§ 2.45 p.m.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Bill, has consented to place her interests and prerogative, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
I am very conscious that there are many of your Lordships here this afternoon who know Ireland much better than I do and who are much better qualified to speak on this issue—and not least among them my noble and learned friend who sits on the Woolsack. I speak this afternoon in introducing this Bill because, as Secretary of State for Defence, I have clearly been intimately concerned with the events which led up to the Prime Minister's Statement in the House of Commons on Friday. I was present at the two meetings with Mr. Faulkner, and because of the Army's heavy responsibilities in Northern Ireland I have been daily concerned with events in the Province. I think it right, therefore, that I should make some general remarks about the situation we have now reached, but before I do so I should like to apologise to the House for the fact that once again on a Northern Ireland issue we are having to resort to an unusual procedure in order to pass legislation more quickly than would otherwise be possible—this time by using a No. 2 Bill. As an ex-Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition I realise only too well that this is something which the House most particularly dislikes and which should be resorted to in only the rarest of circumstances; and the Government are most grateful to your Lordships for the patience and tolerance which 1056 you are showing, or which I hope you will be showing, this afternoon. But I do not think that on this occasion anyone on any side of the House will quarrel with the Government's submission that there is an urgency about this situation and that the longer the situation remains unclarified in regard to the political responsibility in Northern Ireland the worse it will be.
My noble and learned friend will be speaking at the end of the debate, for this Bill is obviously one of the greatest Constitutional significance, and the exact definition of the term "law and order" and what its transfer to Westminster means is something which he will be able to explain much more clearly than I could ever hope to do. Though my noble friend Lord Windlesham is not speaking on this occasion, he will take the Bill through the House to-morrow. I think it would be the wish of the House that we should extend to him our warmest good wishes in his new appointment—one of the most difficult he will ever have in his life and one for which I think he is particularly well suited.
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, we who debate here this afternoon know how grave is the situation we as a country are facing, and for those of us who have been watching the situation in Northern Ireland from day to day it has become increasingly obvious that, though terrorism—or perhaps it would be better to say organised and effective terrorism—in Belfast is on the decrease, there is no sign that a solution to the dreadful problems of the last two and a half years is in sight. The Army, which in these last few months has concentrated on Belfast, has managed in a manner which must win the admiration of everybody who is not hostile to its presence in the Province to disrupt the order of battle of the I.R.A. By doing this, and by removing from their positions officers of the Provisional and official I.R.A., the Army has ensured that the organised shootings based on a military plan and with definite military objectives have almost ceased. But, unfortunately, this has not meant that the shootings and the bombings themselves have stopped; a boy of 14 with a gun can kill someone, and two men in a car with the necessary 1057 explosive can cause appalling murders—for murders they are—of the kind, for example, which took place last week in Donegal Street.
My Lords, no Army, however efficient it may be, can ensure that a handful of men will not kill and murder and cause destruction and havoc. It takes only one man with a bomb to kill a score of people. Moreover, since the Army were concentrating on Belfast, and consequently the Provisional I.R.A. were unable to operate there on their previous scale, incidents across the Border and in the countryside increased; and the situation in the city of Londonderry showed no improvement. It became increasingly clear, as indeed it always has been clear, that a military solution by itself could not be an answer to the problem. Yet in the political field there appeared to be—and indeed there was—complete deadlock. In the meantime, life in the Province was growing steadily more and more difficult. In spite of the heroism displayed by the ordinary men and women in Belfast and elsewhere, and the lack of retaliation on their part against those whom they thought or knew to have been responsible, it might well have been that the situation could not have remained tolerable to them for very much longer. The Army, already 17 battalions strong in Northern Ireland, were there, and are there, with the approval of the people of this country. But a situation in which there was no sign of any change and which foreshadowed the continued presence of such a large number, or perhaps larger numbers, of soldiers in Northern Ireland might very well, after a period of time, prove difficult to continue.
My Lords, the Government had to look at the situation in the round. It is, and was, to the advantage of every single person who lives in Northern Ireland that the violence should cease and that some way should be found for the two communities to live together. For this to happen there have to be concessions on both sides. From the minority there has to be a recognition that while the majority do not wish to unite with the Republic of Ireland there can be no question of coercing them to do so by force. They have to recognise that the change can take place only by a democratic process which shows clearly that it is the 1058 wish of the majority, and that unless and until that time should arrive there must be collaboration and co-operation in order to make Northern Ireland a peaceful and prosperous place.
On the part of the majority there has to be a realisation that in order to get that good will and that recognition from the minority there has to be given to them a share in the Government of the country and a feeling that they too are an integral part of Northern Ireland and the life of the country. Without those two concessions there can be no solution on the basis of mutual agreement. Therefore, after a period of consultation and in the knowledge that these were decisions of great gravity which affect not only Northern Ireland but Southern Ireland and this country itself, we came to the following conclusions. We must make clear—as indeed we have made clear—to the people of Northern Ireland that so far as we were concerned the Border would not be changed unless the majority wished it, and to reassure the majority community in Northern Ireland we proposed that in addition to the safeguards under the 1949 Act there should be a plebiscite, as soon as one could be reasonably held, at which everyone entitled to vote could pass his vote, for or against unification.
The purpose behind this, once the plebiscite has been taken, is to seek to guarantee a period of time during which the Border will not be in dispute for the issue will have been settled, and on present indications settled overwhelmingly, against joining with the Republic. If it is then accepted that this issue is temporarily settled until the next plebiscite, it is our hope that a new political life will emerge unconnected with the Border question; that new political Parties cutting across the old antagonisms will be formed, concerned, as they are in this country, with the economic and social questions which occupy our own Parties here in Britain, and composed of those who are like minded on these questions rather than only on the issue of the Border. For if I am convinced of one thing it is this: that until such time as the politicians are enabled to concentrate on things other than the Border there can be no real political progress or peace in the Province. This then is the reassurance that we seek to give to the 1059 majority community in Northern Ireland: you will not be coerced by us or by anybody else into joining with the Republic except of your own free will.
My Lords, as for the concessions from the majority, they seem to us to revolve particularly round the question of law and order. Rightly or wrongly this is something about which the minority community have for many years felt very strongly, and this somewhat naturally has been heightened by the decision last August to intern members of the I.R.A. I do not for one moment retract from the belief which I have stated on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House that last August internment was necessary. Without it I do not think it would have been possible for the Army to achieve that measure of law and order which it has achieved. Security forces cannot and could not be expected to fight terrorism with both hands tied behind their backs. Nevertheless, it is plain to all of us that internment of itself has caused a serious deterioration in the political situation and equally clear to us that whatever the situation it could not, and cannot, go on for ever. Therefore we felt that some beginning to the end of internment was necessary if there was to be a chance of a political solution.
We proposed, and propose, that some of the less dangerous internees should for a start be released, and if as a result there is a slackening of the violence then the process can continue. Internment has been for us, as a Government, a difficult problem. Internationally, it has been Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, not the Government of Northern Ireland at Stormont, which has been held responsible for the conduct and enforcement of law and order in all its aspects—including internment—and for all its consequences; while the responsibility for signing detention orders, for the running of the detention camps and for everything connected withi internment has rested with the Northern Ireland Government. We therefore felt that this split responsibility with its divisive and far-reaching consequences should not continue and that the responsibility should be transferred wholly to Westminster. In addition, we felt that the responsibility for prisons, for prosecutions, for the courts, for the police and so on should also be put on the same footing for 1060 Northern Ireland as it is for Scotland, Wales and England.
This is not to say that the Northern Ireland Government were doing their job badly or were not to be trusted. It is an acknowledgment that there is deep suspicion on the part of the minority—a suspicion whether justified or not—which inhibits a political solution. Add to that the fact that because the Army is the instrument at the present time by which law and order is enforced and the Westminster Government are therefore heavily involved already, then a powerful case for the transfer of legal power to Westminster is made. Mr. Faulkner felt that to do this would leave the Stormont Government with no greater position than that of a county council, and he was unable to agree. As a result, the Bill which is now before your Lordships became inevitable.
In our view, the proposals that we made left Mr. Faulkner and the Stormont Government with much greater responsibility than any county council could possibly have. Over a wide and important field the Stormont authority would have been undiminished over the economic life of the country, over agriculture, over employment, over education, over trade. Additionally, in the proposals that we made it was our intention straight away to try to start discussions among the various political Parties and interests in Northern Ireland to find a way in which a new system, a new Stormont, could emerge based on the need to ensure for the minority as well as the majority an active guaranteed role in the life and the public affairs of the Province.
By these proposals we had hoped first of all to convince the majority that there was no question of their being forced into the Republic against their wishes. Indeed, by transferring law and order to Westminster we felt that if anything it would tie the Province more closely to Westminster; and, secondly, we hoped that the proposals about law and order and the beginning of the end of internment would demonstrate to the minority our intention that they should have a proper share in their own destiny and that the quickest way of achieving it was by the end of violence and by co-operation. And we hoped—and I hope now—that the 1061 minority, realising the purpose of our proposals, will seek to dissuade the I.R.A. from continuing that campaign of appalling violence.
My Lords, I must stress that nothing in this Bill, or in the transfer of powers to Her Majesty's Government here, will affect our attitude towards the I.R.A. It is not without significance that both wings of the I.R.A. seem to have been thrown into a state of some confusion. Some of their leaders, particularly those living safely outside Northern Ireland, have said that the campaign of terrorism should continue: others have spoken of a truce. Whenever violent men give up violence and espouse the cause of peace it must be a matter for relief and congratulation, and so one is encouraged by those who called for a truce. But let us be clear about their motives: for they must he aware that if they were to continue their campaign of indiscriminate bombing and shooting they would lose their credibility with the more moderate and reasonable members of the minority community whose cause they claim as their own.
My Lords, let us be in no doubt, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said last Friday, that we shall be no less concerned than the Government at Stormont to combat violence and terrorism in all its forms. The protection of life and property will be our major concern, as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom; and these men, wherever they are and whoever they are, who pursue their ends, whatever they are, by murder and terror will find us no less determined in the future to bring their campaign to an end than was the Stormont Government in the past.
I would just say something, if I may, about the economic and social life of the Province. My right honourable friend who, when this Bill becomes law, will be responsible for the whole of the Governmental operations in Northern Ireland, is very conscious of the part which the economic position has played in creating the problems with which we have to deal; and in the reverse sense, too, that the disruption and damage caused by terrorism has had its effect on the confidence of industrialists and businessmen who make the investment which is so necessary to the long-term well-being of 1062 the whole community and nobody who has had anything to do recently with Northern Ireland can doubt that.
But your Lordships should not underestimate the very considerable financial aid which has been made available to Northern Ireland in the past eighteen months: £75 million extra for public investment for the period 1970–75; £1 million extra for industrial training; £2 million extra for accelerating investment grants; £50 million for the finance corporation; and now this year another £18½ million for public investment. All this adds up to something like £100 extra per head of the population in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, my right honourable friend will be considering urgently, as one of his first tasks, what more could and should be done. And this Bill gives him the necessary powers to do it.
My Lords, I have heard it said (and indeed some of your Lordships may hold this view) that this Bill does not go far enough; that we should have gone the whole hog and integrated Northern Ireland completely into the United Kingdom, into a common Administration with us; and, of course, that is one of the possibilities which will no doubt come to be considered when we discuss permanent arrangements. But to complain that the present Bill does not achieve integration is to mistake the whole purpose of these proposals. It is not the object of this Bill to settle once and for all the future administration of the Province, nor would it be reasonable to ask the House to pass such a far-reaching and permanent measure in the time-scale available to us in this instance. In this context, my Lords, the effect of this Bill is to hold matters in suspense, to allow the work of administering the Province to be carried on in the tradition which has developed, while the political future is discussed.
The Bill is designed to achieve two things: on the one hand, to make temporary provision for the Government of Northern Ireland, so that when the Northern Irish people have decided what they want we have not pre-empted any decisions which will be then taken; and, on the other hand, to take over for the United Kingdom Government full responsibility for Northern Ireland—and in doing so we wish to leave undisturbed 1063 the detailed machinery of government. Stormont remains in existence, although it will be prorogued. Northern Ireland Government Departments will continue to work and the status of the Civil Service remains as it is. The legislative powers of the Northern Ireland Parliament are transferred to Westminster and the executive powers of the Government to the United Kingdom Government. The Secretary of State will be responsible for the work now discharged by the whole Northern Ireland Government.
This, then, is the purpose of the main clause of the Bill. It will come into force as soon as it receives the Royal Assent. In the Schedule the Secretary of State is required to appoint a Northern Ireland Commission to advise and assist him. And he is bound to refer to the Commission proposals for Orders in Council or Regulations under the Special Powers Act, except in unusual circumstances. My Lords, I might say here that I am sorry that some of the leading figures in Northern Ireland have, I think rather precipitately, indicated that they will not be willing to co-operate with the Commission which is to advise my right honourable friend. I very much hope that there will be second thoughts. There is nothing to be gained by anybody from an attitude of non-co-operation, nor from the disruption of the life of the Province in the manner which we have witnessed these last few days. My Lords, what Northern Ireland needs above all else is the opportunity to renew and rehabilitate. These then are the broad purposes of the Bill.
My Lords, Mr. Faulkner and Senator Andrews found it impossible to accept our plan. Having heard them and talked to them on many occasions over these last 18 months, I cannot but respect their decision, though I disagree with it. They are honourable and patriotic men, and I pay my tribute to the sense of duty which has led Mr. Faulkner and his Government to continue in office until this legislation is passed. Nevertheless, I do not believe that there was any option open to the Government other than to proceed with the proposals that we had made. It was not possible to stay where we were, and I do not think that any alternatives which fell short of our proposals could have created the necessary impact and given the necessary impetus for a chance of a solution.
1064 Nobody is more conscious than I am of the criticisms that can be levelled at it from the point of view of the majority and the point of view of the minority. In particular, I can sympathise with those in the majority community who feel that they have behaved with the utmost restraint in the difficult and dangerous circumstances which they have endured for two-and-a-half years, and that to lose something which they considered to be of great importance is a poor reward for such steadfastness.
My Lords, I understand that point of view, but I do not share it. For to me the greatest prize which anybody in Northern Ireland can hope for is an end to the violence and a settlement which will enable both communities to work together in peace and harmony. That settlement cannot come from Her Majesty's Government here at Westminster; it can come only from the people of Northern Ireland. It can only come if each side is prepared to yield something in order to gain the good will and trust of the other. The worst thing that could happen is that this initiative should fail because of prejudice or lack of good will or because of the very small minority of extremists on both sides.
Time is not on our side and I hope that the men and women of Northern Ireland will understand that what we have sought to do in the very difficult decisions which my colleagues and I made last week is to give them an opportunity of making peace honourably and fairly. No Government when faced with such a decision, from which may stem such grave consequences, can be sure they are right. They must seek to do what they believe to be right and that which has a chance of success. This we have done. We have provided the people of Northern Ireland with a fresh opportunity to end their dreadful dissension. I pray to God they will take it.
§ LORD RATHCAVAN
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down may I ask him one question? Is there anything in this Bill which affects the position of the Governor of Northern Ireland, the noble Lord, Lord Grey of Naunton?
§ LORD CARRINGTON
My Lords, I wonder whether, when my noble friend 1065 makes his speech he would address that question to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack?
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Carrington.)
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, the fact that I rise at this point, though the name of my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition is actually on the speakers' list, has no sinister implications. I think it can be put down to an administrative error. It falls to me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for the manner in which he has moved the Second Reading of this Bill. He has made, I think, an inescapable case for taking the course of action which is now proposed. My Lords, after the clear explanation which the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has given, this is not an occasion, in my view, for lengthy speeches. We are faced with an emergency situation and we have to meet it. I have heard and read of criticism of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government, but I have yet to hear an alternative policy which comes anywhere near the boundaries of practicability. And of course the definition of what is practicable includes the requirement that the legislation must be enacted before Good Friday.
I am therefore inviting my noble friends on this side of the House to support the Motion which has just been moved. I also invite my noble friends to accept the conventions which go with the special procedure which we in this House have adopted for use in this kind of situation: that is to say, that full opportunity will be taken to express opinion on this No. 2 Bill but there will be no duplication of effort on the original Bill when it reaches us from another place. In this way we should meet requirements both of time and of the opportunity to have full Parliamentary discussion. At one time my noble friends and I had considered the possibility of Amendments to the Bill. In particular we had in mind the proposals put forward by my right honourable friend in another place to substitute Affirmative and Negative Parliamentary procedures for dealing with the Orders in Council which will be laid under the provisions of this Bill. As I understand it, Her Majesty's Government have now expressed their readiness to accept Amendments in this sense. If this proves to be the case, then for our part we shall 1066 be ready to agree to the Bill, as amended, when it reaches us.
There have been other suggestions for amending the Bill to meet the situation which will now exist for at least twelve months. One suggestion, for example, is that there should be some form of Ulster, or Irish, Grand Committee, similar to the Scottish Grand Committee, to deal with Ulster affairs. It is also claimed that representation of Ulster in the Westminster Parliament should now he increased. My Lords, there is a certain element of logic in both these proposals, but I am glad that Her Majesty's Government have so far resisted representations along these lines. This, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made clear, is temporary legislation to meet a temporary situation and we should make a virtue of its temporary and inadequate character. A deadline, like hanging, is very conducive to concentration. It would be an act of folly even to attempt, in a matter of days, to create a constitutional system which gives any appearance of permanence. Everyone must now accept that there are twelve months—twelve short months—for an intensive attempt to get a new framework for civilised living in Northern Ireland.
There are many of us who will have ideas as to how those with responsibility should go about this intensive attempt. There are those, like my noble friend, Lord Longford, who made such a constructive, restrained and in parts prophetic speech when last we discussed Ulster, who have experience to which we should listen carefully. Nevertheless, that will he for the period after the passing of this legislation. The counsel I venture to offer, will be brief.
The Minister, and those who assist and advise him, who will be vested with such awful responsibility under this Bill, will endeavour to consult the widest range of opinion in Ulster. He will wish to take into account all interests concerned. I trust he will also take very much into account the interests of the British people. Much has been said about the long-suffering Irish, but the British people have not been without their burdens either. If one consulted the British people, if one took a referendum on this issue, there is little doubt in my mind that the majority would plump for pulling out of 1067 Ulster altogether. Every consideration of convenience, comfort and financial interest, everything save a sense of duty, suggests that we should pull out and leave them to it. I hear talk of Imperial Britain grinding down the Irish, but no one has yet pointed out the mineral resources, the oil reserves, the military bases for which Imperial Britain is sacrificing British lives. No matter what findings Lord Widgery reaches about the shootings of Londonderry, the basic truth remains that the British were there for one reason and one reason only: that the Irish people had found it impossible to live in peace one with the other.
In the matter of finance, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, gave some figures—very interesting figures. I am not clear whether they were comprehensive and whether he was including what is payable by way of compensation for property which has been damaged and destroyed. I wonder whether the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government would consider issuing a statement, if not a White Paper, of all the financial support which has been given to Northern Ireland in the last 18 months. I wonder whether he could break that down and show us how that money has been spent. The British people in the next twelve months will themselves be asked to express an opinion as to the future, and in giving any judgment it is only right and proper that they should be provided with this information.
My Lords, I should like to say something of the Stormont Parliament, now prorogued for twelve months. If this crisis has done one thing, it has exposed Stormont for what it always was: illiberal, illogical and incongruous. The marvel is that it has survived for fifty years. I do not know what proposals the Royal Commission will make for devolving administration to Regions of the United Kingdom but I will make one prophecy with confidence. They will not recommend that Scotland and Wales should each have its own Prime Minister. They will not recommend that Cornwall has its own Cabinet—and with powers to enforce emergency regulations. One day I hope we shall all get near enough to sanity to be able to laugh at some of the things that have been said this last week by Ulstermen. Maybe we shall have a comedy within which characters will wave 1068 Union Jacks, protest violently about their United Kingdom citizenship and then protest, equally violently, about the prospect of having their affairs conducted from Westminster like other citizens of the United Kingdom.
Of course I recognise that there are those who accept the logic of all this and who say, as Mr. Paisley did so effectively yesterday, that the Stormont is discredited, and ask for complete integration. It would, I believe, be wrong to dismiss this solution out of hand, but it would have been quite inconceivable to make provision for that in a Bill of this kind. Never would the perils of "instant legislation" have been pushed to such folly. If ever we reached the position in which we had complete integration, it could be only after the most explicit declaration of the people of Ulster.
The noble Lord made reference to the plebiscite. It is probably too early yet for any clarification or amplification of the proposals for a plebiscite or plebiscites. I look forward to the first plebiscite. I hope it will be possible to have them on a county basis. I hope that the Irish people in the Six Counties, all of them, will be given a clear opportunity to say that the British should withdraw, and I hope they will be told the terms on which we are prepared to stay. I can well imagine that there are many who now go red in the face about the "British oppressors" who would go white at the gills at the prospect of the British actually pulling out. I may be told that all this is unhelpful but I am not so sure. I think that while having a certain spirit of readiness to forget and forgive we should on occasion state our own side of this case. However, I agree that the important thing is to see that this legislation goes through, and then to seek to get a constructive dialogue started in the new situation.
