HC Deb 05 December 1988 vol 143 cc38-113

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the reasoned amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

4.40 pm
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Hon. Members often complain that too little Northern Ireland legislation comes forward in the form of a Bill for proper debate in the House. I do not think that such a complaint could be directed at the Queen's Speech because the House will have a full opportunity to debate and to consider in Committee many of the measures in it. Today we shall debate the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill and tomorrow the House will have before it the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill. Although the latter is a United Kingdom measure, it contains some important provisions relating to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I apologise to the Secretary of State for intervening so early in his speech. He will have seen the comments in today's newspapers from which it appears that the Government will want to derogate from the ruling of the Strasbourg court. That might arise in tomorrow's debate and it would he useful if the Secretary of State could tell us whether that will be included in the Bill that the Government intend to bring before the House tomorrow.

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman had better wait and see. I shall leave it to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to speak about that. I do not want to anticipate anything that he might say. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said.

I was speaking about the Northern Ireland matters that the House will have a full opportunity to debate. In that context we shall also have a Bill on fair employment. This comes on the back of the criminal evidence order that the House approved at the end of the last Session. It was about the ban on direct broadcasting by certain organisations and was approved by the House after being presented by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. The police and criminal evidence order for Northern Ireland will give added rights of protection to those taken in for questioning. We have a fairly full range of measures and legislation coming before the House and they will be dealt with in their proper order in due course.

Before I deal in proper order with today's Bill, perhaps I could be permitted to put the legislation in its overall context because I am conscious that each measure always has its critics. Each item that is proposed is approved or rejected by one side or the other. It seems to be left to a few hon. Members to put them into context and to show how they form a general pattern and approach to the issues that we face in Northern Ireland. I should like to put the Bill in the context of our overall theme of fairness and justice for the people of Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that we have an effective response to the evil of terrorism and proper protection for the rights of the community as well as respect for the rights of individuals.

That which we seek is blunt and simple and perhaps it is fairly obvious, but it is worth repeating against the background of some of the criticisms that we receive. What we seek for the people of Northern Ireland is the same as that which we seek for people throughout the United Kingdom. We seek better prospects for jobs and self respect for people. We seek better housing and better education for our children. We want to see proper health care and good amenities and we want to see better community relations, tolerance, peace and order and the cessation of violence in the Province.

Those are our overall objectives, but no single measure or item can go to the heart of solving the problems of Northern Ireland. On a broad front, we seek to advance the cause of good government and to improve the condition of people in Northern Ireland in all those areas. Obviously those objectives are shared by the overwhelming majority of the people who wish to see nothing more than the cessation of violence and a better and safer life for themselves and their families.

In the work carried out by me and by my colleagues in government, we pay great attention to such issues as economic development. Of course we take pride in the fall in unemployment and in the confidence of so many companies in Northern Ireland that have substantially increased their investment in the past year. That has improved employment prospects. We are pleased to see companies from overseas and shall seek to maintain, as the latest public expenditure statement shows and as my hon. Friend the Minister of State made clear, our determination to support industrial development and investment in the Province. We want more jobs, but at the same time we want to ensure that there is no discrimination in the distribution of those jobs and that opportunities are presented across communities without regard to religion or opinion.

There has been substantial investment in housing in recent years; we want to maintain that level of investment, which is much higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom. We want to see an increase in home ownership and the elimination of the worst housing conditions in some of the high-rise flats. I confirm our determination to see improvements in that respect.

I have considerable admiration for the standard of health care in the Province. Since I have been Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I have gained considerable respect for the hospitals and the general practitioners in the Health Service there. The Province is well served by the Health Service and we wish to see that maintained. We also want to see high standards in education. It is an easy and proud claim that Northern Ireland has high standards in educational achievement, but we also know that it has a serious problem because of the number of people who fail to achieve any qualifications.

There is no room for complacency in education, and we are keen to see how education can play its part in dealing with conditions in the Province. I emphasise again the importance that we attach to the initiative by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), of support for integrated education. That will prove to be an important contribution.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. I know that, conventionally, debate on Second Reading is wide, but I remind the Secretary of State that he is going very wide of the provisions of the Bill.

Mr. King

I seek to explain the background to the Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I understand the point that you are making. It is important to tell the House about the measures that will be coming forward. As I said at the beginning of my speech—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman must realise that it is difficult for the Chair subsequently to contain the debate within the proper parameters when the Secretary of State ranges as wide as he is doing.

Mr. King

I apologise, and entirely accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that Northern Ireland Members are concerned that our opportunities for debate in the House on Northern Ireland measures are limited, and I sought to do the House the courtesy of outlining the context in which we are bringing forward the Bill. I entirely understand your remarks, and I will respect them.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I trust that the Secretary of State has in mind—perhaps he is not able to deal with this because of the ruling of the Chair—the serious position in the shipyards.

Mr. King

I have all these problems in mind. They are all part of the framework. Anybody who knows Northern Ireland understands, in the politics of Northern Ireland, the game of pluses and minuses—who is up and who is down—and knows that these are important considerations. They are reflected in this legislation, as every hon. Member who represents a Northern Ireland constituency knows.

We seek in the measures that we are taking, and in particular those dealing with peace and order and the cessation of violence, to respond to people's interests and concerns on matters in which terrorism and support for violence pose challenges to democratic society. These concerns are relevant to the Bill. We have taken a number of steps in law and order to try to ensure that the work that the security forces do for the protection of the community is as effective as possible.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

Is there not a contradiction in that, at a time when we are introducing week after week legislation dealing with the law in Northern Ireland, the Government will not, I believe, obey the diktats of the European Court in relation to the law with which we shall deal tomorrow? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that petulant ladies make bad law?

Mr. King

I think that I am suffering from one or two late arrivals to the debate. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was in his place when the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) raised that point and sought to get me to comment on it. I suggested that he should wait, and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should wait, for tomorrow's debate when the subject can be properly addressed. I am conscious of my responsibilities. I recognise the connection between all these items, the perception of them, and the perception of the legislation before the House. It will be perceived not simply in isolation, but by many in relation to other matters that are currently on the agenda. That is why I took the liberty, subject to correction, to put these matters in the widest context possible.

In law and order, we have sought to address the concerns about the position of the security forces, to ensure that the balance of justice with the firm pursuit of terrorism can be maintained, and that the security forces have the necessary facilities and are furnished with the right instruments to be able to discharge their responsibilities to the community. I have already referred to several measures in the last Session that addressed this problem. Others will be introduced with the legislation tomorrow. We believe that they provide protection for the community by providing the security forces with those proper instruments, but we also believe that they provide the proper respect for the rights of the individual, as I said earlier.

We have taken a number of steps to try to ensure that individual rights are properly protected, whether in measures that have already been discussed, the codes of conduct for the RUC, the codes for the Army and security forces, the guide to the exercise of the emergency powers or tackling the problems of delay of appeals so that people do not feel that justice is delayed and there is some inhibition on their right of appeal. Those steps are a measure of our determination to protect individual rights as well.

Against that background, the Bill seeks to address certain grievances and anomalies in local government. I begin with two anomalies. Clauses I and 2 deal with the franchise for district council elections in Northern Ireland and bring it broadly into line with that for Parliament. That change will sweep away earlier legislation widely perceived as discriminating against Nationalists in Northern Ireland. It will enfranchise for district council elections in Northern Ireland about 10,500 people, called "I" voters—that "I" stands for imperial Parliament voters—who are at present unable to vote in local council elections. They are people who, under the 1962 legislation for Northern Ireland, failed to meet the special nationality and residence qualifications laid down for district council elections. This legislation confines the right to vote to Commonwealth citizens who either were born in Northern Ireland or have resided in the United Kingdom for the whole of the seven years preceding the qualifying date for registration.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

The Secretary of State has said that every one of those 10,000 people who gains a vote is naturally a Nationalist. How does he prove that sweeping statement? We cannot allow it to go unchallenged. There is no evidence that that is so, and many Army wives and many who might vote Unionist are among those 10,000.

Mr. King

I said that it was "widely perceived" as discriminating against Nationalists. It is true that among those who will now be enfranchised are the wives of service men who find themselves unable to meet the qualification of having been in the United Kingdom for the whole of the seven years. If it is perceived as discriminating both against Nationalist and Unionist voters, and if therefore it will command the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House, I shall be delighted. That would be a happy outcome.

It is no secret in the history of this measure that it was perceived at the time as discriminating in that way. Citizens of the Irish Republic who are not also Commonwealth citizens, British citizens who do not meet the residence requirements and wives of service men are excluded from voting. This change will extend the franchise to them. This restriction has already been removed in parliamentary elections and for Assembly elections. The discrimination in respect of council elections has persisted for too long. I hope that I shall have the support of the House for the removal of this long-standing grievance.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Is my right hon. Friend able to confirm that, after the provisions of clause I have been become effective, the franchise for district elections in Northern Ireland will be identical to the franchise for district elections in Wales, Scotland and England?

Mr. King

I have a feeling that my hon. Friend has asked that question because there is a trick in it. I shall get that checked rather than reply off the cuff, and I shall ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to answer. I say that in the kindest possible way because there may be some point of which I am not aware. I warn my hon. Friend that there are two other changes which I think will go much closer to achieving his objective. At the moment, in Northern Ireland, convicted prisoners can vote at district council, although not parliamentary elections. Certain patients compulsorily detained in mental institutions or otherwise unable to make a patient's declaration are also unable to vote. That involves about 850 people. The legislation will remove the right from them as they do not have the opportunity to vote elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Those are the key changes in the voting arrangements.

The second anomaly is covered by clause 9, which relates to the changes in the arrangements for disqualification. At present, for a person whose term of imprisonment or detention in the British Isles or the Republic of Ireland is for three months or more, disqualification applies while he is in prison for live years from the date of conviction. The proposal in clause 9 will change that to five years from the date of discharge.

It will of course be apparent that the effect of the present arrangement means that those who are convicted and receive a heavy sentence serve no disqualification if the five years has expired by the time they leave prison. However, people who serve a short sentence—perhaps of three months, which is the qualifying level—may emerge from prison and still have to serve another four years and nine months' disqualification. That is an anomaly, and the change proposed in the legislation is that the disqualification period shall apply from the date of discharge.

The most controversial part of the Bill concerns the declaration against terrorism. Clauses 3 and 5 provide for the declaration against terrorism to be made by candidates at, respectively, district council and Assembly elections in Northern Ireland. Clause 4 provides for a similar declaration to be made by candidates co-opted to fill casual vacancies on district councils. The terms of the declaration in each case are set out in schedule 2. Candidates will be required to declare that, if elected, they will not express support for or approval of proscribed organisations or acts of terrorism—that is to say, violence for political ends—connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland.

Clause 6 defines the behaviour that will constitute a breach of the declaration. Clause 7 sets out the enforcement mechanism, which will be an application to the High Court for a determination that the declaration has been breached.

Mr. Eric S. Hafer (Liverpool, Walton)

With regard to the precise definition of terrorism, the Secretary of State has referred to violence for political ends. The fact is that Governments have always believed in violence for political ends. There was terrorism in fighting Nazis in Germany. What is the precise definition of terrorism? Is it only violence against us? What are we really talking about?

Mr. King

The definition is spelt out as it is in the Bill to clarify the matter. It is violence against the person in that definition. As the hon. Gentleman understands, this is a vexed matter and that is why the rather strange definition is included, in somewhat less legalistic language, as "violence for political ends". In the end, that is a matter for a court to determine, as are the interpretations. That is my understanding of it.

Mr. William Ross


Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)


Mr. King

I want to finish this part of my speech.

Clause 7 also defines the persons enabled to apply for a determination of breach of declaration. In respect of a councillor, that includes the council itself, other members of the council or electors of the council. In respect of the Assembly members, they are other members of the Assembly or electors of the Assembly constituency concerned.

Clause 8 sets out the consequences of a determination by the High Court that a declaration has been breached. The councillor or Assembly member to whom the determination applies will be disqualified from both council and Assembly office for a period of five years from the date of the determination.

Mr. Flannery

Will the Secretary of State kindly explain a little more his opinion of people, whether or not they are terrorists, who profoundly believe that they are fighting for a cause and hold a belief—something like the French Resistance? Does he really believe that they will not sign something and that they will tell the truth if they profoundly believe in their cause? I think that he is dreaming. I do not think that it is on.

Mr. King

The most offensive sentence in the English language of recent times from a so-called political platform was the statement, if I can remember the words correctly, "Will anyone here object if, with the ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland?" What that sentence says, and what the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) I am sure is not seeking to justify but is seeking to believe is inevitable, is that we can tolerate a situation in which people will exploit to the uttermost the freedoms and opportunities that a democratic society can provide while at the same time they reserve the right to kill, maim and intimidate those who argue against them.

Mr. Flannery

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In his argument the right hon. Gentleman is seeking to say that I agree with the statement about an Armalite in one hand and a ballot paper in the other. Let me place it on the record that I am totally opposed to that. The Secretary of State must not say things like that. I was asking him to give us a detailed explanation of how he thinks that someone who believes in something profoundly or wrongly will tell the truth if that is against what he profoundly believes in. That is what I am asking the Secretary of State to do. That has nothing to do with what he imputes to me.

Mr. King

The House will have heard that I was most careful not to suggest that the hon. Gentleman was in any way seeking to support or condone violence. The problem that the hon. Gentleman was trying to state was that this is not an appropriate response to the problems of those who try to take full advantage of the democratic freedoms and yet at the same time defile the sacredness of democracy by their attempt to use violence and intimidation to get their way.

The hon. Member for Hillsborough made a specific point. He asked whether I seriously thought that those people will not just sign the declaration in any case. They may do it. That is all right, but they do that in the knowledge that, if they sign and then commit what may be demonstrated and can be established in the courts to be an offence against that declaration, they will face the consequences.

At the moment, they face no consequences whatsoever. I have complete sympathy with councillors in council chambers in Northern Ireland trying to discharge their responsibilities to their electorate in a democratic and honest way. I find it intolerable that they must listen to and endure that kind of unacceptable abuse. It is a total abuse of the democratic process. Would the hon. Gentleman just walk by on the other side? Would he say that we must have some respect for people's views which are not quite the same as our own, or would he stop and say, "I respect other people's democratic opinions expressed in a democratic way, but if they are carried to the extent of violence and intimidation, there has to be some protection, some right of access for democratic councillors to protect them against that situation"?

Mr. John Hume (Foyle)

If I heard him aright, the right hon. Gentleman is saying that, if elected, councillors will not call for support for violent organisations, but they can call for as much support as they like, including the quotation that he has just given, during the election campaign. That means that if they are elected and call for the same support in the council chamber, if a member of the public, not the authority, takes a civil action and they lose their seat, they can fight the election again, use the same language again and get re-elected. Are not the Government handing them a weapon to disrupt local government?

Mr. King

I listened to a broadcast this morning in which the hon. Gentleman made a similar point about what happens during an election campaign. Whatever we try to do to deal with the evil of terrorism, there is no easy answer; there is no pat solution that is absolutely foolproof and perfect every time. The hon. Gentleman knows that I have an army of excellent conscientious officials who have warned everyone of the difficulties and the problems and of what the anomalies might be. Should we sit here saying that everything is too difficult and do nothing? In an election, should we try to rule every single candidate, even the biggest nutter who will never get near saving his deposit, and inspect every word he says, or should we make it a requirement of candidature that a person should be a valid candidate? Those people have achieved the opportunity of a democratic election and the platform provided by that democratic election, and before election a candidate must at least know that he runs that risk. It is not a perfect solution or an automatic guarantee, but at least they have to face that risk.

I may not persuade the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). but, although we do not believe every poll we see, it would appear that he has not persuaded the members of his party who, in the poll that I saw, overwhelmingly believe the measure to be a sensible and necessary precaution, and that people standing for democratic election in Northern Ireland should have no hesitation or inhibition about making that declaration.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

My right hon. Friend has just spoken about every option having some difficulties. Will he join me in wondering whether, in a few minutes' time, we shall hear at last some constructive suggestion from the Opposition Front Bench on at least one option?

Mr. King

I should not like to raise my hon. Friend's hopes on that. I have seen the Labour party's comments in the statement issued at the time of the consultative paper, expressing reservations about it.

I believe that it is not sufficient for hon. Members simply to walk by and say that the situation has to be allowed and tolerated. The House will know that other, more substantial, approaches might have been taken, and I have no doubt that there will be those who argue for the proscription of all organisations that might be supportive of violence and terrorism. The Government have not taken that option. We have decided to put forward in the Bill what we feel is a response to the problems faced in the council chambers. We recognise that there is an unacceptable situation at the moment, and we are determined to provide some means whereby those who feel affronted have some chance to do something about it.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)


Mr. King

I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but it will have to be the last time I give way, or I shall talk out the debate.

Mr. Benn

I am very grateful to the Secretary of State, but these are important questions that only he can clarify. If in the course of an election a candidate makes speeches which are not covered by the Bill, after he is elected an attack on the elected candidate is an attack on the electors who elected him. This is the problem to which the Secretary of State has not turned his mind. When we start interfering, either by a ban on broadcasting or through the provisions of the oath, we are interfering with those who elected the people concerned and not with the candidate. Will the Minister say something about that problem? He said that there is overwhelming support for the policy. If that is the case, such candidates will not be elected; if it is not, they will. That is the problem which arouses anxiety in the minds of many right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. King

The right hon. Gentleman's last point is a bit muddled, because the support is for the fact that candidates should be required to sign such a declaration. There seems to be general agreement that most people will sign it. The criticism from one side is that of course they will sign it and then they will not follow it. They will have to address that matter, but they will know at the time that they will be at risk of being found in breach of the declaration, and that that could lead to a five-year disqualification.

Although it is not a perfect measure, and although there are many criticisms of, for instance, the ban on direct access to the media, they are not shared by Ministers in the Irish Republic, nor by Mr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, who does not go around apologising for the measure that he brought in. He believes that it is a justified and sensible measure. I believe that that will prove to be the case in Northern Ireland, and that the measure, albeit with the difficulties, problems and reservations that people have, will prove to be far more effective than people think.

In the society that exists in Northern Ireland, it is necessary to respond to the genuine and deeply held grievances arising out of the sufferings there. The measure is often talked about in connection with Sinn Fein exclusively, but I am talking about both extremes—those on the Loyalist side as well as those on the Republican side. Violence and support of a twin-track policy, whatever it may be, are equally repulsive and offensive from whichever side they come.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield ( Mr. Benn) chastised me, saying that I would need to address the problem. I shall listen to what he says he would do to address the problem. I have addressed it and have rejected some other measures. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has spent more hours than he would probably care to reflect on discussing and consulting with a whole range of different people on what would be the right response. There is widespread recognition among many politically active people in Northern Ireland, and in the Churches, that a response is needed, and, while it is not perfect, they see this as a genuine atempt to reflect a concern that exists. I am very encouraged that that attitude and appreciation appear to be widely reflected among the people of Northern Ireland in both religious communities.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Taking it one step further, and assuming that a member of Sinn Fein signs that declaration, one of the arguments put forward by those who asked the Government to do something about this matter was that there appeared to be a double standard: that the right hon. Gentleman and his ministerial colleagues were asking Unionist elected representatives and others to sit down in council chambers with Sinn Fein, while they themselves refused to meet Sinn Fein elected representatives. If a Sinn Fein member signs the declaration, will the Secretary of State meet him?

Mr. King

No, we have no such proposals. If Sinn Fein were to repudiate violence, we would have to consider that. There is a clear distinction between not advocating or supporting violence and failing to repudiate it. I am aware that that was one of the criticisms in the representations made to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary.

The House will have an opportunity fully to debate this measure not only today but in Committee. The Government believe that it is an appropriate response to circumstances that cause great offence and grievance. In no sense does it seek to exclude from elected office anyone who wishes to pursue the democratic path in the way in which all hon. Members expect—without violence, intimidation or murder as the aid and adjunct to a campaign. We offer the opportunity for all to stand. We merely require that, if elected, the candidate will observe the standards for which the House has stood for centuries. That is the basis on which we put forward the Bill, and I commend it to the House.

5.20 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: That this House, whilst welcoming the proposals to extend the franchise in Local Government elections in Northern Ireland, declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which is unnecessary because incitement to violence and displays of support for terrorism are already criminal offences; which will increase sectarian conflict in Local Government; which will assist the cause of the supporters of violence; which will place the judiciary in an invidious position, and which does nothing to encourage confidence in the operation of Local Government in Northern Ireland or to heal the divisions in that society.

I shall not follow the introduction of the Secretary of State, not because I concede his argument but because we should consider the Bill and its penicious effects.

The Labour party welcomes the proposals to end the anomalies in the electoral register. Unfortunately, that is the only part of the Bill to which my party can give its support. The central issue is the declaration against violence, to which I shall devote my remarks.

The case against this legislation has been made so vigorously that I am surprised the Government have been foolish enough to introduce it: democracies have to be careful in seeking to defend their democracy by not adopting means which play into the hands of terrorists, and therefore, I think we should seek to derogate as little as possible from the normal standards of justice and government which we would normally apply … There are always people who will come forward and seek to persuade law enforcement agencies of governments that there are short cuts to solving terrorist problems; that there is no need to be moderate, civilised and restrained in our response. However briskly, forcefully and determinedly one might have to respond to particular situations, I do think those other qualities should not be forgotten, lest they simply increase the size of the sea within which the terrorist fish can swim … do not try to take short cuts with the law in order to produce short-term results that may cause longer-term problems. Do not neglect the task of tackling the real grievances which may provide the terrorist with some of his support in the community".

