§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Humphrey Atkins.]
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William Whitelaw)
This is a short debate arranged at short notice, I believe for the convenience of the House, about the serious events in Northern Ireland over the last weekend. I shall seek to meet the mood of a short debate by making a short speech in order to allow as many other hon. and right hon. Members who wish to take part to do so. I hope also in these circumstances that it will be thought right if I do not give way to too many interruptions of one sort or another but allow my hon. Friend at the end of the debate to reply to any points which may be raised.
As the House will know, the city and people of Belfast suffered a murderous sequence of explosions last Friday. Most of the 27 explosions in Belfast that day occurred within a 3½-hour period in the afternoon—at a time when, and at places where, high civilian casualties must have been expected and intended. No adequate warnings were given. Nine civilians and two soldiers were killed and about 130 civilians injured, many gravely. I need hardly point out that all sections of the community were indiscriminately affected by these outrages.
Of the nine dead two were Roman Catholics; of the 130 injured at least 40 were Roman Catholics; of the casualties 53 were men and boys and 77 were women and girls.
The full horror of these events will have been seen by many hon. Members on television, and from what I saw over the weekend of some of the damage I do not believe that what was shown was an exaggeration of what happened. I am sure the House will wish to join with me in expressing sympathy to the families of all those involved in this wanton attack 1327 on innocent men, women and children. I am grateful for the immediate support given to Her Majesty's Government at the time by the Leader of the Opposition on television and since by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees).
After the appallingly bloodthirsty and criminal events of last Friday there cannot be any remaining shred of support for the men who perpetrated them. Even those sections of Roman Catholic opinion throughout the world which have traditionally identified themselves with, and, perhaps, sometimes given the benefit of the doubt to any group of men who claim to speak for the Irish Republican movement, can surely no longer continue to uphold the men who were responsible for Friday's horrible catalogue of slaughter.
Supporters of the Republican move-men in this country, in Northern Ireland, in the United States and elsewhere, will no doubt notice the revulsion in some sections in the Irish Republic. Hon. Members will have seen, for example, an article in the Dublin Sunday Independent of yesterday in which the editor condemned Friday's terrorist brutality in the strongest possible terms. I think I should quote some of his words:We cannot change the past, however much we regret its record. But if we wish to restore the honour of our people, now is the time to act. We must break the paralysis which leaves the good name of the Irish people in the hands of unscrupulous men. And we must find a way to make restitution for our failings.Since Parliament at the end of March entrusted the Government with complete responsibility for all administration in Northern Ireland we have made the most patient and reasoned effort to secure the end of violence. No one can deny that. No one can deny, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government have now an absolutely unchallengeable right to ask the House, the country and, indeed, the whole world for their support in an absolute determination to destroy the capacity of the Provisional IRA for further acts of inhumanity. It has degraded the human race, and it must now be clear to all that its sole objective is to promote its aims by violence and by violence alone. Let no one be taken in by the propaganda that this organisation puts out in its constant campaign to discredit the security forces. I have seen examples of it already, and I hope that the media will not be deluded by it.
1328 We are dealing not with a struggle between two communities but with a force that is the enemy of them both. I very much agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who said on 10th July that the breakdown of the truce meant not that our policy of reconciliation was in any way mistaken but that our patience and tolerance would give us moral strength and popular backing to adopt a policy of greater firmness if and when we considered it appropriate.
Since the ceasefire, as I told the House last Thursday, the Army took measures to protect civilian life and its own position in Lenadoon. It has also on other occasions taken action to prevent intimidation of Catholic families in other areas. Immediately the Secretary of State for Defence and I arrived in Belfast on Friday evening we authorised intensified military operations against the Provisional IRA. Since then the security forces have carried out a number of searches for arms, explosives and terrorists not only in Belfast but throughout the whole of Northern Ireland. Over the weekend they have succeeded in locating more than half a ton of explosives, much bomb-making equipment, 2,000 rounds of ammunition, 19 weapons, and the IRA Land Rover which had been used in the Ballymurphy area. Twenty-three barricades in the Falls, Ballymurphy and Anderstons town areas of Belfast and in Armagh have been removed.
In the 24-hour period ending on Saturday morning the security forces were involved in 103 shooting incidents but in the two succeeding 24-hour periods the number dropped to 58 and then to 22. A large number of hits on gunmen have been claimed, 26 since Friday in addition to more than 150 since the end of the ceasefire. Considerable numbers of people have been arrested on suspicion. Of these 30 have been charged with criminal offences, and the rest have been released, except for eight who are in custody and two whom I have detained.
These operations will, unfortunately, mean danger and inconvenience and some hardship to innocent people in certain areas. But in the face of the outrages committed last Friday I believe that the people will see such measures to be necessary and justified and that they will support the security forces in their 1329 difficult task. They must know that unless violence in their area can be ended there can be only misery ahead for them and for the whole of Northern Ireland.
At this stage I pay tribute to the Army, including the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, on whom the burden of carrying these measures through is very considerable.
I want now to tell the House of the twin objectives of Her Majesty's Government policy in Northern Ireland. Our first objective must be to destroy the capacity of the Provisional IRA to terrorise the community. There can be no hope of any future for the people of Northern Ireland if this terror is allowed to dominate the situation. In destroying the Provisional IRA's capacity to terrorise the community, it must be our objective to maintain the understanding and good will of all communities in Northern Ireland, and I know that the minority community feel an equal sense of the shock and horror of last Friday's attacks as there is throughout the community.
Our second objective is to pursue urgently our aim of finding a new basis for the administration of Northern Ireland in which the minority will have a true part to play and in which we can work towards measures that benefit Northern Ireland as a whole rather than favouring one community or another. It is no doubt the object of the Provisional IRA to disrupt our search for this solution. But I must tell the House that the Government are not prepared to see their efforts towards searching for a political solution disrupted or interrupted by terrorism. I have already begun the consultations which I mentioned earlier to the House with a view to setting up a conference of political parties in Northern Ireland to see what common ground can be found in the working out of a political solution. This week I have arranged to see Mr. Faulkner and to discuss the conference with representatives of the Alliance Party, the Republican Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Northern Ireland Labour Party. I have also invited representatives of the Social Democratic and Labour Party to discuss these matters with me, and such discussions will continue. The restoration of peace and confidence is, clearly, essential for the final 1330 setting up of new political institutions, but I am not prepared to be halted in the search for these by acts of terrorism.
It must be the duty of everyone in Northern Ireland who cares for the future of the community not to allow himself to be provoked. In this connection I was very glad to hear that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) had spoken out strongly against the Vanguard proposal for a rent and rates strike. I was also pleased to note that he was very strongly supported by the former Minister of Development in the Northern Ireland Government, Mr. Bradford, who said that it would be madness to obstruct the Government and the security forces at the present time. Some other Unionist leaders have spoken likewise.
Last Friday surely proved to the House, to all people—the North and South of Ireland, and, indeed, to people throughout the world, that the tragic events of that day were not the actions of a minority community seeking to redress grievances which, rightly or wrongly, they harbour as a result of the past. These must surely be obvious as the methods employed by a small group of killers who will stop at nothing in pursuit of their aims and who care nothing for innocent human life.
In these circumstances, I confidently ask the House for its support in the continuing military measures which Her Majesty's Government will take against the Provisional IRA and, indeed, also for the political objectives of Her Majesty's Government in Northern Ireland.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
There will be only one Front Bench speaker from this side, to make more time available for back bench speakers.
If there had been no change of business, we should have asked for a debate under Standing Order No.9, reflecting our concern over the events of Friday, just as I sought a Standing Order No. 9 debate in February at the time of the deaths in Derry.
The Secretary of State has said that there were nine deaths on Friday. The first announcement was of 11 deaths. It tells us something of what happened 1331 that it took the pathologist to tell us there were nine bodies and not 11. The Secretary of State has also said that 140 were injured. We add our sympathy to the families to the sympathy expressed by the Secretary of State.
The deaths merit an Adjournment debate, showing our concern equally with our concern about those of Deny. I hope that world opinion will be as much moved by the events of Friday as it was by the events in Deny a few months ago. As I said on Saturday, in death there are no double standards.
Friday's events are important also because they, and the Secretary of State's response, mark a turn in the affairs of Northern Ireland which must be discussed in the House. There were those in Belfast on Saturday who saw fit to announce changes in policy. The Secretary of State has told us today how he sees things. Our view is clear. It is based on the policy put forward over recent years by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), that there is no long-term military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. We regard the Stormont policy of internment of last August as a mistake. It alienated the mass of the minority population, who are anyway, in the sense of the word often used by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in another context, already alien by the nature of the State set up 50 years ago.
But we support firmly the security forces when they seek out killers and gunmen. We support firmly stronger security measures against the pedlars of gelignite. It is the easiest form of warfare to fill a car or a pram with gelignite and leave it. The Government must look again, as I am sure they are doing, at the easy movement of arms and bombs. If it means ringing the centre of Belfast and other areas with controls and checks, so be it. So be it if it raises problems for majority or minority.
Is it clear to the Army what its rôle is? Is the Secretary of State for Defence to play a greater political role? Has there been a change in the Government's policy towards the no-go areas?
1332 The view that now obviously prevails among the IRA—it was put to me in Dublin by some one trying to assess the situation for me—is that if civil war had continued in the 1920s, if the battle had gone on for another six months, a united Ireland would have been achieved. In my view, Lenadoon was not the basic reason for the end of the truce. The reason was a belief that quick unification would not come from the ceasefire. Well, by its actions continuously over the years and by its response last week, the IRA, in my view, has put the possibility of unification further ahead.
We want to be clear about what will happen to those arrested. Internment was, and would be, unproductive. Those detained must be brought before the courts. Can the Northern Ireland legal system deal with those arrested? Is the prosecution system effective to cope? Is the court system capable of dealing with the situation?
My next question concerns interrogation, because already stories about interrogation are beginning to come out. Does the Prime Minister's statement post-Parker on 2nd March still apply? He said then thatthe techniques which the Committee examined will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation."—[Official Report, 2nd March, 1972; Vol. 832, c. 744.]It matters to our good name, and it is certain that within the next day or two the stories will be coming out and world opinion will be listening to them.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)
I assure the hon. Gentleman, the House and the country that that statement remains absolutely as I made it in every respect.
§ Mr. Rees
I am grateful to the Prime Minister. He has answered in the spirit in which I put the question. It will not be long before the stories are circulating, and it is important to have the situation clear.
There is no doubt that the UDA's reaction to the initiative, its marching and masking, was one reason for the support given to the IRA in Belfast. It created fear. In today's Guardian—I am one of the few who have a copy and I 1333 have a market price—Mr. Simon Hoggart reports:The UDA would begin attacks designed to eliminate the Provisional IRA later this week.I hope that the Secretary of State will see the UDA and tell it that the House and the country would want the security forces to treat the majority/minority who take the law into their own hands in the same way.
The IRA has a view of the UDA which leads me to think that it would welcome a confrontation. Would that there was a Western Desert where they could meet and sort things out. There is widespread feeling in this country that it would be just retribution if the two extremes were killing each other, but, in our view, it must be prevented as the bloodbath would involve the innocent.
What will the Army's role be if the UDA carries out its threat at the end of this week? We would not be prepared to see our troops being shot at by both sides. The consequences of action must be made clear to the UDA. Loyalty to the Crown means only that the forces of the Crown act in defence of the community.
The Secretary of State turned to the long-term solution. In the midst of our concern for the short term, it is proper that we should look ahead. The right hon. Gentleman told us about the talks and the local elections, which I am sure will continue. It appears that there will be a conference soon. The Government must now consider what will happen if no agreement is reached. The thought is growing on me that as right as we were to remove Stormont, it is the lack of a place where politicians can talk which increasingly raises problems in Ireland. It matters to have a legislative assembly, but there must be no return to Stormont, and security must remain here. There may well in the short run have to be an imposed solution, and a provisional assembly might be provided.
I was glad, as I am sure was the right hon. Gentleman, to receive a copy of a memorandum put forward by the Rev. Eric Gallagher, of the Methodist Church of Northern Ireland. With my Welsh background, I am glad to see that the Methodist Church is putting its mind to the political problems of the area in which it lives. The political vacuum must be 1334 filled soon, but it must not be filled in a way which will bring moderates into the limelight. It is the only way for the twentieth century to reprimand the seventeenth.
