Protestants. The last thing they want to see is the hon. Member for Antrim, North pottering about the Dail. The last thing they want is this tough embattled group of Protestants in a peaceful backward Southern Ireland. So there is no solution there: it would have to be pushed through by this country by force before it could operate.
If, my right hon. Friend had said, as did the hon. Member for Wavertree, that in time Britain, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would all join the Common Market and then, given that we can solve the Northern Irish problem internally, it might be possible to move to a position not of a reunified Ireland but of a reunification of the North and the Republic of Ireland together with the United Kingdom within the Common Market—but that is a long way ahead.
What other solutions are possible? Another solution is a further partition of 105 Northern Ireland, but the difficulty is that the minority do not live in one place. They do not live on the Border but are scattered throughout the area, and to give the Border majority Catholic areas to Ireland and undertake some massive repatriation and buying-out process would be an act of fantastic cruelty to people whose businesses and homes have been established in the North for generations. It would be an act which would revolt people in this country. It would be an act of great harshness, and would be justified only if no possibility other than civil war loomed ahead.
So we come back to the problem as it stands now. It looks like a problem with very little in the way of a solution. We have to choose between the sort of solution of talks, hoping that the present situation will somehow take a turn for the better, and something like the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He made a series of proposals in the Press and has mentioned them again today. I was worried about one aspect of his proposals. I would suggest a variant which goes one stage further.
We have to analyse the question why the reform programme has not had the effect of reconciling the two communities and drawing them closer together. The reason is not the items in the programme such as an Ombudsman, one-man-one-vote in local government, and abolishing the B Specials. These are important issues, but one cannot imagine that, done one by one or altogether, put through in a package, this programme would suddenly produce a new confidence in the minority. The present degree of suspicion goes beyond that. Why has it done so? It has gone beyond it because no reform programme carried out now by the present Unionist Government in Northern Ireland will ever win the confidence of the minority because the programme will be carried out by the people that the minority, perhaps wrongly, have learned to fear and suspect, whom they have associated with Protestant domination.
We have only to consider the speech of the hon. Member for Down, North and to twist every word the opposite way to have the Catholic response—equal suspicion, fear, detestation and worry. So we have to ask, how does one bridge this gulf? One does not bridge it with the reform policies 106 put forward by Mr. Faulkner or whoever happens to be the Unionist Prime Minister at that time. That is not to suggest that these individuals are ill-meaning or unsatisfactory but to suggest that the history of the party that they lead with its extremist backlash is such that the Catholic community will never, as of now, learn to trust them.
I believe we should abolish the Stormont régime and institute direct rule from this country. This should have been done two years ago when we first sent in the Army. When we first moved in we should have taken direct responsibility for Northern Ireland into the hands of the then British Government. I advocated that in the Press two years ago and again a year ago. Without this gesture we shall not bridge this gulf of confidence between the majority and the minority and convince the latter that fair dealing is being brought in.
For evidence to support this view, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made a strong case when he said that although he respected the people who have led the Northern Ireland Government in terms of personal courage and, in many cases, their integrity, nevertheless they have been pushed, from one Government to the next, by their extremists. I share the respect of the hon. Member for Londonderry for the personal braver)' of the people who have led the Northern Ireland Government. But my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that internment was a quid pro quo for the manning of The Apprentice Boys' march. How can we expect a Government being forced to act in this way by its Orange extremist element to put forward a reform programme which will win the confidence of the minority? We need a dramatic step which will show the minority in Northern Ireland that the British Government will not treat them merely as a submerged third of the population but as a community which has equal rights with the majority and will give them fair treatment in Northern Ireland.
As an answer to that sort of argument people will say that it will not change anything on the ground but only in men's minds. If the reform programme and attempt at reconciliation are to work there must be a breakthrough of this kind. My hon. Friend the Member for 107 York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon) put forward a second objection when he said that if this was attempted, the Protestants would fight. This is a possibility and it is the major reason why so far the Leader of the Opposition and the Government have prefered to work through Mr. Faulkner. It is not because of trust or because they think his government is entirely satisfactory. It is because Mr. Faulkner is a shield against the extremist Protestants coming out on the streets and turning on the British Army. My answer to that point is that we look like drifting in this direction anyway. We have to balance these risks and to consider whether we shall in fact arrive at this position in three or six months from now. If hon. Members wish to say that we shall not, they have to prove that there are other methods of stopping I.R.A. gunmen. The one thing that the I.R.A. extremists want is to get the more militant Protestants out on the streets. They want civil war and they want to fight it out. I am thinking particularly about that small fringe of the I.R.A. which is not interested in a united Ireland. The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is so old-fashioned about this matter. They are interested in extreme Left-wing revolution and they foresee the beginning of the disintegration of Western civilisation and they consider that the sooner this disintegration appears in Belfast the better. Every bullet they fire at unarmed Protestants produces tension, talk of a third force and of rifle clubs doing the work instead of the Army.
I was impressed that the hon. Member for Londonderry said, "Do not try to take arms away from the Protestants just now". That was an interesting statement coming from a moderate man like him. If the talks fail and if we drift on downhill now, we shall be in a conflict in Northern Ireland worse than it is at present. We have to balance the risks of that against the risk of my proposal.
§ Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)
My hon. Friend has done a good job of knocking all the possible alternative solutions, but when he comes to his solution he has to face the fact that the fear of the Protestant majority is that this House will take away Stormont and then will begin the slide towards a united Ireland.
108 What I fear from that kind of situation is that we shall then have British troops shot at by both the Catholic minority and the Protestant majority. For this reason, I tend to support the suggestion that it may be better if the British troops came out and then both communities will recognise that the solution lies in their hands. For too long they have had the constant source of complaint that their particular solution has been defeated by the British. In the end, they have to solve it themselves anyway.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I shall try to answer his point by saying that if he again tests the sentiments in Northern Ireland today he will find that the idea that the British withdrawal will lead to a wave of moderation and that at this point the gun clubs will hand in their weapons and that the Protestants will cease to drill is absolute nonsense. If the British Army goes there will be an increase in violence, because the pressure now is to let the strong arm men in the majority sort it out. At Harland and Wolff there was a Protestant shop steward who believed in integration and who saw that Catholics and Protestants got jobs together. But he has now been replaced by an extremely tough character who is organising the workmen to ensure that it is Protestant workmen only and he is signing them up today in readiness for such action.
§ Mr. Mackintosh
On my particular point, I am trying to suggest a dramatic attempt to win the confidence of the minority without threatening the majority with union with Eire. Such a proposal could threaten them, but only if it done in a manner which suggests that it is a step towards unification. Declarations and promises could be given that this was a step towards reconciliation inside Ulster and that it had no relationship to the Republic of Ireland. If we do not take a step of this kind we shall have a further slide down hill towards civil war in the North. I am trying to put the argument that at present we are engaged in an attempt at reconciliation between the two communities—but no one has proved that it is succeeding today; in fact it is evidently failing—so we have either to make a dramatic attempt to restore some 109 mutual confidence, to wean the Catholics away from the gunman and the Protestants away from the rifle clubs, or we have to write off the whole attempt at reconciliation because it will have failed. If it does fail, we are facing disaster of one kind or another to that community, to the British Government who are trying to sort out the matter, and to the British Army which is trying to maintain peace and order.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I was fascinated by the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), and in particular by the way in which he look each solution in turn and proved that it was not the answer to the problem. As he went along the road and considered each solution in turn I wondered what he would come to in the end. I had not expected him to suggest that the solution lay in direct rule. I cannot believe that that is the solution. I cannot believe that we have enough understanding here of the problems of Northern Ireland to make that work. It is a possibility, but I do not think that it is practical. Nor do I believe that British troops should be withdrawn, as was suggested by the hon. Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon). I do not regard that as practical because such a step would immediately create a civil war situation.
I am an English Member, for an English constituency but I believe that this is a problem for us all. For that reason I have made two visits to Northern Ireland during this past year. I returned from my second visit earlier this week. I noticed between my visit in May and that which I made earlier this week a big difference in the situation in Northern Ireland. It is impossible to explain unless one has been there and stood in the centre of Belfast or one of the cities in Northern Ireland. One is reminded of the kind of situation that one found in a wartime city 25 years ago, either in London during the blitz or in some European city. It is shaking to experience this feeling, and it brings home to one the realities of the situation.
I believe that the first priority is the restoration of order. I do not believe that the widespread reforms which have already been made can be digested until a situation of order has been restored.
110 Looking at the aims of the I.R.A., one wonders whether any reforms that can be made in Northern Ireland would satisfy the I.R.A. As we have heard today from hon. Gentlemen opposite, the aims of the I.R.A. are to create a situation of civil war and bring about the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland by sickening public opinion here until everyone is fed up and says, "Let us pull out". One begins to wonder whether, however fine the reforms, we shall get anywhere with them.
I supported at the time—and still do—the policy of internment because it was a wise and timely decision. In fact it was the only decision that could be made, because law and order has broken down. Witnesses were being intimidated, and so were magistrates, and when the normal civil law has broken down obviously something has to be put in its place.
It was right that potential murderers should be taken off the streets and put in a safe place, and no doubt it will have its own by-product of information and intelligence which may lead to the arrest of further terrorists. But, above all, it demonstrates the will of the British Government to get to grips with the problem, and I think that it demonstrates particularly to the troops that that is the will of the Government. I have spoken to troops on the ground, and I know that they were pleased when that step was taken because it strengthened their hands and showed that the Government were right behind them.
I should like to make three practical suggestions about what might now be done to back that policy. First, it is difficult to try to implement a policy of internment if, at the same time, the borders round the country are wide open. The Border with Southern Ireland is wide open. There is nothing to stop anyone moving across it. The terrorists have a safe escape route and a route for their supplies.
The reason for that is that there are various classes of road. There is the approved road which has a Customs post, but that Customs post does not operate during the hours of darkness, which means that anyone can move along the road at night. Then there are unapproved roads, which are supposed to be for local people only, but there is nothing to stop anyone from the South using them.
111 Next, there are concession roads which cut across a salient of Ulster penetrating into Southern Ireland. Because of these concession roads, people can move to and fro without let or hindrance. The same thing happens off the coast, where fishing boats can move about freely. At airports and seaports there is no security check on anyone going through them.