The Government apparently do not share that point of view. It was put forward most eloquently and effectively by the hon. Member who probably knows more about countering terrorism and who has served longer in Northern Ireland than anyone else—the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott). All those words came from a Northern Ireland information service handout of a speech made by the hon. Gentleman in 1986. That was the background against which the Government started again after the last election, but they have cut themselves off from such a policy by a series of measures over the past six months. This measure is perhaps one of the most regrettable. It is a disappointment to all fair-minded men that the Government, reacting to the Prime Minister's pressures, have not listened to the words of wisdom of the hon. Member for Chelsea.

The Bill does not address itself to the problem of reducing the size of the sea in which the terrorist swims. It does not even place the sandbags in the way of the terrorist tide, nor does it even fence off the sea with barbed wire, which might catch the odd terrorist minnow. It simply strings a white tape along the edge of the water, which is insufficient to dry the swamps in which the paramilitaries feed.

The Labour party declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill for several reasons. It is misconceived and unnecessary, does nothing to eradicate violence, is futile, will strengthen the paramilitary case and it is apparent that it will have quite unintended consequences that the Government have equally obviously failed to consider.

The Secretary of State's case for the Bill rests on two assumptions—that the presence of Sinn Fein in local government is alone responsible for the disruption of local authority business, and that its presence is offensive to other councillors and the citizens of Northern Ireland. On the first point, the Secretary of State has misled himself. The greatest disruption in council chambers has been as a result of the Unionist campaign against the Anglo-Irish Agreement, not the presence of Sinn Fein. Some 20 of the 21 district councils made representations in favour of these proposals to the Under-Secretary. Of those 20 councils, 15 experienced some disruption as part of a protest campaign against the Anglo-Irish Agreement; that did not concern the presence of Sinn Fein.

Only six councils signed the declaration of fair employment embodied in the current fair employment legislation; 14 did not sign, yet it is mainly those siren voices—those local councils that were so upset at sitting down with Sinn Fein—who would so insult their fellow citizens that they would not sign fair employment declarations and took part in a campaign of disruption against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Secretary of State's first point falls on that count.

Mr. Brazier

As a Catholic, I am most concerned about fair employment in Northern Ireland, as is the right hon. Member. It is important to make progress, but the considerable progress made over the past few years has not led to a fall in terrorist violence. Something else must be done, and the House looks forward to hearing the right hon. Gentleman's views.

Mr. McNamara

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on promoting me to the Privy Council; he must tell his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about that. I am protesting not as a Catholic, but as a citizen. Fair employment is not a question of Catholics or Protestants, but of human rights.

I agree with the Minister that the presence of Sinn Fein gives rise to strong and understandable feelings of revulsion and outrage. As we know—the Prime Minister has often told us so, especially with regard to apartheid —such strong emotions are not a rational basis for policy decisions. The argument must be considered in greater detail. One must ask why Sinn Fein participation arouses such anger. It is because it supports a campaign of violence by the IRA. If we are serious about ending the anger, we must be serious about ending the violence. The Bill simply suggests that the underlying problem will go away if it is concealed from view.

The Bill does nothing to hinder the IRA. It will do nothing to put those who employ violence behind bars. It will not cut off the flow of arms or lead to their seizure. It attempts to limit the expression of support for paramilitaries, but that is already a criminal offence, which is why we believe that the Bill is unnecessary. There are a battery of powers in the criminal law that deal with the expression of support for violence. Section 21 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987 make it an offence to invite or solicit support for proscribed organisations. Is that not what the declaration is supposed to be about?

Article 9 of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 makes it an offence to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour if it is likely that hatred or fear will be aroused. Is that not what the declaration is about? These powers are available to the authorities now, but we are asked to permit action to be taken against people for what they are, rather than for what they do. This involves a reversal of policies that have been followed since the phasing out of internment and the end of special category status in the mid-1970s.

The Bill is also futile. Oaths and declarations were abolished in 1973. The decision was taken with the support of the Government and Opposition of the day. Among the various reasons was one put forward by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), who said: I take leave to doubt whether the Act ever achieved its purpose. An oath excludes, by its nature, only the scrupulous and honest … Those who are prepared to take an oath in which they do not necessarily believe … will not be excluded by the requirement of the oath … this requirement operates chiefly as a rather purposeless irritant."—[Official Report, 17 April 1973; Vol. 855, c. 423.] The argument was unanswerable at the time; it remains unanswerable now. As we have seen, Sinn Fein has already announced its intention to sign the declaration.

The Bill strengthens the position of the paramilitaries. The real beneficiaries of the Bill will be those whom it seeks to defeat. That has been an unfortunate trait of the Government's policy over the past six months. Sinn Fein will be able to portray itself as the only party that the Government feel is a serious threat to their ability to rule in Northern Ireland. This is a major moral and political boost to that party. One has only to look at the statements issued by Sinn Fein since the declaration was first mooted to see the ill-conceived satisfaction with which its leaders welcome the Bill. My party is not prepared to support a Bill that gives such comfort to the supporters of the paramilitaries.

Under the headline "Thatcher's Crackdown will Fail" in Republican News of 24 November, an article points out that the Bill is an admission that Britain cannot crush Sinn Fein support but will still try to stop the Nationalist people choosing who will represent them … Thatcher is introducing these latest laws precisely because of the political effectiveness of Sinn Fein … In her own pig-headed, jackboot way she is letting us know that we have been adopting the right tactics and strategy! That is how Sinn Fein sees it.

If one were tempted to dismiss this simply as idle rhetoric, one need only look at the effect of the original proposals put forward in the consultative document on voting behaviour. Shortly after the paper was published, Sinn Fein trounced its rivals in two Belfast city council by-elections, increasing its share of the first preference vote from 55 per cent. to 63.6 per cent. in one case—a seat that it was expected to win—and from 43 per cent. to 49.8 per cent. in the other—a seat that it was expected to lose to the SDLP. What clearer warning could have been given to the Government to think again? The Bill is a blow, not against the supporters of the paramilitaries but against constitutional Nationalists. It seems an insult to my hon. Friends in the SDLP, who have been fighting violence on the hustings in a democratic manner for the past 20 years, to say to them, "If you are to stand for election in local government, you must sign this declaration."

The Bill is particularly ironic at a time when my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and his party have pitilessly exposed the bankruptcy of Sinn Fein and its ideas and methods. For the Government to suggest that the Bill, which is so welcomed by those whom it is designed to combat, is a serious contribution to the fight against the paramilitaries defies all logic. Sinn Fein and the IRA have dared the Government to take such a step and the Government have been foolish enough to take the bait.

Why do the Bill's legitimate targets enjoy the Government's predicament so openly and thoroughly? They recognise, where the Government do not, the advantages that it offers them. Simply by forcing the Government to introduce a Bill directed at Sinn Fein, the paramilitaries have succeeded in obliging the authorities to place the elected members of their organisation on a pedestal and not in the dock. This is a morale booster for the convinced supporter of the IRA or for the experienced gunman, but, more seriously, it will undermine confidence in the authorities among those tens of thousands of people whose attitude towards the Republican movement wavers between sympathy and disgust.

What, these people will ask, do the Government have to hide? Why do they seek to change the electoral rules because they do not like the outcome? What is the point of voting? The old slogan, "If voting could change anything, they would make it illegal," will win converts to the Bill if we adopt it. I cannot think of any better way to damage the credibility of the democratic process. That will be the effect of using the electoral rather than the criminal law in the fight against the paramilitaries. The west Belfast by-election results must be a constant reminder to us all.

Sinn Fein will take comfort from another aspect of the measure. If a Sinn Fein member is disqualified, his party will receive a propaganda bonus. When the by-election takes place, Sinn Fein cannot lose, because there will be one of two results. In electoral districts where the councillor was elected at an early stage of the count, another member of his party is likely to be elected, probably with an increased majority, thereby thumbing the party's nose at the legislation. Where the disqualified councillor was elected at a more advanced stage of the count, the seat will probably be lost. I leave it to hon. Members to ponder which scenario would have the most damaging effect on the democratic process: the first, because the Bill was shown to be useless, or the second, because it gave a continuous argument that the rules had been changed and the goal posts moved. The Bill is also discriminatory. Its damaging effects are compounded by the fact that its target is essentially those who are misleadingly called "Republican" paramilitaries. As the list of proscribed organisations is discriminatory, there is a major inconsistency in the Government's position. Unlike the situation with the broadcasting restrictions, the UDA is not covered, so we have the ludicrous position where it will not be possible to support the UDA on television but all too possible to support it in the council chambers.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman has read the new declaration. Specifically, under schedule 2 it states: I will not by word or deed express support for or approval of— (a) any organisation"— and so on— (b) acts of terrorism (that is to say, violence for political ends) connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that we added paragraph (b) to ensure that the measure was even-handed and covered both sides.

Mr. McNamara

It is not as even-handed as the hon. Gentleman thinks.

I turn to the unintended consequences of the Bill. Most obviously, the Government seem to have forgotten the second of the two reasons why oaths and declarations were prohibited 15 years ago. That is all the more surprising when one considers that among those voting in favour of the abolition of the oaths one finds the names of three future Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland, including the present incumbent.

Mr. William Ross

The hon. Gentleman has been talking about by-elections as though they were going to be exactly the same as proportional representation elections. Has he studied the number of district electoral areas in Northern Ireland in which the IRA-Sinn Fein element had a majority of the Nationalist vote?

Mr. McNamara

The point of my examples was that the IRA did not have a majority of the Nationalist vote but won the by-election.

I turn to the sub-plot underlying this matter. For us in Great Britain, the requirement to sign a declaration eschewing the use of violence for political ends may appear to be the height of reason, but in the overheated atmosphere of Northern Ireland this takes on connotations which are not immediately visible to us in the House. The problem which we face is not whether the declaration is reasonable in itself, nor whether the wording is reasonable, but its very existence.

The existence of almost any declaration will create suspicion and unease in Northern Ireland. It smacks of the bad old days of Stormont and discrimination, where oaths and declarations were used to maintain the Nationalist population in a state of second-class citizenship. Whether we like it or not, this is the way in which the Bill will be perceived in Northern Ireland and was the reason why the Cameron commission was so strong in recommending the abolition of oaths and declarations.

Even more important, there is a further unintended consequence; that is the way in which the Bill will intensify sectarianism in the council chambers. The Bill is an attempt to strike a blow against Sinn Fein, but it is not a well-directed sniper shot; rather, it is a careless blast of buckshot. It is already apparent that many district councils have descended into chaos following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. With this Bill, they will become even more of a sectarian bear pit because, in several councils, the behaviour of members, understandable though it might be, clearly shows that they have fallen into the trap set for them by Sinn Fein. They have allowed Sinn Fein to appear to be the injured party with their opponents cast as the real exponents of violence.

I can understand the emotions that inspire such behaviour, but, with this Bill, things will be even worse. Councillors will have even less incentive to attempt to counter the Sinn Fein case by reason, turning instead to the law. Local authorities will be paralysed, as there will be constant efforts to goad councillors into violating the declaration. There will be countless actions to disbar councillors and constant challenges to establish exactly what the declaration means.

That last point is of particular significance. What does the declaration mean? As it stands, there will be efforts to disbar Sinn Fein councillors, but its activists have, in the past, shown themselves sufficiently sophisticated to be able to circumvent the declaration. For instance, it does not take much imagination to predict Mark Antony style perorations, such as "I support the right of the South African people to enter into armed struggle to secure their freedom. I support the right of the Afghan people to enter into armed struggle to secure their freedom. I support the right of all freedom-loving people to fight to secure their freedom." Does that fall within or without the bar?

Those concerns are accentuated by the vagueness of the terms of the declaration.

Mr. Needham

The hon. Gentleman does not appear to be answering the point that I put to him. If he looks at clause 6(2), he will see that it states that For the purposes of subsection (1) above a person shall be taken to express support for, or approval of, any matter if his words or actions could reasonably be understood as expressing support for, or approval of, it.

Mr. McNamara

What does the Minister mean by that? If I say that I support all freedom-loving people in their fight, is the Minister saying that freedom does not exist in Northern Ireland? Are we saying that we shall get a person because he opposes apartheid? That is farcical and the Minister knows it.

Those concerns are accentuated by the vagueness of the terms of the declaration itself. According to clause 6(2), to which the Minister referred, the grounds for disqualification are the use of words or behaviour which "could reasonably be understood" to be violations of the declaration, but what does that mean? In effect, we are being asked to abdicate our responsibility to the courts and to offer a poisoned chalice to the courts. I am also concerned that extra-territorial effect of clause 6(3) constitutes a major departure in international law, which is likely to further frustrate Britain's international reputation because a person can now be "done", not for what he says in the British Isles, but for what he says in Timbuktu, Toronto or Washington.

Only last week, the European Court of Human Rights once again found against the Government in respect of the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974. That will lead to yet another challenge. It is open to dispute whether a case under article 9 of the convention, which protects freedom of expression, would succeed, but a case under article 3 of the first protocol, which deals with free elections, would appear to stand a high degree of success. 1 do not wish to see this country dragged through the courts again.

To make matters worse, the matter of enforcement proposed by the Government is perhaps the worst aspect of the Bill. By placing the onus on councils, councillors and individual citizens to take action, it will intensify the conflict in local government, possibly also setting them up as targets. I see from The Daily Telegraph of 25 November that the Minister justifies this provision in terms of the need to protect the impartiality of the Law Officers. I wish that the Government had displayed a similar concern in the Stalker affair. We cannot protect that which is not perceived to exist in Northern Ireland.

It is a cowardly excuse because, if the evidence is there, action could and should be taken under the emergency powers legislation dealing with inciting anyone to support violence. However, the Government are saying no and are doing that deliberately because they know that the same standard of evidence is not required in a civil action as in a criminal action. That again shows the Bill to be the farce that it is. The Government have insufficient confidence in their own measures to take responsibility for its enforcement.

The court might well be cluttered up with applications against councillors of all persuasions. Many of those applications may be dismissed out of hand, but not all applications against Unionist councillors will be considered vexatious. Many councillors have taken part in paramilitary displays or have issued bloodthirsty calls to illegal and armed resistance against the decisions of this Parliament.

For example, in an interview shortly before the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Councillor Ivan Foster of Fermanagh council, former deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist party and commander of that party's paramilitary wing, the Third Force, warned that he and his supporters would resist the decisions of this Parliament. He said: I know how to use a gun. There's no use carrying a gun unless you know how to use it. There's no use carrying a gun if you don't intend to use it. Why will the Government not take responsibility, under the provisions of this Bill, to seek to disbar a person who says such a thing?

Even more outrageous was the threat to Ulsterbus and its staff, issued in June 1985, by Councillor Sammy Wilson, a leading member of the DUP and recent lord mayor of Belfast. When Ulsterbus refused to provide transport to a demonstration in Castlewellan, which ended in violence, Mr. Wilson announced: It now seems that the Northern Ireland office has enlisted not only the RUC but the transport industry in its offensive against the Unionist population. Such a move can place Ulsterbus vehicles and drivers in an extremely vulnerable position. However, no action was taken on that. Under the provisions of the Bill, will action be taken in future on something like that?

Mr. David Lightbown (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

It is too vague.

Mr. McNamara

Members of the Transport and General Workers Union, driving buses in Northern Ireland, know that it is a real threat to their security because they have seen what has happened to the buses.

The Ulster Resistance Movement is designed to intimidate this House. That movement is organised and dressed on paramilitary lines. Prominent members of this House were present at the foundation of that movement, including the leader and deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist party and the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker), and took part in various threatening marches around the Province. Within the last month, a large cache of arms was found in Armagh, accompanied by Ulster Resistance uniforms, including the red beret that the hon. Members for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) were proud to wear.

Many of us in this House still remember the disgraceful scenes that took place on the Loyalist day of action in March 1986. Unionist councillors played an active role in attempts to instigate violence and to disrupt normal life in the Province.

The list of such activities is endless. I shall limit myself to one further example, that of the hon. Member for Belfast, East, who is also a member of Castlereagh council. The hon. Gentleman's prediliction for taking part in paramilitary displays is not as well known in this House as it is in Northern Ireland. He took part in a parade in Portadown, dressed in paramilitary style. In Enniskillen, he announced that the organisation—Ulster Resistance— had commenced paramilitary training. He did not confine his activities to the Province. His invasion of Clontibret in County Monaghan led to his conviction before the special criminal court.

Although I am sure that the House will agree that such episodes are to be deplored, that is not the primary purpose in bringing those facts to light; it is to bring to the attention of the House the fact that large sections of both communities have an ambiguous attitude towards the use of violence. What is more, in the context of this Bill, what the hon. Member for Belfast, East did would presumably prevent him standing for election as a member of his local council—of which he is at present a member—for five years, but it would not prevent him standing for election as a Member of this House or as a member of the European Parliament. Is that not hypocrisy? It is one rule for local government elections in Northern Ireland and another for this place and the European Parliament. That is why the Opposition are not prepared to accept the Bill.

There are two types of violence in Northern Ireland. First, there is the violence of those who seek to alter the constitutional status of Northern Ireland through force—the Republican paramilitaries. Secondly, there is the violence of the paramilitaries who seek, at best, to maintain the status quo or, at worst, to turn the clock back to the Northern Ireland of the pre-civil rights era—Protestant resistance. That is recognised by the authorities, but not by the Bill.

Under clause 6(a)(ii) it would be possible to make a speech in support of Loyalist organisations such as the UDA, the Third Force and Ulster Resistance, provided that person did not support specified acts of terrorism. It states that he would be in breach if he expressed approval of acts of terrorism (that is to say, violence for political ends) connected with Northern Ireland. Speeches can be made in general about any sort of violent organisation in Northern Ireland. It will be right and proper for divisional commanders to prepare, to march and to wear paramilitary uniform because their organisations are not proscribed and they cannot be connected to any specific act of terrorism. The Government surely cannot expect a court to say that if a person does not seek to defend a particular act of terrorism, that should be taken to be a connection with that act. That would be too much of a burden for the courts.

That same restriction does not apply to broadcasting because other organisations are not proscribed. A person can appear on television and openly support Protestant Resistance, Third Force or any other Nationalist offshoot that might pop up and is not proscribed—but not under this legislation. It does not add up.

I have sought to show that the Bill will affect politicians from both sides of the community and that it will lead to further sectarian divisions. If it does not, it will appear to be one-sided. We cannot tell what will happen because so much has been left to the discretion of the courts. Instead of dealing with the roots of violence and sectarianism, the Bill will further divide the communities as each side tries to equalise the score in the disqualification league table. The Secretary of State reminds me of Flan O'Brien's determined chairmen who convert disorder into bedlam.

The Bill is an attempt by the Government to save the people of Northern Ireland from themselves. It may be deplorable that certain malevolent types emerge victorious from a secret ballot, but that is reality. The answer is to win the argument with their electorate, not to drive their supporters completely out of the political process. By requiring the judiciary to arbitrate between the conflicting factions, to decide who can serve on local authorities, and to define the limits of political debate in Northern Ireland, the Government are asking the state to substitute itself for the electorate. That will obviously damage public confidence in the judicial system.

The Bill does not require judges to decide specific cases on the basis of commonly held principles—it is an attempt to make them decide what those standards should be. That is a task for the elected representatives of the people and the people themselves. There are no short cuts. Not content with militarising the judicial process—as the Government have done under the Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order—they are now intent on politicising the judges as well. The beneficiaries of that can only be the paramilitaries. For that reason, the Opposition will vote against Second Reading.

5.54 pm
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Before I begin my remarks on the content of the Bill, I want to respond to some of the comments of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) who threw together some partial pieces of information, dangled them in front of the House and expected us to reach a conclusion on that brief information.

The hon. Gentleman described councillor Ivan Foster as a former deputy leader of the DUP, but Mr. Foster has never been the party's deputy leader and he is not a councillor. The hon. Gentleman said that Mr. Foster had said that he had a gun, that he knew how to use it and that no one should carry a gun unless he was prepared to use it. I, too, could make such remarks. Like Mr. Foster, I legally hold a weapon. If Mr. Foster were not prepared to use a gun, and if the authorities did not expect him to be able to use it, he should not have been given permission to hold one. If hon. Members knew where Mr. Foster lived, they would understand why he needs a weapon to protect his life and the lives of his family. There is nothing in the remarks of the former lord mayor of Belfast to which anyone could take offence, and there is nothing in them that needs to be answered.

The hon. Gentleman made wild remarks about me. He said that I appeared at Portadown in paramilitary uniform. That demonstrates his wild imagination. I was wearing a three-piece suit, on top of which I wore a normal blue overcoat. I was wearing a beret, and I shall tell the House why. The Chief Constable issued an edict that anyone who wore a beret would be considered to be in paramilitary uniform and subject to certain laws. I disagreed with that edict and said that boy scouts and girl guides would have to be careful about what they wore to their gatherings. The edict was absolute nonsense. I was merely thumbing my nose, as were others, at the Chief Constable.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the police recently uncovering arms in Northern Ireland and said, as is widely accepted in Northern Ireland, that the weapons belonged to the Ulster Resistance. The security forces have no information to substantiate that claim. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the weapons were found alongside Ulster Resistance uniforms. That is not true. The Ulster Resistance uniforms and berets were handed back to its members after being taken by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They were not found with the guns that were displayed.

Mr. Mallon

In the interests of accuracy, would the hon. Gentleman like me to tell him the name of the person involved, whose house is exactly half a mile from where I live? I assure the hon. Gentleman that those uniforms were found with the guns at that house.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the House to discuss a matter that is before the courts? The person charged was a Mr. Spratt, whom I know very well. He was not charged with having guns or with being a member of the Ulster Resistance—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman appears to be committing the same offence as that about which he is complaining. If it is the case—and I am not aware of it—that ther person to whom reference has been made is the subject of charges laid before the court, it would be wrong for the House to discuss that because it would be sub judice.

