§ 10.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)
I beg to move,That the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act Extension Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th March, be approved.In the circumstances in which this order comes forward tonight I think I would not be very popular if I were to speak at great length. We have spent a whole day on issues intimately related to the question of extension of the present temporary provisions Act and many points have been made this afternoon and many more will be made in far greater depth tomorrow. This order is a consequence and pre-requisite—if that is not a paradox—of the proposals set out in the White Paper.
The Government have proposed in the White Paper that elections to the new Assembly in Northern Ireland should be held as soon as possible, that my right hon. Friend will then engage in discussions with elected representatives of parties to determine how devolution on the basis of Government by consent may take place, and that when the Government are satisfied that the conditions laid down in paragraph 53 of the White Paper have been met he will seek the approval of Parliament for an order to devolve powers on the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive.
Until powers have been devolved in this way Northern Ireland must continue to be governed, and it is clearly essential that responsibility must continue to lie with this Parliament. This is the purpose of this extension order, which extends the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act for a further 12 months. Without it the Act would lapse on 30th March and the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 would be automatically restored. The fact that the order extends direct rule for a further period of 12 months does not carry any hidden significance. It is our sincere wish that well before the end of this 1446 period the arrangements proposed in the White Paper will have been given effect, but the temporary provisions Act permits of an extension of only 12 months.
§ 10.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
It is just one year since we went through what I think can be regarded as the traumatic experience of instituting direct rule. I think it would certainly be regarded as such by hon. Members from Northern Ireland. It had profound effects on the politics of Northern Ireland and it led to the White Paper after we had had what could be called a massive political rethink, the Darlington Conference in September, the Green Paper and now the White Paper.
If this White Paper succeeds there should be no need for subsequent orders, but I presume—we have not yet seen the Bill—that it may go on and we would be back to an arrangement of direct rule of this nature.
I want to raise only two points and I do not want to go into great detail. I want to say a word about security and to repeat what I said the other day. It may be that this House, acting in the way in which it did and thinking and talking about it, may have influenced public opinion. We have been fortunate in the last week or two when perhaps we could have been otherwise and there was not an outbreak on the streets. I want to be reassured, as I am sure I can be, that if there is any danger at all in this period of direct rule of politics on the streets in a major way, the security forces are as ready to deal with that as they were on the day when the White Paper was published.
It would be fatal to any political development in the Province if the sort of thing that happened on the day of the strike were to happen again. I hope that the Minister can assure me that questions about policing which have been raised tentatively today in a wider context are being considered and that the Secretary of State, and his Ministers are thinking about the problems of policing. There is a real problem in the sense of community policing, not in a precise way but as a problem of lack of policing in some cases.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The hon. Member is talking about demonstrations and strikes. I understand that today the Labour Party has come out in favour of the May Day strike. Will they be asking the Government to make sure that these demonstrations are properly policed so that there is no improper conduct by those who are striking?
§ Mr. Rees
I was referring to people dressed in para-military uniforms and calling themselves lieutenants, colonels and so on and putting barricades across the street, which is not an industrial dispute. We would give firm support to the Army, regardless of what community they come from, in seeing that this is broken down. I represent an area in the North where many of the chaps are in the Services and they, to put it mildly, are fed up to the eyeballs with people who are dressed up as soldiers. Nothing would give them greater pleasure than to deal with these people. From whatever part of the community it comes, this situation has to be dealt with, under direct rule and after.
There is the question of accountability. I have referred today to the long run, but what will happen in the short run, which can take us to March of next year? There have been 31 items of legislation through this House in the last year. We have got what one can call major pieces of legislation stemming from the White Paper, which will keep many of us busy for a long time, but these orders are still coming through. There are real problems for all of us on both sides of the Chamber.
Have the Government applied their mind to this situation, which will last another year—and the last year has not been entirely satisfactory. I would be the last to say that I know the answer. I realise that there are difficulties, but if we have another year of legislation coming through in the form of orders we will have to look afresh at the situation. I do not wish to mention again the list of the types of order which will be coming through.