If we pass this legislation, as I believe we shall, we shall pass on heavy responsibilities to Mr. Whitelaw and his colleagues, including the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and I again express to him my heartfelt good wishes. I should also like to say, despite everything I have said about the Stormont, how much I have admired the bearing, dignified and courageous, of Mr. Faulkner. I only hope that he may yet find new opportunities of serving his follow countrymen. If he 1069 finds it possible to co-operate with Her Majesty's Government and the Commission, I hope that others will follow such an example. In any case, our own duty is clear: it is to follow the course indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in accepting the task which he has shown himself, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, ready to undertake, but also saying that we shall watch carefully how things evolve and be ready where necessary, to criticise, always, however, constructively.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, once again we have arrived at a turning point in the rather grim "special relationship", as it might be called, between England and Ireland—and I say "England" advisedly—which has lasted now for almost exactly 800 years. I do not think that we, on this side of the Channel, are entirely responsible—certainly not—for the occasional grimness of this special relationship. Even before Strongbow's invasion of Ireland in 1171, the Irish, as I understand it, had been busy fighting each other for several hundred years. One thing certain about the Irish is that they are a very warlike race. In this respect I must say that I share some of the sentiments so eloquently expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick.
The question now is, was the legislation before us to-day necessary in the circumstances or not? We in the Liberal Party, as our Leader, Mr. Jeremy Thorpe, has made quite clear, believe that it was. The situation, quite frankly, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, could not be allowed to go on as it was. One last, perhaps supreme, effort for peace had to be made. Mr. Faulkner may have found it difficult to accept that Her Majesty's Government should from now on be responsible for all security in the Province, and one can appreciate to some extent his point of view. But to deny this would, in the circumstances, have been really equivalent to the Government of Texas, for instance, demanding a measure of responsibility for the defence of the Rio Grande.
The initiative may, of course, fail. Mr. Enoch Powell, for instance, is convinced that it must and will fail. If you read his speech yesterday you will see that he says that in no unmeasured terms. 1070 But let us for a moment consider what will happen if it does fail. There are, as I understand it, three possibilities. In the first place, we could simply incorporate Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, as for some time has been proposed by Mr. Enoch Powell himself, and proceed to defend it in the same way as we should defend—shall we say?—East Anglia, if ever it were again attacked by the Danes. This would mean, presumably, fortifying the frontier of Ulster and putting the economy of at any rate that Province on some kind of war footing, with all eligible citizens being called up for defence purposes, whether military or economic. It might also mean—I imagine it would—interning many more of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, who would, in the circumstances, come very near to being considered enemy aliens. Five hundred thousand enemy aliens in our midst might be a rather awkward factor. And no doubt we should also have to send all the Irish in this country back to Ireland. Whether a formal declaration of war on Dublin would be necessary would have to be considered. No doubt Mr. Powell, who is a very logical man, would be in favour of such action.
All this, of course, would be possible, but I cannot imagine that anybody in their right senses would think that it was desirable. If, by any chance, we are obliged at some stage to incorporate Northern Ireland into the United Kingdom, then, as I see it, the second possibility is, or would be, to see to it that by one means or another the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland was treated on exactly the same footing as Catholics are treated in other parts of the United Kingdom. Since the Catholics in this Province are in a considerable and fairly compact minority, the only way to give them full political freedom would, of course, be to inaugurate a system of proportional representation. In other words, all the representatives of Northern Ireland in Westminster—and their number would presumably have to be enlarged—should be elected on the basis of a single transferable vote which, in our view naturally as Liberals, should, in logic, then be extended to the whole of the United Kingdom. Incidentally, I am sure that in the course of the long run it will be. It should be part of any such integration 1071 —this is also important—that the present association between the Orange Lodges and a certain political Party should be finally dissolved.
Should such reforms be insisted upon by us as part and parcel of integration, then we might perhaps hope that attacks from over the Border would cease and that the whole issue of the unification of Ireland would be for the time being forgotten, in the belief that before long the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of Ireland would form part of the new great, enlarged European Economic Community.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, that is however a very important consideration. The second alternative, therefore, as I said, is to proceed, if necessary with full integration, maintaining however, at any rate for the time being, a considerable force in Northern Ireland, one of the objects of which would be not only to defend the North against the attacks of the gunmen and the assassins from the South, but also to see to it that the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland do what seems fundamentally right to an enormous majority of the Members of the Parliament in Westminster.
The third alternative is to throw our hand in altogether and withdraw our troops which, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, would in many ways be a tempting course for many people in this country. It is almost certain that this would result in some kind of civil war. Whether this civil war would be quite so horrific as is imagined by some is perhaps open to doubt, but we should at least consider the possible consequences. In the first place, Ulster, having in the circumstances proclaimed a sort of U.D.I., would presumably no longer qualify for any kind of economic assistance from the United Kingdom which is now, as the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, pointed out, assuming very large proportions. In such circumstances, the unemployment situation would probably be disastrous and Mr. Craig, who would I suppose be in command, might be tempted to go all out for some kind of military victory, supported perhaps by a certain amount of gun-running from this country and indeed from elsewhere.
1072 Faced with this situation, the Republic would almost certainly receive unofficial support—and probably also unofficial military support—from the Irish in the United States. It might be too much to expect Senator Kennedy to arrive in Cork at the head of a band of volunteers, but anything would be possible in the circumstances. What is certain, however, is that the state of chaos prevailing in the whole of Ireland would be not unlike that prevailing in Spain during the late 'thirties. Consequently, some kind of non-intervention committee would undoubtedly be organised under the general auspices of the United Nations. From this it might well be very difficult in the circumstances to exclude the Chinese and the Russians. The whole situation would thus rapidly get completely out of hand with quite unpredictable consequences. Anything, therefore, would seem to be better than the withdrawal of our troops and the start of any full-scale Irish civil war.
The obvious conclusion seems to be that we must make every effort to make a success of direct rule, pending the early establishment—as Liberals have always proposed—of a Regional Government of a new type, similar to others that might be established in Scotland and Wales; and in that respect I do not share the views just expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick. Such a development would naturally entail the immediate repeal of the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland, which, as some of your Lordships may have heard, was described by the South African Minister of Justice as the very model of repressive legislation. If anybody is capable of making a success of such an enterprise, it is certainly Mr. William Whitelaw. The chances may be against him but he starts with some advantages, perhaps the greatest of which, naturally, is the truce in hostilities which seems now to be gradually extending.
The great object, as I said in my last speech on the subject, is still gradually to try to remove the ancestral fears on both sides of the Border: that of the settlers of 300 years ago that they will be one day thrown into the sea, or, alternatively, that they will be subjected to what they would no doubt consider to be alien rule from Dublin; and that of the Catholics in Northern Ireland who 1073 feel that they are being treated as second-class citizens and not allowed to have any real say in the progress of events. In international affairs reason very seldom prevails, but we must always hopefully pursue what appear to be reasonable policies. In this case it is so evidently in the interests of everybody around the Irish Sea to avoid the extension of hostilities in our neighbouring island that we must believe that, at long last, out of the present turmoil some lasting solution to the perennial Irish question will finally emerge. Maybe we shall have to go through a terrible period, but if we do not falter in our resolve to see that justice prevails we shall come through. The night is usually darkest before the dawn.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ LORD BOURNE
My Lords, I think I ought briefly to give your Lordships my reasons for supporting this Bill. I shall he followed by noble Lords who are much more expert in the subject, and who actually reside or have had jobs in Northern Ireland, but although I have been there a few times I speak as an Englishman. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that a fresh start is necessary and that this may be the last chance. I should have preferred that Mr. William Whitelaw was not to he assisted by a Commission. I think he is fully capable of doing the job himself and of consulting the right people, rather like General Templar did in Malaya. He has a perfectly good Government machine under him, and I cannot help feeling that he may have difficulty with the Commission.
Sad as it may be, the fact remains that the Stormont Government have had to be prorogued. In spite of removing the injustice to the minority, especially the Catholics, and in spite of the many enlightened reforms which they have carried out, the fact remains that they are completely out of touch with the opposition. Therefore, they have no hope of carrying out talks with the minority and, to my mind, that is a good enough reason for substituting something else. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, quite rightly emphasised that the British Army has been doing wonderful work, and we all agree with that. But the fact remains that it has restored law and order only 1074 so far. It has not restored law and order, and under its present restraints I do not think there is very much hope of actually restoring law and order.
To my mind, the supreme object of Mr. Whitelaw and his team—of course he has many day-to-day affairs with which to deal—must be to arrange talks between the Protestants and the Catholics, or, if your Lordships prefer, between the Monarchists and the Republicans. Unfortunately, the Republicans have 36 (if not 40) per cent. of the population in Northern Ireland, which leaves the majority with 64 per cent. The position is not so simple as it is in Eire, where the Protestants amount to only 5 per cent. and the Roman Catholics are 95 per cent. But if they cannot be persuaded by Mr. Whitelaw to talk around a table, I fail to see how they can live together under one Government, which is of course the object of the exercise.
In this connection, the I.R.A. cannot stop the talks. Let us remember that the I.R.A. seized the opportunity of disagreement between the Protestants and the Catholics in order to start their campaign, and they did not enter the field until the row had already started; so that these talks will have to take place to an accompaniment of bombs. I feel quite strongly—I have mentioned this to your Lordships earlier—that the religious leaders on both sides ought to exhibit more leadership than they have been doing in past years. It is no good decrying a terrible bomb incident after the event. What they should do is to preach, preach and preach and use their influence to stop these incidents if they possibly can. Again, the object of the talks must be to agree on a form of Government and, eventually, to draw up a Constitution. The alternative to this is failure. If there is no agreement in one year—and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, that one year is the limit—we must then admit failure, especially if the I.R.A. is still bombing, as it seems quite probable will be the case if we keep the key internees in custody. If we let out only the ones who do not really matter, I believe the bombings will go on.
The solution then, of course, would be a very difficult one—and I drew attention to this in September, when we had our debate. I am afraid it would include 1075 a shortening of the frontier and a willing transfer of the population. It is a ghastly alternative, but it is rather better than civil war. Observing that, if there are 30,000 or 40,000 Catholics living in great difficulty in Belfast, to my mind they could easily live in Newry, or on the outskirts of Newry in a new town, and, until that was ready, in decent caravans. It is only 30 miles, and these days 30 miles is no distance to go to work. That is an alternative which we hope will not be necessary.
So I come to Mr. Whitelaw and his team. Incidentally, I am very glad to join in the congratulations to Lord Windlesham, because I cannot think of a better man for that job. I wish him the best of luck in it. It is no good reaching a temporary solution, patching it up and hoping it will last for five or ten years. We know that a permanent solution is required. So I believe that we ought not to wish Mr. Whitelaw and his team good luck, because this business is a very serious one, and the results will not depend on luck but on patience, skill and determination.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, first of all I should like, with many others of my noble friends, to congratulate Lord Windlesham on his recent appointment. As a new boy here I have come to know him and to admire him, and I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister on this particular choice. Secondly, how glad I am to see that there is being brought back a civil servant who actually knows something about Northern Ireland; namely, Mr. Neil Cairncross, with whom I used to deal in my day. And, last but not least, I am delighted with the appointment of Mr. Willie Whitelaw. I have known him for many years. If there is any Englishman who can deal with this problem—
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
I beg your Lordships' pardon: he is Scottish. I think he lives in Cumberland. I will make a quick Parliamentary withdrawal, because I want to keep in with the Scots. If there is any British man who can stop this position from getting completely out of control, then I believe Mr. Whitelaw is that person.
1076 This, my Lords, is a sad day for Northern Ireland; and sadder still for someone like myself, who was a keen advocate of Regional Parliaments. Influenced, perhaps, by several visits to Canada, I saw that a Federal Parliamentary system for less than 20 million people had advantages which our centralised system for over 50 million people lacked. While I had, and have, a great admiration for St. Andrew's House in Edinburgh, I often used to think that a Scottish Parliament could confer benefits of quick local decision which the present constitutional arrangements do not provide. Now, with the announcement of direct rule for Northern Ireland, Regional Parliaments, which could perhaps have worked well in the totally different circumstances existing in Britain, will probably recede into the background. I think the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, suggested that. The Government of Ireland Act 1920 was a Lloyd George compromise. It was assumed—quite wrongly, as it turned out—that the South of Ireland would accept a Parliament within the United Kingdom. In order to make this provincial Parliament more acceptable to the South, they were offered Dominion titles without Dominion status. After a bloody civil war, they were granted Dominion status and eventually chose their own titles—quite unpronounceable to the English. But the Dominion titles remain to create confusion in the only part of Ireland which chose to operate the Act.
This apparently unimportant point has led to confusion in Ulster for the last 50 years. If in a Belfast paper one sees a headline which reads, "P.M. says 'No'", one has to read on to see which Prime Minister is involved in the headline. If in a Belfast paper one sees, "M.P. says 'Yes'", again one has to ascertain whether it is a Westminster or a Stormont M.P. who has expressed himself in the affirmative. Once again we must return to Canada for clarification. Over there, the body which legislates for a Canadian Province is called a Legislative Assembly. The head of that Provincial Government will probably be known as a Premier, and the man who controls its finances will be known as the Provincial Treasurer, while the members of that Assembly will be known as Members of the Legislative Assembly—or, in short, 1077 M.L.As. There are, of course, some exceptions. In the rich and powerful Province of Ontario the members have been known as M.P.P.s, or Members of the Provincial Parliament. But whatever the nomenclature may be, it is possible for the reader of a Canadian paper to tell at a glance whether he is reading about a Federal or a Provincial matter; and, far more important, to understand where real power resides. Ulster, despite many personal warnings on my part down the years, learnt this for the first time only last week.
Mr. Paisley used to tour Northern Ireland shouting, "We will be masters in our own house." To-day he suddenly asks for total integration into the United Kingdom and the abolition of the House in which he so recently gained his seat and of which he was hoping to become the master. In this way, Mr. Faulkner would cease to be a provincial M.P., while Mr. Paisley remained what we in Northern Ireland call "an Imperial M.P."—although, if we have been following our news to-day, we shall have seen that there is a move now to bring Mr. Faulkner over here and to continue the battle in another place. For myself, one of the greatest advantages of the Union is that the people in the area covered by Northern Ireland can enjoy a British rather than an Irish standard of living. Only after a declaration of U.D.I. will the closing factories of Ulster bring home to the alternative Protestant leadership that they have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. This is why a United Ireland is also out of the question until the South is able to maintain a British standard of living and also alter its Constitution. Indeed, with a lot of hindsight it can be said that in 1920 the South of Ireland should have been given Dominion status—which they would have gladly grasped—and the North should have been given a small "St. Andrew's House" in Belfast.
The watershed in Ulster's life was reached in August, 1969. Once British troops were committed in aid of the Civil Power, Stormont's powers became somewhat anomalous. As the situation deteriorated and massive military presence increased, the various Ministries, bodies and people involved in trying to govern 1078 Northern Ireland became so diverse that, as I said in a letter to The Times a few weeks ago, it was a prescription for disaster.
I should like, at this point, my Lords, to make a small historical digression. A few days before I resigned, a meeting of the Parliamentary Party at Stormont decided, by a small majority, to agree to the introduction of "one man, one vote" in local government elections. Both my successors voted against this policy, and one of them resigned on this issue. Since then friends of mine in Belfast have suggested that, but for these actions, the events of August, 1969, might never have occurred. What is undoubtedly true, however, is that the later London-directed reforms were received with suspicion by the minority because they remembered what had happened a few short months earlier—you would have to be Irish to understand that one; but I assure you, my Lords, that this is a fact. About a year and a half ago, at a function in Belfast, I was saying to Mr. John Hume, "Well, John, you are getting your reforms now, the reforms which I could not give you." "Aye", he said, "but we are not accepting them." I said, "Why, John?" He said, "Because we know this lot do not want us to have them."
For some time now I have doubted whether there was any person, or any Party, in Northern Ireland who could solve the problems of the Province. It was inevitable, therefore, that London would soon have to assert its Imperial authority. Unfortunately, divisions in the Cabinet in London created dangerous delays, and while pretending to select the best possible method and moment they may well have selected the worst. So now we have to decide whether the provisions outlined in this Bill are the most suitable, or whether the Scottish model of government would not prove to be better. Both the establishment of a Commission and also the provision of legislation by Order in Council have aroused widespread hostility. Had the Government not already made so many mistakes with regard to Northern Ireland I might have felt more inclined to accept that old theory that "Whitehall knows best". In all the circumstances, however, I am not prepared to do so. I would urge the Government to think again about these important matters.
1079 Here, my Lords, I should like to qualify my remarks because (although the Government may not appreciate it) I want to be as helpful as I can. I am not urging any of my noble friends on this side of the House to vote against this measure; I have already explained why I believe that it was inevitable. But I am reserving my own position because I do not believe that this measure can be carried out without the assent of moderate Protestant opinion; and one of the problems has been that the Government here in London find it hard to keep pace with the feelings of the people in Northern Ireland. I admit that they change very rapidly; I have already explained what has happened to Mr. Paisley. My information—and owing to our recent strike I have arrived only just in time for this debate—is that a growing body of moderate Protestant opinion is prepared to accept direct rule, but is not prepared to accept this idea of a Commission. It is felt to be undemocratic to be ruled by Order in Council.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, very nearly met my point when he said, "We are not ruling out a further move towards greater integration if we feel that this is necessary." If the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, when he winds up, can repeat that assurance, perhaps in stronger terms, then I may feel that I can vote for this Bill this evening. If I cannot have such an assurance, then I fear that I shall have to abstain.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me, but for a moment my attention was diverted, and I wonder whether he would repeat the assurance for which asks.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, what I was trying to convey to this noble House was that I found, in a sense, a partial relief from my fears in the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his opening speech, when he said he appreciated that some people in Northern Ireland were asking for a closer integration than is provided by this Bill—I have already talked about following the Scottish model. What I said was that while I was in no sense urging my noble friends on this side of the House to vote against the Bill, because this is the kind of thing I have been suggesting for a long time, neverthe- 1080 less I should not feel happy about supporting it myself in the knowledge that account is not being taken of what I have described as "moderate Protestant opinion views". I was hoping that when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor winds up to-night, he might be able not only to repeat the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, but also to reinforce them a little further. In that event I could—although I am sure that this side of the House does not really mind very much what I do—reconsider my position.
Of one thing, however, I am glad, and that is that there will now be a special Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In my day there was a very small team of civil servants in the Home Office dealing with Ulster affairs. After August, 1969, this was vastly expanded, yet the Ministerial representation remained exactly the same. When, last July, I drew attention to this fact I also drew cold stares from the "corridors of power". Yet to-day my modest suggestion, considered so revolutionary last July, has been massively overtaken.
My Lords, if I have been somewhat critical of Government direction, I should like to say something else, perhaps to a wider audience. Some day, one day, things will return to normal and Irish people will stop slaughtering each other. In the meantime, we must say to the people of Britain, "Thank you for corning to our rescue". The first British soldier to be killed in Northern Ireland was named Curtis; he came, I think, from Newcastle upon Tyne. The morning after his death I heard his father being interviewed on the "Today" programme. In a most dignified way he replied to the questions. At the end he added: "But the worst thing of all is that his mother and I do not know what he died for." My Lords, the attitudes which people adopt in Ulster are inherited from generation to generation. You here, with your homogeneous society, are spared these violent views. Please help us to mature in such a manner that the next generation of Ulstermen will not be subjected to death and destruction. The Government have delayed for far too long. I only hope that, in some way or another, these ghastly problems will be resolved before Northern Ireland is turned into an industrial and political desert.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am privileged to follow the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who speaks with unique authority in this area, in view of his past services and great present influence. I have said before in this House, and I will say so again, that he was the first responsible leader in Northern Ireland who saw the big approach that needed to be made and who was prepared to sacrifice himself totally in pursuing it to the end. He will go down in history in that light. May I say, with enormous respect to him, that I hope the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will not allow himself to be carried away too far by this plea for some indication of a favourable approach to direct rule. Integration, full integration, is something to which no doubt the wise people who now rule us will give proper consideration; but I hope to-day that nothing will be said, even under the urgent, persuasive pleas of the noble Lord, which would commit the Government to any more in that direction or in any other direction outside those indicated in the Bill. I must say clearly that I am not myself asking for a commitment. I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not be led astray, at perhaps the last minute, by the eloquence of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, may I intervene? May I point out that the minority in Northern Ireland and the majority in Southern Ireland are as hopeful as we are that this initiative will succeed? But may I repeat once again that it cannot succeed unless you can at least carry with you the moderate Protestants in Northern Ireland?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, that is exactly what I was going to say in the very few minutes during which I shall delay the House. The noble Lord was offering a particular type of solution and I was venturing to express the hope that there would be no commitment to that solution or to any other particular solution this afternoon. There is an old French saying—it sounds better in French but it is not bad in English—which goes, "He missed a good opportunity to keep silent". That might be thought to apply to me, but I neglect that possible advice and offer a few words—and they will be a very few. If 1082 I had kept totally silent an enormously sinister meaning might have been read into it.