There are those who profess to believe that in March the implementation of direct rule and the bringing of security to Westminster ended a halcyon situation in which all was well. It was not. It was right to make those changes. It is equally right now to act, within the law, against those who proceed by terror—to act against all private armies. It is right also to work for conciliation and for a political structure which is, in the words of The Times, "fair to both communities".
In the nineteenth century successive imperial Governments oscillated between conciliation and coercion. Our security forces must act against terror. We must never forget the difficult job which we as politicians impose upon them, but we must not oscillate and swing to other extremes. We must always remember, whatever the problems of the day, that there is no military solution to the Ireland problem. That is still the basis from which we on this side will judge all present and future policies.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I intend to be brief so that as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible will be able to speak. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will understand if I do not elaborate on certain matters as I would do if I had more time.
The Labour Government, which were in office when the troubles originally broke out in 1969, and the present Government have clearly been pursuing the wrong policy in Northern Ireland. Law and order has broken down. I was pleased to hear the firm opening statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The statement contrasted markedly with the statement made a little earlier concerning the docks. When a situation occurs such as that which is afflicting this country in the docks, it is all very well for Ministers to say that law and order must at all costs be established in Northern Ireland; but that is not what the Government have been doing over the past three 1335 years. The terrible death toll, of which the House is well aware, is now over 450 persons, many of whom, as we heard in the analysis given by my right hon. Friend, were women and children, boys and girls, innocent parties whose lives have been cut short by the terrible action of the terrorists.
To consider the deaths in Northern Ireland and the countless thousands who have been horribly mutilated in explosions and then to listen to the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) speaking of a political solution being necessary in Northern Ireland, is living in an atmosphere of total unreality. Surely it must be clear, as it always has been to all hon. Members on both sides who have represented Northern Ireland constituencies, that the men who have been causing the trouble in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republican Army, are not prepared to accept a democratic political solution.
That is what the trouble is about. When one speaks of a political solution one must immediately ask "What is the problem?" Is it a political problem which faces us in Northern Ireland, or a problem which arises from the fact that there is a small group of people who will stop at nothing to impose their will upon the majority? It is a matter of great regret that many hon. Members in recent debates confused the IRA with the Roman Catholic Church. All too often we hear that the trouble arises from rivalry between Catholics and Protestants. The fact is that the problem arises between a small group of Republicans, who are not, and have never been, representative of the Northern Ireland Roman Catholic community. I speak from a lifetime's experience. It is true that the group operates from certain well-known Catholic areas and has created no-go land in those areas. I wish that my right hon. Friend had said a little more about his intentions regarding the no-go areas.
The two past Prime Ministers in Ulster—Major James Chichester-Clark, now Lord Moyola, and Mr. Brian Faulkner—both called for strong measures from the Westminster Government. The truth of the matter is that these firm measures in Northern Ireland have been requested ever since the troubles broke out. Ever since the Army was first introduced, in 1336 1969, the security of Northern Ireland has rested firmly in the hands of Westminster, first, in the hands of Labour Ministers and, more recently, in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. It was he who decided what kind of action should be taken against the terrorists.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head. How could an unarmed police force, a police force which, as a result of the recommendations of Lord Hunt, had given up its arms, be expected to stand up to the terrorists in the Bog-side, who were armed with armalite rifles, with an arsenal of bombs and even with anti-tank guns, and who now, we are told, even have mortars? How could an unarmed police force stand up to those? It was the soldiers who were called in who had to take the proper and appropriate action against the terrorists.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Would the hon. Gentleman help the House? Hon. Members will be interested in his answer. Leaving aside for the moment his criticisms of his own and the previous Governments, does he or does he not support his right hon. Friend's speech and the policies that he outlined this afternoon?
§ Mr. McMaster
I thought that I was unwise to give way in a short debate, but I will deal with that. I did not approve of the political initiative taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as I made perfectly clear at the time. The political solution has, clearly, failed. The actions of the Government in the last three days show that the attempt to achieve a political solution has failed, that the attempt to appease the IRA by talking to it is completely hopeless for dealing with the present situation.
I should like to know how it is that we demand of the dockers who have been put in prison for contempt of court that they follow the laws of the country, and yet hon. Members have spoken to gunmen and have talked with terrorists who are responsible for the murder of a growing number of United Kingdom citizens and against whom, apparently, no action is to be taken. What has happened about our laws concerning consorting with 1337 known criminals? What steps were taken to see that the leaders of the IRA, Sean McStiofain, and others, were arrested and tried for the offences for which they have been responsible?
Time is not on the side of the Government in this country. It must be clear from any impartial examination of the situation that has developed in Northern Ireland—even a cursory examination—that it has become steadily worse. In 1969 there was no heavily-armed IRA, and even when the political initiative was taken the IRA was not armed as it is today. The advice of military leaders in Northern Ireland was that most of the leading members of the IRA in Northern Ireland had been interned and that their command structure was broken and that the IRA was totally disorganised. It was only when my right hon. Friend took over, when the Northern Ireland Government were suspended, that the IRA was able to reform in Belfast and in other parts of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
My hon. Friend has attributed views to what I assume to be military spokesmen, and he has reported what they are said to have said. I know of no evidence for those reports, and I do not accept them for a moment.
§ Mr. McMaster
Then my right hon. Friend and I must disagree about that. I should have thought that anyone who studied the records of events in Northern Ireland and the steadily increasing violence would say that the evidence spoke for itself. The very fact that the IRA is armed as it now is shows that it has been able to use the time put at its disposal by the low profile policy of my right hon. Friend, the policy called in Northern Ireland the "softly, softly policy". The IRA, the Republicans, are those who have benefited. Surely the troops in Northern Ireland were strong enough to restore law and order in the no-go areas one, two, or even three years ago. Plainly, the British Army is not the organisation that has become stronger with the passage of three years. Who has become better prepared to withstand any attempt to restore law and order in the no-go areas? The answer is the Republican side, and only the Republican side.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Was not the hon. Gentleman's contention 1338 proved by the factories and arsenals discovered as a result of immediate search?
§ Mr. McMaster
I am concerned about the steps which were taken over the weekend. I should like to know what the change of policy is. I heard one Army officer saying on the BBC on Sunday that the Army had searched only houses where it was known that there were arms. Why were not those houses searched previously? Has there been any change in policy? If not, what is all the fuss about?
I should like my right hon. Friend to deal particularly with the suggestion that martial law should now be introduced in Northern Ireland. The only way to deal with a terrorist organisation such as the IRA, which is prepared to intimidate witnesses and shoot witnesses, as the IRA a few months ago shot a 'bus driver in my constituency because he recognised the man who had hijacked his bus, is to set up military courts, courts which can act rapidly and expeditiously in bringing men to justice.
I have my own views about the policy of internment, but if one is not prepared to intern, martial law is the only alternative to meet the challenge of the Irish Republican Army, for it has been clearly established, to my regret, that the ordinary processes of justice are not sufficient to deal with this problem.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I should like to start by expressing my sympathy for the victims of another appalling batch of atrocities last Friday and our admiration for the troops and others who have to deal with the situation in Northern Ireland. I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State on his speech this afternoon. We support his policy. Even at the end of his speech, I was not clear whether the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) supported it or not—I take it not—but we certainly support it and in particular we support the continuation of firmness with a determination to find a political solution.
It is complete nonsense to suppose that there will ever be peace in Northern Ireland without a political solution. The province cannot indefinitely be ruled by 1339 martial law. I sympathise with the Secretary of State in his determination to stick to the general line of his policy and to make no judgments upon incidents about which there is any doubt and to try to be as little provocative to the general mass of the people in Northern Ireland as he can be.
But there are some things which other people can and should say. The first thing that I want to say is that I detect a note in the voices of some people from Northern Ireland, not least in the voice of the hon. Member for Belfast, East, which seems to imply that the present situation in Northern Ireland is in some way the fault of the British or of the Secretary of State.
It would be fruitless to job back over history. But if 60 or 70 years ago the Home Rule Bill had been passed we would never have reached the state of affairs we have today. As for the last 10 to 20 years, it is pretty stiff for the Ulster Unionists to come to this House and say that it is the fault of other people when they supported discrimination against their Catholic fellow subjects for years and years and offered them considerable provocation.
I also notice a myth growing up that somehow or other nothing was achieved in Ireland without violence from the IRA. The historical truth is that the IRA has never achieved anything except murder and violence and the indefinite postponement of the unity of Ireland. Redmond had obtained better terms for Ireland than those eventually accepted by the IRA and their colleagues. Had there not been that degree of violence long ago, probably by now we would have had a Council of Ireland and we might have been some way towards the unification of Ireland with a fair degree of agreement.
It is very easy to prey upon the consciences of the British people and to make them feel unhappy about their behaviour in the past. I can remember, when the Nazis first started, being told that we must not be hard on them because after all the Treaty Versailles was a very bad Treaty. In this case I wholly agree with the Secretary of State that we do not have it on our conscience that the trouble in Ireland today is due 1340 to us or to him. It is now up to all reasonable people to support him in the efforts which he is making with great determination and courage to enforce law and order on the one hand and to find a political solution on the other.
We cannot brush aside the fact that this cannot be done without the wholehearted agreement of the great majority of the Northern Irish people. I entirely agree that these atrocities, worthy of Fascist thugs at their worst and with the same motives, are the work of a small minority of Irishmen but they have had the fears of the different communities in Northern Ireland to play upon, they have had tacit support in the "no-go" areas. It surely should be clear now that the Irish have everything to gain by coming forward and talking with the Secretary of State, trying to find a solution to their difficulties in their own country.
I read the American papers and even now there are letters in them saying that the IRA is to be excused on the grounds of British oppression. That is a complete nonsense. It cannot be too widely known that the IRA is perpetrating atrocities worthy possibly of the Mau-Mau but no one else in the last 30 or 40 years without any justification whatever. Africans with far greater grievances have never behaved like this. A sensible line would be for the elected representatives, for people of all shades of opinion in Northern Ireland, to discuss a period of direct rule with certain participation by the people of Northern Ireland through their elected representatives.
I agree that there must be some centre of democratic life in the six counties. I also say that in the long run if we can get rid of the IRA the right solution is some federal arrangement of Ireland. As long as it remains, unity of Ireland is impossible. One noticeable thing is that oddly enough until violence broke out we were growing closer to Eire in economic and other ways. Had there not been the violence and these "no-go" areas I believe that the chances of unity might have improved still further.
What then are the alternatives? This, too, must be squarely said otherwise we mislead the people of the six counties. the alternatives are the violent reactions which we hear talked about in Ulster, 1341 the pouring of troops into the "no-go" areas, martial law, suggested this afternoon, widespread arrests. All that results from that is another 20 years of suspicion and hatred. The only other alternative, and I would not recommend it but it is possible, is to say to the people of the "no-go" areas, "You cannot have it both ways. You cannot remain part of Britain and take all the social services, expect us to make good all the damage you have caused, and at the same time shoot at our troops and claim the privilege of continuing anarchy." If people want to do this then at least the areas next to the Border should be returned to Eire.
There is nothing sacrosanct about the six counties. They are the result of compromise. They are not the whole Ulster; the borders might well have been different. It might be in the long run that the only alternative will prove to be that the people of those areas should return to Eire. I do not believe that anyone would like this. I do not believe that the people of those areas would like it, but it must be said quite clearly that we cannot continue with a situation in which a section of the community takes all the advantages of being in the community and rejects all the responsibility for paying its rates, sharing its burdens or taking any responsibility. We have, after all, obligations to other and more deserving communities elsewhere.
The alternatives to the Secretary of State's policies are certainly worse than what he might gain if his policies are supported. But the present situation cannot continue. I appeal to everyone in this House and in Ireland to face the alternatives and to make up their mind whether they really want civil war, whether they really want Ireland further fragmented or whether they are prepared to go forward with what may be a difficult period of negotiation with the different interests in Ireland, supporting a man who certainly has not shown himself antipathetic to the justified demands or fears of the minority.