Mr. Robinson

I hear your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I assure the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) that if he listens carefully to the prosecution evidence when the case comes before the courts he will find that I am right and he is wrong.—Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Gentleman if he wishes.

A letter from the Minister dated 24 November shows the purpose behind the Bill. It shows that there are difficulties in local government as a result of the presence in council chambers of elected representatives whose declared support for terrorist violence is incompatible with the democratic process. That is of great concern not only to elected representatives of the Unionist community but to other elected representatives and to other representatives of the community as a whole.

I should have thought that no one could have faulted the Government for taking account of those real concerns and attempting to do something about them. Many councillors in Northern Ireland have expressed their concern to the Secretary of State and others, and have asked the Secretary of State to bring forward a measure to deal with the matter. I should be the last person who could fault them for that. I have some strictures to apply, but they certainly do not relate to the basis and purpose of the legislation.

Again, for the sake of accuracy, I inform the Opposition Front Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, that before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, as a result of the presence of Sinn Fein members there were boycotts and adjournments of local government. Such action started directly after the May elections and before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. I say that just in case the hon. Gentleman is the least bit interested in accuracy, although his speech showed that he had no great concern for it.

In his letter to elected representatives forwarding a copy of the Bill, the Secretary of State properly showed the nature and importance of the measure. The problem of security and violence in Northern Ireland is well known to the House. More than 2,750 people have been butchered as a result of the terrorist campaign. Few families in Northern Ireland have not suffered as a consequence, if not directly by a member of their family being killed, certainly by a friend or close relative being butchered. That violence has transcended the religious and political divides in Northern Ireland. It is a matter of concern for everyone.

I must agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North—this measure will not address that problem, and it is unlikely that people will die as a result of the measure. However, I do not believe that the real purpose of the measure is to deal with security. If it is to do anything, it is to clean up the democratic process. If that is its purpose, it should be welcomed by the House.

There are some outstanding examples of the hypocrisy which pertains in democracy in Northern Ireland. For instance, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), in the council of Londonderry, a Sinn Fein member was returned who had previously been before the courts for being a part of the bombing team who blew up the council offices. Sinn Fein members who gloried in the death of district councillors are members of the self-same councils. No one can suggest that it is a pleasant task for people who believe in the democratic process to sit in council chambers with people who have taken that kind of action and expressed those views.

In many ways, the Secretary of State gave away the weakness of the measure when he responded to my earlier intervention about the double standard perceived by many Unionists—that the Secretary of State would encourage Unionists calmly and peacefully to take part in council debates with members of Sinn Fein, while he and his colleagues would hold them at bargepole length and ensure that they are not allowed into the Northern Ireland Office at Stormont castle.

In response to views that were expressed by Opposition Members from a sedentary position, the Secretary of State said that no repudiation of violence is included in the declaration. The truth is that the declaration which appears in the Minister's letter, the explanatory notes, the Secretary of State's remarks in the House and in the Bill itself, and which purports to be a declaration against terrorism, is not a declaration against terrorism. One does not need to declare oneself opposed to a proscribed organisation. That is not included in the delaration in the Bill. If it is a declaration against anything, it is a declaration against publicly announcing support for terrorism. If it were the former, I should be happier to give full and whole-hearted support to the measure. That is the weakness of the legislation—that it is not what it purports to be.

It is hypocritical for the Government to suggest to Unionist councillors that, even with this piece of legislation helping the situation to whatever extent it may, they should calmly and rationally debate local government issues with members of Sinn Fein while the Secretary of State and his Ministers refuse to do that self-same thing about self-same issues. I urge the Secretary of State to treat elected representatives in Northern Ireland as he would wish to be treated. If Sinn Fein members are unclean for Stormont castle, they should be considered unclean for council chambers in Northern Ireland.

The answer—the Government cannot dodge it—must be the proscription of the organisation concerned. If the Secretary of State would consider with me for a moment the effect that that would have on Northern Ireland, he would see that there would be many beneficial side-effects. For the first time, the people of Northern Ireland would see determination and resolve on the part of the Government to take any measure, no matter how unpopular it would be with some hon. Members. They would see that the Government are prepared to take the necessary action to make it clear to the community that there is no place in our council chambers for terrorists or supporters of terrorists.

Let us be clear about what Sinn Fein is. It is not simply a support organisation for the Provisional IRA. It is an integral part of the Provisional IRA. Its constitutional and organisational structure demonstrates that Sinn Fein councillors are directly under the control of local IRA commanders. That is clear evidence that Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA are one and the same entity. If the Secretary of State does not want to take my word for that, he can look up the Baker report on terrorism, in which it was stated that that is the position. The report almost urges the proscription of that organisation.

I have some sympathy—certainly on an academic level —with the view of a Labour Secretary of State who said that, if we could encourage people away from violence and into the political process, we should do so. It was on that basis that de-proscription took place. That Secretary of State considered that, if Sinn Fein were allowed to grow as a political party, its representatives and councillors would move away from the spoils of violence towards the political process, thereby undermining the Provisional IRA and, obviously, reducing violence in Northern Ireland. Academically, many people could embrace that argument, but it has not happened. The direct opposite has happened. The political process has been used to bolster the Provisional IRA's terrorist campaign. The quotation that the present Secretary of State used in his remarks clearly shows that the Government see it as a step-by-step parallel process, pushing the political wing along with the military wing of the Provisional IRA—the ballot paper and the Armalite policy. It is totally inconsistent—indeed, it is absurd—to continue to allow people who are clearly identified with a terrorist organisation to parade in council chambers as though they were interested in the day-to-day welfare of their electorate. Instead of a strong Bill that would have given life to the Government's rhetoric, we have a limp, Jukewarm, lifeless measure that is neither fish nor fowl. At its heart is the declaration which does not live up to its title. My colleagues will seek to amend it so that it becomes a declaration against terrorism and I trust that there will be some opportunity at a later stage to do that.

Clause 6(1)(b) shows the whole purpose behind the declaration against terrorism. The declaration, which should be a declaration against support for terrorism, will be breached if a person supports a proscribed organisation or terrorist act (i) at a public meeting, or (ii) knowing, or in such circumstances that he can reasonably be expected to know, that the fact that he has made that expression of support or approval is likely to become known to the public. That means that the Government do not object to a person expressing privately by word or deed his support for a terrorist organisation—that is consistent with membership of a local government authority in Northern Ireland. It is only when a person steps into the public arena and shows his support for that organisation that he runs foul of this legislation.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) said that some members of Sinn Fein may be prepared to sign this declaration. Of course they will be. There is no reason why they should not. Without being dishonest in the least, a gunman or bomber could sign that declaration. It does not ask him not to bomb or shoot again. It asks him only not to support that sort of activity publicly. Therefore, Sinn Fein members will find no difficulty in signing the declaration.

The declaration takes us only one step on and, like many hon. Members, I believe that Sinn Fein members will sign it. Sinn Fein members are elected to district councils and, careful and well trained though they may be in getting round legal niceties, with the passage of time one or another is likely to offend under this legislation and say something that will give rise to a court case.

Who will take the action? It will not be the Director of Public Prosecutions, because it is not to be considered a criminal matter. I should be interested to hear from the Minister where the support came from for dealing with this as a civil matter. I have not heard of any great pressure on the Government or the Minister to treat this as a civil matter. I do not necessarily object to it being dealt with either as a criminal or civil case—if the DPP declines to take a case, I am certainly in favour of civil recourse—but I cannot understand why the DPP should not have a role. If the DPP is not to be given a role, we had better be clear what we are asking local government representatives and local electors to do—we are asking them to sign their own death warrants.

The first case will be the test case. The first person to take a case against a Sinn Fein councillor had better keep his head down, because Sinn Fein will want to dissuade anyone else from following that path. That is not to say that there are not people with sufficient backbone to stand up to the PIRA and Sinn Fein and take that action, but why is it necessary for them to do so when there is not only the option of this being a criminal matter, but other options?

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Is that not why there is provision for an entire council to take action?

Mr. Robinson

It is likely that Sinn Fein representatives will be elected in predominantly Nationalist areas. That means that we shall be talking about councils such as Omagh, Strabane and perhaps Londonderry, where there is a Nationalist majority. It is unlikely that a council with a Nationalist majority will take any court action against a Sinn Fein member for remarks that he or she may make. Other councils will have great difficulty in taking such action. A Belfast council, for example, cannot take such action against a councillor from Omagh or Strabane who makes such a remark.

Mr. Leigh

Surely some representatives can take action. It need not be the entire council.

Mr. Robinson

Yes, but they fall back into the category of people who are putting their lives on the line. Many will be prepared to do that. I am not suggesting that because the Government have specified these categories no one will take such action—some will—but by specifying only these categories the Government are putting the lives of elected representatives and others in danger.

Both Unionist parties asked the Government to consider proscription and certainly to make this a criminal offence and therefore a matter which could be pursued by the DPP. If the Government are not prepared to do that, they must seriously consider setting up a body which can be regarded as a commission. In that way, people who have a complaint about the remarks of an elected representative can take it to that body, which will be sufficiently financed by the Government to provide the legal advice necessary to institute a prosecution and which will have the authority to take any further action in accordance with this legislation. It is far easier to ask people who live in safer areas of the Province to take this sort of stand than to leave it to those who are necessarily in the front line. I urge the Government to consider those aspects in Committee.

As a district council can bring an action against a council representative for his views, why did the Minister exclude the Assembly from taking such an action against an Assembly Member for his remarks? I should have thought that the same entitlement would have fallen on the Assembly. I know that the Assembly is not of immediate concern because it is not an immediate prospect, but I should like to have the Government's thinking on that.

Clause 6(4) makes it clear that an Assembly Member who makes such remarks in the Northern Ireland Assembly will not be protected by the privilege of that Assembly. Does that mean that an elected representative in this House would be protected by the privilege of this House? Are elected representatives from Northern Ireland who make such remarks in this House in a special category in that they cannot be caught under this legislation? If I were the creature that the Front Bench Opposition spokesman thinks I am and wished to make a remark which would offend under this legislation, all that I would have to do is make the remark in this House—then nobody could do a thing about it because the privilege of this House would protect me.

My colleagues and I feel that while this legislation started out for the right purpose, it has been weakened considerably.

Mr. William Ross

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of who may bring a case, will he draw attention to the sheer cost of bringing such a case? Although the IRA and its mouthpiece, Sinn Fein, will always claim not to recognise British courts, we can be sure that they will recognise British courts for this. The first test case will probably end up in the other place and cost a huge sum. An individual bringing such a case may have means such as to place him outside the legal aid provisions and thus be unable to afford to do so. Will the hon. Gentleman ask the Minister who is liable to pay if a council loses the case? That will be fairly contentious because of the wording of the legislation. Moreover, the Government are continually trying to cut the money that councils can spend and the purposes on which they can spend it.

Mr. Robinson

The cost, as the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) suggested, could be considerable. The Secretary of State has said in the explanatory notes and in the Bill itself that legal aid will be available, but what percentage of councillors will be eligible for legal aid? Will a councillor who is entitled to bring an action under the Bill also be eligible for legal aid? The Secretary of State may say that a council can bring an action as a legitimate item of expenditure, but if such an action failed, the local government auditor might say at the end of the financial year that the council's action had been frivolous and that there should be a surcharge as a result. That would be a disincentive to many councillors who might otherwise consider bringing an action.

That is why I have suggested that, if the Government want to get to grips with the matter, there should be a body funded by the Government to bring such actions. It would be in a better financial position to do so, it could stand up better to IRA terrorism and it would be better equipped to obtain the necessary legal advice to pursue the case. The question of finance is important.

I suspect—although I have no firm proof of this—that the Government will resist the idea that the matter should be dealt with through criminal prosecution and that it will be left to civil action. The Government have ducked out and left others to carry on the front-line work. The Bill should be strengthened. In its present form, it will be ineffective and unlikely to have more than a marginal impact on local government. I am disappointed in the Bill, but I am prepared to ensure that amendments are tabled in Committee by myself and by other hon. Members from Northern Ireland and I hope that there will be a blood transfusion to give the Bill more life, vitality and strength.

6.23 pm
Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South)

I am delighted that this matter is being dealt with through a Bill and not, as is generally the case, by an order that applies to Northern Ireland. That is a relief.

To understand why the Bill is necessary, one should consider the motives of local government councillors before the 1985 local government elections. At that time, district and borough councillors felt that it was their public duty to serve the local community, even though that meant more kicks than ha'pence—that is, roughly translated, more criticism than salary. Although it was felt—and still is—that councillors had little power, there was generally a surplus of candidates who were anxious to use their expertise, such as business men, teachers, trade unionists and farmers. They wanted to make a contribution to the local administration.

I speak from personal experience, as I have met many local councillors. In May 1981, I was elected to the Newtownabbey borough council and, with 20 other councillors, I began to look after a limited number of responsibilities for the area in which I was born. As the House has heard before, those responsibilities were, basically, emptying bins, providing recreation facilities and burying the dead—not necessarily in that order.

We also had a consultative role in a number of other matters, but we quickly became aware that consultation was usually another word for confirming departmental decisions that the council had no power to change. Nevertheless, because of the good personal relationships between councillors, it was an enjoyable and instructive experience. In spite of our frustration about the absence of power, the council, as a corporate body, carried out its functions with good humour and togetherness, overcoming differing party views and generally reaching decisions which were for the good of the whole community.

That happy state of affairs lasted until 9 May 1985 when, because of my membership of the House, I gave up my council seat to concentrate on my parliamentary duties, thus making way for another candidate to gain valuable experience as a public representative. I took my decision with great regret because of the friendships that I had formed with councillors from all parties. I know that I should have had a similar experience in most local councils in Northern Ireland.

Little did I realise the anger, aggravation, disgust, heartache and high blood pressure that I was to be spared by that decision. In May 1985, seven months before the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Sinn Fein candidates stood in local authority elections for the first time since the present troubles began. Of its 59 elected councillors, no fewer than 11 had previously served prison sentences for terrorists crimes. That is hardly surprising when one remembers what the then director of Sinn Fein publicity said during its party conference in 1981—to which the Secretary of State has already referred. Danny Morrison, in addressing the cheering delegates, said: Who here really believes that we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in this hand, we take power in Ireland? Can anyone be surprised that the arrival of such people in council chambers caused widespread revulsion and apprehension? The vast majority of councillors, regardless of political views, wholly reject violence.

There is no doubt that the running of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland has been seriously put at risk by the presence of Sinn Fein in 16 of them. That has had a knock-on effect on the other councils. The Ulster Unionist party fully understands and sympathises with the many decent and moderate councillors who have despaired and who have seriously considered resignation because of the presence of Sinn Fein on the councils since May 1985.

But an even more serious situation has developed among the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. There is a great risk that unless the Bill is effective enough to satisfy the demands of those decent and moderate citizens upon whom our democracy depends, they will not even consider running for office in the 1989 local government elections. That is an extremely dangerous situation that could have long-term effects for the United Kingdom as a whole, and for Northern Ireland in particular.

We are all well aware of how much local councils depend on attracting able people to run their affairs in a balanced and democratic way. We need young men and women to start their political careers in local government, perhaps eventually ending up in this House. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more difficult to attract such people into public service while the shadow of the gun and the terrorist hangs over council chambers.

This problem could not continue to be ignored by the Government. When the Secretary of State issued his discussion paper on this matter in October 1987, we said that as a party we welcomed this indication that the Government now recognised the obscenity of sustaining a system whereby bona fide elected representatives were forced—by law—to share council chambers with those who would advocate violence in pursuit of political objectives.

We agreed with some of the suggestions in that paper but naturally disagreed with others. We agreed that while it is a fundamental right of democracy that people should be free to participate in elections, it is also reasonable to conclude that that freedom does not include the threat of or the use of violence against political opponents or "challenging democracy" by using the electoral process to undermine democratic institutions. It is a fundamental point that the principle of democracy should not be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

We also agreed that a serious threat to stable local government comes from Sinn Fein, the candidates of which are proud of their open support for the armed struggle. "Armed struggle" is a euphemism for terrorist crime, including the murders carried out by the Provisional IRA. I must point out that the term "stable local government" alludes to a principle—and does not suggest that Northern Ireland enjoys local government comparable to or in line with that of other areas of the United Kingdom.

It is also true that the presence in council chambers of Sinn Fein councillors who are fully committed to supporting a terrorist campaign gives rise to grave alarm among other councillors, especially when the Provisional IRA, which they openly support, has been responsible for the murder of public representatives—I shall name only three: Robert Bradford, Edgar Graham and Charles Armstrong, who was the chairman of Armagh council—and when those same Sinn Fein councillors have sought to justify those killings.

It must be obvious to everyone who wishes to see it that in such circumstances other council members take the view that information gleaned by such Sinn Fein activists in the course of their elective duties might become available to terrorist organisers. Is it not understandable then that some councils have attempted to solve these problems themselves by procedural devices to overcome such dangers? However, court challenges have rejected the legality of those devices. It becomes essential, therefore, that steps should be taken to give effect to the widely held view that those who condone or support terrorist violence should not be permitted to exploit democratic institutions.

I come now to the part of the Bill that attempts to address those problems and to the declaration which is to be signed by all candidates at local government elections. It seems clear from the wording of the declaration—I shall not weary the House by reading it in full—that a candidate can sign such a declaration and then run a campaign supporting the armed struggle, making it clear when speaking that he or she signed the declaration only to continue their attempts to destroy the very democratic institutions that the declaration is designed to protect. The declaration could also be signed by those with a long track record of violence, for the same reasons. The declaration must be capable of preventing unrepentant supporters of violence from entering council chambers.

The whole reason for the Bill is likely to be called into question if the present wording is not amended because otherwise there is a great danger that the legislation will be rendered completely ineffective by Sinn Fein candidates who, on being elected, blatantly carry on their support for violence, thus challenging other councillors to take them to court. Councillors from constitutional parties must not be put in such a position. The declaration must impose conditions from the date of signing and action must be taken against anyone breaching its terms.

The declaration must be redrafted in a way that will present real difficulties for supporters of terrorism, such as those in Sinn Fein. We must recognise that those who have condoned murder will not, as would honourable men, have any compunction about signing the present declaration. Therefore, it must be redrafted in a way that will thwart the aims and devalue the credibility of those who act as political advocates for terrorist organisations.

The fact that we do not accord those people any credibility must not blind us to the reality that there are those who do. It is for that reason that we suggest that the word "repudiate" be included in the declaration. To require Sinn Fein candidates to repudiate the Provisional IRA would present them with a serious credibility problem. It follows that each proscribed organisation will have to be specified by name in the declaration. Simply leaving it as it is will enable Sinn Fein to say that it considers that the Provisional IRA is not proscribed by any authority that it is willing to recognise.

We are obviously unhappy about clause 7, which lists those who would be entitled to bring a councillor to the High Court for a breach of the declaration. Surely it has been insult enough for the Northern Ireland Office to require councillors even to talk to Sinn Fein when Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office rightly refuse to do so, without now asking councillors to take on the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions, thus leaving themselves open to the personal expense and danger that would be inseparable from such an act.

We feel strongly that any breach of the declaration must be deemed a criminal offence. There must be no equivocation whatsoever on the issue. The proposed legislation is neither for the convenience nor for the protection of an individual. It should not be portrayed as either a sop to Unionists, hurt by 20 long years of terrorism, nor as a weapon to be placed in the hands of Unionists.

The declaration is urgently required to protect and maintain those electoral processes upon which the democratic system of Government in the United Kingdom is founded. But it is the primary duty of Government to sustain those processes for the benefit of all the electorate. No self-respecting Government could contemplate any abdication of that responsibility. In this House we should say that if the Government make the law, the Government should enforce the law.

We believe that those who terrorise the community by extortion, kangaroo courts, the destruction of property, intimidation of workers and brutal cowardly murder should, along with those who openly support them, be ostracised by all who believe in the democratic process; otherwise society will be destroyed and we shall inevitably return to the law of the jungle.

Of course we would have wished for greater and more determined efforts to remove the blatant supporters of violence from the ranks of those who prefer the way of democracy. Although we accept the powers in the Bill, which even in its minor way seeks to redress the balance between democracy and terrorism and its supporters, we shall nevertheless seek to strengthen those powers during the passage of the Bill through the House and in Committee.

As a final example of the reasons why this Bill should be introduced, I shall quote an article which appeared in the Belfast News Letter this morning under the heading "Churches in SF boycott". It states: Churchmen in Castlederg and Newtownstewart have united against the presence of the Sinn Fein chairman of Strabane council at Christmas ceremonies this week. Feelings have been running high since the IRA murder in Castlederg a fortnight ago of RUC Reservist Willie Monteith and there is solid opposition to the chairman Ivan Barr, who refused to condemn the atrocity and to be associated with a message of sympathy from the council to the dead policeman's family … A letter from four clergymen in Castlederg has been sent to Strabane district council making it clear they will not share a platform with any person who espouses violence and condones murder. The letter was signed by Rev Denis Anderson (Methodist), the Rev Stewart Jones (Presbyterian), the Rev Patrick Grant (Roman Catholic), and the Rev Walter Quill (Church of Ireland).

Here I rest my case.

6.42 pm
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on introducing this measure through the conventional Bill procedure. I am extremely glad that the Bill will be debated in Standing Committee, that it will then have its Report stage on the Floor of the House, followed by a Third Reading and that there will be an opportunity to amend the Bill further in another place.

When my right hon. Friend introduced the Bill today, he hinted that it might be the first of a new programme of giving those who represent Northern Ireland and those who represent other parts of the kingdom the same opportunity to debate and to amend proposed legislation for Northern Ireland as that given to us to amend legislation that affects Great Britain.

My right hon. Friend was kind enough to give way to a single intervention from me when I asked whether, as a result of this Bill, there would be the same qualifications for voting at district elections in Northern Ireland as there are for voting at district elections in England, Scotland and Wales. My right hon. Friend did not answer the question, but said that it was a trick question because it came from me.

