§ 3.49 p.m.
TILE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEFENCE, R.A.F. (LORD WINTER-BOTTOM)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. When the House discussed the Police Bill last week my noble friend the Lord 310 Privy Seal and Leader of the House reminded your Lordships of the very full and valuable discussion of the situation in Northern Ireland that took place a few weeks ago in your Lordships', House; and he recalled the circumstances in which both that Bill and the one before us to-day were conceived, following the report of the Advisory Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. It is a measure of the weight which the Government, and I believe the whole country, attach to the Committee's work that not only have the main recommendations of their Report been accepted, both by the United Kingdom Government and by the Government of Northern Ireland, but they have been followed within two months by two Bills to give effect to them.
The Bill which is before your Lordships this afternoon authorises Her Majesty to establish and maintain a part-time military force for service in Northern Ireland. Command of the Armed Forces is the prerogative of the Crown, and thus there are a number of matters with which this Bill does not deal, notably the tasks of the new force, its organisation and the pay and detailed conditions of service of its members. Legislation confines itself broadly to granting authority to the Crown to raise a force, and to establishing its discipline, and prescribing the conditions in which it may be used. Thus the Bill does not give a comprehensive account of the new force, and it was for this reason that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence presented a White Paper on November 12 which gave a detailed account of his proposals. In the light of that White Paper, I believe that it will be unnecessary for me to detain noble Lords with a general description of the proposed force. Discussion in another place and public comment generally have however concentrated on certain key issues, mainly related to Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill, and to these issues I should like to draw your Lordships' attention.
Clause 1(1) prescribes the title of the force. It has been suggested, I know, that the word" Ulster" is inappropriate. My Lords, let us be quite clear that there is no deep constitutional significance in this. Of course we all know that Ulster has nine counties and not six. But the new force is to be a part of the Army, 311 and Army units have used and continue to use the word "Ulster" in their titles. Many of them have been formed since the partition of Ireland. Among reserve units, there is, for instance, the 40th (Ulster) Signal Regiment, which was formed in 1967. It has been the practice, when forming new units, to incorporate names which have been used before and, in using the word "Ulster" on this occasion, we are simply following this practice.
My Lords, Clause 1(1) of the Bill also provides for the force to have a numerical ceiling; and, as the White Paper explains, this ceiling will be 6,000 officers and men. The Report of the Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, did of course suggest a strength of about 4,000, but the Committee did not have the time or the means to go into this in detail. After most careful consideration of this point, we have concluded that a ceiling of 4,000 would be too low. This does not mean that we shall aim at recruiting 6,000 immediately: the figure of 6,000 is a ceiling and not a target. It would however, be very foolish to handicap ourselves with a ceiling which there is a good reason to believe may be too low. Noble Lords will not expect me to go into the details of our calculation of the figure of 6,000. One consideration to which I would refer, however, is that in a part-time force it is impracticable to expect a man to turn out for duty too often. This means that it is essential to have enough manpower.
Having discussed the size of the force, I should now like to say something about its task. As stated in the White Paper, this will be to support the regular forces in Northern Ireland, should circumstances so require, in protecting the border and the State against armed attack and sabotage. It will fulfil its role by undertaking guard duties at key points and installations, by carrying out patrols and by establishing check points and road blocks when required to do so. I must emphasise that it is not the intention to employ the new force on crowd control or riot duties in cities. The need for such a force in Northern Ireland is, regrettably, all too apparent against the backcloth of a history of violence and terrorism. The Hunt Report referred to 312 this and to the more recent campaign of terrorism from 1956 to 1962 when several hundred raids were made, including thirty on police stations.
This year there have been a number of attacks on public utility installations in Northern Ireland. Several of these were mentioned recently in another place. I repeat them now to emphasise the need for an effective defence force. There was the attack on March 30 on the electricity sub-station at Castlereagh, when two transformers were damaged by explosion; there were two separate attacks on April 20, when an electricity pylon at Kilmore was severely damaged, and the main supply from the Silent Valley reservoir was broken by explosives which broke two pipes of 30 inches in diameter; then on April 24 a 48-inch water pipe was blown up at Dunadry.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, for the benefit of those who are not so well informed as the noble Lord, would he agree that the attacks between 1956 and 1962 were known to be the work of the I.R.A.? The attacks this year appear to be the work of very different extremists.
LORD WINTER BOTTOM
My Lords, I suppose that General Freeland will be very glad to know exactly who caused these outrages. Nevertheless, from wherever the extremists come, these points have to be defended. That is the object of this Bill.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, could the noble Lord make clear that they do not come from the Republic of Ireland, that they come from within the Six Counties?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, no; I cannot make that clear.
To resume what I was saying, quite apart from any cold assessment of the possibility of terrorist attacks, there is, as the Hunt Report pointed out, a very real fear of them, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken, and are seen to be taken. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government and of the Government of Northern Ireland that it is essential that the threat should be met by a properly constituted military force, trained specifically for its task and under military control and discipline. This is not a task for the police, or for a reserve 313 police force such as the Ulster Special Constabulary, despite the considerable part that that force has played in helping to deal with past campaigns of terrorism.
The essential characteristic of a military force is its subjection to military law. This distinguishes it from any other body of citizens. For although codes of discipline exist in many walks of life that serve the community—for example, the police, the Civil Service, and the medical profession—the discipline of the Armed Forces is not only more rigorous and more comprehensive than any other, but it alone is enforced by penal sanctions. The extent to which military law should apply to members of a part-time force is thus a question to be considered with care.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene? One of the clauses of this Bill puzzles me. Will he be good enough to indicate where in the Bill before the House provision is made for this new force to be made subject to military law? In other words, at what point in the Bill are those who serve in it made amenable to the conditions of the Army Act?
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, may I suggest that this is a very important Committee point; and I propose to say more about it later.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, with respect, this is surely not a Committee point; it is fundamental. If the case for the Government is that the new force is part of the regular forces and subject to military law, then the Army Act 1955, as amended, must apply. There is no provision in the Bill at all for that to happen, and I am completely puzzled by it.
§ LORD WINTERBOTTOM
My Lords, my noble friend who is to reply tells me that he will deal with this point. But I think that if the noble Lord studies the Bill a little more carefully he will see that this is not forgotten.
As I was saying, the extent to which military law should apply to members of a part-time force is thus a question to be considered with care. In general, the pattern is that officers are subject to military law at all times, but that other ranks are subject only when called out for service or undergoing training. That is the pattern that was established for- 314 merly for the Territorial Army, and now for the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve; and Clause 1(2) of the Bill applies the same provisions to the Ulster Defence Regiment. I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord to a certain extent.
There is, however, one significant departure from the traditional pattern to which I should call your Lordships' particular attention. Much concern has been expressed about the practice of the Ulster Special Constabulary in keeping arms and ammunition at home. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary, in an apt phrase which has been widely quoted, said that there are too many guns about in Northern Ireland; and the Report of the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, criticised the general issue and carrying of firearms by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is certainly not the practice for members of our Armed Forces to keep arms and ammunition at home, at any rate in peace time; but my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence recognises that there will be times and places, particularly in remote rural areas of Northern Ireland, where the central storage of arms will be incompatible with operational efficiency if the force is to be capable of quick reaction to a sudden emergency. He intends, however, that the possession of arms at home shall be very closely controlled; and there are two ways in which this will be done.
First, my honourable friend the Minister of Defence for Administration made clear, while the Bill was in Committee in another place, that permission to keep arms at home would be given only by an officer authorised to call the force out for emergency service under Clause 2(2) of the Bill. Second, Clause 1(2)(b)(ii) of the Bill provides that when a member of the force is in possession of military arms and ammunition, he is subject to military law, whether he is on duty or not. This is a most important safeguard, because it means that members of the force in this situation do not merely have a duty to look after such arms (and in this context it has often been said that the Ulster Special Constabulary had a remarkable record in the safe custody of arms; there is no complaint on this score) but are answerable under military law for the use to which 315 they put them. In these conditions the irresponsible, negligent or disobedient use of arms, even if it had no serious consequence in itself, would be liable to penalties of imprisonment. By this means we are confident that, so long as it continues to be necessary for some members of the force to keep some arms at home, their number will be severely limited, and their use strictly controlled.
My Lords, one of the principal matters which the Bill determines is the liabilities for service which members of the force undertake. There are three distinct liabilities, set out in subsections (2), (3) and (4) of Clause 2. The last two will be familiar to noble Lords who are conversant with the affairs of the Reserve Forces; they are liabilities for permanent service in circumstances, broadly speaking, of general war, which are shared by all members of the Regular Army Reserve and the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve, though in the case of the Ulster Defence Regiment the liability is only for service in Northern Ireland. Actual or apprehended attack on the United Kingdom, covered by subsection (3), is generally considered to mean a warlike act by another Power, and is to be distinguished, for example, from raids across the frontier by the I.R.A. Imminent national danger, to which subsection (4) refers, is declared by Order of Her Majesty, and is also considered to apply in the context of general war, though it might conceivably be invoked in circumstances of natural disaster. Neither of these liabilities is specifically directed to the tasks for which this force is designed. It is desirable that they should apply to members of the force, however, because they are nationwide liabilities addressed to circumstances—which we must all hope will not occur—in which all the resources of disciplined manpower will be mobilised. But the special circumstances in which this force is designed to operate are covered by the liability in subsection (2).
There are important implications in the wording of this subsection to which I must direct your Lordships' attention. The first is that the authorised officer (and I should like to discuss the question of authorisation in a minute) may call out the force, 316if, and for so long as, it appears to that officer to be necessary or expedient.This gives the authorised officer unhampered discretion in the exercise of his own judgment. We are thinking here not of crises on a national scale, but of local emergencies, involving a few men for a short space of time. Speed of reaction is essential, and to achieve it the process of call-out must be simple and swift. The formula to which the authorised officer must address his mind is,the defence of life or property in Northern Ireland against armed attack or sabotage.…This is designed to emphasise two complementary aspects of the force's role; it is not intended to be used in crowd control or riot duties, and it is designed to meet what the Hunt Report described as "the threat of armed guerilla-type attacks". The formula is also qualified by the words "whether actual or apprehended". The authorised officer must be free to use initiative. In local, irregular operations of this kind, or sporadic incursions, intelligence is sometimes defective, and sometimes timely action prevents a threat from materialising. The power to call out the force will not be hampered by having to wait until something has actually gone wrong.
Noble Lords may well feel from this brief account that the power to call out the force for emergency service is very wide. It is important that there should be safeguards against the indiscriminate use of such a power. These safeguards are provided in subsection (1) which deals with the authorisation of officers. First, the power to authorise stems from my right honourable friend, so that the use of this power is accountable to him, and through him to Parliament. Second, authority can be given only to officers of the regular forces, who will be fully integrated in the military chain of command. Third, they must not be below the rank of major. Fourth, such authority may be made subject to limitations—we are thinking here of limitations in respect of the units a given officer may call out, or the area his responsibility covers, or the period during which he may exercise his power. In this way we have tried to ensure that the force can be called out in fulfilment of its tasks quickly and effectively but without any sacrifice of constitutional responsibility or military control. 317 My Lords, I should now like to say something about enlistment into the Ulster Defence Regiment. As is explained in the White Paper, enlistment will be open to all male citizens of good character of the United Kingdom and Colonies normally resident in Northern Ireland, whatever their denomination or faith. Her Majesty's Government will do their utmost to see that this objective is achieved. Enlistment into the Ulster Defence Regiment will be entirely the responsibility of the Army. Application forms, for which the detailed provision will be made in the Regulations to be laid before the House when the Bill becomes law, will be available from January 1 to all sections of the community. There will be as many distribution points as possible—post offices, public libraries, Army recruiting offices, Regular Army and T. & A.V.R. units, police stations and so on. All completed application forms will be sent direct by the applicants to Headquarters, Northern Ireland. Every application will then be dealt with, in exactly the same way, under the arrangements of the General Officer Comanding, Northern Ireland, and on the lines of the general procedure for enlistment into the Army.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House by going into the detail of the normal Army enlistment procedures; but, since the noble Lord, Lord Byers, drew attention on November 12 to the important question of security vetting, it may be the wish of your Lordships that I should say a further word about this particular matter. Security screening will be an essential and integral part of the enlistment process. The object will be to ensure as far as possible that the applicant for enlistment is of good character, is not himself an extremist or an active supporter of any extreme political or religious group, and is likely to act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. The suitability of all applicants will be checked against all information available to the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland. He will also have the assistance of members of the Army security vetting organisation, who will supplement his own resources and, in particular, will undertake such personal inquiries as may be necessary. The decision on the individual applica- 318 tions will be vested solely in the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland.
Her Majesty's Government will do all they can to see that the Ulster Defence Regiment is representative of the community of Northern Ireland as a whole. There will, therefore, be no automatic transfer to the Regiment of the present members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. Their applications will be dealt with on their merits and all will be subject to the same degree of scrutiny.
Recruitment publicity will be directed towards all sections of the Northern Ireland community. In addition, in order to make doubly sure that the interests of the minority community are fully protected in this context, General Sir John Anderson, who is the Colonel Commandant designate of the Ulster Defence Regiment, will be taking special steps to make contact with leaders of the minority community with a view to encouraging its members to apply to join the Regiment—and especially ex-Servicemen because they can the more readily become immediately effective. Arrangements will, of course, be made to check the recruitment performance during the period of the build-up.
Her Majesty's Government have decided that there will be advantage in making available to the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, a source of advice on the administration of the Ulster Defence Regiment, especially on recruitment policy. Accordingly, as part of the administrative arrangements for the new force, an Advisory Council will be set up in Northern Ireland with appropriate terms of reference. It is not intended that this should be a very large body. The aim will be to obtain the services of a suitable number of persons of experience and standing who will be representative of all shades of responsible opinion in Northern Ireland.