If, at the end of that period he can achieve an acceptable solution, he will have achieved something which no-one else has so far achieved in the history of Ireland. It will be a remarkable performance. If he fails, the only alternatives are civil war or the disruption of 1342 Ulster. Let it be clear that the alternatives lie before the people of the six counties. They cannot shift the responsibility on to the Secretary of State or this House.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Most of us share the reflection of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) that the horrifying events of Friday marked a turning point in our affairs in Northern Ireland. The policy of conciliation need not be ruled out, nor should the continued search for a political solution. I share the hon. Gentleman's view that in the long run we shall find that this will probably have to be imposed rather than having interminable discussions round a conference table, the delegates to which will in themselves prove a difficult issue to resolve. Reaching conciliation by means of accommodation with the IRA is now emphatically out, and nothing that restson such an accommodation will be either workable or acceptable.
In my view, it was not the day-to-day grievances of Lenadoon or elsewhere which caused this savage break but the innate, unremitting hostility to a policy by which we have to stand. It is the conclusion of the IRA that the ultimate solution will not be, and cannot be, the one which they prefer which I believe to be the mainspring behind its efforts. We shall mislead ourselves if we believe that local incidents, however provocative, lead to the kind of scenes some had to witness and most of us witnessed indirectly on Friday.
A real danger is that before the degree of military intervention of which my right hon. Friend has spoken can be seen to be effective others will move into action. To avoid a battle on two fronts, the Army will have to be allowed to fight more effectively against the real source of the mischief. Naturally, at this point my right hon. Friend will not lack critics disposed if not to condemn then severely to criticise the policies for which he has been responsible since March. He will have to face that, and I have no doubt he will, as part of the risk which he courageously undertook. But this is not a view which I share.
I have been reluctantly driven to the conclusion, notwithstanding the loss of life since March, the damage to property 1343 and the hideous risk entailed, that we have been through an inevitable phase. I am not unconscious—and I do not believe that any hon. Member who has been involved in the affairs of Northern Ireland can be unconcious—of the balance of forces which weigh upon the Secretary of State and Her Majesty's Government. We dwell on the fact that what has been happening has been happening in part of the United Kingdom, and because it is within the United Kingdom so its seems to us it is our sole responsibility and to be dealt with in a manner which we determine. I wish I had the confidence of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends that that is absolutely so. In reality, great forces are engaged in this struggle, and they are not confined to Northern Ireland, to the Republic or even to this country. Passions are engaged over a great part of the world, and we all know why that must be so.
I have never felt disposed to belittle the consequences. We could defy them in our policy. I have never felt disposed to belittle the consequences of doing so, and I believe that it has been imperative to demonstrate to the world what obstacles there were and still are to a conciliatory policy in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is entitled to remind some of us that it is barely six months since the main call made to Her Majesty's Government was for a political initiative. That is, rightly or wrongly, rightly where the pressure lay. Now the call is for stronger military measures, and most of us recognise that that call must, to a degree, be met, and met at once.
In the course of the bitter demonstration during the last six months some ground has been lost tactically. I do not doubt that, nor can anyone else who has discussed matters on the ground, certainly in the city of Belfast. It is fair to add that, in my view, in the wide ambit, strategically if you like, some essential ground has been gained. This time we must see it through. I do not think that we can again switch quickly. There must be limits to flexibility, or at least limits to the flexibility which we require of our military forces.
Anyone who visits Northern Ireland, and particularly the two principal cities, has reason to marvel at the skills and morale of the soldiers. I have never taken 1344 the view that the latter is to be taken for granted. The soldiers have no quarrel with the rôle in which they have been cast. They say "It is our job to defend the Realm and to adapt ourselves to any methods which may have to be used." They have said to me "To say, as some Members of Parliament declare, that we are hopelessly miscast and misused in Northern Ireland is altogether false." That is a remarkable attitude after 2½ years for soldiers, some of whom are on their third and fourth tours of duty. But it is an attitude which imposes certain responsibilities on us here because it is they, not us, who face the final realities. Therefore, a balance must be struck.
We have in the soldiers a matchless instrument to fulfil our requirements. In strengthening the military hand of the Secretary of State, we do not have to fear, as some might, that the soldiers will run amok or that there will be senseless killings, atrocities, and so on. They have a very high degree of skill in adjusting themselves to what is required of them by the Secretary of State and others.
It would be vain and impertinent to suggest in detail what measures the military policy must include. I hold the view, for example, that there is a limit to what can be done in the central area of Belfast by passive guarding, searching and watching, and that more active steps will have to be taken to deal with those who are acclimatised to the passive stance and are disposed to find ways round it. It is not simply a matter of meeting violence with violence. It is a question of asserting, as we must, that in territory for which we have responsibility power cannot be won by sheer ruthlessness and horror. To accept that would bring us to the end of the road.
Enough has happened in a beastly way, particularly last Friday, to teach us that lesson. I can only pray that before we embark on what is likely to be a testing and prolonged ordeal that lesson will not be lost on the world at large.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
Probably the confusion in Northern Ireland is best represented when soldiers appear on television and talk like politicians and politicians appear in the House of Commons and talk as if they are soldiers.
1345 This debate has been brought about because of what happened in Belfast last Friday. Let me say at the outset that I have condemned, and publicly condemned, the horrific aspect of the bombing campaign last Friday and its effects on the people of Belfast. I have consistently said to and of the Provisionals that the bombing campaign in Northern Ireland does not work and that it must be stopped. But let me make it perfectly clear that I do not say that from the same viewpoint as the majority of people. I certainly do not say it from the same viewpoint as the major parties in this House. I do not say it solely on grounds of the hardship which it brings to our people. I count the statistics of the dead in Northern Ireland in terms not of how many Roman Catholics or Protestants were injured or killed but of how many human beings were injured or killed.
It is difficult for the people of Northern Ireland to understand when a new horror arises on the face of British public opinion or a new horror confronts itself to Members of this House and the people of this country. Although it may seem difficult for people in this country to understand, the people of Northern Ireland have lived with this situation since 1968. That leads me to ask, without horror or callousness, of the Members of this House who speak of the bombing on Friday how many of them remember the number of deaths which occurred in the Abercorn disaster or how many people died in M'Gurk's Bar. Fifteen people died in M'Gurk's Bar. I do not say it out of callousness or disrespect or disregard for the number of people who died, but it is a fact that what happened in M'Gurk's Bar is forgotten in Northern Ireland. It is forgotten by all but relatives and friends of the people killed in that bar, as indeed are many disasters, because living with fear and with no prospect of peace has become a way of life to the people of Northern Ireland.
Members of this House talk about finding a political solution to the problem. They do not understand the problem, not because, as hon. Members opposite may say, the Secretary of State is too soft or because people in Northern Ireland may be of the opinion that the Secretary of State is an evil man who delights in sitting at home plotting the deaths of civilians and planning the movement of 1346 troops and repression in Northern Ireland. Things are not that simple. The trouble is that Members of this House and the Government do not understand the basic problem of Ireland, as a whole.
In view of the discussion we had on the business preceding this debate, I find it difficult to understand how Members on this side of the House can say to the Government that bad laws in Britain must not be obeyed and that it is right for the people of Britain to resist bad law, but that bad laws are good enough for the people of Ireland. Members on this side of the House say that the Tory Government are incapable of governing and solving the problems of the people of Britain, that they have brought the people of Britain to industrial anarchy and near general strike, and yet they think that the same Government are capable of solving the problems of Ireland. Hon. Members cannot have it both ways.
The Tory Government and the present policies cannot solve our problem because it is seen in this country only when the people of Ireland make a noise. People talk about our problem in 1968. They talk about the problem which we had in the 1920s. They talk about the problem which we had in 1916 and the one we had in 1798. Each time it was a different problem to this House but it was a problem of the Irish being violent and not obeying the laws, not respecting Britain's authority and refusing to accept the rule of law and order.
Our problem has been exactly the same. Governments and people in this country have listened only when we have said, "We shall have no more of it". The Government and people of this country have heard of our problems only when there has been violence. Small wonder, then, that the people of Northern Ireland react to their problems with violence. It is the only way this country has ever been made to listen to what is happening in Northern Ireland. Generation after generation has suffered exactly the same problem.
Whether this country likes it or not, it is not a problem of our being against the British people. We do not blame the British people. We have the same problem as the British people: it is the problem of the British Government. We do not object to the British people. 1347 We do not blame them. We share common problems with the dockers. They are beginning to see our problems in Northern Ireland. They do not like the way the Government try to repress them. They fight for their case peacefully, but when they discover that the Government bring in laws which change what were their peaceful methods into illegal ones, they refuse to lie down, and find that doing things which once were legal now leads them into gaol. I warn the Government of this country that they will never solve the problem of Northern Ireland by their present methods, and every time they gaol another docker they will need plenty of CS gas for the docks of Britain, because the people will not lie down. They will not lie down in Northern Ireland.
Our problem in Northern Ireland is the British presence. However horrific the activities of Friday, however horrific the violence and bombing, those actions do not invalidate the case. Because the Provisionals fight the wrong way that is not to say the Provisionals should not fight. They are fighting the British presence and British imperialism the wrong way. I have always said that, but I will not say to them, "Stop fighting". I ask them to help build a mass movement. They cannot overthrow the Government by bombing and though they may terrorise some people the British Government will not fall by that means. What we have to fight is the same situation as there is in Britain where the poor are poor, and the weak are weak, and the rich get richer on their backs.
It is not the way to solve our problems to talk in this House about a military solution. I ask the House to remember that there is no military solution for one simple reason, that we have had the problem for 800 years, and for 800 years the House has tried to solve it with military solutions. My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) is here today and the Provisionals are here today. If the House's military solution works tomorrow, I say beware of the day after tomorrow, and next week, and next year, and next generation, because they will be back. It is meaningless to talk of a military solution or even to talk of reconciliation as the Government speak of it, 1348 because the only reconciliation there can be with the people of Northern Ireland is through the ending of British domination in Northern Ireland, and the ending of Roman Catholic and Protestant separatists and the introduction of real politics.
I for one am sick to death of hearing about the money which, it is said, is poured into Northern Ireland, and about British workers pouring money into Northern Ireland and of Irish workers using the money which is poured in. The profits roll out of ICI and they roll out of Courtaulds. They do not go into the pockets of British workers who put in the money in the first place but into the pockets of British capitalists who have made the problems in Northern Ireland and in Britain.
When we in this House talk about a political solution let us remember that the only political solution is an independent republic for Ireland. There will be no military solution because it does not work. I was talking to an old woman in Belfast. She has never been a bomber, but may be she reflects the fact why nobody will ever end the Provisionals by a military solution when she says, "You have got to finish it this time because I have been to too many gravesides before."
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
At the outset of my speech I should like to make it clear on behalf of the majority in Northern Ireland that we are not part and parcel of the United Kingdom because of a military presence or because of any British domination. We are part and parcel of the United Kingdom by the freely expressed will of the majority of that people, a will expressed over and over again in the ballot box. I am convinced that many of the minority in Northern Ireland, too, if they had opportunity to say so free from terrorist domination, would say that they would want to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. The loyalty of the people in Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom keeps them in the United Kingdom and they want to remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. That should be made perfectly clear in this debate. The military presence has nothing to do with it.
1349 I do not think that in this debate any of us from Northern Ireland should deal in recriminations. Many of us could say many things, and we could say them very strongly and with great sincerity and honesty, but I think that the situation in Northern Ireland is of such a serious nature that this House, having taken responsibility for the government of Northern Ireland, has now to face that responsibility in the present situation.
There is a long-term view of what must be undertaken. There must be some coming together between the majority and the minority for the common good. There must be a synthesis of both communities. I would say that that will not come about by imposition from this House but by those communities getting together and both of them realising that there will be nothing left for either of them if they are not prepared to face the stern reality of the situation. That is the long-term view which we must keep in mind.
What are we dealing with this afternoon? We are dealing with an emergency situation. We are dealing with the fact that there are in Northern Ireland a number of organised thugs and murderers who are not interested in democracy, who are not interested in the viewpoint of either the majority or the minority, but who are interested only in overthrowing the State and are interested only in bloodshed and anarchy and murders of the most violent type.
Last night it was my sad duty to go to the Royal Victoria Hospital to visit some members of my own church who suffered in the blast, and I sat by the bedside of a woman who probably will never get back home. I realised as never before that this awful thing in our midst, this cancer in the body politic in Northern Ireland, has got to be healed.