Of course, it was a totally strightforward question and it was predictable that it would be asked by an hon. Member. If my right hon. Friend had not foreseen that it was likely to be asked, his officials should most certainly have advised him. I have never sought to trick my right hon. Friend and will never do so. In the three and a quarter years since he has been Secretary of State—he arrived in Northern Ireland on the same day that I arrived at the Treasury—I have had the most cordial relationship with my right hon. Friend. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) will respond in a straightforward way to my straightforward question when he replies to the debate.

It is nearly 10 years since the then shadow Cabinet came to decide on its policy towards Northern Ireland. There was a short debate in that Cabinet—characteristically short, of course, since there were other matters perceived to be of greater moment in the proposals of the incoming Government. In March 1979, the shadow Cabinet agreed to its policy in relation to local government in Northern Ireland, a policy which is now the subject of the Bill. The sentence in the manifesto was clear and unambiguous and you will remember it, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It reads: In the absence of devolved government, we will seek to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services.

Here we are, almost nine years on from May 1979, still in the absence of devolved government, but having abandoned and never having tried to implement precisely that policy. It was not suggested by me at the general election in May 1979, but had been suggested by Airey Neave and had been approved by the then shadow Cabinet.

Since we are debating Northern Ireland, since we are debating local government in Northern Ireland and since the title of the Bill is "Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill", it is timely to ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary why it is that, although there is still no devolved government in Northern Ireland, we have never made any attempt to implement the policies set out in 1979.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe), in a thoughtful and wise speech, which made a deep impression upon the House, referred to his experience as a member of one of the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland. He reminded the House of the difference between the powers conferred upon district councils in Northern Ireland and the powers conferred upon district councils in England, Scotland and Wales. We may wonder why the Bill does not address itself to that difference in powers to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention. There is another aspect to this matter. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is on record—she has said it in this House—as saying that Northern Ireland is as much a part of the United Kingdom as any part of the United Kingdom situate in Great Britain. That is not entirely so. Those who live in Gloucestershire and Somerset are able to vote for a county council. The constituents of the hon. Member for Antrim, South cannot vote for a county council. In Scotland, not a single person who qualifies to vote for a parliamentary election does not have the opportunity to vote for a regional council. Only in Northern Ireland are the Queen's subjects denied the right to vote for a county council.

Why do I say that that is relevant to the words of the manifesto? In 1979, we were seeking to set up a regional council or councils in Northern Ireland with widely devolved powers over local matters. The shadow Cabinet believed that that county or regional council should enjoy powers similar to those enjoyed in England, Scotland and Wales.

The Conservative research department—a body with which you will be familiar, Mr. Deputy Speaker—has published for the guidance of members a brief, copies of which can be obtained from the Whips' Office. On the last page of the brief appears an article written by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State. As one would expect, it is an excellent article, not least because it assists me in the case that I am trying to put.

Writing on 25 November in The Daily Telegraph, of which Labour Members will be keen students, my hon. Friend said: The Government wants to see progress towards devolution … But no settlement can work without local government. That was a strange choice of words. I need not justify the choice, for they are not my words. But what did my hon. Friend have in mind when he said that no settlement can work without local government"? I know what I have in mind. If he has in mind what I have in mind, I agree with him. It is essential to the settlement of the problems in Northern Ireland that we should have a system of local government that commands the support of the people and that gives to the people of Northern Ireland a system of government similar to that enjoyed in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and east Sussex.

Despite the fact that my hon. Friend was writing about the Bill in that article, the Bill does not address itself to that fundamental.

My hon. Friend went on to say in the article: Local government needs able young men and women. I agree. Local government was able to attract the hon. Member for Antrim, South, who made a distinguished contribution to it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) was also a member of a district council. But what my hon. Friend should have said in his article, and what for some unaccountable reason he did not say, was that we shall not recruit able young men and women to local government in Northern Ireland until we give additional powers to the 26 district councils and until, as we promised to do in 1979, we set up a regional council or councils.

In my hon. Friend's constituency in Wiltshire there are parish councils. The powers of parish councils are not great. Even in north Wiltshire, the local giants do not serve on parish councils. People of massive ability are not queuing up to get on to parish councils—

Mr. Needham

I am not so sure about that.

Mr. Gow

My hon. Friend disagrees with me. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is a member of his parish council—[Interruption.] I understand that my right hon. Friend's wife is a member of the parish council, and I pay tribute to her. Although it seems to have caused some hilarity, my point is not without importance. We shall attract more readily those people whom my hon. Friend described in his article if we give more power to elected people in Northern Ireland.

Another aspect of the article will have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as it did mine. My hon. Friend said: We consulted widely and then issued a discussion paper … Following representations we reconsidered. My right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley and all hon. Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland will note the contrast between that consultation, that reconsideration and the claim that 84 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland were in favour of this relatively modest Bill with the total lack of consultation, reconsideration and testing of public opinion before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed on 15 November 1985. We would not be human if we did not notice that contrast.

I have mentioned one or two matters that should have been included in the Bill but are not. The Bill should have given modest additional powers to the 26 district councils, and it should have implemented the Conservative party's pledge of 3 May 1979.

Of course I shall vote in favour of the Second Reading of the Bill. I agree with its relatively modest proposals, including the one to give 10,000 people the right to vote for district councils, despite the derisory powers that they enjoy. I do not know how many of those 10,000, who have so far been deprived of that great right, will take up the power to vote, but they should have it. The proposal about signing a declaration before one can offer oneself as a candidate for a district council is modest, precisely for the reasons that were described so eloquently by the hon. Member for Antrim, South.

In his article, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State said: We did consider whether enforcement should be by a criminal case, brought by the DPP, or a civil action initiated by the Attorney-General. That which my right hon. Friend and hon. Friend considered and which both rejected should be reconsidered. It is wrong to say that a citizen should have to go through such a complicated procedure. Many people, not only in Northern Ireland but in my constituency, and even in Wiltshire, North, do not take matters daily to the High Court. It is not part of their normal experience or comprehension. [Laughter.] My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) laughs, but I assure him that most people are unfamiliar with the High Court of Justice.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State tells us in The Daily Telegraph that he has considered the matter carefully. It would have been better if my hon. Friend had decided that, where there seems to be a breach of the terms of an undertaking, that breach should be the subject of criminal proceedings initiated not by the council, a councillor or an elector, but by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Mercifully, we shall again be able to turn our minds to this matter, thanks to my right hon. Friend, who has used the proper procedure to bring in the Bill. We shall be able to examine the Billl at some length in Committee. We shall welcome the opportunity to test the arguments of my right hon. and hon. Friends against the very consideration that the Minister himself says was undertaken at an earlier stage within his Department.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, as the Government have power in this matter, it would be wise for them to ensure that Northern Ireland is properly represented on the Committee so that the voice of Northern Ireland people and their elected representatives can be heard? The matter should not be decided by a Committee on which the elected representatives of Northern Ireland and perhaps Northern Ireland parties will not have a voice.

Mr. Gow

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that that is a matter for the Committee of Selection. Even my derisory influence in this place does not extend to influencing the selection of hon. Members who will consider the Bill. Are not two representatives of the all-powerful Whips' Office seated on the Treasury Bench? We have heard the Secretary of State's introduction and, unless we have voted him off, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) is still on the Committee of Selection. I am sure that he is a keen student of our debates and will read the intervention of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).

I warmly approve of the Bill. I hope that it will reach the statute book shortly but not until it has received rigorous further examination. Some of us, whether or not we are on the Committee, will be keen to return to these important matters on Report. I hope that Ministers will reconsider their decision that initiation after a suspected breach of the undertaking should rest in hands other than those of the Attorney-General.

7.2 pm

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I have listened to the speech by the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). As usual, he speaks interestingly—although not always in terms with which I can agree—about Northern Ireland. I am glad to be able to agree with him on one matter, perhaps even on two—that at last we have an order being discussed on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Tom King

It is a Bill.

Mr. Ashdown

The Secretary of State is right to correct me. It is not an order, but a Bill. It is good to have discussion on the Floor of the House when so much has been done through orders in Committees upstairs or statutory instruments which from time to time we have had to pray against on a negative resolution.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne was also right in another sense in seeking to place this in a broader context —in his case, in the context of local government, on which he has strong views. The Secretary of State spent about 12 minutes sketching the broader context of the Bill and it is right to take a couple of minutes to read the Bill into where we are. In this sense I am glad to be able to agree with the sense of puzzlement expressed earlier by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). This week we are bringing into the first process of legislation an instrument which will, we hope, assist the Government. In principle, I and my party will vote in favour of Second Reading, although I have some reservations which I shall enter later.

It is with some sadness that I reflect upon the fact that in seeking to provide the Government with an instrument that will assist in the defeat of terrorism, we do so against the background of the Prime Minister's bungling mismanagement of the extradition affair last week. That seriously damaged our capacity to fight terrorism. [Interruption.] Conservative Members choose to disregard unpleasant facts. What the Prime Minister did last week seriously undermined our capacity to achieve the co-operation with the Government of Ireland which is absolutely essential for the defeat of terrorism.

Mr. Gow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not a rule of the House that on Second Reading one may speak only about matters that are in the Bill or could reasonably be in the Bill? What the hon. Gentleman is discussing could not possibly be in the Bill, so is it in order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

A Second Reading debate can go fairly wide. I remind the House that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) has just started his speech.

Mr. Ashdown

I am grateful to you for your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is ironic that the hon. Gentleman who raised that point of order ranged very widely in his own speech, as did the Secretary of State. I understand why the hon. Member for Eastbourne sought to interrupt. It is because these are uncomfortable words for him. The hon. Gentleman takes a close interest in these matters. I was in Dublin and Belfast last week. What the Prime Minister did was cheered to the echo by those in the IRA who would wish to see the Extradition Act in the South of Ireland not renewed, and it was cheered to the echo by the extremists in the North who would wish to see undermined our capacity to review the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It was also cheered to the echo by those who wish to see relations between the Irish Government and the British Government at their worst possible level because they know that that would damage the fight against terrorism.

I find it odd that this week we are asked to consider a basically good measure when last week the Prime Minister in her handling of these affairs unwittingly, but nevertheless seriously, damaged our capacity to fight the very extremists that the Bill seeks to target. As the Secretary of State fairly and rightly said, many items in the Bill do not attract any kind of excitement or opposition. One is bound to welcome the amendment of the franchise so that those who have been in Northern Ireland for three months can vote in elections. That is in line with the practice throughout the United Kingdom and I am sure that it is the right thing to do. It is also right to amend the disqualification period so that it runs from the end of a sentence rather than from the beginning.

While I am on the subject of sentences, I should say how much we welcome the Government's view that we should also review the whole question of remission for those in prison convicted for acts of terrorism. Until now they have received as of right a 50 per cent. remission whereas the ordinary common criminal in Britain—if there can be such a thing—has to earn remission of only up to 30 per cent. The public and those committed to fighting terrorism do not understand why that is the case, although there are good historical reasons for it. I am glad to see that the Government are sensibly reviewing that.

The central issue of the Bill is the requirement to make a declaration. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who spoke for the Labour party, is no longer in his place. His speech was one of the thinnest and most bankrupt that I have heard in terms of the arguments used for opposing the declaration. The hon. Gentleman's arguments rested on three or four basic principles. Time after time he set up a straw man, knocked him down, and then patted himself on the back and said that that was a reason for not accepting the Government proposals.

First, the hon. Gentleman spoke about section 9 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and he said—I hope that I am not misquoting him in his absence —that the Bill was not necessary because all the provisions of that section were already in position and would do the job. In that case, I cannot see his objection to the Bill. If that is the substance of the Labour party's argument, what is wrong with the Bill? Of course, those who have studied the Bill know perfectly well that it does something extra. It takes the general aim in that section and targets it precisely in a way which, if it is right, can be helpful.

The hon. Gentleman's second argument was that the provisions were unworkable. He said that that was because people would make declarations and then simply break them. He is right at least to identify that as a potential problem in the Bill, because that is what has happened so frequently in Irish history. Organisations that were proscribed simply changed their names and reappeared. The hon. Gentleman must surely realise that the Bill has two parts, and that the second part gives sanctions to the courts so that if someone breaks the declaration, the courts can do something to put the matter right. The hon. Gentleman's argument did not stand up on that basis either.

Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman said that this would cause a whole string of by-elections, with the result that the voice of the IRA would come through. On that, he was exposed by an intervention by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), who said that there are few wards or constituencies in Northern Ireland where the supporters of the IRA are in a majority. My view is that if the by-elections were called—it is a possibility—the likelihood is that they would be called on the specific issue of violence.

Mr. Tom King

And what was said.

Mr. Ashdown

Yes, and on what was said. That is a narrow issue, and while there may be some temptation on the part of those who espouse violence in Northern Ireland to go through the election process again because of the advantage of publicity, the outcome would not be as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North suggested. The likelihood is that there would be a defeat in most such cases.

I do not wish to concentrate too much on the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, but those who read it tomorrow will find that it betrays yet again what is becoming a depressing semblance of bias in the Labour party, which seems always to take the Nationalist case on Northern Ireland. That is depressing because any party seeking to achieve some success in Northern Ireland must be seen to be at least even-handed, but I did not find that.

Secondly, on reading that speech, anyone who takes an objective view of it will reach the conclusion that the speech was made by someone who wants his party to vote against the Bill. The whole speech was constructed to that end. The hon. Gentleman said that the Bill was ridiculous and unworkable, would make matters worse, would put things into the hands of the terrorists and be a propaganda victory. The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), who is now on the Labour Front Bench, will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that Labour Members will not be voting against the Bill but will abstain. If that is so, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North should have made a different speech.

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, but he forgets that when the Liberal Government in the early part of the century and the Liberal party at the end of the last century argued for home rule, they were accused of supporting the Nationalist case. If he does not know that, he has not read his Liberal history. The Labour party's position is not all that different from that of the Liberal party in the past. Is the hon. Gentleman really supporting an oath being taken—[HON. MEMBERS: "Declaration."]—all right, a declaration, but it is basically an oath—before people can stand for election to any position? Where is his Liberalism in supporting that?

Mr. Ashdown

The cause of peace in Ireland is cursed by history and by people who continually look back instead of forward. It may be that the Liberal Government took that view at the turn of the century. I have great respect for the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), but does he not realise—it is frequently the case that the Labour party does not—that there is now a different situation in Northern Ireland from that which pertained in the early part of the century?

Anybody seeking to achieve some success in bringing peace to Northern Ireland would want to take at least a balanced view in these matters. It may be that the Labour party does. The hon. Member for Walton seems to admit that it does not, but I am not sure that that view would be taken by the hon. Member for Leicester, South. We must wait and see. The public perception of Labour's attitude is that it is a Pavlovian reaction against the Government, whatever the situation, and in favour of the Nationalist cause.

I do not pretend that this legislation is perfect. There are flaws in it, but almost no legislation is perfect. It may be that it throws up some anomalies, but the question we must ask ourselves is not whether, as a single piece of legislation, it will defeat the IRA or the Ulster Volunteer Force—of course it will not—but whether it is a useful instrument in the hands of the Government for defeating terrorism and one that does not significantly damage civil liberties. My view is that it is a useful mechanism.

People may sign the declaration knowing that they are about to overturn it, but we must not underestimate the effect of propaganda—for example, the propaganda effect of Sinn Fein signing a declaration against violence. That would be advantageous. However, the sanctions placed in the hands of the court are sensible. After all, if a court in Britain can disqualify a person from holding office because he is a bankrupt, it is not unreasonable to disqualify a person for giving support and succour to violence and acts of terrorism.

Mr. Hume

Who will bring the cases?

Mr. Ashdown

That is a fair question, and I shall come to it shortly.

We have some reservations about what the Government have chosen to do. As I said when I first heard the proposal, I feel that there are some problems that the Government should recognise in putting this process into operation the moment people are elected. If they sign the declaration, they can say anything they like and get free access to the airways during the election campaign, but the moment they are elected the sanctions come into operation. That opens up the possibility of exaggerating the effects of allowing people access to the airways during an election campaign for a position that they will not be allowed to hold afterwards.

The second question, which was rightly raised by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), is, who will bring in the court cases? Here I am somewhat in agreement with the hon. Member for Eastbourne. This provision will probably not deliver what the Government hope because the challenge will be brought by a citizen, a councillor or a full council. The Government are dodging the issue and not grasping the nettle. If this is their case, they should be prepared to take the matter up to challenge in the court. The matter should be put before the Director of Public Prosecutions or some other such person so that the Government carry this forward. I am afraid that many will fear for their lives if they bring such an action, and this may militate against the best effect that the Bill can achieve.

One or two technical concerns must be voiced at this stage. My first concern is about legal aid. Many people who might bring a case against a councillor would be deterred if the entire financial burden fell on them. What protection can be offered in that case, and what protection might be offered against the inevitable intimidation that would follow? The Alliance party of Northern Ireland has said that the Attorney-General should bring these cases, for the reasons that I have set out. We need to know why the Government have decided not to have the Attorney-General or some body to bring the case on their behalf rather than leaving it to the citizen.

No mention is made of political parties bringing cases. Has the Minister considered that if there is no financial aid a party might have resources when an individual would not? A party case would also protect individuals from intimidation. What will be used by way of evidence? It would be useful if the Minister—if not now, then later —could explain what a citizen living in Northern Ireland might have to bring before the High Court as evidence if he or she wished to bring a prosecution under the Bill.

Those points having been made, the general principle should be followed through. There are issues which might well be amended in Committee. However, I believe that in this instance the Government have hit on a reasonable instrument which may assist in the battle against terrorism and violence from both sides in Northern Ireland. On that basis, the proposals deserve the support in principle of my party tonight and they will get it.

7.20 pm
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I wish to say a few words because I want those in Northern Ireland who read our debates in Hansard to know that there are some mainland British Members of Parliament from another part of the United Kingdom who share the anger, frustration and shame of ordinary, decent, law-abiding people who want to serve in civic life and serve their communities who must sit side by side with men of violence. I want those people to be aware that on this side of the water we understand their feelings.

I have no illusion about the difficulties of making legislation such as this stick. Dealing with the IRA with an Act of Parliament is like controlling a mad dog with a paper chain. I have no illusions about the difficulties, but, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said, should we pass down on the other side of the street? Should we just do nothing because of all the criticisms that have been levelled today at the Bill?

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the Opposition spokesman, could not suggest a better alternative. At one stage he was forced in this Chamber, which for centuries has stood for freedom under the law, to wave the rag of the IRA and Sinn Fein to buttress his argument. Of course Sinn Fein will not argue that the Bill will harm it. I thought that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) made one of his best speeches so far in the Chamber, and I agree with him that much of the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North was very weak.

Let us consider the argument that Sinn Fein would force by-elections. Of course it may force them. but, as the hon. Member for Yeovil said, it will do that on the narrow point of violence. How much support will Sinn Fein receive? I was told in Northern Ireland that it might have a sure chance only of winning the Lower Falls road ward. It would certainly not win many other wards on that basis.

There is an argument that the Attorney-General should take issue. I see little point in the Attorney-General losing what reputation he has as a man of the law rather than a man of the Government, as a man involved in the legal process rather than a man who is the instrument of political will, by pursuing one political party or another. That would be a dangerous innovation.

It is interesting that the very people who argue that the Attorney-General should become involved in the political process in this instance also suggest that it is wrong that the Attorney-General in southern Ireland should view the Patrick Ryan affair on purely legal instead of political grounds and argue that he should be taking a political decision. We all hope that he will take that extradition decision.

The Bill is a fair compromise. Of course we could consider more draconian measures such as proscription. However, we should be careful because, if we adopt more draconian measures, we will not be any more effective on the ground in Northern Ireland, but we will give the political oxygen that the IRA and Sinn Fein need in international opinion. We should be aware of that danger.

I took grave exception to the comment of the hon. Members for Yeovil and for Kingston upon Hull, North about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does not speak in the desiccated language of chanceries. She is not a professional diplomat. She speaks instinctively for what the British people believe in. She speaks for their frustration at delays in extradition. However, nothing that my right hon. Friend has said should be construed as being in any way anti our many friends in the Republic. That point will be repeated, I am sure.

The overwhelming majority of decent people in the Republic, the overwhelming majority of members of the Dail, and certainly all members of the Government of the Republic are as committed as we are to dealing with terrorism. Their stakes in this matter are almost as high, if not higher, than ours. We might lose the Province, but they might lose their country if the IRA wins. It was sad that some of my hon. Friends last Thursday described the actions of the Irish Government as a double cross. They were no such thing. We should sympathise with their difficulties and encourage the decent people who are trying to expedite the process under the laws of the Republic.

In this debate we should avoid extremist language and accept that this Bill, like any Bill on these matters, has limitations. However, it is an essential first step, and as such it is welcome.

7.25 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

This Bill is a bitter-sweet pill for my constituents. It removes a long-standing grievance and injustice by intending to restore the franchise to more than 10,000 people who for many years have been unable to vote in local government elections in Northern Ireland. It took a long time for that reform to come about. That is a natural act of justice which should have been implemented many years ago, certainly at the commencement of direct rule in 1972–73. We are happy to accept that it will now be in place before the local government elections in May 1989.

The part of the Bill which we find bitter to swallow and with which we cannot agree is the part which will, if it is passed, enforce candidates at the next local government elections to make the declaration against terrorism. We oppose and disagree with the proposed legislation because it will have a contrary effect to that which the Government have given as the reason for its implementation.

When anyone from Northern Ireland, particularly a member of the SDLP, speaks about violence, it is always necessary to prefix one's remarks by stating that the SDLP is totally and implacably opposed to all forms of violence, be they actual, verbal or insinuated. Our history and, more important, our record of performance since our foundation in 1973 show that that statement is irrefutable.