As I have said, the responsibility for the Ulster Defence Regiment will be vested solely in the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland; but his Advisory Council will have an important part to play, for example, in helping him in his recruitment campaign, advising on mothods of improving recruitment in difficult areas or in minority communities, advising on regimental matters, and generally helping to encourage confidence 319 in and understanding of the new force among the people of Northern Ireland as a whole. Your Lordships will, I am sure, understand that I am not able this afternoon to say more about the composition of the Advisory Council, but an appropriate announcement will be made as soon as is practicable.
My Lords, the Bill before us to-day is a short and simple measure, drafted on traditional lines, to establish a small, part-time military force. Some may see the force as an unimaginative off-print of the Reserve Army; others may hold that it is only the B Specials in another guise. Opinion on this subject is strong, divisions are deep, and too often fear and prejudice close men's minds to argument. But it is our belief that the Ulster Defence Regiment will convince the people of Northern Ireland that it serves their interests loyally, efficiently and impartially, and represents them all. To do this it need do no more than show, in fact as well as in name, that it is a regiment of the British Army. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Winterbottom.)
§ 4.12 p.m.
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for the clear way in which he has introduced this Bill to your Lordships this afternoon. It is my intention to be fairly brief, and I should like to say straight away and without equivocation that we on these Benches, who have given our support to the Government's general approach to the razor-edge problems of Northern Ireland, support this specific measure. As I see it, it stems in line direct from the Report of Lord Hunt's Advisory Committee. That Report was endorsed, with a striking degree of unanimity, by your Lordships in the debate in mid-October, and since I did not have the opportunity to participate in that debate I should like now, if I may. to nay my tribute to that Report from the noble Lord and his associates—a striking Report, going very much to the root of the matter which they were asked to look into and produced with striking speed.
On the question of speed, I note that we are, it would seem, being asked to 320 take this Bill with a very fair degree of speed, since I believe that the Committee stage, and indeed all the other stages, are down for this coming Thursday. I realise that we should get on with this matter but, given the interest in it which the number of speakers would seem to betoken, I wonder whether we are in fact not taking it a little too swiftly. But we can come to that later.
My Lords, one consequence of Lord Hunt's Report, the Police Bill, received its Second Reading here last week. It was welcomed by my noble friend Lord Derwent. The Bill before us this afternoon is a second consequence, another pendant of the Hunt Report, and it is therefore only logical and also right for me to welcome it. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has explained the reasoning behind this Bill and the creation of the new force, and in essence it seems to me to rest on four linked principles. In the first place, there is the sad fact that, for historical reasons of which we are all aware, the problems of internal peace and of internal security in Northern Ireland are, in the terms of the noble Lord's Report, "peculiarly difficult". We have only to remember the tragic disturbances of the early 'twenties, the I.R.A.'s terrorist attacks in the late 'fifties and the early 'sixties, and indeed the acts of sabotage earlier this year, from wherever they came. As the Committee themselves stated—and I quote their words:—although the threat of terrorist attacks may not be great, the fear of them is very real, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken and are seen to be taken.Secondly, my Lords, there is the recognition that, while the final responsibility for military security should rest with the Regular Army and vest in Westminster, it is equally right that the deep and legitimate interests of the Stormont Government and of the people of Northern Ireland in their own security and protection should receive due recognition. It would not be right, in my view at least, even if it were practicable over a long period of time to rely exclusively on our regular forces stationed in Northern Ireland. There is "great merit", to quote again the words used by the Hunt Committee,in the continuing presence of a local force, with local knowledge, capable of being at instant readiness …321 But, my Lords, if that is so, I think we should all subscribe to the third principle: that such a force, whose job it will be to deal with military problems—the defence of key points, coping with guerrilla and terrorist attacks, and so on—should not also have police duties thrust upon it. That is why we on these Benches welcome the decision to relieve the Royal Ulster Constabulary of its military duties. That is why we welcomed last week, in the debate on the Police Bill, the establishment of a purely Police Reserve to support the Royal Ulster Constabulary in those duties. And, by the same token, that is why we welcome the decision to establish this local force, the Ulster Defence Regiment, with purely military duties, under the command of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, as an integral part of our Regular Army, with a strong admixture of Regular Army personnel—officers. N.C.Os., civilians and the like—subject to the authority of the Secretary of State for Defence and, ultimately, the control of Parliament.
Having said that, I should like to go on to pay my tribute to the way in which the Royal Ulster Constabulary—and, let me add, the Ulster Special Constabulary—have over the years discharged their responsibilities. They have had appalling difficulties to face. They have been burdened with an unduly heavy burden of roles—that dichotomy of the military and the police role—and although some can understandably criticise the conduct of a minority, no one can doubt or has the right to question the patriotism or devotion of the great majority of that force.
My Lords, I should like now to turn briefly to the organisation of the new force, the Ulster Defence Regiment, with which the noble Lord has dealt in some detail. He mentioned the question of its title—a matter which gave rise to a very long discussion in another place. It is not for me, of course, to say that there is not, or cannot be, a lot in a name. I remember very vividly being on the wrong end of a long argument in your Lordships' House five or six years ago over the fairly short word, "Admiralty". I must say that I was secretly rather pleased at the result, although I would have assured my noble friend Lord Thorneycroft, had he still been in the House, that I did my best 322 for him. On this particular title, all I can say is that I do not feel passionately either way, although I fully recognise that others do. My own feeling, however, is that, the Government having chosen this particular title, it would be a mistake for them to go looking for another one now.
So far as size is concerned, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, recommended a force of some 4,000 men; and the Government, as the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, has explained, have chosen a ceiling of 6,000. As he also explained, this figure was the offspring of a Joint Working Party, representing Westminster and Stormont, and both civilian and military. I referred earlier to the Hunt Committee's strong urge that the fears of the population of Northern Ireland about their security are real. If we accept this view, we should not, I believe, skimp on numbers.
But of course, the fears of those in Northern Ireland are twofold. On the one hand, the Protestant community fears a recrudescence of I.R.A. or other terrorism. On the other hand, there are those in the Catholic community who fear that the new Regiment may be only the old B Specials writ more efficient. It is clear that in its initial stages the Regiment will need to draw heavily for recruitment on the present members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. It is equally clear that there are some members of the present B Special force whom the new force will be best without, if it is to win the confidence of moderate Catholic opinion, as indeed it must. But the guarantees here which the noble Lord explained seem adequate to me. The negative side of the coin, the necessary, albeit limited, exclusion process, can safely be left to the military—from the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, downwards—in whom the responsibility for recruiting is firmly vested.
But it is the positive aspect of recruitment which may be more intractable here. Many of the Northern Ireland regiments contain a high proportion of Catholics, but only 11 per cent. of the composition of the R.U.C. is Catholic and there are no Catholics at all to be found among the B Specials. Clearly, we need to attract both communities to this. new force. I have been very glad to 323 learn that its commandant, General Sir John Anderson, is actively promoting such recruitment with the full support of Stormont. I feel that a valuable source for recruitment could be tapped among Catholic ex-Servicemen in Northern Ireland. I hope too, with the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that the Advisory Council can play a useful part in laying the necessary foundation of confidence which is the essential pre-requisite to recruitment for this force among the Catholic community. But, above all, there seems to be here a real opportunity and a challenge to the leaders of Catholic opinion in Northern Ireland, and I hope very much that they will use all their influence to encourage recruitment to this new local force. It is they, above all, who can help ensure that within it there is due balance between the two communities.
Finally, my Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House who is to wind up a question or two on training and equipment. Perhaps they may be Committee points, but it looks as if our Committee stage is likely to be upon us very shortly and that it may be rather a quick one. If I do not ask these questions now I may not get the opportunity to do so later. First, training, on which the Hunt Committee and the White Paper rightly laid considerable emphasis. I recognise that this new force will have a different role from our Reserve Forces, such as the TAVR II in this country; although, parenthetically, I must remark that its creation is in part a justification for much that we have been saying about TAVR III. But althoupgh its role would be different, I should have thought that the membership of the new force, the officers and the N.C.Os, would benefit considerably by training in this country with our Reserve Force and, indeed, with our Regular Forces. I hope that this is visualised.
Next, equipment. I agree that this force should be lightly armed and that its chief weapon should be the rifle. I also agree that in certain isolated, remote districts it is reasonable, subject to watertight safeguards, that members of the force should be permitted to keep their rifles at home. It seems to me that the safeguards envisaged here are adequate. I have two questions on actual armament. I think 324 the question of the security of armaments highlights the importance of secure armouries. It is my understanding that the Government are pressing ahead with the programme of seeing that secure armouries are established where they are not at present. I hope that this is the case.
Secondly, I hope that the noble Lord can assure us that the rifles with which the force will be supplied will in fact be modern F.N. rifles. Again on equipment—and this is my last word on equipment and indeed on organisation—the White Paper stresses the importance of mobility and good communications for the force. Paragraph 17 of the White Paper refers to the mobile element in the force. Could the noble Lord explain what is intended by this; how the mobile elements will be organised and what will be their means of mobility? Could he also give us some inkling at least of what is proposed by way of communications? It is hardly necessary to stress the importance in isolated areas of good wireless communication down to sub-unit level. I hope that this is also envisaged.
My Lords, may I say just this in conclusion? I hope that I have made my belief clear that with this Bill, with the establishment of this new, local, part-time military force in Northern Ireland coupled with the establishment of the new police reserve for the R.U.C., the two Governments, both Stormont and Westminster, are working along the right lines. But, important though this may be, important though it may be for all of us to get the organisation of the police and the security forces in Northern Ireland on a sounder basis, we must not delude ourselves that by so doing we are going to the root of the problems in Northern Ireland. As we all know, the roots go far deeper in politics, in history, in race and in religion. During these past months I have sometimes felt a certain sense of hopelessness and despair, and indeed foreboding, at the deepening problems in Northern Ireland and the suspicion and fear and hatred surrounding it.
But despair and pessimism, here as elsewhere, are poor counsellors. In the post-war era we have seen other communities riven by very deep differences of racial origin and culture. Some of these problems are problems not entirely 325 dissimilar to—although, I would agree, not entirely analogous to—the problems of Northern Ireland, and they fell, like Northern Ireland, within the narrow confines of Western Europe. There was the problem of Trieste and Venezia Gulia; there was the other racial and cultural problem on the northern borders of Italy, the problem of the South Tyrol; and there was, and is, the intensely difficult problem of the two communities, Greek and Turkish, in Cyprus. At one time or another during the last 20 years, all of these problems have appeared to be virtually insoluble. But with none of them to-day is that the position.
So let us hope, and persevere in the hope, that the same may prove to be the case with the problem of Northern Ireland. Of course, that hope must rest on one absolutely essential pre-condition which did not obtain in the years before the First World War—a broad unity of approach at least to the problems of Ireland among the major Parties in this country. It is in that spirit, and also because I believe that it stands on its own feet, that I welcome this measure.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I should like to endorse the concluding words of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. I am glad that he ended on a note of guarded optimism. I spent Friday and most of Saturday of last week in Northern Ireland. It was a short visit but it enabled me to form one pretty sharp impression. I visited Derry and Belfast and listened to a number of extremely well-informed people, and it certainly served to remind me to approach a problem of this nature with the deepest humility. I was horrified, as other people have been, at the devastation and destruction which has taken place in this not very remote part of the United Kingdom. I was horrified at the hatred and suspicion which still pervades the place, despite the obvious senselessness of the violence and the destruction which one can see all around. I was horrified to find that everywhere I went people were convinced that the trouble was by no means over and that the undercurrents of tension were still running very high. There is the ever-present fear that extremists will fix on some minor incident and blow it up into a riot. There are rumours and rumours and rumours, un- 326 fortunately often believed, and there is an atmosphere of hypertension in which the police and the Army have to operate. I do not think that we should underestimate the fears that organisations like the U.V.H. and the apprentice boys cause in perfectly normal civilians in Northern Ireland, and it is against this background that we ought to consider the proposals in this Bill.
My Lords, before I went to Northern Ireland I asked myself the usual questions which have been referred to to-day, and I had some deep misgivings in asking them. I asked, first: was the new force really necessary? What was it meant to be defending, and against whom? Why is it to contain 6,000 men when the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, estimated that 4,000 would be required? Why did it include the name "Ulster" in its title? Is it in fact a political face-saver and really only the B Specials in disguise? These were the things that worried me anti as a result of what I was able to see—I know that my visit was only a short one—I am a great deal more convinced than I was about the merits of this force and this Bill. I do not want to sound any note of complacency; I am not suggesting that we are hitting on a solution to the problem, but I am convinced that there are better safeguards in this Bill than I thought there were when I went to Northern Ireland.
As I have said, there is certainly a very real sense of fear on the part of the population there; and in the light of the general atmosphere which prevails I would only hope that I may do a little tonight to try to allay some of the misgivings which people genuinely hold on this question of the Ulster Defence Regiment. I think the best way to start is on the military case rather than the political one. As I see it, the military case is simply this: there are a considerable number of vulnerable points in Northern Ireland which, because of the tension—and the tension is there—have to be guarded. These are such things as Ministers' houses, reservoirs, police stations, power stations, public utilities and so on. These duties require approximately 550 men each night to carry them out, spread all over Northern Ireland. I should like to say, in parenthesis, that I hope this number may be reduced, but at the present moment this is about the measure 327 of the task. If you are going to ask members of a volunteer force to be on duty one night a week, and no more, then you need a force of seven times the figure of 550, which is roughly 4,000 men. But that is only a force to carry out the duties, and you need an additional number to back up that force with administration. The point I had missed is that this is a properly worked out military programme on the estimate of what is required at the moment; and that one requires an administrative tail to handle this particular force. Also, I do not think I had appreciated to the full that 6,000 is the ceiling and may never in fact need to be achieved.
Then I asked myself: why a resident domestic defence force? I think the military answer is that if these duties had to be undertaken by Regular British troops it would need several battalions to do so, and we simply cannot afford to withdraw them from our overseas commitments at the present time. Therefore, in the circumstances I think that the right idea is a domestic volunteer force and that this is about the right ceiling for it; although I hope that as peace returns and tension diminishes we shall not have to go to anything like the ceiling of 6,000 people.