Another point which I think should be put forward concerns the local elections. If there are to be local elections, we have put forward the argument, which has been 1448 put to us, for postponing them. No doubt the Secretary of State will talk about that tomorrow. As things stand, the local elections will be on 30th May. We nave raised today the question of who will be allowed to stand in the Assembly elections. The question arises of who will be allowed to stand in the local elections if they take place at the time already given.
From my own researches—it is a complicated matter, on which the Minister might not wish to reply tonight—the question arises of who will be allowed to stand in the local elections. I have heard the names of people who belong to Republican-type organisations who, I have been told, will stand in the local elections. If they are to stand in the local elections, it begins to occur to me to wonder why they should not stand in the Assembly elections. This should be cleared up at some stage.
It is too soon to write the history of the last year. Its justification will be the success of the White Paper. I hope that the White Paper does succeed and that direct rule in the form that we have had it over the last year will be something written about by parliamentary historians.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I wish to be brief, because I do not want to anticipate what I hope to say in the debate tomorrow when I come to catch your eye, Sir, to move my amendment. I would endorse what the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has just said. We are proposing to continue a highly unsatisfactory Act and we must find some way of dealing with the business which comes forward under that Act more satisfactorily than we have over the past year.
Whatever may happen, even if we have the device that the hon. Gentleman suggested, of bringing forward the legislation for erecting the Assembly so as to enable elections to take place in June, the Assembly itself cannot conceivably have power to legislate over the whole field until all the arrangements about what is to be devolved have been worked out. That is as I understand it. Therefore we in this House are likely to deal with the Northern Ireland legislation during the next year.
Consequently it is of the utmost importance that we should look again at 1449 how we handle the procedure. It is highly unsatisfactory. Here we are at the end of the first day of a two-day debate affecting the future of Northern Ireland, and after debate on this order we have a highly important order which, in the normal course, would be worthy of, say, a day's debate in the new Assembly. We are to embark on it at this kind of hour of night when we are expecting another day's debate next day.
This kind of thing must not happen during the forthcoming year. I hope that those who manage the Government's business, through the usual channels, and perhaps with consultation with us who represent Northern Ireland, will find a more satisfactory method of dealing with vital new legislation. Heretofore, the legislation which has come before us has been legislation some of which started in Stor-mont, some of it which even went through many stages in the old Stormont. The legislation which will be coming will be new legislation, and very important legislation at that.
The only other thing I would say on this order is that we are prolonging an Act which I opposed in the House, and which those of us from Northern Ireland opposed. I said on Third Reading of that Bill that I thought it was a recipe for an escalation of violence. I am content to leave history to judge whether this year has shown whether I was right or not.
At this stage, however, I would simply say that this is a highly unsatisfactory Act under which we are operating. It must be brought to an end. We shall be discussing tomorrow one way of bringing it to an end, but whatever else happens, whatever be the results, whatever we decide about the White Paper itself, we must never go back to this type of procedure again. We must find some other solution. It is a bad Act. I profoundly hope we will never continue it again.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
The vast majority of representatives in Northern Ireland at various times—and at some parts of the voting, all of them —have voted against the Act, and our opinion has not changed, but I think it would be highly irresponsible for any of us to suggest that we put the clock back tonight, because if we did carry the 1450 House with us there would be absolute bedlam in Northern Ireland. So we must be realistic about this.
There is another order to come before us and in it there are various matters relevant to Departments about which I shall feel it my duty to speak on behalf of my constituents. What worries me about this whole situation under direct rule is that the constituents of Members for Northern Ireland, when they come to the position where they cannot get Ministers to budge on certain things, have not the opportunity through their representatives to ventilate those matters on the Floor of the House. Our opportunities are very limited indeed. They were available at Stormont because there a Member of Parliament could bring a matter affecting his constituents to the Floor of the House, air that matter, and seek to remedy the grievance which his constituents felt. Those of us who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland and who have now no local parliament in which to ventilate the very real grievances of the people have felt that by these Orders in Council we have not had adequate opportunity to represent the people who sent us to this House.