The House will recollect that at the beginning of February I moved a Motion here, and in the course of that speech and later I urged, as did others, that the Government should take a strong and drastic initiative. Whatever people may say about that initiative—and what I say about it will be favourable— nobody can deny that it is strong and drastic; no one can deny that it is courageous. Personally, I am convinced that it is altogether wise. So I join with the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and others in congratulating Her Majesty's Government—quite apart from any sort of Party considerations at all. Those congratulations have been expressed here partly by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and elsewhere by the leaders of my Party and the Liberal Party. I join fervently in those and pledge my support for what it is worth.
May I at the same time join in the congratulations to some Ministers who seem to have been specially concerned, according to the Press; and I can believe it to he true. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, figures prominently among them. Certainly, let me reiterate the pleasure we all feel, if pleasure should be the undiluted emotion, in the role which has now fallen to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I do not know whether he will be resident in Northern Ireland or here or whether he will be bustling between the two places as once I did in a somewhat similar position when I was Minister for Germany 20 years ago. At any rate, we all wish him well. We know that he is calm. He looks innocent, but he is not. That innocence I believe is a bit of a façade, but the right façade in this situation. We know that he has the nerve and all the other qualities that are required, and we wish him everything good.
I was in the Peers' Gallery in the House of Commons last Friday and heard the Statement of the Prime Minister. I must say that, apart from the tremendous merit of the Statement I think anybody there must have felt that here was a man, in the form of the Prime Minister, rising to and equal to the historical occasion. Almost, it seemed to me, the events were speaking through him. He was setting 1083 out the ineluctable facts of the situation; he had thought hard and had reached a conclusion, a difficult conclusion, and like the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, a few years ago (but, we hope, with greater good fortune) he means to pursue his vision to the end.
My Lords, it is difficult to know what of value I could add apart from giving my strong support; but I would in the first place express the hope, and it is not my only hope, that there will be calm and reflection on all sides. I have no reason to think that the I.R.A. or any gentleman connected with it bears me any particular goodwill. I have never said anything except what was condemnatory about them here or elsewhere; so why should they listen to me? However, I have met some ex-internees in recent times who may or may not belong to the I.R.A. and I am told that my literary works have been read by extreme nationalists in Ireland for many years. Let us assume that perhaps some of them will actually in some way or another read a report of anything I say here. I would put this one point to the I.R.A. and a word to Vanguard—and my influence with the latter is even less.
I would say to the I.R.A. that if anybody wants a united Ireland—as they do, sincerely, and I believe they are ready to die for that particular idea—there is no meaning whatever to be attached to a united Ireland unless there is reconciliation between the two communities. That should be obvious. They are not all stupid men from what I know about them. So really this idea of reconciliation between the two communities must have a superior claim on the attention of anybody who is in fact dedicating himself to this cause of a united Ireland. I would therefore urge that on any member of the I.R.A. or any sympathiser who reads my words.
So far as Vanguard is concerned, the only member of the Vanguard that I have personally encountered—if he is a member; and I suppose he is since he is Commander-in-Chief—is Mr. Craig. I met him two or three years ago. I had one hour's discussion with him. He looked at me unwinkingly. Clearly, he is a man who has his own fanatical vision of the Ulster of his dreams, in the same way really, so far as I can judge them, as the I.R.A. I do not quite know 1084 what it amounts to, but it is something which he also is ready to die for. I can only submit to Mr. Craig, in the hope that he may possibly come across some words of mine, that if he really has this vision, that also would be completely meaningless to a successful Northern Ireland if in fact a third, or rather more —and even more as time goes on—of the whole population was entirely disaffected. What meaning could Northern Ireland then have for Mr. Craig? In other words, whether you look at it from either extreme, a policy for Northern Ireland that does not involve a reconciliation between the two communities is simply a recipe for complete chaos. I venture to hope that all extremists will bear those words in mind.
I have already praised the Government. I have not pressed them, and do not propose to press them, on exactly what they have in mind and how they mean to play this. I am sure that Mr. White-law and his colleagues have their own plan beginning to form, and it would be too early to expect them even to know in their own minds, let alone tell us, how they propose to set about effecting this reconciliation. But if we take others who are not extremists, we all of us have our part to play. I agree, as my noble friend Lord Beswick said, that we have a year: we have just about time, but certainly no more than time, to bring about this reconciliation. So, though patience and calm—and we hope withdrawal, at any rate for a considerable time, of any kind of violence or extreme measure—are necessary, yet action must be taken, too: Mr. Whitelaw and his colleagues cannot just sit about and preach calm and serenity as the only virtues. Clearly, there must be rapid action and each of us must ask himself how he can be of assistance.
I hope that all Members of the House will have been pleased at the reception given to these proposals by Mr. Lynch, whose high qualities I have also praised in this House, and also by Cardinal Conway. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, who spoke so carefully and thoughtfully, was a little hard on the clerics. When all is said and done, it is extraordinarily easy in the last resort to pass the buck to the clerics and say: "Why are they not putting this straight? Why have we not heard more from 1085 them?" Well, the truth is that the leading clerics of all denominations in Northern Ireland have come together in a quite remarkable way in the last few years. If the people followed the spiritual advice of their leaders, we should have very little trouble at the present time. So do not let us be too hard on the clerics, whatever their denomination. I am sure that Mr. Lynch, whom I saw two or three weeks ago, and his colleagues in Dublin will be thinking very hard as to how they can be of assistance in this matter. I do not think it would be helpful for them to come out with bold announcements of what they propose to do, but I have no doubt that they are anxious to help, and this will be extremely well known through the outstanding ambassadors that Britain has in Dublin and the Irish Republic has here. Let us assume that on that front things are looking well.
There are those in this House and elsewhere who are wondering whether, now or later, the Irish Republic might not be thinking of improving their own constitution, and whether they might not be able to make it more palatable to non-Catholics in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. I do not think that anybody who talked to Mr. Lynch at this stage would find any great difficulty there; I think they would find him and his colleagues remarkably open-minded. A point also to be borne in mind is that it would not be particularly helpful if Mr. Lynch rushed forward and implied that there were great changes coming about in the South and that the difficulties would be overcome in a moment.
There have been other responses which have been encouraging, from the Northern Ireland Labour Party, the Alliance Party, the trade unions and the S.D.L.P. The S.D.L.P. have, not unnaturally, put in a strong caveat in regard to internment. I do not propose to pursue that subject this afternoon. I have at least twice in this House called it a tragic blunder and I do not retract those words; but I will not say any more about that matter now, because I am sure that the Government are tackling it in their own way. But may I, at the risk of causing him some embarrassment, pay my tribute to what I understand to be the response of Dr. Paisley? I have not suffered at the hands 1086 of Dr. Paisley, as has the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine. He has not up till now, so to speak, felt it worth while attacking me, and therefore I can look upon him perhaps a shade more dispassionately. I am not in favour, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, will have understood, of Dr. Paisley's particular proposal of a fully integrated Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, I think that anybody looking at this calmly will have drawn a great deal of encouragement from the response of Dr. Paisley. Mr. Craig has his virtues, as I hope I did not deny earlier; but Dr. Paisley has called Mr. Craig's voice the "voice of folly". So that, perhaps, is the beginning of wisdom on Dr. Paisley's part. I think we make a great mistake if we regard Dr. Paisley as a man with whom no business can be done. I express the opinion that a few years from now some of us may find Dr. Paisley occupying some very exalted position in Northern Ireland or a united Ireland, and I should not be surprised if he had it in his power to render great service to Ireland and, possibly indirectly, to this country as well. So do not let us despair too early of Dr. Paisley.
The real problem here, as we all know, is not a so-called religious problem. There is not something within the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church which makes the practitioners of those religions necessarily opposed. Catholics and Protestants get on perfectly well together in England, Scotland, Wales and in Southern Ireland. But history has produced this extreme situation in Northern Ireland; and it is now up to the Government, supported by all people of good will, to try to undo some of the mischief that has been produced by history. Clearly there are great fears to be exorcised; fears, if you like, based on history, and in that sense not altogether unworthy, but nevertheless irrational fears. There is no danger whatever that Northern Ireland will ever be overrun by the South of Ireland. That is a physical fantasy. Any self-respecting member of Northern Ireland is convinced that the South will never he able to conquer them. So I think that this particular neurosis can be put out of mind. Nevertheless, it is an historic fear, and great tact and understanding will have to be shown, and I hope will be shown, by the Leaders of the Government who are dealing with Northern Ireland.
1087 The historic fears point not on one side only but on both sides—and perhaps on more than two sides—to endless conflict. But do we not all agree—could not even the extremists be asked to agree?—that mutual interest demands reconciliation? That is the only result which can be in the interests of everybody. I believe that the Government are now treading a path which can lead to total reconciliation, if they tread it calmly and if they move rapidly and firmly. I believe that along that path of harmony and mutual interest, and along that path alone, Ulster will be able to find a satisfaction that will bring her to fulfilment—a fulfilment which is worthy of a Province that still rightly prides itself on its strong Christian affirmations and on the pride and quality of its men and women. I believe that fulfilment is what all here this afternoon are concerned to promote. My Lords, that being in my mind and in my heart, it is with real fervour and hope that I support the Bill before us.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, in taking part in your Lordships' debate, I shall follow the excellent example of other noble Lords by speaking briefly during the passage of this Bill which the Government intend, as the situation requires, to place rapidly on the Statute Book. I have only one point to make, which concerns the security forces. Before dealing with that, I should like to take the opportunity to applaud the Government on the courage which they have shown in bringing in this measure; to acclaim their resolute decision to go forward in an action which has become regrettably inescapable and the consequences of which we all realise cannot be foreseen; to accept their wisdom in keeping their options open; and to offer, as I am sure everyone here does, sympathy and support.
I share with other noble Lords doubts, based on the reactions of the last day or two, about the prospects of the Commission set up to advise the Secretary of State; but if ever there was a time in my experience in your Lordships' House when the Government—any Government—deserved the full support of all of us, this surely is the time. It is at periods such as this when the choice of people to take the helm of statesmanship counts 1088 for more than anything else, and I welcome a personal chance to express confidence in the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and to wish him well. If it is true, and I believe it is, that crucial occasions produce men of the hour to cope with them, then I believe it may be proved to be true in the course of the next twelve months in the context of Northern Ireland, whatever may have been said and whatever may be true about the propensity of Ireland in the past to be the graveyard of reputations of statesmen.
I turn now to my single point concerning the security forces in Northern Ireland in this new situation, which is the very point which precipitated the move to direct rule. It goes without saying that the security forces in the North are, or will be, facing the prospect of problems and crises in the future even more daunting and baffling than those they have been facing for a considerable time. They deserve all sympathy, encouragement and support from everyone. I refer exclusively this afternoon to the locally raised forces in Ulster, because nobody in your Lordships' House, and very few people outside it, would for one minute call into question the loyalty and steadfastness of the British Army to do their unswerving duty in a situation which has long borne within it the seeds of a civil war—only a fool or a madman would doubt that.
Further, let me say this: no one should doubt the forces raised within the Province. I say this only because such a doubt has been cast in the last few days. From my own acquaintance with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 1969 and from contacts I have kept with it since then through its Chief Constable, Mr. Shillington, and its former Chief Constable Sir Arthur Young, and from all that I have heard of the conduct of the Royal Ulster Constabulary under their past and present leadership, I was not at all surprised at their rejection of the call to strike action during the last few days. As to the future, I cannot believe that the Royal Ulster Constabulary, with its now strong links with brother police forces on this side of the water in Britain, would fail to live up to the impeccable tradition of impartiality and independence which our police forces have always upheld, in performing their difficult duty to the public as a whole in Ulster. If there 1089 is any one step to be desired more than any other, in my opinion, in the next twelve months and in the context of security, it is that the Royal Ulster Constabulary should have reinstated its primary responsibility for law and order, with the Army being withdrawn from the urban areas into a supporting role. That is to make a very big assumption: that terrorism will have receded and will have become significantly less, mainly by dint of the force of Catholic public opinion. That is the hope that I have.
As regards the new and relatively untried Ulster Defence Regiment, I believe that its members, who are primarily public-spirited civilians, may have a very difficult choice to make in any conflict of loyalties which they may feel. Many of them are drawn from the former Ulster Special Constabulary, with its deep loyalty to the former Unionist Government. Now they are required to prove their wider loyalties to the Crown. My Lords, this is the acid test: it is the principle upon which the Ulster Defence Regiment was brought into being in 1970. In saying this, I intend no reflection whatever on the B Specials. My colleagues and I paid them a sincere and well-merited tribute in our Report in 1969, and I am glad to take the opportunity of repeating it now. The reputation and the future of the new Regiment will stand or fall on the choice made by its members and the potential recruits it may draw in the next few months.
If I have dwelt rather lengthily on this point, and if I continue to dwell on it for a little longer, it is because I believe that upon that choice will hang, in some measure, the outcome of the Government's new initiative to create a new climate, to turn over a page in history, to look resolutely to the future and to build afresh in Northern Ireland. Now is the opportunity for this new Regiment to found a tradition and to earn true honours not only in fighting the I.R.A. gunmen—though that of course is their primary job—but in building for peace, achieving the honour of impartiality, of independence of sectarian conflict or confrontation, and by more people of both communities joining the force. Here I have in mind particularly the Catholic community. This is their opportunity to reflect a new-found unity in Northern Ireland.
§ 4.29 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOWRIE
My Lords, in dealing with Irish affairs it is always necessary to have a sense of humour, and I should like to add my congratulations to the Government for showing their humour as well as their wisdom in appointing my noble friend Lord Windlesham and my right honourable friend Mr. Paul Channon as Minister of State. They have given Ireland a Hennessey and a Guinness and we could not have a better toast for success than that!
I feel that the decision to put an end to any division of responsibility between Belfast and Westminster is not only the right decision but also a courageous one: it is courageous in its acceptance of the politics of last resort. The Government have been accused of delay. It has been said that this same assumption of control, de jure as well as de facto, of the Province should have taken place earlier—and my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine, in a very eloquent speech, suggested this earlier this afternoon. In spite of my temerity in disagreeing with a former Prime Minister of the Province I do not agree with this view. It seems to me that the desirable thing would have been for Mr. Brian Faulkner's Government to continue (and I stress the word "continue") to put forward the political initiatives so necessary to the resurrection of what the noble Lord. Lord Beswick, called decent civilised living in the Province. These political initiatives (for what are political reforms except political initiatives?) have after all taken place in a Parliamentary context. As we in Westminster prorogue Stormont let that at any rate be remembered: they did take place in a Parliamentary context. But this desirable continuity was not to be. Mr. Faulkner's Government was legitimate; but, like other Unionist Administrations, lacked the minimum consent necessary to function. It could not co-operate with Her Majesty's Government to good effect because any measure of its cooperation cast doubt upon the impartiality of Her Majesty's Government.
Now, my Lords, I altogether believe in the impartiality where Irish affairs are concerned, as in many other affairs, of the Government, and so I believe do all Members of your Lordships' House, of course including, as we have seen to-day, the Government's political opponents. But 1091 so long as significant sections of Irish popular opinion—North of the Border, South of the Border; even popular opinion within the ranks of the Unionist Party itself—thought of Her Majesty's Government as working hand in hand with Stormont there was no chance of a political solution in the North. And not much chance either of a viable military solution. For, as my noble friend Lord Carrington has recognised, sombrely but with his legendary clarity, the absence of consent for legitimate institutions is the breeding ground of consent for illegitimate institutions, and all the horror and bloodletting that that engenders.
My Lords, the decisions underlying this Bill were courageous for other reasons. Conservative Governments have a long and, I would say, an entirely honourable connection with the Ulster Unionist Party. It is no dishonour to desire or to practise political union with this country. It was the Government in the South of Ireland which revoked its original recognition of the Government of the North—let us not forget that. Conservative Governments have usually been able to ask Unionist M.P.s for their support and to count on that support. The present Conservative Government are a daring and an innovatory Government. Let us say that in contrast with the Opposition they have the courage of their innovations and they need to count on the support of their traditional sympathisers. I believe that in acting in the interest of ordinary people throughout the islands of Britain—and I include in this description the interests of the Government and the people of the Irish Republic—Her Majesty's Government may tempt their political opponents to suppose that they have put their programme at risk. I do not believe that they should yield to this temptation. The Government have done the right thing. And this is, as it always must be, the right political thing as well.
In this House in the past I, like many Peers with an Anglo-Irish background, have argued that in the long run the interests of all the people of Ireland, North and South of the Border, would in the end he best served by a greater measure of political federation. There is in many crucial economic areas—tourism, for example—a very great degree of collaboration even to-day. I am not going to repeat these arguments to-day. 1092 The time is not now ripe and it will need many long and politically sunny summers for any real ripening to take place. But I should just like to say a few words to those of my noble and honourable friends, supporters of this Government who would also have liked to support Mr. Faulkner's Government and who find themselves anxious, in a dilemma. I do not believe that there is any responsible opinion South of the Border who would wish to see Northern Ireland incorporated into the Irish Republic—certainly not in the present circumstances, and certainly not against the wishes of well over a million people. I live part of my life—a very happy part—there. I have friends in all Parties there and I know none who would wish what would all too literally be a shotgun marriage.
On the contrary, I find that the present Government of the Republic are as interested as our own Government in maintaining that delicate and creative balance between supranational and long term economic interests—entry into the European Economic Community, for example—and the desire that all good men have for vigorous and regional democratic procedures. This balance, this dilemma, is faced by all European Governments, and the Lynch Government are no exception. Their problems and their interests are inter-dependent. The tragedy of Northern Ireland lies in the loss of human life and in the criminal destruction of life. But it also lies in that it may have put at risk all of Ireland's effective and creative participation in the affairs of the Western democracies.
Finally, my Lords, this is not a political initiative; as my noble friend Lord Carrington implied, it is a Bill designed to create an atmosphere, a context, in which political discussions and therefore political initiatives may take place. That is the importance of this Bill and it is why I believe that we will, as we should, give it an overwhelming Second Reading this evening.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ BARONESS BACON
My Lords, when, way back in 1966 and 1967, the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, was my host when I visited Northern Ireland in my capacity as a Home Office Minister, I do not think that either of us thought that we should now both be in the House of Lords, taking part in this debate. There 1093 is a tendency to-day to make short speeches and my remarks will be short. Much of what I should like to say is probably best left unsaid, because we are all conscious of the explosive situation in Northern Ireland to-day. Over the past few years a great many people have been making a great many speeches while the situation was becoming very much worse. I should like to join with those who have said that Mr. Whitelaw and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, have very unenviable jobs, and we wish them the best of luck in the most difficult task that they are now facing.
During the past year or two many people in this country and outside it have been calling for a political solution. In the debate which we had last September I said that I did not believe that there was some magic formula that could quickly change the situation. What we have before us now is not a political solution but an initiative which gives us merely a breathing space in order to try to find a solution. Everybody must remember that. I am pleased that this initiative has been taken because for far too long the Government here have appeared to believe that if they interfered as little as possible and left the troops to deal with the situation everything would eventually right itself. Of course that is not so. The troops, who have behaved in a magnificent way, have been left to bear the brunt of this policy.
I support this Bill, as have most people who have spoken today, but there are one or two points that I should like to make about it. Mr. Heath last Friday, when he made his Statement in the other place, said that the Stormont Government had accepted in principle the periodic plebiscites and the proposals about internment, but could not accept the transfer of responsibility for law and order from Stormont to Westminster. I think that the Government here were absolutely right to propose this transfer. We have sent United Kingdom troops to Northern Ireland and in the eyes of the world we are responsible. Therefore it is essential that we take control. At the same time, I can understand Mr. Faulkner and his Cabinet feeling that they could not continue in these circumstances. I know that Lord Carrington to-day, in an excellent speech, gave a list 1094 of all the things the Stormont Government would be left to administer, such as education and economic matters. But law and order is what government is all about, and a Government without responsibility for law and order is not really a Government at all; but I still believe that our Government were right to make these proposals. With rejection by Stormont of these proposals the only course was direct rule.
When I spoke last September I said that I thought that direct rule was coming and that, with hindsight, perhaps we ought to have had some kind of direct rule when we put the troops in. Because, immediately we put the troops in as our responsibility, I think, looking back now, it was right that we should have taken greater control at that time. The one proposal in the Bill I am rather doubtful of is the one about the Commission. This is, to me, the most difficult part of the proposals, especially as it looks as if the main body of Ulster Unionists will not co-operate. It may be that there are moderate men and women of good will among the Protestants ready to join the Commission, but it depends on the persuasive powers of Mr. Whitelaw. I see that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, is shaking his head. Well, if he is right, if we cannot get any moderate people, Protestants of moderate persuasion, in Northern Ireland to join the Commission, then I very much doubt whether it will really get off the ground. But even if it gets off the ground it can be only a temporary measure. A system of selected, and not elected, representatives cannot be a permanent feature, I believe, in any country or even in a part of a country.