People say that it would be impossible to close the Border—which is 300 miles long—because of the fine network of roads crossing it. I am not suggesting that one should use barbed wire and mines to close the Border completely, but there should be some control so that there is some hindrance to movement backwards and forwards across the Border. The advice that I received during my visit to Northern Ireland was that this course could be adopted with our existing resources.
In order to institute the rigorous control of movement which I believe to be necessary there must be a second net protecting the major centres of trouble, Belfast and Londonderry. If one looks at the map, one sees that it is easier to put a net across at a point further into Northern Ireland than at the Border itself. On the line Loch Neagh along the Newry Canal there are 16 bridges. It would be comparatively easy to put a check on this line. If one goes North of Loch Neagh along the River Bann, where there are a similar number of bridges, one sees that that, too, could easily be guarded. Many of the bridges could be destroyed and thus enable us to provide a basic coverage for Belfast itself. A glance at the map shows that it would be easy for a similar type of net to be put around Londonderry.
I come next to the question of the reserves of manpower available. There was talk of raising a regular battalion for the Ulster Defence Regiment. I visited one of the Ulster Defence Regiments, and what seemed to me to be required was not a regular battalion but a regular company for each existing part-time battalion. The reason for this is that many of the vital points which are defended only at night would be able to be defended by day if permanent and regular troops were available.
There has been talk about drafting members of the Territorial Army into 112 the U.D.R. The Territorial Army in Northern Ireland consists of about 3,000 men. We see and hear that it is extremely difficult for the British Army to reinforce if this is desirable, but there is this pool of men in the Territorial Army, and I believe that they should be used. To use them would require a state of national emergency and a Royal Proclamation. The trouble is that that would result in the calling up of the whole of the T. & A.V.R., but Parliament should, if necessary, amend the Act so that it is possible to call up the men to whom I have referred because they would provide a valuable reinforcement and release three or four battalions of regular troops; or their call-up would make possible the sealing of the border. It is important to involve in Northern Ireland as many indigenous forces as possible.
My third point relates to the police. When the time comes for the Army to leave there must be some body, some force, which is prepared to take over the Army's role. One of the difficulties is that there is no one to take over from the Army if and when it leaves. The police at the moment are highly vulnerable in this kind of situation. They cannot move about unless they have the protection of the Army in many areas in Ulster. Therefore, they cannot do their job properly and their morale suffers as a result. They are being asked to defend police stations but they are not armed or equipped to do so. If they are to defend police stations they must be trained and properly equipped. The time may well have come when the police should be rearmed.
No praise is too high for what the British troops are doing in Ulster at present. I was very struck by what a company commander in the Falls Road area said when I visited him. He said, "It is really a pleasure and a privilege to command my troops." I believe that the troops out there feel they are a "forgotten army". We have heard so often in this House praise for the job that the Army are doing. Now we should offer some more tangible mark of respect. We ought to make the British troops who have served in Northern Ireland eligible for the General Service Medal, for which I understand they are ineligible because they are operating in 113 the United Kingdom. But they have earned that medal in similar troubles in Palestine, Cyprus and Aden, and, indeed, many soldiers who have served in those countries have said that this is much worse situation. I am not suggesting they should receive a campaign medal; this is a General Service Medal, and this, to my mind, is service in its truest sense.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
The hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) seemed very pessimistic about the political measures which could be taken by the Government here or at Stormont, or by both together, because the I.R.A., as he puts it—although I am not using his exact words—were so ruthless and determined that they would not take the least notice of such measures. The hon. Gentleman may well be right. Nevertheless, I should like the Government to know that I will support them in any measure of a political nature which has even a tendency to bring peace to Ireland again.
I ought to add that I am utterly pessimistic about the Government being able to do anything alone in the long run to bring peace to Ireland, because I believe that fundamentally no proposal or action which savours of being British, whether it be by a British Parliament or a British mediator or a British Army, has any hope at all of bringing peace to Ireland, however just we may be: because, as the hon. Gentleman said, there is a fanatical minority on both sides of the "great divide" which is prepared to be utterly ruthless. On the one side there is a minority which is determined to use violence to achieve a united Ireland and, by bringing the Government of Northern Ireland to a standstill, it hopes to be able to create chaos. And out of the chaos, it hopes to reap the unification of Ireland!
On the other hand, there is a minority of the majority in Northern Ireland—or is it a minority?—which has shown quite plainly over the last 50 years that it does not intend to do justice to the minority in Northern Ireland. There may be a chicken and egg situation and no one quite knows who did what first.
Even assuming that the reforms which were pressed upon the Northern Ireland Government by the former Government, 114 and I believe supported by the present Government, were carried out to the letter and in the spirit, there is still one obvious item which is fundamental to justice being done in Northern Ireland and which is still withheld. That is proportional representation by a single transferable vote—the system which has kept the gun out of politics in the Republic during the last 50 years and has given a sense of belonging even to the minority. It is a system which was put by this House into the constitution of Northern Ireland when we set up that Province, and it was promptly abolished by the majority precisely because it was capable of giving just representation in Stormont to the minority. I urge the Government, even though it may not be any good, at least to set the record right and to make justice visibly done in Northern Ireland at the earliest possible opportunity and to establish a single transferable vote system in Northern Ireland.
It seems to me quite intolerable that a civilised Government—and I think this Government is civilised—should keep our troops in an utterly impossible situation in Northern Ireland. I have had in my constituency troops who have been stationed in Northern Ireland. Not a single complaint have I heard from them. They have borne magnificently the burden which this House has laid upon them. But the mums, the dads and the wives are becoming increasingly angry that their men should have to put up with the situation which they experience in Northern Ireland, where they are being shot at from behind defensive barriers of women and children and stoned by hooligan youths of both persuasions.
Our troops could bring peace to Northern Ireland if we were prepared to let them be sufficiently ruthless. They could make a desert and call it peace. But we in this country are not so ruthless as to allow this sort of thing to happen. We would not allow our troops to do what it takes to dispose of the threat presented by urban guerillas. Therefore, since no solution from us will be acceptable by either side which is acceptable to the other, and since we are rightly not willing to do what it takes to defeat urban guerillas, we must hand over our responsibilities to someone with more chance of success—I need not put it higher than that—than have the British 115 with the load of history on their shoulders.
Of course, we cannot just walk out and leave the Northern minority to be massacred. It is impossible to contemplate any such thing. It would lead, amongst other things, to the military involvement of the Republic, and that should make plain, if it is not already plain, how international this whole problem really is. We should seize the chance of having in Dublin a Government who passionately want—at any rate, in theory and in words—the reunification of Ireland but who want it only if it can be done peacefully and by consent, because this could not be achieved in any other way with success to themselves. We should take advantage of that situation and go with them hand in hand, in all humility, to the United Nations and say, "We cannot control this situation, and yet we are not prepared to walk out because that would mean bloodshed on an unprecedented scale."
I think that it would be harder for the extremists on either side in Northern Ireland to fight and to shoot at United Nations troops than it would be for them to shoot at our troops, a pastime indulged in over many centuries in Ireland.
We should ask the United Nations to come into the country in two capacities, first as a peace-keeping force and, second, as a mediating commission to meet everyone from all sides, hear everything there is to be heard and try to find a solution. It might succeed in time.
I was delighted to hear the ideologically optimistic speeches, in a sense, of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), wonderful speeches showing how reconciliation could take place, and had taken place on Merseyside. It was a great treat to hear such speeches in the House. I am not unoptimistic. I believe that there are solutions that could be found by such a commission as I suggest, provided that it is not a British commission. It could be a United Nations body or a Commonwealth body, but it must be seen to be impartial and from outside.
If something like that is not done, the mums and dads, the wives and the general public in this country will in the end 116 rise in their wrath and say, "We must have the troops back"—and I should not blame them; I think that they would be entirely justified.
I have written again and again to the Home Secretary about this—I am afraid that I have pestered him—trying to ensure that this point of view is at least considered seriously by the Home Office and the Government. I am profoundly grateful for the courteous tone in which the right hon. Gentleman has replied; but he shows in his letters and in his attitude in the House today that his mind is firmly in the rut in which so many British Governments have found themselves throughout the world in the last 50 years, and more especially in the last 20. I mean the rut of saying, first, that we must establish law and order and then we can talk about a political solution and all that. That is an understandable line to take. It is very British. We are a reasonable people, with great political experience, and it is a line which I should expect us to follow. But I do not believe that it will be any use in this situation in Northern Ireland.
If he will not agree with my submission about an outside mediator, we are entitled to ask the Home Secretary how long he is prepared to keep 12,000 troops in Northern Ireland? If he does not want to adopt the solution which I suggest, he must have something in mind as to the length of time it will take his policy to work in Northern Ireland. The mums and dads and the British electorate are entitled to ask how long he is prepared to carry on. I hope that the Minister who is to wind up the debate will tell us. I know that he cannot say that we shall win this war in so many months or years, but he must have some idea of time.
Is it to go on indefinitely? If the Minister is not prepared to say what he has in mind for the likely length of the operation, we can only conclude that he is prepared to stay there indefinitely with his 12,000 troops and all that that means in indignity and death for them and expense to the taxpayer. It must mean that he is prepared to stay indefinitely. But I warn him that I do not believe that the British electorate will stand for it indefinitely.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
When I came here this morning from 117 Belfast, my mood was one of dejection and depression—and little wonder, after the agonising events we have witnessed in recent weeks.
Although there is a national newspaper strike here, which, as far as I know, is still on, there is no such strike in Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland are hoping desperately—I use that word in its true sense, I believe—that some glimmer of light or hope will come out of this debate today and tomorrow. A great deal is being pinned on something coming out of it—perhaps nothing very exciting but something to lighten the depression of recent times.
Having listened attentively to the debate thus far, I regret that there has been a fair measure of unreality shown in some of the comments made. I listened with particular attention to the interesting speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). It is all very well for him to talk about direct rule. We have already seen signs today, in one speech in particular, that what the people of Northern Ireland assume to be a cast-iron guarantee in the Declaration of August, 1969, may not necessarily have been quite so cast-iron. Indeed, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) made the point about maintaining the territorial integrity of Northern Ireland and assumed that the House was united on that one point, no such unity was forthcoming. The Leader of the Opposition—it may have been a slip of the tongue, and it may well be corrected in HANSARD—said that the Border is not at stake and then added "not currently at stake" when he repeated it.