I welcome the statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the Government are determined to deal with the capacity of the IRA to sow terror in our community. I trust that the Government will carry out that policy with all the power they have at their disposal. One question that everyone in Northern Ireland will ask and that should be answered from the Front Bench today is: how is the capacity of the Provisional 1350 IRA to be smashed? How are we to deal with this pernicious cancer in our midst? It is all very well for the troops to go into an area and make a large number of arrests. What will happen after these arrests are made? The figures we have heard today show that only a small number will be brought before the courts.
There is a massive organisation of crime in Northern Ireland in an unstable society. There are pressures on all sections of the community. I utterly deplore the call by Mr. Craig's Vanguard movement for a rent and rate strike and for anarchy among the majority people. That would lead to the total economic collapse of Northern Ireland. I welcome the statement made by the UDA today that it totally dissociates itself from that policy. We should welcome a statement by any section of the community—whether we agree with that section or not—that it will not encourage anarchy. Anarchy will not defeat anarchy. Lawlessness will not defeat lawlessness. The only way in which this movement can be put down is by the Forces of the Crown, who must be supported by all law-abiding citizens in the duty that lies before them.
This is an emergency situation and, therefore, it is impossible for the ordinary courts of the land on common law principles to deal with the matters that must be brought before them. A suggestion was made, but not elucidated, by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) about how the courts should deal with the situation. I warn the House that the reintroduction of mass internment would not be the way to deal with it. Internment has failed, and it would fail again. That is not the way to win the battle. Internment would also militate against a longer-term solution for the minority.
The Criminal Law Revision Committee has recently produced a report which contains certain suggestions for dealing with crime in a stable society, a society that is not suffering the massive onslaught of organised crime that is occurring in Northern Ireland. Let us not call the men who carry out the crime members of an army. They are a gang of thugs, a gang of men who care for no one and who will kill even their co-religionists to further their diabolical ends.
1351 Let me give an illustration. Sergeant Willetts gave his life in Springfield Road Police Station to save a youngster who was in that police station when a bomb went off. A young man concerned was arrested and he made a statement in which he told how he made the bomb, how he planted the bomb and how he was responsible for that outrage. Yet because the onus was on the Crown to prove in a court of law that the statement was a voluntary statement, that young man walks scot-free in the streets of Belfast today. That is the situation with which the Government must come to grips. At the last assizes in Belfast 30 men confessed to various crimes, some of them the most diabolical murders, but no prosecution was entered by the Attorney-General against them. Because of common law principles those men could not be brought to trial.
I remind the House what the Criminal Law Revision Committee has said:We need hardly say that we have no wish to lessen the fairness of criminal trials. But it must be clear what fairness means in this connection. It means, or ought to mean, that the law should be such as will secure as far as possible the result of the trial is the right one. That is to say, the accused should be convicted if the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty, but otherwise not. We stress this, although it may seem obvious, because fairness seems often to be thought of as something which is due to the defence only.I say that fairness is due to the community, and a way must be devised by the Government to deal with the emergency situation.
Hon. Members may say that it is all very well to point out these things but what is the answer? I suggest that the time has come for a clear distinction between two types of crime in Northern Ireland: ordinary crime; and crimes that are against the State; crimes against public order and crimes that are aimed at the pulling-down of the structure of our society. It may be argued by the lawyers that there is no precedent for such a distinction; but there is no precedent in the United Kingdom for the reign of terror in Northern Ireland. There is a suggestion of such a distinction in British law in that murder and treason are reserved to certain courts and cannot be tried in an ordinary court of law.
I suggest that an Order in Council should be introduced, renewable every 30 1352 days, to deal with those special crimes. I suggest that there should come within this category all crimes that have to do with firearms offences, the Explosive Substances Act, public order, riotous behaviour, killing and maiming either by firearms or by explosives, or attempting to kill or main by firearms and explosives. I would add another new temporary offence. It would be an offence for a person who was required to say whether or not he was a member of an illegal, proscribed organisation to say he was not prepared to answer that question.
People accused of these offences should be brought before a military court—and here I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster)—consisting of three military officers with legal training. As far as possible the common law practices should be followed and the person being tried should have the opportunity of legal representation. I suggest that hearsay evidence, which would not be admissible in a jury trial, should be admissible where such evidence establishes the guilt or otherwise of the person accused. I would also change the onus of proof, and put the onus on the defence to prove that a statement made by the accused person is not a voluntary statement. This is an emergency situation, and something must be done radically, clearly and almost immediately.
The people of Northern Ireland have borne a great number of tragedies. There has not been one bloody Friday; there have been scores of bloody Fridays. I say to the House that we have not much time. Some of us in Northern Ireland have sought as best we can to keep people from reacting. I appeal to the people of Northern Ireland not to react, but to leave this matter to the forces of the Crown. The Government and every hon. Member in this House have a responsibility in this matter.
Perhaps my suggestions will be shot down. I do not care how this matter is dealt with, but I say that it must be dealt with. If it is not dealt with—and I say this with great reluctance—I shall wonder whether it will be worth while for me, as a Member of this House, to come here if the House is not prepared to accept the responsibility of giving to every citizen in Northern Ireland the right to be protected and to live in peace.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. John P. Mackintosh (Berwick and East Lothian)
It is with some termerity that Members with English or Scottish constituencies take part in this debate but I am encouraged to do so having listened to the speech made by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). She said that anybody who does not come from Northern Ireland cannot understand the situation there. I sometimes think when I go to Belfast and even to Dublin, particularly to Northern Ireland, that it is only those who come from outside who can properly comment on recent events in Northern Ireland.
I speak as one who went across originally in sympathy with the civil rights movement and who listed the categories of discriminations practised against the minority. I remember studying discrimination in local government, housing and employment. The discrimination meant, as the hon. Lady said, that one community was living on the backs of the other community in Northern Ireland. I remember adding these discriminations together and discussing the political solutions. But I must tell the House that at that time and today I do not think that the total list of discriminations is worth the death of one single individual. Indeed, it is not worth the broken leg of one person. When I think of the conditions in which the Catholic minority, or whatever one cares to call them, is living in Northern Ireland, I think that it adds up to a fine standard of living compared with that of many other people in the world. Considering these difficulties and discrimination, what we want to see is fairness and justice but not at the cost of any of the atrocities which are being committed today.
One has to engage in a psychological exercise to understand how fear has built upon fear until people are prepared to destroy the very area in which they live simply because they are further down the housing list than somebody else or fail to get a better job. This is not the way to achieve one's goal. There is clearly a deep rooted fear which goes to the very ethos of the life of people in the community and we must somehow get round it.
I originally supported the views of the minority in Northern Ireland and advocated the necessary reforms. I hoped 1354 that the O'Neill experiment would come through and it did not. I supported the civil rights movement and the results of its activity began to appear in a reform programme announced by the Stormont Government, though it was largely forced through by governmental pressure from this country. These reforms still did not have the effect we wanted in winning back the confidence of the minority community in Northern Ireland and I then accepted the argument that some major gesture was needed to show that what we were trying to do was genuine. We tried to show that we were forcing these reforms through in the name of a better community life between the sectors of the population.
As early as 1970, shortly after the General Election, and again in the summer of 1971, I publicly advocated in this House direct rule. I advocated that the Government should abolish Stormont. I accepted that even if the reforms were forthcoming, because they came from those who had practised discrimination, one could not expect the minority in Northern Ireland to believe in them. We could not expect the minority to take these things on trust when they came from a group which had been associated with memories generation after generation of majority domination. I advocated direct rule as a gesture to show that an impartial outside force was seeking to break through to the minority and inviting them to participate in the building of a more satisfactory community in Northern Ireland.
I regret that the idea of direct rule came one and possibly two years too late. I am not saying that it has now come too late but it would have had more impact if it had come sooner; it would then perhaps have been possible to win the minority community's confidence.
I hoped against hope that the right hon. Gentleman's policy, even though late, would have the effect of bringing about a political solution, as was sought by the Opposition Front Bench and was asked for by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).
What is the core of the political solution? The core must be either to get meaningful negotiations with the leaders of the IRA, the Provisional leaders of the Catholic community or, if that is impossible, to separate these people from 1355 the bulk of the people who they say they are leading. It is regrettable that negotiation with the Provisional IRA has proved to be impossible. The reason it is impossible is that they do not just want reform in Northern Ireland or the abolition of Stormont. Their basic condition for peace in Northern Ireland is a change in the situation which could never be conceded by the British Government because it would have to be imposed on the people of Northern Ireland by British forces. This solution, the unification of Ireland, will not be accepted by the million majority in Northern Ireland, nor could it be enforced by the Government of their Republic because they have neither the will nor the strength to do it.
We cannot give terms to a minority which involve British coercion of the majority and which will transform one kind of civil war into another kind of civil war. If these are the terms for which the IRA is asking as a political solution, then it is impossible.
If that is the situation there is only one political solution left. It is that somehow one must separate the majority of the Catholic community, who I believe do not want revolutionary socialism nor do they want incorporation in the Republic. I think they want to live in confidence, peace and justice in Northern Ireland as do the supporters of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). If such a political solution is possible, I will support the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in everything he does to try to achieve it. But I have a deep fear that it will not prove possible to make this separation between the IRA and the Catholic community or to find among them an alternative leadership.
I, like many other hon. Members, have visited spokesmen of the Catholic community, mainly Catholic clergymen, who are quieter and who are not violent, but who have tried to do what they think right. There was a brief moment in Londonderry a few weeks ago when I thought they would succeed in giving the sort of alternative leadership which was necessary. But we are caught in a terrible dilemma. On the one hand we are told "Let us get through to the Catholic community that we want to see justice and an end to discrimination even if it means the 1356 abolition of Stormont" as proof of our bona fides or genuineness. But what happened? Internment was cut down and a truce arranged only to be followed by a renewed outbreak of bombing and destruction. When this fails, we are told to go the other way and sit on the IRA, but then it is said that all this does is to confirm their leadership of the Catholic community. This is the vicious circle from which we have been unable to escape.
I should like to follow the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland in pointing out to the Catholic minority what is likely to happen if they continue to accept IRA leadership and to continue to back up that leadership in every way and to fight with it, in episodes such as those that occurred last Friday. And do not let anybody say that we have forgotten what happened at M'Gurk's tavern and the Abercorn Rooms. These are marks on our whole being. I feel agonised with every death I hear about in Northern Ireland and anybody who has gone through the ruin and rubble of Belfast must feel the same.
Let us be clear that if we cannot separate the IRA from the Catholic community we must say to the Catholic community that there are two possibilities. One is civil war; that is some version of the idea of pulling out the Army and letting the majority assert itself and take its own retribution on the minority. But no one would advocate this. It would be a disaster. It would be terrible. But one day it may come about if the present state of affairs persists.
The alternative, at which the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland hinted, is the Sudetenland policy, the cession of border Catholic areas to the Republic and telling those in the minority community in Belfast and in the interior of the North that if they are not prepared to allow normal life to become possible, they must leave. This Sudetenland, or Polish corridor, policy is appalling in its brutality, its cruelty and its destruction of property rights and established patterns of life. But there will come a point where the escalation of the present horrors will pass the horrors of this possible policy, at which point therefore it will become realistic.
1357 We must break through and point out that those of us who supported the claims of the minority in Northern Ireland to justice, fair dealing, an end to discrimination, and an end to a political régime loaded against them, that we shall not support them to the length of denying that the majority also have rights and that we shall support those rights in that we cannot see civilised life in Northern Ireland totally destroyed.
The minority must appreciate that they have to break loose of IRA leadership or the consequences will be too appalling for anyone, including them, to imagine.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I have the temerity to address the House briefly because I spent most of last week among the bullets, bombs and blood of Northern Ireland. I learned a great deal there that is not generally recognised here unless it is by hon. Members who have seen what is happening. Following all I saw and heard last week, I rejoiced to hear what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said today about the new aim being to destroy the power of the IRA. My right hon. Friend is an honourable man. He has announced this to the House, and we must go forward with the notion that this is our new aim.