I disagreed with direct rule. I voted against it. But I want to make it clear that I never engaged in "Whitelaw-bashing", as did some politicians in Northern Ireland. It would be churlish of me tonight not to pay a tribute to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to the Ministers associated with him; some not with him now, some still with him, and the new members of his team. As a Member of Parliament I have received courtesy from them and have had access to them. I have had a sympathetic ear given to the grievances which I have sought to put to them, and in many cases my constituents have been satisfied. I could get to the ear of the Minister quicker under direct rule than I ever got to the ear of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland when I was a Member of the Stormont Parliament. That fact should be placed on record and made absolutely clear.
It would be wrong of me not to pay that tribute. I did not get everything for which I asked but at least my constituents' cases were understood and they received attention.
1451 I know from experience that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has carried a great burden. The differences we have had with him—which I shall be expressing tomorrow in the debate— in no way detract from the fact that we believe him to be a man of integrity and sincerity, a man who has sought to understand, as no other Minister has understood, exactly what the people of Northern Ireland are thinking and feeling.
I hope to raise other matters when we reach the next order tonight, but I must join with the Opposition spokesman and the Leader of the Unionist Party on the Government side of the House in saying that I hope that in the future the business of Northern Ireland that will be reserved to this House even when the new Assembly is operating and when powers are devolved upon it, will not be brought before the House in the way that these matters have been in the past. The Orders in Council will have to cease, or there will have to be some way whereby amendments can be tabled to this type of Northern Ireland legislation.
It should be clearly understood that the Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland cannot amend anything that comes before the House as an Order in Council. We can voice our objections and vote against them, but we cannot amend. We were promised a Committee by the Leader of the House a long time ago. That Committee is now shelved. We are having to renew this Bill for a year. We do not know how great a part of that year will have to pass before the Assembly gets under way and powers are devolved to it.
From reading the White Paper, anyone will know that there are vast departments of Government work which are reserved to this House. We should have some intimation tonight of the way in which these matters are to be brought before the House.
Another matter which greatly concerns me is that there has been no scrutiny of the accounts of the departments in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Public Accounts Committee was abolished on the prorogation of Stormont. Regarding accountability, no one knows whether 1452 these accounts have gone to the Public Accounts Committee of this House. If they have gone to that important body, they have gone to a body which has no voice from Northern Ireland in it capable of scrutinising these accounts. It is all very well for the Minister to tell us of all the money that the Government are giving to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Members have a right to see how that money is being spent, but they will not have an opportunity to do so. We have asked for information time and again but we do not get it.
Are the Stormont Government not to account for the way that they spent their money up to the day the Stormont Parliament was prorogued? Is that all to be forgotten about? Just before prorogation, the Public Accounts Committee was investigating a very important matter about what it thought was the mis-spending of money on the Ulster Office—many thousands of pounds—in keeping an office that was not even tenanted. In the midst of that investigation Stormont was prorogued. Is there any way whereby that Public Accounts Committee investigation can be carried on by hon. Members of this House who represent Northern Ireland constituencies? There must be some way of providing for accountability. I am Mill opposed to direct rule. It was not the right way to deal with the problem, but it came and now it is history. There is no need for us tonight to carry on in this debate about trying to vote on it. It is a matter of the past and we must move forward, but when we move forward I trust that we shall have satisfaction at the way Northern Ireland business is conducted in the future.