In normal circumstances, that sort of remark being thrown away, no one would worry two hoots about it. But in the present emotionally charged atmosphere that sort of remark in a considered speech does nothing to alleviate the anxieties which, as both sides of the House acknowledge, are deeply and seriously held. For over three years now, unfortunately, we have seen the situation steadily deteriorate before our eyes, and almost coming to the boil, over the past month or two, has been another worrying development. People who have hitherto 118 been the soul of moderation and reasonableness are beginning now, if not to espouse, certainly to have a nodding acquaintance with some of the more extreme utterances which are made from time to time. They are crying out for positive action against terrorism. I tell the House frankly that, while it may be very desirable that we should talk here in terms of political solutions and so on, until there is peace on the streets of Northern Ireland I can see but a very small audience to listen to ideas for political solutions.
Let us talk by all means on every subject under the sun in the hope that something may emerge from it, but let us not for a moment forget that until peace is re-established in the streets of Northern Ireland people will not be prepared to talk politics in a serious way. There is this feeling—whether the charge is fair or not is not for me to say, though I know, with regret, that it expresses a growing mood—that the Government's policy shows reluctance and half-hearted-ness. This mood, unfortunately, is beginning to develop.
Some people talk about a Protestant backlash. There are those who dismiss it as but a figment of imagination. I do not. It has been a remarkable and comforting feature of an otherwise grave situation that Protestants have shown the restraint they have—though, heaven knows, on Monday night when the Bluebell Bar was bombed in the Sandy Row district, I certainly thought that the crunch could well be coming. The fact that it did not should be recognised and commended. The Protestants have shown much restraint in these matters.
I do not want to drag over all the embers of what happened in 1969. The alarm signals were not spotted and recognised for what they were. All right. We can, as Irishmen tend to do, go back over the old embers of history, but the purpose of this debate is to try to go forward. I shall, therefore, devote the remainder of what I have to say to just that point.
There has been a certain amount of "knocking" of the Special Powers Act. Yet, when the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, about 18 months ago, I believe he said in the House—I speak from memory, but I think I quote him accurately—that no Northern Ireland 119 Premier could be expected to repeal that Act at that time. The situation has grown a great deal worse since then.
People have talked about the Cyprus-type or Aden-type situation. There is a world of difference between the Cypruses and Adens of this world and Northern Ireland. In the one case, one is dealing with a hostile majority, as in Cyprus and Aden, whereas in Northern Ireland one is dealing with a loyal majority and a hostile small minority.
There has been talk of political solutions. I want to quote just two questions and answers from a recent Press interview given by Mr. John Hume:Question: Are there any conditions under which the SDLP would return to Stormont?Answer: We would not go back to Stormont under any conditions. We want rid of it.Question: Let us assume that a 'community government' is planned and the Opposition is offered certain ministerial posts,…Answer: We believe that the whole system of government here has been a complete and absolute failure and that there is no point in tinkering with it any further… it should be suspended immediately …".So much, therefore, for talk of political initiative being accepted by the main Opposition party. Let us face it: one cannot talk to terrorists. When one talks to someone it pre-supposes that he is in a position to deliver the goods. The terrorists in Northern Ireland are certainly not prepared to deliver the goods. That is the last thing they have in mind. They are seeking the destruction of the State—no more, no less.
There has been talk of the Council of Ireland idea. If that is based on the parliamentary strengths of the two Parliaments in Ireland the Unionists will automatically be a substantial minority, and that is not a realistic runner.
We come then to proportional representation. My mind is not closed on it, but I can find many arguments against it, not least of which is that it is interesting to recall that Mr. Jack Lynch himself tried to get rid of proportional representation unsuccessfully about a year ago.
What do we want? It must all be on the security front. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), in a brilliant speech, detailed 120 many of the points: closure of Border roads; much more local Border patrolling; perhaps study of a car curfew. But above all else there must be a vast improvement in security intelligence. Until that can be achieved there is precious little hope of our being able to defeat the terrorist campaign within a reasonable period. That is one of the reasons why there has been such a cry for the third force in Northern Ireland, based on the belief that it would provide many more men. It would be localised and could provide better Border patrolling and greater security intelligence. The arguments advanced on that are valid, but they can be accomplished within the framework of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Therefore, I hope that no obstacle will be placed in the way of a rapid, massive build-up of that regiment—if necessary quadrupling it within a short time. My hon. Friend spoke of the need to shorten the period of vetting and screening. If, as we are told, people who have sought to join have had to wait six to eight weeks, that period must be drastically shortened. Let us give the U.D.R. local areas which it knows to patrol; increase its strength massively; close off considerable parts of the Border, and therefore prevent the inflow of ammunition and explosives. I do not say that we shall then have the solution, but we shall have taken a step in that direction which has not been taken hitherto.
The defence of police stations has already been covered. It is crazy to withdraw the defence from police stations. The Army guards were withdrawn from one station in the centre of Belfast five days ago and last night it was bombed. That is intolerable. If the U.D.R. cannot do the job, why not use the police reserve? I can well see the argument for releasing the Army, but that must not mean that we have unguarded stations as a result. The guards must be provided by the U.D.R. or police reserve—[An HON. MEMBER: "Properly armed."]—I accept that. I hope that something can be done to try to improve the morale of the R.U.C. It is better than it was, but it is still a long way from the morale of the R.U.C. of former days.
I have one point to emphasise in conclusion. While the city centre of Belfast 121 has had its bombs and attacks, and the shopping centre is going through a pretty lean time, it is a great mistake to assume that industry in Northern Ireland is on its knees. It is no such thing. Industrial production last year, despite all the problems, showed the largest proportional increase of any part of the United Kingdom. Industry is still able to deliver the goods. Let that message go out out loud and clear. Orders for goods and services can still be placed in Northern Ireland, and the orders will be honoured and the goods delivered.
May a message of hope go to the people of Northern Ireland from this debate, hope at a time when by any yardstick the mood is one of genuine depression and dejection, as some of my hon. Friends who were in Belfast last week will know. We all know that it will be a long, hard haul back to peace and stability. We are reasonable people. Please, can this House, which can do it, give just one glimmer of hope for those of us who are going back to Northern Ireland tomorrow?
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
It is about five years since I last spoke on the Irish problem, but that does not mean that I shall detain the House for any length of time now.
I do not intend to deal with the points raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Ponder). There were one or two remarks by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) which showed us the bitterness and prejudice which exist in Northern Ireland, even if we had not known it before.
I want first to speak about the question of fighting in the streets and the terrorists' ability to get away with that type of crime unapprehended by the Army. It has been pointed out that there is a difference between Northern Ireland and Cyprus or Aden. I appreciate that, but all too often, even in those circumstances, we have said, "We must stamp terrorism out before we start talking." Except in Malaysia, where we were successful, we had eventually to start talking and negotiating in every case.
Despite what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tinley), I do not 122 believe that the problem in Northern Ireland is the same as in Liverpool. I remember the great antagonism between Catholic and Protestant in Liverpool. But the situation in Northern Ireland is different, because there is an intense desire by the Catholic minority in the North to be united with the South. That did not exist in Liverpool; the antagonism was purely on a religious basis. I would like to believe that the optimism expressed by my hon. Friend and the hon. Gentleman has some grounds, but I do not believe that it has. It is because the majority of the Catholics in Northern Ireland look forward to reunification that the terrorist can get away with what he is doing. The majority may not approve of the means the terrorist is using, but whilst they believe in the aims he will not be apprehended. We are asking our troops to do the impossible if we hope to beat the terrorism without first discussing the political situation on a much wider front.
§ Mr. Tilney
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing that all Catholics, if they were given the option of staying under the Ulster Government or going under the Government of Dublin, would automatically opt for Dublin?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I have not said that at all. I said that I think that a majority of them would opt for it. I am not saying that all of them would do so, by any means.
The other point I made five years ago, speaking as a Protestant, was that I was appalled at the injustices which have been perpetrated against the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, and I stressed the difficulties that would arise if something were not done about it. In the past 50 years the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland could have made the situation such that no one in Northern Ireland would have wanted reunification with the South. I believe that the present problem has been brought about by the prejudice and bitterness of the Protestants against the Catholic minority.
We have reached a situation in which good will cannot be obtained from the Catholic minority. They just do not place any credence on promises given by Stormont. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition told the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian 123 Paisley) that he was living 40 or 50 years back, and that he should start thinking about the next five or 10 years. I believe that we should start thinking about the next 25 to 50 years. I cannot see that Ireland will be anything but united in that time.
If that is the conclusion that we eventually come to, of course there are problems—for example, about the 100,000 rifles or whatever it may be and the possibility of civil war. And I am not saying that Ireland would be administered by the Irish Republic. There are all sorts of permutations in considering how Ireland could become a united country. I have hopes, indeed, of the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of Ireland being in some form of association.
But I do not think that we can get a united Ireland by seeking first of all a military solution, because that is impossible. For the last 50 years we have had to fight down what our troops did in Ireland half a century ago. Let us remember that when incidents happen in the cities, nine times out of ten it is the innocent who suffer, and ultimately this breeds hatred amongst people who at present accept us as their friends. I do not believe that a military solution is practicable unless we first of all say that we are prepared to consider the reunification of Ireland.
We do not know what shape or form that reunification would take. As I have said, all sorts of permutations could apply.. But I believe that if we said that this was the goal, it would take away the support which the terrorist is getting amongst the Catholic population at present. For 50 years these people have been living in deprived circumstances and it is no good saying that we are going to have a council to do this or to do that because they want to know that ultimately a Catholic voice will be one just as a Protestant voice is one. They have had no reason to expect such a thing—they never have had. We cannot deliver the goods while we keep Stormont as it is at present.
That does not mean that I am advocating direct rule from Westminster—not in the least at the moment. I think that the pent-up feelings now being turned against Stormont to some extent would be directed against us and our troops 124 in Ireland if there were direct rule from here, and I see no reason why we should take that on our shoulders from Stormont at present.
But I believe that if we made an announcement that we were prepared to consider with all parties the eventual reunification of Ireland in some form or other—perhaps not in five or ten years but certainly in the foreseeable future—this move would take out the support that the terrorist is getting from the people today. But it would have to be the foreseeable future.
