Ulster Defence Regiment Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 December 1969.

Alert me about debates like this

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed. That the Amendment be made.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I was glad that the Under-Secretary also referred to the distinguished record of the Royal Ulster Rifles, alongside whom I had once the honour to serve. On Second Reading, it was said that Catholics and Protestants had served in this regiment in harmony and with common distinction. It is true that this regiment was formed before 1920, but many of the units to which the Under-Secretary of State referred were raised after 1920 and, whether there are 4,000 or 6,000 men in the Ulster Defence Regiment, during the Second World War far more than 6,000 Catholics served in units and regiments bearing the title "Ulster".

While past practice would seem to favour the use of the title Ulster, it would also appear that current opinion is not wholly against it. Earlier this evening I looked in the telephone directory for Northern Ireland under the heading "Ulster", and found column after column of firms and associations bearing the title Ulster. There is the Ulster Anti-Prohibition Association, which, I imagine, has wide support in all sections of the community. There is the Ulster Federation of Homing Pigeons' Society, which, again, I imagine has wide support in all sections of the community. There is the Ulster Teachers' Union, a body which is, I imagine, as militant as the teachers' union in my constituency.

There is not one of these associations in which the question of changing the title is a matter——

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Gentleman must address the Chair.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Very well, Mr. Irving. It would not seem to me that at this moment there is much uncontrolled current protest against the use of the word "Ulster" in Northern Ireland.

Not much has been said this evening about the alternative title put forward in the Amendment. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds turned his mind to this point. I share the view that the Government might suffer some embarrassment if the word "Territorial" were to be accepted in the Bill. In the past, they have been almost as anxious to show that this new regiment has no connection with the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve as they have been to show that the Ulster Defence Regiment is not the Ulster Special Constabulary with a different name.

The reason for this embarrassment is not very hard to find, because the events in Ulster have made a nonsense of the oft-repeated thesis that home defence is unnecessary. Indeed, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in his Second Reading speech reminded the House that Northern Ireland is not the only part of this country where terrorists blow up water mains.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

Would the hon. Gentleman also tell the Committee that I said that because the Welsh Nationalists have been blowing up Liverpool's water supplies there was no need for me to demand the creation of a special force to deal with the Welsh Nationalists? I felt that we had an Army to deal with that situation.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

But it leads me to think that we need a force exactly of the sort we had in TAVR III which the Government have decided to scrap. The Government do not like to be reminded that terrorism and violence could happen a great deal closer to Westminster than Belfast and the word "Territorial" is an active embarrassment to them.

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that this Amendment was a test of the Government's good faith. But from the way in which he put his views to the Committee and from the aggressive and inflammatory remarks by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), it became plain that this could be counted upon not only as a test of good faith, but also as a test of strength. If, after the speeches we have heard, the Government give way to the views put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and the hon. Lady, then it would be taken by a majority of the inhabitants of Ulster as being a surrender to political intimidation——

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Did the hon. Gentleman say "intimidation"?

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

If the hon. Gentleman is describing a debate which we are conducting to establish our rights as "intimidation", he should withdraw.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

It looked to me as though it was having just that effect on the Under-Secretary.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), in an interjection which I took to be jocular, said that the regiment ought to be called the "Two-Thirds of Ulster Regiment". If violence comes to Ulster and there is no adequate defence against it, not just two-thirds of Ulster will suffer, but both communities of Ulster and every member of those communities.

Photo of Mr Brian Walden Mr Brian Walden , Birmingham All Saints

I came here, no doubt against the dictates of common sense, to vote for the Government should there be a Division. That is still my intention, for very much the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State.

What surprises me, and has been surprising me for the past three hours, is how men can agree on the same issues and even go into the same Lobby, and yet arrive at a different conclusion about the wisdom of the Government's course of action.

I agree profoundly with my hon. Friend when he says, "God help us if ever we have directly to govern Northern Ireland." Once we get ourselves into the position of talking regularly about Northern Ireland, we shall never have time to talk about anything else.

The semantics leave me cold. I am interested only in what my hon. Friend has said. He said, first, that the matter was a very unimportant, shadowy one and that the substance was the force itself and what it could do. I agree with him. Then he went on to say that there had been no agreement with the Northern Ireland Government which was binding upon Her Majesty's Government and that the Government did not come here having tied the hands of the House of Commons in some sort of pact with the Stormont Government. That is an assurance which, necessarily, I accept.

I note, too, that in the course of earlier exchanges the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) indicated, very sensibly, that he would not care fourpence if he found himself serving in a body called the Northern Ireland Defence Force. I took the hon. and gallant Gentleman to mean that that was also the view of the protestant community.

What on earth has kept us here for three hours? If the Government think that the matter is shadowy and has no substance, if no deal has been done with Stormont, if a senior protestant Ulsterman who has the honour of being a Grand Master of the Orange Order agrees that he could not care less about the title of the force, what prevents the Government saying, "We think that you are a pack of idiots to care whether it is called 'Ulster', 'Northern Ireland', or 'Six Counties'. But, since you do, since time is precious, and since the whole issue is a crashing bore, we will give way and substitute the name 'Northern Ireland'."?

Photo of Mr Henry Clark Mr Henry Clark , North Antrim

I am in considerable agreement with what the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) has said, and I am very happy to say so. We have had the most ridiculous debate. We have had the maximum of semantics and the minimum of fact.

The only fact which seems to have been applied by anyone who might have had a chance of knowing came out in the course of the speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). However, she is not famous for touring her constituency and listening to the voices——

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Get on with the debate.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. It is the Amendment that we are discussing.

Photo of Mr Henry Clark Mr Henry Clark , North Antrim

I am trying to establish the facts on which we are arguing. The case has been put forward from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that the words "Ulster" and "Defence" are highly charged. I am asking on what evidence that is based.

I assure those hon. Member, if they accept the words of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and her associates, that they are not typical of the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland, whether they be Catholic or Protestant.

For goodness' sake, let us try to get the matter straight. What are hon. Members opposite complaining about? What is the charge? What is so explosive? Is it the word "Ulster" or is it the word "Defence"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Ulster."] Some have one view and others another—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members have said that it was "Ulster", some have said it was "Defence", and yet others have said it was the combination of the two. Which is it?—[An HON. MEMBER: "The combination of the two."] Are there any other bids? Is it "Ulster", "Defence", or the combination of the two? We are dealing with a pedantic argument for the sake of argument. Various hon. Members below the Gangway are seeking to demonstrate their feelings by voting against the Government on a minor and unimportant point.

10.15 p.m.

The word "Ulster" is preferred because it is a far older word, with longer and greater associations than the words "Northern Ireland". The concept of Northern Ireland was never popular with the Unionists of that day. We have always been Ulstermen, we are proud to continue to be Ulstermen, and the country in which we live is Ulster.

We have had that wonderfully pedantic point put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) which comes at about class 2 in a primary school, namely, that soon after learning what is the longest river in the world, children are taught how many provinces there are in Ireland and how many counties there are in those provinces—[An HON. MEMBER: "How many?"] The division of Ireland into provinces has had no administrative or constitutional significance for over 100 years. The division, as it stands today, was a purely British institution established in Ireland about the mid-18th century. Certainly, before that Ulster ran down to the Boyne. There is no doubt that at some time Sligo was included in Ulster. Then, going back much further, there was the smaller area over which the writ of the Earl of Ulster ran. At times, the Earl of Ulster had no jurisdiction over Tyreconnell though he did over Tyrone, and it was doubtful whether he had much authority over County Antrim.

Frankly, the concept of Ulster is that area north of Lough Erne, the Carlingford Mountains and the Carlingford Lough, and its centre has always been somewhere near the Maghera or Dungannon, somewhere near the constituency of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster.

To talk in a purely pedantic fashion about the English definition of the mid-18th century as to what Ulster consists of is paying scant tribute to a magnificent tradition which goes back much further indeed.

The Ulster Defence Regiment is entirely appropriate because it is about the area which has always been called Ulster and it is about defence. I will not go into the need for defence at length. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) quoted five attacks on pipelines going to Liverpool and said that they have not needed a defence regiment yet. I have seen 300 serious incidents in Northern Ireland and over 1,000 less serious incidents in five years. Putting that against the Liverpool incidents will perhaps cause the hon. Gentleman to think again. I know that there is every possibility that these attacks may go on, but I will not go into details.

The Bill is about Ulster and about defence and it will be a regiment. If we wanted to carry on an association with the B Specials, surely we could call them the Ulster Special Battalions. Then we could either call them the Specials or the Bs. It is clear that few hon. Members below the Gangway know Northern Ireland at all, because the one thing they are never called is the Ulster Special Constabulary. They are either the B men or the Specials, and occasionally in official documents the U.S.C. The word "Ulster" does not immediately connect them with the B Specials. Most of the arguments put from below the Gangway fall to the ground. They are either pedantic or baseless.

When the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) takes both hands out of his pockets, because he usually waves only one hand at any one time, the temperature is getting very high indeed over a minor point.

There is no question but that in Ireland we pay considerable attention to flags, emblems, symbols of various sorts, and names. Perhaps the oldest force with which we can connect the new Ulster Defence Regiment is that famous force which was based on my constituency, the Knights of the Red Branch. These symbols change their meaning as time goes on, Only a few years ago Drogheda Town Council passed a resolution saying that they were going to change their robes and wear green robes and give up England's cruel reign. Even names and symbols change from time to time, and if the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster likes to advise her friends that the word Ulster has a sinister significance for the people of Northern Ireland, that is purely her invention.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

I had almost despaired of being called to speak to the Amendment. I had visions of being lynched when I returned to my constituency, but now that I have been given the opportunity to speak I shall bring a few points to the attention of the Government.

In moving the Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) put forward an unanswerable case, and the Minister's attempted reply in no way allays our suspicions about this name and how it was arrived at. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster mentioned a number of organisations in Northern Ireland which arrogate to themselves the term Ulster, and she explained why this word is so offensive to the ears of the minority.

Perhaps I can tell my hon. Friend, and all those on this side of the Committee who support our views, that only last week letters were dropping through the letter boxes of Catholic homes in Belfast saying, "Get out or be burned out. Ulster Volunteer Force". That is one reason why we are so opposed to this term.

There are great precedents for the establishment of this regiment and attitude adopted by the Government. We recognise that Unionist Governments have attempted not merely since 1920, but since the partitioning of Ireland, to arrogate to themselves the term Ulster, and that for almost a century they have tried to claim that the part of Ireland where they are in the majority is Ulster, as they interpret the word.

I commend to the attention of the Committee the fact that in 1912, before Ireland was partitioned, and when people first began to talk about partitioning Ireland, Sir Edward Carson, later Lord Carson, leading the Ulster Unionists in an attack against this Government, said: We went into the figures of the population in every town, village and hamlet in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan to ascertain if it would be possible to govern the Provinces of Ulster from Belfast. We found this to be impossible. They had to settle for six counties because they found it impossible to govern the Province of Ulster.

They then set about calling the small area, the six counties, Ulster, but since partition, since the Parliament of Northern Ireland was set up, every Bill which has been passed has referred to the Government of Northern Ireland to the State of Northern Ireland. Since I arrived in this House three years ago, and in fact long before that, every Bill that goes through this House has a Clause saying that the Bill applies to Northern Ireland, or that it does not. Thus, officially it is the Northern Ireland State. It has nothing to do with Ulster.

I wonder whether the Minister took into account the fact that another dangerous precedent has been created by the terminology and the nomenclature of the Bill. It has been called the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and some hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken of their military associations. The Unionist Members, in particular, have said that the term Ulster has long and honourable associations in the annals of British military history with the Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force.

We have been told that under the Bill it will be a British regiment. It will be one of the forces of the Crown, and will be under the command of this House and subject to its opinions. But is it recognised that this is the first regiment in the annals of British history from which some Irishmen will be excluded? The men of this regiment must live in Northern Ireland. They must live within the six partitioned counties of Northern Ireland. Ulstermen from Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, and the rest of the 26 counties will not be permitted to join. This has never happened before.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. The hon. Member is not giving way.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

All afternoon I have been reading the Ireland Act of 1949 under which dual nationality was given to the people of the Republic of Ireland. Under the British Nationality Act of the same year dual nationality was given to the people of the Irish Republic. It would seem that we are acting in contravention of both those Acts. People in the Irish Republic can claim British citizenship and the right to join a British regiment or any part of the Armed Forces—Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Photo of Mr Henry Clark Mr Henry Clark , North Antrim

The hon. Member is making a pendantic point. Has it struck him that there is a strong residential qualification in respect of all British regiments which Irishmen join? The Irishmen have to live with the regiment. In exactly the same way, there is a residential qualification for the new regiment. The men who join it will have to live with the regiment, because it will be in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

That is absolutely untrue. A man living in Dublin today can arrive in London tomorrow and join a British regiment. He can join the Navy or the Air Force as well. We are calling this force the Ulster Defence Regiment and we are told that it is a regiment of the British Army. The Secretary of State was not in the House to hear the cogent argument put forward by some hon. Members of his own party. As I have said, we would seem to be contravening the Ireland Act of 1949 and the British Nationality Act of the same year by effectively preventing Irishmen from joining a British regiment.