One ought not to doubt the difficulties involved. Where the no-go areas exist it would seem to be perfectly possible for the British Army to deal with them. However, there are women and children inside the no-go areas. I have no doubt that if our soldiers, possibly with loud hailers, told the people an attack would be made and asked that the women and children should come out, the IRA would not allow them to. I have no doubt that the British Army is capable of dealing with the IRA. So far it has not been enabled to do so. No one can deny that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has bent over backwards in an effort to avoid the carnage which will have to come before the IRA is beaten.
We heard today that last Friday was a catalyst. The tragedy is that there have been many others. I am desperately afraid that last Friday's incidents will fall into the background, just as the Abercorn incident did. Last week, I saw the house lived in by two young girls under 20 1358 both of whom lost both legs and one of whom also lost an arm at the Abercorn Rooms. At Easter there was a mother of 14 whose killing was also supposed to be a catalyst, because it caused a march by the women who said that this could not go on any longer. However, 78 people have been killed already this month. We must not allow last Friday to fall into the background as just one more incident.
There has also been the most foul torture. A young boy of 20 bought himself out of the Royal Air Force recently in order to go back to Belfast to be with his father and mother because of the danger there. He got a job as a mental nurse. He was taken by the IRA when he was coming off duty. He was tortured viciously and unbelievably and left to die from a bullet placed so that it would not kill him quickly. There must be no forgetting about any of these incidents if they stiffen our resolve to beat the power of the IRA.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the new steps which are to be taken will mean danger, inconvenience and hardship to some people in certain areas. But Members of this House who have been to Belfast and Londonderry have no doubt that already for many months past there has been danger, inconvenience and hardship to hundreds and hundreds of people in many areas. This is nothing new.
Last week, I went out of my way to speak to the women of Derry and Belfast. One group of women in Belfast said to me, "It is all very well you coming from Whitehall where they talk about internment. But don't you understand that it is we who are the internees here? We cannot safely go out to the shops. We cannot go out at night." They pointed down the road to an intersection and told me that it was impossible for their children to run and play here. At the end of the intersection was an area from which IRA gunmen were sniping. If any child as much as strayed into the inser-section there was liable to be shooting. Indeed, I was told that several children had been shot there.
I went to a big timber yard in Belfast. The night before my visit the IRA had tried to burn it. I was given a copy of the chairman's annual report. Perhaps I might read one paragraph of it. It says:The three weeks ending the 13th May were the worst we have experienced since 1359 August, 1969. During this period we had 80 bomb attacks with approximately 250 petrol bombs.The labour force in that timber yard is roughly 50–50 Catholic and Protestant.The Army commenced the erection of an observation post inside our perimeter wall, during daylight, but this had to be stopped as the sniper fire was too intense. After one man had been wounded and a number of near misses, it was completed during the hours of darkness. They then decided that a second post should be erected and, when partially completed, a contractor's…mechanical excavator was hijacked at gunpoint. This machine suddenly appeared outside our wall and the driver raised the bucket until he could reach the military observation post, which was pushed over and smashed. He then systematically began demolishing 50 ft. of our perimeter wall. During this incident there were three soldiers present guarding the observation post, but the excavator continued to demolish our wall whilst a barrage of bricks and bottles were pelted at the Army. The soldiers were asked to shoot the driver or at least shoot the machine in some vital part—they replied that they were not allowed to shoot at anything except a gunman, and then only if he was pointing his gun.…On another occasion the Army watched a stolen Land Rover, with IRA painted on the doors, parked on the other side of our wall handing out machine guns, rifles etc.…the soldiers had their rifles trained on them…but they were not allowed to fire and no action was taken.The Army could have handled the situation long ago had their hands not been tied firmly behind their backs. When I asked the managing director of the timber yard what had happened the night before when there was difficulty over fire-fighting arrangements and why he had not called the police, he stared at me and replied, "Good gracious. The constabulary cannot come here, you know. "This is not even in a no-go area. For us in Britain it is incredible to think that there are areas where even the police cannot go.
I want to put one question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. It is to ask him to say categorically that he will cut off the gas, electricity and other services to people in the no-go areas who have not paid their bills for about a year. I spoke to one group of women 50 yards from a no-go area. They said, "How do you think we feel? We pay our rent and rates, and our gas and electricity bills. Just up the road they get all these services for nothing."
While I cannot support the views of those who feel that they must retaliate, 1360 I fully understand why they feel this way, but it is clear from what my right hon. Friend said today that there will be on need to retaliate. I thank God for that fact. But will my right hon. Friend now take this step with regard to the no-go areas? At the moment the British taxpayer appears to be financing them. This at least surely must stop at once.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Under the impact of the events of Friday I do not believe that anybody can begin to try to urge any advice on the Secretary of State without first expressing his own horror at the kind of policy to which those who are parading as the romanticised leaders of a so-called revolutionary movement committed themselves behind the bus station in Belfast. That must be clearly stated. The television companies and the other news media should not continue to give aid and comfort to the romanticising of these people. The time has come to make it quite clear that they are criminal gangsters, not political leaders, and that they ought to be treated as such. It must be clearly understood that their purpose is not to bring about anything like a Marxist revolution in Northern Ireland or anywhere else. These people are supported and financed by the right wings of some of the political parties in the Republic of Ireland. They have nothing to do with any international Marxist movement.
In a recent statement by one of the main leaders of the Provisional IRA I discovered a detailed critique of what they consider to be the long-headed left-wing of the nationalist movement. They said that these were atheists and they wanted nothing to do with them. We must be very clear about the movements involved. There is nothing in the philosophy of the leaders of the Provisional IRA that can, by any stretch of the imagination, be linked with anything called a left-wing or Socialist philosophy.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
What difference would it make if they were linked with a Marxist movement? Would that make them any more forgiveable?
§ Mr. Mendelson
I hope this will not be a point-scoring debate. It is far too 1361 serious for that. It is clear from what I have said over the years that, no matter what their inclinations, those who commit themselves to carrying out acts not only like those we witnessed last Friday afternoon, but the brutal murder of British soldiers by shooting them in the back and the shooting of some of their own members in the knee to cripple them for life because they did not or would not behave as their leaders wished, would be equally condemned by me. These people have nothing to do with the kind of left-wing Socialist movements we see in different parts of the world and we ought not to confuse them with such movements. It is clear that people who commit themselves to such activities cannot possibly be partners with anybody in any political solution. They have nothing to do with what the Government or the Opposition have talked about as a political solution.
For what it may be worth, I should like to put my opinion on record. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has either done or said since he took this heavy burden on his shoulders has led me to believe that he had such people in mind when talking about a political solution. I will grant to any Minister in such a responsible position the right to decide in any week or on any day the kind of people with whom he will deal in order to save lives. However, it is for the rest of us and for the news media to make certain that we do not accept the kind of explanation that one leader of the IRA tried to give after the terrible events of last Friday when he said to some news reporters that he had given an hour's warning. That man, in the face of the horror which occurred on Friday afternoon, and accepting responsibility for it, used the excuse of having given an hour's notice, making it appear important whether he had or had not and as if it were better than if he had not. We ought to get away from all this reporting in great detail of giving notice by telephone, as if an act of barbarism were turned into a civilised political action merely because somebody picks up the telephone and gives an hour's notice of an explosion.
We must be clear that the political implications remain the overriding consideration for the Government. I regret 1362 that the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is not present. He has been here a good deal of the time. I make no complaint. However, he let fall a very dangerous sentence at the beginning of his speech today. When giving advice to the Secretary of State, as he was entitled to do, he said that it must now be clearly realised that unless the Government take over this operation of dealing with the IRA forces on the other side of the argument will do the job themselves. The right hon. Gentleman produced that as an argument in favour of the Army being used. That is no argument at all. It is the worst kind of abdication for any right hon. Gentleman to urge upon the Secretary of State that if the Government do not do the job with utter severity, as it must be done, then other extremists will do it.
I agree that we all have our responsibilities. There is unanimity of demand that the Government must deal with the Provisional IRA in the severest possible manner. However, there is the grave danger that they will then say to the leaders of the UDA or of the Vanguard movement, "It is all right. We will see that the job you want to do will be done by the Armed Forces". Our Armed Forces are there with the consent of this House for only one reason: to protect those who want to go about their peaceful occupations. They are not there to carry out a sectarian policy which some leaders of the UDA might want.
I should like to quote the housing problem. It was unfortunate that, after the official housing authority had given approval for 16 families to move into certain houses, they were not allowed to move into them. I have studied the housing problem in Northern Ireland since 1969. No problem is more serious. Fanatical talk goes on on both sides among the extremists about having advanced a few houses in 1936, as one woman told me, and having had to take a few steps backwards in 1969, as another woman told me on the same occasion. Those who know the situation will not underestimate the housing problem. It was unfortunate that, in the face of a threat of violence from some leaders of the UDA, we did not insist on rehousing those 16 families the same evening after the properly appointed housing authority had decided they should be moved in. 1363 However, what has happened has happened. What matters is the future.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
In fairness, the whole problem was extremely complicated and has since been surrounded by propaganda of all kinds from both sides. Discussions were still going on with my officials. Another meeting had been arranged at which I believe the whole problem could have been settled quite peacefully, but the matter was taken out of their hands by force.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I am glad to hear the Secretary of State say that. I hope he will be equally firm in future. There were people on the side of the IRA who did not wish for a peaceful settlement of the problem. They should have had no hand in the matter. Those people must be removed. They must not be romanticised as political leaders, but put on trial and put behind bars. I hope the time has come when those people will not be able to take part in such discussions, but will be arrested when they appear on the scene.
If a similar situation occurs again during the next few days and the housing authority gives approval for a group of Catholic families to move into a number of houses the right hon. Gentleman will have the same duty to use all the security forces to enforce such a decision as he has, with the unanimous consent of the House, to move severely against the IRA. This debate would be incomplete if we decided to be one-sided because of our feelings of condemnation for the leaders of the Provisional IRA.
That brings me to the political situation. The right hon. Gentleman deserves the support of us all in the appeal that he has made this afternoon for political and other organisations to meet him next week. One part of his policy which he must maintain if he wishes to have the support of fair-minded people is his determination to find a political solution. For many years I have voiced the grievances of minorities, and they have been real grievances. I have always understood the peculiar difficulties of my colleagues in the Social Democratic and Labour Party in Northern Ireland, but they should now respond directly and immediately to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation. They ought not to wait upon further 1364 events. I know that the position of my hon. Friends is peculiarly difficult, and I do not under-estimate their difficulties, but they must, nevertheless, respond to the appeal that has been made.
I appeal to my hon. Friends to respond immediately and take part in these discussions, first, because a political solution must be found as quickly as possible and, secondly, because it must be understood why it is not possible to allow the proposals which have been made by the leaders of the IRA to be regarded as a contribution to the finding of a political solution.
An examination of those proposals shows that there has been a complete shift from the main demands of the Civil Rights Association and all those democratic movements in Northern Ireland which for many years have fought against discrimination. When, as a group of Members, we went to Northern Ireland in 1969 we were told by 90 per cent. of the people whom we interviewed that they wanted an end to discrimination, a new housing policy and the abolition of Stormont. It is important to put that on record so that the allegation which is sometimes made that the association and the IRA are one and the same thing can be refuted. It is a wholly untrue allegation. During our visit in 1969 people did not say, as the IRA leaders have recently been saying, that they wanted what they called a decision by all the people of all Ireland about what is to happen to the Border.
That is the claim which the leaders of the IRA are putting forward, and the language which they are using means that they want to coerce the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. That is what they mean. That is what they want to do. They want to use violence to bring about their ends, and it does not matter whether it is somebody else who uses that violence. Clearly no hon. Member would support any such aim, and as long as the Army is being asked by the Government to prevent any such thing happening the Government will have the support of the House of Commons. At the same time, however, it must be made clear that in the discussions that are proceeding, or will take place in future, there must not be any declaration by the Government that it is for ever impossible for people who desire to see the ultimate 1365 re-unification of Ireland to play a peaceful and responsible part in those discussions.
The issue now is the setting up of new institutions in Northern Ireland, the creation of a system of government which will allow all groups—minority and majority—to play their proper part. The issue now is not that of attempting to impose a change in the Border, and we must not exclude the participation of sincere and convinced Republicans who believe that peaceful discussion is the only means that can properly be used to find a solution to the problem.