I want to make some criticisms of the internment policy. I do not believe that the Army supported it. In fact, I have reason to believe that it forecast that if this policy were to be put into effect the repercussions that have happened would happen. But if one is to have an internment policy, at least make sure that one knows 99 per cent. of the people wanted before it is launched so that one can ensure getting them into the net. Instead, we have had the situation, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred, in which many people were taken in because the persons wanted did not happen to be at home at the time.
I agree that it is very difficult to have trials because of inability to get witnesses to come forward in face of the dangers to themselves and their families. Knowing this, a Government should be doubly careful before they bring in internment because it means that they are going to have to go before the world as a Government denying the basic right of a citizen to be either brought to trial or released. I am convinced that many people in custody today are no more guilty than many of us in this House who have expressed certain views about Ireland. It is wrong to intern them but equally wrong—if there is any substance in the reports—if they have been living in abominable conditions. One would have thought that, with all the criticism that was bound to come of internment, careful arrangements would have been made to ensure that the internees should live in reasonable conditions so that at least that criticism could not be levelled. I hope I am wrong on this. I have heard both sides of the tale.
The other point concerns whether there has been brutality by the Armed Forces. 125 I do not accept the allegation. We have seen our soldiers standing up against provocation for hour after hour without becoming brutal and I do not believe that, having got people into a camp or a centre, they would be brutal to them in these circumstances. I hope, however, that a thorough investigation will be made, and if it turns out that there has been even only one incident, I hope that it is brought out and those responsible dealt with.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), who made a most reasoned and in many ways an unprejudiced speech. He knows both sides of the coin in Northern Ireland. He and his family have every reason to know it. But it is no good saying how the Protestant majority have always been so law abiding and then, in the next breath, saying, "Try and take our rifles and see what happens". Of course they can be law abiding.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman's argument would be good if that was what I had said. I said, however, that I did not want to go into details about my fears about these rifles because it would be irresponsible and give people ideas. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares that fear.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I agree. I do not wish to put words into the hon. Gentleman's mouth. I cannot quote his words but the inference was that if an attempt were made to seize the rifles there could be civil disturbance. If he did not mean it, I hope that he will contradict that impression. If it is not so, can he see any justification for the amount of arms on the Protestant side in Northern Ireland? Is it not necessary at this stage to ensure that we deal equally with both sides? We have had internment. I wonder how many Protestants have been interned.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman should have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), who gave a breakdown of what these guns are. The vast majority are shotguns, which may be necessary for a lot of people out in the country.
126 I agree that they are still lethal weapons, but they are still very necessary to many people. In any case, it is a false assumption to suggest that all of the guns are in Protestant hands. No one has analysed the situation in that regard.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
Then let us assume that 50 per cent. of them are in Protestant hands and 50 per cent. in Catholic hands. Would it not be much better if none of them had guns? We would certainly be acting justly because we could have a house-to-house search of Protestant houses to see whether they have any guns underneath the bed instead of searching the Catholic houses only.
Let us be sure that what we are doing appears to be just, because unfortunately what we have done does not appear to be so. One of the worst mistakes we have made is that we appear to be taking the side of one section of the population in Northern Ireland. I know that there are reasons for that on the other side of the House but I did not expect to find reasons on our side of the House. The mere fact that this large majority in Northern Ireland might resent having its arms taken away is no reason why they should not be taken away. If that happened it would ease the situation.
I hope right hon. Gentlemen opposite will pay regard to this long-term outlook for Ireland, a reunification in some form or other, a federation or whatever, something that can be worked out, as it would have to be worked out, not with elected representatives but with the representatives of the Church on both sides. Let them sit down and talk man to man and discuss the problems which everyone wants solved. The only trouble is that the majority now fears that if it ultimately became the minority what has been meted out to the Catholics in Northern Ireland would be meted out to it. Those fears are false and if everyone got round the table and discussed the matter they would see that they were false. This has to be said. There will be no solution to this problem until we reach a long-term political solution.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Baker (St. Marylebone)
There has been a thread of melancholy, if not despair, running through the debate today. It has found its most eloquent 127 expression in the speech of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), who examined all the alternatives put forward by various speakers—the unification of Ireland, the strengthening of the military presence there, the political solutions, the constitution-mongering. He dealt with all of these and dismissed them and said that what was needed was a dramatic gesture—the suspension of Stormont and direct rule from Westminster. The curse of Irish politics has been dramatic gestures. I hope that the proposal for direct rule from Westminster will be considered as the ultimate thing that we have to do. It is certainly not an easy solution, and I share to some extent his melancholy in that the politics of Ireland have once again come to dominate the politics of Britain.
Today's debate has been very reminiscent of the debates I studied when I read the history of the 1920s and earlier, of 1870 and 1880.
§ Mr. Baker
There is indeed a lesson there because going through those debates we find exactly the same sort of phrases as we have heard today—"In 50 years Ireland will be united". I think it was exactly 100 years ago that Gladstone said that his great mission was the pacification of Ireland. From 1870 to 1914 the politics of Ireland dominated the politics of this country, dominated the politics of this House and brought the procedures of this House to a stop on many occasions. The preoccupation that late Victorian England had with Ireland was a tremendous diversion of our national talent into an area which was not very fruitful.
Be that as it may, the despair today finds its expression in a growing feeling that we should withdraw our troops. I sense this among the people in this country. Why should British troops be submitted to terrorist activities and be killed, they ask. One hon. Member opposite has gone so far as to say that we should withdraw the troops. By doing so there is no doubt that indiscriminate murder would be followed by community carnage. If a message is to go from this House today it should be one of hopefulness. I do not despair of 128 the situation in Northern Ireland. The prime problem there, as speaker after speaker has said, is the restoration of law and order. Hardly any speaker has made any suggestions, apart from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), as to how law and order should be restored when fighting urban terrorist guerrillas. Whether the urban terrorist is in Ceylon, Uruguay, Cuba or Northern Ireland, the one thing we must do is to persuade him that he cannot win. We must persuade the terrorists in Northern Ireland that victory for them will break the will of Westminster and the will of Stormont to retain the union of Ulster with this country.
I fully support the Leader of the Opposition when he says that the Border is not the issue. I hope that in the discussions next week almost the first thing that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says to Mr. Lynch is that the Border is not negotiable. If it is accepted that the Border is negotiable, the will of the terrorists in the belief that they can win will not be broken. However many troops we put in, however well we police the Border, however, many identity cards we have, the will of the terrorists will not be broken if it is not made transparently clear that the Border is not negotiable. I believe that it was the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), a Catholic Member, who said that if the Border was negotiable, if there was unification of Ireland, the carnage and warfare would be enormous. I agree with him. The 1 million Protestants in Ulster simply would not accept it and there would be conditions of civil war.
Therefore, the first prerequisites is to make clear the firmness of the political will of Westminster and Stormont. However, I would go further than my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. His remedy is to say, "Confirm the will, improve the military peacekeeping in Northern Ireland and win the war." I do not think that that is sufficient in the situation in Northern Ireland. The task for the soldier in Northern Ireland is to stop, arrest, capture and restrain the terrorist. The task of the politician in Northern Ireland is to drive a wedge between the urban terrorists and the responsible large number of Catholics who at the moment are 129 prepared to harbour them but who may not be prepared to harbour them if their confidence could be gained.
That is what I mean when I talk of a political solution working out at the same time as a military solution. We may be able to break the urban terrorism—but what then? Therefore, I believe that we must build the bridges about which every hon. Member has spoken and, in particular, win the confidence of the large body of moderate Catholic opinion. I agree with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toted (Mr. Crawshaw) that that body of moderate Catholic opinion is tending to be more and more isolated and is beginning to feel that it is under more acute pressure. But this is essentially a political task.
I do not dismiss the proposals which have emanated from Northern Ireland today—the constitution-mongering, as it has been called. They are an essential part of the Government's general strategy. I believe that the Westminster model is not exportable to Northern Ireland. The solution which appears to me to be most attractive is a form of proportional representation so that there is in Stormont a large body of Catholic Members and Members representing other groups. We must devise ways other than the chairmanship of committees to involve some of the responsible Catholics in the decision-making behind the administration of the Province. I welcome the idea of having reserve powers in the Senate of Stormont. But these checks and balances should operate within the framework of Northern Ireland, and the ultimate check and balance should not remain in this House when the solution is finally worked out.
I am not full of despair or melancholy about the situation in Northern Ireland. It is a desperate situation, and it is essential to show the Army that our political will is not shaken and that it has our backing. This is a necessary prelude to a political solution. But at the same time we must start working on that political solution, trying to build the bridge of confidence between the communities which will eventually lead to peace in the Province of Ulster.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
I came here today quite prepared to speak for at least an hour and a half, 130 but in view of the time and the fact that many other hon. Members have intimated their wish to get into the debate, I shall be as brief as possible at this late hour and try to confine my remarks to one or two constructive proposals that I think might help the situation.
It will be known that I and a few other hon. Members were almost instrumental in beginning the request for the recall of Parliament when we wrote to the Leader of the House on 10th August immediately following the announcement of the internment policy in Northern Ireland. We asked for a recall because we felt, and I still feel, that that was when this discussion should take place. I will not develop that point. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has dealt fairly well with the question of internment and how, in the opinion of most of us who have taken an extreme interest in the matter, the policy of internment has been used to repress still further the minority in Northern Ireland and to stifle any anti-Unionist opposition in that unhappy Province.
I do not want to go further along the road of recrimination or the "I-told-you so" argument, because at this stage there is not much profit in developing it. We could go on for a long time, citing examples of the ineptitude and the blunders which have occurred even between 10th August, since our original request for a recall, and today, about six weeks later. I hope and pray that it is not too late, but it is certainly six weeks later and during that time the situation has worsened. I do not think that anyone could deny that the situation has become much worse since the announcement of internment and its implementation than it ever was before. Those of us who saw internment as the last admission of failure of the discredited Stormont regime expected this, and we have got it.
Our job today, therefore, is to try, to put forward suggestions for creating some kind of atmosphere in which people will get together, both here and in Ireland—when I say Ireland, I mean the 32 counties—to discuss an ultimate and permanent solution.