At the back of my mind I hear the words "The Connaught Rangers". I suggest that if people from the Republic of Ireland are not acceptable to this new regiment there is no reason why other people from the Republic of Ireland should serve in any other British regiment. I hope that they will take these words in the way in which I mean them this evening. If they are not allowed to join this new regiment, although they can claim dual citizenship—if men from Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal are effectively precluded from joining it—I suggest that others from the Republic of Ireland should consider the conditions under which they are now serving in other British forces.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) said that he had no great objection to the Bill and that time alone would tell whether it would have an effect on recruitment. Time is the one thing that we have not got. Yesterday afternoon I was at a meeting of the Civil Rights Association in Belfast, which was attended by between 300 and 400 delegates representing people from all over Northern Ireland, who voiced the strongest objections to the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

The hon. Member will recall that at any rate, when the new force was announced in Stormont on 24th November, nine Opposition Members took part in the debate and not a single Member objected to the name.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

I agree. I was in this House when that force was announced. But since then there have been prevarications. We have heard the saga of the application form. Was it sent out to let the B Specials enter the force? Was it not an application form but only a memorandum to the B Specials to get them into the force? These are the reasons that we are objecting. Those Opposition Members were so relieved, when they heard of the White Paper, that the B Specials were to be effectively disbanded, as they thought, that they gave the announcement a cautious welcome.

I recognise that the Unionist Party has a problem, that it must try to contain the backlash from its own extremists. In the corridors of this House, talking to my hon. Friends, I hear that there will not be 6,000 members of this force, that they can see the maximum number being 4,000, but, in Northern Ireland, the Prune Minister and his cohorts in the Cabinet there say that there will be 6,000, and possibly more if they have anything to do with it.

That is why we object not only to the name, but to many other points which have been mentioned here today. I have lodged the strongest objections, on behalf of my constituents and thousands of people in Northern Ireland to this further attempt by the Unionist Party to arrogate to itself the historical term of the Province of Ulster.

While listening to some hon. Members opposite, I thought that, for these past 12 months, at the minimum—the maximum is much longer—I have been asking this Parliament to allay some of the suspicions and dispel some of the fears of the minority in Ulster. After hearing the hon. Members for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) I am beginning to rethink that request. When they approach the problem of the minority in Ulster as they have tonight, I can foresee a great deal of trouble. Now that the Minister has been made aware of the strong objections of the Committee to the title of the regiment, he should resolve to take no decision, but should make further representations to the Northern Ireland Government to bring about a term less offensive to the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I wish merely to emphasise the point which I made just now, that the name has been blown up out of all proportion, and that, when the matter was debated at Stormont on 12th November, of the nine Opposition Members who commented on the force, some welcomed it and some did not: but no one objected to the name. So this is a rather shallow opposition point which has been drummed up here.

Photo of Mr Hugh Delargy Mr Hugh Delargy , Thurrock

The Committee will be relieved to hear that I shall take one minute only, for a word of personal explanation, which may, nevertheless, be of interest.

When the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) wound up for the Opposition, he repeated a remark which I had made, which he said was a jocular remark, and, quite honestly, put entirely the wrong interpretation on it. He has just told me so. But the Committee too might have put a wrong interpretation on it. This highlights the confusion about the word "Ulster".

I suggested that the Bill should be called the "Two-Thirds Ulster Defence Regiment Bill". The hon. Gentleman, and, no doubt, others, thought that I was referring to two-thirds of the people, that is, the Protestants, who live in Northern Ireland. I was not. I was referring to two-thirds of Ulster, that is, the Six Counties, as opposed to the three counties which are in the Republic.

I might add that it would have been greatly for the convenience of the Committee if the Secretary of State had been here earlier to hear the arguments. It would have been of still greater convenience if the Under-Secretary of State had taken the trouble to reply to at least one argument and had showed a little more modesty for a new junior Minister.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) referred to the HANSARD for the Northern Ireland Parliament, which he probably studies closely. He will have read copies of HANSARD subsequent to that which he cited and he will know that the main reason why Opposition Members there agreed to and in part welcomed the Bill was, as they said later, that they had not read the White Paper itself, while even Unionist Members complained that Mr. Porter, the Minister of Home Affairs rambled, raved and stuttered his way through his presentation of the Bill to such an extent that no one in the House understood him. Opposition members, to their shame, did not ask him to repeat his explanation.

My hon. Friends say that it is not necessary for me to reply to hon. Members opposite, but if hon. Members opposite persist in attacking me, as they are perfectly entitled to do, I am entitled

to reply, and the attacks have been relevant to the title of this force.

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that what I said was disgusting and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) said that my facts were doubtful because of my politics. My assertions of the facts were based not on my opinions, but on the opinions of Mr. Wallace Clark, the hon. Member's brother. Many were based on the opinions of the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley of the constituent bodies which bore titles similar to that of the body which we are discussing.

Photo of Dr Maurice Miller Dr Maurice Miller , Glasgow Kelvingrove

The hon. Lady is referring to someone she calls the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley. Am I to understand that this gentleman has now acquired a reputable reverence degree and a doctorate?

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

I always refer to the gentleman by his title.

I was interested in the Under-Secretary's "half a dozen differences". However, for all his talk he did not answer one of my questions. Until the Ministry of Defence sorts out who is blundering and who is lying, I shall continue to put the questions until I have them answered one way or the other.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 36, Noes 163.

Division No. 21.]AYES[10.38 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)Newens, Stan
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Judd, FrankNorwood, Christopher
Barnes, MichaelKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Orme, Stanley
Bidwell, SydneyKerr, Russell (Feltham)Park, Trevor
Booth, AlbertLatham, ArthurPavitt, Laurence
Brooks, EdwinLee, John (Reading)Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)Lubbock, EricRoebuck, Roy
Delargy, HughMacDermot, NiallRose, Paul
Dickens, JamesMcGuire, MichaelRyan, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McNamara, J. Kevin
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mendelson, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heffer, Eric S.Mikardo, IanMiss Bernadette Devlin and
Hobden, DennisMiller, Dr. M. S.Mr. Gerard Fitt.
Howie, W.
NOES
Alldritt, WalterBoston, TerenceConcannon, J. D.
Anderson, DonaldBray, Dr. JeremyConlan, Bernard
Armstrong, ErnestBrown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceBuchan, NormanCurrie, G. B. H.
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Carmichael, NeilDalyell, Tam
Bence, CyrilCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodChapman, DonaldDavies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)
Binns, JohnChichester-Clark, R.Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)
Blackburn, F.Clark, HenryDavies, Ifor (Gower)
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Coleman, DonaldDell, Edmund
Dewar, DonaldJones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Parker, John (Dagenham)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnKitson, TimothyPeart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dobson, RayLawson, GeorgePentland, Norman
Doig, PeterLeadbitter, TedPerry, Ernest G. (Bartersea, S.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)Pounder, Rafton
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Lestor, Miss JoanPrice, William (Rugby)
Eadie, AlexLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Pym, Francis
Eden, Sir JohnLomas, KennethRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Ensor, DavidLuard, EvanRees-Davies, W. R.
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)McCann, JohnRichard, Ivor
Fernyhough, E.MacColl, JamesRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Finch, HaroldMcElhone, FrankRoberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)McKay, Mrs. MargaretRobertson, John (Paisley)
Fowler, GerryMackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Fraser, John (Norwood)Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Freeson, ReginaldMackie, JohnRowlands, E.
Garrett, W. E.Maclennan, RobertRussell, Sir Ronald
Glover, Sir DouglasMcMaster, StanleyShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Golding, JohnMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)Skeffington, Arthur
Goodhart, PhilipMacPherson, MalcolmSmith, John (London & W'minster)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Maginnis, John E.Spriggs, Leslie
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Taverne, Dick
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)Manuel, ArchieTemple, John M,
Hamling, WilliamMapp, CharlesThomas, Rt. Hn. George
Hannan, WilliamMarks, KennethThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Harper, JosephMason, Rt. Hn. RoyThornton, Ernest
Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertTinn, James
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Millan, BruceUrwin, T. W.
Hattersley, RoyMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Varley, Eric G.
Hazell, BertMilne, Edward (Blyth)Waddington, David
Healey, Rt. Hn. DenisMitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretMolloy, WilliamWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Hooley, FrankMore, JasperWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMorgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Wallace, George
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Watkins, David (Consett)
Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Wellbeloved, James
Hoy, Rt. Hn. JamesMorris, John (Aberavon)Whitaker, Ben
Huckfield, LeslieMulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Murray, AlbertWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hunter, AdamO'Malley, BrianWilliams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Hynd, JohnOrbach, Maurice
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Janner, Sir BarnettOswald, ThomasMr. Neil McBride and
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Palmer, Arthur

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, leave out from beginning to 'such' in line 9 and insert 'no more than 4,000'.

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

With this Amendment we shall take Amendment No. 20, in page 1, line 9, after 'Parliament', insert— 'up to a maximum of 4,000'. and Amendment No. 19, in page 1, line 10, at end insert— Provided that such number shall not exceed 4,000 all ranks on establishment and that such number may only be increased up to a maximum of 6,000 all ranks by order subject to approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

Many of my hon. Friends and myself consider these to be the major Amendments which we shall debate. We feel that they are of such importance that we intend to make a case to which we hope the Minister will be able to give a more substantial reply than that which he gave on the last Amendment.

In considering the numbers in the proposed new regiment, we are dealing with what many people regard as the heart of the matter. If there is to be such a force, we want to see a democratic force on non-sectarian lines. May I have the attention of hon. Members——

The Temporary Charman:

Order. I am finding it difficult to hear the words of the hon. Member.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

Thank you, Sir Alfred. This is a matter of some substance, and I have the right to ask that all hon. Members listen to the case.

When we talk about the size of the regiment we are dealing with what many people feel goes to the core of the argument, because in many instances the size determines exactly its eventual effectiveness and deployment. I am glad to carry an hon. Gentleman opposite with me in this regard. Many of us cannot see the need for such a regiment, particularly as we have the British Army in Northern Ireland carrying out defence, and especially as we know that it could be called upon at any time to be deployed if there were any threat to the security of Northern Ireland. But if the Government consider that it is necessary that such a force be set up the numbers go to the heart of the question.

The first evidence in support of my argument on the numbers in paragraph 171(a) of the Hunt Committee's Report, which says: a locally recruited part-time force under the command of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, should be raised as soon as possible for such duties as may be laid upon it. We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient;". Why is no total written into the Bill? Not only has the Hunt Committee recommendation not been accepted, but in the Bill there is no total. We were referred on Second Reading to the White Paper and a total possibly rising to 6,000. But within the Bill there is no reference to a total. It is precisely because we want to see a ceiling of 4,000 put on the proposed regiment that we are pressing the matter so hard tonight.

We would like to know from the Government the specific reason why they have moved away from the Hunt recommendation by a 50 per cent, increase. A total of 4,000 or 6,000 men under arms in Great Britain does not seem large. But proportionately to the population of the United Kingdom as a whole it would mean 240,000 men under arms, a large number under such circumstances, and not as an Army but as a para-military force for specific reasons.

The proposed rise of 2,000, from 4,000 to 6,000, is in itself a large increase above the Hunt recommendation. Why have the Government not seen fit to adhere to the Hunt recommendation? We heard on Second Reading what a welcome the Ulster Members gave to the Hunt Report, but they do not ask for implementation of the 4,000 figure.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

The hon. Member will, of course, know that this figure was the result, I think, of a joint working party between the two Governments. I understand the position to be that the Hunt Committee did not go into detail on this matter, as will be seen from the introduction to its report, in which the Committee said that it wished it had had considerably more time to go into the details of the matter and that its suggested figure was a very approximate one.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I appreciate that this is, in effect, an agreement between the Stormont Government and the British Government. On the previous Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) rightly referred to such negotiations as took place.

What my hon. Friends and I are saying is that in view of the time which has passed since the Hunt Committee reported we see no reason why further consideration should not be given to this matter and why Amendments cannot be made to the Bill in the House of Commons, because the situation tonight is that we are going through the actions and we have little opportunity of amending the Bill because of prior negotiations with the Stormont Government.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

My hon. Friend has referred frequently to a figure of 6,000 which appears to be an agreement between the two Governments. Would my hon. Friend note that no figure whatever is mentioned in the Bill? There is an open-ended commitment. Indeed, under the Bill, it would be possible to recruit as many as 10,000, 12,000 or 20,000.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I accept, as my hon. Friend says, that it could go the other way. We know that at different times in history, in different circumstances, this force has been as high as 25,000.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

It is important to get this right at this stage. The ceiling of the force is controlled by Estimates. The Supplementary Estimate expressing the ceiling at 6,000 was laid before the House on 24th November. The Estimates have to come before the House each year and, therefore, the ceiling of the force is debatable each year, which it would not be if the figure appeared in the Bill.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I accept from my hon Friend that the matter is debatable, but he knows as well as I do that although his right hon. Friend explained the position in the White Paper and underwrote the figure of 6,000 on Second Reading, if we were faced with a certain situation and the Government came forward to say that they had taken action, the issue would be a fait accompli.