The next question which worried me was whether or not this force would be the B Specials in another form. I think there are safeguards here which should prove adequate. As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, the force will be under the command of the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, whose direct responsibility will be to the Minister of Defence in Whitehall. It will be trained by Regular British officers and, as I understand it, have a cadre of ex-Regulars. What I think is more important is that while it will, naturally, be composed of a number of selected B Specials who have the appropriate qualifications—certainly at the beginning—it should also attract a number of ex-Regular Northern Irish soldiers, and some, one would hope, would be Catholics. I was glad to hear when I was over there that people are beginning to write in already, saying that they were in the Royal Inniskillens, or some other force, that they were Catholics, and asking whether there would be a place for them in a force 328 of this sort. It is only an inquiry, but I think it is a healthy one and a trend which we ought to encourage. I would reiterate what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and hope that the Catholic leaders who have shown great responsibility in this matter will encourage people to join this force and make it the mixed force which it ought to be. Unless we can get more Catholics in, it is not going to be the force for which we all hope.
A further safeguard is that the training requirements will be far more rigorous than anything the B Specials were ever asked to do. The people in this force will have to be fairly fit and alert and be able to learn new systems and communications. In themselves, these things will cut out a number of the present B Special force, many of whom are rather older than would be required to undertake this type of training and service. In addition, I think the mere fact that this will be an efficient, alert force—and as I have every confidence in the General Officer Commanding I am certain that it will be—will attract the sort of ex-Regular soldier that you want to get into a force of this nature.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, surely in another place an effort was made to reduce the age of joining for the new force, with precisely the point in mind that the noble Lord has just emphasised, and that was turned down by the Government spokesman.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I am not speaking for the Government, if the noble Earl will understand me. What I am saying is that, despite the attitude of the Government, there are natural forces at work which will lower this age. I think that there is a great deal to be said for lowering it, but this is a political matter, as I see it. What one can hope for is that people will have to pass a medical examination which in itself will preclude some people of my age from joining. I am sure that I could not pass a medical examination in order to join a force some members of which will have to go up and down in helicopters. That in itself will rule out quite a number of people. I think it a serious point that the rigorous nature of the training and the duties will reduce the number of B Specials who will 329 be able to qualify. But it is important that we should pay particular attention to ensuring that some of the very high positions should be seen to be undertaken by Catholics, at least in the first year. I think this is very important and that it presents a special problem.
The third point that worried me before I went to Northern Ireland was the name of the force. I shared the fear of many of my colleagues in another place that including the word "Ulster" in the title would make it more difficult to get a mixed force. I discussed this with a number of Catholics in Northern Ireland and the answer I got was that this should not be a major issue; that there was enough trouble without raising the name of this regiment into a large political issue. I believe that if sufficient encouragement were given, Catholics would join the force. I cannot believe that the name would be the one thing which would prove a stumbling block to getting the balanced force that we want.
Regarding where the arms should be kept, a question which occupied so much time during the discussion in another place, I think this is a matter of practical geography and common sense. No army commander is going to take the risk of losing arms if he can help it. In towns, it would be the obvious thing to have central armouries and to distribute the arms as required. In the outlying districts, where only a few men may be required for particular duties, I do not think that central distribution would be on. Apart from anything else, to do that would probably require two trucks, one to guard the truck conveying the arms, and this would create a bigger military problem than was really necessary. Although I have heard a number of horrifying things about the B Specials, losing arms was not one. The B Specials appear to have a better record at the moment in this respect than the Regular Army, although I must say that the Regular Army has not lost many weapons.
My conclusion is that we are dealing with an exceptional situation and that exceptional measures have to be taken. I believe that we shall need British regular troops in the country for quite a long time. We are going to need the reduced police force and the auxiliary police force, and we are going to need 330 something on the lines of this Ulster Defence Regiment. It is a tragic necessity, which arises out of the situation. But I hope that we shall not try to build this up into a bigger political problem than we need to do. All kinds of different factors need to be balanced against each other. Let us give the new force a chance. To-day, Northern Ireland is fortunate to have men of the calibre of General Freeland and Sir Arthur Young, who is in charge of the police. They are, I believe, the last men who would allow any of these forces to develop into a threat to the peace in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, in supporting this Bill, I want to echo the sentiment that has been expressed: that in the long run it is only the Northern Irish themselves who can solve this problem.
§ 4:41 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, the recommendations in my Report which led to this Bill were the most difficult of all our problems, even though the answers to the questions we asked ourselves were fairly straightforward. Once we had answered those questions in what I hope was a straightforward way, the further details fell outside our terms of reference.
We were quite confident that most of the recommendations we considered necessary for the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be acceptable to a substantial majority, not only within the R.U.C. but outside it; and not only outside it, but across the communal boundaries. We recognised that the radical changes in principles and arrangements for defending the Province from armed guerrillas would be bitterly opposed, not only by virtually the whole of the Ulster Special Constabulary but also by a majority of the Protestant population. We were aware that our recommendations would be opposed as ardently by these people as they were demanded by most Catholics. But we could not ignore the opposing effects of public opinion on this issue, and in particular the risks that would be entailed by extremist opinion and, possibly, extremist action.
I recall vividly a visit I made, quite impromptu, to a drill hall in the depths of the country some miles out of Bally-mena, in County Antrim, in order to see where and how the U.S.C. were training. 331 Although we had given no notice of our visit we were astonished on arrival to find ourselves confronted with a large crowd of people, who packed the hall—people of all ages, from children to grandmothers and grandfathers, with current members of the U.S.C. and past members, and even a gang of roadmenders who had parked their steamroller outside and had come in to meet us.
We had a remarkable half-hour, in which every member of that community urged us, warned us, and indeed instructed us, not to touch their men, the B Specials. It was an impressive demonstration of a deep and abiding fear. We were confronted by a combination of emotions which amounted to a wall of resistance to change. The emotions included fear of the I.R.A.; loyalty to Ulster; comradeship and tradition, in which long memories play a very significant part; doubts about the concern of the United Kingdom Government to protect the Province, in contrast to the faith in the Unionist Government in Stormont to do so. And the greatest of these emotions, my Lords, was fear: it was very real, very widespread and very deep.
We based our decisions and our recommendations on two simple considerations. The first was principles, and there were two principles. Where should the responsibility for defence against this kind of threat lie? We were quite clear that this should lie, and indeed by the Constitution does lie, with the Government at Westminster. What kind of operations were involved and who should conduct those operations and the training and preparations for them? We were equally clear that these were military operations and the job of the Regular Army. To associate them with the police any longer would prejudice the civil image of the R.U.C., which was a cardinal point in our recommendations for the police forces. Inevitably so long as the two were controlled by the same Government, the U.S.C. image (and I use the expression in no pejorative sense at all) would continue to rub off on the R.U.C.
Secondly, we based our recommendations on facts. What foundation was there for the kind of threat to-day and its eventual recurrence in the future 332 which so many people fear? Here we were confronted by a singular lack of convincing intelligence, but we were satisfied from recent events alone, some of which my noble friend Lord Winter-bottom has recounted, that to discount such threats would be irresponsible. They must be taken seriously. Nor does this threat come only from the I.R.A. I am convinced that for some time to come, there is substance in the fears, not only of Protestants but of Catholics, and the threat, whatever its motivation, is not only a threat but a challenge to every decent citizen in Northern Ireland. We spoke on the subject to Cardinal Conway and I venture to hope that his views on the recommendations which have led to this Bill are not antipathetic. He seemed sympathetic to the general thesis that we put before him.
So, my Lords, in the light of my remarks, I have two reservations about this Bill, and I feel that I must make them. Given that the role of the new force is to protect not one section of the community from another, but all decent citizens against attacks by violent and fanatical men on life, property and amenities; given that this role should commend itself to anyone and everyone, including those who have wider hopes for a United Ireland but who abhor the use of violence to achieve it, I regret that this force has been given a name which, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, is anathema to many Catholics, who might otherwise be disposed (perhaps they will, nevertheless) to do their civic duty and join the force.
Ulster, as we know, is a fact, a historic fact, but a fact which has strong Party political and partisan connotations, whereas Northern Ireland is simply a geographical fact of life. I am sorry that that name has not been attached to the force. I realise, of course, the difficulties with which the Government have to deal in this matter, and I am not going to press it. But I cannot help wishing that my Committee, who felt that this subject was outside their terms of reference, had not strayed outside those terms to suggest a name for this force.
My second reservation concerns the time factor. This force is to be operationally effective by April 1, 1970. This 333 presupposes a pretty rapid and successful recruiting campaign. I imagine that, despite certain breaks in hallowed traditions, many members of the B Special Constabulary will come forward readily enough; and I would say that this is a splendid thing. But the first force—and I would stress that the figure we suggested was a calculated figure—is appreciably smaller than the U.S.C., and I suppose that recruits from this force could easily till the ranks of the new force, to the exclusion for the time being of all other men from other communities. If that were to happen, it would be a tragedy and would make something of a farce. So I would ask the Minister to say, when he winds up, whether April 1, 1970, is really the deadline or whether the timetable could be extended to give time for Catholics, in particular, who might be more reluctant and need more persuasion, to come forward.
Secondly, can the Minister say whether, in the new force, any percentage will be reserved for Catholics? We felt that there should not be a percentage reserved as there had been hitherto in the R.U.C., but I think that special considerations may apply here, in view of the importance—I would say the crucial importance—of ensuring that the task is shared on the spot by men of both named persuasions, by all men of good will. I was relieved to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, had to say about the steps being taken to safeguard the possibility of Catholics coming in. I have the greatest regard for and confidence in Sir John Anderson and the G.O.C., General Ian Freeland, and I realise that they are well alive to this problem and danger. I have a few other queries, but I am confident that they will be mentioned by other noble Lords. I naturally support this Bill.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, for obvious reasons I do not want unnecessarily to lengthen this debate, because I hope to initiate a discussion about European security later, but I think that the doubts and disquiets which many of us feel about this Bill should be expressed. In doing this, I want to pay the highest possible tribute to the contribution which the Home Secretary has made in this matter: it has impressed me as quite remarkable in the difficult circumstances 334 of Northern Ireland. I would add to that my tribute to the conciliatory behaviour of the British troops there under conditions of extraordinary difficulty.
I am not going to reflect the criticism at any length, because other speakers will be taking part in this debate, but I think it honest to say that I am not convinced of the necessity for this Bill. Its purpose is not to control riots and disturbances in Northern Ireland itself. It is, in the words of my noble friend Lord Winterbottom:To assist the Regular Forces in the case of armed attack from outside or from sabotage.In relation to armed attack, there is the very definite statement of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland that there will be no attempt to change by force the frontiers between South and North. With some knowledge of Southern Ireland, I believe that when he said that he reflected not only the view of the Opposition, but of the great majority of the people of Southern Ireland. Secondly, there is the fear that the I.R.A. might make some forceful intervention in Northern Ireland. But I think we are inclined greatly to exaggerate the importance of the I.R.A. to-day. They made boastful claims at the time of the riots on Belfast and Derry, but in fact their presence and their influence was minimal. I am not convinced that it is necessary to create a force of 6,000 men to meet these two problems, and it seems to me that it will be some provocation if this force is created.
I do not intend on the Second Reading of the Bill to deal with other matters which disturb us, but I want to give notice that I shall be moving an Amendment to change the Title of the Bill. I would add that I am strengthened in my view about that by what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said. I apologise for not making comment upon his speech, but it is because I want to be short. However, as he knows, I have the highest respect for all that he has done in his Report on these issues, as well as in other respects. Therefore, on the Committee stage I shall move an Amendment for the alteration of the Title, and on different clauses of the Bill I shall 335 raise a number of issues which I do not want to detain the House by mentioning now.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, before dealing with the new force which is to be set up under this Bill, I should like to say a word or two about the future role of the British Army in Northern Ireland. The Government have made it quite clear that the defence of this part of the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the Army. In the past, I do not think that the Ulster people have ever been too sure about that. Now, however, I feel that the Border and the existence of Ulster as a self-governing Province of the United Kingdom has never been more secure.
With regard to the actual contents of the Bill, first of all I should like to reecho what has been said by so many noble Lords in this debate and express gratitude and thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for the wonderful work which he did, and for the most admirable Report, which he produced in record time. We should also pay tribute to his two colleagues, Sir James Robertson and Mr. Robert Mark. Their terms of reference included the examination of the Ulster Special Constabulary, and they were charged to recommend any change in its composition which they thought necessary. As noble Lords know well, the Ulster Special Constabulary is colloquially known as the B Specials, and was formed in the early 'twenties when the newly created Ulster Constitution was being subjected to violent attacks, accompanied by assassinations on the part of the I.R.A.
It is a purely Protestant force, and for that reason it has never commanded the support of the Roman Catholic minority. It has been maligned a great deal by many people, but, on the whole, with possibly small exceptions, the Ulster Specials did their duty with impartiality. Referring to the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, one finds that it says in Chapter 9, paragraph 170:We know that to a man, members of the U.S.C. are devoted to the cause of Ulster and that they and their forbears have done gallant service, and we recognise the value of the anti-guerrilla patrols and armed guard duties they have carried out, particularly in times of emergency. We consider, however, that the 336 protection of the Border and the State against armed attacks is not a role which should have to be undertaken by the police, whether they be regular or special.Under this Bill, the former Ulster Special Constabulary will cease to exist and will be replaced by this new Ulster Defence force. As has already been stated, opponents of the Bill say that it is only the B Specials under a different name, but, as has been explained already by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and other noble Lords, this is not so. It is part of the British Army; it is not confined to Protestants; it is under the General Officers Commanding, Northern Ireland. It is, therefore, completely different from the B Specials. Something has already been said about the fact that in exceptional cases arms are to be kept by the new forces at their own homes. This was done throughout the whole period of the B Specials, and I have heard of very few, if any, cases where it was abused. Much has been said by noble Lords who have already spoken about the necessity that this new force should contain a large number of the Roman Catholic minority in Ulster. That, in my view, is absolutely vital.