I am pleased about the plebiscite, and especially that there are to be periodic plebiscites about the Border. In general, I am against plebiscites and against referenda, but for me this is the exception, for two reasons. The first and the obvious one is that a plebiscite will reassure the Protestants that there will be no interference with the Border against the wishes of the majority. But secondly—and very important—it takes the issue of the Border out of ordinary elections. I know from my experience in Northern Ireland that there are many working-class Protestants who have little in common with the Ulster Unionists and the Orange 1095 Order but who have always voted Unionist because they believed that this was the only way they could express their views against a United Ireland. If the Border is not an issue, then perhaps in elections in Northern Ireland—elections for Westminister; at the moment there will be no elections for Stormont—we can have more discussion of economic and social affairs; and that will be all to the good.
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said that with the plebiscite out of normal elections new political Parties might be formed that cut across old antagonisms. I would remind this House that one such Party already exists and has existed for many years: I refer to the Northern Ireland Labour Party. It is precisely because it has been non-sectarian, and because it has been non-sectarian in elections where nearly all the votes have been cast either for or against the Border, that it has not made the headway which such a moderate and excellent Party deserves. Now we have the Vanguard movement, which I think we all agree is very dangerous. I have met Mr. Craig on several occasions. I very much doubt whether he is open to reason in these matters, but what he does is a matter between him and his own conscience. Mr. Faulkner is rather different, and I was sorry to see yesterday that he seemed to be uniting once again with Mr. Craig at the Vanguard rally. I believe that Mr. Faulkner wants an economically strong Northern Ireland and that he did a very good job when he was Minister of Commerce. I just cannot believe that he will now join up with Vanguard and take steps that might make the position worse. There are many splits in old-established Parties in Northern Ireland; there are many new alignments. The minority demonstrations in the past have always contained people with different objectives: those who wanted justice and equal rights for all in Northern Ireland, and those who wanted to see Northern Ireland disappear altogether as a separate political entity.
My Lords, the situation is still very difficult and potentially dangerous. Nevertheless, there are a few hopeful signs. There are signs that the Catholics are being detached from the gunmen and the I.R.A.; and that is the most important sign of all. Some moderate voices 1096 are being heard. But maybe they have been there all the time; maybe they have been talking and nobody has been listening—because, of course, the voices of reason and moderation are not such good news value as the voices of extremism and violence. Far too often, particularly on television, have we heard the voices of the extremists. The extremists have certainly been given more opportunities to air their views. In the last few days, on television and radio, I have heard more of the moderate views than I heard in the preceding three years. I even heard, a few days ago, a representative of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. I even saw on television a man whose name is probably not known to your Lordships' House, a man by the name of Billy Blease, a very moderate trade unionist—
§ BARONESS BACON
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill, says "Hear, hear!" to that. Billy Blease has been a very moderating influence on the trade unions in Northern Ireland; but have we heard anything about him? No. All we have seen on television have been the extremists. I will not mention a name but we have seen these extremists time and time again. I believe that on television there must be a stop to the Alan Hart type of interview, where the interviewer decides what answer he wants and then does his best to extract it. I have seen many of these interviews where the interviewer has been trying to extract from the person being interviewed a statement that he would resort to violence. And once people have committed themselves to violence on television, the chances are that they will go out and be violent.
Above all, my Lords, in this situation the British Government must keep the initiative. We must remember how our troops were welcomed when they first went in, and how this initiative was then allowed to be dissipated. We must keep the initiative and we must see that even the little good will that has come our way in the past few days does not go the same way. But by this Bill we are not becoming less involved with Northern Ireland; we are becoming more involved. Yet we cannot bring peace; we can only help in this situation. I believe that peace in Northern Ireland will come only when 1097 the people of Northern Ireland really want it.
§ 4.48 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, began his speech by saying that there was a quotation which sounded better in French than in English. He missed a good opportunity to keep silent. I have missed a great many opportunities to keep silent in debates on this subject, and I would ask your Lordships to forgive me if I do not on this occasion, but try to keep it short, to express my sympathy with, and welcome for, the Government initiative. The last time I expressed my opinion in this House was not by voice but by my feet, when I found myself in the rather unusual position of being alone in a Lobby on behalf—perhaps wrongly—of an issue which suggested that the internees who were not guilty, or had not been found to be guilty, of any offence might receive better treatment than they had so far. So I need not, therefore, express which way I shall vote tonight. It will not be in the minority.
In view of what the noble Earl said about remarks which sound better in French than in English, I have been reminded by some of the things we have been seeing or hearing on television lately of a French saying, "plus royale que le Roi," which I take it means, "More regal than Royalty"'—I hope that is a fair translation. I do not know whether there is a saying, "plus loyale que la loi", and, if so, if one can apply it to Ulster. I do not think it would be right to translate it, "more legal than loyal". I think it would be "more loyal than legal", because I think that one of the things that has bedevilled this particular subject is that Ulstermen, whom I admire enormously, and Irishmen, use loyalty in a rather different sense from ours. Loyal Ulster is absolute loyalty to Ulster. The expression "loyal Ulster" may mean absolute loyalty to Ulster, but if it means loyalty to the United Kingdom then I think it is conditional loyalty, and the condition they have perfectly genuinely felt should be that this country is the junior partner in the deal.
In my opinion we have gone a very long way to meeting that view, and thought the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, 1098 made an unanswerable point when he said that we have gone absolutely as far as we can go—indeed we have been more or less towed along. After all, it is the lives of English soldiers as well as of Irish people which are endangered by the policy of which we must now have control, and whether we are right or wrong we have to take the responsibility. I believe that that is the only real question on which we shall be voting tonight.
We have seen a spectacular and, in my view, moving demonstration of the power and effect in Belfast of Unionist loyalty, which is quite genuine. The Irish have always enjoyed funerals, although I do not think they have thought of it as a funeral of Stormont. It is perhaps a temporary interment—how temporary, I do not know. If it were a funeral, I should be inclined to remember a line of Tennyson's at the end of a rather gloomy poem when he raised the temperature by saying that people "Had seldom seen a costlier funeral." If that means one that cost a great deal then it certainly applies to Stormont, because I believe that the two days' strike cost something like £4 million. One hopes that they have expressed their views and that that particular form of celebration will not continue and become a funeral pyre in the form of violence. There is no reason why it should. If the Southern Irish have been accused of believing in fairies, the Northern Irish may be accused of believing in giants. They produce gigantic figures to prove their points, but I think we have a rather different outlook. It is that it is good to have a giant's strength but tyrannical to use it like a giant. That is why it is essential that we should decide how it is to be used.
That is all I wish to say, except to add to what other noble Lords have said in sympathising with, and congratulating, Mr. Whitelaw and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, on their appointments. The noble Lord has the most difficult task which anyone in this House is ever likely to have. I heard Mr. Whitelaw's speech yesterday and I was immensely impressed by it. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, that if any Englishman can sort this problem out it is probably Mr. Whitelaw. I hope very much that he will be able to do so, and I apologise for detaining your Lordships.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I feel that I am "betwixt the devil and the deep blue sea": I have my loyalty to the Ulster Unionist Party, of which I am a member, and of course Ulster was where I was brought up in my early childhood. I also have my loyalty to Her Majesty's Government. In view of that, my Lords, if the Question whether this Bill shall have a Second Reading goes to the vote, I shall abstain.
I do not wish to deal with the Bill, but what I should like to get clear is what Stormont have done wrong for them to be faced with this humiliation. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, told us—and I am quoting his words from memory—that it was an illiberal régime. I believe he said that it was an intolerant régime and possibly even a tyrannical regime, but I am not sure whether he said the latter. The fact is that the Stormont Administration have leant over backwards to give the minority rights which are enjoyed, so fas as I can see, in no other country. Thus, to call it an intolerant régime is a gross exaggeration. The Stormont Government have handled security, law and order perfectly well in an appallingly difficult situation. Where have they failed? I will tell your Lordships where they have failed. They have lost the propaganda battle with the monolithic power of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. has frequently put out slanted views on the North of Ireland. The accursed "goggle-box" hynotises millions of morons, people who probably have not tutored minds, and in such cases the power of television is terrifying. The ordinary man imagines that Roman Catholics in the North of Ireland do not enjoy similar legal and other rights as the Protestants. I only ask that people should read the Constitution, when they will see that it is absolute nonsense to believe that the Roman Catholics do not enjoy similar rights.
With regard to local elections, my noble friend Lord O'Neill said that he had tried to get, quite rightly, "one man, one vote" in the local elections, but what people do not understand is that local elections are the same as they were in this country until Mr. Attlee's Government altered the voting system. A person 1100 gets a vote in Ireland only if he is a householder, but there is nothing to stop Roman Catholics being householders. I am sorry to say that the majority of the communication media in this country have spread an entirely false picture of the Constitution in the North of Ireland. If we take the Civil Rights Movement and if you ask (as I have) a member of that Movement what specific civil rights he lacks, he cannot answer. The Civil Rights Movement is really only a cloak to cover the question of the Border. The only real issue in the North of Ireland is the Border; everything else is of secondary importance. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is not in the Chamber at the moment. Perhaps that is just as well, but I cannot help thinking that if the police in the North of Ireland had not been disarmed, and the B Specials had not been disbanded, innumerable lives would have been saved and many people would not have had limbs blown off. The terrorists have got on top only because the police were disarmed and the B Specials were disbanded.
We now come to the position that democratically elected Government has been swept away temporarily—and some people say that it may never come back. I cannot agree with Her Majesty's Government on that point. They have certainly taken a great gamble, and although I realise the tremendous pressure that they must have been under, to me it seems like an act of spring madness. To alienate your staunchest allies for what will probably be only fair weather friends is a highly dangerous policy.
A further point is that by doing away with Stormont the I.R.A. can now have a direct confrontation with the British Government, although if they are well advised they will not do so. It would bring the struggle over here, and that would be a serious matter. The I.R.A. and other terrorist organisations must think that violence has paid. Of that they will be disabused, I know, but at the moment it appears to have paid. It is true that various Opposition Parties in Northern Ireland appear to show signs of co-operating with Her Majesty's Government, and that is all to the good. But of course it is not difficult to get bipartisan support if you adopt the policy of the Opposition. The Ulster Unionists cannot be equated with the I.R.A., and 1101 I do not personally believe that they will embark on any violence, certainly no physical violence that will blow people's limbs off.
The ball is now in Mr. Lynch's hands. As I have said before in this House, I have met Mr. Lynch and he appears to be a reasonable man. But he has never given any recognition to Stormont for the many reforms that they have brought in. True enough, the Opposition have not taken up those reforms, but that was not Mr. Faulkner's fault. If Mr. Lynch can now really be courageous, if he can prevent arms and explosives crossing the Border into the North of Ireland and it he can stop giving succour to the I.R.A. by giving them a base to move freely in, then this initiative of Her Majesty's Government will have been well worth while. But has he the power to do that? I should very much doubt it.
We have heard suggested to-day—and I think Mr. Paisley wants this—completely integrating the North of Ireland into the United Kingdom. Of course that could be done and it might be a solution. But if you do that it will not solve the question of the Border. You will have to turn Ulster into an armed camp; you will have to arm the police; you will need to have many troops there. If you integrate the North of Ireland into the United Kingdom that will not stop the I.R.A. activities; it may increase them. So it is not a course I would advise.
We now have this breathing space. It is rather as though the referee has blown his whistle for half time. We have a breathing space for a year, but I hardly think it will last a year. Our best hope is to try to form a Council of Ireland in which all denominations, every shade of responsible opinion will be represented, and really try to hammer out this question of the Border. The Border poses the great question. We must have a peaceful Ireland. It must be our aim to have a peaceful Ireland because if we have a warring Ireland, rather like Spain was to Napoleon in the Peninsular War, it will be a festering sore. Our whole aim must be to have a peaceful Ireland; but of course international Communism does not want us to have a peaceful Ireland.
1102 We must somehow take the issue of the Border out of politics. That is easier said than done. If we could take it out without affecting the rights and security and citizenship of people in the North of Ireland who wish to remain citizens of the United Kingdom, we should have the answer to the question. But the question is how to do that. I know it is extremely difficult, because the Unionist majority must not be forced into unification by bombs or by the British Government. I suppose this suggestion sounds completely harebrained—and as I say, you need to have a compromise, with Mr. Lynch having to move towards us—but would it not be possible perhaps to give all citizens of Southern and Northern Ireland dual nationality, making them citizens of Britain? After all, we offered this solution to France, a country of over 40 million people. The population of the South of Ireland is only about 2 million. We are a rich country. We might be able to work out some economic policy with the Eire Government to subsidise them and to bring the standards of their social services up to our standards. I know that sounds quite harebrained, but the probable alternative is to integrate Ulster with Britain and to seal the Border; all Eire citizens will require to have passports; we should need to treat them as complete foreigners. I think those are the two choices. We must somehow take the Border out of politics.
I should like to see Stormont reinstated, but I do not know whether that will happen. We have now done away with the Government, which was democratically elected on the democratic principle of one man, one vote. How can you improve on that? I suppose as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said, you could have proportional representation. That is not very easy to work out. It is not very easy to have an effective Government based on proportional representation.
I do not want to keep the House much longer. I should like to add that I was horrified to read in the Press that Mr. Callaghan in another place said he had evidence that there were Ulster Unionist gunmen who were prepared to shoot at British troops. The right honourable gentleman has often spoken through his hat, but he is really speaking complete and utter nonsense because no Ulster 1103 Unionist would ever shoot at a British soldier. That is complete and utter nonsense.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, does the noble Viscount know that British troops have been firing rubber bullets at Ulster Unionists?
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, I did not hear what the noble Lord put to me. Will he speak up? Perhaps I am getting deaf.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I was asking whether the noble Viscount has read in to-day's papers that last night Ulster Unionists were throwing stones and other missiles at British troops, who were replying with rubber bullets? Thus the event he cannot foresee has already taken place.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
My Lords, stones are not rifles or Sten-guns. The situation is a very different one. I can remember as a small boy throwing stones at people; I am very ashamed of it now. I end with a warning. If a nation does not support its friends, those proud to belong to it, that nation will in the end be submerged by its enemies. The Ulster Unionists will not support Her Majesty's Government in abolishing Stormont, but I am quite sure they will not embarrass Her Majesty's Government any more than is strictly necessary. I would personally call on them not to do so. But, my Lords, having said that, I should like to repeat that I hold that this initiative is unwise. Miracles do happen, and I hope that, for the sake of Her Majesty's Government this miracle does come off. If the Motion for Second Reading goes to a Division, I shall have to abstain, as I have already stated.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, many of your Lordships, I am sure, received with mixed feelings last Friday the news that the Government contemplated direct rule and the expansion of the Army. But in the circumstances, and now that the plan is almost under way, I think the only thing we can do is to unmix our feelings and give it all the support we possibly can, at the same time expressing admiration of the gallant Secretary of State who has undertaken a large measure of responsibility for expediting 1104 the plan. There was in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, one suggestion which made me pause; and that was his reference to periodic plebiscites. Such plebiscites, leading to the counting of heads tend, I think, to polarise the two communities. They may make Protestant employers reluctant to employ Catholic workers. They may possibly create the fear—which already exists in some minds, though not in mine—that a future Labour Government, not unmindful of the Irish Catholic vote in this country, might feel more sympathetic to the claims of Southern Ireland than the present Government apparently do.
That brings us to the question of the future. What is to happen after this precarious and difficult year of direct rule? To my mind, the only complete answer to the question is Ulster Home Rule, self-government for Ulster, as a Dominion within the Commonwealth, owing allegiance to the Crown; responsible for its own security, for its own law and order, for its own internal security. Of course, if such a result were to come it would mean that we should have to have a special relationship with the Dominion of Ulster, owing to its proximity; and that would involve special arrangements for economic aid, external defence, representation overseas and the movement of personnel across the Irish Channel between the Dominion and the Mainland.
I think that the dream of a United Ireland is a dream. I have no doubt that Lloyd-George dreamt it in 1922, and I have a suspicion that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is dreaming it to-day. But it is, after all, a pipe-dream. It cannot happen. The years that have passed since 1922 have not made it likely to happen. So we have the two communities separated by race, by religion, by tradition, and perhaps in the future by language. It might have been a good thing if the settlers from England and Scotland had never descended on Northern Ireland. The Red Indians of North America might feel the same thing about the European New Englanders who settled along their East Coast. The point is that they did settle, I think at about the same time as our nationals settled in Ulster. They are there, and we must recognise their existence. The more we dream about a United Ireland, 1105 the more, I feel, we shall put off the case for a final solution to the problem.
Of course, a special relationship between the Government of Great Britain and the Government of a free self-governing Ulster must put an end to the present special relationship which allows unrestricted immigration into this country from Southern Ireland. It may be quite possible for us to welcome the invaluable Irish nurses, in the same way as we welcome our invaluable Asian doctors, and our possibly invaluable Spanish domestic servants on work permits, but—
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, I am always reflecting on the Common Market Treaties, but they have not got through yet. Of course we shall have to reflect about them; and I do not pretend that the solution I have suggested would not precipitate new problems: it certainly would. But perhaps, on balance, they would be less intractable than the problems we have to face at present. Moreover, there would be one advantage: the less intelligent inhabitants of North America, Asia and Africa would have fewer opportunities of talking about British Imperialism, though no doubt they would continue to do so. With direct rule of Northern Ireland, and an intensified military presence, they have more opportunities; and they will of course do it. I am certain that Senator Kennedy will make full use of the opportunity.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, all of us will have listened with great interest to the long-range forward analysis of the noble Rawness who has just spoken because speaking with such a long period of experience in the Civil Service she is well qualified. For myself, my intervention is prompted by my inability when I came into this House to see a convincing reason why the administration of Northern Ireland would be better conducted from Whitehall than it could be done from Stormont provided that there was unqualified and unrelenting support from Whitehall. In the event, the result of this proposed legislation surely will have given encouragement to those who have embarked on violence and disorder 1106 in the belief that it has succeeded in bringing this change. It will likewise be regarded as humiliation for the Stormont Government in spite of the British Prime Minister's assurance that he is satisfied that so far as the maintaining of security was concerned there was no complaint to lay against the Stormont Government.
Then I heard Lord Carrington's masterly and comprehensive exposition. It will have been appreciated by all of us because it was so informative. No one could now say that they did not know the reason why this legislation was introduced, but for myself, from the former belief that it was merely unwise, I now realise that it is a complete gamble. Of course we all hope that the gamble will come off. As I travel Westwards through Derry on my way to Donegal, I see the young soldiers on point duty on the bridges or the street corners. What more dirty job could the Army have to do than that which has been foisted on it?
The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has indeed had an exacting task in maintaining morale in those conditions. We have complete confidence in the noble Lord. His first statement—I quote from Hansard, Vol. 316, column 192, 11/3/71—was:The battle now joined against the terrorists will he fought with the utmost vigour and determination.That gave us confidence, and we have no reason to believe that, so far as the defence forces are concerned, that has in any way been relaxed. But intimidation will not be any less in the new conditions. The terrorists are likely to have received encouragement for the vile and barbaric behaviour that they have been showing. Terrorists forsooth! After seeing what they do in Northern Ireland, let us hope that no longer will Members of this House who sit on that side describe these terrorists in Israel or in Southern Africa as "freedom fighters".
Why am I, and many others in this House who I know think likewise but are unlikely to speak to-day, in doubt? It is because of the Socialists' behaviour in the past. We saw the changing of the conditions and disarming of the Constabulary; and the disbandment of the intelligence service that was available in the B Specials. Then what many of us think was the Home Secretary's inadequate resolution when he took office in 1107 1970 brought about increasing difficulties. Surely, this was surrender to the demands of the Opposition. These Commissions and Investigations, the softening of interrogations, all surrender to the same compassionate idealism which denies the death penalty for the brutal murderer of a policeman, and compassion for the wrongdoer and indifference about the wronged.
So it is that we pass on to internment which is to be phased out. Surely, that is wrong language phased down. If you remove internment surely you will give the greatest encouragement to those who practise terrorism. We all get much mail. I take at random a letter just received, which says:I returned from Ireland yesterday. I toured the Republic and met a great many people. I am certain that any appeasement extended to the I.R.A. will have only the effect of whetting their appetites for more.The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, told us that internment is essential. But now there will be great disquiet at the likely release of some of these internees. Many people believe that there is need for more pressure on Eire. We have the power of leverage. Let us think of Russia, which is so much admired by many on that side of the House. Are we to assume that Russia, if its East European oppressed satellite countries were under pressure from over its border by incursions which did the damage that has been done in Northern Ireland, would accept that situation and not demand stronger measures against the offending country?