It is that kind of extremely difficult balance that will have to be made when these political discussions begin. Meanwhile, it is right for the rest of us to take a firm stand and call upon our colleagues, particularly in so far as they are Socialists and democrats in Northern Ireland, to come out openly and publicly against the IRA, to support the Government in their campaign against them and not to shield or help them. If they do that they will receive the continuing support of many of their friends in this House and in the country.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
The first thing that I want to do in my brief contribution to this important debate is to express my sympathy with the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). I do not think that anyone who has not visited Belfast in recent weeks can know the extent of the destruction in that city and the deep resentment of its citizens at the destruction of a city in which they took the greatest pride. Therefore, however much I may disagree with the conclusions which my hon. Friend draws, I sympathise very deeply with the sentiments which he has expressed, because he was speaking not only for himself but for the citizens of that city who have suffered so much.
The conclusion which I draw from these events is in total contradiction to that drawn by my hon. Friend, because I find myself in complete agreement with everything which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said this afternoon. We are considering his statement and debating this whole subject under the threat of the tragic events of what I suppose will 1366 now become known as "Bloody Friday", taking its place in that long procession of bloody days which are marking the history of Northern Ireland. I hope that we shall still be able to make that kind of distinction in the future, and that not every day in the week will become equally blood-spattered.
These events have shocked and horrified the whole of the civilised world, and no one, I think, has been more horrified than the Catholic community both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic as well. My right hon. Friend drew attention, quite rightly, to the recent leading article in the Sunday Independent. The Irish Independent is perhaps the most influential of all the papers in the Republic, and I think it is significant of the shock which these events have produced that that paper should have produced that particular leader.
I hope that that leader will influence the Prime Minister of the Republic, Mr. Jack Lynch, to move even more strongly against the IRA than he has done so far. I hope, too, that it will encourage church leaders, on whichever side of the Border they find themselves, to throw their moral and their institutional weight on the side of the forces of peace and in condemnation of terrorism.
I do not believe that these events, dreadful as they have been, in any way undermine the policy that has been followed by Her Majesty's Government. It was the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) who referred to this policy as a vicious circle. I prefer to regard it as a policy which is centred on two poles. The first of these poles is the reconciliation of the two communities in Northern Ireland, which has been forcefully described by some people, in an effort to discredit the policy, as appeasement to the IRA. That has never been the Government's policy. There is all the difference in the world in trying to bring the two communities, composed of decent, law-abiding people, together, and appeasing the gunmen of the IRA.
The other pole of the Government's policy has been to pursue the terrorist. There is no evidence that the terrorists have been able to increase the forces at their command because of the change in policy which started on 24th March. There may be strongly-held opinion to 1367 the contrary but there is no evidence of it and it should not be repeated as though it were a fact when it is opinion, no more no less. All the evidence is that the violence was escalating anyway.
Those two poles have to be borne in mind by the Government in formulating their policy, and it may well be at some time that the policy has to move towards one pole and away from the other. That is right, because if both objectives are not kept constantly in mind they both may be lost in the end. Anyone trying to look at the situation rationally will realise that the policy being followed by the Government is the only policy that any Government could follow. I do not believe it to be the ideal solution. There is no ideal solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. There are only choices between evils and there are only choices between courses, every one of which has risks and disadvantages and is fraught with peril.
The short-term policy of the Government is clear and is perfectly reasonable. Equally, I believe the long-term policy to be right because it rests first on the principle that the majority in the North shall not be separated from the United Kingdom against their will, and we all accept that in the House, and that there shall be a fair deal for everyone in Northern Ireland irrespective of their religious affiliations. Who in the House could disagree with that policy?
There is a third aspect of Government policy about which we have heard very little in recent weeks but which is equally important, and that concerns the economic reconstruction which is essential if the standard of life of the Province is to be maintained. The financial burden of Northern Ireland on the United Kingdom is very great. I do not complain about that, but it must be recognised. It is not generally known how much economic activity has continued in Northern Ireland. Economic activity has continued at a remarkable rate and it is extremely important that the impression should be corrected that the economic life of the Province is in ruins. Although it is under great stress it has not reached that stage. Before the House adjourns for the Summer Recess I hope we shall hear the promised economic statement about the Government's plans for the future of 1368 Northern Ireland and I hope that attention will be drawn to what has been achieved in the Province.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) referred to the events of last Friday as "the turning point". They may well prove to be so, but not necessarily in the sense that he meant. I have learned in my experience, such as it is, that in Northern Ireland nothing is ever as bad as it seems and that nothing is ever as good either. Therefore, while the events of last Friday are uppermost in our minds, while there is reaction of despair, I believe there is also room for hope. The IRA, as has been repeated again and again in the debate, has been revealed by Friday's events as a gang of thugs which cares nothing for anyone's life, whether that life be a Catholic life, a Protestant life or an agnostic life. The only point on which I agreed with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) was when she said that she did not care how those lives could be categorised denominationally because they were all human beings. Today she lent her views to the condemnation of the outrage on Friday.
I express my agreement with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) who said that if these events went on much longer there would be virtually nothing left to fight over in Northern Ireland. Another point that has come out during the debate has been that the bipartisan policy on Northern Ireland still exists. That is vitally important because we face not only criticism within the United Kingdom, but also largely hostile world opinion. I do not say for a moment that world opinion is justified, but it must be borne in mind as one of the factors of the situation and it is easier to repel ill-informed and prejudiced criticism with a united front than if we are divided. I congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) on his contribution to the debate this afternoon.
A further point which has emerged is that in a situation as fluid as that in Northern Ireland any decisions which must be taken can be taken only by the man on the spot. Ultimate responsibility resides with Parliament but no one who is not present in Northern Ireland, who is not watching the situation closely 1369 and for himself from week to week and day by day, can possibly hope even to begin to take the right decisions.
It was very easy to criticise the Secretary of State, but it is more fitting that we should be glad that in this situation of unparalleled difficulty we have someone in command in Northern Ireland of the integrity and dedication and unselfishness of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, because these are the qualities that are needed to bring peace to the Province, if anything can do so. He will go from the debate knowing that he has the support of the overwhelming majority of the House and, what is more important, the overwhelming support of the majority of the British people.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
There are two points I wish to raise with the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). The first is the line that we have not heard very much in the debate, that Mr. Lynch could be persuaded to pull the chestnuts out of our fire. I am sure that that is a delusion. Even if Mr. Lynch had the will he has neither the authority nor the power to run that policy nor to prevent Southern Ireland from being a haven for the criminals from the North.
The other point I should like to take up with the hon. Gentleman is the curious belief that there have been most praiseworthy efforts to bring the religions together, but there has been no appeasement of the IRA. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Chelmsford was present when the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), in a most moving speech, described what was happening—the Army held back from taking action against the IRA, which it saw arming and doing every kind of thing. If that was not appeasement, what is? There was the granting to the IRA of authority over tracts of country, the no-go areas, in which it was treated as carefully as though it were a neutral power with whom we must not quarrel. If that is not appeasement, I do not know what is.
I think it was Sir Winston Churchill who said that the justification for recrimination is the avoidance of repetition. If I recriminate tonight, that must be my excuse. I served my novitiate in 1370 politics in the days of appeasement. I saw and felt and suffered as we moved from the naval agreement to the Rhineland, and from the Rhineland to Munichand the rape of Czechoslovakia, and then into the phoney war. I remember the speeches being made behind Mr. Chamberlain then. They might have served as the perfect model of the speech of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). We were told then that it was an inevitable phase, something which had enabled us to re-arm for the day which we of course foresaw, that it was necessary in order to establish our desire for peace to the world, so that we should be justified when it came to war. It did not work that way. It worked to raise the power of Hitler, the power of his forces, the power of his arms, but above all the power of his authority, which became unchallengeable. As for our reputation, it became only one for decadence and pusillanimity.
The same thing has happened here, and appeasement is still appeasement even if it is given the new and trendy name of "conciliation". I have seen this policy going on, from our loss of nerve at Derry, where we failed to support our troops; from the orders given to the troops, which prevented them from defending themselves; from the sacrifice of Stormont; and on to the appointment of the Secretary of State. He was warned then, but instead of his heeding the warnings we have had the no-go areas acknowledged and kept; the lowering of profile, which gives a free had to the IRA; the internees released to reinforce the IRA; and negotiations with the IRA. Negotiations with men who are dedicated to violence are just as futile and just as mischievous whether they take place at Berchtesgaden or Cheyne Walk.—[An Hon. Member: "Or Rhodesia?"]—I will not be diverted.
The right hon. Gentleman was warned when he took office exactly what would happen, and it has happened. Now he tells us what we urged him then, that the destruction of the IRA must be the first priority. It should have been the first priority then. It is the more difficult now, because the period of appeasement, or conciliation, if that term is preferred, has enormously strengthened the hand of violence by establishing not merely its success but its authority.
1371 1 do not believe that any kind of half-measure is still available. There are really only two available measures. The first and by far the most brutal is to go and leave the civil war to be fought. The second is to assert authority, and it cannot be asserted from our present weak position. Martial law is now absolutely necessary. In the present situation we cannot make the Army carry out a police rôle under the restraints of civilian law. It simply does not work. In the long term it is much bloodier and more cruel, because it means letting the casualties mount.
The Commander-in-Chief in Northern Ireland should be given the full executive authority. He should have the right to make decrees and set up courts and courts-martial. There are few people—possibly nobody living—who have done more to secure the abolition of capital punishment than I have. I still believe that capital punishment is utterly wrong, utterly unnecessary and utterly immoral—in conditions of peace. But in conditions of war, such as the present, when a sentence of imprisonment is no deterrent, because everyone knows that with the peace will come amnesty, and that imprisonment merely adds to the chance of promotion in the new regime, the men who do the kind of things that happened on Friday must take the risk of death, and it must come by court-martial.
§ Mr. Kaufman rose-—
§ Mr. Paget
I have said, "No". Sit down.
The problem now seems to me very clearly defined. The present command has failed. We must have a new command, and in the circumstances it must be a military command. That military command is, of course, temporary. With the defeat of the IRA, civilian law returns, and then it behoves us to be as just in victory as we have been firm in war. That is the time for the political solution. That is the time to remember that Stormont was not just. I do not say that it was as unjust as some people pretend, 1372 but the way the Catholic minority was treated was not a just way. The new law must make it absolutely clear that every grievance is dealt with and cleared. But that can happen only after we have won.
At this point what we require is resolution. We must give our forces who have to do the winning, because this has become a military problem, and nothing but a military problem, the military means of solving the problem.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
Perhaps one of the most useful contributions to this debate so far has been that of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson). His total and utter condemnation of the Provisional IRA, delivered with so much sincerity and understanding of what it really was, has done a great service to the House and to the people of Ulster.
The hon. Gentleman's point about the media romanticising the Provisional IRA was also of enormous value. If there is one thing that has tended to raise the temperature and to infuriate people in Ulster, it is the romanticising of that gang of cut-throats and bloody murderers into some kind of national heroes.
It would be easy for me to make an angry and bitter speech. That would be popular in Ulster where, after the long events that led up to Friday, people are naturally angry and bitter. They are angry and bitter because in many ways their analysis is like that of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). They regard the policy of the last four months and possibly before that as a policy of weakness and appeasement. However, there is no great purpose in making an angry and bitter speech, popular though it may be. We must examine what has happened up to now with the clear intention of trying to learn from those events what is best for the future. It is easy to ask the questions which are asked widely in Ulster—"Why were not the policies adopted by the Army over the weekend adopted before bloody Friday? Why did so many have to die?"
We must look at a few simple points which have arisen. First, we are entitled, in the light of what the hon. Member for Penistone said, to ask my right hon. 1373 Friend the Secretary of State for a clear undertaking that neither he, nor his Ministers, advisers, or any emissary on his behalf, will ever again sit down with representatives of the Provisional IRA.
§ Captain Orr
I am deeply grateful to my right hon. Friend. That is a pledge which will be regarded with satisfaction in Ulster. There is a widespread view, which undermines public confidence in Ulster, that the low profile adopted by the Army until this weekend allowed the Provisional IRA not only to regroup and to catch their breath, but to get large increases of supplies which made the events of July so particularly bloody. It must be remembered that Friday was not a day alone. There were 11 people killed on Friday but there were 78 deaths in July. I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) that statistics are not of great importance. One human life lost is as bad as the loss of hundreds and thousands of human lives.