When the scheme was first announced, if I remember rightly there were many words of welcome for the new force from the leaders of the minority. I trust that that is still their opinion, although I am afraid I have not heard so much of a welcome for it from that source in recent times. It is in the highest degree desirable that they should join, otherwise the whole object of the new force will be damaged. The old B Specials had in the past to deal mainly with raids over the Border by the I.R.A. But the new force may have to deal also with an underground militant Protestant organisation recently formed, which is supposed to have been connected with various sabotage efforts shortly before Captain O'Neill ceased to be Prime Minister. If the new force, therefore—and I hope it will not—has to deal with sabotage of that kind, it may be dealing with sabotage not only from the I.R.A., if that happens, but also from the extreme Protestant organisation to which I have referred.
Something has been said about a change of name of this new force. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was inclined to favour a change. It 337 was made quite an issue in the debate that took place at the Committee stage of the Bill in the House of Commons. So far as I am concerned, I do not see that the name matters at all. If, by changing the name, the force will be made more acceptable to the minority, well and good, then let us change it.
I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who is going to reply, a couple of questions on details. In the White Paper dealing with this force, on page 5, there is set out the amounts of the bounties to be paid to members of the new force. The White Paper states that a member of the Ulster Special Constabulary who joins the new force will be entitled to take into consideration the years he has served in the Special Constabulary in order to qualify for the bounty in the new force. Does that mean that a man who has served five years in the Ulster Constabulary will automatically qualify for a bounty of, I think, £35? It seems to me that he will. Another question I should like to ask is: are there sufficient drill halls in Northern Ireland for carrying out training which will be so necessary in this new force?
As I have already said, I welcome this Bill which has been welcomed by nearly every noble Lord who has spoken except the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I hope very much that it will lead to better times, and particularly to a diminution of the communal feelings which exist in that part of the United Kingdom.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Loan BOOTHBY
My Lords, I strongly support this Bill, and also the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, which gave rise to it. I do not propose to detain your Lordships for more than a couple of minutes, and my remarks will concern themselves solely with one aspect which has already been touched upon in several speeches; namely, the Title of the Bill.
The use of the word "Ulster" is evocative of a past that is best forgotten in this particular connection. The borders of the Province of Ulster are not co-terminus with those of Northern Ireland and the Free State. Although I do not go all the way—or even a very large part of the way—with Miss Devlin, I thought that some of her arguments on this point in the long debate which took 338 place in another place had considerable point. I am old enough to remember the days of the First World War when I was a small boy at a private school in Rottingdean and Sir Edward Carson lived at the end of the village. At intervals he used to drive past in a car under the slogans, "Ulster will fight" and, "Ulster will be right". "Ulster" was a flaming word in this country in those days. The memory of all that has faded in this country, but it has not altogether faded in Ireland, as anybody who visits either North or South will know. "Ulster" is not only an evocative but a rather provocative name. I want to suggest to Her Majesty's Government this afternoon that they might give serious consideration to a title which I should have thought would be acceptable to Stormont—the Royal Defence Regiment. They would like the word "Royal", and it is a good name. It is not, alas! an original idea on my part. Last week I thought I would make this suggestion to the delighted surprise of your Lordships, and of Her Majesty's Government, but unfortunately on Saturday the Economist came out with precisely the same suggestion, which proves, as I have had no contact with them whatsoever, that great minds think alike. I still think that the name Royal Defence Regiment is not a bad idea.
I remember very well when the Local Defence Volunteers were formed in 1940. It was just no good. It did not work; it did not catch on. Immediately the title was changed to "Home Guard" the thing caught fire and worked for the rest of the war. So titles do matter. If it comes to that, "Home Guard" would not be a bad title for this new Regiment. I am frightened of the word "Ulster" for this single reason. It is not simply a revival of the B Specials; it is not intended to be by anybody, and it is not wanted to be. This is part of the British Army, and, so far as possible, we all hope it must be non-sectarian. Every speaker, I think without exception, has emphasised the importance of persuading the Catholics to enlist in this Regiment.
I would conclude my remarks by saying to Her Majesty's Government: if this is to be achieved, and the title is found to be a difficulty; if they come to the conclusion that it would be easier to 339 make this defence Regiment what we all want it to be, then do not let them hesitate to change the Title—if it is not found possible before the remaining stages of this debate, then at a later stage. I am greatly fortified in the remarks I have made by the weighty opinion which has been delivered to your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, in his objection, which was also voiced by other speakers, to the term "Ulster". Before I come to my own observations, I hope that it will not be otiose once again to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on his Report, and of course on his speech to-day. And I hope also that it will not be impertinent to single out the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, on the sheer moral honesty with which he faced certain facts that must have been particularly unpalatable.
The last time, in the middle of October, that we debated the question of Northern Ireland the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor pointed out, as he was entitled to, that the Government appeared to be criticised by no one. Well, that was true. But, of course, there were many criticisms that could be made, could have been made then and could be made now, of the records of all British Governments in this connection in the last fifty years: the fact that there has been this deplorable discrimination against a minority; the fact that the Catholics have been treated as second-class citizens in the United Kingdom for fifty years. Of course, these facts have been the ultimate responsibility of British Governments, and as one who has served in British Governments for nine years, and as an Irishman, I must bear my share, and if you like more than my share, of the blame.
But, as last time, so today we are anxious so far as possible—it is not altogether possible—to put aside the past and concentrate on the future. The last time that I ventured to raise my voice—I do not flatter myself that it carries very far in Northern Ireland—I expressed the hope that as many Catholics as possible would join the various police and 340 security forces, including the one we are discussing this afternoon. I repeat that hope today, but with a good deal less optimism. I should be lacking in candour if I did not say that very clearly to your Lordships straight away.
A famous Oxford philosopher, Dr. Bradley, was once asked his opinion of a Fellowship thesis. He replied that he was on the whole favourable. "It is nonsense, of course," he said, "but I am inclined to think it is the right kind of nonsense." That reflects my attitude to this proposed force. I am not convinced by the eloquent arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Byers—although he put them, if I may say so, extraordinarily well—in favour of a military necessity. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in believing that the military necessity is of the slightest; and certainly that there is no need for a force of this size and type.
I look upon this as an exercise in collective psychiatry. I cannot believe that, if the B Specials did not exist already, anybody would think it necessary to create a force of this kind. But the fact that I call it a psychiatric exercise, does not mean that I regret it; it does not mean that I think we ought not to persevere with it. But it does mean that, unless we get the psychology of this right, it will turn out to be a curse and not a blessing to Northern Ireland. So the psychological factors are all-important. Although other speakers have not been quite so blunt, their arguments in fact come to very much the same thing. Of course, one cannot separate here the presentation from the actuality. One hopes, one wants, to see this idea sold as diplomatically as possible. But what will matter will be the actual composition of the force, say, six months or a year from now. It is the composition of the force in the early days that will determine its influence for years to come. I was very much interested by the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that there should be some postponement in bringing the force into operation. I had not myself thought of that, but I think there is a great deal in what he said.
There is one point of which I have given the noble Lord the Leader of the House some slight notice—and I am glad that he is going to reply to the debate, because he himself has a background of 341 Southern and Northern Ireland. Indeed, he can be said to have been attacked in the past for the liberality of his Irish beliefs. The point of which I have given him slight notice is this. We are told in the White Paper (and this follows something analogous in the Hunt Report), in paragraph 7:The battalion commanders will be local members of the force; during its early life these appointments may be filled by present County Commandants of the Ulster Special Constabulary".It does not say they must be filled; it says they "may be filled". I do not want to press the point. therefore, unduly. But there was very much force in what the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said: that if this is going to be a balanced force, it must not be a question of all the leading people being Protestants, and the Catholics being all the private soldiers. That would make a nonsense of it. There must be balance at all levels. I do not know whether my noble friend the Leader of the House will be able to comment on this paragraph in the White Paper and explain how the Government here and the Government in Stormont propose to try to cope with this admitted problem.
As is well known, a number of Amendments were moved in another place and pressed to a Division. They affected, for example, the name, the number, the age, the membership, the composition, and other matters. I have no doubt that if I had been a Member of another place I should have voted for all those Amendments. My ambitions, of course, in respect of the other place were terminated 25 years ago by Mr. Quintin Hogg, who, incidentally, made a notable speech in Dublin on Saturday in which he set out a whole programme of friendship between these two islands. I do not wish this afternoon to deal with those aspects, some of which I understand will be brought up at the Committee stage, but to discuss the matter in more general terms.
We all agree—it has been said by every speaker—that the image of the new force as an impartial body is of supreme importance if it is to win any kind of acceptance from the minority. The Secretary of State for Defence, in introducing the Bill elsewhere, laid impressive stress indeed not only on its military role, not only on its immediate effect in that direction, but on its role in healing 342 divisions. I think that he was looking rather far ahead, but let us accept that as part of division. I am afraid—and I must speak from what I hear—that great harm, perhaps irreparable harm, has already been done by such muddles (if you like to call them that) as the circulation of documents headed "Application form" to the members of the B Specials, and by the stress that appears to have been laid on the fact that the new regiment will be substantially composed of B Specials.
I am aware that Government spokesmen in another place have made earnest efforts to correct those mistakes. It remains doubtful whether the ground thus lost can be recovered. I am using words deliberately, after making adequate inquiries, and I repeat that I am all the more impressed in these circumstances by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that one should not bring this force into operation so quickly that there is not a chance for these impressions to be set right. I should have thought it was now generally accepted that the danger of subversive explosions is greater at the present time from the extreme Protestant side. They are more numerous; they are better armed, and they are much more hostile to what is going on. So I think it is generally conceded that the main danger comes from there. That does not mean that I wish to do anything but deplore the activities or the very existence of the I.R.A. They have been a handicap to all sorts of causes, and perhaps most of all to the cause of those who want one day to bring about a united Ireland by peaceful means. I think most people agree that the explosions last April were caused by the U.D.F. and not by the I.R.A. This underlines the supreme importance of the force being mixed and balanced.
I recognise that the difficulties are considerable, and it would be a total failure in experience not to place oneself here in the shoes of the Government and to recognise, with them, that this is no easy problem. Yet I must record the widespread feeling among Catholics in Northern Ireland that more attention has been devoted in recent weeks—not so much here, but in Northern Ireland—to making the U.D.F. appear palatable to the B Specials than to making it appear 343 welcome to all sections of the community. I say that because in this House it is right that those who feel they have any knowledge about widespread opinion should record it. I am sorry that it should be in this atmosphere, but it is right to place that before the House. I am the spokesman for nobody, and I am bound to say that I should speak a great deal more sharply about many of the activities of various parties and groups in Northern Ireland if I did not still cling to the hope that the original purpose set out in the Hunt Committee's Report, that of a balanced force, could be achieved.
I should just say this, since I seem to be talking in terms of woe. Since we last discussed these matters, and following the debates in the House of Commons, the Government have announced the establishment of an Advisory Committee, which was referred to by the noble Lord who introduced the Bill. I think the fact which was all along in the mind of the Government, that all that goes on there is to be brought ultimately to Parliament in this country, must be set on the encouragement side of any ledger. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is well qualified—if anyone in the Government is—to say words of reassurance to the minority who have been very much disturbed by the events of the last six weeks or so, and I hope that he will go as far as he feels he can in view of his obligations in a number of directions.
My Lords, I will end with one slightly more general thought. The attitude of the Protestants in Northern Ireland towards the Catholics is not exhibited by Protestants in England or Scotland, where they are also in a large majority; it is not exhibited by Catholics towards Protestants in Southern Ireland, where the Catholics are in a majority. When we discuss this problem we are told that it is due to a deep-seated historical fear, and I have no doubt that in a sense that is true. The fear goes back a long way beyond 1920. It goes back 300 years beyond that, to the time when Protestants in Ireland (including, incidentally, my own family) were in a minority. It was the fear of a minority in Ireland as a whole which produced this particular attitude that has lingered on.
344 It arose in days when religious toleration was nothing like we know it at the present time, among either Protestants or Catholics. For fifty years the Protestants in Northern Ireland have been in a large majority in their own area, and all the most intelligent members of their community are now well aware that there is no possible danger of armed attack from the South. Apart from anything else it would be a physical impossibility. No intelligent person in the North—Protestant or Catholic—supposes that such an attack is remotely likely. All intelligent Protestants in Northern Ireland are perfectly well aware that they will never be what is called "betrayed" by this country. That is a lurking hysteria among the less intelligent elements of the community.
Nevertheless, these fears are human. They do not disappear overnight. I pay my special tribute to the relative of the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan—I am referring, of course, to Captain Terence O'Neill, who sacrificed everything in his power and who went down with his ship. His name will always be held in honour on the roll of history. I also pay tribute to all, including the Church leaders of the various denominations, who are trying to cure this historic fear. I myself believe that the world-wide Ecumenical movement, and gradually also the European movement, will supply a large part of the answer. Meanwhile, I will only say this: if this new force can help to eliminate fear—and I believe that this is still a possibility—it will have earned the gratitude of all who seek peace and harmony in human relations.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, I understand that it is the least coveted place on a music hall bill to follow one who is undoubtedly a star. Without wishing to compare your Lordships in any way to a music hall, I find myself in difficulty in feeling that I ought to follow the speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who is undoubtedly a master in this subject and who has ranged widely, with great authority and with great civility and courtesy, if I may say so, over almost the whole of this enormous field. I hope, therefore, that he will forgive me if I do not follow him precisely, as that would leave me panting somewhere in the rear. I hope he may 345 find that some of the things I have to say (which are few) will link up with his remarks.