Many people likewise feel that this is the first step towards unification. Why particularly? Because it is recommended by the Leader of the Opposition. Like others, I have read the categorical assurances of the Attorney General in another place yesterday. They should convince us all of the intentions of the Conservative Government. But what would be the likely attitude of a successor Government if, as is unlikely to happen for a long time, the Socialists came to office again?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if I may interrupt my noble friend, may I say that this Bill lasts only for a year, and we are not anticipating a Labour Government during that 12 months.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, let us consider the plebiscite. I have misgivings about this. It would be likely to produce disorder, uncertainty and doubt. We have the example behind us of the plebiscite on Teschen, which produced disturbances for all those years in central Europe. Plebiscites are a most dubious course. Now these proposals withdraw from Northern Ireland normal representative Government. Surely twelve representatives at Westminster is not normal representation. In mentioning that, I would include another good reason why I have misgivings about this proposed course. Like, I think, only two other Members of this House, the noble Earl, Lord Swinton, and, I suspect, the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, I chanced to sit in the Commons with the 60-strong Irish contingent, and I have vivid recollections of it. If into Westminster is introduced the Government of any part of Ireland you will put the administration of the United Kingdom into disarray. In my recollection at that time they took up pretty nearly 50 per cent. of the time of the House of Commons. That is another reason why this course of action may not be wise. Doubtless this Bill will receive affirmation, and, I suspect, without a Division. If it should go to a Division I will abstain. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has earned the confidence of all of us as to his ability. We wish him well in the public work that he is taking up, and I hope that he may in some way hasten peace for Ulster.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, my first words must be to repeat what others have said in wishing all that is good to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in the appointment that he has taken. I suppose that I have opposed his policies more than any other Member of this House, but I want to express appreciation of the way in which he has always met and considered criticisms that we have made. Probably I have taken up with him more individual cases than any other Member of this House. While, of course, he has had to carry out the law, I want to acknowledge that in every case he has acted with human compassion and has sought to do what was just. All of us will wish the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the best results in the terribly difficult task that he has undertaken.
1109 Like a few others who have spoken—although I am a little disturbed about my company—I am of two views about this Bill, and if the Motion for Second Reading went to a Division I should probably abstain. I think the Government were absolutely right in seeking to take responsibility for security. The British forces in Northern Ireland have been placed in an impossible position. At first, they were welcomed as an impartial force, but now they are interpreted, in a large part of the mind of Ulster, as the instrument of Stormont. I believe that when Stormont rejected that proposal, the British Government had no alternative except to suspend Stormont for one year. In those respects I support entirely what the Government have done.
My difficulties are in the opposite direction to those that have just been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Barnby. He said that he could not trust what a Socialist Government would do in future. I have to say that I cannot trust what a Tory Government will do now. Because, my Lords, despite the changes which the Government have made, the fundamental situation in Ulster remains the same. It could not be altered by any temporary decision of the Government. It goes right back in history to the days of Cromwell. Particularly in Ulster, it goes back over the last 50 years. It rests on the fact that, both when the British Government were responsible for Ireland as a whole and when, through Stormont, they have been responsible for Ulster during the last 50 years, the Roman Catholic community has suffered from discrimination in social relationships, in employment, in housing and in public representation. That is embedded in the whole structure of Northern Ireland and it will be changed, and the action of the Government will have good results, only if, in the first place, two important changes are made.
The first is the abolition of internment. How many times have we on this side of the House denounced the internment policies of the Government of South Africa? How can we legitimately make that criticism when the policy of arrest without charge and indefinite internment without charge is still continued in Northern Ireland? All that the Government have said so far is that they hope 1110 to fade it out, but yesterday in another place the Minister who will be responsible said that such powers of internment must remain. I hope I am not unreasonable about this matter, because I appreciate that in the situation of Ulster witnesses might withhold their evidence because of fear that a public trial would be held. I would only say that there are many precedents in such circumstances for evidence to be taken in camera and by affidavit. It is not impossible still to insist that no one should be detained in Northern Ireland without charge and without trial, but at the same time to give to witnesses the protection which they would desire in those circumstances. Although the Opposition in Stormont, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, has now agreed to co-operate—and I welcome that fact—its fundamental opposition to the action of Stormont was based on this issue of internment. If Her Majesty's Government disappoint the Opposition on that matter, then I fear that their decision to co-operate may be reviewed.
The second action which Her Majesty's Government must take if there is to be hope in this new move is to cancel entirely the Special Powers Act. On a previous occasion I read in detail the contents of that Act. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that there is no Government in the world—not even the Government of South Africa, not even the Governments of African and Asian countries which have adopted detention without trial, much to our regret and criticism, not even any Communist country—which has on its Statute Book an Act which from A to Z so destroys personal and civil liberties as does the Special Powers Act. We should remember that that is not an Act for an emergency situation; it is current law. It allows anyone in Northern Ireland to be arrested without charge and detained indefinitely. It allows no one to appeal for habeas corpus. It allows security officers to enter a house, day or night, in any circumstances. It insists that a witness shall compulsorily give evidence against a prisoner, or shall suffer penalties for not doing so. It destroys every single personal liberty for which Great Britain has stood in our democratic society, and I am amazed that in the United Kingdom such an Act should be on the Statute Book. It is an absolute condition, if 1111 there is to be a change in Northern Ireland, that that Act shall be cancelled. I appreciated the fact that yesterday in the House the Minister said that he would review the regulations under that Act, but he must do it very drastically indeed if there is to be satisfaction for personal liberties in Northern Ireland.
My last point is this. It may seem to the House that I have been speaking in a prejudiced way on behalf of the Catholics. I am not a Catholic and I am not a Protestant; I am a Humanist who rejects the theologies of both. Perhaps in that way I can speak impartially of Catholics and Protestants. What has made me feel saddest of all during this week has been the division on sectarian grounds between the Protestant and the Catholic workers of Northern Ireland. One watched that procession on television tinder the leadership of Mr. Craig—ordinary working-class people in working-class clothes, in working-class caps, their faces showing the hazards of their lives in the struggle against poverty. One is aware of the 10 per cent. unemployment in Belfast, rising in other towns in Northern Ireland to 15, 18, 20 and 30 per cent. Here are the workers in Northern Ireland suffering in common: unemployment, appalling houses in ghettoes, Protestant and Catholic alike; poverty and struggle. Yet here they are, divided on this sectarian basis. No one who has a balanced view can see those thousands of Protestant workers, marching as they did to the City centre and to Stormont, without realising that there must be something very deep in their attitude and in their conviction which leads them to that conclusion.
My Lords, I believe that the hope of Ireland will be when the sectarian difficulties are overcome and the common needs of the common people become the dynamic of their decisions and of their co-operation. I should like to see the trade union movement in Northern Ireland—the shop stewards—preparing a plan of campaign against the system which keeps both Protestant and Catholic workers in the poverty of the present time. I should like to see them joining the trade unionists of Southern Ireland, because great economic co-operation is possible between Northern and Southern Ireland, in its great river expanses. I should like to see our British trade union movement becoming a part of that cam- 1112 paign, and I should like to see Her Majesty's Government, in the considerations of this coming year, give priority to proposals which will enable the wretched conditions of poverty in Ulster to be overcome, so that, on that basis, a unity of the workers, rather than division on sectarian grounds, may be found.
§ 5.43 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I am happy to follow in sequence of time the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, who spoke with the authentic voice of Karl Marx just now, but I do not follow him in other respects. I have risen in order to congratulate Her Majesty's Government on their political courage. Only a little while ago their political life was saved by five Liberals; and, in spite of the confidence expressed by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor just now, that he would be sitting on the Woolsack in a year's time, it is possible that the loss of five Ulster Unionist votes in another place may put him in some degree of embarrassment. But in view of the support to-day of Her Majesty's Opposition, I feel that we can confidently expect some generous gesture in recognition of what they have done, because Her Majesty's Government have taken their political life in the current Parliament very much in their hands. Secondly, I congratulate them on having disposed summarily of what one cannot help regarding as a whiff of the Spanish Inquisition, which was reported briefly, with an understatement, on page 71 of Compton and which was demolished with tremendous power, I thought, by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. I am not saying that Her Majesty's Government needed that: I think they disliked the whiff as much as we all did.
Thirdly, I congratulate them on having apparently started the release of some of the less important internees. I read in my newspaper that 50 have lately been let out. I wish to challenge the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in what he said, in particular in relation to the unfavourable comparison he made between internment in this country and anything which happens in the Communist States. I cannot vie with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, in the matter of what their law is, but I have had experience of the operation of the Black List. I have seen, and examined the characters of, the persons liquidated; 1113 I have traced their bodies to the municipal rubbish heap; and I have ascertained that they gat there without charge, without defence counsel, without trial. Although that is some time ago, I must say that I think that no country can afford, in moments of great peril, to dispense entirely with internment without trial. What is wrong in this case is that the appearances were that, in a deeply divided country, one side handed to its agents, the British Army, a list of those of its enemies which it desired to be put in "clink". Although that is not true (or if it is true, it has only a small shadow of truth), that is what was thought, and that is why it is so unpopular. Of course it has been seen, as Lord Carrington said to-day, that that is an impression which must be dispersed; and every effort must be made to release those who are less important. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, if he were asked to decide whether to release a man who might, on release, shoot him, would say, "Yes—I do not mind". But, then, Lord Brockway is a very gallant front-line man, especially in Ireland. But suppose there was virtual certainty that this man, or group of people, would carry gelignite and blow up stores in which were women and children and other innocent persons, would noble Lords really wish to let those out? I do not know, my Lords. I would not.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, I very much appreciate what the noble Earl has said. May I just say this? I do not know of anyone in our movement who has more strongly denounced what is happening in Communist countries regarding the arrest and suppression of liberties than I have. I was opposed to that just as much as I am to anything here. All I said was that I did not know any law in those countries which was similar to the Special Powers Act.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. I challenge him to-day. I do not often challenge him, but to-day I have a new hearing aid and I can hear when I am interrupted. I should like to say that I regard our position here to-day as that of people being invited—especially people not committed to any Party—to act as jurors. We are being asked to approve 1114 temporary measures which will lead to permanent reforms; and all we are allowed to do to-day in the matter of permanent reforms, without taxing everybody's patience, is to put them up as options for those who will have to consider them. That is all. To-day we are asked to vote for temporary provisions. Having that in view, I want to spend a very short time on what I consider are the impediments to the success of Mr. Whitelaw in what we all hope he will do to establish a rule of impartial justice.
The first impediment is the time factor. In this country we think that a week is a very long time; in Ireland they think that a hundred years is a very short time. The result is that we do not appreciate that what we are considering to-day is something which, in its later phases, extends from the Curragh incident till to-day, a period of 60 years. This is only its latest incident. I have some family connection historically in view of the fact that one of my grandfathers was in prison for advocating Home Rule in the 'seventies. So when people say that time is running out, that time is not on our side, that we have only a year, that we have only this time or that time, I am afraid that it makes me yawn; because Gladstone was saying that ages ago. We have more time. We must do the thing properly. This is the beginning of the end, and the end may take 10 years. We have been at it for 60 years. The time factor is one of the obstacles. I fear that this plebiscite may not take the question of the Border out of current discussion; we may, in fact, stagger from plebiscite to plebiscite: I have a fear that that may be so.
The second obstacle and impediment is the pledge—a pledge which, as one newspaper to-day said, has perhaps never been given more often or so frequently by all parties—not to change the Border without the consent of the majority of the North. As everybody knows, the Catholic population is rising faster than that of the Protestants and perhaps the time is foreseeable when the latter will be outstripped. Every time the pledge is mentioned it must create grave anxiety on the part of the Protestants of Northern Ireland. If anything is clear from the Curragh to-day, it is what the Protestant Irishmen have been saying in the last 24 hours: "We are British and British we 1115 remain." I am entirely in sympathy with those sentiments; I am British myself. I merely remark that there are other people who say: "We are Irish and Irish we remain". If that is really the immovable posture of both sides then there is only one solution. It is to separate the two, one from the other, under our rule and make subsequent arrangements later. That is the only way. It seems to me that this pledge is a serious obstacle because it reminds the Protestants of the last thing they want: that is, to be under Dublin. If the truth were known, how is it possible that Dublin could wish to have one million hostile Protestants in its own womb? Surely that is nonsense.
If such a division were to take place there is the further impediment indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and by an expert writer in The Times: the immense difficulty in sorting out this pocket and that pocket. I cannot believe that this is beyond our wit. Have we not all witnessed ten million people migrating down the Ganges from Bangla Desh? Now the ten million are back again—and it has all happened within a year! When I congratulated Mrs. Gandhi on having genuinely established independence there and on having withdrawn the Army she wrote to me saying: "Yes, the drama of Bangla Desh has concealed one of the greatest successes that India has ever had. We have produced all the food-grains this year that we need; and we have left over grain for export". It is remarkable to have achieved both things at the same time. That letter reached me yesterday.
I invite those of your Lordships who remain here not to regard the "Irish question" as an insoluble problem of world magnitude. It is not insoluble. There are various paths to solution and the way described as "impossibly difficult" is not so difficult as it looks. It can be done.
My Lords, I want to conclude by saying that I visited a Governor of Palestine a long time ago, in 1932, and had lunch with him. During our conversation, he said: "Both sides, Arabs and Zionists, denounce my measures with equal vigour." When I asked, "Is that not perhaps an indication of your impartial justice?", he thought a little and answered: "Impartiality, yes; justice, no!" The situation is not the same for 1116 Mr. Whitelaw and his lieutenants. In the case of Palestine, justice to both communities was not possible and is not possible to-day. Two conflicting rights have been established. One of them involved the evacuation of residents and occupiers from their homes. No such threat presents itself in Ulster to-day; nevertheless, I think that Mr. Whitelaw must expect to be denounced by both sides, for I am sure we are not going to get this settlement by agreement. His task is not to seek agreement; it is to be impartial and just.
In Northern Ireland justice is possible. I think that all of us must immensely regret that the justice of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine (whose presence, if he were here, would rather embarrass me at this moment) was not sustained by his countrymen. That puts him in the role of prophet. It is no less a role than that he might have played as a successful Prime Minister. It is a reflection on the value of the work he did that the thorn in his flesh, the Reverend Ian Paisley, has progressed so far in what one might call a common sense direction. My Lords, that concludes what I have to say.
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, I shall be brief because for 800 years Ireland has suffered from too many words and an inability to hear. Last Monday, I heard my right honourable friend the Lord President talk on Ulster. He was sincere and compassionate; he had the right amount of iron in the velvet glove; he exuded sensibility and tolerance. Reason and fair-mindedness were written all over him. In fact, he personified all the virtues on which the English pride themselves, as did my noble friend Lord Carrington earlier this afternoon. But what we must ask Her Majesty's Ministers to do is to try to understand but not necessarily to act upon the thought processes of the Irish. The last 800 years of Anglo-Irish history have been bedevilled by the English and the Irish speaking the same words but not the same language. This thought process involves an historical memory which combines a computer and an inaccurate and very selective encyclopædia. It involves an ability to change one's position with bewildering rapidity, without any apparent sense of inconsistency.
1117 This Irish psychology also entails being the only people on earth who believe in the continued existence of the British Empire as it was under Queen Victoria. By this I mean not only the clockwork Orangemen, standing to attention to sing, "God Save The Queen" while pledging themselves to frustrate the Queen's Minister, but also the Irishmen in Drogheda who assured me that Chelmsford was the finest town in all the British Empire. I will try to illustrate to your Lordships with two vignettes this attitude to history and this attitude of adaptation. In Dublin are the majority of the remaining pillar boxes inscribed Victoria Regina Imperatrix; only they are painted green, not red. On one of these—the street could be called Cromwell's Quarter because that also exists—someone has daubed, "Remember the Tyrant Strongbow". The other vignette concerns an elderly Donegal lady of Norman-Irish descent. Her family had lived in Ireland for 600 years, and in 1919 her head gardener burnt down her house. Being imbued with her Irish surroundings she did not get around to sacking him. Came 1923 and the Civil War, and this man was complaining about how things were not as they used to be. Some small iota of Anglo-Saxon blood appeared and the lady retorted, "It's your fault, you kicked us out." In a fury, her gardener replied, "What right had you to go, then?" And when she died the I.R.A. carried her to the gate of the Church of Ireland churchyard, but not inside, while holding back the rest of the mourners at gunpoint.
My Lords, as I have said, an understanding of the Irish character has been lacking in England's dealings with Ireland. It should have been a marvellous mix; the Celtic poetry and quixotic physical courage grafted on to the Anglo-Saxon level-headed tolerance. The Celtic-Anglo-Saxon mixture of ideas has worked to the benefit of England, Scotland and Wales. Please do not let us delude ourselves into thinking that the Protestants in Ulster and the Catholics of the South are in any way different. They are both priest-ridden; one by the dampening influence of the Hierarchy and one by the bigoted Presbyterianism of the Orange Lodges. One side will drink to de Valéra for keeping Ireland out of 1118 the war—and provide more recruits per head of the population for the British Army in Hitler's war than the North—and one will provide loyalists who refuse to co-operate with the Queen's Ministers.
I have gone on, my Lords, perhaps too long, about the Irish character as I see it. I am afraid that I have done so on purpose, as it is essential to understand it if this ghastly situation in which we find ourselves is to be solved. If the Lord President and my noble friend Lord Windlesham understand this, and show to the Irish that they understand and sympathise with this character, then perhaps the Irish themselves will show some understanding of the English characteristics of tolerance and fair play. I listened yesterday, in another place, to Mr. Fitt. He was speaking in this way. We also read that the Reverend Ian Paisley has been doing the same thing. This, I am sure, was as a result of the example set by my right honourable friend the Lord President. If they do not accept this challenge—and it takes far more courage to listen and reason than just to shout either, "Up the Pope" or, "Up King Billy" or vice versa—then Ireland, North and South, will be in for terrible times.
After showing very great and commendable restraint, the Protestants now seem to be making all the noises that the Catholics were making last week about boycotting (another Irish word) the Government. They do not realise that what the Government have done is not to yield to the gun and the bomb, but to reinforce the constitutional unity pledge; and at the same time having found one method wanting of fighting the barbaric robber barons of the I.R.A., have now, very sensibly in my view, changed their methods and tactics. This requires Protestant courage as does the forsaking of the I.R.A. by the Catholic community. If the Protestants go on talking about coconut plantations and the Catholics keep on harping on the Border, there can be no hope for Ireland, North or South. Also, my Lords, if this happens, the rest of the United Kingdom will get fed up with the Irish and will be bored by spending large sums of money on them and will demand immigration controls for the South and the withdrawal of troops from the North. If the troops are 1119 withdrawn—and many people now think that they should be—then the Irish will turn their country first into a slaughterhouse and then into an untended cemetery.
My Lords, I speak in this debate because I am half Irish and because I had ancestors who fought on both sides in the 1690s; one of whom was killed fighting for King James at Aughrim. That is an Irish reason, but as this is an Irish debate I hope that your Lordships will forgive me. This Bill has been praised almost universally for its courage, and I hope that this courage will he rewarded. I hope that the answers will be found, as a result of this pause for reflection which the Government have bought, for a brighter, peaceful Ireland.
I hope that Sinn Fein can march, cheered, through Belfast, and the apprentice boys of Derry can march, with their colourful sashes and drums, through O'Connell Street in Dublin in the same spirit as we celebrate Guy Fawkes or Trooping the Colour. Unfortunately, however, things could get worse; and, given the stubbornness and passion that is floating around Ireland at the moment, considerably worse. But let the message go forth from this House, from another place and from the country as a whole, in the form of a crying prayer for peace and tolerance, and goodwill towards their fellow men. This must have true Christian feeling and charity, and not the bigotry and obscurantism that now goes under Christianity's name in Ireland. Finally, my Lords, on a slightly lighter note, if my right honourable friend the Lord President does succeed in bringing long-term peace to Ireland for the first time since St. Patrick, should we not welcome him here as a Duke? Most of them were made for far less.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD ARDWICK
My Lords, I must apologise for not being here at the beginning of the debate. Because of the buildup of traffic pressures after the strike I was not able to get away from Belfast until about twenty minutes to two this afternoon. I was paying one of my periodic visits there, trying to keep abreast of this very difficult situation; and the more often I go there the less inclined am I to pose as any kind of expert or to feel that I can make any confident judgment about the situation. Of course 1120 it was obvious by last week that the situation had become so desperate, so despairing, that the Government had to act. This they did, and though it was very late in the day, they did so bravely and decisively. They deserve to have the support—which obviously they will get—of the overwhelming majority of this entire Parliament. I think that the Government just had to take control of the security system; nothing else would do. No compromise such as Mr. Faulkner offered, of shared responsibility, could have been acceptable. It would only have kept in being the previous anomalies and the previous hated system, or a good deal of that previous hated system.
Mr. Faulkner refused to give up what he regarded as the one vital power of his Government. He thought that if responsibility for security was lost, then the Stormont system would become a sham. I wonder whether this is really so. Often, there are excellent reasons, in politics as well as in other aspects of life, for tolerating a sham, especially one that is not going to last for ever, and especially if it is a creative sham. But I imagine that what moved these tough Ulster Unionists was not only the immediate proposals of the United Kingdom, but the proposals that might come, and those that will have to come later. So they felt that they would be better able to resist these proposals from a position outside the system. Indeed, they are already talking about their power of veto over the possible future actions of the United Kingdom Government. The political general strike of the past two days has shown what power of civil protest there is with the Protestant forces in Ireland. Although one must be relieved that the United Kingdom Government have at last accepted the inevitable and moved to direct rule, it is a most unhappy situation, a unique situation, in which the overwhelming majority at Westminster is directly opposed to the majority of the elected representatives of the people of Ulster.