None the less, one can measure the extent of the viciousness of the IRA campaign by the escalation of violence. We would like to hear from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State whether the period since the so-called truce with the IRA led to a strengthening of the Provisional IRA position. If it did, then we required an undertaking that such a thing shall not be permitted again.
We should not have another truce with the IRA. A truce is something which is two-sided. If evil men lay down their arms and desist from evil, they must be pursued and brought to justice. There must never again be anything like a truce with them. The purpose of a truce by the Provisional IRA is, first, to buy some time, and, secondly, to find an excuse for breaking the truce when it is ready to do so. It will break it in such a way as to make the British Government, the British Army or someone else responsible for the breaking of the truce. It is fair to ask that we shall have no more truces with these evil men.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will say something about the Army's present policy. It is true that he has rightly asked the House for backing in a clear determination to achieve the first objective of policy, the destruction of the 1374 IRA's potential. But we should know a little more about how that will be achieved, a little more about what is called the selective response. We should know whether this will be selective as to areas or selective as to time. We should know exactly what my right hon. Friend means by destroying the IRA's potential.
It is plain that the present legal system in Ulster is not sufficient to deal with the people who are arrested by the Army. I am told that 100 people have been arrested in the Army's activity since last February. My right hon. Friend will correct me when I say that about 30 are being dealt with in various ways.
§ Captain Orr
What has happened to the other 70? We should know something about the remainder. Were they arrested and casually detained for no particular reason? Were they arrested and detained because they were suspected, and has evidence come forward since which shows that they should have been released? There will be considerable concern amongst the majority that 100 people were detained and that charges have been preferred against only 30.
It is undoubtedly true that the legal system is not satisfactory in these wartime conditions. However, I do not go so far as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. The situation does not require martial law and courts martial. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that a military court is the right kind of court. However, we must see whether there is a possibility, in the present situation, of devising some kind of special court which could be renewed from time to time on an emergency basis and under emergency legislation and which would disappear when the threat against the security of the State disappeared. That would be a more helpful approach. I hope that my right hon. Friend will have something to say about that.
One other question has been raised—the position of the Ulster Defence Association. It is very important in this context to say that the UDA is, so far as I understand it, not an armed force. One 1375 must condemn the idea that there should exist any armed forces outside the control of the Crown, but one must also notice that the existence of the UDA points to the fact that there are thousands of decent citizens in Ulster who are prepared to play a leading and active part in the defence of their homes, their lives, their children, their property and their future. I suggest therefore to my right hon. Friend that he should look very carefully at finding some method by which those people who are prepared to put time, energy and everything else at the disposal of the general proposition of defending life and home, are put in the service of the Crown and under the control of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman will realise that every reason which he has just advocated for the establishment of the UDA was also originally advanced by the IRA for its own establishment. As has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), the IRA did not exist in 1969. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman therefore continue the argument and say what the Army should do about barricades erected by these so-called law-abiding people, how they should be dealt with, and how action should have been taken in the interregnum, during which they made dispositions in their areas, all of which were quite rightly reported in the British Press?
§ Captain Orr
I am astounded to hear the hon. Gentleman say that the IRA ever wished to serve under Her Majesty. The proposition I am making is that there are many people who are wishful of defending their homes and lives and property and who would do it in the service of Her Majesty if a way could be found. The day the IRA or others like them would do that, one would rejoice.
My right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) touched upon the point that it is extremely important that Her Majesty's Government and the information services under their control should make certain that no myths are created out of the activities of the Army over this weekend or, indeed, out of the necessary activities which have to follow now. This is 1376 absolutely crucial, because the myths will already be in preparation. People will already be preparing the stories of brutality; the dossiers of offences against the person will now be being created. It is vitally important not only for world opinion but for anybody who wishes to sustain Her Majesty's Government, if they are now to take the proper course, that these myths should be dealt with in advance, should be pre-empted, that every effort should be made by every resource known to the Government to prevent them from arising.
I turn to the future. I was one of those who objected strongly in this House to the Government's initiative, so called. I said that it would produce an interregnum during which there would be maximum insecurity on the part of the majority and that there would be every incentive to the men of violence to step up terrorism in order to influence the final result. My right hon. Friend is now entering into discussions with the parties. It is very important that certain things be done very rapidly in the political sector. The longer the vacuum remains, the greater the danger.
It is essential that Her Majesty's Government very soon lay down at least the framework. They must at least say what options are not open. There must be certain options which are denied, so that no one in London, Dublin, or in Ulster, in any political party or in any section of the community, can say, "We will now fight for this". The Government should make it plain beyond peradventure, even if the parameters are imposed in the end by the Government, what the limits are. We can then discuss the nuts and bolts of any agreement afterwards. It is an easy thing to get down to detail, provided one knows what the options are. This is the most vital thing that my right hon. Friend should do. He should also bear in mind that these parameters should have the broad consent of the great mass of the people of Northern Ireland. If he will do this and reply in this sense to us, then we shall wish him well in trying to defeat this horrible and ghastly conspiracy against us.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am grateful to right hon. and hon. Members for the 1377 way they have co-operated with the Chair by speaking briefly. I very much want to call two more hon. Members from the Opposition benches and one from the Government back benches before I call on the Minister to reply. We have about 35 minutes left.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) gave the House—I do not know whether it fully appreciates it—a fairly accurate insight into the workings of the Orange Unionist mind. He said that in the Ulster Defence Association there is a fine body of men willing to serve under the Crown. He is saying again what that most notorious, perhaps, of all Prime Ministers of Ulster, Lord Brooke borough, said when faced with a similar situation. He said, "Let us give these men the official seal", and the result was that we had the B Specials—a body which the Labour Government were forced after a long time to disband. We are hearing from the hon. and gallant Member a call for the re-establishment of the B Specials, albeit under a different guise.
The hon. and gallant Member says that the Secretary of State should set the limits and that then there can be discussions. He is all for discussions once the limits have been set. If that had been the case already, and we had all agreed, Stormont need never have been abolished because there could have been a forum for discussion. However, those same people the hon. and gallant Member is talking about discussed for 50 years in Stormont the things which they want to discuss again and they never got anywhere. That is why Stormont had to be abolished. No one could get anywhere in Stormont unless they toed the Unionist Party line.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) constantly amazes me by still sitting on this side of the House. Why he is not on the back benches opposite, I cannot discover. He is the only advocate of the "get in or get out" policy which is supposed to be current in the corridors of Westminster at the moment. He argues the case fairly well. Does he forget so easily? Britain got in and had to get out of places 1378 like Aden, Kenya and Cyprus. Does the hon. and learned Member wish Ulster to be another Aden, or Kenya or Cyprus?
The policy he advocates is, "Let us get in and hit them hard. Let us give them a bloody nose and then let us get out to show how we believe in democracy. Then the natives will fight amongst themselves and the world will cry its praises of the Mother of Parliaments and realise how once one removes the restraining hand the natives go wild."
I regret to say that we are probably at the end, or at the beginning, of a cycle. I remember that a year ago almost to the day the Home Secretary announced the fearful decision to introduce internment. That was the beginning of the cycle of military repression. Subsequently, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said that the IRA, all terrorists, must be crushed and that of course it would be inconceivable for any Minister of the Crown or Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to have anything to do with such monsters, and they used all sorts of other names. Next, the Leader of the Opposition was talking to these people and describing them as responsible and disciplined, and then we had the Secretary of State talking to them and the Leader of the Opposition talking to them again. That was the first cycle, and now we are starting it all over again, for they have become even more inhumane monsters than they were and we are to return to military repression.
Cannot the House of Commons get a few simple facts into its head? The first is that repression failed in the past and will fail again. I do not care how many troops or how many new vehicles or how many new weapons the Government put into Northern Ireland: if they commit themselves, as they clearly intend, to military repression, they will fail as they have failed before.
It may be that in six months the Prime Minister will announce in the House, with regret, the departure of the Secretary of State and the appointment of a hardliner or soft liner, and it may be that the Secretary of State will go the way of Brian Faulkner. But if they commit themselves to more military repression, they will solve nothing and they will have 1379 another think coming, a deep and tragic think.
Whoever comes to the Dispatch Box in six months to try a new tack, no matter how many more lives have been lost and no matter what the disillusionment, frustration and terror endured in Northern Ireland, the problem will be as it always has been. I have stated it on a number of occasions and I do so briefly and finally to the Secretary of State. The problem is the problem of the Orange Unionist power structure, the structure of power that the Orange Unionists have built for themselves with the tacit approval of this House and fostered for more than 50 years. That they will not surrender and that is why their most famous catcall is "No surrender".
To maintain that power they must keep down the Catholics. For as long as they feel that they have the support of the British Government, so long as they feel that they can drag the British Government behind them in keeping down the Catholics, so long they will not allow any change in Northern Ireland, because any change is a threat to their power base, to their power structure, and therefore they cannot allow it.
For the Secretary of State and the British Government to solve this problem they will have to declare, as the New Statesman said, that the path to reunification is the proper path of development and that it is their intention to remove themselves from a position of influence in Ireland. If they do not say that, if they do not confront the UDA and the boasters about arms who say that they will fight to stay British, if they do not confront them as they should have done 50 years ago, there will never be progress. If they do not say as I have suggested, most assuredly there will be no solution to the Irish problem and the Government and the Secretary of State and many other Governments and many other Secretaries of State will fail as they failed in the past because they failed to confront the central issue of the Irish problem.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
I appreciate that I have only a few minutes in which to take part in the debate, but I feel that I ought to speak.
1380 The Oxford Street bus depot, where the IRA atrocity was committed on Friday, served the people of my constituency and two of my constituents were killed in that horrific explosion. I can understand the grief and the anger of the people, and I share it. But in the midst of that anger and the devastation and the agony, we the people of Northern Ireland, the law-abiding majority, still seek a reconciliation with the decent members of the minority, and that reconciliation is our wish. I trust that my right hon. Friend will call this conference with the elected representatives so that we can get down to discussing the future.
But we will have no reconciliation with the men of violence, the gunmen who are out to destroy Ireland, as they have always wanted to destroy Ireland. I remember that after the Irish Free State had been established a nurse was murdered by the IRA. A stone was tied round her neck and she was thrown into a river. That was typical of the Irish Republican Army.
When I heard on television that the Army had discovered hundreds of pounds of explosives and also detonators in an empty house in the Markets area of Belfast and when the Army announced that it believed that this was the nerve centre of the bombing assault on bloody Friday, I wondered what was in the minds of those who were bereaved or maimed. What must they have thought? If the Army had not been following the low key policy dictated by the Government, but had searched for bombs and ammunition and explosives, the people who were killed last Friday might still be alive.
I know that the low profile policy which was instituted by my right hon. Friend was instituted by him as an act of faith. I accept that and I know how he must feel to see his policy fall in ruins. But he cannot say that he was not warned. We urged him repeatedly in the House and elsewhere to search out and destroy the IRA before it destroyed our Province. As an Irishman, I hope that I do not again see the spectacle of mangled bodies of men, women and children being shovelled into plastic bags, pieces of limbs being packed into plastic bags. The slaughter of the innocents on bloody Friday is the crowning success, the grand spectacular, of the Irish Republican 1381 Army's bloody assault on ordinary decent people and ordinary decent standards of behaviour.
When the Army, acting on intelligence, searched selected houses after that atrocity, many of the householders alleged that the Army had smashed then-homes and abused and assaulted some of the occupants. I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not a fact that the IRA manufactures damage after a house has been searched in order to give some semblance of truth to false and malicious allegations about the soldiers. These allegations are then given widespread publicity by the news media. This has been going on for years. From the very beginning, the IRA has employed to the full and manipulated to its advantage every medium and every modern trick of propaganda. It has the best publicity organisation in Europe with a gullible Press listening avidly to every lying report.
Some years ago, I asked my right hon. Friend to consider the establishment of special courts. Once again I appeal to him to set up courts to deal with these criminals. I also asked him to consider establishing either a state of emergency, or martial law, in Northern Ireland.