My only other feeling is one of recollection going back to a day in the war against Japan when I came upon six Burmese soldiers sitting by a path. They were sitting on a wooden box which they had found under a culvert. The box appeared to contain some kind of rations. Food was somewhat scarce at that time and I was interested to see what it was they were so contentedly chewing. It appeared to be all right and they evidently found it quite palatable. It was in fact gelignite. It is of the utmost importance that your Lordships should not be tempted to swallow this Bill without making certain that it contains no explosive. I confess that I think it does.
That is not an original thought; it was touched on by a number of speakers in another place, and very much more forcibly than it has been this afternoon. I refer to the matter of the name, and I am not thinking particularly of the name "Ulster". There have been references by various noble Lords this afternoon to the word "Ulster" by itself. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, regretted having had to allow that name to go forward without some other recommendation. We know that there are few people who really care whether or not the name "Ulster" is used instead of "Northern Ireland". In fact in the debate in another place on the Committee stage of the Bill, the Minister replying for the Government actually said this:… the Government consider that the use of the word 'Ulster' is, frankly, unimportant. There are respectable military precedents for the use of the word in other regiments of the British Army. It is for this and the other reasons I have given that the Government have decided in favour of using this word."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 1/12/69, col. 1041.]That is not a reason which could very well be allowed to overcome a very strong opposition, I suggest. If you do not care, is it not reasonable to defer to those who do? I think I would go a little further than my noble friend Lord Jellicoe—or perhaps I would not follow him at all—when he said that, the Government, having chosen this name, it would be a mistake for them to go looking for another one now, and I noticed 346 sage nods of agreement from the noble Lords, Lord Shackleton and Lord Winterbottom. This seems to me a fairly outstanding non sequitur. It certainly is no reason for not looking for another name now. The mere fact that the Government have chosen this name and printed and published it, I hope is not going to overweigh any other considerations and close their minds to any possibility of changing it.
What reasons are there for changing the name? I have indicated already that the fact that "Ulster" is not synonymous with the Six Counties is not all 1 have in mind. I have in mind something else. What I am attaching importance to is the fact that many people cordially dislike the words, "Ulster defence"—and I do not think those words have been mentioned: together in the debate this afternoon. What is more, I have some sympathy with them. In these words they still find—and here I join very closely to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby—echoes of the voice of Carson. "Ulster will fight; Ulster will be right", said Lord Randolph Churchill. And who was Ulster going to fight? "Home Rule is Rome rule", said Carson, as quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby—and Carson was a fighter, if ever there was one. And from that time on the words "Ulster defence" have meant to many defence against Rome.
Some have used and still use this notion—a factitious one in the first place—for political ends. Thus we have now to name but one body only that uses these words, the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee, which was formed by Mr. Paisley and governs the Ulster Protestant Volunteer Force, an extremist militant body whose membership is open only to those who were actually born as Protestants. Is it illogical for Roman Catholics—and perhaps even some moderate Protestants—to look with suspicion on something called the Ulster Defence Regiment, to suspect it of standing for something of that same militant anti-Catholicism that Ulster defence has stood for in the past and still in the person of such people as the Paisleyites stands for to-day? Is it illogical? If it is, what of it? Does it matter one hoot if it is illogical or not? What does matter is the fact, surely, that some people can and do look on these words 347 with suspicion of that sort. So why do it? Why use it? Why insist on a name which, while incapable of inspiring passion in its own defence is bound to arouse resentment and hostility in at least some of those on whose good will and support the success of this Bill so largely depends?
In some ways the Government seem to have gone almost out of their way to deepen suspicion and mistrust. I will mention one example only, already touched on by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, though perhaps in not quite the same way. The White Paper says that:The battalion commanders will be local members of the force; during its early life these appointments may be filled by present County Commandants of the Ulster Special Constabulary.You disband an irregular police force and raise battalions of soldiers in its place, insisting as you do so that there is no connection or similarity between the two. And then you flatly contradict yourself by announcing that the battalions may be commanded by officers from the disbanded police. Can you seriously believe that nobody will suspect the new regiment of having any connection with the old police? There is another thing. Are these officers qualified by training or experience to command a battalion of this kind? Yes, I think they are, for reasons that are mentioned in the White Paper. Then by all means let them be so appointed but for that reason, and not merely stating that they are being appointed because they are experienced policemen.
To return to the question of the words "Ulster Defence", in the course of the Committee stage in another place there was a long debate on this subject and the point that I have tried to make in objection to those words was made with very considerable force. But in his reply the Minister ignored it, as indeed it was ignored, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, this afternoon. He made a spirited and in my opinion misguided and unnecessary defence of the word "Ulster". Of the two words which were really under fire, "Ulster Defence", he said nothing at all.
To sum up this point, if I may, the name "Ulster Defence Regiment" is not sacred, good name though it may be, 348 political considerations apart. So why cling to it in the certain knowledge that to do so will arouse suspicion and hostility in some of those persons whose good will we chiefly need? Why can we not have some other name—the Northern Irish Regiment perhaps—of which everyone can approve? I am not so sure about the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, for one reason which may perhaps not appeal very much to everybody: that there is a certain feeling in Royal regiments that they have acquired the name "Royal" as some kind of accolade or distinction in the past. One does not always look entirely kindly on a regiment which is raised with that prefix ab initio. However, that is something aside. What I suggest with the greatest possible respect is that in this matter of the name a little common sense is required and really that is all it comes to.
I have spoken at some length on that matter because I believe it is very important indeed, and now I shall be brief. I should like to refer to only two other points, one of which arises in Clause 1(2)(b)(ii). Here we find that any member of the force (and, incidentally, why "force" which is a police word, and not "regiment", which is what we are talking about?):…shall be subject to military law …at any time … when he is required or authorised to be in possession of … any prescribed description of equipment belonging to Her Majesty.I find that a little puzzling, and the words that puzzle me are, "any prescribed description of equipment". It is a matter of common observation that soldiers often wear an arrangement of straps that is known as "web equipment" or "equipment" for short, a kind of military foundation garment on which can be suspended all kinds of containers and receptacles, and they are also classified under the general heading of "equipment". I find it reasonable to suppose that equipment of this sort will be prescribed or issued to members of the regiment and that they will keep it at home. Are they all for that reason to be permanently subject to military law? I do not suppose so. It seems more likely that in this case "prescribed" must be intended to mean prescribed for the purposes of this clause. But even if that is so, it still means that a man can be 349 brought under military law by a minor regulation made (under Clause 4(1)) by the Secretary of State, and that seems to me, to put it mildly, to be of somewhat dubious propriety.
It is of some importance to a man to know whether or not he is subject to military law, and I have no doubt that he will understand that he must be so if in possession of arms or ammunition. In any case, that is clearly stated in the Bill. But equipment? Suppose he is ordered by an officer to take into his possession, say, a wireless set or a motor bicycle. If he objects to being placed under military law when neither called out nor undergoing training, can he refuse on the ground that he is not subject to military law and that, therefore, the order is not a lawful command? Apparently not, because although he was not subject to military law before the order was given, the giving of the order has made him subject to military law. I feel that this subsection is capable of causing a great deal of difficulty if it is not tightened, or possibly changed, and I must say it is possibily not the only one about which that can be said. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will say something about this matter when he comes to speak at the end of the debate.
I turn finally to Clause 2(2) relating to the powers of officers to "call out the force or any part of it." Here, I must say, I experience a rather more complicated sense of bafflement, which I can perhaps explain most briefly by means of a series—not a very long series—of questions. What does "call out" mean? How is it done? Do you have to issue an order in writing through the usual channels, or can you do it by knocking on a man's window as you go past and saying, "Come on Fred!"? The point is of some importance, since the fact of calling a man out both places him under military law and entitles him to be paid.
Then, how small can "any part of" the force be? Can it be a single man? A single man is certainly a part of the force, and therefore can presumably be called out on his own in case of some sudden and local emergency, such as an attack on the police station. But on page 2 of the Bill, in line 34, Clause 1(5) says that members of the force shall not be required, 350'to give whole-time service except during any period during which the force or the part of it to which they belong is called out …What does that mean? When can a man be said to have been called out? When can it be done, and how? For the purposes of law it can be vitally important to know—and it is important to the man himself—whether a man has been called out or not. Surely it ought to be made clear in the Bill. The act and the procedure of "calling out" must be defined. How about a man who has his rifle at home—a rare but possible thing? Is he being ipso facto under military law, already in a state of having been called out? Presumably not, because otherwise he would have been paid. If he is not, can he legally fire his rifle in an emergency? What will happen if he does? If he cannot, what is the point of having it? Here again I think that we need rather more definition and a great deal more precision. Perhaps here also the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, will give us the benefit of his views.
That is about all I have to say, my Lords. I believe that it is, on the whole, a good and necessary Bill, and I wish it well. Above all—and speaking particularly as a former Ulster or Northern Ireland soldier—I wish the Regiment well. But, wishing it well, I am particularly anxious that it should not find itself unknowingly lunching on dynamite; and for that reason I greatly hope that your Lordships will look with considerable caution on the Government's anxiety to get this Bill on to the Statute Book by Thursday.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, may I add my voice to those of your Lordships who have already expressed their appreciation and thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his excellent Report. My thanks are underlined by the fact that when I spent many hours in the last few days trying to understand the Bill and relate it to its military background, I reached the same conclusion as his Committee that in approaching the problem it is evident one must start from the principle that it can be dealt with only by military methods. When, some months ago, the Stormont Government was on the verge of ceasing to be a de facto Government the maintenance of law and order passed into the hands of the Armed Forces of 351 the Crown, and the responsibility then rested with Her Majesty's Government and with the two Houses of Parliament. Having reached that point, I wonder why we should try to rush this measure through your Lordships' House as it was rushed through another place. It reached its concluding stages in the middle of last week after an all-night Sitting; we have the Second Reading on Monday and a Committee stage on Thursday. This is a measure of great constitutional importance and it needs to be seen against the background not only of the events that led up to it but of the general situation in the military field which faces this country at the present time.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is right when he refers to military solution by the Armed Forces of the Crown, and this new force is to be part of those Regular Armed Forces. I noticed that the Minister of State in another place, in the concluding words of his speech on Third Reading, said, in speaking of this new force:It will become part of the regular forces, subject to military law …it is now integrated into the regular forces of the Crown."—[Official Report, Commons, 1/12/69; col. 1254.]My Lords, that state of affairs is not brought about by a Minister making a statement in another place. We operate under the rule of law, and the juxtaposition of authority in the Armed Forces and the Houses of Parliament has been a vital and delicate matter down the centuries in first asserting and then maintaining the rule of law.
The Bill of Rights asserted that it should be not lawful to maintain an army in time of peace unless it be with the consent of Parliament. That conception now includes the new force. If one looks at this Bill, I must confess—and I am wholly at one with the noble Earl who has just spoken—that I have my doubts about it. I tried this afternoon to elicit a reply about the application of military law because I wanted to save your Lordships time, and I hoped to clear up the obscurity which exists in my mind on this subject. The Minister who replied at the Despatch Box suggested that I should go away and read the Bill again. Well, I have done just that, and I can now almost repeat it like a parrot. I sat for two and a half 352 years on the Select Committee which produced the Army Act. It may well be that my intellectual stature, or my memory, has declined since that time, but I have spent this weekend again trying to relate what is in this Bill with the functioning of the Army Act, as I understand it.
Let me take an example, a very simple one, which I am sure will be familiar to everyone who has served in the Army. A man is in possession of his weapons and is at home; so there is no doubt, according to all that we have been told, that he is subject to military law. I must mention, in parenthesis, that Ministers change their tune, and I am not absolutely sure that they recognise when they have changed their tune. Sometimes it is "military law", sometimes it is "military discipline", and sometimes it is "military control"; and it seems to me that, poor dears, they think those things are one and the same, but clearly they are not.
To take discipline first, obviously under Clause 4 of the Bill it is possible for the Secretary of State for Defence to make regulations which would make the Queen's Regulations apply—although I noticed that when the Secretary of State for Defence was questioned on that point in another place he did not answer it but promised an answer later on and no answer was ever given. But I will now, under no greater authority than what I think myself, say that I believe that as far as the Queen's Regulations and discipline are concerned it is all right; but I must point out that if that is so it is unlike the Territorial Army, because they have regulations of their own.
Let us assume that the effective control is exercised by the G.O.C. Northern Ireland through the presence of the 200 officers, warrant officers, and N.C.O.s in the force. Now we come to military law. Our soldier, our member of the force, has his rifle at home; he commits some offence, and he is charged under Section 69 of the Army Act with conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. We all know that one. He is wheeled in, and he says, "You cannot try me, for you are trying me under the Army Act, but the definition of those who are liable under the Army Act to military law is contained 353 in Section 205, and the definition of 'regular forces'"—of which the Minister in another place said this force was a part—"is contained in the definitions in Section 225 of the Army Act and expressly excludes the reserve forces, the Territorials and the Home Guard." So I hope that when the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, comes to reply he will be able to deal with this. Obviously, there is some confusion here, and it is not clear from the Bill as drafted exactly what the position is. I must confess that it seems to me that it will be necessary to amend the Army Act if in actual fact this force is to be subject to military law and is to be considered a part of the regular forces. Does the noble Lord want to interrupt?
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord, whom I regard, as he knows, as a tremendous expert in this field, and with whom, therefore, I should always hesitate to argue. But I find some difficulty, and it may be that I have missed his point. Subsection (2) of Clause 1 declares members of the force to be members of the Armed Forces of the Crown, and specifies the circumstances in which they will be subject to military law. As I understand it, this means that they will be subject to the Army Act 1955. I am really seeking information, because I suspect that I may have missed some part of the noble Lord's argument.
§ LORD WIGG
I am sorry. If that is so, if the words in Clause 1(2)(a) mean what the noble Lord says they mean, then indeed this is most surprising, because why does the clause not say so? As I understand it, the Army Act is itself something more than merely a code of military law. It is all-embracing; and if you have a list of definitions of those who are subject to that Act, and if you have in that Act a definition of "regular forces" it seems to me that the common sense thing to do, to remove any possibility of doubt, is to amend the Army Act in both those two places, and not to leave it as it is now, because otherwise those who are responsible will one day face the possibility that this point will be decided in the courts.