The declaration of non-violence provided for in clauses 2 to 9 will have an immediate effect. It will cause increased tension within the council chambers. It will lead to a heightening of community tensions. It will also have a totally contrary effect to the Government's stated intention of in some way restricting the ability of the paramilitaries to propagate their evil ways by preventing them from participating in local government.

I have had 28 years' experience of local government in Northern Ireland, part of it spent under the old regime up to 1973 and some 15 years under the new regime. I have no doubt that both paramilitary groupings, Loyalist and Republican, will sign the declaration without any compunction whatsoever. We already have evidence that the Republican paramilitaries will sign such a declaration.

So much for the intended effect of preventing people who subscribe to acts of violence from participating in local government in Northern Ireland. It is ironic that the Government in the past encouraged the paramilitaries to participate in the democratic process by providing funds and assets. There has now been a complete turnaround which will simply give the paramilitaries a tremendous propaganda weapon which will be used in two ways.

First, for the rest of the world, it will be used as an illustration or an argument to support the case that they can promote their cause only by violence instead of using the democratic process. That argument and that propaganda will be listened to, particularly in North America and in certain parts of Europe.

Secondly—additionally or alternatively—they will take part in the local democratic process in spite of the declaration they have signed, and use their suspensions and their court cases, which possibly will go to the highest court in the land, and the election campaigns, as an on-going daily propaganda weapon which will give front-page headlines to the very cause to which we all are opposed—the use of violence for political purposes.

The proposals are all the more idiotic because they are totally unnecessary. As has already been said, under section 21 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978, section 9 of the 1987 Act and section 10 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984, such support for proscribed organisations or any attempt to encourage support for such organisations, making any contribution to their funds, giving assistance in any way or arranging any meetings of a proscribed organisation are already criminal offences.

The Government must explain to the House why they have not used any of those provisions to produce the effect that they are trying to achieve under the proposed legislation. There is further legislation in article 9 of the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Act 1987, which was the successor to the Prevention of Incitement to Hatred Act, which makes it an offence for anyone to use words or behaviour that is likely to cause the furtherance of violence or even hatred or tension between the two communities. That provision has not been used.

The Northern Ireland legislative statute book is weighed down with legislation that can be used for the very purposes for which the Government are trying to argue that they need this legislation. Therefore, why has the proposed legislation containing the declaration been brought before the House? We do not have to look too far. It is an exercise in trying to pretend that a new package of anti-terrorist legislation is being promoted that will in some way lessen the impact of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Nothing is further from reality.

Clause 6, to which many hon. Members have referred, explains what is meant by a breach of the declaration of non-violence. The more one reads of the proposed legislation, the more one must despair of the consequences which will arise from its implementation. The Bill fails to make clear what standard of support or what measure will be applied to support or alleged support for a proscribed organisation is banned by the Bill. It appears that any word or deed in support of a proscribed organisation or an act of violence will be a breach of the terms of a councillor's declaration and hence is such an action. Here we enter a legal quagmire that will bog down the courts of Northern Ireland and the higher courts of appeal in years to come, with the propaganda to which I have already referred attaching to it.

In the absence of any guidance in the Bill, judges will be given an impossible task because of the difficulty of interpretation. For example, clause 6(3)(a) describes a breach of the declaration, and uses the words: whether the expression of support or approval is made by spoken or written words, the display of any written matter or by other behaviour". The expression, "other behaviour" is totally open-ended. What does it mean? As I said, I have been involved in local government for a considerable time and I can give some examples of what it might mean to people on the ground.

If a resolution condemning an act of violence comes before a council, and a councillor does not respond positively to that condemnation, is he or she thereby demonstrating support for the act of violence, although he or she has done absolutely nothing to demonstrate such an attitude? Or let us suppose, as often happens, that an incident has occurred in the local district and a request is made by the chair for a minute's silence in respect for someone who has been killed or has suffered a tragic loss, be they Loyalist or Republican. If a councillor remains seated, is that an act of support for an act of violence which led to a death or a murder? Those are practical problems which will arise in council chambers.

If a person attends a public meeting outside a council chamber at which a proscribed organisation or supporters of a proscribed organisation publicly declare their support for a policy of violence, is that an offence, and has that person to prove his attendance as being against the policy promulgated from the platform? If he remains silent, will his behaviour be interpreted as support for that violence?

What will happen if a public representative supports a notice or motion in a council chamber proposed by a member of a political party which supports violence? Hon. Members have constantly referred to members of Sinn Fein as the only supporters of violence in the council chambers, but I have sat in council chambers and in the Assembly of Northern Ireland with people from every party except my own and the small Alliance party among members who have supported and used violence in the furtherance of political objectives. The list of possibilities stretches into absurd infinity, yet we are being presented with the Bill as a vehicle for the prevention of terrorism within our council chambers.

It is clear that the Bill will set the extremists in the council chambers at each others' throats and the process of local democracy and respect for it will be sacrificed on the altar of the legislation. Furthermore, it will enable the councillors of a particular party, if they have a majority in a council chamber, to use ratepayers' money to pursue the minority parties on every word, date, action or omission which they determine is something to do with, or can be interpreted in some loose way as support for, a particular cause or group that supports violence.

Last week, the Minister presented a White paper which says that legislation will be introduced to prevent political parties from using ratepayers' money to pursue political objectives, yet the Bill will enable majority parties in council chambers to pursue minority parties for real or imagined acts in contravention of the declaration of non-violence. The House can take it from me that it will happen on a month-to-month basis. The Bill puts us on a long and slippery slope of legislation and confrontation in Northern Ireland. There is a total contradiction in Government attitudes as represented in the Bill and in last week's White Paper.

Clause 7, which, too, has been referred to by many hon. Members, enables a group or person to take legal action. As the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made clear, the Bill provides that a councillor or an elector can initiate on his own behalf and at his own expense a course of action or a prosecution under the Bill. That is what the Government say can happen. The Government argue that it is impossible to have jury trials in Northern Ireland because jurors would be subjected to intimidation and acts of violence. Will someone explain the contradiction in those attitudes? A person will be able to prosecute someone whom he believes to be a member of a paramilitary organisation but will not be able to take part in the collective decision of a jury.

Clause 6 (a)(ii), which deals with terrorism, refers to violence for political ends connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland"— not violence for political ends, only that connected with Northern Ireland. That is a strange phrase to find in a Bill dealing with terrorism.

What will happen if a person supports violence used by the Government for political ends? In the past, councillors have supported such action taken by the Government. Will Sinn Fein be able to take action against those councillors and local representatives? We are setting a pattern whereby extremists on both sides of the council chamber will take legal potshots at one another and bring local councils into disrepute.

I know of many councillors, by reputation, and personally, who have participated in the execution of violence for political purposes. I am talking of those not of a Sinn Fein persuasion but of a Unionist persuasion. They have manned barricades, turned people away from their work or intimidated them to prevent them from going to work because it did not suit their political objectives. All those people will merrily sign the declaration with what they consider to be a clear conscience.

Many people are sitting in council chambers tonight, in the Unionist tradition, who have been connected with—I do not want to go further because of the sub judice rule —the manufacture and storage of arms. They have connections with paramilitary organisations such as Ulster Resistance—that was refuted by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson)—and when arms were found that allegedly belonged to Ulster Resistance, the Democratic Unionist party issued a statement withdrawing its support for Ulster Resistance. If my memory serves me right, part of that statement said that it was involved to maintain a well-disciplined army of men. For what purpose is a well-disciplined army of men maintained, unless it is, at some stage, to initiate an act of violence in pursuance of a political objective?

If matters carry on as I think they will, not only will local government be brought into disrepute but there will be few councillors in Northern Ireland. There will be only SDLP members and a small number from the Alliance party to carry on local government business. I ask the Secretary of State to recognise, even at this late stage, the turmoil and stress that the Bill will cause in local government and to pull back from implementing the clauses that deal with the declaration on violence.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne referred to the need to transfer substantive powers to local government in Northern Ireland. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the judicial tribunal of the early 1970s, which found that, of the nine causes of civil disorder in Northern Ireland, seven arose from the maladministration and performance of local government in the execution of its duties.

For some reason, the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) introduced the issue of parole and said that the intended measures for Northern Ireland will give it parity with the rest of the United Kingdom. That is not true; there are no jury trials, so there is a different sentencing procedure. Once a third of the sentence has been served here, parole can be considered.

I ask the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary to consider not the legal jargon but the practical consequences of what will happen in council chambers, the courts and the press in Northern Ireland in future. I ask them to consider with an open mind what has been said about the gross deficiencies of the Bill. I hope that even at this late stage they will draw back from setting this precedent.

7.46 pm
Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

I make it plain that I strongly support the principle of the Bill and will support it in the Lobby tonight, especially the part relating to the declaration on terrorism of those elected to office.

I found it appallingly disappointing, but perhaps not surprising, to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). At a time when terrorists have killed more than 80 people in Northern Ireland this year, when the majority of people want this measure—as the opinion poll on Ulster Television showed—and when local government in Northern Ireland must be buttressed and must gain the acceptability of people in Northern Ireland, the hon. Gentleman could not put forward one positive measure as an alternative to the Bill. I found that quite appalling.

The strongest arguments in favour of the Bill are those of principle. It was clear from a visit that a number of hon. Members paid to Northern Ireland last week that the majority of people there want a sensible, sensitive system of devolved government. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that it must be the first objective of the British Government to bring that about. A devolved system of government will not receive general assent unless it is perceived as fair, objective and balanced and unless there is confidence in the existing system of local government.

The sectarian history in Northern Ireland is tense and goes back a long way. The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) gave the difference between the present and the past. Regarding Northern Ireland, Harold Nicolson said: The Irish themselves have no sense of the past: for them the present began on October 17th 1171, when Henry II landed at Waterford. There is cynicism among the Catholics, who rightly feel that they have been discriminated against over the years, and among the Protestants who, from the home rule crisis of 1886, when they removed themselves from the main stream of British politics, to the partition of 1920, when Austin Chamberlain hoped for a union in Ireland, with their suspicions, however wrong, of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, have been worried that they will be marginalised and nudged out of the United Kingdom. Whether that is right or wrong, it is the present feeling among Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

That cynicism about effective local government can only be exacerbated by what happened in the examples given by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe). The chairman of Fermanagh district council, a Sinn Feiner, refused to condemn the events at Enniskillen. We hear of Gerry Dokerty, who was elected to the Londonderry council, despite having previously tried to blow up the Guildhall in London. On our visit, we met a gentleman in Newry who was aggrieved because he had to sit in a council chamber two places in front of a gentleman who he had a pretty good idea was involved in the assassination of his brother-in-law.

Against that background, it is not surprising that local government in Northern Ireland does not have the best reputation or that the best young people do not wish to support local democracy in practice by becoming members of local councils. If local democracy and effective administration are to gain the people's confidence, the need for the Bill, and especially the declaration, is imperative.

I have three worries about the legislation, the lesser of which concerns the declaration, which begins: I declare that, if elected, I will not by word or deed". That provision does not cover candidates while they are taking part in elections. I understand the statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that we cannot study every utterance of every candidate—although in England a police officer can arrest a person for contravening the provisions of the Race Relations Act 1976. Such people are by no means as public as candidates in a public election.

As constituted, the Bill may lead to a potential for mockery whereby terrorists fight a campaign on terrorist principles, having signed the declaration. They may say, "If I am elected, I shall not be able to say what I have been saying during the campaign." I have some sympathy with the argument of the hon. Member for Antrim, South that a stronger declaration would make repudiating terrorism and a list of proscribed organisations a condition of candidacy. The quality of debate and of those taking part in, and not merely those who win, elections is important and underpins democratic values.

My second concern is with the penalties that will attach to those who break their declarations. The Government's discussion paper talked about a serious threat to "legitimate political activity", a "severe challenge to democracy" and a "deep public concern". The proposed penalties for breaking the law, which try to deal with that deep public concern, are only civil, not criminal. The maximum period of disqualification from office is five years. Surely advocating terrorism is tantamount to behaviour which, under the Public Order (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, is likely to arouse hatred or fear in the general population and is a criminal offence leading to imprisonment.

Surely arousing sectarian fear and hatred and advocating terrorism are at least as bad as arousing racial hatred. A person who transgresses against the provisions of the Race Relations Act can be arrested by a policeman. That is a criminal matter which is tried in a Crown court and carries a penalty of up to two years' imprisonment. I cannot see the difference between inciting sectarian hatred and inciting racial hatred, especially in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will ensure that transgression of the declaration is a serious criminal offence, not merely a civil one.

Thirdly, I am worried about methods of enforcement. I do not believe that civil action will be particularly appropriate or effective. It would be illogical if it were, given the way in which this has been recognised by the Government in the speech by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and in the discussion paper. The conclusion to the consultation paper states: The Government accepts its responsibility to safeguard local democracy and to seek to prevent the deliberate destabilisation of political life in the Province by apologists for violence. The Bill, which is meant to countermand that destabilisation applies merely to individuals attacking other citizens through a civil action.

Mr. Mallon

The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting speech, but there is one glaring omission. I probably have the unique record of being the only living person who has been disqualified from a Northern Ireland Assembly. My crime was not support of terrorism or anything like that but the fact that I had the audacity to sit in an Irish Parliament. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman will bend his mind to this anomaly, which is a delightful irony. This Parliament is setting up an inter-parliamentary tier with the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland, but the statute book still provides that someone from the North of Ireland who sits in the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland should be disqualified from not only this House but any assembly in the North of Ireland.

Mr. Coombs

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I want to continue my argument and I must hurry.

The Government's major argument—as adduced by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State in the article in The Daily Telegraph—for not taking action on behalf of citizens for transgressions of the declaration, is that it would lead to difficulties with political argument and impartiality. Surely those difficulties are addressed already in Northern Ireland by the Government or their agencies, the Crown prosecution service or the Director of Public Prosecutions in approving extraditions and prosecutions for far more sensitive crimes.

If the Government are concerned about the intimidation of witnesses, how much more should they be concerned about the intimidation of witnesses if the initiators of civil actions have to prosecute without any Government backing? It is crucial that the Government give a lead. Because the Bill is so important and is wanted so strongly by the moderate majority in Northern Ireland, the Government must shoulder the responsibility of seeing the legislation through whenever the code is broken.

No doubt many hon. Members will accuse the Government of being overweening, malicious and offending against civil liberties. Those hon. Members should take comfort from the words of an American politician who knew something about civil strife in his country. Abraham Lincoln said: It has long been a grave question whether any government not too strong for the liberties of its people can he strong enough to maintain its liberties in great emergencies. These are times in Northern Ireland, sadly, of great emergencies. I support the Bill, but I hope that the Government will see fit to strengthen it in Committee in the way that I have suggested.

7.59 pm
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

I believe that I am the first speaker called today who intends to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill after having voted for the reasoned amendment.

Mr. Mallon

No, the right hon. Gentleman is not.

Mr. Benn

Perhaps other hon. Members have said the same thing.

This is a dangerous little Bill, made no less offensive because of the fact that it will be wholly and completely ineffective, as has been pointed out by other hon. Members. I have no doubt that the Secretary of State was told to do something after the recent explosions, so he came up with the ban on Sinn Fein people appearing on broadcasts and this little Bill to get a person to take an oath before he stands as a candidate.

It is strange to me, however, that the people against whom the Secretary of State has directed his anger are those using the electoral process. If someone stands as a candidate, he is using the ballot box to advance his cause and, if elected, he is aiming to use the media to advance it too.

As the Secretary of State did, I want to go through the proposals that have been made in Parliament in my lifetime, which would bring peace to Ireland. Partition—failed; direct rule—failed; Stormont—failed; power-sharing—failed; internment without trail—failed: sending in troops—I was in the Cabinet which did that—failed; strip searching—failed; plastic bullets—failed: Diplock courts—failed; supergrass trials, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the shoot-to-kill policy—failed; and extradition is not doing very well.

Any other assembly in the world that was discussing the situation in Northern Ireland today would be going through that list, but only the British Parliament is able to gather together and congratulate the Minister, with qualification, on producing a Bill that imposes an oath. [Interruption.] An oath and a declaration are merely religious or secular words to describe the same thing.

I have been looking into the history of this matter, as I am a bit of a historian. I looked up the Act of the Scottish Parliament of 29 August 1681: for the security of the protestant Religion against Papists and Phanaticks; Together with the Oath to be taken by all Persons in Publick Trusts". It is a marvellous Act of Parliament and requires people to denounce and renounce the Pope and all his works and includes in it a pledge not to take up Arms against the King or ever rise in arms against the King.

The principle of trying to deal with religion, or religious or political movements, by oath is absurd. There is a more recent parallel. President Botha said that Nelson Mandela could come out of prison if he gave a pledge comparable with the one that the Secretary of State asks us to impose by this legislation. Very much to Nelson Mandela's credit, he said that he would rather stay in prison that renounce his commitment to a free South Africa. I know that there are differences, because the franchises and circumstances there are different, but the point that the House will not discuss is, what is terrorism?

Were those people who were fighting to get rid of the Russian troops from Afghanistan terrorists? Are members of the African National Congress in South Africa terrorists? Were members of the Maquis in France, who threw bombs into cafés where there were Germans terrorists? The reality is—the House had better face it—that violence has been used in the British empire. I have met numerous terrorists who ended up having tea with the Queen, having been imprisoned for the same sort of offence that the Secretary of State is now seeking to impose with his little Bill. Gandhi, who believed in non-violence, was put in gaol, as were Nehru and Makarios. They were all in gaol because they were members of nationalist movements.

All that I am saying to the Secretary of State—he knows it, whether he wants to hear it or not—is that we cannot beat national movements by these methods. We can try as hard as we like, but we cannot do it.

Mr. Tom King

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to discuss the speech that he is making with the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who would be the first to denounce violence? Does he believe that any of the movements that he has mentioned, and which he believes to be nationalist, managed to achieve so derisory a vote as Sinn Fein achieved in the Republic of Ireland, where it managed 1.8 per cent. of the vote? The right hon. Gentleman gave his own game away by admitting that there was a slight difference, that there is a universal franchise and the people are able to vote and that there is therefore no excuse for violence.

Mr. Benn

If there is derisory support for Sinn Fein, no one advocating violence would ever be elected. That is the absurdity of the Secretary of State's argument. He says that there is no support for violence, but when Sinn Fein members are elected and take a view of the national struggle which is theirs and not mine, he says, "We will take away your right to sit and to vote." It is exactly the same with the ban on broadcasting. My intervention touched the core of the matter. If we attack elected people, we are really attacking those who elected them. That is the principle upon which representative government depends. If the Secretary of State wishes to intervene again, I should listen to him for hours.

If we attack a Member who has been elected to this House and say that he cannot broadcast on the BBC, we are attacking his electors, because all of us here are nothing without those who sent us here. That is what representative democracy is about. The Secretary of State is not taking further measures against those engaged in the armed struggle—he is taking measures against those who have been elected by choosing the route of the ballot box.

Mr. Mallon

Somehow I have been drawn into this. Lest my silence indicate consent in either direction, I must say that I think both points are wrong. I do not think that there is any aura of invincibility or rightness about paramilitary or terrorist activity in Ireland or anywhere else; nor do I think that they will be defeated by this type of legislation. The only way in which terrorism and paramilitary activity in Ireland will be defeated is when people, in their own hearts and minds, decide that they will not give the terrorists support. That is the weakness in this measure, as it has been in the other measures that we have seen in the past three weeks.

Mr. Benn

I shall not quarrel with the hon. Gentleman, except to say that the immediate issue goes back a long way. In 1884, Sir William Harcourt, the then Home Secretary, refused to give London control of its own police because of "Irish outrages". My grandfather was elected in Tower Hamlets in 1892 as a home ruler, and Ritchie, the Tory Member he beat, said that if Ireland had home rule there would be chaos, anarchy and civil war.

The Secretary of State should not tell the House that this is a new move by dangerous Left-wing Members to try to encourage the bullet in Northern Ireland. Partition was a product of the bullet. The Black and Tans and the partition of Ireland were the imposition of partition by force and it ill befits a Government who favour partition to say, "Now we've cut you up by force, you must commit yourself to limit your aspirations to the structures that we set."

It has been noted that it is time that constructive things were said.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Benn

I am coming to the end of my speech; I promised to be brief.

Of course the horrific loss of life in Ireland is of concern to everyone. I know no one who believes that that is the way forward for Ireland but, like any war—this is a war, and not crime in the ordinary sense as it is presented—it has to be brought to an end by negotiation. Although I am not an Irish Member, I wanted to speak in this debate because every attack that the Government make on civil liberties in Ireland encroaches on us. It begins in Ireland and then comes here. I have seen it with police action, with the Prevention of Terrorism Act, as with constituents of mine in Bristol.

The reputation of British justice abroad is about as low as it can be. [Interruption.] Of course it is. Why do Conservative Members think that the Belgian Government took the decision that they did? Why has the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg ruled against British decisions 21 times? Mr. Gorbachev will come to this country this week and may meet the families of the Birmingham six, just as the Prime Minister went to meet—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is straying rather a long way from the Bill. I hope that he will return to it.

Mr. Benn

I shall leave Mr. Gorbachev out of local government in Northern Ireland, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and respect your great knowledge and authority in the Chair.

If the war in Ireland is to end, there must be a round table conference. The jurisdiction of Britain in Northern Ireland must end—not under threat of the bullet, but by a decision of the British Parliament. Every assistance must then be giving to try to bring the fractured communities together. I have a feeling that, because of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, some of the Protestants in the North would be happy to see the end of the British Government because they do not have much time for what the Government are doing under the stealthy mechanisms of that agreement. More people come to that conclusion day by day as policy after policy fails.