The figure must be fixed when the Bill is going through the House. We are now in Committee, and the principle is being established. We have to examine why the Government appear to have seen fit to reject the Hunt recommendation and have bowed to the pressures from the Northern Ireland. Speaking for myself, there is no doubt in my mind that the Government have conceded to the Ulster Unionist backlash that unless they accepted a volunteer force in the region of 6,000 the Westminster Government would be running into trouble in getting acceptance for the Bill. This is freely felt and has been expressed on this side of the House of Commons and inside the Labour Party. We feel that we must express this view freely and openly on the Floor.

I am completely opposed to our making concessions on these lines by increasing the size of the force and establishing a force of 6,000 to satisfy a feeling of backlash from the Ulster Unionists, and those sections of the Ulster Unionists who feel that they are having their power taken away from them because their private army is being disbanded and they are struggling to maintain a paramilitary force within the Six Counties. There could be all the reforms in matters of housing and civil rights, but if in that country there is not firm security on a non-sectarian basis, social justice will never be established in Northern Ireland.

11.0 p.m.

Fears have been expressed that the old B Specials will be pressed to join this regiment. We are very concerned that that might be made easy. If the force is only 4,000 it will be of manageable proportions and it could be on a non-sectarian basis. There will have to be positive discrimination towards Roman Catholics if the force is to be constructive. This goes to the centre of the argument.

Unless we have undertakings or acceptance of this Amendment, we shall have to force it to a Division. That would prove not only to people in this country, but in Northern Ireland, that we are concerned about establishing democracy there and that we are prepared to be counted and not to leave the issue only to my hon. Friends the Member for Mid Ulster (Miss Devlin) and the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). Many of us have been fighting on this issue for years and we shall continue to do so until democracy is established in Northern Ireland. We are pleased to be associated with these hon. Friends in this fight.

Nothing on the Notice Paper is more important than this Amendment referring to the size of the force. I hope that a concession can be made, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is in a position to make a concession, for there appears to be a closed book. If that is true it is a sad position. Although we may lose the fight tonight, we shall continue to fight so that the situation does not again arise in which a completely sectarian force such as the old B Specials, which excludes a large majority in Northern Ireland, is established.

My hon. Friend may worry about the Unionist backlash, but he will have to stand up to it eventually. It is better to stand up to it now in the name of a Labour Government in dignity and liberty.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I agree with the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) in two matters. The first is that we now come to a matter of substance and what he described as the centre of the argument—the size, and to use his word, the effectiveness, of the force. I will base what I have to say on the word "effectiveness".

The hon. Gentleman asked why we should depart from the recommendations of the Hunt Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) answered him partly by pointing out that the Hunt Committee made its recommendations quickly and said that the figure should be about 4,000. However, the ceiling of 6,000, which was suggested on Second Reading, flows from a different source, and there is nothing sinister about it.

It flows from a perfectly open agreement made between the two Governments, an agreement about which I heard no objection when it was first announced. In other words, it flows from the joint communiqué issued by the Home Secretary, accompanied by the Minister of State, after their meetings with the Northern Ireland Cabinet on 9th and 10th October. The communiqué said: In conveying these decisions, Northern Ireland Ministers said that they considered it essential"— and among the things they considered essential were— that the Ulster Special Constabulary as at present organised should remain in being until a fully effective security force was available to replace it. The Home Secretary, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, gave assurances that these requirements should be fully met within those fields for which the United Kingdom Government were responsible". Thus, according to an agreement openly made between the two Governments, the Ulster Special Constabulary remains in being until an effective force is found to replace it.

Subsequent to that, a joint working party was set up by the two Governments to determine what an effective force would be. That is why it is correct to say that this is the centre of the argument, for unless it can be shown that the force which is about to be established is effective, as agreed between the two Governments, the U.S.C. remains in being. We are, therefore, deciding what is to be the effective force within the terms of that communiqué and on which the U.S.C. can vanish.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that the Hunt Committee suggested that it was an effective force?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I did not say that, any more than the hon. Gentleman can bandy ancestors with me, a matter which, on another occasion, we may discuss.

The Hunt Committee made a cockshy at it in a hurry and suggested 4,000. But the joint working party, which set out to implement the joint communiqué and the agreement, recommended a force with a ceiling of something over 6,000. It is from that that this situation flows. And what is an effective force? The working party thought that it should have a ceiling of about 6,000, but I do not know the arguments on which it reached that decision.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Who comprised the joint working party? Was it politicians or civil servants?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

Civil servants and soldiers. It was not at all a working party of politicians. No Unionist politician was represented on it. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not suggesting that Lord Hunt's Committee was motivated by party political considerations.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

Far from it. I have throughout accepted the recommendations of the Hunt Committee. It said that there should be an effective force. We are now discussing the size of what we mean by "effective". The working party of the two Governments to decide what was an effective force came to the conclusion that it should be about 6,000.

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Feltham

Would the hon. Gentleman suggest that any particular weight should be attached to the opinion of a group of civil servants of Northern Ireland and Westminster, and soldiers, as to what would constitute an effective force, to use his own language?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

It is extraordinary to suggest that a working party set up by two Governments, and upon which senior and responsible soldiers were represented and which had a considerable time in which to work, would be less likely to come to the right decision than the Hunt Committee, which was working very quickly over a wide range. I should have thought that the joint working party would be a much better judge of the matter.

I will tell the Committee why I think the working party was probably right. Everyone will hope that conditions in Northern Ireland will be such that in the long term we would not have to keep there a regiment of 6,000 men. But let me put some considerations to the hon. Member for Salford, West who may be seriously concerned about the arguments on size. Anybody with experience will know that in a part-time force a man cannot be asked to do more than one four-hour stint in a week.

Photo of Mr Christopher Norwood Mr Christopher Norwood , Norwich South

This is a total absurdity. During the war members of the Home Guard and its predecessor, the Local Defence Volunteers, gave 20, 30, 40 and 50 hours a week because they believed in what they were doing. By the hon. Gentleman's admission, they cannot be asked for more than four hours, because they do not.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I cannot accept that the conditions of total warfare are applicable to the present situation.

Photo of Mr John Ryan Mr John Ryan , Uxbridge

A large part of the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) on Second Reading consisted of painting a lurid picture of the Six Counties being in imminent danger of attack by the Fenians and the I.R.A. Surely this is a very germane point.

11.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I was saying that it is not reasonable to expect a man in going about his ordinary business to do a stint of more than about four hours a week. In a week there are 84 hours of darkness from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., making 21 four-hour stints in the week. Military experience shows that we require a cadre of about 25 men to guard any one point. About 6,000 men are, therefore, required if there are to be 240 men each doing a four-hour stint. The argument is whether that number of 240 men is necessary.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) says "No". But the G.O.C. does not agree. He happens to think that at least that number is necessary. On the night of 19th–20th November the Ulster Special Constabulary had at least 500 men on duty, under the command of the G.O.C, 250 of them at key points. If the G.O.C. thinks that that force is necessary at present when one has a very large number of Regular troops on the ground, how much more will it be necessary if the Regular troops are relieved of their present function?

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Has the hon. Gentleman considered that this shows the wisdom of the G.O.C. in keeping the B Specials out of trouble?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything. Is he seriously saying that a G.O.C. of the Regular Army will keep men employed guarding key points simply to keep them out of mischief?

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Feltham

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that all experience indicates that senior soldiers always try to over-insure a situation? Is that not the case in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

If the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) seriously thinks that the G.O.C. is over-insuring, that is an argument he can make when he comes to make his speech in the debate. It may well be that in the deployment of Regular troops there should be an over-insurance. Even with the very large number of Regular troops deployed on the ground, the G.O.C. has thought fit to use sufficient of the Ulster Special Constabulary to guard 250 key points—a ceiling of 6,000 men.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

What are the "key points" in Northern Ireland? It might apply to every shop in certain areas.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

The hon. Gentleman may want to criticise the G.O.C. and his deployment, but I wish he would not do so by way of intervention in the middle of my remarks.

I should like to ask the Under Secretary of State one question about the size of the force. How does he arrive at a cost of £1 million? I am not sure why it should be so high. The deployment of the Special Constabulary that I have been describing, upon which I base my argument about the future size of the force, does not cost anything like that. I reckon that the Special Constabulary, as it is, will not cost more than £300,000 or £400,000. I cannot see how this will escalate to £1 million.

It would be interesting to know the argument. Presumably the arms held by the Special Constabulary and the huts, and so on, will be handed over to the new regiment when it is effective. I am wondering where all the extra expense is coming from. I think that this is the right point in our debate to ask the question, so perhaps the Under-Secretary will answer it now.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

Sir D. Glover rose——

Photo of Mr Roy Roebuck Mr Roy Roebuck , Harrow East

Mr. Roebuck rose——

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover).

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I understand that the arms for the new force will be centralised. Will not a great deal of expense be incurred by a Regular contingent guarding those arms?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

My hon. Friend raises an important point which we can discuss on a later Amendment concerning armouries. I understand that the extra cost would not fall in respect of any Regular troops taken to guard the multiplicity of new armouries that might be required if the Amendment is accepted.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

I can answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman now. The whole of the expense of the force is to be borne by the British taxpayer, not by the Northern Ireland Government.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

By the United Kingdom taxpayer.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

By the United Kingdom taxpayer. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate that the emoluments proposed for the new force are substantially greater than for the Ulster Special Constabulary. There is a Regular remanet being attached to the new force. It will be better equipped and clothed. It will, indeed, have some better weapons. The best estimate that the Government can make is that the total cost will be about £1 million.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention. I should like to do the arithmetic before saying it was satisfactory. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will do that. I think that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) wished to raise a point.

Photo of Mr Roy Roebuck Mr Roy Roebuck , Harrow East

I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. This point also interests me. I put down a new Clause on this point, but it has not been selected. Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman any information about the transfer of accommodation and equipment? Is it proposed that the United Kingdom Government should pay the Northern Ireland Government for the accommodation and equipment which is being transferred?

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I cannot speak for the Northern Ireland Government, but my information is that as to arms and equipment and anything else that is required, no money would be passed.

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

Order. We are straying from the Amendment, which is about 4,000 men.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

The hon. Gentleman has got his answer, anyway.

I have nothing to add on the numbers, but if the hon. Gentleman will look at a reasoned argument he will see that the agreement between the Home Secretary and the Northern Ireland Government about the terms on which the Ulster Special Constabulary should be superseded demands that the force be effective and that approximately 6,000 men are required to make it effective. If that is not done, and a less effective force, or a force which cannot be made effective, comes into being, then the Ulster Special Constabulary, of whom we in Ulster are proud, will remain.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I think that in discussing this important Amendment which, as my hon. Friend said, goes to the root of the matter, and in looking back at the Minister's reply to the previous debate, we may be able to return to a situation in which the Government are able to move closer to those who support the Amendment. I do not take the view that the Government have closed their mind to all the Amendments. I base that opinion on the speech made by the Government spokesman in reply to the Second Reading debate.

Moreover, I should like to remind the Committee that during these last few difficult weeks my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has conducted himself in such a way that he has received the support of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and of the overwhelming majority of British public opinion. There is, therefore, something to be said for that kind of working together if we can achieve it. It is in the interests of everybody, not least the Government, and above all the people in Northern Ireland, that we should achieve such co-operation.

The burden of the Amendment is not technical, but political. That the Government accept that it is a political argument is shown by their reply to the Second Reading debate. This political argument is the result of debates which have taken place in Northern Ireland, and it is those debates which we must take into account before reaching a conclusion here.

What has always disturbed me most is the impression given by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and by others in commanding positions both in the B Special Force and in the Home Department in that country, that what was intended was a simple transfer of a large majority of the B Specials to this new force. During the Second Reading debate I demanded that the Government should countermand any such intention, and I should like now to supply a little further evidence to show why the suspicion that that is to happen is justified.

Mr. Porter admitted in Stormont that the forms sent out were headed "application forms". If words have any meaning, the B Specials who received the forms were entitled to think that the forms asked them to apply for enrolment, otherwise there was no point in putting those words at the top of the form. Moreover, at the same time the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland made a number of speeches in which he appealed to the B Specials to join up.

Therefore, nobody can blame any of the members of the B Specials if, being appealed to by people in such high authority, they assumed that what was meant was a simple transfer from one force to another. That would be highly dangerous if a balanced recruitment is sought to this force—balanced in the sense in which the details will be argued in a later Amendment.

11.30 p.m.

It was felt that the agreement between the Government and those concerned with these matters meant that the Government would countermand any such impression. That is the political basis of the Amendment. As a result of these appeals from on high, giving the impression that what was meant was a simple transfer from one force to another, a number of members of the B Specials made political statements which in my opinion should disqualify them from ever being recruited into the new force.

Here I can supply some new evidence. I want to quote from the Belfast Telegraph—a newspaper which is not unsympathetic to the Government in Northern Ireland, and one which believes in fair reporting. A news item from its issue of Monday, 24th November, is headed, "U.D.R 'must be seen to be effective'—Specials". That is a phrase that is now going to cover a multitude of sins. It goes on: The new Ulster Defence Regiment has won the support of Ulster Special Constabulary members—'with many reservations'—an unofficial committee of Specials said last night. I stop quoting there to comment that there obviously seems to be in existence in this force—which is supposed to be an auxiliary police force—an unofficial committee which assumes the political right to give directives to the members of the force.