354 The point I am making, if I may repeat it, is this. If the roles of the Home Guard, the Reserve Forces and the Regular Forces are defined, and if it is spelt out just who is liable to military law, it seems to me very odd that, when you introduce a new method—and by common consent this is something quite new—you should leave the position quite obscure. But I am quite content to leave it to the noble Lord. He can perhaps reply this evening, or he may care to engage in correspondence with the noble Earl who has just spoken, in which case perhaps he will let me know what he thinks. But at the moment it is anything but clear, and in the interests of what I would regard as law and order and good military discipline it seems to me that it ought to be cleared up.
But I want now, if I may, to move on to something much more important. What led up to the introduction of this Bill? It was not, I suggest, exclusively Northern Ireland. Once the decision is taken that the responsibility for the situation in Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the Army, then obviously the units in Northern Ireland—two battalions and a squadron of the 17/21st Lancers—had to be reinforced, and we have now stepped it up to nine major units. If I may say this to noble Lords on this side of the House, never in their worst days of scraping the barrel did they ever scrape it quite as it is being scraped at the present time. Of course, the Secretary of State for Defence is in an appalling dilemma; and there has been nothing like his conversion since the Journey to Damascus.
In every speech that I have made in this House since I ceased to be a Minister I have stressed the need for the Territorial Army—not for military reasons (that has been the difference between noble Lords on that side of the House and myself) but for just the reasons which the Secretary of State now advances: that it is absolutely essential in a modern society to give young men the opportunity, if they so desire, as volunteers, to give service to society, to the Crown, and prepare themselves for the defence of their country. This has always seemed to me an essential requirement, and it seems to me that it is a highly civilised requirement. I congratulate the Secretary of State on recognising, at long last, the wisdom—of 355 course, in the face of events—of this principle, and that it is a sound one. He has been generous enough, not necessarily specifically to recant—that would be asking too much—but to say that ever since he became Secretary of State for Defence he has always recognised the healthy social need for integrated forces. Well, my Lords, we live and we learn.
But the facts are (and I will not do more at the moment than touch on the general defence question) that last week the Secretary of State was in Brussels. Of course he is on pretty thin ice, because his NATO partners really know what the situation is. Members of this House or Members of the House of Commons can be refused information about what the establishments of units are or what their strength is—as if this information is unknown to the Russian Intelligence Service or to our NATO partners. But of course they know what the figures are, and they see the Canadians fading out next year. What they want is the return of the Sixth Brigade, which at the present moment is counted as being part of the Rhine Army although it is sitting around Colchester. If the Secretary of State takes it back then he will be under pressure in Northern Ireland. This is the measure of his difficulties. So we have this hurried, ill-thought-out measure brought before the House of Commons, rushed through and brought to your Lordships to-night.
I do not oppose the principle of the Bill, given the situation in which we find ourselves, subject to certain conditions. The first condition is that the Bill is designed and worked in such a way as to make a solution possible. I, too, like the noble Earl, do not worry very much about the title of this force, but there are those who fight on the difference between Fulham and Chelsea or, in my part of the world, between Port Vale and Stoke-on-Trent or Wolverhampton and West Bromwich Albion. These things really matter; and when I listened to the debate in the House of Commons the other night on this very point—and I read it again—it was perfectly clear that tremendous importance is attached to the name of the force. It therefore seems to me that the Government would be wise if, in the interests of getting general agreement and of giving their own measure a fair chance, they had 356 second thoughts. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and perhaps the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, are going to put down Amendments. I will not follow them, but I shall choose which Amendment is best and give that one my support. For I think it essential that the Government should give their own measure a fair chance.
I should like now to turn for a moment to the very difficult question of whether or not the members of this force should have arms at home. This evening the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, gave us a long catalogue of attacks which have been made by the I.R.A. at different times -not only perhaps by the I.R.A., but by other subversive forces, and one must recognise the fact that it is regarded as a danger. Anyway, whether it is true or not, the myth is, as it were, for practical purposes, a reality. There are those deep apprehensions against the possibility of these attacks, and therefore the Government say: "So far as the towns are concerned, we will hold the arms in central armouries; and so far as the country is concerned we would hold in central armouries, only we have no central armouries." I noticed that that point was not made to-day; and it was not made by the Secretary of State for Defence; but it was made at the end of the debate in another place by the Minister of Defence for Administration. One of the things that puzzles me—and it puzzled me when I read the White Paper the first time—is the talk about rifles. What rifles? Are these 303 Short Lee-Enfields?
§ LORD WIGG
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, says, "Yes". Very good. So we have the interesting situation that the Regular Army to-day is armed with the F.N. 762 m.m. self-loading rifle; while the forces with whom they are working are armed with different weapons using different ammunition. This seems to me to be rather quaint—surely a rather odd military arrangement. If you are going to have men in selected cases who may themselves have to face automatic or repetition fire, it seems to me that they should be given the most modern weapons, that they should train in the most modern weapons and they ought to be using the same weapons as the 357 Regular forces with which they are engaged. This seems to me to be common sense. But to-night, for the first time—it has not been mentioned before, either here or in another place or in the White Paper—we learn that these men are to be armed with what is, after all, a personal weapon that is obsolete.
I notice another point; it fell from the mouth of the Secretary of State for Defence. He said that the reason for these men possessing these weapons was the need to protect dispersed vulnerable spots. That was not the case made by the Minister of Defence for Administration in the other place. He made the case that these men were really in danger of their lives; that they wanted them for personal protection. Which is it. If they are engaged in the important role of protecting public utilities, then they must be armed with modern weapons. If, on the other hand, it is a deeply apprehended fear for their lives and safety, then there may be a case for the 303. But the Government cannot have it both ways. The House needs to make up its mind which it is. Another point which has been quite often made is that few weapons have been lost. I miss the significance of this point.
I was also deeply puzzled by a remark of the Secretary of State for Defence to the other place. He made what I thought was a truly remarkable statement. During the Second Reading of the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill in another place, he said:It is not the general custom for members of Army reserves to keep arms at home, and it is our intention that as a general rule, and to the greatest possible extent, the arms of the Ulster Defence Regiment shall be kept in central armouries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 19/11/69; col. 1325.]Note the words "it is not the general custom". That means, I suggest, that if it is not the general custom it is the practice of some sections of the Army Reserve to keep weapons. If I am unfair in that interpretation I should like to be told so. If I am right and that statement was intended to convince the House of Commons that there are those serving in the Reserve Forces who keep their arms at home, I should like the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he comes to reply, to tell us who they are—because I will now say that that statement is completely false. No section of the Army Reserve keep their weapons at home. The Secretary 358 of State must have known that when he made that statement. That is a serious thing to say, but I am quite confident of my facts.
This leads me to my second point, the question of recall. This is of fundamental importance. Under the Reserve Forces Act, when a national emergency is apprehended the Sovereign can call out the whole of the Reserve. But notice what must happen. If the Reserve is called out, the House of Commons, the Houses of Parliament, must be informed at once. If they are not in Session they must be recalled for that purpose. It is true that under another section of that Act men serving in Volunteer Reserve units can be recalled merely by the Secretary of State giving notice to them in writing. But these are definitely controlled procedures. They are controlled procedures in the interests of democracy itself. They have been jealously guarded down the centuries and under different Administrations as a check on the Executive—not, perhaps, any of those living to-day, but down the centuries. From the Bill of Rights onwards this right of control by the Houses of Parliament has been safeguarded.
Now we have a situation in which we are told—I am not convinced that it is right, although I am open to conviction—that men who are members of the Armed Forces can have their arms at home and can be called out under procedures which, as the noble Earl who spoke before me said, are ill defined. Somebody can knock on the door and (to use his words) say: "Come on, Fred. Come out!" This can be done by an officer not below the rank of Major or by anyone whom that officer delegates—and the Houses of Parliament remain in complete ignorance. Obviously, if some trouble is apprehended and you have to call Fred out, always assuming that the procedures are clearly laid down and adhered to, that is all right. Nobody in his senses would expect the Secretary of State for Defence or his subordinate to come immediately to the Houses of Parliament and inform them. But some procedure ought to be worked out—even if only a procedure that at monthly intervals or quarterly intervals both Houses of Parliament are informed of the number of occasions on which these men are called out under these Acts. Because the principle of Parliamentary control over the 359 Armed Forces of the Crown is absolutely vital and is the basic safeguard of our democratic procedure. I think that that is self evident.
My Lords, we have dealt with the title; we have dealt with the weapons. I have my doubts as to whether this measure deals with the difficulties of this force falling within the scope of the Army Act. And we have dealt with the question of the call-out. It now remains for me to say this. I wish this Bill well. But I am old enough, I regret to say, to remember being attached to a Regiment of the Line which had two detachments in Ireland during "the Troubles". I remember that it was a matter of months from the time the Black and Tans arrived in Ireland in 1920—and note that the original forces were described by Winston Churchill, as he then was, as men of high intelligence—before the situation deteriorated. Before the year ended they were supplemented by the Auxiliary Cadets, and from then until 1921 the situation got worse and worse. For both Black and Tans and Auxiliaries were out of control. They left behind a memory which took a long time to disappear.
I think that the control by the Army is right, but the Army have a very difficult job to do. They have to recruit, and they are to have the assistance of an Advisory Board, which is good. I happen to know, as a result of part of my Ministerial experience, the state of security in the Army when the present Government asumed office in 1964. Let us put it very modestly and say that a number of administrative changes were made, and the situation has greatly improved. I wonder sometimes that some Minister of this Administration does not draw attention to the fact that during the five years of the Labour Government there has been no major security scandal. But perhaps that would be taking a bit of a risk, because one never knows what the future may hold. To those who remember the circumstances, the last five years contrast very favourably with the previous five years—but I will not press on old wounds.
I would personally vouch for the ability and integrity of those men who are engaged in a very difficult task of security vetting, but they will have to rely on fairly "dodgy" sources in Northern Ireland. Security vetting in Northern 360 Ireland is going to be a different proposition from security vetting in this country, and therefore there is one thing that I should like to see—and here I want to choose my words with great care. I think that the Prime Minister should institute certain procedures; not novel ones and certainly not by burdening the Security Commission. The Security Commission is working well, and I think that it would be wrong to seek to alter its terms of reference. The Prime Minister has around him men who are wise and good and of great ability. That is why I sometimes find my temperature rising a little when I see stones cast at the security services. During the three years when I came anywhere near them I can vouch that there were no more patriotic, devoted, liberal-minded, intelligent and good men to be found anywhere in these Islands than those who comprised our security services. They have a difficult job to do, and they can make mistakes—indeed, I am surprised that they do not make more. But I think that the country is well served.
Whether Northern Ireland is to be turned into a "Hell's kitchen" or whether we are going to move forward—as Mr. Quintin Hogg hoped in his very able speech in Dublin this week-end—into a concept where civilised men respect the law and the rights of others depends very largely on how this force is recruited. There is suspicion on both sides; there is hatred on both sides. We have to find a bridge. I am now speaking over the head of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, but I hope that the Prime Minister will heed my words. What he should do is to draw on those who are near him—he could do it quite easily—and set up a small committee, answerable to him, which would ensure that the vetting procedures in Northern Ireland are carried through strictly, fairly and with a supreme concern for the objects which this Bill seeks to advance. If that were done, I do not think that the Minister of Defence, or the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, or the Stormont Government, would lose cast. The people I am talking about are men of the greatest experience, and in these critical times they could render a service not by breathing down somebody's neck or leaning over somebody's shoulder, but by making their expertise available whenever it becomes necessary.
361 My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, either by correspondence or during this debate, can clear up my doubts about the Army Act; if he would go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, and do something about the title of the force; if he would clear up some of the points made during the debate (I have not by any means exhausted my list of statements made in another place which are completely devoid of fact), I do not think we shall have any difficulty during the Committee stage. But I believe that the noble Lord would be serving the House, and serving the purposes of the Government, if he postponed the Committee stage from this week to next week to allow us all an opportunity to give this Bill the further careful consideration it needs.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I listened with extreme interest to every word the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said. I must say that I share a great many of his apprehensions and would support his suggestion that the Committee stage should, if possible, be postponed. The noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him into the intracacies of his argument. I want to commence by considering something that I think highly relevant but has not so far been raised in this debate; that is the greatly changed political situation, compared with a year ago, that will be faced in Northern Ireland by the proposed new Regiment when it comes into existence.
My Lords, what is the position there at present? I think that the great majority in the North is not politically active. Those people do not take part in parades or demonstrations, they want to live their own quiet lives peacefully and succeed in doing so. But those who are active politically are, unfortunately, still very bitterly divided between two great extremes. I suggest that the religious side of this division has always been over emphasised. We have on the one hand representatives of the Unionist majority who are wishing to maintain the dominant position, the position of ascendancy, that they have held since the plantation; and, in general, to remain part of the United Kingdom. On the other hand is the Nationalist minority of 362 which the number is growing larger every year, and which in my belief will not remain a minority for ever. Throughout this last year, indeed throughout the last ten years, this minority has sought an end to the discrimination it has always suffered; discrimination in jobs, in housing and voting rights. It is a minority which, in general, hopes for integration with the Republic by constitutional means—and I emphasis "by constitutional means".
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
It is no more than an historical accident, the fact that the plantation of Ulster came after the Reformation, that most of the former, but by no means all, are Protestants, and most of the latter are Catholics. My own family, like the family of my noble friend Lord Longford, have lived in Ireland, and in what is now, thank God! the Republic of Ireland, for several hundred years; I am not quite sure how many. My family, like my noble friend's, has formed part and parcel of the Protestant ascendancy. I have not learned to "dig with the other foot" as has the noble Earl; I am not quite sure that I dig with any foot.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
But despite my background, I fully support the Nationalist movement and the Civil Rights Association, and look forward to a united, independent Ireland as a nation once again.