Instead of an oath, a pledge or whatever else must be given before someone can represent his people in local government, it would be better if the Government had the sense to open the whole question to public discussion in a round table conference. For that reason I shall vote against the Bill being given a Second Reading and I advise as many of my hon. Friends as possible to do the same. Only in that way can we focus upon the real issue that we are debating.

8.11 pm
Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)

I trust that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) will forgive me if I do not follow him but, sadly, I could not find anything in his outburst with which to agree.

I welcome the Bill. I heard what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about possible anomalies, and the Bill may not be 100 per cent. the ideal measure, but that does not mean that we should stand back and do nothing. Decent people are disgusted by the fact that people can stand in local government elections in Northern Ireland even if they are convicted terrorists or support terrorism. It is offensive to every bone in their bodies that people who refuse to reject terrorism can take part in the elected offices of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Is it not possible that decent people in Northern Ireland will refuse to sign the declaration because they do not believe in oaths or declarations? Are they not the very people that this Bill is supposed to encourage? They will cut themselves off from the political game.

Mr. Burns

I do not quite understand the hon. Gentleman's remarks. If he has read the Bill he must know that we are asking people to make not an oath, but a declaration. I remind him that before any hon. Member can take his seat in the House he must sign an oath of allegiance or affirm. I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's argument.

For two long and tortuous decades, the people of Northern Ireland have suffered at the cowardly hands of the IRA, which has indiscriminately attacked not only the Army and the police but the elderly, women, children and innocent people wanting to go about their normal lives and business. The IRA cares nothing for the damage, misery and uncertainty that it has caused over the past 20 years. It has scant regard for the sanctity of life or for democracy itself. It has failed ever to win the intellectual argument of its case, so it has resorted to the use of the Armalite and the bomb to try to achieve its aims.

Since 1983, democracy in Northern Ireland has been affronted by the election of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams). To add insult to injury, in 1985, 59 Sinn Fein members were elected to local government in Northern Ireland. It is a travesty of justice that convicted terrorists and apologists for violence should be allowed to participate in the democratic institutions of Northern Ireland, while the IRA continues its murderous campaign of bombings, without ever rejecting a policy that is so repugnant both to democracy and to decent people.

The IRA seeks to undermine the democratic fabric of society in Northern Ireland, which is why it is so imperative the people who seek local government office should make a declaration rejecting violence before they can take their seats in any council chamber in the Province.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman sure of the consequences of such a declaration? Does it mean that those who do so are rejecting the Government's purchase and deployment of the Trident nuclear weapon—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Let us keep to the Bill before the House.

Mr. Burns

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for not allowing me to be tempted down that irrelevant path—[Interruption.] I could easily answer the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) in the proper debate, but it is not the subject of this debate, on this measure, on this night.

I am pleased that the Bill will put a stop to individuals seeking election and taking seats in local government in Northern Ireland before they have signed a declaration against terrorism. That will be warmly welcomed not only by the vast majority of hon. Members, but throughout the country in Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland itself. No longer will councillors have to sit in the same chamber with those who openly espouse the cause of violence, which is so deeply repugnant to them. This measure amply demonstrates the Government's commitment to block any loopholes and to stop the propagation of terrorist propaganda advancing a cause that should be struck down in every instance.

The proposal to amend the local government franchise will be welcomed, for the most part. It is quite extraordinary that British citizens—service men's wives and families over the age of 18 and others who have gone to live in Northern Ireland—cannot participate in local government democratic processes in the same way that someone from Northern Ireland coming to live, for example, in Chelmsford, can register and vote in our local elections. The correction of that anomaly is long overdue.

I find it rather odd that some of the 10,500 people who will be enfranchised will be citizens of the Irish Republic. Indeed, I have always found it odd that they can vote in British elections, whether in Liverpool, Glasgow or, indeed, Northern Ireland after the Bill is passed. The Republic of Ireland spent many bloody years trying to cut its ties with the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. It is odd that citizens of the Irish Republic can come to this country and vote in our elections, but a French citizen who might come to live, for example, in Chelmsford could not—quite rightly—vote in either local or general elections, and nor could an American citizen or any citizen not of British nationality. Why, then, are we perpetuating that anomaly in the Bill?

Mr. Mallon

I am rather loth to believe that I am hearing what I am hearing. In effect, is the hon. Gentleman saying that people who live in this country, are domiciled in this country and fulfil the residential qualifications of the electoral legislation should not be allowed to vote because they originated from the Republic of Ireland? That seems to be exactly what the hon. Gentleman is saying. The only qualification for voting here or in the Republic of Ireland is that one is resident in the relevant country on the qualifying date. The hon. Gentleman's remarks smack of racism.

Mr. Burns

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman thinks that, because my remarks were in no way meant to imply it. The hon. Gentleman is wrong. If one wants to vote in local or national elections in England, it is not a matter of residency; it is a matter of citizenship. One must be a British citizen to vote in British or Irish elections. The Irish are the only exceptions. That is the point I was making.

Mr. Mallon

The hon. Gentleman is completely wrong. The only qualification is that of residence on 15 September of the year involved. British people living in the Republic of Ireland are automatically included on the electoral register if they are resident on the same date. There is a clear distinction between the residential qualification and citizenship.

Mr. Burns

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on that point. If we exclude British and Irish people, any person who does not have British or Irish nationality cannot vote in British mainland local elections or general elections. It is sad that that Bill should extend that anomaly so that, when the Bill is on the statute book, citizens of the Republic of Ireland can vote in local government elections in Northern Ireland, just as they can vote in local government and general elections on mainland Britain, and they have done so for many years. That is wrong. It is only in recent years that the Republic of Ireland has changed its law so that British citizens can go to southern Ireland and vote in elections there. That anomaly has only just been rectified by the southern Irish Government.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on wisely seeking to enforce the main thrust of the Bill—the declaration—through civil procedures rather than through criminal procedures. It will avoid making martyrs of those who seek martyrdom for a cause, and it will effectively prevent terrorists or terrorist sympathisers having yet another platform on which to propagate their ugly and evil propaganda. It is another measure that ends a loophole that gave succour to terrorists and, once again, shows the Government's determination, with every possible measure in their armoury, to stamp out terrorism and terrorist sympathisers. I warmly applaud the Secretary of State for bringing such a measure before the House.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I understand that the Front Benches will seek to catch my eye at about 20 minutes past nine. That is 56 minutes from now. I see five hon. Members, all of whom have sat conscientiously throughout the debate, seeking to catch my eye. I hope that they will all have a chance to speak. We can achieve that by using a little simple arithmetic.

8.23 pm
Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Perhaps the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) does not realise that, during the last war, thousands of Irish people came to this country, joined our forces, and fought alongside people such as myself, and did so in various parts of the world. I am aware of that. Therefore, I have never had an argument about Irish citizens living in this country and having the right to vote in our elections.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Heffer


The leader of the Liberal party—or whatever it is called nowadays; I cannot be sure—said that we who raise historical issues are living in the past. I have frequently heard that remark made also by some of my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. If we do not understand or seek to understand the past, we cannot possibly understand the present or have a view for the future. We cannot understand the discussion we are having tonight and will have tomorrow on Northern Irish matters unless we understand what has happened in Ireland.

Many hon. Members have good arguments. No one will deny that. There is a measure of justice on both sides of the House. But history proves one thing, and that is that we in this country dominated Ireland and subjected Ireland to our rule, and the six counties were then created. That is the basis of the trouble in Ireland. As long as the border remains, no matter what is done, what arguments are put, or what efforts are made, there will always be periods of trouble. The trouble will die down, and it will go away for a period, but it will come back again. That is the logic of the situation in Ireland. It does not make me happy; it makes me very unhappy.

I sit on Opposition Benches with, believe it or not, Northern Ireland Members who are Ulster Unionists. I find them pleasant people. We can get on well together —I like them—but they do not agree with me on every political point. I find people in front of me who are in the SDLP. I like them also, but it does not solve the political problem. It is not a matter of liking or disliking. We in this country must begin to think seriously—we have not done so until now—how we can solve the problem of Northern Ireland to the satisfaction of the peoples of the whole of Ireland.

The first woman elected to the House of Commons was a Sinn Feiner. Her name was Countess Markievicz. She did not come to the House, but she was elected. She could come here, but she probably would not have taken the oath. That is why she did not come. She would not accept what we accept.

The Bill is a strange document. Schedule 2, part I, refers to acts of terrorism (that is to say, violence for political ends) connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland. Imagine that nobody has ever conducted any violence in relation to the problems of Northern Ireland. Do hon. Members know that, until the uprising in 1916, when the leaders were shot and killed, there had not been a great deal of sympathy? Afterwards, there was massive sympathy. At the next election, the Sinn Feiners won a majority and then declared their independence. What were they faced with then? A revolt from the Ulstermen of Northern Ireland, the Protestants who for their own reasons under Carson said, "We shall fight." There was violence for political ends on both sides. Therefore, let us be honest about this and not run away from the realities of what happened in Ireland.

I do not understand why we must have a declaration. If every hon. Member were told that they had to sign a declaration that we had at no time believed in violence to achieve political ends or else we could not stand for election to this House or local government, some of my hon. Friends would laugh. What about the Maquis and those sent to assist them bomb and terrorise the Germans when they were in occupation? Many innocent people, French and others, who were not involved were killed. What were they? Terrorists? Hitler and company said that they were terrorists and had them put down as terrorists.

We have only to look at the House, for God's sake. We sit in a House which exists today with its democratic rights because the British people took up arms to ensure that Parliament was created. Hon. Members talk nonsense. The Tory party arose from the struggles from 1640 onwards, so let us not pretend that it has always repudiated violence for political ends. That is absolute utter nonsense.

We should not pass easily a Bill which introduces a declaration or what I would call, an oath. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was absolutely right. What about the Dissenters? Where would they have stood? I am an Anglican so I would have been on the right side. My lot were the ones telling the Roman Catholics and Dissenters, "You do what we tell you or you will not get the rights you expect."

That is what happened. I would have been all right because my family has been Anglican for hundreds of years, but what about all those who were not? What about the Baptists, the Congregationalists, the Quakers and all those who were told that they must accept this or they would not get the rights they expected?

Mr. Wilshire


Mr. Heffer

No, I shall not give way. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have made it clear that you want short speeches and I am not going to make a long speech. All right, then.

Mr. Wilshire

I am a Dissenter. Can the hon. Gentleman remind me when my Church, the Methodist Church, took up arms and fought a battle to demand the right to sit in the House?

Mr. Heffer

The hon. Gentleman had better start to learn something about history. The Methodists came later and broke away from the Anglican Church. They were not involved in the 1640 uprising because they did not exist at that time.

Mr. McNamara

The Methodists were caught by the Test and Corporation Acts.

Mr. Heffer

My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

We must get this into perspective. Hon. Members may have seen in The Independent today an interesting letter from a John A. Oliver who wrote: In the 1940s local fire brigades in Ulster and their full-time auxiliaries were being converted into a type of national fire service. As the firemen and women were thus becoming servants of the Crown they had to swear an oath of allegiance … Only a handful objected (about six out of a thousand, as I recall). They had to be sacked and I was sorry to see them go. Just as I was beginning to preen myself a little on getting through this delicate affair with fewer objectors than my seniors had expected, many men and women gently deflated me by openly saying (in the informal "crack" after the formal business which is one of the attractive aspects of public life in Ulster) that they had sworn the oath with varying degrees of mental reservation." Surely that puts the whole matter into perspective. Those standing for a council can happily swear the oath or accept the declaration. Many will not mean a word of it, so why do we have to have it?

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) talked marvellously at his party's conference, attacking the Prime Minister for attacking our civil liberties, but when a Bill is introduced that attacks civil liberties in part of the United Kingdom, he and his so-called party run away. That is my objection to them. They say that they are not concerned and they believe in the Bill. They are politically dishonest and are not serious about civil liberties. If they were, they would join us and vote against the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North was wrongly attacked. His case was a good one and because of that we believe that we should not only support the reasoned amendment but vote against the Bill. That is precisely what some of us intend to do tonight.

This Bill concerns our civil liberties. Once we allow civil liberties to be attacked in Northern Ireland, if only in a minor way, it will come over here. We have seen that already. I do not trust this Government. Sooner or later people who dissent politically will also be faced with a declaration.

Mr. Burns


Mr. Heffer

We have had this rubbish before, but that is what happens under an authoritarian Government and this Government are authoritarian.

For that if for no other reason I ask my hon. Friends to vote against the Bill and to defend basic civil liberties.

8.37 pm
Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

One observation I have of this debate—I have missed only one speech—is the loss of the so-called bi-partisan approach which was valuable in our discussions on Northern Ireland. Where has it gone? Irrespective of our political difficulties, terrorism in a free society threatens everyone, whatever our political beliefs. We have a greater interest in unity of purpose against terrorism than in minor details, and it is certainly minor details to which the Opposition have objected today. It is far more important that we have a unity of purpose against terrorism. That unity prevailed under the Labour Government, who were supported by the then official Opposition.

Evidence of a breakdown in our bipartisan approach came from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who said that we were driving people out of the political process. Where in the Bill are we doing that? No one is being proscribed or stopped from standing for election. That is absolute nonsense and a complete misinterpretation of the Bill. He said that Sinn Fein could take comfort from this measure. It will take far more comfort from some of the comments from the Opposition Benches than from anything in the Bill.

The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (M r. Benn) called it a dangerous little Bill. I do not see him here now, but I cannot understand why he feels that the Bill is more dangerous than the people with whom it is designed to deal. Surely they are the greater threat to our democratic institutions.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that we should define terrorism. It is quite clear to me what terrorism is. It is those who take up arms against their state although legitimate democratic means exist for them to express their views freely. He quoted examples such as the French Resistance. There were few human rights in France at the time when the Maquis took up arms against the German forces. How can the right hon. Gentleman equate that with the situation in Northern Ireland? Northern Ireland is a democratic state within the United Kingdom and people can express their views freely. The Bill is designed to ensure that those views can be expressed.

Why do Labour Members seem to imply this evening —I am sure it is not their intention—that they are seeking to paint the Government as the bad guys while making little reference to the real bad guys, the terrorists on either side of the political divide? That is the real issue and I am sorry that the Opposition have not been able to address it. I am sure that it was not their intention, but the viewpoint expressed by the Opposition might lead members of the IRA to surmise that the election of a Labour Government would assist them in their aim of uniting Ireland by force. We need a united front against terrorism in Northern Ireland and I appeal to the Opposition on that.

As for the signing of declarations, the Government have no intention of introducing such a measure in the rest of the United Kingdom but if I were asked to sign a declaration stating that I renounced terrorism and violence to promote my views, I should happily sign it. I cannot understand any member of a democratic institution having any difficulty about signing such a declaration. I hope that the Opposition's position on this will be explained by Opposition Members who have not yet spoken.

I know that other hon. Members want to speak in this debate, so I shall curtail my remarks with one final comment. The declaration is not a declaration against republicanism, which is an honourable political belief, provided that people do not seek to promote it through violence. The declaration is not against unionism or any other political position in Northern Ireland, but it is a limitation on fear, intimidation, violence and, even more importantly, on those who excuse violence. No democrat should ever, by implication or directly, seek to give succour or support to the terrorists and those who want to promote their views through violence.

8.44 pm
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

Normally, I have to stand here and condemn the fact that Northern Ireland legislation is being put through by order. It is a rare pleasure to be able to stand here and say that I welcome the procedure, as I can this evening. The legislation is being introduced through a Bill that we can amend—or at least try to—and through which we can explore the Government's intentions and discuss whether the measures will be effective in achieving those intentions. It will be possible for us to educate Ministers about the reality of life in the council chambers of Northern Ireland.

The House will be told—the Minister should already know—that some of my friends and colleagues who are members of councils in Northern Ireland have noticed that Sinn Fein members take careful notes of what is said when people are critical of the murders committed by the IRA and the actions of Sinn Fein and they wonder whether those people are taking careful notes to help the welfare of the Unionist who has made his views clear.

Hon. Members will be told in Committee of the remarks that are sometimes made against Unionist council members by Sinn Fein members in quiet corners of car parks. The knowledge of the House will be greatly increased by this educational process. I hope that the Bill will be considered by a Committee of the whole House, so that all Northern Ireland Members can take part in the debate and the Northern Ireland voice will be well represented.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) pointed out that Sinn Fein acts under the direction of the IRA. The House must be aware that in established states, military forces act under the direction of politicians. The IRA, like all terrorist organisations, has turned that democratic position on its head because it directs what its political mouthpieces shall say and do. It is my long-held view that those political mouthpieces can be trusted only when they themselves are members of the IRA.

The Opposition have not mentioned their amendment very frequently this evening. The amendment says that it declines to give a Second Reading". We have been told earlier that the Opposition decline so much that they will not vote for the Bill. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) will follow his voice with his feet through the Lobby and what the consequences will be if he dares to do that.

The amendment also says that the Bill is unnecessary because of existing legislation to deal with incitement to violence. I assume that if the Bill were unnecessary, it would not have been introduced. The fact that it has been implies that the present legislation is not sufficient to deal with the situation. The amendment is therefore factually incorrect.

The amendment then says that the Bill will increase sectarian conflict in Local Government". I should have thought that the main reason for sectarian conflict—which is really terrorist conflict—

Mr. Flannery

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ross

No. We are short of time and I want two other hon. Members, who have waited all afternoon, to have their chance to speak.

Mr. Flannery

The hon. Gentleman has missed out part of the amendment which explains what it says.

Mr. Ross

No doubt that point can be explained later by the Opposition Front Bench spokesman.

The IRA mouthpieces make sectarian conflict deeper by their mere presence and attitude. The amendment also says that the Bill will place the judiciary in an invidious position". Has anyone in the House forgotten the dead judges? Did they die because the IRA loved them? They became targets because they were applying the laws of the realm. That is the reality. Their position is as dangerous as it can be and the Bill will not make it worse. The amendment says that the Bill will not heal the divisions in Northern Irish society.

Mr. Terry Patchett (Barnsley, East)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ross

No, because other hon. Members wish to speak.

The reality is that the divisions in this society are made deeper by the misery that is caused by the activities of the IRA and by the failure of their spokesmen to condemn the murder—pure and brutal murder—of many people in the province of Ulster. That has gone on for many years. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) told us that one cannot defeat nationalist movements by such means, but he did not tell the House how nationalist movements are to be defeated if we do not try to stamp out violence. Nationalist movements that have free access to the electoral process and the right freely to express their point of view should not then resort to violence.

Mr. Patchett


Mr. Ross

No, I will not give way. I have already made that clear. The hon. Gentleman can have his say another time.

The reality is also that there is a British population in Northern Ireland and they have not been defeated by IRA violence in 20 years. Surely those people will not start being defeated by the IRA now or in the future.

The Bill is essentially a timid step in the right direction. When I was considering what I would say if I were lucky enough to be called this evening—which, of course, I have been—I thought back to the time when the D-day landings were being planned, when there was a lot of courage, resolution and long-term planning. The soldiers, sailors and airmen were the cutting edge of Government policy on that day and thereafter until the final victory was won in Europe. Theirs was not to reason why, but to accept that there was a general need to win the war and to dispose of the Nazi influence on the world.

However, here the Government are making local government councillors—who support the British connection—the cutting edge in the fight to get the IRA out of the council chambers. Frankly, on some occasions the Government will be inviting them to commit suicide. That is the reality and that is why the Government should take on the job themselves in the ways that have already been suggested.

We are here to reason why—that is the duty of Members of this House. However, we are also here to reason why the Government will not accept that duty, which I believe is one that they should gladly shoulder. We will go into this later in our proceedings on the Bill because it is something that we must thrash out and something on which we should make the Government change their mind.

My concern is how effective the Bill will be as presently constituted. Certain things in the Bill do little and there are certain things that should have been included in it because the IRA's present electoral success and terrorist experience did not just happen—

Mr. Patchett

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ross

No, I am not giving way.

It grew over the years—and it grew as a result of the Government's policy. If we are to cut down the IRA's strength and its electoral support, we should try to undermine the IRA politically as well as defeating it militarily. No doubt military solutions will be discussed tomorrow but today we are dealing with the political solutions. If we are ever to start understanding what must be done against the IRA, we must understand that, for the IRA, political victory would be a united Ireland.

It is only when hope of a united Ireland recedes as a practical possibility that those who seek it will be prepared to consider their future in the United Kingdom and play a constructive part in a Northern Ireland that is securely within that structure. If we are to weaken the IRA politically, it is absolutely essential that we cut the number of votes that it receives and the number of seats that it wins. Seeing its hope of ultimate victory recede will undermine the IRA quite a bit. However, that will have to be followed by action rather than words on the part of the Government.

There is another measure that has not been mentioned in the Bill, but which should have been. One of the best ways of getting a minority elected is to use the proportional voting system. That helps all minorities, including vicious minorities who can use pressure. The major parties in this House know that; that is why it is not used in any elections in this part of the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North drew attention to the by-election results in Belfast, West. The reality is that if there were a simple majority system in Northern Ireland, operated on a ward-by-ward basis, there would be few places in which Sinn Fein would have any real hope of getting elected. Until this House faces up to that and takes the steps which flow naturally from that knowledge, Sinn Fein will always get quite a lot of its people elected in hard-line areas. Those who deny that are simply displaying their ignorance of the voting patterns in Northern Ireland.

We must get rid of the system of proportional representation and the sooner the better. It will pay rich dividends in reducing the number of votes given to Sinn Fein and the number of Sinn Fein representatives who are elected. Nobody need tell me that Sinn Fein has only one elected Member here, because although that it is true I believe that he will eventually lose his seat if the SDLP pulls its socks up.

I welcome also the standing list being the same for all elections. I have been asking questions about that since as long ago as 1981, and possibly before. Absent voters should always be on the same list for all elections. There should be the same standing list for those who are permanently incapacitated and who cannot get out. I welcome that provision.