§ 10.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
There have been a lot of confessions in the last 10 minutes about how hon. Members voted on the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act and how they have now decided that even if they were against it the order today has to go through. I too will make my confession. I voted for the Tory Government's Bill. I welcomed it. It was one of those strange delights to my soul to see a Tory Government bringing about the prorogation of Stormont. It was only to be prorogued, we were told, but we knew it would never meet again in its old form. It was a start of 1453 a long road and we still have a long way to go to get the sort of Ireland that I want. I hope that what I want is also the sort of Ireland that the Irish people want although it is not for me to tell them what they must have.
There is an important point at issue, which nearly everybody who has spoken on the order has raised. It concerns the legislation that has come before the House, generally in the early hours of the morning or certainly between 10 p.m. and 11.30 p.m. There was one halcyon day when by the grace of God and the Leader of the House we were allowed a Friday to discuss a great number of statutory instruments. But apart from that we have had no real opportunity to examine legislation governing part of what is claimed to be the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is wrong that major pieces of legislation should have come forward in the form of statutory instruments. It has been argued that the majority of those statutory instruments have been presented to Stormont, that some of them had been debated in Stormont, although the original Opposition had quitted the place and the Democratic Unionists had become the Opposition and had scrutinised them. Some of the measures received had only casual Second Readings and some of them were not too carefully examined in Committee. Nevertheless, it was a reasonable and tenable argument because of pressure on the time of the House, because the legislation had been before Stormont, because no real exception had been taken to what was being done and, apart from a few minor modifications here and there, a few commas and full stops and the odd clause, the Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Department were not doing a great deal to alter the legislation.
We are now, however, in an entirely new situation. Later tonight we shall deal with the appropriation order and tomorrow we have the very important firearms order, which is a matter of great importance and something which hon. Members were talking about and urging before Stormont was prorogued. All we shall be able to do tomorrow is to allow the order through, to vote against it or to voice our criticism so strongly that the Government will perhaps withdraw it and re-examine its provisions.
1454 We are therefore on the horns of a dilemma. If we vote against it we shall be voting against something that many of us have wanted for a long time, even if it goes only part of the way to meeting our objectives. It must go through, even though it does not give us all we want because we know from past experience that we will not get the Government to withdraw it. In part we should not want them to withdraw it any way. We shall be presented with a piece of legislation disguised as a statutory instrument which concerns the ownership, possession and licensing of guns, the testing of guns and the whole principle of who should have guns, where they should be and what sort of licensing system we should have, and at no time will any hon. Member of the House—the official Opposition, the Unionist Party or the Government's supporters—be able to attempt to amend that legislation.
We do not know what the Government have in the pipeline for the future. We know that they have some Bills coming forward which are of tremendous political importance. We know also that they have legislation, stemming from Bills passed by Stormont or from regulations made under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, which we shall have no opportunity to scrutinise or to amend. It is wrong that the House should be put in this position. It is wrong that the people of Northern Ireland should not be able to influence the contents of the legislation by having the parts that they find obnoxious withdrawn or by having strengthened the parts that they want strengthened. They are given the whole issue on a plate—take it or leave it.
It is of no value for the Government to say that they have consulted this, that and the other interest when the interest which should be the Government's prime concern, namely the House of Commons, has no opportunity either to be consulted or to amend.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) is right. The procedure by which we handle Northern Irish legislation is a procedure which I call a constitutional scandal and the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlin Rees), in the full mood of Front 1455 Bench consensus, described as not entirely satisfactory. But the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, knows perfectly well that this is the inevitable consequence of direct rule, which he tells us he greeted with sadistic glee. I am one of the political mixed grill that fought direct rule through the night a year ago, and in retrospect I am glad that I did. That does not mean that I yield to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) in respect for the Secretary of State. He said that he was not a Whitelaw basher. I sometimes think that the hon. Member is in danger of becoming a Castle Protestant.
I shall not rehearse the constitutional, political and indeed military arguments against direct rule. Having read what has been written by Lord MacDermott I understand that certain legal doubts are cast upon the imposition of direct rule, but this is neither the time nor the place to go into that.
