§ 5.56 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR NORTHERN IRELAND (LORD WINDLESHAM) rose to move, That the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1973, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, under the terms of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 any regulations made under the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts (Northern Ireland) 1922–43 need the approval of each House of Parliament.
§ The regulations before your Lordships to-day were made on April 11 under the urgent procedure contained in the Temporary Provisions Act, and came into operation on April 17. The regulations deal only with a single point: the deletion of Republican clubs from the list of unlawful associations contained in Regulation 24A of the Special Powers Regulations. The reason for taking this action now is to try to encourage further opportunities for debate and discussion as methods of furthering political aims, as opposed to violence and the use of force. Republican clubs (of which there are currently believed to be about 162) have 741 only been proscribed since 1967 and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State concluded that it would be timely to lift the ban on them last month in order that they might make arrangements to take part, if they so wished, both in the local government elections to be held on May 30 and in the elections for the new Assembly which follow on June 28. The urgent procedure was used to allow this timetable to be met.
§ I should add that there will be an opportunity to debate the general issue of the proscription of certain organisations when your Lordships come to consider the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill which is currently before a Standing Committee in another place. This is the measure which implements the Report of Lord Diplock's Commission and repeals and replaces the special powers legislation. In Clause 18 and in Schedule 2 it deals with proscribed organisations. But to-day the Government are merely asking your Lordships to approve the Secretary of State's action in removing the Republican clubs from the list of proscribed organisations which for the moment is still contained in the Special Powers Regulations. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1973, be approved.—(Lord Windlesham.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, we welcome this Motion. This is a difficult decision for the Government, but none the less I think a wise one. It is one which we have been pressing on the Government. I realise that it is tricky, but I should like to urge the Government to find some way of enabling the other wing of Sinn Fein—the Republican clubs are the official Sinn Fein organisation—also to take part in elections. This is not because (let me hasten to say) we have any sympathy or support for them, but because we believe the great majority of people of Northern Ireland are in neither organisation. Both branches of Sinn Fein are legal organisations in the Republic because they can distinguish—though I realise it is rather tricky—between the military and the political bodies. I would not do more than press that point of view which I think is consistent, and since the Government have 742 gone some way, perhaps in a slightly easier way, I hope they will bear this in mind. If the Minister prefers not to comment on my remarks to-day I shall quite understand; I just press that point of view.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.