The problem as I see it is in two parts. There is the immediate problem of the tragic situation that now exists, and there 131 is the longer-term constitutional discussion which, as we all know, must take place, however long it is deferred. It is almost like an industrial situation in which the employers or the management, the N.P.A. or whoever it is, try to put off the ultimate negotiations and discussions as long as possible but they know that ultimately they must sit down at the table. No matter how long the dispute, the strike or, in this case, the activity in Northern Ireland lasts, it is necessary eventually to meet round the table and discuss the situation. We ought to be discussing how we can bring about that position as early as possible. It is a sad fact that we have wasted six weeks since 10th August in which we could have been discussing the proposals about which we have heard this afternoon, but we have had no kind of discussion in the House of them.
As to the immediate position and the aim of creating the right atmosphere, during the recess I, like many other hon. Members, have been fortunate—or unfortunate, according to the way people look at it—in visiting Ireland, both North and South. I have spoken to Protestants and Catholics in both parts. I represent many thousands of Irishmen in my constituency. I have long links with the Irish question and I have long taken an interest in it. I would mention in passing that I also spoke to some refugees who had had to flee from their homes in Northern Ireland almost as soon as internment was announced.
I thought it would not have been amiss if at some stage in the last few weeks some leading politicians from this country, instead of saying to Jack Lynch in the South of Ireland, "This is none of your business", as some have said, had said. as would have been appropriate, "Thank you very much" to all the voluntary societies, the Red Cross people, for instance, in Southern Ireland who have tended and cared for almost 6,000 British citizens who, frightened out of their lives, had fled from their homes. It might have helped at such a time to have created a good atmosphere if we had had the good will to say, "Thanks". On the contrary, we have said "It is none of your business" at a time when in Southern Ireland they were opening their hearts and their homes to some of our 132 citizens who had been forced out of their homes. I have seen the arrangements which were made for them and I have met voluntary workers who have been tending those people, and they have done a tremendous job in looking after our casualties from the Six Counties, and I think we ought to go on record as being thankful to them.
To create a better atmosphere I think we have to do one or two things. I do not share the pessimism which has been voiced here today, because, again, I have been fortunate in having links with the trade union movement in Ireland, both North and South. The very existence of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which covers the 32 counties, gives me at least some hope that, with patience and determination, there is a chance to find a way of co-operation.
I would say that among the immediate aims ought to be acceptance of the fact that Stormont has failed and will have to be replaced. I do not want now to develop that point. It has been said so often. I think it is beginning to seep through that Stormont in its present form has failed, and failed lamentably, and will have to be replaced; and replacement is something we have to discuss.
To create better conditions, and whilst tripartite talks are important—very important—and also quadripartite talks, I think it may be even more important at this stage to get bipartite talks in the Six Counties, talks between the opposing forces in the Six Counties, even if those talks were to take place here, away from the atmosphere of militancy, so that the problems can be looked into by politicians on this side of the Irish Sea. That may well be more urgent than tripartite or quadripartite talks, which there have to be for the constitutional basis; we have first of all to get the two communities in Northern Ireland to agree that there is no alternative to the fact that they have to learn to live together. Of course, we can help with that process.
I suggest that another immediate step to assist in the process would be to accept that internment has failed. For all the reasons which have been stated today it has failed, and we ought immediately to release all political prisoners in the Six Counties—accept that interment is a failure and release the 133 political prisoners who are still interned. I welcome the statement by the Home Secretary this afternoon about the independent inquiry, and I hope that this will take place as soon as possible, and that it will look, among other things, into all the allegations which we have heard and read since interment began.
With the immediate release of the interned political prisoners, with the inquiry to investigate the allegations of brutality of which we have heard, and the special tribunal to hear in public, as in an ordinary court of law, the charges laid against other internees, we would begin to instil some confidence in the minority that they would have at least some kind of say in what happens in the North of Ireland.
We must make serious attempts to call in all the guns. I have heard no argument to justify 106,000 guns still being at large in the Six Counties. One of my other demands would be the immediate calling in of those guns, to whomever they belong. I will not argue whether they are Catholic of Protestant guns. If they are guns, they should be called in.
I know that it is not a popular point of view, but in the long term I believe that we must accept that the only permanent solution for the problems of the unhappy Province is reunification. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) may sneer, but I think that that would be accepted all round.
I do not believe that it will happen overnight, nor that it can be achieved by the gun. Nor do I believe or accept that we can keep the Province divided by the gun. If we can accept reunification as a long-term proposal, we should work towards it.
Having accepted that, we can begin to work in a different way from that which we have been pursuing by insisting that the Six Counties remain an integral part of the United Kingdom. There are two different roads. For centuries we have been going along one road which has led to tragedy, failure, death and destruction. I suggest that we should try the other road now, because I have been convinced for many years that that is where the ultimate solution lies.
Finally, on reunification, I have been puzzled, as have those constituents with 134 whom I have had long discussions—I have written to the Home Secretary on this mater, as have some of my constituents—why it has never been accepted that the 1949 Act can be amended to lift the Border issue out of the political arena immediately by taking away from the Northern Ireland Parliament the ultimate right to deal with the Border, and so on, and give it to the Northern Ireland people. This would mean giving it to the Northern Ireland people in the form of a referendum over a five or ten-year period on a formula to be discussed. This is not a new proposal. It has been discussed for many years. It was certainly discussed in another place. I think that Lord Monson mentioned it about October, 1970, when he went into some detail about the kind of referendum which may be required. I have often wondered why this has not been mentioned seriously in this House as a possible step. It puzzles me and many people who know Northern Ireland. It is almost the only argument in the election. The only decision that people have to make is on the Border.
It seems strange when people get up and say that the Border is not the issue. The Border is always the issue. It always has been and will remain the issue, unless we face the situation and take it from the political arena in the way that I have suggested and let the people of Northern Ireland vote in the same way as we do—vote for a politician or party, but on political, social, welfare and economic issues, not on the future of the Border. That future, I maintain, at some serious discussion at the constitutional conference which must take place soon, ought to be high on the agenda.
I end with the plea that we should take the steps which I have suggested to create the right atmosphere: the release of the internees, an inquiry into allegations of brutality, the special tribunal to hear charges, if any, against others, the calling-in of the guns, the amendment of the 1949 Act to take the Border out of the party political arena, and the acceptance of reunification as a long-term solution. If we are serious about that, I think that we can create an atmosphere in which people can come together to discuss a peaceful and permanent solution to the problem in the Six Counties.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I have known Northern Ireland for 23 years, I have worked there, and I have served in a Northern Irish regiment which recruited from all parts of Ireland. I have seen Irishmen from the North and the South working and living together successfully.
However, when I last returned to Northern Ireland, I was impressed by a tension which has crept into the atmosphere of the six counties. Whether it was meeting a soldier with a sub-machine gun at the airport, or passing the sandbagged posts, or seeing the Land Rover patrols, or watching a patrol of soldiers with loaded guns going down the streets, the tension could be felt as I have never felt it since I have known Northern Ireland.
I admit that in the years that I have known Northern Ireland the odd bomb was thrown, but then it was an event. It was an event which was dealt with by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. But now we have handed over to the Army police duties that should be carried out by a civilian organisation. We have created by the presence of those soldiers a tension wherever those soldiers go.
What is more—and I find this rather incredible—the decision of the last Government to use soldiers in Northern Ireland to take-over certain police duties for which soldiers are not trained or equipped, has resulted in a weakening of the police force to a point where at this moment fewer Northern Irishmen are involved in police duties than before the crisis started in 1969.
Now why has this explosion of terrorism suddenly broken out in six counties which, despite all we have heard tonight, were comparatively quiet, well ordered, and well policed when I first knew them? I suggest that it is not because the Catholics in Ulster have reached a boiling point and have taken to guns. It is because there are subversive elements afoot in Northern Ireland, as we all know, and those elements seek, as those who have read "Explosion in Ulster" know, a revolution both in the North and in the South. I suggest also that the intimidation they are bringing to bear upon the Catholic community is such that they have now created virtually two communities within Northern Ireland.
136 I want to return to the point about civilian police authorities because I believe it is crucial if we are to conquer the violence and restore peace to the community. The 'B' Specials, for whom I carry no torch and who were undoubtedly a sectarian organisation, while they existed numbered about 10,000 men but acted, as many recognise, as the eyes and the ears of Northern Ireland.
As one Irishman said to me last week, "I knew the 'B' Specials in my area by their Christian names and they knew me. In place of those people, who were drawn from the community and who were not, as so many people tried to suggest, all bullies, all blackguards, or cruel and wicked men, but just ordinary human beings doing a job within their community, you have put British soldiers. I look at a British soldier, and he looks at me. He does not know whether I have a bomb on me and whether I am his friend."
In effect, he was saying that alienation not only between the Catholics and the Army but also between the Protestants and the Army; and that the Army finds itself as a ham in a peculiarly strong sandwich. What is more, as I have suggested, it is being asked to do a job for which it has not been trained and, along with that, we have a rundown of the civilian police force.
First, I believe we must get the Army off the streets so as to reduce tension among the civilian population. Indeed, the General Officer Commanding has suggested that the Army should be less obvious. Next, as has been said many times, we must improve the morale of the R.U.C. and remove from it the continuous smear which suggests that somehow it is so partisan that nobody can get a fair crack of the whip from it. I remind the House that 11 per cent. of the R.U.C. are Roman Catholics. This shows that, despite increased intimidation, sonic Catholics at least believe that this force is worth supporting.
Then we have the 1,500 men in the R.U.C. reserve. That gives a total of 5,500 men now in Ulster's police service. There were 3,500 before 1969 in the R.U.C. and 10,000 in the "B" Specials. Thus, the civilian police force has been reduced from 13,000 to 5,000 men and has been replaced with the Army, which, 137 as I say, does not have any particular allegiance to anyone in Northern Ireland, which is suspicious of all in that country and which has now gained for itself alienation from both communities.
The new organisation, the Ulster Defence Regiment, started with the most primitive beginnings. Its men did not even get as much training as an Army territorial unit. Although today we like to claim that it is non-sectarian, it is, in fact, six-to-one Protestant. Its men are serving up to 14 days with only one night off. They are exhausted.