Many legislative changes are listed in the Bill. I wish that all the relevant legislation had been printed because that would have made the Bill more intelligible to all of us. We would not have had to search back—as we always do —through a dozen other Bills to find out exactly what is going on.

I am surprised to see that the Government have finally been forced to the point where they have to define what terrorism is. Time and time again I have sat in the House and heard hon. Members declaim against "mindless terrorist violence" and have winced every time that I have heard that. Quite honestly, there is no such thing as a "mindless" terrorist act. Sometimes terrorists do it wrong, but their actions are always planned and thought out. The terrorists always intend to have some advantage from it. Therefore, I am glad that the Government have now been converted to my point of view and believe that all terrorist acts have a political objective. Everyone in Northern Ireland will welcome that.

I have a serious objection to the extension of voting rights to foreigners. Quite a lot has been said about that this evening. The number does not matter to me. Some are Unionists—at least I hope that they are Unionists—because my rector and his wife will now get the vote and I hope that I can persuade the reverend gentleman and his good lady to cast their votes for me in the next election if I am fortunate enough to be the candidate for Londonderry, East. Although not all who will gain by this measure are Nationalists, naturally some are.

My objection is to the principle of foreigners voting in this country. When we go to the United States we do not expect to be given the vote there. We would have to become citizens of that country first. That is what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) did not understand. In most countries—in fact, in practically all —the right to vote and the right to elect a Government is tied to citizenship in that nation. That is a sound principle and one that we should accept right across the board.

I cannot understand why that principle has been consistently ignored in so far as voting rights are granted to Irish citizens in the United Kingdom generally. That is wrong. Many hundreds—perhaps millions—of citizens of the Irish Republic who are in this country vote here. Those people have deserted their nation in droves—tens of thousands have left the country over the years. That desertion reflects the lack of success of Irish republicanism in creating the viable entity of the island of Ireland.

Those people who have fled the Communist states of eastern Europe have been praised for getting out and have been held up as proof of a failed system of government in those nations. Irish Nationalists do not apply the same principle to the Republic—nor do supporters of the Republic— but it is valid. If it is valid for those who get out of East Germany and move to West Germany, it is valid for those who leave the Irish Republic, where there are no barriers, and come to the United Kingdom, where at least they can earn a decent living and send it back to their families. I am glad that the United Kingdom has done so well. I regret that the Irish Republic is not more successful because it must mean the end of many dreams for those who proclaimed that that nation would be heaven on earth.

I welcome these first timid steps, but I hope that they will go much further because more steps must be taken.

8.59 pm
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I want to make it absolutely clear that I totally support the principles underlined in the Bill and I believe that that support is shared by the overwhelming majority of the British people. It is an utter disgrace that the Labour party lacks the guts to defend local democracy and to support the Government today.

It is blindingly obvious to me that all elected representatives in a democracy, whether in Ulster, elsewhere in the United Kingdom or anywhere in the world, must defend that democracy and must denounce terrorism; otherwise they, as leaders of their communities, are party to attempts to overthrow their society and to undermine the democracy that they have been elected to support.

If I had any doubts about that, they were swept away earlier when the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spoke. I did not catch his words verbatim, but I believe that I heard him say that he knew of no one who believed in death and destruction as a way forward. The British people and I know of such people—the IRA—and I know nothing about them which supports the view of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield. Death and destruction appear to be the way in which the IRA seeks to move forward and change society. I have no hesitation in denouncing that approach to the future of our country and no one in the United Kingdom should have any such hesitation.

Many people have suggested that the Bill undermines democratic rights and that it seeks to restrict freedom of speech. That is absurd. The right to stand in elections in Ulster is not affected by the Bill. Even if it were, the principle of disqualification is already established in British law. It does not weaken democracy if one says that the insane cannot stand for election, nor does it weaken democracy if one says that a bankrupt should not be allowed to stand in an election.

The freedom to say or do what one likes is an essential of local government, but councillors are limited in what they can say or do. Councillors in the United Kingdom cannot libel one another, nor can they improperly spend public money, so the principle of limiting what councillors can say or do is already established. Sad though it is, the action being proposed today in principle is necessary and it has my support. I am pleased that the Government have said in the Bill that they believe that it is proper to require councillors to undertake to do or not to do certain things if elected. At some stage in the future, in another Bill, I hope that the Government will say it once again. I hope that they will also make it compulsory for councillors to undergo training and to agree to do so as a condition of election.

The Bill has my support in principle, but I am worried about some of its contents. First, the Bill limits itself to Ulster and by so doing makes Northern Ireland yet again more different from the rest of the United Kingdom. I am convinced that Ulster is an integral part of the United Kingdom and that the great majority of its citizens are as proud as I am to say that we are British. Every new law which singles out Northern Ireland makes it harder to achieve that unity of nations that is so important and to give Northern Ireland what it has every right to expect —the same system of local government as the rest of us enjoy.

Because I support the principles of the Bill, I urge the Government to consider extending it to the entire United Kingdom. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day), I would have no hesitation in signing such a declaration, and no one anywhere in the country should be in the least bit worried about it.

My second worry has also been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) and by the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). An error has been repeated in clause 1(1)(b)(ii) by continuing to allow some foreigners to vote in our elections. It does not just repeat a mistake—it goes further and allows more Irish citizens to vote, for among the 10,000 who have been mentioned must be a preponderance of Irish citizens. My hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford thought that it was odd; I believe that it is absolutely wrong and should be stopped. I have always believed that it is wrong to give certain foreigners special privileges here. After all, in almost no other country are we given special privileges. —nor should we expect them.

The events of the past few days have reinforced my belief. It is utter hypocrisy to refuse to hand over one of our most wanted terrorists while being only too willing to hop across the border and buy cheap petrol, claim our welfare benefits, set up home here and demand the right to vote. It is as though the Dublin policy has become to take with one hand and to punch us in the teeth with the other.

My third point relates to something that the Bill does not say. Nowhere in the Bill is there an attempt to repeal that part of our legislation which says that if a councillor does not turn up for six months his seat should be declared vacant. I am delighted that that is not to be changed. It should apply in Westminster, too. The electors of Belfast, West have no voice here, and more than 70 per cent. of those electors did not vote for the terrorist who could be here if he wished—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make such references to that person, whether he is sitting here or not. The hon. Gentleman is also going beyond the bounds of the Bill. I hope that he will return to it.

Mr. Wilshire

My argument is that the Bill should extend to all elections in Northern Ireland and to the rest of the United Kingdom the provision that if councillors do not occupy their seats for six months their seats are declared vacant.

I welcome the fact that the Government have acted, and I am happy to support the principles of the Bill, but I regret that such action has been necessary in our democracy. I am convinced that the Bill does not go far enough in some respects, and that it tackles some issues in a less than ideal way. I pledge my support for the Government's efforts to end the tragedy in Northern Ireland, and I commend them for deciding to act on these principles. When the Bill goes to Committee, I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will produce amendments to meet the reservations that I have expressed today.

9.8 pm

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead)

We have heard today the authentic voice of the Tory party in England, in the speech of the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) and in several others, towards the people of Ireland. Tomorrow the Irish media will reflect some of the bile that is clearly felt by some Conservative Members against the people of Ireland, and I have no doubt that they will weigh that in the balance when next considering the requests that the Government make of them from time to time.

Before coming to the main burden of my remarks, may I refer to the outrageous speech by the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), who I understand still considers himself to be a Liberal. He launched a shocking, gratuitous, illiberal attack on my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) when he was not in his place. I presume that the hon. Gentleman did not give notice that he would do so. Not only did it fly in the face of everything that the Liberal party previously stood for on the Irish question, but I suspect that it went more to the need to make a pitch for the constituency of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) than for any consideration of the questions that are before us. I oppose the measure, and I shall vote against it.

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman will know that in the heat of debate one cannot always be certain that hon. Members mentioned will be present. The hon. Gentleman is very good on insults about my speech. Would he care to pick up any of the points made by his hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and debate them as I did instead of confining himself to insults of the sort that he has been making?

Mr. Galloway

It appears that my remarks stung home. I can now understand why 60 Liberals found it necessary to found a new—or is it an old?—Liberal party at the weekend. The departures from Liberalism by the leader of the once Liberal party make the reason clear. I shall deal with some of the issues raised by the hon. Gentleman, although I have less time than he and I hope he will bear that in mind.

I intend to vote against Second Reading but not because I support terrorism, which is the indiscriminate use of violence against innocent people for political purposes. I certainly do not support terrorism. I make no bones about it: the time has come for Britain to go from Ireland. But that is not the reason for my intention to vote against Second Reading. The Bill strikes against the democratic theory and practice of our country and is yet another palliative being applied to the critical malaise which is a central problem in British life. Not only will the Bill not have the effect that its authors claim for it, but its application is part of a process that is diminishing all of us.

Like many hon. Members who have spoken, I am a little uneasy about oaths or declarations. There is something slightly medieval about them and their use in a modern democracy. It is utterly wrong in principle to require men and women to swear something that is not in their hearts. That is what we shall do if we press on with this measure. With the assistance of the excellent Library, I have been studying the 18th century struggle against the so-called 39 articles. That struggle was led by the great parliamentarian that I have quoted before in the House, Charles James Fox, a true Liberal in the finest traditions.

Those 39 articles were oaths required from dissenters from the established Church that they fully supported the established Church in all its works, liturgy and relationship to the state. They had to swear such oaths before they could be given jobs or permission to speak from pulpits or fulfil public duties in this country. Fox declared himself to be a friend to universal toleration". He argued that insistence upon these oaths when the state knew full well that the dissenters had no alternative to signing them and did not believe a word of what they were swearing meant that those being diminished most were the Crown, on whom the oath was taken, and the state, which required men to swear that which they did not believe.

This measure is also wrong in theory because. as has been teased out in the debate, very few hon. Members could say that they have an unequivocal attitude to all violence in pursuit of political objectives. Only a true pacifist in the House—there are few, if any, of them—could say that he has an unequivocal attitude to that. As with hon. Members, if I had been around in the 1930s and old enough to do so, I would have gone to Spain to fight for political objectives, to defend the Spanish republic. I would have fought in the last war to help defeat Hitler's Fascism.

Many Conservative Members support the use of violence for political objectives. In Afghanistan they support the Mujaheddin. They support such violence in Angola by their support for UNITA, and they support it in Nicaragua by their unequivocal support for the Contras. A Contra leader was touted around the Conservative party conference a few months ago. It is hypocrisy to require oaths, imposed by the majority in this House on Northern Ireland, that are based on ideas that are commonplace about other countries and other times.

This proposal is wrong in democratic practice, for if we know that those taking the oath do not mean what they are saying, what does it profit us to make them say it? What is gained by making men and women lie before they can seek elected office? Does any hon. Member believe that the electoral fortunes of these councillors will be affected by this? Sinn Fein regularly polls between 85,000 and 110,000 votes in the six counties. How many of the voters are going to the polls blissfully unaware of the relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA? It cannot be gainsaid that these councillors are elected in the first place because enough electors in Northern Ireland are voting for them and for no other reason.

We may not like the message that is thus delivered to us by those 100,000 citizens, but we shall gain nothing by trying to bar the door to the messenger by prescribing oaths designed to wish him away. We cannot sweep this critical Irish problem under the carpet of oaths, nor are we doing it justice by the succession of cosmetic stunts that have issued forth from the Government since the Prime Minister's edict in the summer.

That brings me to the last reason why I shall vote against Second Reading. The Bill is part of a process whose core is Britain's Irish problem, which is steadily diminishing civil liberties and the democratic process in this country as a whole. These proposals—the broadcasting ban that we discussed a few weeks ago, the abolition of the centuries old right to silence, the Prevention of Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Act, the burgeoning of the secret state, and the polishing of the secret state's machinery in Northern Ireland—are all in their own way leading us down the dismal route towards what we are becoming, the poor man's third-rate democracy in Europe.

Britain is paying a high price for its presence in Ireland through the lives of our young service men, many of them only teenagers, and through the treasure—billions of pounds of it—being expended from the Exchequer to maintain British rule. I believe that when history comes to be written it will be seen that perhaps the highest price that we have paid for maintaining our rule in Ireland is the extent to which our democracy has been steadily eroded.

9.17 pm
Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

I do not think that anyone can complain on this occasion that there has not been sufficient time for a full and comprehensive debate on Northern Ireland. It is often alleged that we debate Northern Ireland business at an inappropriate time of day and that insufficient time is allowed. The temper of the House today shows that if sufficient time is available we can discuss these highly charged and contentious issues in a manner more appropriate to this Parliament.

I appreciate that the Secretary of State tempted the bounds of order in his long opening speech. I shall try not to do the same myself. He gave us a broad-brush picture of the Government's approach to the problems of Northern Ireland and placed this legislation in the context of the overall Government approach to Northern Ireland. If I recall what he said properly, he referred to the need for fairness and justice, to the need for an effective response to terrorism and to the need to protect the rights of the community.

I think that I speak for all my parliamentary colleagues when I say that those are shared aspirations. They are not aspirations associated simply with one part of this House —they are shared by all right hon. and hon. Members no matter where in the House they sit—but the essence of the Labour party view and that of the SDLP is that the legislation does nothing to advance those aspirations. On the contrary, we believe that it fails to address the essential problems and in many ways will make those shared aspirations more difficult to fulfil. That is our basic charge against the Government.

No comments from the Opposition Front Bench are designed to offer succour to the advocates of terrorism or to the terrorists in the north of Ireland, but we must be absolutely clear when discussing issues in this House that we get the approach right. That approach must be designed to attack the root causes of the problems of terrorism and the reasons for the substantial electoral support for the supporters of violence. Unfortunately, this Bill and other hasty proposals introduced by the Government a few weeks ago have done nothing to address those essential points.

It is also not without significance that, with the exception of a few Government loyalists who obviously have an earnest desire to be members of the Committee and to ensure that the Government have a majority on it, there was a lukewarm response to the efficacy of the proposals. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) described the legislation as a limp, lukewarm, lifeless measure. While I do not agree with his conclusion on the need to strengthen the legislation, the way that he describes the Bill is apt and many hon. Members share his view.

Not only is the Bill limp, lukewarm and lifeless, but as the hon. Member for Belfast, East said, it will be ineffective. People who have carried out acts of terrorism and those who support terrorism will not be put off signing the declaration by the necessity to lie. They will wilfully and willingly sign it and ignore any consequences that may arise. I have great sympathy with the Government's dubiety in leaving the initiative to initiate prosecutions to the individual rather than the state taking responsibility for initiating prosecutions. There is cant and hyprocrisy in that part of the Government's argument which seeks to explain why the responsibility should be the individual's and not the state's.

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), the leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats—or whatever they call themselves at the moment—spent a great deal of time criticising my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), but very little time outlining the reasons why his party, which was noted for standing out against such measures in the past, is giving the Government full-blooded support for this legislation. I found it difficult to take the hon. Member for Yeovil's allegations of bias in favour of one section of the community in Northern Ireland on the part of the parliamentary Labour party and in particular its principal spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North.

Labour party policy, the position of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and my own position are quite clear. We do not seek to differentiate between one section of the community and another in Northern Ireland. We seek to ensure an even-handed approach with no discrimination against any part of the community in Northern Ireland. The policies that we support and the policies that we advance are designed to ensure that all members in the North of Ireland are treated equally in social and economic terms. We are certainly not biased in favour of one particular sector of the community.

Mr. Ashdown

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read my speech tomorrow, because I did not accuse the Labour party of bias. I said that the Labour party should have a care because many people are hearing the speeches of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and others who I recognise have to put their own views and those of the Labour party.

Mr. Galloway

The hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) did say that.

Mr. Ashdown

The hon. Gentleman, like others, can read the record tomorrow. I say that they should have a care because it now appears to many that it will be seen as biased, always in favour of the Nationalists. We frequently hear that the Labour party is opposed to the Government on this, but we do not hear what they are in favour of and that gives such an impression. The hon. Gentleman's views will certainly be read, and they are reassuring to me.

Mr. Marshall

If I misunderstood what the hon. Gentleman said, I apologise for the remarks that I made, but it is my clear recollection that he accused my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North of bias in favour of the Nationalist community in the North of Ireland. I wrote it down at the time, although I may have misheard or misunderstood him. I wrote down, "Bias to the Nationalists in the North of Ireland."

The hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) also displayed a lukewarm attitude towards the legislation. He used a different form of words, calling it "a timid step in the right direction." Knowing the hon. Gentleman, I dread to think what would be vigorous steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, he said that there was a need to defeat the supporters of violence—Sinn Fein, I presume —politically.

My understanding of defeating someone politically is that one enters into a debate, and if one lives in a democracy eventually the argument will be decided by the ballot box; but that is not what the hon. Gentleman suggested. He suggested that, as Sinn Fein was winning seats under the existing electoral system, one should alter the rules of the electoral game in order to defeat them politically—in other words, to defeat them not by democratic means but by gerrymandering.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the pursuit of such policies and initiatives led to the roots of the present trouble in the north of Ireland. We all have a vested interest in ensuring that the root causes of the present troubles are removed so that the basis for the views of terrorists and supporters of terrorism are eliminated once and for all.

Mr. William Ross

I may be wrong, but it was always my view that gerrymandering meant that electoral boundaries were deliberately drawn so as to give an electoral advantage to one party as against another. If the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall), the spokesman for the Labour party, is now saying that the first-past-the-post system is of itself in principle gerrymandering, may I take it that the Labour party is now totally committed to STV—the single transferable vote—in the United Kingdom elections?

Mr. Marshall

I was making no such allegations. Hon. Members will know that there are differing views in my own party about the kind of electoral system that should be pursued.

In a democracy, political change must come as a consequence of discussion and through the ballot box. It is in our interests to ensure that violence and its perpetrators do not succeed. We have a right to expect, and a duty to ensure, that those involved in violence for political ends are caught and sentenced with the fullest vigour of the criminal law. It is essential, however, that the perpetrators of violence are regarded as criminals. Many of them are pretty nasty individuals, but they are criminals nevertheless. The Government Chief Whip nods in agreement with that—I hope that he will nod with the same vigour when I make my next point. We must ensure that the action that we take does not bestow on terrorists and the groups who support them implicit recognition that their acts are different from those of any other criminals. If we fall into that trap, the consequences will be counter-productive, provide succour to the terrorists and enhance their claims to legitimacy in the eyes of some international opinion.

Unfortunately—I hope to have the Government Chief Whip's consent for this—the Government have fallen into that trap in recent months. Following the despicable acts of violence earlier this year, the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, decided that they had to be seen to be taking some action, no matter how ill conceived or badly put together it was. As a consequence of that hasty over-reaction, censorship of television broadcasting was introduced. The non-incriminating right of silence in a police station or a court has been removed, and we now have the third part of the trilogy—the declaration on violence.

Mr. Tom King

The hon. Gentleman says that the Bill is a hasty and ill-conceived reaction. It is the outcome of a consultation document that was published a year ago, but matters were under consideration well before that. The hon. Gentleman cannot associate the Bill with a reaction to the events of the past couple of months.

Mr. Marshall

The Secretary of State knows that I always regard him as a reasonable man, and I hesitate to cast doubt on his statement. It is not without significance that, after the Prime Minister became involved. the Bill was pushed to the top of the political agenda.

It is no wonder that terrorists and their supporters are jubilant. The introduction of censorship and the further curtailment of civil liberties is, in their eyes, vindication for their appalling actions. In propaganda terms, the Government hand them what they could never hope to obtain militarily—a scent and sense of victory.

I understand the feeling of revulsion that many ordinary, decent people in the North of Ireland and the remainder of the United Kingdom feel when they see the supporters of violence in positions of elected responsibility. We should never forget—this was the essential point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn)—that they were elected. Many ordinary, decent people living in the North of Ireland—the people for whom the legislation is supposed to be drawn—voted for them, not by coercion, because there is no coercion in the secrecy of the ballot booth, but willingly. No declaration or proscription will remove that electoral support. It can be undermined only by an acknowledgment of the Nationalist aspirations and a vigorous pursuit of polices designed to remove social and economic discrimination against the minority community.

I have recognised previously, and willingly recognise again, the Government's determination to pursue policies towards this end. I again emphasise that only in that way can the root causes of the present troubles be eliminated and the basis of the electoral support for the advocates of violence be removed. In this context, the declaration is an irrelevance. It is a sop which will not contribute one jot to the progress of peace or reconciliation. [Interruption.] I am always amazed that the silent members of the Government deem it necessary on occasions to be involved in idle chatter. Perhaps the silent servers of the House could be reminded of the need for silence.

I note with interest, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) has done, that in an article on 25 November in The Daily Telegraph the Under-Secretary of State set out his views—and, I presume, the Government's—on the need for the Bill. I promise not to repeat the points and sentences uttered by the hon. Member for Eastbourne, but the Under-Secretary of State concluded his article by stating: We cannot tolerate the exploitation of elective office by those who proclaim their support for terrorism without giving law-abiding councillors the right to challenge that". I believe that we would all say amen to that. One does not resolve the problem by having the declaration. It must be done through normal democratic methods—through discussion and, eventually, the ballot box. To repeat a point which I made, one does not remove the basis of support for the terrorists and their supporters by having the declaration.

In the same article, the Under-Secretary of State set out two reasons why the state will not initiate prosecutions. First—this is a gem—the hon. Gentleman argued that, if it were left to the DPP or the Attorney-General, it would call into question the political impartiality of the Law Officers. What does he think will happen to the political impartiality of the judges once they begin to consider these cases? Does he believe that both communities will accept that judges are impartial if they have to deal with these cases? That is nonsense. Inevitably, this will further damage the role of the courts in the eyes of both communities.