This seems to be a highly dangerous kind of procedure, but it has been allowed under the commander of the force. I should have thought that a committee that tried to act in this way would have been immediately suspended from service and excluded from a force which prided itself on its discipline. But no such suspension has taken place.

I return to the report from the Belfast Telegraph: The committee of U.S.C. men organised a meeting of Specials in the Ulster Hall some weeks ago. Here we have an unofficial committee in what is supposed to be a disciplined auxiliary force, organising meetings of large numbers of the special force to discuss highly political questions. That is the background against which this debate must take place, and it is of the greatest seriousness. It is the kind of political atmosphere that has been built up in the special force over the years, and it is the kind of special attitude that made it the view of members of the minority group that here we were dealing not with an auxiliary police force but a party political police force—a private army of one party against the other.

Photo of Mr Henry Clark Mr Henry Clark , North Antrim

The hon. Member said that this kind of thing had been built up over the years in the Ulster Special Constabulary. We know that on the threat of disbandment many meetings were held by unofficial committees in most of the forces of the British Army in recent years. Can the hon. Member quote any instance of a meeting of the Ulster Special Constabulary being held before this year?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I am choosing my words carefully. I said that an atmosphere had been built up over the years and that members of this force regarded themselves as politically committed to one side. The evidence is now emerging.

If I am allowed to continue with my quotation, I will quote some other statements made at this meeting and by the committee. The quotation continues: The committee also accused Mr. Harold Wilson of wanting majority rule in Rhodesia, but on the other hand wanting minority rule in Northern Ireland. That is the sort of statement we might hear——

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is straying from the Amendments, which are concerned with figures up to 4,000.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

But, Sir Alfred, I am dealing here with the danger which I am asking the Government to countermand—that the impression has been created among the B Special Constabulary that there will be a direct take-over of that force into the Ulster Defence Regiment. I am, therefore, pointing out the nature of some of the leading spirits in that force.

This sort of statement about what Mr. Harold Wilson may or may not want is the sort of thing we get from the benches opposite. But for members in a special force to make a statement in which they express their opinion publicly about the new Ulster Defence Regiment and their attitude towards that regiment——

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman in this Committee, to refer to Mr. Harold Wilson?

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) was quoting from an article.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I was quite deliberately quoting from an article in the Belfast Telegraph. If one quotes one has to stick strictly to the quotation.

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will direct his remarks to the numbers.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

On a point of order. It may not be within your recollection, Sir Alfred but your predecessor in the Chair, in presiding over our debate on the previous Amendment, allowed it to range enormously wide, particularly the speech of the Minister. With respect, I hope that the same indulgence will be given to back benchers.

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

I have allowed the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone a great deal of latitude.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I am following your direction, Sir Alfred, and I also agree with your last comment. I wanted to put on record that there are some people operating in this force at the moment in a highly irregular manner, and that great care has to be taken so that we do not build up the new Ulster Defence Regiment to a figure that would allow all these people to be taken over automatically.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

No, I want to get on, or I shall be speaking all night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Time wasting."] There is no question of time wasting. There are many more important Amendments to come and I want to be as brief as I can.

What I am saying to the Government is that having agreed at the end of the Second Reading debate that if there were a choice between building up the force to a figure that might be regarded as the larger figure of the two mentioned, and having a balanced force, the Government would make the latter choice rather than the former.

I return to what the hon. Gentleman opposite said about the opinions expressed by serving officers. It is most important to remember that we can only deal here with final conclusions, and the final conclusions are that the recommendation of the Hunt Committee has not been accepted. That is something which, in my opinion, must be explained on political grounds, not on technical grounds.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I saw my hon. Friend on the Front Bench nodding when he talked about a balanced force and the higher figure, but the point we must not forget is that Hunt recommended a balanced force of not more than 4,000.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

Yes, and many of us on this side of the House asked the Government not to rush ahead in building up the force too quickly because we feared that if a large number of B Specials are taken in in the first few weeks and months of recruitment that will actively discourage people in the minority, and people who are in opposition to the present régime, from joining this force.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) knows better than I do, there are many people in Northern Ireland with excellent military records. Members of both main religions have seen service in the Navy or in the Army. There are hopes that, if this matter is carefully handled and not turned into a political stampede by merely creating the B Specials under a different name, and if all these suspicions are removed, it will be possible to recruit people with a good deal of military experience. I am envisaging a situation in which members of the minority as well as members of the majority become commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers in the new force.

If the impression is widespread—an impression which it seemed that the Premier of Northern Ireland was anxious to create—that it is all cut and dried, that there will be a take-over, that the force will be built up as quickly as possible to 6,000 and then there will be no room for anybody else, that result will not be achieved.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point that it is desirable to achieve a force which is eventually balanced. Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that if there is too much delay and the new force is not built up to an effective strength in a reasonable time the Ulster Special Constabulary continues in the meantime?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

That point and the the argument about having a balanced force within 4,000 rather than within 6,000 is my final point. I do not accept the alarmist rumours which are being spread about the urgent need to create new defensive forces. We shall return to this question when we discuss where the arms are to be stored, but all these rumours have been used over the years to create an atmosphere of political intimidation by one side against the other. I do not accept any of the arguments as real evidence.

We know that the real defence of Northern Ireland, where it matters today, is in the hands of the Regular British Army under the G.O.C. In previous debates hon. Members opposite have said, sometimes lightly, that the defence of the frontier of Northern Ireland might be involved. That is the business of the Regular British Army stationed there. That should be common ground if nothing else is common ground. The job of this auxiliary force should be very limited. The more that hon. Members try to create the impression that there are many things for the new force to attend to, the more that hon. Members spread alarmist impressions and opinion in Northern Ireland, the more they are going against the expressed wish of the G.O.C. and events as they now exist in Northern Ireland.

I come, finally, to the question whether there can be a balanced force in the lower numbers. I believe that this can be achieved. We want slow recruitment. We want no large influx of men who are committed to one side. It does not matter if recruitment goes slowly and if the target, even of 4,000, is not reached by 1st April and we have to go on to 1st May or 1st July. The Army is in control and is ensuring that there is fairness.

If the target is not achieved, I ask the Government not to aim at 6,000. Let the Government recruit people in small numbers and not make this force the preserve of the Special Constabulary. We must ensure that people from all quarters, minority as well as majority, are recruited in almost equal numbers. Then we can see where we are and make up our minds again. I ask the Government not to commit themselves to a large figure or to an influx from any one quarter.

11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I am very glad to be called immediately after that concluding remark of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), because his remark is relevant to my Amendment, No. 19, which deals with a slightly different point to that of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). That is, whether or not, within a total ceiling of 6,000 men, as the White Paper proposes, we could not have an intermediate limit and see how we go on, as the hon. Member for Penistone put it—not to proceed at once to the 6,000 maximum, but to build up the force gradually and to ensure in this House that it is properly balanced in the process.

Then, if we are satisfied that the force is, as the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr) puts it, fully effective, we can decide whether it is necessary to increase it by the further 2,000. I absolutely agree that this is a condition of disbanding the U.S.C.—to make sure that the new regiment is fully effective, as it can only be if it is properly balanced.

Suppose that we had these 4,000 men and it became clear to the House that the overwhelming majority were recruited from the B Specials. No one would deem that an effective force. So we should be able to say to the Government, "We do not give you the right to increase the total to the 6,000 men"——

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

It would be too late.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

At least we should not have done so much damage. I agree that we would have spent all the money and the trouble on building up a force of 4,000 men—[Interruption.] I am supporting the hon. Member's Amendment. I am just putting forward mine as a compromise which the Government would find it much easier to accept.

Having built up the force of 4,000 men, we should then discover, if the hon. Member's suspicions are correct, that it was sectarian, and we should refuse permission to the affirmative Resolution which the Minister would have to introduce further to increase its size to 6,000—so at least we should have done only two-thirds of the damage which the Government are prepared to do, if the suspicions of some people in Northern Ireland are confirmed. That is why my proposal is a slight improvement on the hon. Member's. I am disappointed that it has not been selected for a Division, because I should have wanted to press it to one. In the absence of any right to do so, I will support the hon. Gentleman's proposals.

Another interesting point mentioned by the hon. Member for Penistone is the activities of this unofficial committee of B Specials. I am grateful to them for the publicity which they have given to their activities in the Belfast Telegraph. If it had not been for this meeting of which he told the Committee, we might not have had proper evidence of the plots going on in the B Specials to make sure that they dominate this new force. The more meetings of this kind that they have in the Ulster Hall, the better I will be pleased. I am delighted that they are exposing their intentions while there is good time for us to take note of them and make sure, in the Bill, that their foul machinations are catered for while the Bill is still before the House.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South and another hon. Member concentrated heavily on the fact that the Hunt Committee made its recommendations in something of a hurry, and that, therefore, we should not take a great deal of notice of the figure of 4,000 and should not puzzle ourselves unduly over the 50 per cent. increase proposed in the White Paper, or ask for an explanation from the Government of the reason for the difference in these figures.

The hon. and gallant Member is perfectly satisfied that this working party of impartial civil servants has come to a better conclusion than Lord Hunt. He points out that, since Lord Hunt had only a short time in which to make his recommendations, he is not to be blamed for any error in his estimates.

In support of this, this paragraph in the introduction to the Hunt Report has been quoted: Within the limited time available, it has not been possible to make as detailed an examination as we would have wished. But hon. Members who used that quotation did not go on to refer to the final sentence of the paragraph: We have, therefore, suggested procedures by which a number of matters which came to our notice and upon which we formed preliminary views may be resolved after further examination. Hon. Members will agree that this implied that wherever Lord Hunt has made a recommendation on the basis of partial evidence, he has accompanied it by recommending a further study by the Government. But in paragraph 171(a) Lord Hunt says: We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient. There is no suggestion that there should be further research to discover whether that figure is correct. There is no qualification of that statement. I do not think that any hon. Member can suggest that the words envisage a departure from that figure by as much as 50 per cent., as is envisaged in the White Paper.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

The sentence reads: We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient. The hon. Member will agree that the wording is fairly weak and certainly does not seek to lay down a hard-and-fast number.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I do not agree with that interpretation. I do not see how the Government could go as wide of the number as 6,000 and still be within the recommendation. If that were Lord Hunt's intention, why did he not say, "We are not in a position to come to any definite conclusion on the matter, but we consider that a force of between 4,000 and 8,000 is probably right and we will leave it to the Government to determine where the ceiling should be within those limits"? If he had said that, we could have reconciled his findings with the figure of 6,000 in the White Paper.

Photo of Mr John Maginnis Mr John Maginnis , County Armagh

Lord Hunt suggested a figure of 4,000. He did not recommend a figure of 4,000.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

In the sense that it is argued that, throughout, Lord Hunt made sugestions, the hon. Member is correct. I will not read the sentence again, because hon. Members are familiar with it, but it seems to me that we are arguing about semantics.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

At the end of the report, starting on page 44, there are 47 recommendations. Nowhere in those recommendations does Lord Hunt give a specific figure for the size of the force.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I know that. I have read the whole report, as has the hon. Member. Lord Hunt did not repeat the figure of 4,000 given in paragraph 171. But if the hon. Member implies that Lord Hunt was not certain about the figure and left it vague, why did Lord Hunt not say so in paragraph 171? I do not believe that that is the case.

Lord Hunt made it clear that he had access to the same kind of military advice as was available to the Government. He spoke to the General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland and he mentioned that his Committee had been able to bring to bear on the matters falling within our terms of reference a varied background of experience gained from military operations elsewhere in aid of the civil power.

I want to pin the Government down and to ask them exactly what was the difference between the evidence available to Lord Hunt, which appears to have been of a wide character, and the evidence available to the working party of civil servants and soldiers. Did they, for instance, obtain information from Cyprus that was not available to Lord Hunt? Since Lord Hunt mentions the background and experience gained through military operations elsewhere, what different advice did the G.O.C. give to Lord Hunt and the working party? Had he had further time for consideration and did he vary his figure in his evidence to the two bodies?

I am not prepared to accept the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South that, because a group of civil servants and eminent soldiers have had a little time to consider the matter, they have come to a conclusion so different from that of Lord Hunt. That is basically improbable and it is in the minds of some hon. Members that the difference does not arise from the recommendations of this impartial working party, but from some pressure brought to bear on the Government.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

Mr. Richard indicated dissent.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

The hon. Gentleman can deny it in his reply.

Nevertheless, there is that suspicion in people's minds. It is not in mine, but I am asking for clarification to deal with certain anxieties drawn to our attention by people we know in Northern Ireland and who are experienced in these problems. It is not just I. The hon. Member for Penistone has heard the same kind of thing—that this is a device in order to be able to get the maximum number of B Specials into the new force and to see that it merely replaces the U.S.C. under another name.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South put a good contrary argument—that, if there is a large force, there will be more room in it for the Catholics than there would be if we restricted its size to 4,000. What that implies is that one is to have these 4,000 people transferred immediately from the B Specials and that only if we increase the ceiling above that number will there be some room for the Catholics, that they will be a fag end proportion of the extra numbers which the Government are demanding over and above the figure recommended in the Hunt Report.