As for Catholic recruiting, I challenge the figures given by the Home Secretary. I understand that Catholic recruiting is going down through intimidation, although total recruiting is going up considerably. However, I fear that the regiment will now not have the nonsectarian quality which we hoped for. It is only just getting some of the most modern weapons, but if it is to fulfil all its duties I am certain that a permanent company or battalion would be of considerable value. However, let us be honest and recognise that recruiting has still to reach the original total of 6,000 men, set for it.
The point I have been trying to make is that Ulster is no longer looking after its own community problems. These have been handed over to the Army, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, if soldiers are used other than to aid the civil power, which is their task, the net result is to create contempt for the soldiery because they cannot do the job for which they were trained—and they were certainly not trained to be policemen.
The word "war" has been used but should, I believe, be used carefully in this situation. We may think we know the enemy, although I suspect that we are even vague about that. But if he is the enemy, which is enemy territory? How does one defeat an enemy, if one does not know his territory? I fear that to use the word "war" in this context is only to muddle the issue yet again.
In my view, what is going on in Northern Ireland is extreme civil disobedience and violence, but it is still civil in nature. We have had a taste of some- 138 thing similar in the Angry Brigade, and this could expand, but we would not in this country call in the Army to cope with it. To keep tension down in the community, we would use the community forces to defeat men who are not soldiers but criminals—committing murder and destruction with the intention of destroying the fabric of society.
I had intended to make a long and complicated speech. Hon. Members will appreciate that in the 10 minutes at my disposal I can pick out only a few of the points that I would otherwise have made.
However, I would conclude by saying that we must be sure that we know what we want our Forces to do. I repeat, let anyone go to Belfast and feel the tension for himself as he sees the patrol in the street, the feeling of alienation not only from Catholics but from Protestants, and he will realise that the presence of the soldiers and the near-destruction of the civilian police forces has helped to polarize a political situation which, whatever we may say, has for too long, for 50 years, had one single argument: one is either for union or against it.
The Government in Stormont are for union and the majority of those living in Northern Ireland still want union. The Opposition party in Stormont is not an alternative Stormont Government, and has never wanted to be seen as such: it has wanted the end of the Border. Therefore, the Northern Irish, be they Protestant or Catholic, did not have, and even today do not have, the choice that we in this country have about changing Government from one party to another and yet getting a continuance of government. This is the polarisation.
I believe that Northern Ireland now has a Prime Minister in Mr. Faulkner who realises that this political situation has to be changed in as many ways as any of us can devise, but he can do that only if we help him to regain the credibility of all the Northern Irish, and if those in the S.D.L.P. do not turn their backs on his genuine efforts but listen to him, talk with him and help to set up a joint authority in whatever way may be possible—and let us not forget that there is democracy in Northern Ireland. In the end the Catholic community which at present is alienated must 139 see that it has a future in Northern Ireland, and that Torment's policies can hold for it a reality of prosperity for it which up to now it has been denied. If that were to happen—and how much I should like to expand on this aspect—I believe that the terrorist would cease to find a hinterland from which he could operate.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
In the speech with which he opened the debate the Home Secretary, naturally enough, spent a considerable time defining the Government's objectives in Northern Ireland. He specified two principal aims, which I think I report fairly: the suppression of terrorism and the promotion of reform and reconciliation. Anxious as the Opposition are to achieve unity where unity is honourably possible and, indeed, in the hope if not of avoiding at least of minimizing later misrepresentation, let me at once say that the Opposition are, of course, in absolute support of both those aims.
Let me further say that we can make some claim to have a special relationship with those aims. The Northern Ireland reform programme was in a very real sense our responsibility. Because of disagreement within the ruling party in Northern Ireland the O'Neill reforms had lain fallow from November, 1968, to August, 1969. Because of our pressure, and because of the pressure exerted by the then Home Secretary, those reforms were extended, and were eventually accepted by Stormont—indeed, some people would say imposed on a less than enthusiastic Government in Stormont. If there are any lingering doubts about the degree of enthusiasm or the absence of enthusiasm with which some elements in the Unionist Party accepted those reform proposals, particularly as they affected the police services, I hope that Mr. John Taylor's Fivemiletown speech has finally removed them.
Very largely that reform programme was the result of the initiative and constant and careful work of the Government at Westminster, but the initiation was in our view no more than a beginning. How necessary that beginning was is obvious or ought to be obvious to anyone who has read the Northern Ireland 140 Government's White Paper "Record of Constructive Change," for most of the achievements which that White Paper records do no more than create in Northern Ireland conditions which have been part of civilised life in the rest of the United Kingdom for almost all this century. Obviously the completion of that—I describe it again as an initial step forward—commands the enthusiastic support of the Opposition. That was the first item of the Home Secretary's two points defining the Government's attitude.
The second item was the suppression of terrorism. Terrorism in its present form is a new, savage development in Northern Ireland. Of course its suppression is an obvious necessity. During the first year in which troops were deployed on the streets of Belfast and Londonderry they were used to control riots rather than to suppress and prevent assassination. Both the operations, which, for convenience and no more than convenience, I will describe as the operations during the last year of the Labour Government and the first year of the Conservative Government, have two aspects in common. The first concerns the conduct of the Army on the spot. Without their presence over the last two years, bloodshed in Northern Ireland would by now have escalated to unthinkable proportions. No doubt if we look hard enough we can find cause for individual complaint. After all, there are 12,000-odd soldiers in Northern Ireland. But, equally, I have no doubt that in general their conduct has been exemplary. That seems the first common factor in both stages of the military operation.
The second common factor in both the first and second years of the military operation, the first and second years in which the Army was involved, concerns the relationship between the public and the troops. Neither the control of riots nor the suppression of terrorism is possible without the support of ordinary people, the men and women of Belfast and Londonderry, who indeed have most to lose by the breakdown in the rule of law. If peace is to be established one thing is essential, particularly in the Catholic ghettoes of Londonderry and Belfast. A wedge has to be driven between the violent, murderous minority 141 and the honest members of the community amongst whom they exist. Ordinary decent Catholics have to be convinced that they have more in common with the agencies of the law and constitution than with the advocates of violence.
I have to say to the Home Secretary that, in my view, during the last year the wrong sort of division has begun to appear, a division between the Catholic community and the law itself. During the last six months that gap has widened, and since 9th August that gap has become a chasm. The morale of the minority community has been further and, perhaps, crucially damaged principally because of the growing impression that the Government at Stormont are allowed a great deal more of a free hand than they enjoyed during the last year of the Labour Administration. That impression reached its climax on 9th August, the first day of internment without trial, and on that day Catholics in Londonderry and Belfast saw what they knew to be the policies of Mr. Brian Faulkner rubber-stamped by the British Prime Minister.
As has been said so often in the debate, in a sense the wisdom of their judgment is less important than the fact that they hold that opinion. There is no doubt that during the last six weeks a belief has grown, as a result of that decision, that the Government of Northern Ireland are acting and are allowed to act in a blatantly political fashion. From my own experience I understand very well that the relationship between Stormont and Whitehall is inevitably a difficult one. A proper balance has to be struck between the preservation of Torment's self-respect and the exercise of adequate Westminster influence. During the last year the balance has clearly slipped towards Belfast.
There is much to criticise in what the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has done. When I criticise it, that means that I criticise, too, the Home Secretary for letting him do it. I fear that that cannot be avoided. It cannot be avoided, in particular, in reference to one item of policy about which it is very clear that we on this side of the House have the deepest feelings of principle, the issue of internment.
I hope that it is not even necessary for me to say that we on this side of the 142 House have the greatest objection in principle to men being arrested and imprisoned without trial. Arbitrary internment seems to us deeply repugnant in itself, but it is the argument of practice rather than principle which I wish to develop this evening.
Clearly, internment has not led to the suppression of terrorism. Indeed, it has been followed by a rapid and predictable worsening of the situation.
§ Mr. McMaster
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that in the month following the introduction of internment the number of pounds of gelignite used in explosions decreased.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I am also aware—and it is not a point that I make with anything like pleasure—that in the seven weeks since internment was introduced twice as many British soldiers have died as in the two years before. It is because of that sort of belief that I repeat that internment has not worked, and that it was predictable that it would not work; indeed, that it would result in a deterioration in the security situation.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
If the hon. Gentleman were to talk to the soldier comrades of those who have died he would hear universal acclaim for the policy of internment.
§ Mr. Hattersley
I intend to deal in a moment with the Army's view on internment, and I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will interrupt me if he considers that my judgment of the Army's attitude is wrong. This is an important part of the argument, and I am glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has drawn it to our attention. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot deny—and what the House cannot deny—is that the gunmen are still on the streets of Belfast and Derry.
Equally, it is impossible to deny that internment, whilst not suppressing terrorism, has merely discredited some of the processes of law and order, for internment has antagonized many law-abiding citizens. They have witnessed the arrest of men and women whom they know to be neither gunmen nor the accomplices of gunmen. Had they been criminals they would have faced criminal charges, I hope, as do my hon. Friends, in a court of law, but as they have not been brought 143 to trial I must repeat that for many members of the minority community the policy of internment appears to be one which is biased in one direction, and that feeling is substantiated by the nature of the internees.
Almost two years ago, in a different context, I was pressed in the House to say whether there were what I shall call Unionist Orange extremists, whether we knew of their existence, and whether we could prevent their membership of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I told the House then, and I suspect that it is true today, that there were men who were known to be desperate potential criminals on both sides of the argument in Northern Ireland. The Ministry of Defence knew that they existed two years ago, and I reported that fact to the House. If anyone knows that they exist today, that knowledge has not been translated into their internment.
Until it is, it is very difficult for the minority community to be convinced that there is no bias in this context, particularly so since it is well known—and no one would deny it—that Brian Faulkner agitated for internment for many months, not only before it happened but before he became Prime Minister. We are bound to draw the conclusion, and I think it must be said, that one of the great arguments which caused those in favour of internment to adopt that line was that it would help to keep Mr. Faulkner in power.