It would have been much more in keeping with the Tory philosophy which should actuate a Conservative Government if, instead of yielding to the first demand of the Provisional IRA, they had sought to adapt, improve and reform the traditional institutions instead of abolishing them and having to start again from rock bottom.
The suspension of Stormont was resented not only by Conservative Members; it was, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South, said, a traumatic experience keenly felt not only by Unionists but by politicians and people of different persuasions on both sides of the border.
For practical reasons which have been mentioned, I shall not seek to divide the House on this order. But if it had been possible to allow the order to lapse to the extent of permitting the Senate and the House of Commons of Northern Ireland to reassemble for the purpose simply of debating the White Paper, in parallel with the debate in this House and in the other place, it might have been of some benefit to our counsels.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh & South Tyrone)
I am also one of the "mixed grill" who voted against direct rule a year ago—and, looking back, it was a most unholy grill likely to poison any- 1456 body who tasted it. However, my sentiments have not changed in the year that has passed.
I want to refer to one of the most recent pieces of humbug namely the song and dance that is being made by the Unionist Members about increased representation. All of a sudden they have become most democratic creatures. When they were stomping around Stormont, they were so democratic that an anti-Unionist never got elected to the chairmanship or vice-chairmanship of a committee in Stormont.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
It should be put clearly on record that a Northern Ireland Labour Party Member, Mr. Simpson, was for many years the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
§ Mr. McManus
It should also, in fairness, be put on record that Mr. Simpson, though an admirable person, was a "unionist" in that he believed in the link with Britain and constituted no danger or offence to the Unionist Party.
As I was saying, Unionist Members have suddenly become democratic and insistent on fuller representation. If they have been converted to democracy, nobody would welcome it more than I, but I have no reasons for suspecting that it has something to do with the party political struggle. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has taken up this cause for a long time now, and, if such a situation were to come about, the hon. Gentleman would no doubt become the most important politician on the Unionist side, and might lead what is left of what is recognisable as the Unionist Party. I find it most painful to have to agree with the British Government about anything at all, but in this respect they are right. I encourage them to stick to what they are doing on this score and not to get involved in Unionist party politics which have been very painful for the last 50 years.
§ 10.34 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
I, like many of my hon. Friends, have not changed my view that the Act passed a year ago was a mistake. It was then freely admitted on both sides of the House that the object was to break the power of the majority party in Northern Ireland. Some right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House—with 1457 some notable exceptions—used the rather more refined expression that the object was to break the mould. They succeeded in the mould-breaking beyond their wildest expectations. Indeed its success has become an embarrassment, because they are now unable to arrest the process. They now have to deal not only with political parties, but with the parapolitical forces created by direct rule.
It ill became my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to sneer at those of us, particularly my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who are prepared, and have been prepared, to provide the type of political leadership to ensure that the various groups were able to sit round the table, and even in the City Hall of Belfast, to resolve jointly that they will use the democratic processes to the full. That achievement should be noted and placed on record. Sections 6 and 7 of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 dealt with the transitional period—namely, the coming into operation of the Act.
If the proposed early elections take place—and I welcome the assurances that we have been given today—and if the new Assembly can be established in the early part of this year, the second year of direct rule—there will be a transition in reverse. It is essential that there should be no stalling in decision making during the transitional period and that the momentum of the various Stormont Departments should be maintained.
It is vital that the Ministry of Development and the Ministry of Health and Social Services should operate at the very peak of efficiency during a year when all the complicated new structures will be set up. They are structures which have nothing to do, and had nothing to do, with the so-called reform programme which was planned and designed by the old and much maligned Stormont years before the bogus civil rights movement took to the streets.