Yesterday I sat through the last debate in the Stormont House of Commons. It was a sad and bitter event, although not without its parliamentary dignity. The most common charge made against the United Kingdom Government was that of betrayal. The Ulster Unionists even now can hardly believe that the Party in this 1121 Island with whom they are traditionally in communion could have done this thing. There is an additional sense of outrage about the way in which, as they allege, the policy was carried out. They say (I am reporting, and not passing judgment) that they were deceived; that they received assurances from the United Kingdom Government that the prophesies appearing about the future of Ulster were newspaper speculation. Perhaps they accepted these assurances without sufficient probing because they wanted so strongly to believe them, because they thought that the course which the United Kingdom Government was bent on following was incredible.
I am labouring this point rather because I think it has an important implication for Mr. Whitelaw and his team of Ministers. They will have to be very frank if they wish to avoid misunderstanding. Ulstermen of all political Parties speak as ambiguously on occasions as all politicians do; but the language of ambiguity in Ulster is not identical with the language of ambiguity at Westminster. I think that Mr. Whitelaw is going to need the backing of a very good information service. I am not thinking in terms of clever public relations, of the marked Press style, or of subtle propaganda. I am thinking in exactly opposite terms. What is needed is an information service capable of giving a 24-hour, around-the-clock service through the mass media: one that can deal with the world Press, who know far too little about the realities of Ulster, and also deal with the newspapers of Ireland, who know almost too much about recent events—certainly they have a most profound knowledge of them.
Whether the coming together on the balcony at Stormont yesterday of Mr. Faulkner and Mr. Craig is such a firm concord as some of the newspapers have suggested, I am inclined to doubt. Of course it might make good sense if Mr. Faulkner could assume leadership of all the Protestant forces and keep them on the path of legality and non-violence, as he so desires. But he is taking grave risks in associating with Mr. Craig. I have been wondering what are to be the relations of the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland with Mr. Whitelaw and his colleagues. I think it 1122 is impossible to visualise that he will not need at some time to seek their counsel and they will not wish to give it to him. But, of course, they will not work either in or with the Commission. They say it is a cuckoo in the Stormont nest, which makes Ulster appear (mixing the metaphor) to be a coconut colony.
One understands the need that the United Kingdom Government feel to have an advisory body. A Government that tried to govern without such a body might easily appear to look arrogant, and even alien. One can see, looking ahead rather optimistically, the possibilities of such a Commission becoming a kind of pre-figuraton of a community government and the basis of a new political system in Ulster. But I feel it might be wise to proceed rather slowly with the Commission and their powers. The Ulster politicians are still shocked and angry, and I think, if I may humbly suggest it, that it might be wise to give them some time to get over the shock, and in an atmosphere of greater calm reach a decision on what their relations with Mr. Whitelaw are to be. At the moment, Mr. Whitelaw is being cast—he certainly was in the debate yesterday—as the chief villain. I was rather shocked when they called him Mr. "Green-law"—suggesting that he is already on the republican side—and also a gauleiter. I thought that this was going terribly far, even allowing for the traditional extravagance of Ulster rhetoric.
I am going to resist all temptation to look into the future, even into the immediate future. There is cause for hope; there is cause for fear; but I think it would be vain and futile to attempt to predict.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, naturally I, together with other noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, fervently hope that the Government's new proposals as outlined in this Bill will work and bring peace and stability to Ulster. I must say that I have grave doubts, and nothing that has happened in the last couple of days makes me feel any more optimistic. It may be of course that a new Stormont constitution, acceptable to most, if not all, Ulstermen, will somehow emerge or evolve against 1123 the odds. It may be that one of the new Parties, such as the Alliance Party, may make great strides and thus help towards this end. But I fear that it may well prove impossible for a new system with a sufficient chance of working in practice to be found acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland. I believe that so long as Northern Ireland has its own Parliament, both communities will tend to continue jockeying for position and warring against one another—indeed, as The Times put it in a leading article to-day, "there will be tribal division". It is for that reason that I regret that the Government, having gone as far as they did go in these proposals, have not offered to integrate Ulster fully into the United Kingdom in the event of its being found impossible to reconsruct Stormont, and subject of course to the approval of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
I know that some may say that this would have the effect of uniting all the Irish against Britain. that it may lead to violence in the United Kingdom and that it would be necessary to turn Ulster into an armed camp. Unfortunately I fear that violence may in any case come to this country—indeed, it already has at Aldershot—and Ulster surely is well on the way to becoming an armed camp. But I believe that on full integration the reverse would be the case, because this would have the effect of de-fusing the whole issue, including eventually that of the Border itself. Surely the age-old Catholic versus Protestant quarrel would be meaningless in the wider context of the United Kingdom as a whole. The Catholic minority, not all of whom by any means are Republicans, would no longer feel dominated by the Orangemen and on their guard perpetually against discrimination of one kind or another. On the other hand, I believe that the Protestant majority would feel that they had a far more meaningful guarantee against a united Ireland—and, after all, at the time of Partition they originally did not want their own Parliament in any case.
One really cannot feel too surprised about Mr. Faulkner's bitter remarks; nor can one blame him for saying that Northern Ireland was being turned into a "coconut colony". We should not take these remarks too seriously. I must 1124 confess that I have some sympathy with him, and above all with the moderate Protestant opinion, about which the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, spoke so movingly in his impressive speech this afternoon. Northern Ireland now finds itself in the humiliating position of having had its Parliament taken away from it. It is miserably under-represented at Westminster, with only 12 M.P.s when, on a population basis, it should probably have something like 20. Neither, as I understand it, does it have the protection of its own Committee through which, as in the case of Scotland, legislation passes in the House of Commons.
I feel that the Government have been less than understanding of moderate Protestant opinion, and I am fearful that if we are not careful we shall provoke Ulster into some form of U.D.I., with all the tragic and drastic implications that that could have. Therefore I believe that the people of Northern Ireland should, before it is too late, receive an assurance that if necessary they will be offered full integration. I hope that we shall receive such an assurance to-day from the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. As things stand, despite the improvements that may be made in this Bill there is no doubt that far too many people, both in Ulster and in the United Kingdom as a whole, believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Government's proposals look too much like a partial surrender and a major step towards a united Ireland. Perhaps it might be as well to remember that Carson once said:Ulster will never accept the sentence of death, even with a stay of execution.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I am not an Ulsterman and therefore, unlike the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, I am not in a position to see the trees of the Ulster situation—trees which indeed the noble Lord has seen grow from saplings. However, drawing on historical parallels, I tentatively believe that I can see something of the wood. It seems to me, striking my usual discordant note when speaking of Ulster, that the I.R.A. have won the first round and that unless we study the tragic history of Czechoslovakia between the years 1936 and 1939, and also the tactics of Henlein and his Sudetendeutschen Heimatfront, we could lose the remaining rounds.
1125 Consider what has happened. The Northern Ireland Government has carried out every reform requested by the last Labour Government. Since June, 1970, further reforms have been proposed and unprecedented gestures made to the Opposition Parties, some members of which are opposed to the very continuance of a Northern Irish State. The Ombudsman, the Parliamentary Commissioner, Sir Edmund Compton, in his Report for 1971, found only five cases of maladministration in the Province and none whatsoever on religious grounds.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not want to interrupt the noble Lord but as I shall be replying to this debate, I must tell him that I am not hearing more than one word in three of what he is saying.
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, perhaps I might repeat what I said about the Ombudsman. In his report for 1971 he found that there had been only five cases of maladministration in the Province, and none on religious grounds. Mr. Heath is reported to have told Mr. Faulkner last week that he could not find fault with any of his Government's actions or policies and acknowledged that the Northern Ireland Government had fulfilled all their commitments with skill and courage. Some people may say, "True, we cannot fault the recent actions of the Northern Ireland Government; but it is not right in principle that one Party should remain in power for several decades without interruption." My Lords, this is a valid criticism; but Ulster is not unique in this respect.
In Sweden the Socialist Party has been in power for 40 years and, whatever their natural frustrations, the Conservatives, Liberals and members of the Swedish Centre Party have not demanded the right to a place in the Cabinet. The Italian Communists have received approximately 33 per cent. of the votes in every General Election since the end of World War II, but not even the Communists themselves demand Cabinet posts as of right. In the last analysis it is a people's democratic right to go on voting the same Party into power again and again and again, if they so wish, whatever the practical and theoretical adverse side-effects. However, if the 1937 Constitution in Eire, with its irredentist claims upon United 1126 Kingdom territory, had not come into being, if the I.R.A. had not launched attacks across the Border time and time again whenever it looked as though the two communities were starting to forget their ancient mutual suspicions and beginning to co-operate, would anybody have supposed that politics in Northern Ireland would remain so rigid and so polarised as they have done these last 50 years?
Some may ask "What about internment?" Well, it is possible that internment, though a tactical success, was a strategic mistake. But two things must be remembered. The first is that internment could not have been carried out on Mr. Faulkner's orders alone, without the co-operation, and hence the implied approval, of Whitehall. Secondly, internment has been employed in a great many countries in times of war, or near-war, notably in this country under Regulation 18B, when most of those who were interned, I think it is fair to say, were essentially non-violent. It has been employed within the past two years in at least three Commonwealth countries: Canada, India and Zambia. Most of all, it has been employed in the South of Ireland, not only since World War II but also in the 1922–23 troubles when as many as 11,000 people were interned without trial.
So we now have a situation with a Secretary of State who has not only executive powers but also legislative powers, advised by a nominated—not an elected—Advisory Council replacing Stormont. Some Ulstermen might, no doubt unfairly, deem it a miniature Corporate State, because even Westminster is not the safety net it might appear, given that all factions in Ulster are now greatly under-represented in another place. For at least one year there will be taxation, if not without representation, then at least with inadequate representation, Given the probability that this Bill will duly pass into law, I hope that Her Majesty's Government may be able to give five assurances, not only for the benefit and reassurance of the Protestants or the unionists (with a small "u"), but also for the sake of everybody in Ulster who wants full employment and a stable future for the Province for at least a generation to come.
First, one week ago, by sheer coincidence, the Federation of University 1127 Conservative Associations urged Mr. Heath to suspend Stormont. Most political commentators at the time thought this an impossibly radical proposal which no Conservative Government could contemplate. They have been proved wrong. What has been ignored is the other urgent demand of the University Conservatives; namely, as a quid pro quo for the loyal majority, the withdrawal of the totally anomalous right possessed by Southern Irishmen who are not British citizens to vote in British Elections—a course of action, incidentally, which opinion polls tell us will be welcomed by 90 per cent. of the British people.
Secondly, can we take it that while Her Majesty's Government will remain more than willing to maintain courteous contact with the Irish Republic so long as the courtesy is mutual, there will be no question of giving any foreign Power, or, for that matter, any foreign politician on either side of the Atlantic, the right to decide the destiny of the United Kingdom or any part thereof? Thirdly, can we be assured that there is absolutely no question of any amnesty, as demanded by the I.R.A., for those who plant bombs in public places, killing and maiming men, women and children of all ages, classes and political affiliations, and that there will he no let-up in the search to bring such people to justice, however long this may take?
Fourthly, under the provisions of the Bill Stormont is due to be recalled in one year's time. Is it not unhappily likely that about ten or eleven months from now—say, from New Year's Day, 1973, onwards—the I.R.A. will reactivate their bombing campaign, partly to reawaken communal tensions and hatreds, and so make the recall of Stormont impossible, but chiefly to destroy once again the shops and factories which by this time will have been rebuilt with British taxpayers' money, the object being to cause such revulsion among British people that irresistible popular pressure will grow to withdraw the British presence completely? If my pessimistic forecast seems probable would it not be wise to provide armed guards, whether they be U.D.R. men or Police Reservists, for those factories vital to Ulster's economy, for office blocks, power stations, bus depots 1128 and the like, instead of, as at present, unarmed night watchmen?
The last of the five points is the most important: it concerns the proposed referendum or plebiscite—the two words being virtually interchangeable. How is this legislation to be framed? We hear the phrase, "As long as the majority wish it". In what one might call "Mainland Britain" the word "majority" would have only one meaning, but in Northern Ireland and, significantly, in the South (as I shall refer to later) it has two meanings. It means either the majority of the whole population, as it would in England; or the Protestants of Ulster described collectively. Plebiscites based on a so-called wish of the majority would have quite different meanings depending on which type of majority was referred to. Anyone ignorant of demographic factors and armed only with the 1961 Northern Ireland Census, which can be found in Whittaker's Almanack, would assume, quite naturally, that the Protestants had nothing to fear because in 1961 they represented just over 65 per cent. of the population and the Roman Catholics just under 35 per cent. But, as the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has said, what is not generally known in England (though it is common knowledge throughout Ireland) is that the Roman Catholic birthrate in Ulster is 28.3 per thousand, whereas in the South, where social security benefits are much lower, it is only 22 per thousand. The rate in the North, 28.3 per thousand, is among the highest in Western Europe. In contrast, the Protestant birthrate is only 20 per thousand. Mr. Fitt, Mr. Hume and other members of the S.D.L.P. have constantly claimed on television and elsewhere for several months that the Catholic population now represents 40 per cent. of the total. Personally, I think that this figure is exaggerated for propaganda purposes. But supposing they are right, it means that the Catholic population has increased by 15 per cent. in ten and a half years. At this rate, they will form a majority in just under sixteen years' time.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I have listened with interest to what he has been saying, but can he clarify whether he has been talking about people of all 1129 ages in the Province, or only about people over 18 or 21 years of age?
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, I am afraid that I cannot tell the noble Lord that. I should have to find out that information from Mr. Fitt or Mr. Hume, or those who maintain that the figure is 40 per cent. But this is the figure which they claim as the Catholic proportion of the people of the Province.
It is easy in this House to say that very many Catholics would vote to retain the Union. In a survey carried out in 1968 as many as 33⅓ per cent. were in favour of the Union; another one-third were undecided and only one-third were totally and strongly in favour of Union with the South; in other words, slightly under 12 per cent. of the entire population. One can say, too, that other more detailed and serious predictions do not indicate a Catholic majority before the year 2011, at the earliest. All the same, as Mr. Whitelaw said in another place yesterday, when referring to Catholic affairs:Whether that is justified or not is not the issue. The fact is that these feelings exist."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, 28/3/72; col. 239.]This is what one has to always remember about Ulster. Much the same thing has been said by Harold Jackson, of the Guardian, who has produced one of the most perceptive analyses of the Ulster situation that I have seen.
It seems to me that there is no question that a plebiscite on a simple majority basis would tend to keep alive the tensions and fears, rather than the opposite, when it is considered that in the present S.D.L.P. population estimates Ulster could even to-day be swallowed by the Republic against the bitter opposition of 83 per cent. of the Protestant population, and against Protestant opposition 100 per cent. strong—if the S.D.L.P. estimates are correct—in 16 years' time. Apart from anything else, would industry, after all that has happened, invest in the Province on the basis of such an uncertain future? With the example in mind of the 1950 Belgian Referendum regarding the return of King Leopold, I have previously argued on three separate occasions that the Border should not be abolished unless a two-to-one majority were to vote in favour. Such a provision would mean 1130 that Ulster could not be incorporated into the Republic unless, to take one possible permutation, 90 per cent. of Catholics and 51.2 per cent. of Protestants were to vote in favour. Even if and when population parity is achieved, the figures would still he 90 per cent. and 43.3 per cent. respectively.
But of course noble Lords may say, "What of the Southern Irish? Would they not be seething with rage and frustration at thus being denied early unification?" On the contrary, my Lords; with the exception of both wings of the I.R.A., naturally, and possibly Messrs. Blaney, Boland and Haughey, I am certain that all responsible politicians, whether of the Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, and above all the Labour Party, would be only too glad at being spared a precipitate unification against the bitter hostility of a united body of Protestants, which they must know would plunge all Ireland into bloody strife and ruin both parts of the country simultaneously. It is on moral as well as practical grounds that most of them would object to an enforced unification. Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, writing in the Observer on September 12 last year said this:We recognise that the great majority of the Protestants of Northern Ireland do not now desire political unification with us. So long as that is the case, we not merely renounce any claim to impose unity upon them, we condemn any such claim as repugnant …Notice the phrasing, my Lords. He talks of "the great majority" of the Protestants, the implication being that to enforce unification unless there was a clear majority of Protestants in favour would be immoral and repugnant. I think that the type of referendum or plebiscite I have outlined would pacify Protestant resentment to a remarkable degree—Protestant resentment about what has happened within the last week, and their long-term fears—without in any way flying in the face of intelligent Catholic opinion.
I must now touch upon a delicate matter, involving as it does both religious freedom and parental freedom of choice in education, both of which I hold to be sacrosanct. The Government's commendable intention is to bring the two communities more closely together, as indeed they have been at times in the past, notably in the mid-1960s under the premiership of Captain O'Neill (as he then was). But I believe there can be no long-term community "togetherness" 1131 (if I may use that word) so long as the State schools to which the Protestants go teach one version of history, while the Roman Catholic schools teach a quite different and inevitably anti-British version of history. A fortunate straw in the wind is that as many as 67 per cent. of Roman Catholic parents would, apparently, like to send their children to integrated schools. Of course this is not something which the Westminster Parliament should interfere with in any way; this is entirely a matter for the Ulster people themselves, but I hope they might reflect upon it.
I do not doubt the Government's immediate good intentions. What troubles me is the long-term will of British politicians and the British people, brainwashed as they have been by a cunning propaganda campaign, to stand by their fellow citizens whose own loyalty has been demonstrated courageously in two world wars, and particularly in the first. In case anyone should challenge my use of the words "cunning propaganda", I should like to read one letter in the Financial Times on March 21, written by a Mr. Devlin—note the surname:Sir,—As an Ulster Catholic, my patience is exhausted.… Having lived in live of the six Ulster counties, and having some relations living in the Republic of Ireland, I feel that I know the position thoroughly.… In all the districts in which I have lived I have never experienced any discrimination against Roman Catholics.This is one man's story, and no doubt other noble Lords can produce letters to the contrary. But the fact is that the idea of constant, universal discrimination is simply nonsense. As I have said, what troubles me in the long-term is the lack of will of the British people to protect those who are friendly to them. If I were a Gibraltarian or a Falkland Islander I should be a very worried man to-day. Nevertheless, the die is cast and I can only join other noble Lords in wishing the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and his colleagues the best of luck in their task.
THE EARL. OF LYTTON
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down may I ask him a question? Is it his opinion that the inculcation of a non-British version of British history should be frustrated among the Catholics of Ulster, while of course we cannot stop it from happening among 700 million or so other people 1132 whom we have set free and who have an equally divergent version of our history? Is it only these people who are still within our clutches who are to be deprived of having freedom of their version of history, or is the noble Lord extending it to the whole of the ex-Empire?
§ LORD MONSON
No, my Lords, certainly not. I said most specifically that it was entirely up to the Ulster people themselves. It is a matter of parental choice. If the parents wish their children to go to schools which teach this version of history, it is entirely up to them. But I indicated that 67 per cent. of the Catholic population, in a recent poll, rather surprisingly to my mind, indicated that they would very much like their children to go to integrated schools. Of course, in other parts of the Empire, or rather ex-Empire, it does not really matter if an anti-British version of history is taught. But if we want two peoples to live closely together in the same country we cannot really succeed if they are taught history which breeds mutual hostility between the communities.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, I should like to begin by picking up a couple of points made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, who has just sat down. On the question of education, I agree very strongly with him and I should very much like to see the integration of schools both in the Six Counties of the North and in the Republic, where they are also segregated along religious lines. It would be a great advance if the children could be brought up together and if history were taught objectively and without reference to political questions. This would be a very important step forward. But when it comes to a question of the plebiscite or referendum that is going to be held, I must say that I disagree most strongly with the noble Lord. I have heard him advocate this procedure on a previous occasion; namely, that he would like to see a majority, I think he said of two to one, before any change should take place. That really would bring about a most extraordinary situation, if one can visualise it. Can your Lordships visualise a situation in which 60 per cent. of the 1133 population of the Province wanted reunification and only 40 per cent. were opposed to it?—and there would presumably be the same majority in Stormont, if Stormont is ever resuscitated. I really cannot imagine that in such a situation it could possibly be maintained that the Border should be continued. I of course am at quite the other end of the spectrum. I want to see re-unification. Let no one imagine that the holding of this plebiscite is going to make those of us who take this point of view give up that claim, or accept that a plebiscite of that kind proves what is the right course, because our position—
§ LORD MONSON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? If there were to be a 60 per cent. vote in favour of re-unification I should have thought that a compromise might be reached in which the votes could be re-counted on a county by county basis, and those counties with a strong and overwhelming vote in favour of unification could then be ceded to the Republic.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
My Lords, of course I cannot even begin to accept that. I do not accept any proposal which could possibly mean that one or two counties—those that are pre-dominantly nationalist—should be given over to the Republic until gradually we are left just with the city of Belfast. That is not a solution that I visualise as being remotely practicable. My own opinion and that of those who feel like me is that this is a decision that has to be reached by a vote of the people of Ireland, because the partition of the country took place as a result of the pressure—and this is an old argument which I hardly like to rehearse again—of a minority in the Six Counties. That resulted in the setting up of Partition, but it is the Irish people who should decide the extent to which it should fall within the Republic. It is the reunification of Ireland that I hope to see as soon as may be, and I believe, and will always maintain, that that is the only way in which eventually this sorry state of affairs in Ireland will come to an end.