My Lords, I ask: Where does the main danger of civil disturbance in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland now lie? The Stormont Government have agreed, they have been forced to agree—and this is a measure of the success achieved by the oppressed minority—to a series of reforms which, if they are fully implemented, would remove to a great extent, or could remove entirely, the grievances suffered by that minority and lead to the possibility of peaceful co-existence. The only real danger to such co-existence is that full implementation of the reform programme will be opposed by force by the extremist members of the unionist majority. I shall name no names.
363 Therefore, I suggest that the real problem is whether the proposed Regiment would be suitable and effective in countering such force, in dealing with civil disturbances provoked by Protestant extremists to prevent the implementation of the proposed reformed programme. I very much fear that it will not so prove. It is essential to be realistic. I say, with regret, that I believe that this Regiment will end up by being almost exclusively a sectarian force. I was most interested in the remarks on this matter by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and I hope that he is right. I accept that the Government are completely sincere in the hope they have expressed that large numbers of the minority will join the Regiment. But that minority, rightly or wrongly, believes, and they have considerable justification for believing, that the main function of this Regiment will be to see that they remain an oppressed minority, to deny them the rights they have been promised, to impede peaceful demonstrations, to harry and terrorise them.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, pointed out that not a single Catholic was among the 8,500 members of the U.S.C. I hope, as my noble friend Lord Longford hoped, that 2,000 Catholics will now come forward to form one-third of this new Regiment. But it is going to be so closely identified in the minds of that minority with the Specials that I see little possibility of that hope being fulfilled. We have to remember that it was originally intended that 30 per cent. of the R.U.C. should be Catholic, and that even in the R.U.C. the figure has always remained at 10 or 11 per cent.
I want to emphasise that it is the unhappy dichotomy between Unionist and Nationalist within Northern Ireland that has been responsible for all these terrible disturbances, for which nobody is sorrier than I, and which now lead to the proposed formation of this Regiment. I believe that it is merely fanciful to imagine that any threat exists to the integrity or internal harmony of Northern Ireland from outside—that is to say, from the Republic of Ireland. That suggesttion was given rather undue emphasis in the otherwise excellent Report of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. In his opening remarks, my noble friend Lord Winterbottom 364 began to enumerate a series of acts of terrorism in the North and, when I intervened, he said that he could not state whether these had come from across the Border. I maintain that there is no evidence whatever that they did so come. The only act of cross-Border sabotage was the completely unsuccessful attempt by a Protestant extremist to blow up the dam at Ballyshannon in the Republic.
It is true, and no one can deny it, that from 1956 to 1962 there was a series of serious armed raids from across the Border by the I.R.A., which is an illegal organisation in the Republic of Ireland and which has been denounced in the Dáil over and over again and by the leaders of both Churches. No one deplores more than I do that these took place but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, says in his Report, their campaign of terrorism "gained no public support and was defeated." There have now been no such incidents for over seven years. I live seven miles from the Border, on the right side, and I believe that it is most unlikely that there will be a recurrence.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I ask my noble friend what he means by being "on the right side"? It would really help us.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I wondered if anyone would rise to that fly. I meant on the Republican side of the Border but in Ulster, in one of the three Ulster counties in the Republic of Ireland.
On the question of the functions of the Regiment, on Committee stage in another place the impression was most definitely given by the Government, whether intentionally or not, that the Regiment would be used almost exclusively for the guarding of vital installations. This can be inferred from the mathematics used by the Minister, Mr. Ivor Richard, to justify the ceiling of 6,000 men. He argued that at times of greater tension this year a maximum of 800 men a night was needed for this duty of guarding installations. Members of the Regiment could not be expected to serve more than one night a week. By multiplying 800 by the number of days in the week and allowing for wastage, Mr. Richard reckoned that up to 7,000 might be needed for this purpose.
365 If this ceiling might be required at times of great tension for guarding vital installations, that would leave nobody available for any other duty. If this were the case—that guarding these rather mythical installations was to be the Regiment's nearly exclusive function—I should have no objection to it, though there would be little for it to do if the reform programme goes through. But my fear is that this will not be the only duty.
How else will the Regiment be employed? An assurance was given in another place that it will not be employed in industrial disputes and that this will be included in regulations. The assurance was also given in another place on Committee stage that the Regiment would not be engaged in crowd control. I myself do not want the Regiment to come in contact in any way with unarmed members of the public. I do not think it should be used for breaking up peaceful demonstrations. I do not think that it should ever enter the Bogside or the Catholic districts of Belfast. I do not think that it should operate road blocks, except on cross-border roads if there were a resurgence of armed terrorism from Republican bases.
I do not want the Regiment to be used on riot duty. My noble friend Lord Winterbottom said today that it was not intended that it should so be used. But when this matter was considered in another place on an Amendment of my honourable friend, Miss Devlin, the Minister, Mr. Roy Hattersley, gave an important assurance on this point, and then greatly qualified it for a reason that seems to me invalid. The Minister gave an assurance that… it is essentially the intention of the Secretary of State …that the Regiment should not be used for riot duties. If he had stopped there, as my noble friend Lord Winterbottom did, well and good. But the Minister went on to say that the Regiment, like any other body, had a common law obligation to protect life and property and added that it would be fantastic to "write out" such an obligation by including such a provision in the Regulations. That was his only reason for not agreeing to do so.
366 I cannot see the validity of his argument. If the Regiment has been called out, if armed members are despatched each night on specified assignments (which, in my view, should consist of guarding vital installations or patrolling the border), and on the way to these assignments they happen to encounter a body of extremists of either persuasion which seems to constitute a threat to life and property, they can surely be expected—in fact, they would be duty bound—to fulfil the common law obligation to which the Minister referred, even if it were written in the Regulations that they should not be employed on riot duties, as is, after all, the essential intention of the Government, because the common law obligation would remain. Such circumstances would be a very different matter from being specifically despatched by their commanding officer to undertake riot duties. The undertaking of such duties, I believe, would be disastrous. Whenever the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and in particular the B Specials, were called in during the disturbances this year, it always had the effect of exacerbating the situation. It was only when the British Army intervened, and were at once accepted as the first representatives of impartial law and order ever seen by the community, that peace was restored.
There is a further point concerning which I feel serious apprehension. The mathematics used by Mr. Richard to justify a ceiling of 6,000 men were based on the Regiment being a part-time force, as it will be, in principle, its members serving not more than one night a week. But under Clause 1(5) it is clear that full-time service may be required. I would ask: in what circumstances would that full-time service be required? It would clearly never be necessary to have 6,000 armed men on duty at the same time for guarding vital installations. Can we have any assurance—or, better still, can it be written into the Regulations or into the Act itself—that full-time service will be required only if there is a threat from outside to the integrity of the Province?
I say the "Province", but it is, of course, only two-thirds of a Province. I cannot avoid mentioning the proposed name of the Regiment, although it has been mentioned already here several times and at length in another place, 367 because, as I have indicated earlier, it happens that I myself live in the other one-third of that Province. I woke up this morning in Ulster—I flew across from Dublin this afternoon—and was at the same time happily within the borders of the Republic.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
The noble Lord keeps using interesting phrases. He said that he was "happily" in the Republic. I feel that there must be some particular reason for this.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
Well, I was happy that I was in the Republic, otherwise I would not live there. I said that I was happy to wake up there this morning, and I am sorry to be back here now. I do not think the Regiment will ever come to defend me—in fact, I am sure it will not, and I am grateful that it will not—in County Cavan. Indeed, I may say that I consider it no less than an insult to the Republic that the Regiment should by inference claim to defend an ancient and well-defined Province of which one-third, no less, is within the borders of the Republic, which is a neighbouring, sovereign State.
I will say no more on this occasion about the name of the Regiment, because it has already been mentioned so fluently by the noble Lords, Lord Brockway, Lord Hunt, Lord Boothby and Lord Cork and Orrery, and because I will be putting my name to an Amendment in my noble friend's name that the title of the Regiment should be changed. But I must ask noble Lords to accept that the word has special significance; that it is a kind of password, almost a secret sign; and that it is, in fact, an indication that this will be predominantly a Unionist force. Call the Regiment what you will, it is unlikely that many Catholics will come forward to join it. Call it the Ulster Defence Regiment, and it is sure that practically none will. In principle, I am opposed to the establishment of this force. I accept that it will be established, but I am deeply apprehensive of how it will be employed, and hope that some of these apprehensions will be removed in the course of my noble friend's reply.
§ 6.35 p.m.
My Lords, I apologise for not having put my name down to speak in the debate, but I hope to be not more than five minutes. I want to speak on only one subject, which has been touched on by many noble Lords, and that is the Title of the Bill. My only justifications for speaking are that I have a Northern Irish title and I am speaking from a Back Bench, and opinion seems to have been divided on the subject of the Title in a way that I do not entirely understand. It has been argued here, and was argued at length in another place, that the Title was so unimportant that it was a waste of time to discuss it. It was also argued that it was so important that to introduce an Amendment on it, or to pass an Amendment, would wreck the Bill itself. I am prepared to believe either of those propositions, but I am not prepared to believe both.
It seems to me, having listened to this debate, that there is a division of opinion as follows. Those who believe the Title to be supremely unimportant sit mainly on the Front Benches, and those who believe it to be important seem to sit on the Back Benches. I should like to express solidarity with those who sit on the Back Benches, that it is important. I understood the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, in his extremely fair statement, to say that we all know that Ulster consists of nine counties and not six. I may be wrong, but I thought I heard a murmur from the Front Bench saying: "You mean six counties and not nine". There are a great many in the country, though not in your Lordships' House, who are a bit doubtful whether Ulster does mean nine counties which include six counties, or six counties which include nine, or what. It is sufficiently ambiguous to raise doubt in people's minds.
From another point, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—and I agreed with almost all his remarks—said that he had doubts about the Title; but he added, as the noble Earl, Lord Cork, said, that he did not feel that we ought to alter it "now". I think there are only three choices: to alter it now, to alter it never, or to alter it in Committee. We cannot alter it now, we shall not alter it "never", and if any-body proposes to alter it in Committee I 369 would certainly vote for the alternative that I thought best for the purposes.
I was able to agree with everything that was said by my noble friend Lord Byers. But, to be quite fair to the Back-Benchers, my only difference—not disagreement—with him is that I did not think he went quite far enough, in so far as he said: "We ought to give every encouragement to Catholics to join the new force". I believe this Title is not one of the things that will encourage them. He also said: "I cannot believe that the name, Ulster Defence Force, will be the one thing on which the new force will founder." I entirely agree with that, but it might be one of the things which would help it to founder.
I do not want to keep your Lordships, but I should like to touch very briefly on the Back-Bench view. I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, whom I think we can regard as entirely impartial and who is perhaps the person whom most of us have come to hear. He did regard this matter as important. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Longford, does, because, owing to a failure of timing, I was not in the Chamber when he spoke. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, made the point which I should like to reiterate: that it is not only the word "Ulster "or Defence", but the juxtaposition of the two, which is crucial. In conclusion, I will illustrate this by saying that I do not object to being called British—although I like to sign my name as "English" in the hotel book. I do not object to the name "humanist". Like the Archbishop of Canterbury when he was interviewed by Mr. David Frost, I would say I am a humanist, although I hope a Christian one. I should resent being called a British Humanist, not because I have any doubts about the idealism of the British Humanist Association, but because they are apt to argue in a way which I think has been employed in this case, by attempting to get the best of both worlds. I mean that if you produce a logical argument they are apt to say, "That is all academic and pedantic". If, on the other hand, you produce an emotional argument, they say, "Oh, that is emotive".
A great deal of emotion is felt about this subject on both sides, and there is no reason why it should not be voiced; 370 but when one is trying to be impartial and has to judge between the two emotional attitudes, one can only listen to the arguments. The arguments I have listened to and read in another place, and which I have heard here tonight, convince me that the Title is important. I believe an Amendment which alters it would help the cause which all your Lordships have at heart, which is a peaceful Ireland.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this debate has gone rather wider than I had expected and, indeed, some noble Lords—in particular my noble friend Lord Kilbracken—took the opportunity, which they were entitled to do, to make the speech which they might have made when we were debating Northern Ireland a few weeks ago. It is interesting to see the emergence above the Bishops' Bench of almost an "Irish Bench". To judge by what the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, covers I think it is also sometimes a "Biafran Bench", or an "Irish Bench ", or even a "Rugby Union Bench" as it was on the last occasion.
It will be difficult for me to cover all the issues that have been raised, although there are a number of small points, and some rather tricky points—particularly those from my noble friend Lord Wigg—which I will endeavour to answer rather quickly, and then return to some of the central issues. In speaking, I am very conscious of what my noble friend Lord Longford said (and I appreciate his reference to myself) and I should like, indeed, to speak in the same tone as he did. I hope we are all deeply anxious—and this is the purpose of the debate—to arrive at decisions which will contribute to peace in Northern Ireland, and not the reverse.
I particularly appreciated—as I think did the House—the moderation and understanding in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan. I can give him one piece of information, and that is that a man who has served for five years in the U.S.C. will reckon that service for bounty in the new Regiment, and will go straight on to the £35 rate of bounty. I will give answers to a number of the purely military points now. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked a number of points on wireless equipment. Each battalion will have some transmitting and 371 receiving stations, including some vehicle mounted stations in the mobile patrol element. Perhaps I should have dealt with that first. There will be a small mobile element in each battalion equipped with both troop carriers and small four-wheel drive vehicles—which seems to me to be a longer way of saying Land Rovers, but the military talk in these terms, and I assume it is a Land Rover. Some vehicles will be equipped with wireless. The mobile element will carry out patrols and enable check points and road blocks to be set up quickly.