I join with my hon. Friends in paying a sincere tribute to the Secretary of State and his colleagues for their superhuman efforts during the past year. In many cases they have had to combine three or four ministries under their stewardship. However, if it is necessary, the team must 1458 be, or should be, augmented to maintain its standard in what is likely to be an even more difficult year.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Last year I moved an amendment after the Attorney-General had broken his assurance to the House that the 40 days for praying against statutory instruments would be 40 days in which the House, by its own rules and practices, could entertain Prayers against statutory instruments. The Attorney-General gave that specific assurance and then failed to honour it. He did not accept the amendment which would have implemented his assurance. The House will further recollect that it was announced that a Select Committee was to be set up. I was invited to submit evidence to that committee. I am still awaiting the opportunity to do so a year later.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
I have been in communication with the Clerk to the Committee on a number of occasions. I should be grateful if the Minister of State will tell me what has happened to that Committee. As I have not had the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee—and I notified it that I wished to do so before it was set up—it cannot be in a position to report. It is a very unhappy situation.
I have twice endeavoured to introduce a Private Member's Bill to introduce a procedure which would enable statutory instruments to be amended. That Bill was murdered by the Labour Party Whips. It ill behoves any Labour hon. Member to protest that there is no procedure under which a statutory instrument can be amended. The events of the last year have shown that we need such a procedure.
I do not want my observations in any way to detract from the gratitude which I feel towards the Secretary of State and his colleagues for discharging in such a courageous and dedicated manner the duties which no hon. Member could have wished to have had thrust upon him, duties which have never successfully been carried out in history by anyone upon whom they have been thrust. It was an act of supreme public service by my right hon. Friend to accept these duties.
1459 I did not oppose the Act a year ago. I voted for it because I could see no other manner in which the problem could be tackled. I still believe that there was no other manner in which it could have been tackled. But that is not to say that I do not wish to see—because I do wish to see—procedures whereby what is in fact Government by Order in Council can be subject to amendment and fuller discussion in the House.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
One is becoming almost worried about the late-night confessions and prayers being delivered on both sides of the House. If I were the Secretary of State, I would be very worried by the amount of lavish praise being heaped upon me. Indeed, it all sounds rather like an obituary in The Times. I would watch very carefully the sources of such praise.
I have no apology to make for voting last year against the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. I voted against it not because I agreed with the particularly undemocratic nature of Stor-mont, but because I felt that opposition to a lack of democracy was no excuse for voting for even less democracy, which was what we got. We moved from what was a very undemocratic and sectarian establishment in Northern Ireland to a virtual dictatorship in this House.
As an independent Member of this House, I feel that the particular difficulty in which I find myself—and no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) and perhaps even the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) feel the same—is that those of us who do not have party representation have to be personally present here in the House of Commons or personally present in Northern Ireland.
Being an independent Member, one often has to make the choice of where one feels one is the more urgently needed. That, to a great degree, results in individual Members, particularly independents like myself, not being present at peculiar hours in the morning here when legislation is discussed—legislation to which, as has been pointed out—there can be no amendments. One has then only the opportunity of being a very 1460 small minority voting in opposition, given the bi-partisan policy and accepting that, whatever the democratic processes of the House, whatever the length of time a matter may be debated in the small hours, there is not really any point to one's presence.
One almost feels a despair that, while I would totally argue against increasing what is tantamount to ineffective representation in this House, if matters are to be conducted in a proper fashion, one has to face the fact that one might as well not be here at one or two o'clock in the morning simply in order to voice an objection to something which will go through the House anyway when one's presence is required in Northern Ireland.
While opposing further ineffective membership of this House, which I see no point in, I certainly ask the Secretary of State to devise some more satisfactory means of effective representation by the present Members from Northern Ireland in future legislation. It is totally unsatisfactory that the population of Northern Ireland should be expected to be satisfied with what is pushed through here in an hour or so, when, were it to happen in Great Britain, there would be a much greater outcry for an independent Scotland or an independent Wales.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
Several hon. Members have made the point that the system which has operated during the past year is totally unsatisfactory. I hope that in the year ahead more satisfactory arrangements will be made for discussing the various orders which come before us. Tribute has been paid to the work of the Secretary of State and his as?istants. I should be failing in my duty if I did not pay tribute to the members of the Civil Service here and in Northern Ireland who have worked many long hours in preparing Orders in Council and the various pieces of legislation. I hope it will be recognised that in Northern Ireland we have a Civil Service second to none. I trust it will not be said that it let the side down in the past year.