Secondly, the Minister's comment on the ability of witnesses to withstand intimidation was a cop-out. If that will apply if the state brings a prosecution, it will apply even more if a lone individual brings one. This again illustrates the cant and hypocrisy of the Government's position and implies tacit admission by the Government that the declaration will not work.

The Under-Secretary of State used expressions that seem to reveal surprise that his declaration was opposed. My final quotation from the Minister's statement is this: But surprisingly, it"— that is, the declaration— has vociferous opponents, including the Labour Party and John Hume's SDLP". I am sure that members of that party will be delighted to know that they belong to John Hume's SDLP. The next phrase should win a prize for someone: and much fashionable 'liberal' opinion". That is one for the record books. My understanding is that the use of the word "fashionable" is supposed to indicate a majority view of the word "liberal" but in case that point is lost the word "liberal" is put in inverted commas, so the meaning is doubly pejorative. Perhaps it is some new kind of grammar invented by the Under-Secretary.

The idea that the Government have advanced any substantive arguments in support of the Bill is fallacious. The Government's argument for the Bill, like the Minister's grammar, is flawed. The Bill will not work, it will not advance peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland; I urge the House to support the Opposition's reasoned amendment.

9.41 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

May I begin in a not too partisan way by praising the speeches of many of my hon. Friends, particularly those of my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), for Cheadle (Mr. Day), for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh) and for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), and that of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown).

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne felt that he was perhaps a little hard done by by my right hon. Friend who was a little concerned about our hon. Friend asking him a trick question. I had suggested to my right hon. Friend that he should be careful in replying because, in a way, there is a trick as this measure introduces residence qualifications in Northern Ireland which require people to have lived there for three months before they are entitled to vote, in contrast with the position here, where they have to be present on the specified date. That is because Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom with a land barrier, so we do not want people nipping across from another jurisdiction.

I must say to my hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford and for Spelthorne that, although I accept and understand their concerns about the problems of voting in the United Kingdom and the measures that we are introducing to bring the two parts of the United Kingdom into line, I hardly think that stopping Irish people voting in the United Kingdom would be a way of improving Anglo-Irish relations. It is important that we bring the jurisdictions together.

In this decade, three councillors and two council employees have been killed by terrorists and one councillor has been shot and injured. Of Sinn Fein's 58 councillors, 11 have been convicted of terrorist-type offences and a further three have faced or are facing charges. Six other councillors have also received convictions for scheduled offences.

Almost everyone accepts that there is a major problem caused by those in the district councils of Northern Ireland who openly support violence. Most, although not all, of those are members of Sinn Fein. As the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said: those who pursue the so-called joint strategy of the ballot and the bullet are guilty of both hypocrisy and complete incompatability with a democracy."—[Official Report, 10 November 1987; Vol. 122, c. 157.] In this debate the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe) and others have stated the nature of the problem as they have found it in blunt terms, born of their experience in local government in Northern Ireland. The hon. Members for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and for South Down (Mr. McGrady)—who are on the other side of the political divide—would, with their experience of district councils, concede that there is a problem. Indeed, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said so during a recent debate.

Most people in Northern Ireland and many outside it agree that the problem exists. Few, however, agree upon the steps that we should take to deal with it. Some—the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) is one—argue for proscription. Almost everyone, at some stage, argues for something to be proscribed. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has the UDA on his shopping list, but I do not know whether he intends to add Sinn Fein to it. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and his colleagues have repeatedly called for the proscription of Sinn Fein, but they have specifically excluded Loyalist organisations.

Whether Sinn Fein or the UDA is proscribed, a declaration will still be necessary for those who stand under different guises. Indeed, they have often stood under all sorts of guises. Selective proscription of individual organisations would be a nonsensical approach to the problem. It could not be made retrospective and councillors could claim that they were no longer members of the proscribed party. They could stand at elections under different party names. Therefore, even if proscription were ever to come about, there would still be a need for a declaration.

The very fact that the Government are accused by some hon. Members of going too far and by others of not going far enough shows the difficulty in achieving a correct balance between what is practicable and achievable and what is not. The measure is designed to deal with those who advocate violence once they are elected, but no more than that. It does not ban candidates because it is at elections that views can be canvassed. I know that the hon. Member for Yeovil has some doubts about that. However abhorrent to hon. Members, we believe that it is legitimate that candidates standing on a platform of violence should have some way of putting their views forward. Once the election is over, councillors must then abide by the political rules of a plural democracy; they must abide by the club.

The greatest concern of many hon. Members is that enforcement should be either by criminal prosecution brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions or by civil action brought by the Attorney-General. Most electoral law is enforced by civil means, and rightly so. If the witnesses are to be the main constituent of a case and the accused's peers—

Mr. Benn

The Minister has made an important statement—that when elected one has to abide by the rules of the club. He interpreted that to mean that someone could advocate a policy and be elected on it, but that once elected he could not continue to support that policy. Is that the rule of the club that the hon. Gentleman thinks to be equivalent to representative democracy?

Mr. Needham

Once someone is elected, he cannot say that if he loses a vote he will shoot people on their way home. He cannot advocate violence for political ends. That is wholly unacceptable.

The second point about whether the DPP or the Attorney-General brings the action—the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) picked me up on this point, and he is quite right—is that criminal cases and civil cases require different standards of proof. Only last week, there was the case of a rape victim who was awarded substantial civil damages, even though there had been no criminal prosecution. That is an example of the test in a civil action, which is the balance of probabilities succeeding, whereas the test of beyond reasonable doubt would not. I make no apology for that being the basis of civil actions being brought in such cases.

Thirdly, the Government are not in the business of lending terrorist supporters gratuitous propaganda points, as some Opposition Members seem to suggest. Whether an action is civil or criminal, if it is brought by the Attorney-General, it will be seen to have been instigated by the British Government. Furthermore, and most important, the Attorney-General has no capacity to monitor expressions of support for proscribed organisations or terrorism in Northern Ireland, and he would have to depend entirely on information given to him by others. Therefore, in our judgment, it is others who bring the actions.

I know that the argument is that those wishing to bring such actions may be deterred by cost or intimidation. As to intimidation, as I said, witnesses, rather than promoters, are most likely to be intimidated. Promoters can seek safety in numbers, or, no doubt in some instances, councils will bring actions.

Mr. McNamara

The hon. Gentleman said that the Attorney-General is in no position to monitor certain matters. How is the RUC in a position to monitor, for example, incitement, the wearing of uniforms and all the other matters in the kernel of the Bill?

Mr. Needham

I shall refer to the hon. Gentleman's points later.

The key point is that the Attorney-General relies on the information given to him by those who will become witnesses in a case. Therefore, it is not unreasonable that they themselves should be the promoters of such cases. If the argument is that it will lead to intimidation—and that argument has been put forward—the intimidation of witnesses is the problem of Northern Ireland, not the intimidation of the promoters of a case.

To advocate that the declaration will fail because intimidation will make it impossible for witnesses to testify as applicants in cases is a counsel of total despair. I ask those who advance such an argument whether they have so little faith in the continuing operation of civil justice in Northern Ireland that they suppose that nobody will bring cases. As hon. Members from Northern Ireland know well, many actions have been brought in recent years. which show that such pessimism is ill-founded. I am sure that there are many brave and determined people in Northern Ireland who, if the advocates of violence breach their declarations, will bring such actions in future.

On costs, it is perfectly possible for applicants to claim legal aid against the usual criteria. Of course, if councils bring well-founded actions, it will be a charge on the rates. The hon. Member for Yeovil asked me about parties and parties supporting councils. If parties support their councils in an action, that will no doubt be another way of getting around the cost problem.

Speaking at his annual conference last week, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said of Sinn Fein and the IRA: They are more Irish than the rest of us, they believe. They are the pure master race of Irish. They are the keepers of the holy grail of the nation. That deep seated attitude, married to their method, has all the hallmarks of undiluted fascism. They have also the other hallmarks of the fascist—the scapegoat—the Brits are to blame for everything even their own atrocities.

The hon. Member for Foyle is absolutely right—they are Fascists. I remind him, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) of what happened when democracy failed to stand up to Fascists. The arguments that we heard today from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and the hon. Member for Walton, who spoke about the 1640s or 1660s are no different in style from the arguments heard in the 1920s. But what were the arguments then? Bring Mussolini into the political process and he will change and become like us. Do not make martyrs of those who advocate violence. Treat them reasonably and they will behave reasonably. What happened? The leader of the Socialist party in Italy, Matteoti, was shot on the Parliament steps, in Rome. That was the way the Fascists behaved in Italy in the 1920s. If the hon. Gentleman is right about Fascism, these members should be treated as they are, as Fascists.

Mr. Heffer

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Needham

I do not wish to give way. I have only a few minutes to reply to the debate.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that the Bill was a farce and would worsen the sectarian bear pit of local government politics. Moreover, he said that Sinn Fein would welcome the Bill, although my quotation from Mr. Morrison went on to criticise the SDLP, claiming that the suggestion that the declaration would help Sinn Fein was nonsense. As to the hon. Gentleman's pejorative comments about a sectarian bear pit in the councils of Northern Ireland, he ignores those councils which are trying to run local services in a non-sectarian, bi-partisan efficient way, such as Derry, Dungannon, Fermanagh, and North Down councils. None is being run in a sectarian way.

What would the hon. Gentleman do? In a recent article in The Irish Times he said that he wishes to be the last Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and wants to see a united Ireland by consent. Yet what does he propose to do about the violence in Northern Ireland council chambers? He claims that the declaration is ill-thought out, hastily put together, pernicious and downright dangerous. No doubt that is why he is abstaining tonight. He also said of the declaration: Surely instead of arguing for the exclusion of Sinn Fein from the democratic process, the Government should be seeking to draw its members into electoral politics and away from the politics of the gun. As the reaction to the Enniskillen tragedy has shown, accountability to the electorate has already led to demands from within Sinn Fein that the worst excesses of the Provisional IRA be curbed. That is absolute nonsense. There is no conceivable example that Sinn Fein has changed its spots in any way.

As the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams) said in a recent article in Newsweek when talking about Sinn Fein's relationship with the IRA: We come from the same family. We draw water from the same well. The IRA's rule is armed political action, ours is unarmed political action. Yet the hon. Gentleman says that if we do anything we should rely on the criminal law. We are introducing this legislation because the criminal law does not do what we wish it to do. It does not stop people supporting the IRA. It does not meet the problems that we face in council chambers. Eighty-four per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland, including 20 per cent. of those claiming to support Sinn Fein, think that our proposals to. introduce a declaration against violence are right.

Local government is the bedrock on which democracy depends. This measure, together with the series of proposals I announced last week to make local government more accountable, more efficient and more competitive, show that the Government will do what they can to create conditions in which councils can perform their duties in a non-sectarian, efficient and open way. As President Kennedy said in 1963: The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened. This Bill deserves the support of the whole House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 195, Noes 291.

Division No. 7] [10 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cousins, Jim
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Crowther, Stan
Allen, Graham Cryer, Bob
Anderson, Donald Cummings, John
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cunliffe, Lawrence
Armstrong, Hilary Cunningham, Dr John
Ashton, Joe Darling, Alistair
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Barron, Kevin Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Battle, John Dewar, Donald
Beckett, Margaret Dixon, Don
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Dobson, Frank
Bermingham, Gerald Doran, Frank
Bidwell, Sydney Duffy, A. E. P.
Blair, Tony Dunnachie, Jimmy
Blunkett, David Eadie, Alexander
Boateng, Paul Evans, John (St Helens N)
Boyes, Roland Fatchett, Derek
Bradley, Keith Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Field, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Flannery, Martin
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Flynn, Paul
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Buchan, Norman Foster, Derek
Buckley, George J. Foulkes, George
Caborn, Richard Fraser, John
Callaghan, Jim Fyfe, Maria
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Galloway, George
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Canavan, Dennis George, Bruce
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Clay, Bob Golding, Mrs Llin
Clelland, David Gordon, Mildred
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Graham, Thomas
Cohen, Harry Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Corbett, Robin Grocott, Bruce
Corbyn, Jeremy Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Heffer, Eric S. Mowlam, Marjorie
Henderson, Doug Mullin, Chris
Hinchliffe, David Murphy, Paul
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Nellist, Dave
Holland, Stuart Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Home Robertson, John O'Brien, William
Hood, Jimmy O'Neill, Martin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Hoyle, Doug Patchett, Terry
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Pendry, Tom
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Pike, Peter L.
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Prescott, John
Hume, John Quin, Ms Joyce
Illsley, Eric Radice, Giles
Ingram, Adam Randall, Stuart
Janner, Greville Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
John, Brynmor Reid, Dr John
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Richardson, Jo
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Robinson, Geoffrey
Lamond, James Rogers, Allan
Leadbitter, Ted Rooker, Jeff
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lewis, Terry Rowlands, Ted
Livingstone, Ken Sedgemore, Brian
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Sheerman, Barry
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Loyden, Eddie Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McAllion, John Short, Clare
McAvoy, Thomas Skinner, Dennis
Macdonald, Calum A. Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
McFall, John Snape, Peter
McGrady, Eddie Soley, Clive
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Spearing, Nigel
McKelvey, William Steinberg, Gerry
McLeish, Henry Stott, Roger
McNamara, Kevin Strang, Gavin
McTaggart, Bob Straw, Jack
McWilliam, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Madden, Max Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Turner, Dennis
Mallon, Seamus Wall, Pat
Marek, Dr John Walley, Joan
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Wareing, Robert N.
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Martlew, Eric Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Maxton, John Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Meacher, Michael Wilson, Brian
Meale, Alan Winnick, David
Michael, Alun Worthington, Tony
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Wray, Jimmy
Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Tellers for the Ayes:
Morgan, Rhodri Mr. Frank Haynes and
Morley, Elliott Mr. Ken Eastham.
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Adley, Robert Bellingham, Henry
Alexander, Richard Bendall, Vivian
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Allason, Rupert Benyon, W.
Alton, David Bevan, David Gilroy
Amess, David Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Amos, Alan Body, Sir Richard
Arbuthnot, James Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boscawen, Hon Robert
Ashby, David Boswell, Tim
Ashdown, Paddy Bottomley, Peter
Atkins, Robert Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Baldry, Tony Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Brazier, Julian
Batiste, Spencer Bright, Graham
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Beggs, Roy Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hordern, Sir Peter
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Howard, Michael
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Burt, Alistair Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Butler, Chris Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Howells, Geraint
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Carrington, Matthew Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Cartwright, John Hunter, Andrew
Chapman, Sydney Irvine, Michael
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Irving, Charles
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jack, Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Jackson, Robert
Conway, Derek Janman, Tim
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cope, Rt Hon John Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Cormack, Patrick Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Curry, David Key, Robert
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Kilfedder, James
Davis, David (Boothferry) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Day, Stephen King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Dorrell, Stephen Kirkhope, Timothy
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knapman, Roger
Durant, Tony Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Dykes, Hugh Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Emery, Sir Peter Knowles, Michael
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Knox, David
Evennett, David Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Latham, Michael
Fallon, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lee, John (Pendle)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fishburn, John Dudley Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fookes, Miss Janet Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Forman, Nigel Lilley, Peter
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lord, Michael
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Forth, Eric Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Sir Marcus Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Freeman, Roger MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Fry, Peter Maclennan, Robert
Gardiner, George McLoughlin, Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Gill, Christopher McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Glyn, Dr Alan Madel, David
Goodlad, Alastair Malins, Humfrey
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mans, Keith
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Maples, John
Gow, Ian Marland, Paul
Gower, Sir Raymond Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mates, Michael
Gregory, Conal Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Grist, Ian Meyer, Sir Anthony
Ground, Patrick Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Grylls, Michael Miller, Sir Hal
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Mills, Iain
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Miscampbell, Norman
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, David Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Sir Charles
Hawkins, Christopher Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hayward, Robert Moss, Malcolm
Heathcoat-Amory, David Moynihan, Hon Colin
Heddle, John Neale, Gerrard
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Needham, Richard
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Nelson, Anthony
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Neubert, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholls, Patrick
Hind, Kenneth Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Holt, Richard Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Oppenheim, Phillip Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
Page, Richard Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Paice, James Sumberg, David
Paisley, Rev Ian Summerson, Hugo
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Patnick, Irvine Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Temple-Morris, Peter
Porter, David (Waveney) Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Portillo, Michael Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Powell, William (Corby) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Raffan, Keith Thorne, Neil
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Thornton, Malcolm
Redwood, John Thurnham, Peter
Renton, Tim Townend, John (Bridlington)
Rhodes James, Robert Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Riddick, Graham Tracey, Richard
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Tredinnick, David
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Twinn, Dr Ian
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Roe, Mrs Marion Waddington, Rt Hon David
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Walden, George
Rost, Peter Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Rowe, Andrew Wallace, James
Ryder, Richard Waller, Gary
Sackville, Hon Tom Ward, John
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Sayeed, Jonathan Warren, Kenneth
Scott, Nicholas Watts, John
Shaw, David (Dover) Wells, Bowen
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Wheeler, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Whitney, Ray
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Widdecombe, Ann
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wiggin, Jerry
Shersby, Michael Wilshire, David
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winterton, Mrs Ann
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wolfson, Mark
Speller, Tony Wood, Timothy
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Woodcock, Mike
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Yeo, Tim
Squire, Robin Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steel, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Noes:
Steen, Anthony Mr. David Lightbown and
Stern, Michael Mr. Alan Howarth.
Stevens, Lewis

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment. on Second or Third Reading):— —

The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 41.

Division No. 8] [10.14 pm
Adley, Robert Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Alexander, Richard Benyon, W.
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bevan, David Gilroy
Allason, Rupert Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Alton, David Body, Sir Richard
Amess, David Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Amos, Alan Boscawen, Hon Robert
Arbuthnot, James Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bottomley, Peter
Ashby, David Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Ashdown, Paddy Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Atkins, Robert Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Baldry, Tony Brazier, Julian
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Bright, Graham
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Batiste, Spencer Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Beggs, Roy Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Bellingham, Henry Burt, Alistair
Bendall, Vivian Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Jack, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Jackson, Robert
Carrington, Matthew Janman, Tim
Cartwright, John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Chapman, Sydney Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Key, Robert
Conway, Derek Kilfedder, James
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Cope, Rt Hon John King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Cormack, Patrick Kirkhope, Timothy
Curry, David Knapman, Roger
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Davis, David (Boothferry) Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Day, Stephen Knowles, Michael
Dorrell, Stephen Knox, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Durant, Tony Lang, Ian
Dykes, Hugh Latham, Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Lawrence, Ivan
Evennett, David Lee, John (Pendle)
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Fallon, Michael Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lilley, Peter
Fishburn, John Dudley Lord, Michael
Fookes, Miss Janet Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Forman, Nigel Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) McCrindle, Robert
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S) Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Forth, Eric MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman Maclean, David
Fox, Sir Marcus Maclennan, Robert
Freeman, Roger McLoughlin, Patrick
French, Douglas McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gardiner, George Malins, Humfrey
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mans, Keith
Gill, Christopher Maples, John
Goodlad, Alastair Marland, Paul
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Gow, Ian Mates, Michael
Gower, Sir Raymond Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Gregory, Conal Miller, Sir Hal
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Mills, Iain
Grist, Ian Miscampbell, Norman
Ground, Patrick Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grylls, Michael Moate, Roger
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Monro, Sir Hector
Hanley, Jeremy Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, John Morrison, Sir Charles
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Moss, Malcolm
Harris, David Moynihan, Hon Colin
Haselhurst, Alan Neale, Gerrard
Hawkins, Christopher Needham, Richard
Hayward, Robert Nelson, Anthony
Heathcoat-Amory, David Neubert, Michael
Heddle, John Nicholls, Patrick
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hind, Kenneth Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Oppenheim, Phillip
Holt, Richard Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hordern, Sir Peter Pge, Richard
Howard, Michael Paice, James
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Paisley, Rev Ian
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Patten, John (Oxford W)
Howells, Geraint Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Powell, William (Corby)
Irvine, Michael Raffan, Keith
Irving, Charles Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Redwood, John Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Renton, Tim Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Rhodes James, Robert Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Riddick, Graham Temple-Morris, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Roe, Mrs Marion Thorne, Neil
Ross, William (Londonderry E) Thornton, Malcolm
Rossi, Sir Hugh Thurnham, Peter
Rost, Peter Townend, John (Bridlington)
Ryder, Richard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sackville, Hon Tom Tracey, Richard
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Tredinnick, David
Sayeed, Jonathan Twinn, Dr Ian
Scott, Nicholas Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shaw, David (Dover) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Walden, George
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wallace, James
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Ward, John
Shersby, Michael Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Skeet, Sir Trevor Warren, Kenneth
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watts, John
Speller, Tony Wells, Bowen
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W) Wheeler, John
Squire, Robin Whitney, Ray
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Widdecombe, Ann
Steel, Rt Hon David Wiggin, Jerry
Steen, Anthony Wilshire, David
Stern, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stevens, Lewis Wood, Timothy
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Yeo, Tim
Stewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Sumberg, David Tellers for the Ayes:
Summerson, Hugo Mr. David Lightbown and
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. Alan Howarth.
Abbott, Ms Diane Hume, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Lamond, James
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lewis, Terry
Battle, John Livingstone, Ken
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Loyden, Eddie
Bermingham, Gerald McAllion, John
Boateng, Paul Madden, Max
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Buchan, Norman Mallon, Seamus
Canavan, Dennis Meale, Alan
Clay, Bob Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Nellist, Dave
Cohen, Harry Patchett, Terry
Corbyn, Jeremy Pike, Peter L.
Cryer, Bob Sedgemore, Brian
Duffy, A. E. P. Skinner, Dennis
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Wall, Pat
Flannery, Martin Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Galloway, George Wray, Jimmy
Gordon, Mildred
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Tellers for the Noes:
Heffer, Eric S. Mr. Chris Mullin and
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Mr. Eddie McGrady.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).