One of the arguments for internment must be—and perhaps the Minister of State will admit it frankly to the House this evening—that it keeps Mr. Faulkner in power, and Mr. Faulkner is preferable to direct rule or Mr. Taylor or Mr. Bradford or Mr. Craig. I admit that for me Mr. Faulkner is preferable to direct rule or to any of the other contenders, but, according to my judgment, internment is too high a price to pay for the Advantage—
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
The hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that one should introduce a handful of one and a handful of the other to give balanced internment, regardless of the circumstances. Is it not abundantly clear that the men who are firing at the troops and letting off explosives are members of the I.R.A.?
§ Mr. Hattersley
It is also abundantly clear that the men who are firing bullets and using explosives have not been interned. This is the point that I am making. The practical merit of internment is as spurious as the principle upon which it is based. I cannot see how that argument can be defeated. What I can certainly say—and I hope the noble Lord the Minister of State for Defence is not in one of his excited moods—is that internment was not introduced as a result of what I shall call the professional military advice. The General Officer Commanding, of course, accepted the judgment of his political masters—it was his duty to do so—a judgment that some political showpiece was necessary. But the Army did not advise that internment would improve the security situation. In fact, they feared that it would alienate a large section of the population with whom they believed it was in their interests to maintain friendly relations. I hope that in the speech which follows mine, or when the Minister of State for Defence opens the debate tomorrow, we shall be told clearly why the Army's advice was ignored.
Another point which makes some of my hon. Friends fear that the motivation was political rather than security concerns events of 16th September when the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland signed 219 internment orders with some considerable legal flourish and a very extensive Press notice. It is extraordinary to notice that that process has a purely symbolic significance. The detainees for whom Mr. Faulkner on that day signed detention orders are held under Regulation 11 of the Special Powers Act. Under that Regulation detainees can be held indefinitely without internment orders being either served or signed. I hope that when the Minister of State winds up he will tell us why Mr. Faulkner thought it necessary to go through that process with such a flourish of publicity. We shall be happy to know that it was for some other reason than to demonstrate that further tough action would be taken. I hope the Prime Minister will understand that it is not my opinion that there was no legal obligation to serve them. It was the comment of the Stormont Press office which he may find interesting:a purely declaratory act",said the Stormont Press Office,with only administrative significance.145 Perhaps we can be told why a purely declaratory act was necessary in those circumstances.
I must ask two more questions about internment. Mr. Faulkner has the dangerous habit of quoting his professional advisers' opinions. On 12th September on television he said that it was on their advice that internment was introduced. So far as the Army was concerned, we know that was not true. He also said that he would only be persuaded to sign internment orders for peoplewho I am absolutely persuaded have been engaged in illegal activity.I therefore want to ask: Is the evidence of these men's illegal conduct sufficiently strong to justify a prosecution in court? If it is, why have they not been prosecuted? If the evidence will not stand up in court, can we be told how easy it is to convince Mr. Faulkner that these men can be imprisoned when it is not possible to convince a British court?
§ Mr. McMaster
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure he wants to present a fair picture. In the last two or three months the houses of three magistrates have been blown up in Northern Ireland. If magistrates are intimidated in that way, how does he expect witnesses to stand up to that sort of intimidation and go to court and say "He is a member of the I.R.A."?
§ Mr. Hattersley
I have a greater faith—the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) touched on this in a moving speech—in the Northern Ireland judicial administration than the hon. Gentleman has. I believe that in that Province, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, there are people who are prepared to stand up for law and order. The hon. Member for Londonderry mentioned one or two, and I believe that they exist. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about witnesses?"] Hon. Members must understand that the Prime Minister of the Province talked on television about evidence with which he had been provided. I am asking what is that sort of evidence which convinces him but cannot convince a court.
146 Shouting, "What about witnesses?" does not begin to answer that question.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison rose—
§ Mr. Hattersley
No, I must get on. I began rather late, and there is little time.
I do not minimise the difficulty of re-establishing the trust of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland and at the same time avoiding the alienation of the Protestant majority. The Protestants are, of course, entitled to the rights of any political majority. It would be dangerously foolish for me or for any hon. Member not to admit that there is a second reason why their attitudes have to be treated with caution.
In the midst of all our talk of refusal to capitulate to the gunman, we are inclined to overlook that there are numerous—more numerous—potential gunmen within the Orange section of the population. It would be wickedly reckless of any of us to pursue policies which resulted in their direct and immediate action. No one on this side suggests or contemplates that, but we certainly suggest that a great deal more must be done to minimise the threat that those gunmen make or imply. Certainly, the traditionally inadequate security services of Northern Ireland must extend their activities towards the Orange Right wing.
I hope that when the Minister of State winds up we shall hear a good deal more about how the potential Orange threat could be combated and could be beaten were it to manifest itself. When we were in Government, we tried to preserve the loyalty of the majority community by the constant reiteration of our policy about the Border. The Border, we said, was not an issue. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition repeated that again today. But to say that the Border is not an issue—and, of course, at this moment it is not—is not to say that the Constitution of Northern Ireland can be or ought to be atrophied in every detail.
To say, as the Home Secretary said on television last Monday evening, that the Unionist Party,happens to be a majority in the country … it is very difficult to have a system of elections with which the majority do not agree".is dangerously and, I suspect, intentionally simplistic. Of course, the 147 Unionist Party is in a majority in Northern Ireland. It always has been, and for many years it will continue to be. The Unionists' legal position is beyond doubt. But, frankly, their moral force is diminished by history. It is diminished by the circumstances of Northern Ireland's creation, for when the Border was drawn 50 years ago, by the decision of the majority in this House, it was drawn with the intention of preserving a permanent Unionist majority in Northern Ireland. That was Mr. Bonar Law's price for preserving the Lloyd George Coalition.
Ireland demonstrates that mistakes even as gross as that cannot automatically be remedied. But, because of the gross nature of that mistake, it behooves us all not to speak as though the entire Northern Ireland Constitution down to every detail was created by Providence.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am most grateful. My hon. Friend has talked about the gross nature of that mistake. It was of a gross nature. Should not the question of the Border be brought up and be properly examined, with examination of the attitudes of various people one way or another, being discussed as a matter which may or may not be at issue but must be decided?
§ Mr. Hattersley
No, I do not regret giving way, because it gives me the opportunity to reiterate again—for the third time in my speech, and twice by the Leader of the Opposition—that it does not seem to us that the Border is an appropriate subject for discussion at this time. [HON. MEMBERS: "At the moment?"] At the moment, indeed. That is what the Act of 1949 says, and I believe that there is no one in the House, no matter how entrenched his position, who would not agree that if the Government at Stormont wanted to make a change, then a change ought to be made and would be appropriate. What we are saying is exactly in line with the terms of the 1949 Act. We have the Con- 148 situation, and this party abided by the Constitution and supported it.
Having said that, I must say that some changes clearly have to be made. We must create a Constitution which provides both communities with an assurance that their rights will be safeguarded. In 1969 the assurance was neither automatic nor formal, but it was real. Then the Whitehall Government, because of the part it played in the Declaration of Downing Street, was trusted by the Catholic community. It is now a fact that that trust is no longer there, and a more formal, more legalistic assurance is needed. That can be provided by the scheme outlined by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in his speech on 8th September.
A Commission composed of Stormont and Westminster Members offers to the people of Northern Ireland a new prospect, a prospect to those who feel, rightly or wrongly, that they can no longer put their faith in the Provincial Government. Their fears may or may not be justified, but I say again that the accuracy of their judgment is not the point. Until the trust can be re-established, there can be no lasting peace. That is the point that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Ponder) must understand if he believes, as I hope he does, that the enthusiasm for the suppression of terror is no less on my side of the House than on his. He said that until there is peace on the streets of Northern Ireland he can see a very small audience for a political solution. What I have to say to him is that the two things, peace and a political solution, are indivisible. We cannot get one without the other, and we cannot get either unless we re-establish the confidence of the Northern Ireland people.
The proposals of my right hon. Friend would, I believe, go a long way to doing that. But if the proposals are unacceptable, either here or in Belfast, because they involve unnecessary intrusion by the United Kingdom Parliament—unnecessary in their opinion, though not in mine—I offer another suggestion to the House. Again, it is not original; it is the proposal of Mr. Gladstone's second Home Rule Bill. Like the proposals of my right hon. Friend, it was constructed between his second and third Administration. That Bill would have offered Ireland two 149 Houses of Parliament, one so composed that it would represent the view of the majority community, the second so con- strutted that the views of the minority community predominated. Each would act as a check on the other. Major legislation would need to pass through both, and if both constantly failed to agree, over two or more Parliamentary Sessions, it would be the obligation of what was then called the Imperial Parliament to decide on whether the legislation should proceed.
I gladly concede that there can be no peace in Northern Ireland whilst the majority of its citizens feel that they are to be, or might be, detached from the United Kingdom. That is why we have reiterated time after time—in my own speech on four occasions—the promise contained in the 1949 Act. But I do not believe that there can be peace, either, until the minority community feel that they have a continued and permanent promise of genuine representation. A scheme like that of my right hon. Friend or of Mr. Gladstone seems to me to be an essential entrenched safeguard that we should offer to them.
Of course, we all welcome the reforms that were issued from Stormont yesterday and which were mentioned, though not in great detail, by the Home Secretary this afternoon. But one thing must be said about the timing of the announcement. We are entitled to ask, and I fear that the minority community in Northern Ireland will ask, the reforms coming as they did on the eve of the recall of Parliament, whether they would have happened later or not at all if my right hon. Friend had not insisted that we should be here today.
A second problem inherent with an announcement made literally 12 hours before Parliament is to meet is that it makes it very clear in our minds, and in minds in Belfast and Derry, that there is no strategy for reform at Stormont. Additional items are conceded when pressure is applied either in the streets or by the Home Secretary.
Since there is no over-all plan, and since what happened last night demonstrates that there is no over-all plan, it is difficult to convince the minority community that there is genuine reformist zeal in the Northern Ireland Government. We need a sign of that zeal, and one of 150 our principal complaints, which I fear the Home Secretary will hear throughout the debate, is that in the absence of genuine zeal from the Stormont Parliament there has not been sufficient pressure from the Home Office to make sure that the Northern Ireland Government move constantly forward.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Richard Sharples)
With one sentiment, and one only, in the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Chatterley) did I find myself in agreement. That was his tribute to the troops and his description of their conduct as exemplary. In contrast with the vast majority of the speeches today, the remainder of his speech was wholly unhelpful and made no contribution whatever to the solution of the problems of Northern Ireland. If he describes any proposal put forward by the Northern Ireland Government as a surrender to pressure, that is not a helpful contribution to come from the Opposition Front Bench.