My Lords, I support this Bill: I support it because I suppose it is the best that could be hoped for from a Conservative Government. I support it 1134 because at any rate it gives—or I hope it will give—a breathing space in the Six Counties when some solution may perhaps be found. There is hope that it may lead to a reconciliation between the two sides, as my noble friend Lord Longford also hoped to see. In principle, the only real difference now between those two sides, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ma1ssereene and Ferrard, said, is the existence of the Border, and I hope that there will gradually be an acceptance that the ending of Partition and the removal of the Border is the solution to be agreed upon.
I should like to take up a remark made by my noble friend Lord Brockway, who is not at the moment in the Chamber. He described the tragedy that he felt when he saw the faces of the workers in Belfast—I would say the Unionist workers rather than the Protestant workers who, he said, were taking a sectarian position on the tragic situation that exists in the North to-day. I want to take this opportunity to say once again what a mistake it is for those who have no personal experience of Irish affairs to attribute so much to a religious difference. Of course in general the great majority of Unionists are Protestants and the great majority of nationalists are Catholics, but surely we ought all to know by now that this is a mere historical accident. The argument between the two sides is not on a religious question. No one minds that a Roman Catholic believes in the bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary, or any other point of dogma. It is simply and solely that the Unionists in general are the descendants of the planters who came to Ireland after the Reformation, and because they are post-Reformation and because they are the descendants of the inhabitants of Britain they want to retain the link; and because the indigenes in -Ireland have retained their Catholic attitudes and their Catholic faith they still hope to get back what was theirs hundreds of years ago. So although I share my noble friend's dismay at seeing the working people of Belfast split into two different camps we should be sure that it is not because they have different religions; it is not a sectarian difference, but a political difference, because each wants something different politically, and not from a religious point of view.
1135 My Lords, I feel that in the three or four months since I last spoke here and since I was last in England there has been what I like to consider some vindication for the points of view that I have held. What I would call the despicable process of interrogation in depth in the North has been found by my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner to have been illegal. His opinion has been accepted by the Prime Minister, and this really unspeakable technique has been abandoned. I think I was the first in your Lordships' House to speak out against internment, and when I did so it was a disreputable thing to do. Now it is, I think, the policy of my own Party, who oppose internment, and it has now become a part of the Government's package, of which this Bill is also a part. I hope that when this question is considered by the Secretary of State he will find it possible to phase out internment, to ensure that every man is either released or charged.
Internment has been a terrible failure, not only because it has greatly increased the violence in the Province but also because it has totally alienated, in particular, the Social Democratic and Labour Party. I do not know whether your Lordships have heard a story that shows the feeling of ordinary people in the Province about the S.D.L.P. It is the story of the child in school who asked his teacher when the troubles were going to end. The teacher replied, "When the good Lord sees fit". The child answered, "Couldn't He see him to-day?". I think it is only by bringing Mr. Gerry Fitt's Party into the talks, which can only be done when it is really believed that internment is going to end, that any real progress can be made.
My Lords, we now have the package that has been presented by the Government and we have seen the reaction to it on both sides in the North. It has been welcomed by the nationalists and it has been strongly resented by the Unionists. I want to consider for a moment what the explanation for this reaction can be, which I myself find quite extraordinary. Perhaps we may consider for a moment how direct rule came about. The three proposals made by Mr. Heath to Mr. Faulkner were, first, that a plebiscite should be held to decide about Partition; secondly, that the policy of internment 1136 should be reviewed, and, thirdly, that there should be the transfer of security from Stormont to Westminster. We know that Mr. Faulkner raised no objections to the first of these three points but that it was on the third point that he refused to co-operate. Therefore, Mr. Heath was forced to say, "In that event I will have to impose direct rule from Westminster".
It seems to me—and I am in a genuine difficulty about this—that if that was Mr. Heath's reaction, he was in fact saying, "We have got to stop violence; we have got to stop fighting in the streets. Stormont has shown that it is incapable of doing this, and therefore we have got to transfer responsibility for security to Westminister". If that is the case and that was the intention of the Prime Minister in making this transfer, it surely must follow that this certainly was not a total triumph for the Nationalists. After all, there is the plebiscite, apart from anything else, and no one in Ireland is under any illusion whatsoever; when this plebiscite is held—if I may use a phrase from the South of Ireland in reference to the North of Ireland—it may very well be boycotted by the Nationalists in the North. But whether it is or not, of course there will be a considerable majority in favour of the Union.
Going back to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, although the Catholic birth rate is certainly higher, and always has been since 1922, there has also always been the tendency, owing to the high rate of unemployment among Catholics which has been such a feature of the last fifty years, for Catholics to emigrate in very large numbers from their ghettoes, and thus the proportion of Catholics has remained very much the same since 1922.
§ LORD KILBRACKEN
As my noble friend says, because of the unemployment, which forces them to leave the North and seek work elsewhere. But the institution of an occasional plebiscite quite clearly indicates that there is no intention to go for reunification; that there is every intention, at any rate in the foreseeable future, to keep Partition.
On the other hand, the Government package is most certainly not a total disaster for the Unionists—not by any 1137 means. It is, of course, a terrible humiliation for them that Stormont is being abolished; that they are in fact being told that Stormont has failed and that they have to stomach this for a year or possibly two years, though more and more we are reading that people are speaking as though Stormont was dead forever. But surely it is implied, or almost stated, in the decision that the responsibility for security must be transferred to Westminster that it is the Government's intention to maintain the status quo, to keep the I.R.A. under control, to stop fighting in the streets. Therefore, what I find the strangest reaction in this scene that changes from day to day is this violent reaction by the Unionists, which gets more frightening from day to day—we can only hope that things will now quieten down—and which has resulted in serious rioting and attacks on British troops by Unionists in the Province within the last 24 hours.
I naturally believe that the ending of violence in the Province is the matter of paramount importance. It seems to me that the main danger since recent events no longer comes from the I.R.A. of either wing. I have been surprised in this debate to hear so many references to the I.R.A. as being just a handful of revolutionaries. It seems to me that it must be a mighty big handful if it ties down so many thousands of troops. I think that in the present situation the danger is not the I.R.A., because I think the I.R.A. leaders in the field in Belfast and Derry want an end to the violence. I myself found it very distasteful indeed to see the leader of the Provisional I.R.A., an Englishman by the name of John Stevenson, who prefers to call himself Sean Mac Stiofain, sitting in the safety of County Meath and encouraging, or seeking to encourage, his front line men in the streets of Belfast and Derry to carry on the fight. I found it very distasteful, and I do not think that is what the I.R.A. men on the spot want. Surely, if we read the papers today, the real danger of violence at the present time is from Mr. Craig's Vanguard and the thousands of his men who are arming and taking violent action in the North to-day.
This Bill and the package of which it is a part may be—I do not know, I hope it is—the beginning of a real change 1138 in the North, and this has to be a gradual process and one patiently followed. At this very delicate moment in history, which makes it more difficult for any of us to speak, I myself feel that it is the Unionists in the North who need reassurance from the Government about their intention when direct rule becomes effective. It is the Unionists who want to be reassured, and I hope that some Government speaker will be able to indicate what the Government's intentions are, because if they are reassured in this way it may save very considerable bloodshed at the present time.
I see the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has just come into the Chamber, and therefore in closing I should like to say how very happy I personally was to read of his appointment, and how very much I hope that he succeeds in the Province, as he has succeeded in this House, in gaining the respect of all of us.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, your Lordships will not be surprised if I do not follow the noble Lord who has just sat down, other than to say that I differ from him in almost every respect, except in approving of this Bill. I approve of this Bill, I think as he does and many other noble Lords have done in their speeches to-day. I call it a "Better 'ole" Bill; nobody has been able to suggest a "better 'ole". Not that it is perfect, but it is the best that can be done. I congratulate the Government on their enterprise, and I join in the expressions of encouragement and goodwill towards my right honourable friend Mr. Whitelaw and my noble friend Lord Windlesham in the task, the very difficult task, which has come their way.
At the same time, I would say that I would not support this Bill if it did not contain subsection (5), namely, the indication, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said in his most acceptable speech, that this is a temporary measure to give us breathing time to look round these difficult corners. As I see it, three serious mistakes have taken place—shall we call them disadvantages. The first was the use of troops as armed police. I have had the unwelcome task of serving under arms in aid of the civil power, and I was brought up rigidly to understand that 1139 troops should never be used as armed police. I do not propose to follow up that point anyway.
The second disadvantage was that internment, far from not being introduced at all, should have been introduced sooner. It could have been introduced sooner. It could have been introduced swiftly and without warning, and had this measure been taken I really believe that many of the evil men—such as the one mentioned by the noble Lord who has just sat down—who are now directing this murderous campaign from the safety of the territory of the Republic would have been put in the bag, with the result that the total number of internees would have been less and many a life and much destruction would have been saved. I will not mention the Special Powers Act—and I never cease to marvel at the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway; I might say the speech: we have heard it so often in connection with almost every part of the world. I regard his approach to this Bill and the matter, if not subversive at least as most unhelpful.
This brings me to the third disadvantage under which the whole body politic have suffered in connection with Northern Ireland. It is the question of public information, the question of the news media: I mean particularly the B.B.C. I personally take the view, as do many people in all walks of life to whom I have spoken, that over the weeks and months the B.B.C. have been allowed by a power of slow erosion to denigrate the Stormont Government in a way which has perhaps not been realised by them but which nevertheless has impressed not only the general public in this country but the world at large. The first and second of the mistakes which I have referred to, by which I mean the use of troops as armed police and the slowness with which internment was introduced, are so much water over the dam, but I believe that the third disadvantage surely should be capable of some correction.
How is that to be brought about? Up till recently I have upheld the contention of the B.B.C. that they were above censorship, but my already shaky faith in the old image of the B.B.C. began to crumble after the debate in your Lordships' House on the Motion of my noble friend, Lord Orr Ewing, on February 23, and my 1140 faith came down with a crash when I saw the programme on the Ulster crisis of 1913–14 in the "British Empire" series ten days ago. I do not know how many of your Lordships saw it or how many spotted that it contained no reference to what came to be known as the Curragh incident. My Lords, presumably this was either a mistake or it was censored by some internal process within the Corporation. This is the point I want to make. The Corporation are prepared to strike attitudes and pontificate about their right to be free from any form of censorship and to do what they like, but I am beginning to think that they must be brought to realise that by producing such lopsided material as I believe they do on a number of occasions they are censoring matters—matters of fact and matters of information which the public are entitled to know—within the organisation itself. My Lords, I will not go on about the "British Empire" series; I only refer to this one which was connected with the Ulster troubles of 1913–14. I do so only because I believe that this process, which is so noticeable to me and from which the I.T.A. seem to be able to keep absolutely free, can be corrected, and indeed must be corrected, if the difficult task of my right honourable friend Mr. Whitelaw and my noble friend Lord Windlesham is to have a fair chance of succeeding.
I will not take more of your Lordships' time over particular items, but I may say that over the last week I have monitored the broadcast service "The World at One". Yesterday it was at fault in harrying some Stormont individual about intimidation. The day before there was some sort of sneer about a programme, saying that the Vanguard crowd lowered the Union Jack and hoisted it again with the Ulster flag above it. This was not the case; they hoisted the Union Jack with the Ulster flag below it. On Saturday they made the remark, which had to be contradicted later, that when Mr. Whitelaw arrived in Belfast, Mr. Faulkner "had refused to see him". That was not the case and they had to withdraw it. On the Friday before that Mr. Faulkner's carefully worded speech which I later heard on television was cut off before a most important peroration.
I will not go on with these matters because I am leading up to one particular point, namely, that I believe I am right 1141 in saying that something can be done. It could be done by the Governors of the B.B.C. governing properly. I heard it said some time ago that the Army feel that they have had a fair crack of the whip on the news media, particularly on television. To a large extent that is so, but at the same time I have heard in Scotland that the troops do not like the length of time which is given to the flowered, elaborate funerals of people who are literally murderers and the sullen, grim crowds that go to their burials. My Lords, I believe that so far the public relations honours are with the Republicans. As time goes on and the crisis develops and coloured television draws more and more people to "the box", the influence of broadcasting on public opinion is becoming so important that I should almost like to see the Bill which we are discussing contain a measure of power to the Secretary of State to defend himself against misleading reporting.
Has past form indicated that the Stormont public relations system has been adequate? Here I was much impressed by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in which he urged the importance of an adequate public relations service, although he was talking of public relations in the reverse direction to what I had in mind. At least I hope that my right honourable friend is conscious of the importance of an adequate Press and will proceed, if he has not already done so, to have an active and strong public relations staff at his elbow—and more strength to that elbow! Indeed, I hope with the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, that an efficient 24 hours two-way service of this sort will be established as a matter of urgency, even as a matter of absolute necessity, if the task which is before the Government to-day is to be accomplished successfully. Speaking as a Scotsman—the only Scotsman down to speak in this debate—I need not do more than mention that the problem of Northern Ireland is one which affects some of us very closely. I am all the happier that one of my noble friends has pointed out that my right honourable friend, Mr. Whitelaw, is of course of Scottish origins.
I would turn finally to the speech by my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine, with his appeal for better understanding. This caps what I have been 1142 saying in commending the absolute importance of this question of public relations. Better understanding cannot be brought about unless fully adequate and fair information is placed in the hands and before the eyes of the public. I think I have said before that I have good personal reasons for saying that I never wish to see the reunification of Ireland, but then I have not many years to go. It will come some day—God grant that it may!—but not for many years, and those years and those years will be doubled and trebled by the trials and tragedies which are going on in Northern Ireland to-day. With these remarks, I repeat that I support the Bill, especially, as the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, said, because it is a temporary measure and gives us a chance to think again.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD WOOLLEY
My Lords, perhaps I may trespass for a few moments on the time of your Lordships' House. I apologise for not having put my name down on the list of speakers; but I was hoping that by the end of the debate I might not find it necessary to say anything. I remain at the end of this long debate, having listened to every speech throughout the whole day, unconvinced as to the justification and certainly as to the wisdom of the Government's action. Nevertheless, it is clear that it is going to be taken, and therefore I do not want to make too much of that. All I would say is that along with almost every noble Lord who has spoken I would subscribe my good wishes to Mr. Whitelaw and to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who have a most unenviable and very difficult task indeed. They will need all the support that can be given to them in order to carry through this task, and we hope they will be able to do it successfully. It is indeed a difficult task. I think the whole problem, which was nearly impossible, has been rendered that much more nearly completely impossible by the political action that is going to be taken.
I do not wish at this hour, so much having already been said, to go over the ground at any length. I have observed and been interested in, and had some relationship with, Northern Ireland. My first recollection is of visiting my maternal grandfather's little farm in County Down when I was a very small boy. Therefore, 1143 like most other speakers, I have some slight, but extremely tenuous claim to speak on Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, I have observed and spent some time in Northern Ireland, and I was impressed with the way in which the Catholic and Protestant elements were working together. I do not believe that the feuding is anything near so widespread as one may be led to believe. There are small enclaves, and in these enclaves one will have people with problems, and if a religious dispute provides a background it is of course suggested that they are being discriminated against because they are Catholics. I believe that this is grossly exaggerated. However, we have had the trouble and we have had the I.R.A. coming in and using this opportunity.
I was very pleased that both Mr. Whitelaw in another place yesterday and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, here to-day made it abundantly clear that there was going to be no let-up in the Government's firmness and in their determination to put down these terrorist activities. It seems to me that the only area that is really in dispute between our Government here and Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues is the question of security. This is a very narrow area indeed. Even in this area the intention of our Government is to do exactly what Mr. Faulkner has in fact been doing. Therefore, why should this tremendous crisis be created? I would only wish to say that, so far as I am concerned, Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues have my heartfelt sympathy. I believe that they have done a wonderful job. I believe that the Protestants in Northern Ireland have shown wonderful forbearance and a great sense of responsibility under almost impossible strain. Let us hope that things go well. I only hope that Mr. Faulkner and his colleagues, well as I can understand their feelings and well as I believe that they are entitled to have those feelings, will be able to overcome them and be able to work with Mr. Whitelaw and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and that they will be able to do so for the sake of their country and for the good of all the people.
I could not help but express my views, because I believe that those who feel as I feel, that the Protestants in Northern Ireland have had a tough time, will want 1144 to see all working together. In my mind it is not a question of discrimination. Indeed, what I have also found is the generally good relationships and goodwill between the Protestants from Northern Ireland and the Catholics in Southern Ireland. They get along perfectly well. Only a few elements keep stirring up this business. All I can say is that if there were to be a Division, and if there were any hope of its succeeding, I would vote against this measure because I think it is wrongly conceived. As there is not, then I wish well to those who have been charged with this very difficult task. God bless them in their endeavours!
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, the opening words I dictated for my speech were, "There is little more to be said after this long debate." Having heard the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, I can only say that I shall not attempt to explain to him the absolute necessity of the course that the Government have followed. If he has not been convinced already, I do not think that I could succeed in convincing him.
As my noble friend Lord Beswick said, in a notable and very strong speech—and there is no harm in a strong speech—the Opposition support the Government fully in the action they have taken. I think that this is the fourth, or maybe the fifth time in the last nine months that we have debated the affairs of Northern Ireland, and I do not propose to-day to repeat yet again what I have said previously. Indeed, some of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, have been made on earlier occasions by myself and others. I must say again, especially to noble Lords like the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, and the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, that of course they, with an Irish background, understand why it is that the English totally fail to understand Ireland. The English, regrettably, still feel that somehow the people in Northern Ireland, or in Southern Ireland all ought to behave like Englishmen, or even Scots. But we know so little about them. I very much hope that Ministers will stop talking about "Londond'ry". If they do not call it "Derry" they might at least call it "Londonderry".
It is desirable that we should recognise—and I think we do—that there is great 1145 ignorance and a great failure to understand the deeply felt emotions of people on both sides in Northern Ireland. It has been made clear (it has been repeated by many speakers, and I think the Government accept), that direct rule solves nothing. But it does provide yet another fresh initiative, and the opportunity for building a more peaceful society. I will not repeat again the many congratulations expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I think we are all very pleased with his appointment and with that of Mr. Whitelaw. I would also mention the other Parliamentary Secretaries in another place. In fact, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has lost his Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Howell, and I wish him well, too.
There is much that we could criticise over these last few months, but I strongly support the action which the Government are taking now. We have been critical, as was the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, of the fact that they did not move sooner along the course which has been repeatedly advocated by my right honourable friend Mr. Wilson, and others. But I must say this: that by luck—I might even suggest that it was by good management—it may well be that the action they have taken has hit the right psychological moment. I am bound to say that the situation took a turn for the worse when internment was introduced. Although the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, defended, as he was entitled to do, the decision to introduce internment, the fact remains, as he admitted, that it was following internment that the alienation took place.
I must say to my noble friend Lord Kilbracken that he was not the first person to criticise the introduction of internment, and I hope he will not think that he is the only person who has had strong reservations about it and who has repeatedly said so. I believe that it was a disastrous political step, although, as I said at the time, I acquit the Government of taking action without the most careful consideration. What made it so disastrously worse was the methods of interrogation that were employed. Of course the Minority Report of my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner is a classic Report in defence of law and of the standards in which we all believe. I 1146 am very pleased that my noble friend Lord Kilbracken referred to that. It was a most important document, and, although it would have been impossible not to accept it, I congratulate the Government on the wholehearted way in which they accepted what was a Minority Report.
We now hope that the new initiative will provide an opportunity for the rapid phasing out of internment; but, clearly, what is now wanted is some sort of reaction from those who have been murdering and throwing bombs. As I said earlier, once internment had been introduced it could not be brought to an end. But this may be the new opportunity, and we know that Mr. Whitelaw will personally review the cases of the actual internees. I agreed very much with what my noble friend Lord Brockway said about the Special Powers Act—and no one has a finer libertarian record than he; but in the way he put his argument I thought he was making a comparison with totalitarian countries which do not need Special Powers Acts, and that was a little unfair.
I should like to say something else which may not be entirely popular with those of my friends who have very strong Southern Irish interests. I believe that the events of the last two days, and indeed the actions taken by the I.R.A. and others, must have confirmed to those who, like myself, have long wished to see a United Ireland the impossibility of achieving it in the foreseeable future. The two-day strike in Northern Ireland has confirmed that the Ulster Protestants cannot be coerced into the Republic; and it is simply no good noble Lords' saying that a decision must be taken by all the people of Ireland unless at the same time they are prepared to say what no Roman Catholic leader—nor, I think, the majority of responsible Republicans in the South—has said: that they will use violence, war, internment and special powers in order to achieve it. I fear that the actions of the I.R.A. have postponed the dream of a United Ireland for one or even more lifetimes. At least, the Protestant protest has been overwhelmingly orderly and disciplined, and one can only pray that it will continue to be so.
But I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, and those who referred to the undertakings given by 1147 successive Governments that the consent of the people of Northern Ireland would be required before there was a change in their status, that the previous Government, like this Government, made the position perfectly clear. We propose to put down an Amendment to the No. 2 Bill, as has been done in another place to the original Bill, which will read:Nothing in this Act shall derogate or authorise anything to be done in derogation from the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.I hope the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, will accept that that is our position in the matter. I find it surprising that some noble Lords—I say this particularly to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard—cannot bring themselves to vote for the Bill as this moment. But since there is unlikely to be a Division, their abstention will not be apparent. However, I am surprised that, for some reason or another, a number of noble Lords have refused to support the Bill.