On the subject of armouries, I can only say that the G.O.C. is giving special attention to the provision of the necessary armouries, and a preliminary survey of the accommodation that is likely to be available for the Regiment, including that available for armouries, is now being undertaken. There will be opportunities—but essentially on a purely voluntary basis—to undertake training in the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and other noble Lords, referred to the kind of rifle. I am happy to be able to give him the information that it will be a single-shot Lee-Enfield, though I cannot remember which Mark. I feel extreme diffidence, almost amounting to nervousness, debating with somebody who is as well informed as the noble Lord, Lord Wigg. The rifles they are having are their personal weapons, they are not status symbols, and the simple fact is that they do not need the F.N. rifle. It has been my experience, and it must have been the experience of the noble Lord. Lord Wigg, that it is still not unusual, particularly on guard duties (and I have seen this in recent years in various parts of the world) for particular people, say the R.A.F. guarding a particular installation in Aden, not to be armed with F.N. rifles. The rifles these men will have are considered suitable for the purpose for which they will use them.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, I understood—perhaps I am wrong—that the common rifle now is the 762 mm. self-loading rifle, and that the Mark IV Lee-Enfield, to which the noble Lord referred, has now been re-barrelled, so that it took the NATO bore. As I understand it, these chaps will have the old Mark IV Lee-Enfield with the 303 ammunition.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, this is the point at which I have gone as far as my certainty goes. I promise to give the noble Lord any further information on this point. It is the single-shot rifle and not the F.N.
Also on the subject of equipment, the noble Earl, Lord Cork and Orrery, who always speaks so reasonably, but seems sometimes (I hope he will not mind my saying it) to make very heavy weather with relatively small points, is obviously worried that a member of this force, if he takes his webbing—I think he called it his "foundation garment"—home would immediately have a prescribed piece of equipment, and, therefore would come under military law. The noble Earl really need not have worried. The Army may at times appear to be rather silly to some noble Lords—and the noble Earl was himself a soldier, so perhaps he is prejudiced on this—but they do know what they are doing. The purpose of including equipment is to cover circumstances in which a member of the force might be authorised to take home a Service radio or vehicle whose loss or misuse would be a serious matter. It is not meant to apply to uniform or personal equipment. Hence—and this is the beauty of the Bill—the equipment is to be prescribed for the particular purposes of this provision. I hope that the noble Earl will now cease to worry on this point.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
My Lords, if the noble Lord will forgive me for intervening, I entirely appreciate the point about the "foundation garment". I think I made that point myself.
§ THE EARL OF CORK AND ORRERY
I did not think it really meant that. Apparently it does say that. But it does not say—does it?—that the equipment is to be "prescribed for the particular point of this section". If you look in the definition you find that it is to be prescribed. Prescribed equipment is prescribed equipment. So all the Bill need say is that it is "prescribed for the particular purposes of this section", which is to define how a man comes under military law.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am very sorry, my Lords. I think the noble Earl is still worried. I have done my best. It is to be prescribed—he is quite right—and it will be prescribed in a sensible way.
I should like now to come on to a difficult area; namely, the question of call-out. "Call-out" is a term which is, as noble Lords know, frequently used in reserve forces legislation; and I could quote a number of Acts. It means summoned from civilian life to military duty, and it is not defined in any Statute. A part of the force generally means a unit or sub-unit, but it could be any group other than an individual. A man who has his arms at home is subject to military law under the provisions of Clause 1(2)(b)(ii), but he is not thereby called out for service. That is to be done by specific order; namely, that he must turn out for guard duty at such-and-such an hour. And he is not to use his arms except as ordered. I hope that this answers the noble Lord's points. This has some bearing on what the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, said later.
It is not going to be easy, I think, for me to answer some of the technical points in this debate. These are early days in the formation of the force, and before it becomes operational these matters will have been thoroughly examined; exact procedures will have been devised, and instructions will have been written. But this is a very unusual force, and both the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and the noble Earl point the difficulties of organising a military force of this kind; of reconciling both the legislation and the military precision to which we are accustomed with the flexibility and informality needed for a really rather unusual part-time citizen force. We are very conscious of the difficulty, and the Ministry of Defence are, I am sure, studying it with great care in the context of the regulations. And I am sure they will be reinforced in their determination to do so thoroughly by some of the remarks that have been made.
It is worth pointing out that the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment is quite different from that of any of the other reserves. I have already made that point, but it applies even if we compare it with TAVR, which could be called out for 374 home defence service only under the liabilities of actual or apprehended attack or imminent national danger. They could not be used on emergency service of the kind which this force will undertake under Clause 2.
Perhaps I might deal here with the point of military law. I suspect that we may have an opportunity even to continue this discussion further. But, as I understand it, subsection (3) of Clause 1 (and I am quite certain that the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, will not have missed this) seems to have the effect of applying the relevant parts of the Army Act 1955; and by this reference to them this has the effect, not of amending the Army Act 1955, but of bringing these forces within the relevant sections of that Act. But I want to look very closely at what the noble Lord said, because he always argues his case in a very closely and tightly reasoned way, and I want to make sure that I have covered the points to which he was referring.
I should now like to turn to another aspect—an important point which seems to raise what could be an important libertarian issue. It relates to the control of Parliament over the Army. This is a matter to which Parliament has always attached the greatest importance, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has probably been the most active Parliamentarian in this field, certainly in my generation. I always regarded him in this respect as a somewhat Cromwellian figure, although Cromwell himself subsequently disposed of Parliament. The point of reporting to Parliament in the case of this particular force is, I believe, quite other than the point of reporting to Parliament in the case of a call-out of reserves in the circumstances with which we are familiar. It is certainly true that it was pointed out in another place—and the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has done the same here—that there was no provision for reporting to Parliament any exercise of the power. My honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State has undertaken to see whether machinery could be devised in this connection.
I think the House will agree that the routine guarding of vulnerable points or the call-out of a few men to meet a local threat would not realistically justify a Parliamentary debate. But the call-out of the whole force raises a quite different 375 issue; and if they were called out on permanent service, under subsection (3) or (4), provision already exists for a report to be made to Parliament. The call-out of the whole force on emergency service does not depend on a prior decision in Parliament. This would destroy its speed of action, and it would be inconsistent with Clause 2(2) of the Bill. But if there were a need for a general call-out undoubtedly the Government would expect—and I think we must face that Governments must be prepared—to give an assurance and to report to Parliament and, if necessary, arrange a Parliamentary debate.
§ LORD WIGG
My Lords, if I may intervene, I do not think the noble Lord quite understands the importance of this. When the Army Act was revised, both Houses agreed to the amendment of the Bill of Rights. I understand this has been done only once before. This was a pretty serious step to take, and it was taken—this was the last item the Select Committee left to themselves—on the absolute and specific understanding that Parliament would have an opportunity, not necessarily to debate but to be kept informed. If this is an extension of a regular forces requirement, it seems to me necessary, not, again, that a debate should take place, or that the Houses of Parliament should be informed the next day, but that they should be kept informed in some way.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I am not sure in logic. It is a question whether within the spirit of the under-taking a force is unusual and is carrying out a different type of role. But I fully acknowledge that there can be an important constitutional point here. I do not believe that anyone would expect that the call-out of this force for the particular duties which, for instance, the B Specials are performing now, in the way of guarding, would warrant a report to Parliament. But I think it would be desirable for us to look a little further at this—and it may be that there is some further assurance I can give on this point. I have taken the point off the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, and so have the Government, but I do not think it is quite as serious for the routine activities of this particular force as he implies.
376 Concern has been expressed about the officer who has the power to call out these particular men. This power can be delegated only to a regular officer. He must not be below the rank of major, and at all times it is within the control of the G.O.C. Northern Ireland, who is directly answerable to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, and so to Parliament. I hope that this very carefully thought out arrangement provides the assurance that this will not be some irresponsible force.
Let me add that, despite what may have been said about the B Specials in the past (and I am familiar with the problems, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, knows; and I have heard the arguments for many years), I do not know of any recent cases, except within the context of the particular troubles just recently, when in fact in ordinary circumstances there have been reports of irresponsible action. But the important thing—and I stress this to my noble friend with anxiety in this matter—is that this force is now being brought within the control of the British Army. This is the most decisive argument in favour of the Bill and of proceeding with it in the way we are doing.
My Lords, I should like to mention one or two other points. The G.O.C. Northern Ireland will aim at the selection of the best qualified applicants for appointment as officers in the Regiment. This point was raised by my noble friend Lord Longford. There will certainly be no automatic appointment to the Regiment of officers of the Ulster Special Constabulary, but it is likely to be found that the present county commandants, provided they meet the other requirements, will be best qualified to be battalion commanders during the early life of the Regiment. I appreciate that this is a source of anxiety to some of my noble friends.
That brings me to the points about security vetting. I gladly echo the tribute paid by my noble friend Lord Wigg to the security services. He knows that I also have had some experience of them. Obviously we shall consider closely what he has said. The security screening of applicants to determine their suitability or otherwise to be members of the Ulster Defence Regiment will, of course, be 377 entirely the responsibility of the G.O.C. Northern Ireland. This process will be done entirely by the Army. But as my noble friend knows, this is perhaps a matter which I ought not to pursue further, beyond saying that it is obvious that the advice of the security services is available to any proper Government institution. The greater part of the screening will be done by the Army, and the purpose will be to ensure that applicants are of good character and are not extremists in the context of the general situation in Northern Ireland.
My Lords, I should now like to say something about the Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council is to achieve a proper balance in the force, and clearly it would be important that in arriving at the total numbers of this force some regard should also be had to the balance. It could be argued that if we had a lower number it would almost automatically be filled up with eager applicants from the old Ulster Special Constabulary, but there will need to be an appropriate balance of experience as well as of community background. Although an applicant's religion is not normally a relevant consideration for entering the Army or for determining technical competence, applicants for the Ulster Defence Regiment are being asked to state their religion on their application form, so that during the progress of recruitment Her Majesty's Government can watch this question of the balance as applicants come in.
I should have liked to go on and discuss the question of the size of the force. I would only emphasise again that the figure of 6,000 is a ceiling and not a recruiting target. The policy on the actual size of the force will be determined in the light of experience as the build-up proceeds, but in any case will not ultimately exceed 6,000 officers and men. In my view it would be foolish to set a ceiling figure lower than 6,000 which is, as I have said, based upon a broad assessment of the military operational requirement. Noble Lords who have had experience in military planning on occasion may doubt the precision of military operational requirements, but the Army have done this pretty thoroughly, and the noble Lord, Lord Byers, having recently visited Northern Ireland, has come to the view that this is a reasonable figure. In all these matters the Government can 378 only, in a very difficult area of judgment, make the best judgment that they can.
This brings me to the highly contentious question of the title of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Powerful arguments have been put forward by nearly every noble Lord who has spoken. Even the noble Lord, Lord Rathcavan, said that if this was important he would in fact be prepared to see a change. I must say that this is important to both sides in the argument, and the Northern Ireland Government have shown, I believe, a great deal of courage—although one may have criticised them in the past—in accepting a number of measures which will provide a large-scale programme of fundamental reforms in Northern Ireland. Two of these Bills stem from Westminster, and the Police Bill we debated in this House only a few days ago. Responsibility for other legislation lies with the Northern Ireland Government, and they really have recognised fully the extent of the problem posed by the existence of the two communities.
My Lords, they have gone much further than we have in this country in a number of respects regarding the freedom of the individual. They have not only set up a Community Relations Commission but there is comprehensive machinery for the making and investigation of complaints—and this does not consist merely of our own Parliamentary Commissioner acting in a similar capacity for the Northern Ireland Government, but takes the form also of the Commissioner Complaints Act which is already on the Statute Book. Your Lordships know the range of advance in difficult circumstances that the Northern Ireland Government have made, under very heavy pressure and, if I may say so, in an inflammable situation—and the Government, having considered all the aspects and having considered the very arguments that noble Lords have put forward, of which I myself am only too well aware, have come to the view that in the circumstances it was right to agree that this should be called the Ulster Defence Regiment.
When noble Lords suggest that the name should be changed, are they suggesting that some of the other Ulster units should now change their names—that the 6th Battalion the Royal Ulster Rifles (which is in fact a TAVR 379 cadre) or the 40th Signals Regiment, or the 102nd Ulster and Scottish Light Air Defence Regiment should change their names? I think the noble Earl put his finger on a crucial point—and this is the only one that gave me doubts. It is the association of the word "defence". I want to urge that, although this is an important point, we can make too much of it; and I would beg your Lordships now to let this Bill go forward. I have listened to all the arguments; I have been disturbed by them. But I am bound to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who only last week—he will not mind my saying—expressed strong criticism to me of the title of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Having been over there, under no influence of mine, he has come back and believes that we ought to leave the title as it is. I would appeal to my noble friend Lord Brockway and ask him to consider—and this is a dangerous argument even to use because it can be used as an argument against freedom of discussion—whether in moving an Amendment on Thursday he is making a contribution to peace in Northern Ireland. I hope very much that we will now let this Bill go through.
I appreciate what the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, has said, that one would like more time to consider these technical matters, and if the House wished to put off the Committee stage beyond Thursday, of course we would consider it. If we are to proceed with measures of this sort at this moment, however, we do seek the co-operation of the House in getting them through, and I hope that we shall be able to take the Bill on Thursday. I shall certainly not complain if the noble Lord decides to proceed with his Amendment, but I would ask him to consider that in this situation, where people in all Parties will acknowledge that the Government have done the best they can—they have had difficult judgments to make and they have made those judgments—after all these discussions we should now go ahead with the Bill. I am grateful to your Lordships for the moderation, and indeed the helpfulness and the detailed reasoning, that has been used in this debate, and I hope that we shall be able to pass this Bill into law fairly soon.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one very short question? Have the Government considered the practicability of laying down as a condition of recruitment to this new force that a certain percentage of it must be Catholics, say roughly corresponding to the adult Catholic population of Northern Ireland?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I really do think it is a little late for the noble Viscount to join in the debate.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My, Lords, I was simple saying that we have heard a great deal from the Southern Irish Bench over there of the supposed fears of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. If we had such an arrangement as I suggest it would calm their fears. But I think their fears are highly exaggerated.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.