If that were so, it would be a serious matter. Immediately, one would be taking into the new regiment 4,000 out of the 8,500 people serving in the B Specials and only thereafter would one find room for the Catholics. That is another reason for restricting the size of the force to 4,000 in the initial stages and only increasing it to 6,000 by affirmative Resolution later on. We should see exactly what the recruiting situation is to be before giving approval to the higher figure.

The Minister of Defence for Administration, in his reply to the Second Reading debate, did not reply to a point I had raised. I appreciate that there is not time on such occasions to answer every point raised in the debate, but this is an important matter, so I raise it again in the hope that the Under-Secretary of State will reply to it tonight.

The Hunt Report says: Indeed everyone hopes that the reforms already in hand and those still being planned will, by removing the causes of discontent, make it less likely that in the future extremists will be able to provoke disorder and so bring about the conditions in which terrorism can be effective. Moreover a realistic assessment of the capacity of the I.R.A. to mount serious terrorist attacks would probably not rate it very high, particularly as the Government of the Irish Republic has stated publicly that it is opposed to the use of force on the border. This is the point I asked the Minister to deal with in my Second Reading speech.

12 m.

On Second Reading, I said that this seemed to demonstrate to me, quite apart from the military calculations and the differences of opinion between Lord Hunt and the working party, that there were political factors which had to enter into any assessment of the size of the proposed force. It is an admission that we do not expect much of the civil rights changes in Northern Ireland if we say that the force must be larger than Lord Hunt suggested. We are saying that, in spite of what he said about the tension being decreased as a result of the causes of discontent being removed, we need a larger force.

That depresses me intensely, because it shows that the Government do not have that faith in the determination of the Northern Ireland Government to carry these reforms to their conclusion which I personally have. I am certain that Major Chichester-Clark is absolutely genuine in his determination to press forward co-operating with the Government here, with his programme of civil rights. It would be an admission by the Government that the reforms cannot be carried forward to a peaceful conclusion if they insisted on a force of the size proposed.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

I intervene at this stage not to stifle debate, but merely because, in view of the last two or three speeches, it may be helpful if I indicate some of the things which are in the Government's mind, particularly about recruiting.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) asked my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration to deal with that part of the Hunt Report which the hon. Member has just quoted. It is dealt with almost in the next sentence of the report. Immediately after the passage which the hon. Member has quoted there occurs this sentence: Even so, it is necessary to consider the worst that might happen, so that proper precautions can be taken; and although the threat of terrorist attacks may not be great, the fear of them is very real, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken and are seen to be taken. Anybody reading that and the end of the preceding paragraph would come to the conclusion that Lord Hunt was saying that there was a threat to internal security in Northern Ireland, that he did not rate it highly, but that, nevertheless, it was something which must be taken seriously and guarded against and that provision therefore had to be made in respect of it.

I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Orpington that the figure of 4,000 as it appeared in the Hunt Report is anything like a firm figure. I refer the hon. Member to paragraphs 2 and 3, which say: The importance and urgency of this task was impressed upon us in view of the situation following the disorders earlier in the month. After a visit by the Home Secretary of the Government of the United Kingdom on 7th September the hope was expressed that our report might be available in time for it to be discussed with him early in October… Paragraph 3 said: Both on account of the speed with which so wide-ranging an enquiry had to be completed and of the nature of the task itself, we decided that our enquiries should be informal and confidential, that we should confine ourselves"—— and the next words are important when assessing whether the figure is militarily correct— mainly"— and I accept that it is "mainly"— to contacts and visits within the ambit of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary and that we should seek written evidence and opinion outside the police forces privately, rather than invite submissions from all sources. I am not in a position to tell the hon. Member the precise nature of the evidence which the G.O.C. gave, nor the way in which he gave it to the Hunt Committee. However, I can assure him that the figure of 6,000 is based upon a military operational requirement. It is arrived at by a process of mathematics, if I may use that phrase, somewhat similar to that used by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), although I do not accept his figures.

The operational requirement is based not on what happened in Cyprus, Aden or anywhere else but on a far simpler calculation. It is based on how many of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been engaged on certain duties within the past six or nine months. At the height of the troubles in July and August this year, on the duty of guarding key points, which is the rôle the Hunt Committee, the White Paper and the Bill specifically give to the Ulster Defence Regiment, the number of men the R.U.C. employed was about 800 a night. The number is now about 500 a night. The regiment will be a part-time force, and I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's figure of the maximum one can ask of people in such a regiment was four hours a week.

The training obligations proposed are quite onerous for a part-time force, and I think that they will be employed for more than that. In the broadest terms, assuming that each man is on duty for one night a week, and that between 500 and 800 men are needed at a time of tension to guard key points, one needs between 4,000 and 6,500 to 7,000 men. I accept that the figure must be somewhat imprecise. That is a military and not a political calculation. I shall come to what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) said about politics in a moment.

Faced with 4,000 as the lowest figure and about 6,500 to 7,000 at the highest figure, that Government said, "We will set what we regard as a ceiling". We regard it not as a target but a ceiling, to be adjusted, as my hon. Friend said on Second Reading, in the light of circumstances as one has experience with the operation of this new force. If tension eases in Northern Ireland in the next year, and, therefore, the necessity to guard key points again lessens, it is very unlikely that one will need to recruit up to the figure of 6,000. But if it does not, and perhaps goes back to what it was in July and August, there will be a requirement for the guarding of those key points at approaching the rate I gave a moment ago.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Epping

My arithmetic may be wrong, but my hon. Friend said that 800 men were required each night for seven nights a week, and according to my calculations, the number of troops required would be between 3,500 and 5,600. If that is correct, surely it undermines the case my hon. Friend is making. He is duty bound to explain how he arrives at the figures he gave.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

First, I assume that each man will work only about one night a week. I am bound to assume that there will be a certain wastage because somebody is away on a training camp, or somebody is ill, and so a certain amount of leeway must be given when arriving at a figure. I emphasis that the 6,000 is a ceiling and not a figure that the Government are recruiting up to. It is a figure that the Government has said is the maximum they can foresee.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

The Minister said that if, next summer, it is found that tension is so high that we have a recurrence of the situation that had to be dealt with recently we need to go to the 6,000 figure, but that if, as everybody hopes, we can keep it down to a low pitch the 4,000 would be enough. If we suffer that sort of situation we would need a debate on Northern Ireland, as I think the hon. Gentleman would agree. So why not accept my suggestion that we have a debate on an affirmative Resolution, instead of in Supply time, for instance?

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

There are technical objections to doing it by way of affirmative Resolution.

May I, however, illustrate again to the hon. Member what the Government are proposing. It is that the size of the force should be controlled by the ordinary mechanism by which the size of this country's forces have been, and are, controlled, namely, by Estimates. Therefore, once a year, the Government have to ask the House of Commons for its approval as to the ceiling for the force for the forthcoming year.

In addition, we will be in a totally different position concerning this force than we were with the Ulster Special Constabulary, in two important respects. The first is that the new force is part of the Regular Army and, therefore, its recruiting pace and policy is foreseeable by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and by other Ministers. Secondly, we are answerable in the House of Commons, as all Ministers must be, for the way in which the force is recruited, its size, logistics, pay, food, clothing and equipment, in exactly the same way as with any other part of the Regular Army. Therefore, the degree of democratic control, which seemed to be what my hon. Friends were worried about, over the new force will be infinitely greater than it was over the old force.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

In view of what my hon. Friend says about democratic control, we cannot understand why the Government cannot accept the figure of 4,000 as proposed by the Hunt Report. If they wanted to do so at a later date, they could always come back to ask for a larger number. We are concerned about the figure of 4,000. The figures which my hon. Friend has just given about the deployment of the B Specials, for example, relate to a period in which they were engaged in activities which we hope never to see again in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

My hon. Friend is not right about this. The activities in which the B Specials have been engaged and which I have been talking about were those of guarding key points and had nothing whatever to do with crowd or riot control. They are the numbers who have been guarding key and vulnerable points.

What Lord Hunt has said is that there will be a need for some type of force to carry out that sort of duty. The best military advice available to the Government is that a force possibly up to, but certainly in no circumstances exceeding, 6,000 would be appropriate.

I now turn to the second and, perhaps, more significant part of the debate. The hon. Member for Orpington and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone have referred—

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

May I ask my hon. Friend what sort of equipment is intended?

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

That is dealt with on later Amendments. It is in the White Paper and it was dealt with at some length on Second Reading. Therefore, perhaps my hon. Friend will forgive me for not delving into that at the moment.

The real argument on the question of 4,000 or 6,000 is not, I apprehend, about numbers at all. The real argument, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said—he is quite right about this—is about recruiting. No one, I suspect—no one, at any rate, who broadly takes the view of my hon. Friends below the Gangway—would be in the least worried at a force which was 6,000 strong, 7,000, or, indeed, 10,000 strong, if half the force could be guaranteed to be Catholics. I suspect that Amendments would not be put down to reduce the number from 6,000 to 4,000 if my hon. Friends could be satisfied as to the recruiting procedure for Catholics coming into the force.

It would be helpful to return to the method of recruitment, that in which it is hoped and anticipated that recruitment will take place.

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

No, if my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) been present he would have known that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and the hon. Member for Orpington devoted the substance of their speeches to this.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

On a point of order. The actual terms of the Amendment refer to the number of people to be enrolled, not the methods of enrolling them. Later Amendments, which have been selected by the Chairman of Ways and Means, deal with methods of enrolling and hon. Members have not yet voiced their opinions on those.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I think that the hon. Member should leave points of order to the Chair. I heard the Minister make a remark and I was waiting to hear what he had to say before intervening.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Further to that point of order. I am not seeking in any way to challenge what you said, Mr. Gourlay, but I thought that we should be allowed to raise points of order to draw attention to this.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

It is quite in order to raise a point of order on a question before the Committee, but in this case the Chair was seized of the position and was waiting for the Minister to step out of order before pulling him up. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was a little ahead of time.

Photo of Mrs Anne Kerr Mrs Anne Kerr , Rochester and Chatham

I thought that I was perfectly proper in inquiring what sort of equipment was required for the force.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

One of the main arguments advanced by the mover of the Amendment by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and the hon. Member for Orpington, was for a reduction from 6,000 to 4,000 because, they said, there was a great fear that at 6,000 there would be a great influx of B Specials to the force. As they were entitled to argue that as the basis of the Amendment, I am entitled to say that their fears are groundless and there is no need for the Amendment. To establish that their fears are groundless, I must be allowed to say one or two things about the method of recruitment.

I reiterate the point made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration a most important and specific statement to which perhaps my hon. Friends have not paid sufficient attention. It was that if there came a choice between the size and the balance of the force the Government would lean towards a well balanced force rather than a quickly recruited force. That remains the policy of the Government and it is right that I should reiterate it.

A number of questions have been asked about the sort of forms to be filled in and the vetting to take place. It has been suggested that all that will happen will be a mass transfer of B Specials on vesting day as it were from one force straight to another. That cannot happen. Anyone wishing to enrol in the Ulster Defence Regiment will have to fill in a form which will be nothing like any of the forms talked about that have been talked about in this House or elsewhere. That has then to be vetted by the Army authorities. On Second Reading on 19th November, the Minister of Defence for Administration assured my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that the vetting for acceptance of applicants to join the Ulster Defence Regiment would be carried out entirely by the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, and in an objective manner. The suitability of applicants will be checked against that information.

Photo of Mr Christopher Norwood Mr Christopher Norwood , Norwich South

Surely this refers to an entirely different Amendment, which has been selected and is to be taken later. It has nothing to do with the numbers involved. It has a good deal to do with the composition, but nothing to do with the point of substance.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

I understand that, in speaking to the Amendment, several hon. Members made incidental references to the composition of the force. The Minister is, therefore, allowed a certain latitude when replying.

Photo of Mr Christopher Norwood Mr Christopher Norwood , Norwich South

Further to my point of order. The fact that, inadvertently, there was a previous breach of order, should not mean our tolerating the present one.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

The hon. Gentleman must leave the Chair to interpret the rules of order. I have ruled that since incidental references were previously made to this subject, the Minister has a right to reply.

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

At least one of my hon. Friends did not refer to the subject incidentally, but made it the substance of his argument. The statement I am about to make will be of interest to him and the Committee.

In the vetting and acceptance of people to join the Regiment, the suitability of any person will be checked against all information available to the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and this will include the taking up of references. There is provision in the application form for references to be provided, and the sort of persons who must be referees are much the same as appear in passport application forms.

There will be interviews by skilled investigators of the Army's own vetting unit who are usually stationed at Woolwich. They will do the job either here or in Northern Ireland, but I imagine that it will mainly be the latter. They are normally employed positively on vetting inquiries, and they will be so employed in this way. The object of the provision is to establish that an applicant is of good character, is not an active supporter of any organisation at one or other extreme of the political spectrum and is likely to act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone spoke of meetings of an organisation of U.S.C. members. The Government are obviously concerned to try to provide the necessary regulations which, it is hoped—if the Bill is passed—will be introduced for the purpose of giving effect to the new force. For example, it is hoped that eventually this will become part of the regulations of the Ulster Defence Regiment: Officers, warrant officers, N.C.O.s and men not training in camp, etc., will not take part in or attend any political meetings or demonstrations in uniform.