I should like to say how much the people of Northern Ireland would welcome a message of support from Her Majesty the Queen, at least to those bereaved and maimed. The Ulster people feel themselves isolated, cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom. It would do a great deal to make them feel that they had not been abandoned to the evil men who manipulate the violence if the Queen were to send a message or, better still, was to broadcast to the entire nation.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Listening to the whole of the debate and observing the seriousness with which it is taking place, I tend to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) that we may be at the end of an era, at the end of a cycle of the tragic events in Northern Ireland.
As one who has played some part, if a minor part, in Northern Irish affairs since 1964, having made many visits to 1382 the North and to the Republic, at times I have almost despaired, and I am sure that the Secretary of State himself, for short periods, such as those following the tragic events of last Friday, must have despaired, too.
I need not spend much time on the events of last Friday, other than to say that there has been unanimous condemnation of them in the House. I support everything that has been said about the actions of the Provisional IRA. I say that as one who has consistently supported the elected representatives in this House, and has supported my hon. Friends, although I have often disagreed with them on specific items of policy. A very courageous stand has been taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and other members of the Socialist Democratic Labour Party, living as they do within Catholic communities. I understand the pressures that have been brought to bear upon them.
But if we consider the situation that exists at the end of this cycle we see that it is essential not to lose sight of the political objectives in any action that we take. I urge the Secretary of State, in his difficult task and especially in connection with the search that is being made for those who perpetrated the outrages on Friday, not to let the pendulum swing to the other extreme. Probably everyone in the House will agree that the division that now exists between the two communities is deeper than it has ever been. It is the depth of that division which creates fear both among the Protestant and among the Catholic community.
At times, the Catholic community support the elected representatives and then, for different reasons—because of their fear—they support the IRA, just as the Protestant community support their elected representatives on occasion and still give support to the UDA.
Some of my hon. Friends and I recently had a very full and frank discussion with the Lobby of Unionist Women which came to this House. When I asked one of them, "If the UDA takes up arms, what will you do?", she replied, "Mr. Orme, I shall not condone it, but I shall not condemn it." Exactly the same argument is used by the Catholic community because of the fear that now exists.
1383 At the moment we are looking for a political initiative. I do not believe that it will resolve the Irish question, because I believe in the unification of Ireland. I believe that it will ultimately come. The Provisional IRA may have set it back for 10, 20 or even more years by its actions. It will not achieve it by bombings and killings. Those who campaigned for civil rights in a peaceful manner between 1965 and 1968 probably achieved more than the Provisional IRA has achieved through all the bombings and killings that have since taken place.
The realisation that injustices existed in Northern Ireland penetrated to this House and to this country. We realised that something had to be done about them. But we are now faced with short-term political objectives that have the aim of removing some of the fear. In this regard the talks that are to take place are essential. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), I urge my friends in the Socialist Democratic Labour Party to play a full part in those talks. It is the Provisional IRA that is maintaining internment; it is not the SDLP, which has striven to get internment removed.
When we go into these talks we must not circumscribe them with conditions that will make them fail before they start. It must be possible for Protestants to stand by their conviction that they should remain in the United Kingdom and should preserve the existing links, but it must also be possible for the minority to say that they want a united Ireland, and that they will work openly and freely within the Northern Ireland society, acting in a political manner, to achieve that united Ireland. If we do not start from that position we shall get nowhere.
I was in the Republic last week, and I met Mr. Lynch and other political leaders. The editorial in the Sunday Independent will probably have come as a shock to many hon. Members. They may say, "What has happened in the Republic; these are people who have so often supported the IRA, and who are fearful of them." Nothing could be further from the truth. The courage of Mr. Lynch and the other leaders of the Republican Government has been outstanding—no less than that of the Irish 1384 Labour Party, which took a deliberate stand against violence which threatened the destruction of the party. It carried its stand against violence by an overwhelming majority in its conference at Wexford. It cannot be ignored in the talks that are to take place. The Irish Labour Party will not come with demands of this, that and the other, and unity tomorrow, but it is part of the Irish equation. At the end of the day the Irish people, North and South, will resolve this problem.
I urge the right hon. Gentleman to look upon the Republic as a friend in this situation—a friend that wants to help, and not to hinder. Despite the dark forebodings of this debate, I believe that there is still hope. There cannot be a military solution; there can be only a political one.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Channon)
The House will agree that this has been a short but outstanding debate. Most hon. Members will also agree that it has been a very realistic one, in view of the ghastly situation that we face in Northern Ireland. Those who have taken a small part in the events of the past few months know the agony and the misery that the people of Northern Ireland have had to put up with, and I am sure that it is the wish of every hon. Member that that agony should be brought to an end at the earliest possible date.
The House has shown itself to be united in its abhorrence of what took place last Friday, although I cross swords with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin); I have not forgotten the Abercorn incident and the M'Gurk's Bar incident; nor have the people of Northern Ireland, and nor have hon. Members. Far too many ghastly incidents have taken place in Northern Ireland—some even worse than those that occurred last Friday. They will not be forgotten for a long time. They are part of the catalogue of miseries that the people of Northern Ireland have had to face for the past three years.
I should like to say how much I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in the tribute that he paid to the British troops, security forces and the police, in view of what 1385 they have had to undergo in the past few years in their testing and prolonged ordeal. They have behaved in a way in which no other army in the world could have behaved, and they deserve the highest commendation of the House.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) asked about the movement of arms and explosives, and what measures have been taken to restrict such traffic. There has been extra security in the cities of Belfast and Londonderry, but the situation is extremely difficult. These measures cannot be wholly effective, I fear, but everything that can possibly be done is being done. Further measures may be taken in the future. The security forces keep such measures under constant review. They inevitably involve some inconvenience to those who live and work in those areas.
Many hon. Members raised the question of the system of courts and the law—the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and my hon. Friend for Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in his own way. They all spoke of the system of courts and the law and questioned whether the present system and the present rules of evidence are sufficient to deal with the situation. It was suggested by some hon. Members that for offences against law and order, special courts and special procedures were needed. All I would say at this stage is that these questions are constantly in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the mind of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. I know that they will note with interest what has been said on these matters, which are extremely complicated, as any hon. and learned Member will appreciate.
Several hon. Members have raised the question of the conference, and my right hon. Friend has made it clear that he hopes that there will be a conference of the people of Northern Ireland to see whether they can work out a solution to their problems. He has listed some people he will see this week, and there will be plenty of others that he will wish to see. He will wish to see representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party and of 1386 other political parties in the province to see what common ground may exist and how we can set up such a conference, which I take it to be the general wish of the House should proceed.
One further point on the legal system was raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, South. We have already made an Order in Council providing for additional sittings of the criminal courts. That will also be of some modest help in the next few months. The hon. Member for Leeds, South, also asked about the attitude of the British Army should there be people who wished to take the law into their own hands. He expressed the matter very clearly when he said that those who were loyal to the Crown must ensure that only the forces of the Crown dealt with law and order in the community. That will remain the policy of the security forces and the policy of my right hon. Friend, although it is true, as has been pointed out, that the UDA has condemned the irresponsible idea that there should be a new rent and rates strike.
§ Captain Orr indicated assent.
§ Mr. Channon
I am glad to have my hon. and gallant Friend's acclamation. Nothing could cause more hardship to a section of the community than that it should embark upon such a fruitless course as a rent and rates strike which would cause terrible hardship to those involved without doing them any good. People in the community must pay for the services which they expect the community to provide.
I should like to emphasise what has been said about propaganda. We have already seen examples of what will be said about the activities of the Army by those who wish us ill. I implore hon. Members not to be taken in by the mischievious propaganda that is already pouring out and will continue to pour out on this subject from people who wish to pretend that the Army is behaving in an irresponsible way. The Army has every intention of carrying out its duty with full responsibility. It has clear instructions—to prevent damage, to reduce it to the minimum, and to cause the minimum possible hardship, although there is inevitably some inconvenience to those involved in certain areas of the community. There will be people who will seek to exploit this issue for their own ends. I am sure that the House 1387 will not be fooled by such people, although there may be some outside who will be fooled, although I hope not.
Hon. Members has said that there can be no military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. There must be both a military and a political attempt to solve the problems of Northern Ireland. Both must be used. I was asked about the "no-go" areas by some hon. Members. I know the strength of feeling in the House and in Northern Ireland over the existence of the "no-go" areas in general. Of course it is intolerable that such areas should exist in Northern Ireland at all. Hon. Members will not expect me to go into any detail on the measures that might be taken to deal with the situation, as these must be security measures. My right hon. Friend has expressed the Government's view upon the issue many times in the past, and I know the views of hon. Members about these matters.
§ Mrs. Knight
May I ask my hon. Friend a specific point which I do not think concerns security, and that has to do with cutting off gas and electricity from these areas.
§ Mr. Channon
It would be a little difficult to cut off the gas supply from the Bogside since the gas works is actually in the Bogside. I note what my hon. Friend said. I do not think that she will expect me to go into that any further. It is an extremely serious matter but I cannot go further this evening.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) raised the question of the economic help that might be given to ease some of the critical problems in Northern Ireland. As he knows—my right hon. Friend announced this to the House some time ago—already a study is going on to see what measures might be taken to help in easing the critical unemployment and economic difficulties in Northern Ireland. I note what my hon. Friend said, but I am not in a position to announce further measures to the House.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will keep in mind the difficulties experienced by owners of business premises that have been bombed and which have outstanding rates bills?
§ Mr. Channon
I note what the hon. Member said. He will know that my right hon. Friend has already announced some extra help with the rates relief scheme for the city centres. The problems that many businesses have had to face in these and other areas have been put to me very forcibly.
Anyone who has been in Northern Ireland over the past three or four months since my right hon. Friend took up his office will know of the extra ordinary difficulty in trying to cope with the problem which the Province presents to us. Anyone who has heard this debate and the differing views expressed will see how extremely difficult it is to find a solution capable of achievement in the short term. If the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster will forgive my quoting hex, she said that it is impossible to have a military solution and impossible to have a political solution—
§ Miss Devlin indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Channon
If I have misquoted the hon. Lady I will gladly give way. I understood her to say that all British Governments over the past 50 years have been to blame, we are in this mess, and there is not much we can do to get out of it. If that is so, it is rather a gloomy view.
§ Miss Devlin
I do not wish to accuse the hon. Gentleman of arrogance. I did not say that there was no political solution. I simply said that the right hon. Gentleman was incapable of finding it.
§ Mr. Channon
That may be so, but that is a different matter. The hon. Lady has not helped us in the search for a solution by her contributions in recent years. If she will come forward with some constructive way in which we can achieve a political solution, or if her hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) would do so, the whole House would be indebted to them. So far on the whole, with respect to them, they have concentrated on the destructive side, telling us what is wrong without actually telling us what is right. That is the responsibility of everyone in Northern Ireland, not only to complain and to recriminate about the past—and anyone who has been to Northern Ireland knows how much of a sense of history there is and 1389 how much recrimination there is about the past—but to come forward with constructive proposals for the future. Otherwise what hope remains for the Province?
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) is too modest. May I commend the hon. Member to read the pamphlet recently produced by my hon. Friend dealing with a political solution and then to come back with some comments.
§ Mr. Channon
I have read the hon. Member's pamphlet. What all of us can agree about is that if we have constructive views about the future of Ireland, whether or not they are controversial, the way they should be pursued is politically, in the political arena. No one—I do not accuse the hon. Member of this—should attempt to impose his political views by force upon that community. Those who do so are setting back for a very long time the future of the cause in which they believe. If that be so, it would be just, because it would be quite wrong that people should be able to bomb others into a solution which they would not otherwise have countenanced.
We must try to solve this problem, difficult though it will be, both militarily and politically. The whole world knows that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made every endeavour in the past few months to give the extreme exponents of republicanism or of any other political view in the political spectrum the opportunity of coming forward with ideas. He has given the extreme exponents of republicanism the opportunity of ending their terrorism and of talking about political objectives. They have been given every chance to do that, but, alas, they have spurned their opportunities.
What conclusion can follow? Virtually the whole House agrees that the security forces must be able firmly and vigorously to respond. They have done, and they will continue to do so. However, Her Majesty's Government's policy remains the same—to end the violence and to provide a new political framework for Northern Ireland. We have had a short debate on this crucial issue—perhaps the gravest political issue confronting this country—and we hope that we can look 1390 to the backing of the House in the pursuit of those twin ends.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Francis Pym)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.