The vast majority of the speeches on both sides so far—whether one agrees or disagrees with their contents—have been made in a constructive spirit. I listened to nearly all the speeches, but I am particularly sorry that I missed that of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) who made an outright condemnation of violence.
The Leader of the Opposition began the debate, and I think that the House will have been in general agreement with the greater part of his speech. The House will have welcomed his condemnation of the violence which, he said, was a condemnation of violence without reservation and a condemnation of violence from whichever quarter it might come. I think that there will also be general agreement with his statement that the real enemy in Northern Ireland is fear—the fear of both sides of that which may happen and of action by the terrorists.
The right hon. Gentleman put forward some amplification of the 12 points which he made in a speech earlier this month. He will not expect me to reply tonight in detail to those points, but any points which are put forward in a constructive sense deserve careful consideration and I would not wish to reject out of hand 151 points which I believe he put forward in a constructive sense. One of the proposals concerned the control of finance, and I would only say on this point that there are limits beyond which one cannot go if one is going to avoid what is in effect direct rule and if the Stormont Government are to, continue as the responsible Government in Northern Ireland. He himself came out fairly strongly against the idea of direct rule.
Both the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Spark brook referred at some length to the question of internment. The House would wish to hear at first hand from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister the answers to the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the implementation of the internment policy. I ask, particularly in dealing with the point made by the hon. Member for Spark brook, in a condition in which it is impossible for a witness to come forward and give evidence in court because of the terror to which he may be subject, what alternative is there to internment? Earlier the Home Secretary described internment as a hideous step, but murder is a hideous step and that is what we have to deal with in Northern Ireland.
The Leader of the Opposition asked about internment orders. Those are signed by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who examines each case individually. The hon. Member for Spark-brook asked why the internment orders were made at all. One good reason for making the orders upon those detained is to give them the right of appeal to the Advisory Committee. They have the right of appeal to the Committee once an internment order has been made. While I am on the subject, the right hon. Gentleman congratulated my right hon. Friend upon the appointment of the members of the Committee. The members of the Committee, as the right hon. Gentleman will realise, are appointed by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Sharples
The other question which has been raised has to do with the Inquiry set up under the chairmanship of Sir Edmund Compton to deal with allega- 152 tions of brutality during the time that arrests were taking place. The Inquiry started work on 2nd September and since then has visited the main sites where the offences complained of are alleged to have taken place. It also visited Belfast Prison and the "Maidstone" while they were at detention centres. It has taken possession of records made at the time of the events at these places and has received and considered a considerable volume of written evidence. It is now proceeding to hear witnesses.
The Inquiry started with an assurance of full co-operation from the Army and the police authorities as regards the provision of information and the attendance of Army and police personnel whose evidence was required. Sir Edmund is satisfied that this promise is being fully kept and that the Inquiry is not being impeded by the absence of statutory powers to require the production of records or attendance of witnesses. The Inquiry is proceeding without impediment and, what is important, it is proceeding as fast as possible.
§ Mr. McNamara
Would the hon. Gentleman say how many internees have so far given evidence or offered to do so?
§ Mr. Sharples
I do not have that information. The inquiry is being conducted by the Inquiry and it works in its own way.
Another question raised by the Leader of the Opposition and others was that of firearms. As was pointed out by one of my right hon. Friends, the vast majority, possibly 60,000, of the firearms in Northern Ireland—and the figure of 100,000 was quoted—are shotguns which are held by farmers.
§ Mr. Sharples
The gun clubs are controlled by the Northern Ireland Government. The weapon which the gun club has is the .22 rifle. Anyone will appreciate that for street fighting or violence the .22 rifle is a most unsatisfactory weapon.
The danger is not the licensed firearm but the unlicensed, illegally-held firearm, no matter by whom it is held. The Northern Ireland Government announced on 9th August that there would be no 153 more approvals for the formation of rifle clubs. The number of rifle clubs has declined from 108 in February, 1971, to 86 at present.
§ Mr. Hattersley
The Minister of State is right in saying that the main threat comes from the unlicensed rifles. Will he say what the Government are doing about them?
§ Mr. Sharples
Yes. It is a serious offence to have an unlicensed weapon, and whether the culprit is Protestant or Catholic the procedure is exactly the same.
§ Mr. Sharples
In the ordinary way. The police seize them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) raised a number of points concerning the Border and the operation of the security forces. The amount of control put on the Border must be an operational decision. I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates the enormous military resource which would be involved in controlling the Border, if control of the Border is to be effective, it is a question not merely of blocking the roads but of blocking the ports. It leads inevitably to the issue of some form of identity card, with all the administrative burden which that imposes.
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) raised the question of police communications being picked up by unauthorised persons. I will certainly look at that matter and ask our technical people at the Home Office to see whether there is any way in which they can help. It is an expensive business to make police communications secure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry also asked what can be done by those who want to help. The answer is quite simple. We want recruits for the Ulster Defence Regiment, and it is open to all people, Catholics and Protestants, to come forward as volunteers for the Ulster Defence Regiment. There is now no limit on the strength which the Regiment can reach.
I turn to the more recent situation and to some of the points raised by the hon.
154 Member for Spark brook. He sought to give the impression that the campaign of violence had started only since the internment policy was initiated.
§ Mr. Hattersley indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Sharples
That is not the truth. The communal violence was a feature of 1969 and of the summer of 1970. From the summer of 1970, during that autumn and in the early part of the winter of 1970–71, there was very little violence. During that time there was, I think, a real hope that the period of violence had come to an end, certainly as regards inter-community strife.
On 3rd February, 1971, I have no doubt at all that a deliberate campaign of violence was launched by those people who wished to create the maximum amount of dissension. There was no reason whatever for this. The campaign started with the deliberate murder of two soldiers on duty, and since then there has been a steady escalation of the campaign. Since that time this leads one to the reasons for the policy of internment, which none of us likes—23 soldiers have been killed, three policemen have been killed, two members of the U.D.R. have been killed and over 100 civilians have been killed. This is the situation in which a policy of interment has been introduced. Those people have been murdered.
During this period, 540 separate explosions have been deliberately caused by the terrorists. More than 6,000 lb. of explosive has been used in those explosions. This is the extent of the terrorist campaign which has been launched and which our troops and the police are fighting in Northern Ireland.
What is significant, however, in recent weeks is a new turn of events in this campaign of terror. It was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition. It is not only that the attacks are directed against the security forces, but that the attacks are directed against the civilian population in order to cause the maximum possible damage.
If one looks back, the starting point has rightly been said to be the Downing Street Declaration of 1969. It is agreed between us, certainly on the two Front Benches and, I think, broadly speaking, in the House, and it is confirmed by the 155 Leader of the Opposition, that the status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom is not an issue. It is agreed between us that it is essential to restore law and order as a basis for economic and social stability. Both Governments are pledged to establish a firm basis for equal rights for all Northern Ireland citizens as soon as possible.
What is remarkable, in spite of what was said by the hon. Member for Spark-brook, is the amount of progress which has been made. Practically every measure has involved the passing of legislation. It may be that progress in some directions has not been quite as fast as people hoped but, none the less, let us not underestimate in any way the amount of progress which has been made.
We had the White Paper published by the Northern Ireland Government to which reference has been made. We have had the other proposals which were put forward by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on 22nd June. I still hope that those members of the S.D.L.P. who have not agreed to co-operate in the new committees which were proposed at that time will have second thoughts about that.
We had yesterday the statement put out by the Northern Ireland Prime Minister. Let me quote what was said:The Government—of Northern Ireland—will publish a detailed consultative document as a focus for discussion of the merits of changes in the voting system for elections to Stormont, an increase in the size of the House of Commons, and an increase in and modification of the Senate. The document will also discuss objectively the basis of Cabinet Government in Northern Ireland in the context of the principle of collective responsibility and the need for an identity of interest on vital principles.These are constructive proposals and I believe they deserve the welcome—not a reserved welcome, but the wholehearted welcome—of this House as a whole.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
In view of the timing of this announcement yesterday, would my hon. Friend tell us just how long the proposals which were announced last night as forming part of the consultative document have been in preparation and how long delay there has been in producing the consultative document?
§ Mr. Sharples
As my hon. Friend knows quite well, these proposals have been put forward as soon as possible.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
My hon. Friend has missed the point. I think it is well known in both Government circles and elsewhere that these proposals have been discussed and threshed over for a long time. I think it is also well known that there has been delay—[Interruption.] I do not think the situation in Northern Ireland calls for the sort of frivolity there is among hon. Members opposite. [Interruption.] We still have free speech in this House. I think it is also well known that there has been a delay in the production of the consultative document. Is that the case or is it not?
§ Mr. Sharples
This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Government. What I am saying is that they have taken the initiative and are taking the initiative in putting forward constructive proposals.
The tragedy is that there are those who are determined that this programme shall not succeed, that there are those who are deliberately creating by their actions unemployment even amongst those whose interests they purport to serve. Many of us will have seen on television those girls watching while their factory was blazing, and seeing their jobs going up in smoke. There are those who believe only in the language of murder and of arson, which is designed to create maximum terror and designed to prevent in Northern Ireland the investment which is the solution to many of the Northern Ireland problems.
These people and their campaign have nothing whatsoever to do with the Catholic Church. It is condemned by the leaders of the Catholic Church. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the campaign for civil rights. It is a campaign which is directed against all those who want a just and equitable solution in Northern Ireland. It is a campaign, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cherwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) said, which, in the long run, is directed just as much against Mr. Lynch as it is directed against Mr. Faulkner.
I must say that I disagree very strongly with those in this debate and those outside who say we should withdraw our troops and let the inhabitants of Northern Ireland fight it out amongst themselves.
157 I wonder whether they would say the same if the same kind of terror were taking place in their own constituencies, whether in Liverpool, Glasgow, or even in Brigg.
The fight is being carried on by the security forces to defeat the terrorists and it is a fight in which every one of us in this country is directly involved. It is, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a fight within our own house. We are determined that it is a fight which we shall win and in which we shall defeat the terrorists.
It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment lapsed, without Question put.