Hon. Members:

In uniform?

Photo of Mr Ivor Richard Mr Ivor Richard , Barons Court

Naturally. When in civilian clothes, they will be like any other United Kingdom citizens. It would be an extraordinary proposition to say that a member of any force should be prevented from attending a political meeting if he is in civilian clothes. [Interruption.] I heard one of my hon. Friends say that he would not be allowed to attend a trade union meeting. I know of no regulation which would prevent a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment or any other part of the Regular Army from attending such a meeting.

It is hoped that another regulation will say: Officers, warrant officers, N.C.O.s and men will not discuss political questions in speeches at military gatherings such as dinners, prize distributions, concerts, etc., whether attending them in uniform or not. Yet another will say: Meetings will not be held, or memorials drawn up, on any matter affecting discipline or the expenditure of monies received from public funds. No meetings, except those called together by or under the authority of the C.O. will be recognised. It is obviously not right for me now to go through too many regulations of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Many of my hon. Friends would say "Disgraceful" or "Out of order" if I did, but the effect of the regulations, which are in draft, is to convert a part-time auxiliary police force into a force which is part of the Regular Army and, therefore, subject to military regulation, military discipline and military law.

I hope that with those remarks, and the report of the Advisory Committee on Recruitment, which my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration mentioned on Second Reading and about which he hopes to say something later, the fears which have been felt as to the insertion of 6,000 in the Bill instead of 4,000 will be allayed, and that my hon. Friends will not think it necessary to divide the Committee.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I hope that the fact that the Under-Secretary of State referred at considerable length to the vetting procedure and the balance of the force will not prevent the Committee from dealing with these matters when we reach the Amendments which specifically refer to them.

I hope that I shall not bring a contentious English, Scottish or Welsh note into a Northern Ireland debate when I say that I am rather surprised to see that the hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment put so much store on a single figure appearing in a report which was presented to the House of Commons. Those same hon. Members, night after night last year, objected to and argued against the reports of the National Board for Prices and Incomes which were laid before the House. They certainly did not feel that a report should be accepted without amendment. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) argued most strongly that the House should reject the report of the Boundary Commission, which had spent five years on its preparation.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

On a point of order. Trying as I am with increasing wonderment to follow how rules of order are administered in this Committee, am I to understand that the same indulgence is to be granted to back benchers as has been granted to the Front Bench?

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

The hon. Gentleman should not cast reflections on the Chair. The same rules apply to all members of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Whereas the Boundary Commission had five years to prepare its report, the Hunt Committee had only a bare five weeks in which to present its report to the House.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

This Measure was recommended to the House of Commons on the ground that it was carrying out in general the recommendations of the Hunt Committee, and we have been told that both Westminster and Stormont have accepted the Hunt Committee's Report. We are still waiting for a proper explanation of why there has been a further grave departure from the recommendations of the Hunt Committee.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

The second paragraph of the letter of introduction to the Hunt Report states: Within the limited time available it has not been possible to make as detailed an examination as we would have wished. Indeed, in less serious circumstances we would have preferred to have several months at our disposal. We have, therefore, suggested procedures by which a number of matters which came to our notice and upon which we formed preliminary views may be resolved after further examination. It appears that the Hunt Committee has answered the hon. Gentleman's point.

12.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

If the Hunt Committee had formed only preliminary views on the question of numbers, somewhere in its report one would expect to find a reference to the procedures by which these matters could be resolved. But I pointed out in my speech that the figure of 4,000 is given in one paragraph, but nowhere else in the report is there any reference to such procedures. Therefore, the views on this matter cannot have been of a preliminary nature.

Mr. Goodhbart:

I would point out to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) that paragraph 171(b), on page 42, says: the nature, establishment and equipment and all other conditions relating to it, including the timing of its formation— referring to the Ulster Defence Regiment— should be decided by Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland …". It is wrong to argue that the Hunt Committee did not turn to this point.

There is a discrepancy between the Bill and the speech made by the Secretary of State on Second Reading which I should like to take up. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill states, under the heading "Effects of the Bill on Public Service Manpower": About 100 civilians will be employed for clerical, storekeeping and general duties, and about 50 members of the force will serve as permanent staff, as well as up to 50 attached personnel of the Regular Army. Earlier, under the heading "Financial effects of the Bill", there appears a figure of £100,000, which would fit the figure of 50 Regular Army personnel seconded to the Ulster Defence Regiment. But in his Second Reading speech the Secretary of State referred to 200 personnel seconded to the regiment. A figure of 50 Regular Army personnel would be wholly consistent with the numbers of Regular Army personnel normally attached to a TAVR 11 unit. The figure now put forward by the Secretary of State is four times as high as that.

I hope that we shall be told what the extra personnel will do. Is it suggested that there should be two, three or four officers of field rank attached to every battalion, or in some instances will platoons be commanded by Regular Army personnel, or will the extra Regular Army personnel be drafted to headquarters with the force rather than sent to the battalions?

Photo of Mr Denis Healey Mr Denis Healey , Leeds East

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the point. This was a slip of the tongue. We were intending to correct it. The right figure is the one given in the Preamble to the Bill. This occurred during the course of answering an interjection and I added together wrongly the civilians and the military. In fact, the figures are 50 and 100 as set out in the Memorandum.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving that correction, since it clears up that matter.

I am in full agreement with the Under-Secretary of State—I hope that he will not find this embarrassing—in his analysis of how the strength of this regiment should be arrived at.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

Will the hon. Gentleman explain one point? How does he arrive at the figure of 6,000, if not 4,000? What is so magical about the figure of 6,000 which leads him into this curious alliance with the Government Front Bench?

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I hope that I shall make myself reasonably plain on this point before sitting down.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr), in his admirable speech, reminded us that on the night of 19/20th November there were more than 500 B Specials deployed, at the direction of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, on guard duties at vulnerable points and on other duties wholly consistent with the rôle of the Ulster Defence Regiment when it is set up, and he pointed out that in normal circumstances it is unreasonable to expect that members of this regiment should spend more than one night a week doing these duties.

They have, after all, to fulfil their normal jobs in the course of a day. Therefore, even if we excluded training duties, which are onerous, we could reasonably expect, given the conditions that obtained on the night of 19/20th November, that 3,500 men would be on duty during any one week. That figure is made up of 500 men a night, seven nights a week.

But there is one special feature about the night of 19/20th November that we ought to bear in mind—that nothing of any importance happened. Unfortunately, such is the state of affairs in Northern Ireland at the moment that, whatever happens in Stormont and in debates in this House of Commons, we cannot count on nothing happening. To base a force on the assumption that we can get away with what happens on a night when there are no incidents is rash in the extreme. Therefore, I am particularly glad that the Government intend to resist the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) in all that he has been saying, except to point out that he attacks from a different point of view—no doubt his own point of view—the Government's figure. But, after a long debate, we are still no nearer an explanation for the figure of 6,000 to which they adhere.

I do not often find myself able to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr), but it was he who earlier said that it was a cockshy. He said that there was no more attempt to arrive at a reasonable estimate for this figure of 6,000 than there was for the Hunt Committee's figure of 4,000, except possibly that that committee had longer to consider before arriving at that figure.

I hope that we get more conciliatory replies from the Government than we have had so far tonight. If not, I warn them that they will not go to bed tonight, unless the Whips decide to call it a day a little later, with the Bill far from being completed. Here we are, at twenty minutes to one, on the Second Amendment. Plenty of us are warming up, and if we get the mixture of truculence and lack of conciliatory attitude that we had from my hon. Friend on the last Amendment, he will not get any sleep tonight.

My hon. Friend's interim reply ranged so wide that I take it that is in order to range over methods of recruitment and how this will be carried out, and that we shall not be called to order, even though some of us were a little surprised that the matter was allowed to come into the discussion at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has done a good service in raising this matter, because by one means or another we have been enabled to enlarge the scope of the debate. We should enlarge the debate on this and every other Amendment throughout the night, and for however long the Bill is under discussion, until we get the Government Front Bench into a much more satisfactory frame of mind.

I support the Amendment. I should have supported it even if it had proposed a reduction to some derisory figure, because, unlike some of my hon. Friends, I am not in favour of this force at all. I take the view that at a time when we are cutting military expenditure in many ways it is absurd to take on an extra commitment of this kind. It is typical of Ministers of the Ministry of Defence that as a kind of throw-away line, in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), we are told that the British taxpayer is to pay for this force. As a taxpayer, apart from anything else, I am reluctant to pay for any further military expenditure, and I think that I am not alone in that view.

Photo of Mr Harry Gourlay Mr Harry Gourlay , Kirkcaldy District of Burghs

Order. The hon. Member may be reluctant, but the House has already decided the principle, and he must, therefore, come to the Amendment.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I favour the Amendment because it would reduce, albeit by a minute degree, the burden of expenditure which the Bill seeks to impose upon us. I think that it is in order to criticise the Amendment, not merely because it is not as specific as it might be and that it substitutes one arbitrary figure for another, but because it does not go far enough.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

That is true, but, with the best will in the world, the Hunt Committee itself was bound to choose an arbitrary figure. Any military situation which is sufficiently serious to warrant the use of supplementary forces of this kind is bound to produce in Northern Ireland a situation in which local forces have to be supplemented by the Army.

The fact that the Army is there at a time of relative calm shows that both these figures can be regarded as arbitrary. They are attempts to prognosticate a situation which cannot really be anticipated. It is not easy to calculate these figures when one is faced with what one might at worst describe as the semi-guerrilla situation in Northern Ireland. I thought that my hon. Friend was a little on the defensive because he had been attacked over his choice of a figure. It would have been more reasonable to have said that it was impossible to arrive at a precise figure, and that there was bound to be an element of guesswork in it.

12.45 a.m.

We have had some quite amusing attempts to regulate the number of hours that persons would be employed on duty. Everybody knows that in an emergency it will not be limited to one night a week, or something of that kind; people will find themselves called upon to be on duty for far longer than that. Since the force is to deal with just that kind of emergency situation it make the idea of trying to calculate on the basis of a calm period quite ridiculous. I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham that to base our calculations on what happened on a night when there were no incidents does not help.

I would rather have had no force at all, but if we are to have to use military force I would much prefer that it should be used by Regular troops. Our experience of quasi-military forces in various parts of the world is not encouraging. If we think of places like Palestine, Cyprus or Kenya, we are not encouraged to believe that even allowing for the fact that it is intended that this force should be restricted to duties which are not likely to bring it into contact with large numbers of the civil population it would be difficult to provide against that possibility occurring, and if it contains many of the former members of the B Specials it is right to take the view that it will start off on a poor basis.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a serious Amendment? Does he accept that many of us agree that there is a need for a force in Northern Ireland because of the situation there, and that we have arrived at a figure of 4,000 because that was the Hunt Report's figure? Does he accept that this is a reasonable figure, and that there is no need for any meandering in this way, and that some of us would like to vote on this matter and to decide on that figure and would ask my right hon. Friend to give way to those of us who would like to see the original figure recommended in the Hunt Report replace the figure which has succeeded it?

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I accept those points. First, I agree that this is a serious Amendment and, secondly, that it is referable to the Hunt Committee's recommendation. So far, so good; my hon. Friend and I are ad idem. But we are not ad idem as to our reasons for supporting the Amendment. I support it—and I apprehend that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) supports it—on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread and that a force of 4,000 is less objectionable than one of 6,000, bearing in mind that it is based on a particular group of people who are bound to be regarded with suspicion by a large part of the community.

If my hon. Friends who are thinking in terms of selling this idea had given more thought to what was said at the Civil Rights meeting in Ulster they would have been less sanguine about this force being acceptable. I respect them for bringing forward their Amendment. Their figure is marginally more reasonable and sensible, in purely military terms, than the Government figure. I support the Amendment, because if I cannot get rid of the figure entirely and cannot prevent this force being introduced I shall do everything possible to whittle it down.

I think that it is in order for me to say that if one ever finds oneself in a position where military force has to be used, it is far better to use Regular forces, whether for garrisoning, guarding strategic points, or for active operations, because Regular forces have a much better tradition of discipline engrained in them, they are less likely to run amok, they are much more responsive to control and less likely to panic.

This has been borne out time and again in all kinds of situations in the last 20 years overseas, so I think that it would be far better for the Government to rely on using armed forces—if a situation arises when military forces of any kind have to be used—than to rely on these quasi-military forces, these peculiar hybrid forces. Short of that situation, it is far better to have ordinary civil police. I do not think that there can be any transitional state in between—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the path of the Amendment, which we must adhere to quite strictly, namely, that it be 4,000 men.

Photo of Mr John Lee Mr John Lee , Reading

I was just returning to the Amendment.

I support the Amendment. I wish that the Amendment had been cast in more drastic terms to cut the force by a very much larger amount so that it was a derisory figure. Since I cannot get that, I am prepared to support the Amendment on the basis that since 6,000 is obviously a concession of weakness on the part of the Government, and the figure of 4,000 is the one referred to in the Hunt recommendation, it would be far better to settle for the last of the two figures.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I want to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he said that the figure of 6,000 was based upon a military operational requirement. If I remember rightly, those were his exact words.