I voted against the Temporary Provisions Bill and at the time I referred to it as "Instant Whip Government." I am no more in line with the measure now. but I believe that to vote against an extension of it would be lunacy. I hope that before long conditions will have 1461 changed and that legislation relating to Northern Ireland will find its rightful place in the new Assembly.
§ 10.43 p.m.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
I know that the House would like to have a few words from another Northern Ireland Member on this the anniversary of a sad day in the history of this country's relations with Northern Ireland—a loyal part of this kingdom. The measure was introduced in the first place because of the IRA terror campaign. Today that campaign is being waged with greater vigour than in March 1972. As we in the Ulster Unionist Council were debating the White Paper yesterday there were bombs going off in Belfast and Londonderry.
Shortly after I had spoken an explosion occurred a short distance away which made the Ulster Hall shake. It certainly did not shake the spirit of the Ulster people who were represented there. It is a sad reflection that the anniversary of the extension of this measure should be marked by more bombs and atrocities such as the murder of those three young British soldiers in the Antrim Road area of Belfast.
There are compliments being paid to the Civil Service. I share the tribute which has been expressed for the work of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland. However, I do not believe that there is a smooth relationship between civil servants in Stormont and those who come from Whitehall to show the civil servants at Stormont how things should be done. But then, the civil servants from Whitehall stay in the luxury Culloden hotel, protected by the Army. I was told—I am not sure whether it is fair to say this—that they were fed up with the luxurious food being provided for them.
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) was in a confessional mood tonight. She confessed, quite rightly, that there is not much point in taking part in debates on Orders in Council under this Act because there is no opportunity to amend them. We are impotent to change the Government's attitude. That was our experience with the Education and Libraries Order. We put forward many important suggestions, but they were all cast aside. We could not amend the order, and the same has applied to every other order which has been produced.
1462 We shall see more orders produced by this Government during direct rule. We shall not be able to amend them. We are taking part in a sad and sorry charade. I believe that the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) agrees with me that this is not democracy. It is not democracy for orders to be dealt with in this way, at a late hour of the night, without opportunities to amend them, and without a proper period of time in which interested hon. Members may debate them.
This is a sad anniversary and one which I trust will not be repeated in March 1974.
§ 10.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Cognisant of the fact that my constituent, Gunner Curtis, was the first British soldier to lose his life in the holocaust of Northern Ireland, I supported direct rule a year ago, and I support the order tonight. But I must put in a caveat. I believe that the time is now very close, if not here, when the Irish people have to take some responsibility for their own destiny.
The moment cannot be too far away when this House has to say to the people of that unhappy island that they have some time in which to take responsibility for their own destiny but that, at the end of the period, they ought to think very seriously about it, because when that time comes we shall no longer be responsible for having British troops there at the risk of their lives to protect them.
I hope sincerely that responsible elements in Ireland will realise that time is running out, that they have to face up to their responsibilities, and that the people of this island are not prepared much longer to see the lives of British lads put at risk.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Unfortunately, Gunner Curtis was shot in my constituency by the IRA, which claimed responsibility, as it has for all the other soldiers who have been killed since.
The contribution of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Robert C. Brown) does not help the situation one iota. It only causes the 1463 majority to fear the consequences, because if the Army is to be withdrawn and people are to be left to the tender mercies of the IRA whose members have cruelly murdered and bombed and destroyed property for the past three years, what else can we do but try to protect ourselves?