As for the future, it is tempting to visualise that there is a solution in the permanent integration of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom, in the same way that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. I think the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, favoured this idea. I must confess that I do not believe it would be right to give any such undertaking or assurance or promise at the moment, and I agree with my noble friend Lord Longford on this matter. I think it is far too early to come to any views. It may well be that those of us who think that the possibility of a united Ireland has been put back for a long time are wrong, but I do not wish at this stage to adopt any constitutional solution that will provide an obstacle to, or will remove further, the hopes of those who still seek—I hope by peaceful means—to achieve a united Ireland. I hope we shall go very lightly down that road.
I do not propose to speak for more than a very few minutes, but I should like to turn to matters with which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may deal. We in Parliament will be faced with real difficulties in dealing with the orders which come before us. There will be important legislation—for example, on local government reform in Northern Ireland—which would normally have been dealt with under the ordinary legislative 1148 process. We know that the limitations of the Statutory Instrument procedure are very great indeed; for example, there is the fact that there cannot be amendments. It is a pity that the Joint Select Committee on Statutory Legislation, which the noble Earl the Leader of the House played an important part in setting up, has only just begun its task. As we know, present procedures are quite unsatisfactory for existing subordinate legislation. Speaking personally, I should certainly not favour—because, at this moment, I do not want to do anything of this kind which is permanent—the idea of setting up the equivalent of a Grand Committee for Northern Ireland. But I wonder whether such complicated Statutory Instruments, the nature of which the noble and learned Lord knows, which are really Bills, might be referred to a Select Committee—I am not suggesting a big Select Committee—possibly even in draft, so that a report can be given to the House.
My Lords, I understand that the Government are prepared to accept certain other orders to strengthen Parliamentary control. The Opposition in another place have put down some Amendments which I believe the Government are accepting in principle, or, having heard the Attorney General last night, the Government are moving their own Amendments—and we certainly welcome the willingness of the Government to respond to these initiatives. I will not seek to go down the path of discussing political solutions. I was interested in the quietly said but interestingly perceptive remark of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who I thought produced the concept of new Parties in Northern Ireland. I will not press him any further on this matter. We all hope that, after this period, we shall see the sort of political development with which we are familiar in this country. I am not very hopeful; but my noble friend Lord Brockway made some very powerful points on this matter. That highly responsible little Party, the Northern Ireland Labour Party, has consistently pursued a responsible policy. For instance, on the strike they have said:Further disruption can only mean deprivation for all. Instead, let us work together with the forces of the Crown to defeat the I.R.A.I think that was the Northern Ireland Labour Party; but, anyway, I hope we 1149 shall see the growth of Parties which are not identified as sectarian Parties.
My Lords, although this does not arise on the Bill, let us also remember the importance of co-operation with the Republic. I am a little sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, slightly implied that Mr. Lynch might not have the courage to do what he ought to do. But he answered himself by saying that he did not think he had the power to do it anyway. We must realise that the actions of this Government in Northern Ireland, whether we favour a united Ireland or not, have the most profound effect on the life and society of the Irish Republic; and I hope very much that the willingness that Mr. Whitelaw has expressed to talk to everyone will extend to talking freely and informally with people from the Republic, and particularly Irish Ministers.
As a matter of fact, I think the noble Lord, Lord Carrington—who, after all, has been speaking to Mr. Mintoff for the last nine months—might like a change. On the other hand, perhaps he would rather have a rest. But I hope very much that a determined effort will be made both to talk to leaders in the South and to understand the problems. Here, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, as to others, that in a situation of this kind it will be necessary for Ministers to do much more making up of their own minds. When I say that, I do not doubt that Ministers do make up their own minds; at least some of the members of the present Government make up their own minds although not perhaps all. I entirely exonerate the whole of that splendid Front Bench. But I hope that they will establish as many personal contacts as they can, North or South, with all sections of the community, including individual trade unionists. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, I know is willing to do this; but this can be quite vital to getting the sort of understanding, and ultimately the co-operation, which is going to be necessary very soon, in the next few weeks, for the setting up of the Commission—or another proposal might be a committee concerned with economic and other developments. My Lords, Ministers have scope and freedom to act, and I rather echo what my right honour- 1150 able friend in another place said: I hope that they will have the trust of the Cabinet and the discretion to pursue the courses that they think right in view of what comes to them in the experience they gain.
My Lords, I have no fine words with which to end my remarks to-night. However, I should like to echo very much the expression in the closing words of that very statesmanlike speech of my noble friend Lord Longford. Nobody has felt more strongly on a united Ireland for longer. No one has been more, almost a devil, or a Pope in whatever it may be, to Ulster Protestants, and yet he made a very moderate speech in supporting the Government. I hope that this spirit will be met in all sections, and if there is a Division I hope very much that nobody in this House will vote against the Government's Bill to-night.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is the perpetual difficulty of a Minister rising to reply to a debate to rise almost at the exact moment when your Lordships must be getting very hungry, and I can only apologise to the House for having to detain it perhaps longer than your Lordships would wish with a reply to this debate. I must begin by thanking the Opposition and the Liberal Party for the attitude that they have taken. This is not simply that I want to thank them for the kind words (though I do thank them for those kind words) that they have spoken about the decision of the Government or about the appointments which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made. I do thank them for that. But the real point is that we need this Bill on the Statute Book before next weekend, and they had a complete veto on it if they had wanted to exercise that veto. Instead of exercising that veto, they have chosen to give this Bill massive and very helpful support. For that, I think they deserve not merely the thanks of the Government but the thanks of the nation.
Now, my Lords, before I turn to the debate perhaps I should say this to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, while the subject is in my mind. He raised what is going to be a very practical problem; namely, the handling of Northern Irish legislation during the interim period while this Bill is in force. It is going to 1151 be a very real problem. I can only say that I know my right honourable friend Mr. Whitelaw is very conscious of this problem. It is, of course, much more of a problem in another place than it is here, but it will present difficulties here; and I can assure the noble Lord that we will meet him, and I am sure that my right honourable friend will meet the Opposition in another place, very conscious of the difficulties and very receptive to any constructive suggestions they may make. I do not think that this is the occasion for pursuing the matter, but I know my right honourable friend the Leader of the House will be very glad to receive the Opposition, and indeed the Liberal Party, in any approaches they may make on this subject, because it is a very real difficulty.
My Lords, that does bring me to the subject of the debate. I want to confine myself entirely to the decision we have taken and the reasons which, to my mind, render it the only possible course which we could have taken at this juncture of time. While I was noting the speeches of noble Lords as they came up, I was busily trying to mark against their names whether they were for the decision or against it. I marked only one as being against it, the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, who spoke at the end, before the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. There were a number of abstainers of various sorts, or would-be abstainers, ranging from the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and, I suspect, the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, to my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine; and, from the Cross-Benches, Lord Monson and possibly others, including my noble friend Lord Barnby. They are rather uncomfortable bed fellows, if I may be allowed to say so. I suspect that they will have rather a restless night together. But the real point is that even if there were a Division support for the decision which which the Government have taken would be, on the form shown by to-day's debate, at least as massive here as it was in another place yesterday.
The first thing that I should like to say, not merely to the House but farther, if one may possibly hope that some syllables of one's voice penetrate beyond St. George's Channel, is that one must recognise that this decision (be it right or be it wrong—and I shall tell the House 1152 why I argue that it is right) is not just a decision of the Cabinet taken in a room at 10 Downing Street; it is an inevitable consequence of what the Americans rather unpleasantly refer to as the "gut reaction" of the British people to the situation. There is not the slightest use in insulting Mr. Whitelaw and calling him "Mr. Greenlaw" or a "Gauleiter" or talking about betrayal by Mr. Heath—because the British people are behind the Government in this; of that I am absolutely certain. The Westminster Parliament is overwhelmingly behind the Government in this if in nothing else; and although the Government in another place claims a very narrow majority indeed on some issues, on this it commanded a majority of over 400. It is as well that that point should be made again and again, and I shall come back to it at various stages in my speech.
My Lords, I start perhaps from a pedantic point of view, from a constitutional principle. This is a Bill introduced into the Westminster Parliament by virtue of Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It is as well to remember what Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 says. It says:Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament … of Northern Ireland … the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof.The decision of the Government is that the time has come for this Parliament to assert that authority, at least for a period, in all its plenitude. That is all we have been debating to-day. This Bill is the inevitable consequence of that decision. It is not an unconstitutional Bill. I assert that to the abstainers and to the noble Lord, Lord Woolley. It is a correct reading of what is undoubtedly part of the Constitution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Nor is it an undemocratic Bill. It is precisely what the Constitution allows for. It is the assumption of power by the democratically-elected central Government which is responsible for all its regions, and it is something which any central Government can do if the necessity arises by virtue of its own Constitution.
I do not pretend that the decision 1153 which we have taken was at all palatable to many of us; it certainly was not particularly palatable to me. What we have done is to take over for the time being all the functions of the Stormont Government. Criticism was made from some quarters, though not echoed from all, that we did not do what has been described as integrating Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom. How could we do that before the Easter week-end? I am not at all sure that I know what is meant by "integration" with the United Kingdom; because there are many options. Do they want to be treated like London, or like Scotland or like Wales or like somewhere else? I do not know what is meant by it. But what is quite clear is that if we were going to do anything at all useful before Easter week-end, we had to build on the foundations which were there and not create new foundations and new structures. We had to deal with existing courts, with existing laws (including, this Easter weekend, the Special Powers Act) with existing police, with the existing Civil Service and with the existing Ministries. There is no other option, assuming our decision to be right, that we could take. Nothing else is rational. If my noble friend Lord O'Neill of the Maine wants assurance as to the future, I cannot give him a final assurance because obviously counsels differ, but the whole object of this exercise is to give us a period of time within which to discuss the details. No options are wholly excluded except that of forcing Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom against the wish of the majority. That is the only option which is excluded from the discussions.
§ LORD O'NEILL OF THE MAINE
My Lords, could the noble and learned Lord give way? The main point that I had in mind was that somehow or other the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and his excellent Ministers must be in a position to carry the moderate Protestant opinion with them. Since this measure was thought out it has become apparent in Northern Ireland that moderate Protestant opinion—and even, I believe, also some Catholic opinion—has doubts about the setting up of the Commission. That was the first point. My second point was that in addition I was not very happy about ruling by Order in Council. My first point was the more important. If I could have a similar 1154 assurance, slightly reinforced, to that given me by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in his remarks, then I am perfectly happy—and I freely admit that opinion in Northern Ireland tends to change from week to week.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I quite understood the noble Lord to say that not all Protestant opinion and even not all Catholic opinion was particularly attracted by the Commission. On that I cannot say more evening than that the Commission is purely advisory in its powers and, presumably, no Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Ministers under him can operate in a vacuum. They must be allowed to talk to somebody. This seemed to my right honourable friend a rational way in which to find a nucleus on which we could get some kind of advice. Even the most absolute Monarch has a Privy Council of some kind. Perhaps we ought to have called it a Privy Council; perhaps they would have liked it better if we had. At any rate, what I can say to the noble Lord is that I reiterate every word that my noble friend Lord Carrington said—with whatever "knobs" he desired to add to it in order to give additional assurance.
I recognise that one wants to win over moderate opinion, both Protestant and Catholic. I am almost surprised that anyone should urge me to try to win over Protestant opinion in Northern Ireland. I am a Protestant and although, of course, I am wholly English in my cultural loyalties, my noble friend knows only too well that I come from an Ulster family. We have never been ashamed of our origins; we have never in any way sought to disown our loyalty; we have never forgotten where we came from; we have never failed to realise that the Protestants of Northern Ireland regard themselves as in a real sense unified with the Crown and, so far as I know, have never wanted to be anything else. I would go on to say with the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, and I believe with several other speakers, that so far as one can see in the future that belief on their part and mine is not likely to diminish.
And that is the meaning of the assurances we have given that Ulster is not to be forced out of the United Kingdom against its will. Whether we be right or wrong about that, time alone will show; 1155 although I share the view which has been expressed from some of the Benches opposite that whether a united Ireland was at any time a possibility, what has taken place in the last two days, what has taken place in the last two years, has rendered it far more difficult, if not far longer delayed, than anything we could have done by way of guarantee. Because never in my lifetime, since about 1914, has it been more difficult to imagine Protestant opinion in Northern Ireland agreeing to any such thing; and for that those who wanted a united Ireland have only to thank those who have committed the crimes which have antagonised them.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble and learned Lord? Leaving out the last two years and just taking the last two days, surely it is a little dangerous to argue that what has happened in the last two days, this fine initiative of the Government, has postponed the coming of a united Ireland?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl will allow me to develop what I meant at a suitable point in my argument, but I should have thought that if it does not postpone it, at any rate it demonstrates how strong the feelings are and how deeply rooted they are. If the noble Earl cannot read the signs of the times, I do not think that I can help him by any words that I can use about it. I can only say, let him look at what has happened in the last two days and see whether he can derive any hope of a united Ireland from that. But, my Lords, I am not concerned with the probability or the improbability of it; I am concerned with the fact that we have said that never without their consent shall these people, who regard themselves as British, be turned out of their British nationality, from United Kingdom citizenship, without their consent. But I do say this, and I say it again, rather in the hope that something that I say may have some effect outside this Chamber as well as in it. You may be British in all sorts and kinds of ways. You may be an old Etonian Lord Chancellor or a Jewish tailor in Stepney or a crofter in the Hebrides and still be British. But there is a common price to be paid, and that is loyalty to the United Kingdom Parliament.
1156 My Lords, you are not loyal to the United Kingdom Parliament by insulting its leaders and its great majority. You are not loyal to the United Kingdom Parliament by inviting the police to take part in a strike—something which none of our industrial workers has ever done. You are not loyal to the United Kingdom Parliament by saying that you are going to render one of its regions ungovernable. And if you talk of loyalty you must know what you mean by it. My noble friend Lord Ellenborough quoted a remark made by Lord Carson. I will quote from Lord Carson. He said, "There are no degrees of loyalty"; and that is how I understand loyalty, my Lords. We are British together, and the price of being British is that you accept the leadership of the United Kingdom Parliament. I understand their bitterness—indeed they are feelings into which I can enter very fully—but I would say earnestly to those who have at times shown some tendency to forget that loyalty, that that is where they must come back to, and they must not ignore the wishes of the great majority of the British people in the United Kingdom if they want to be respected as fellow citizens, as I know they do.
Now, my Lords, having said that, may I turn to the reasons which led us to take the course which we have taken? My noble friend—I think it was my noble friend Lord Massereene and Ferrard; it was certainly a noble friend from those Benches—asked the House rhetorically, what had Mr. Faulkner done wrong? The fact is that Mr. Faulkner has done nothing wrong, and nobody has said that he did. But what we did think was that our position in Westminster had become intolerable. The status quo had become intolerable. We could not go on as we were going on. It was not a question only of the bombings and the effect that the bombings had on the people of Northern Ireland themselves. Where were we going? There are 17 battalions of the British Army deployed in Northern Ireland. Three more battalions of the British Army—my noble friend will correct me if I am wrong—are on call if need be.
It is all very well for the Constitution under the Government of Ireland Act to say that law and order and security is the responsibility of Stormont. But is it 1157 tolerable to this Parliament, is it tolerable to the Government, is it tolerable to the Opposition. is it tolerable to anybody in Westminster, to have 17 battalions of the British Army deployed in a place, and then say that we are not responsible for security? This is the basic question that critics of our action have never faced on either side of St. George's Channel. And when it comes to money, who pays? The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, made the point, and I am not going to attempt to answer his figures, though I do not altogether agree with the way he put it—because, of course, people in Northern Ireland pay their taxes and are entitled to all the benefits which come from membership of the United Kingdom. But it must have cost, as I think my noble friend Lord Carrington said in opening, about £150 million extra this year.
Is it tolerable that we should not be responsible for law and order if that is what law and order is costing? Who "carries the can"? We provide the troops who are being murdered and shot; we provide the money, and we are condemned in the councils of the world and have to defend what is being done. Is it tolerable? It is not that Mr. Faulkner has done anything wrong; it is that we are having to carry the responsibility and we are entitled to ask that we have the legal right to exercise it. That is why we have done what we have done.
My Lords, may I just say this about internment?—I do not want to enter into a long argument about it with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and others. The fact is that internment was carried out with the full consent and support of Her Majesty's Government here, but sooner or later it will have to come to an end. We know that we cannot lock up people for ever without a trial. But does any one of my colleagues know why any individual internee is interned? I rather doubt it. It is carried out under the orders of Stormont. I have no reason to suppose they were wrong in their choice. Equally, I have no knowledge which enables me to swear that they were right. If we are going to wind it down, may we not at least know what is in it? May we not at least be responsible for that for which we have been universally criticised?
1158 I am not arguing the matter on the broad historical grounds; I am not seeking to pursue the Irish temperament or anything of that kind, as my noble friend Lord Onslow did in a notable speech. I am simply saying: is it tolerable for Westminster not to ask for transfer of security? It seems to me that the case for doing it is absolutely unanswerable. I do not reproach Mr. Faulkner at all for having rejected our demand. The first rule in being a Prime Minister, or a Minister of any kind, is that it is no good promising to do what you cannot get a majority for in your own Parliament.
I regard Mr. Faulkner, as my noble friend put it, as a man of honour and a man of patriotism—indeed his whole record betrays that he is a man of honour and a man of patriotism. I do not reproach him for not agreeing. But when he did not do it, I agree with my noble friend Lord Carrington in thinking that he was wrong. I do not think it fair to say that he would have had nothing else worth having, that he would have been reduced to the status of a county council, if he had said "Yes". On the contrary, he would have had agriculture; he would have had transport; he would have had housing; he would have had a very fair measure of economic planning and he would have had a very fair measure of financial autonomy. This is far more than any county council has got.
Nor is it fair to accuse us of reducing Northern Ireland to what I think he called a coconut colony, whatever that may be. Not that there is any harm in coconuts. But, my Lords, the fact is that he would have had a great deal of power and authority and autonomy—more than Scotland has got, and that is saying something—if he had said, "Yes". As I say, my Lords, I do not reproach him for not saying, "Yes". I think that he was probably mistaken, but that probably he could have taken no other course. But once he had said "No", then the rest of it follows, because we had to do something. To those who have criticised us from our own side, either in this House or in another place, I should like to put this question: what else could we have done? There were only two things that we could do. We could either accept Mr. Faulkner's "No" as a veto and go back to the status quo, or we could do 1159 what we have done. Nobody could suggest an alternative point of view.
Would the veto have been tolerable? Would it have been tolerable, even if it was not for that tell-tale Section 75 in the Government of Ireland Act which I read out to the House? In my view, it would not. We should then have had to accept the status quo or something like it, and having said that it was intolerable—and when everybody in both Houses of Parliament knew it was intolerable—then we should have had to say that, however much we might feel that we ought to be responsible for security in part of the United Kingdom, we accepted the right of the region to veto our proposal. What sort of figure would the Government have cut had they done that? Upon what kind of moral suasion could they have persuaded Parliament to give them their confidence? We had to go on: there was no alternative. To me, at any rate, the alternative we took was an extremely unpalatable one—I do not conceal it at all. But it seemed to me that the case for it was such as no honourable man could fail to honour. Speaking for myself, although I accepted this logic with extreme reluctance I did so without any manner of doubt as to where my duty lay. I am perfectly sure that that is the only answer that one can give about this Bill.
I do not want, as I said when I began, to enter into any careful discussion as to what is going to happen next. This Bill is a very temporary measure. It is aimed to last for a year, unless it is prolonged by Order in Council. But the opportunity which it gives may be much shorter than a year. This interregnum will go sour quite as certainly as the advent of the British troops in 1969 was bound to go sour; and it will go sour not merely if we fail to do our duty, but if others fail to co-operate with one another, and with Mr. Whitelaw when he goes across and asks for co-operation, help, suggestions and discussions. What is the alternative, then? It is not one that I view without the gravest apprehension. What we have seen hitherto has been bloody and abominable, but what one might see then would make what we have suffered hitherto look pale in comparison. I implore those who have influence in Northern Ireland (I cannot claim to have any; I have only a love 1160 for the home of my ancestors), whether they be in this Parliament or outside, in the Six Counties or anywhere else, to call the people of Northern Ireland away from that abyss which I can foresee clearly yawning ahead if this opportunity is not taken.
My Lords, I do not know when the effective Bill will come before this House—I gather that the other place is making rather slow progress—but to-morrow we shall be discussing on our existing Bill, if we do not get the other Bill, the details of the legislation that I have now put forward. My noble friend Lord Windlesham will be in charge of that proceeding, and he will deal with any details about draftsmanship or about Amendments which require to be dealt with. I have said what I have said solely about the policy. I have been more than heartened by the support which your Lordships have given to that policy. I have tried to answer the criticisms of the policy, and I hope and pray that it may now be successful.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
§ Brought from the Commons; read 1a, and referred to the Examiners.