My hon. Friend went on to say that at the height of the disturbances in August there were 800 of the B Specials on duty per night, and that at present there were 500. That, in my figures, makes it 5,600 during the period of intense disturbance and 3,500 at present.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

No, I am not giving way. There have been far too many Members jumping up. I have sat here right through the whole of this debate and intervened only once, and, therefore, I am not giving way at the moment.

I want to develop the point about numbers. I understand that the whole argument of this Amendment is about the numbers of the force that is to be established. It seems to me rather important that we should get to this question of the numbers. Great play has been made here this evening by a number of hon. Members on the other side of the Committee that the Hunt Committee, in the early part of its report, stated that it did not have a great deal of time to go into all the details.

What actually happened was that the committee's first meeting was on 26th August, and it issued its report on 3rd October. The working party that we have been told about followed the actual publication of the committee's report, so the working party, therefore, must have met after 3rd October. The Bill was published on 12th November. Therefore, in view of the time factor, the argument that the working party examined the whole question in greater detail does not hold water.

There are 1½ million people in Northern Ireland. According to the Cameron Report, there are 8,285 B Specials. That is a high proportion of the total population. The Hunt Committee recommended that to replace the B Specials there should be a military force of about 4,000 and a reserve police force of 1,200. The total of 5,500 is still a considerable force and can be a very effective one.

The functions of the two forces were to change. The reserve police force was to take on the job of crowd control, policing spectators at football matches, and so on. The other force was to be concerned solely with the so-called defence problem. Defence against whom? Defence for what? Hon. Members from Northern Ireland tell us that there is a new type of Government there who are introducing various reforms. We have no confidence that the reforms will be implemented. If they are implemented, there is no reason for a defence force against the people of Northern Ireland or against the people of Southern Ireland.

Paragraph 27 of the Hunt Report says: Indeed, everyone hopes that the reforms already in hand and those still being planned will, by removing the causes of discontent, make it less likely that in the future extremists will be able to provoke disorder and so bring about the conditions in which terrorism can be effective. An essential part of the Committee's argument was that the reforms should eliminate the causes of discontent. If there were total reforms, giving the minority the kind of democratic rights that we have, there would be no need for such a force—

1.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

I know the hon. Member's point of view. He is like a dinosaur. When I hear it, it frightens me to death. The thinking of some hon. Members has never advanced and it never will.

Against whom will this be a "defence"? Would any hon. Member suggest that it is needed, with the reforms, as a defence against Southern Ireland?

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. We are discussing not the need for the defence force, but whether it should be more than 4,000 men. There has been a long discussion of this Amendment. The Chair has been very fair to everyone, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try to keep strictly to the terms of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

With due respect, Sir Robert, I am keeping to the Amendment. I am arguing that we do not need a force of more than 4,000, and that even that could be lower. The Amendment would not commit us to 4,000. I am asking, against whom should this "effective force" be effective? If there is no threat from Southern Ireland—and there is none—we do not need a force of 6,000. The figure of 4,000 did not just come out of the heads of the Hunt Committee, but was based on the facts of the situation. If my hon. Friend's figure of 500 a night is right, there would be 3.500 B Specials on duty, and that would allow for a wastage of 500. And that is in an abnormal situation, such as still exists in Northern Ireland.

I could not vote for a force of more than 4,000. I would, indeed, vote against the whole thing, because the logic of forces of this kind is that they lead to a backlash on the other side and vice versa. I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment. If not, I appeal to my hon. Friend. I take his point about steady recruitment instead of a big buildup. I hope that my hon. Friend will say that the figure will never reach anything like 6,000 and that it is much more likely to be about 4,000. If he gives that assurance, we shall not take the Amendment to a vote, but if he does not many of us will have to go into the Lobby against him.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I shall be brief at this hour. I rise to make only two points, both made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), and neither met in any of the other speeches. First, there was a declared intention that the B Specials will remain as an operational unit until another effective force has been created. I want a balanced force to be created in the Ulster Defence Regiment, but it seems to me that the opponents of the Measure have failed to appreciate the problem of time. Taking the population at the present level, a balanced force is about two-thirds of one section and one-third of the other section. The opponents of the Measure do not like the B Specials—

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

On a point of order. The next Amendment deals precisely with the question of a balanced force. This Amendment deals only with numbers.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I am waiting for the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) to come to the point of the Amendment. I know that he will not willingly stray out of order, but will keep strictly to the Amendment.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

You are right, Sir Robert. I will not stray out of order. I have said that I want a balanced force and, had I not been interrupted, I should have gone on to explain why I thought the size should be 6,000.

I believe that the G.O.C. Northern Ireland, who has gone into the matter in great detail, would probably accept as an interim measure that a force mostly of a selected segment from the B Specials, recruited into the new body up to perhaps 4,000, would be acceptable, if recruiting were going satisfactorily, would be the viable force to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. The Committee has lost sight of the fact that even if it consisted mostly of B Specials, the new Defence Regiment would come under military discipline and would largely be controlled by Regular Army officers, so that the atmosphere would be quite different.

If, in these circumstances, we are to have a balanced force, we must then have a much slower recruitment of the minority group, who I admit will not join in a great flood. I believe that we shall get a balanced force by building the number up to 6,000.

Much comment has been made about the Hunt Committee recommending a figure of 4,000. The committee was a civilian body which said that basically that was the sort of figure it had in mind. The problem was then handed over to the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and his military advisers and a committee of civil servants who, I presume, approached the situation in a totally different way.

Probably the Commanding General asked how many vulnerable points he has to guard in the Six Counties and then calculated the force he would need. In a volunteer force one cannot expect a man to give more than one night a week for such duty. His calculation, therefore, and that of his Civil Service advisers, was 6,000 men to carry out the task laid upon him by the Westminster Parliament, not the Stormont Parliament. I am not speaking as an expert, but I have had military experience and have commanded a civilian volunteer force of part-timers, and, therefore, I hope that the Committee will understand me when I say that one cannot expect people to give up more than one night a week to carry out this sort of task.

This is purely a matter of logistics. There is surely no need for the Committee to get so heated as it has done tonight. The working party had no axe to grind and advised the G.O.C. on military lines what he needed to carry out the task laid upon him by the United Kingdom. He and they felt that he needed 6,000 and not 4,000.

I support the recommendation for a force of 6,000, the more so since I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South that we shall thereby get a minimum viable force under the command of Regular officers much more quickly. When the B Specials are disbanded, there will still be a margin of under-recruitment in the regiment and then there will be the opportunity to build up recruitment and finish up with a balanced force.

I believe the supporters of the Amendment are wrongly advised and guided on these grounds. If the Amendment were carried, we should not get a balanced force and this Committee, in its unwisdom, would be felt by the military command to have failed to provide a force capable of carrying out the task. I shall have no difficulty in opposing the Amendment.

1.15 a.m.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

I support the Amendment. I make my position clear on this issue, as I have done before. I believe that the figure of 6,000 is too high. Nor do I see any justification for the force. It is not justified because the Government have failed to give good reasons for its creation.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. Before the hon. Lady gets too involved in an argument that will be out of order, I remind her that she must adhere strictly to the question whether or not this force should have a strength of 4,000. She cannot go into the merits of the general case, whether there should, in fact, be a force.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

With respect, Sir Robert, I was trying to illustrate why I think 6,000 too many. I am supporting an Amendment calling for 4,000, but I consider that too many as well. Since the Amendment calls for a maximum of 4,000, presumably it is in order to argue that there should be less than 4,000. My choice of number would be nil, because that would be in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. However, I accept that this force will exist whether I like it or not.

The Hunt Committee recommended a force of 4,000. The Government have decided to raise that figure to 6,000 I understand from the various statements from the Front Bench that the figure of 6,000 is a ceiling, but basically I am not interested in whether that figure is a minimum or a ceiling for some time in the future, or whether it will be recruited between now and April or between now and a year's time. The number of 6,000 requires justification.

It is not unknown or uncommon for a Government to deviate from the recommendation of an advisory committee which they themselves have set up, but it is common sense and common practice for such deviations to be explained in some detail. Normally, one would expect to be told and one would be told in what respects a recommendation conflicted with Government policy and why the Government remained unconvinced by a recommendation of an advisory body.

It must be remembered that this deviation is by no means minor. The Hunt Committee recommended 4,000 and the Ministry of Defence have seen fit to increase that figure by 50 per cent. No other Ministry could so blandly brush aside requests for an explanation of a 50 per cent, increase. If there were to be an increase of 50 per cent, in bank lending, in War Loan, or anything else, we would hear a lot about it in the House of Commons, but so far we have had no explanation of the abandonment of the Hunt figure.

On Second Reading, the Minister of Defence for Administration repeated again and again that the figure of 6,000 was an optimum figure, but he made no attempt to explain how it was reached. Again, I ask who decided on the figure of 6,000. We are told that it was the working party. That consisted of civil servants and soldiers. Although the Hunt Committee rightly complained about the shortage of time in which to report and said that its contacts were mainly the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it went on to say: Among our contacts outside the police force were the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, leaders of the Churches, the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney General, representatives of the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland, chairmen and secretaries of the local authority associations, Chairmen of County Councils, Resident Magistrates, the Chairman and General Manager of the Londonderry Development Commission, representatives of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, proprietors and editors of newspapers, repre- sentatives of the B.B.C. and Ulster Television, the Vice-Chancellors of both Universities and a number of other private citizens. That seems to have been a wide range of men and they were not all soldiers or civil servants. I do not think that one could get a wider panel or a more comprehensive list of Northern Ireland society. It would appear that having met all those people Lord Hunt still saw fit to say 4,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "About."] The hon. Gentleman will agree that "about" does not include an increase or decrease of 50 per cent. What a very big "about"!

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

My hon. Friend talks about the difference between the Hunt Committee and the Government working party. I think that the distinction to make is that it is obvious from what we have been told tonight that the Government working party consisted of members of the Northern Ireland Government as well as the British Government, and that is where the trouble lies.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I shall develop that line of argument shortly.

We are dealing for the most part with unknown factors. There is a great deal of dispute about who was on the working party. If it made an investigation and produced evidence that it was better that there be 6,000 as opposed to 4,000 why have we been listening to arrogant remarks from the Government Front Bench? Why have we not received the results of the investigation and the working party's conclusions? Why can we not be told who its members contacted and where they obtained their information? There is only one answer, and that is that the Ministry of Defence is not quite sure.

Northern Ireland is an area with a violent and bloody history, an area in which people on a number of occasions, the last only a few months ago, have shot each other with no good reason. Yet in that kind of environment, an area where violence lies always just below the surface, and where any section of the community can almost at will drag it to the surface, we propose to create an armed para-military force 6,000 strong, and with it we have a police force of at least 3,000 and a police reserve of 1,500. There is no military justification for such action.

Over a number of years successive Governments have produced legislation for Ireland, and have been repeatedly warned on its passing of the mistakes they were making. They have repeatedly refused to listen. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench are making yet one more mistake in passing this legislation for Ireland. If I accept, as I do, that they will do it anyway, I want to know why they are doing it in the face of the opposition. It comes not only from people like myself, who I am given to understand by hon. Members opposite may be treated as irrelevant, extreme, inexperienced and biased. Hon. Members are entitled to think what they like, but I do not stand alone, nor do my hon. Friends, in opposing the Measure.

There are representative bodies whose opinions should be consulted and whose opinions I do not believe have been consulted. There are people like the Civil Rights Association in the North of Ireland, which is much more representative of fair-minded people who want to see reforms than is the Ulster Unionist Party. The Civil Rights Association held a meeting only yesterday and opposed in total the passing of the Bill—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. That will not do at all. The hon. Lady must confine her remarks to the question of the 4,000 men. The passing of the Bill is absolutely out of order on the Amendment. I must ask the hon. Lady to listen very carefully to what I am saying. I am not just standing here for talking's sake. I expect her to obey the Chair.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

On a point of order. I am not sure whether you were in the Chair, Sir Robert, when we had the speech on the Amendment from the Government Front Bench in which my hon. Friend the Minister went very wide in discussing a whole series of reasons why he believed that the Bill set up a force that was different from the earlier B Special force. He listed a whole number of items. I have listened to the whole debate, and it seems to me that my hon. Friend, even if she strayed out of order for a moment, was far more in order than the Minister was. The debate having been widened so far, I hope that my hon. Friend will be permitted to proceed with her speech.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

The fact is that I am in the Chair now. I construe my duty to be to keep the Committee to the terms of the Amendment. What my predecessors in the Chair have done is no concern of mine. I know what the rules of order should be and that the hon. Lady—and, indeed, all right hon. and hon. Members—must keep to the terms of the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Michael McGuire Mr Michael McGuire , Ince

Further to the point of order. Are you aware, Sir Robert, that the back benchers—and I speak as one— are getting a little bit tired of the Chair constantly calling to order hon. Members on the back benches who appear to stray just a wee bit but allowing the greatest tolerance to Ministers to introduce into their arguments matters which certainly are irrelevant when we are discussing particular Amendments? If the Chair— this is a problem whoever is in the Chair—allows the greatest latitude to a Minister but is quick to jump on a back bencher, my view as a back bencher is that this is to be deplored.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I think that the Committee knows me well enough to know that I would, if necessary, jump on a Front Bencher, from either side, just as quickly as is necessary and as I would jump on a back bencher. I ask the Committee now to let the debate proceed. I am sure that I can rely on the good sense of the hon. Lady to keep strictly to the terms of the Amendment.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

Thank you, Sir Robert. I assure you that you can always rely on me to say what I was going to say anyway.