I say sincerely to the hon. Gentleman and to others who adopt the same line that they should think carefully about what they say. They are really saying that they give in to terrorism and violence. But what are the likely consequences of that for the rest of the United Kingdom?
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mr. David Howell
I think that I should answer one or two of the points that have been raised in this short debate even though, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you may feel, as I am sure the House does, that we have had a lot of debate today on Northern Ireland.
I am sure the House will understand if I say that the arguments that we have heard this evening about the virtues or vices of the procedures under direct rule are not unfamiliar to me after a year of legislation of this kind. We have always recognised that the procedure of Orders in Council to deal with matters which under the former Northern Ireland Parliament were full-scale Bills is inadequate. We recognise that this is a temporary measure, the word temporary being embodied in the wording of the original Act and in the extension order. This seems to be all the more reason to press ahead, by debate and without undue obstruction, towards the new proposals to enable the people of Northern Ireland to enjoy a fuller form of representation and a more effective form of legislation. That, surely, is the answer to all those who say that they do not like the present system.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) asked about security. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the level of the security forces and the requirements for security are and will be constantly reviewed in the light of events that arise in the months ahead. I assure the hon. Gentleman that tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 1464 will say something about the immensely difficult problem of policing.
The hon. Gentleman asked about people standing for election. I think that what he is really asking about is proscribed organisations. I ask him to await the decision of the Government on this issue.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and others for their tributes. They are gratefully received at this time, when such compliments are rare.
My hon. Friend asked for comments on public accounts and the question of scrutiny. I think I have told my hon. Friend before—and I repeat it now—that the public accounts which were outstanding for scrutiny and comment by the Comptroller and Auditor General at the time of prorogation can be looked at by the Public Accounts Committee of this House The Committee can also look at the comments of the Comptroller and Auditor General of Northern Ireland on these accounts, and at all accounts arising from the period under direct rule.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General be available to Members of the House who are not members of the PAC?
§ Mr. Howell
Reports of the PAC, together with the evidence submitted to it. are available to hon. Members.
I gather that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) was making a point about a Select Committee on delegated legislation. I shall make sure that his comments are passed to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) made some remarks about civil servants and seemed to imply that there was a lack of harmony between the civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office and those in Northern Ireland. I resent my hon. Friend's remarks, and I suspect that they are irresponsible and unfounded. Further, I suspect that there is not the slightest shred of evidence to substantiate my hon. Friend's comments. If there is, he should produce it. If there is not, he should not make irresponsible comments. They do no good, and they are resented by civil servants, both in London and in Northern Ireland, who 1465 have worked tirelessly to serve the country of which my hon. Friend is a citizen. They ill deserve to be rewarded with innuendoes.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
My hon. Friend has called my remarks irresponsible. If my hon. Friend does not want me to give them to him in public I shall be happy to give him in private names and addresses to bear out what I have said. There is concern at Stormont among civil servants, and it is no use trying to gloss over the fact. The Government ought to be aware that there is concern about interference. That is something my hon. Friend ought to bear in mind and not dismiss my remarks as irresponsible.
§ Mr. Howell
Having heard these public accusations, I and others will want substantial evidence to support them. The accusations will have to be based on real evidence before we accept them.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
I have no knowledge of these matters, but if allegations of this kind are to be made they should be made in the House and not in correspondence.
§ Mr. Howell
I am sure that is so, and that is what I meant by saying that hon. Members would want to hear these allegations made in that way.
Aside from that, this has been an evening when there has been a looking back. Those who voted against at the time felt justified and used arguments which the Government reject because we do not see things that way and do not relate cause and effect as some hon. Members do. They are entitled to their views and these things are to be taken seriously.
I am grateful for the remarks made about my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friends. We now face the coming months in which we have to build on what the Government have achieved, and to carry forward the assault on terrorism which has been carried on with great success— it cannot be dismissed—and to rebuild a situation in which politics can begin again in Northern Ireland. That is what the coming months will be about.
§ Question put and agreed to.