The Civil Rights Association met in Belfast yesterday and, by the implications of its much-publicised statement, made it perfectly clear that that body was totally opposed to the force containing 6,000 men. The People's Democracy—hon. Members opposite will say that it is a much less respectable body; they do not like it because it knows too much about democracy—a body representative of youth opinion in Northern Ireland, is totally opposed to the existence of the force of 6,000 men.

The Campaign for Democracy in Ulster, a body not only within the confines of Northern Ireland, but a body which is very strong in this country and has 100 members inside this Parliament, has also stated its total opposition to a force containing 6,000 men. Therefore, those widely representative bodies of people who demand civil rights and reform have called into question the passing of a Bill which would have 6,000 armed men in Ulster, and yet we are still given no justification why 6,000 armed men should be trained at the expense of the British taxpayer and sent into Northern Ireland.

I know that Ministers do not simply suck numbers out of the top of their thumbs. I am quite sure that the Minister got the number of 6,000 from somewhere, and I would like to point out where I think he got it from. Some hon. Members will be aware of the consternation caused in certain quarters in Northern Ireland on publication of the Hunt Report. In the days and weeks after its publication, the most right-wing members of the Unionist Party and the Orange Order stomped the country threatening to call forth fire and brimstone if the recommendations of the Hunt Report were implemented. Mr. William Craig, former Minister of Home Affairs, led the campaign.

1.30 a.m.

Those elements were very disturbed about the disbandment of the B Specials. They showed considerable consternation about the recommended number of 4,000 in the Hunt Report. It was obvious, and remains obvious, that more than 4,000 members of the Ulster Special Constabulary would wish to retain their arms. Once again, the Ulster Special Constabulary were being assured that the force would be of such strength as to accommodate all who wished to remain.

Hon. Members will be acquainted with the application form sent out to Specials before the debate on Second Reading, again indicating that 4,000 would not stand. The last sentence on the form reads: I wish to join the Ulster Defence Regt/ Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. (Delete as necessary)". By this the Specials were given to understand that there was enough room for all of them in one or other force. Six thousand and 1,500 makes 7,500. If we remove the B Specials who do not fit the physical or educational requirements, such as they are—

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

Given that there are very few educational requirements, under the Bill—

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

They are extremely ignorant.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

There would be very few. So one has 7,500 B Specials.

Why did the Government reject the Hunt recommendations? I still submit that this was done at the imperative instance of the Northern Ireland Government to make a body big enough to accommodate all the B Specials who wish to join. This Clause will go down in history as the "Save the Specials" Clause. It is significant to ask where we heard of 6,000 first. Where did we hear that the Hunt recommendation would not be implemented? Was it from members of the Government Front Bench? No.

Over a month ago, Mr. John Taylor, the well known right-winger of the Ulster Unionist Party—part and parcel of the Conservative Party—at a meeting in Rich Hill, County Armagh, said that the Hunt recommendations would not stand and that, apart from physical fitness and educational requirements, the B Specials could all get into the new force. This was long before the White Paper was published. It was backed up by people like Mr. William Craig and it was not contradicted by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland or any other person.

There is further evidence. Lieutenant-Colonel Miscimmon, Staff Officer of the Ulster Special Constabulary, said some weeks before the White Paper was published: We can expect to be invited to join these forces whilst serving in the Ulster Special Constabulary, which is to remain in being and quite unaffected until the Defence Force comes into existence. He went on: In practice, I assume it will work out this way: up to a date and hour still to be decided, we will continue to be members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. We will then, those of us who apply and are active enough, will move across without any delay into the new defence force. The fact that in the future for rôle and training purposes we will be two forces, not one, should not cause us to oppose change for the sake of it". That does not come from me—from my inexperienced, biased evidence—but from the written word of a moderate, beloved, well-respected, totally honourable member of the U.S.C. He, not I, believes that the U.S.C. will more or less "move across" and "without any delay", into the new force.

This is why, once again the Ulster Government are holding the Government in London to ransom, saying, "We want 6,000 men or we will open our cage and let our backlash out". The basis of the Bill is, "6,000 men or else". It is time for Her Majesty's Government to take a long, hard look at the Ulster Unionist Party and to distinguish the dog from the tail. They will discover that it is one big backlash and that it is a mistake to deal with any part of it.

I support the Amendment because 4,000 is better than 6,000. However, 6,000 is only bowing down to the dictates of a Fascist party. For me, 4,000 is 4,000 too many.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) again enchanted us with a torrent of bitterness, but we are accustomed to that. [Interruption.] The Committee gave the hon. Lady a fair hearing. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will extend the same courtesy to me.

The hon. Lady told us how the figure of 6,000 had been arrived at. The Minister pointed out that it was agreed by the joint working party, but presumably the hon. Lady will not accept that. She apparently believes that the working party of senior civil servants from Westminster and Stormont also military personnel were corrupted by the Unionist Party. I gather that that has been her view of the Stormont Government all along and that now she believes the same of the senior military personnel who were on the joint working party. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady gives the impression that it has all been a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. All the members of the working party were, she seems to allege, seduced by subtle Unionist politicians who transferred certain thoughts to their minds.

Hon. Members:

Rubbish.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

We must assume that that is what she is alleging. After all, she said that the figure was fixed. It can have been fixed only if she is alleging that all the civil servants and military personnel on the working party were joined in a giant conspiracy of fraud, and that is total nonsense.

The hon. Lady declared that no explanation had been given of why the Hunt Committee's figure of about 4,000 had been increased. Since she came into the Chamber half way through the Minister's speech, she could not have heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation, but she will be able to read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Minister gave a full and adequate explanation, to which I shall refer later. She also argued that no force was required because there was no threat. I would refer her to paragraph 27 of the Hunt Report—[Interruption.]

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

It does not help the debate when hon. Members make asides which are not formally acceded to by the speaker.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

The last sentence reads: Even so, it is necessary to consider the worst that might happen, so that proper precautions can be taken; and although the threat of terrorist attacks may not be great, the fear of them is very real, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken and are seen to be taken. I commend those words to the Committee.

Mr. Cathal Caulding who was to have shared the platform with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster at a conference in New York earlier this month of the National Association for Irish Justice, said this: When the people of Ireland are prepared, united and conditioned to the principles of national freedom, we, in the forefront, are prepared to lead them in the final struggle and, even if that struggle demands the use of arms, the I.R.A. shall not be found wanting. I will accept that there is a certain amount of bravado in that speech. I am not saying that we should take too seriously everything that is said by the I.R.A., but there is a potential threat, great or small, about which the people of Northern Ireland are rightly worried.

This debate on whether the figure should be 4,000 or 6,000 has been a better and more constructive debate than the debate on the name of the force. I have referred on several occasions to the views of Opposition Members of the Stormont Parliament, and, to put matters into perspective, I should say that they indicated that they were disturbed by the figure of 6,000.

The Hunt Committee's figure of 4,000 was a vague figure which was not intended to be taken as holy writ. The report suggests that about 4,000 should be sufficient. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) referred to the point made by Lord Hunt that his committee had had to work in a rush and that, therefore, there was to be a procedure for examining in detail the points which he was unable to go into, one of which is referred to in paragraph 171: the nature, establishment and all other conditions relating to it, including the timing of its formation, should be decided by Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland. Surely that exactly envisages the working party that was set up. Lord Hunt's words referred particularly to the "establishment", which means the size of the force, and this shows conclusively that Lord Hunt had not gone into the point in detail, that he had not had time to examine it and was asking for some other procedure to examine the exact requirement as to the number of men needed in the force.

1.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Since the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) raised the point, I have been considering it. He pointed out that paragraph 171(b) could be taken as qualifying what Lord Hunt had said in the previous paragraph about the figure of 4,000. But the word "establishment" has two meanings. It can be taken in the military sense of numbers of personnel on the strength, or it could mean, as I believe Lord Hunt indicated in the context, the establishment of a force in the sense of how it is to be established jointly by the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government at Westminster.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the early part of the report, where the word "establishment" is used in relation to the size of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is undoubtedly proven that the point Lord Hunt was making was that this was something properly to be considered by a joint working party. He was suggesting that about 4,000 would be sufficient, but he was leaving it open for further consideration.

How carefuly did Lord Hunt examine the matter of the size of the force? I take it that it was done only on a rule-of-thumb basis. Furthermore, how carefully did the people who gave evidence, oral and written, to Lord Hunt have time to go into the size of the force that was needed? It may well be that some of those who were in a position to give evidence, because of their having to rush the matter and their being faced with other major problems at that particular time may well have wished to change their view from their earlier position. We should not take the Hunt Committee figure as altogether sacrosanct.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

Although the hon. Gentleman seeks to demolish the figure of 4,000, not once has he or any of his hon. Friends yet given any evidence to show that the figure of 6,000, or the open-ended commitment in the Bill, is appropriate. Would he explain how he arrives at the figure of 6,000?

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

My hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) went into that matter in detail. The Under-Secretary of State told us that a joint working party went into it.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I cannot speak for the joint working party. The Minister can speak for himself when he comes to reply. He gave a fair indication as to the way in which the working party approached the subject. If he wants to give further details, I am sure that would be acceptable to the Committee.

Photo of Mr Robin Chichester-Clark Mr Robin Chichester-Clark , County Londonderry

Would my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) consider asking the Minister to tell us what we do not know, namely, exactly what the Hunt Committee recommended? Did it state a figure approaching 6,000, a round figure of 6,000, or slightly more, or slightly less?

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). I endorse what he said. In fact, I go further and say that I would welcome additional information from the Minister as to the joint working party. I have nothing to fear in the argument I am putting forward. This was an independent body which looked at the matter impartially at the highest level. If the Under-Secretary feels able to go further, I would welcome it.

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) say that he had no objection to the force. I wish to refer to what was said by the leader of the Civil Rights Movement at Stormont, John Hume. He has said that he and a number of his colleagues want the minority to play their rôle in this force. Even after the rather heated debates in the following week he said that that was still his attitude.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster has a different purpose. She does not believe that the force should exist. She has put that very clearly to the Committee. She feels that there is no threat and no need for the force. But I believe that she is going a bit further than this. She is deliberately trying to discourage Roman Catholic members of the minority from joining the force. She has also built up such an atmosphere of fear and suspicion about it that any Roman Catholic who joins will be called a "Castle Catholic" by her and her friends.

This is reinforced by the fact that when John Hume called on members of the Catholic faith to join the force, she called him a recruiting sergeant for the Army. This is—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the terms of the Amendment. I want to be extremely fair. I do not want either side to think that I am showing any favour to the other. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to the terms of the Amendment strictly.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

I am bringing my remarks to a close. I hope that members of the Labour Party who are interested in these matters and, from a different point of view, share concern about them, will realise that there are those who are deliberately trying to torpedo this force from the beginning. It would be utterly disastrous if this were to happen. I want the blinkers to be taken off so that all can see what is happening.

Several Hon. Members:

Several Hon. Members rose

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I want to ask a question.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. The hon. Gentleman has not given way and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) is not entitled to the Floor. Mr. Fitt.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

It will take me just a few minutes to support the Amendment, because I think that all hon. Members who have spoken have gone into it in great detail.

I have sat here into the early hours of the morning trying to gauge the atmosphere in which the debate is taking place. I can readily see why this country has made such mistakes in the past in its relations with Ireland and her affairs. It is obvious to me that the Government have made up their mind that they are not prepared to listen to reason. They have done a deal with the Northern Ireland Government over the 6,000, so the atmosphere in the Committee is completely divorced from the atmosphere in Northern Ireland. There could be real trouble in Northern Ireland over the formation and the constitution of this regiment.

We have been asked not to make inflammatory speeches. We have been asked not to say anything which may in any way exacerbate the tense situation in Northern Ireland. I remind the Government that there is a very tense situation in Northern Ireland, and that it has not been brought about—

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. I cannot help whether there is a tense situation in Northern Ireland. The question is whether or not this regiment should consist of 4,000 men.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

I am saying that this situation has not been brought about by anything which has been said. It was brought about when we heard that there were to be 6,000 ex-B Specials taken into the force without any opinion having been expressed. It is the question of the 6,000 which has brought about the tense situation, and that is what we are discussing.

There can be no doubt that there is serious opposition to the figure of 6,000. The Government have not succeeded in justifying this maximum figure. Why should there be a maximum figure? Why should they say 6,000? If there is to be serious political unrest next year or the year after, it may take 7,000 or even 8,000. Therefore, no Government in their senses will limit themselves to a maximum figure. If more personnel are needed to cope with a given situation, the British Army should be capable of handling it.

About two hours ago I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) trying to justify the minimum figure of 4,000. I think that he came out with the outlandish computation that there were 250 vital installations in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

That was not my computation. I merely said that the G.O.C. Northern Ireland had 250 points to guard on that night in November.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

I have lived for years in that little part of the United Kingdom, and I find it hard to visualise 250 vital installations. On the night in question 20 or 30 members of the Ulster Special Constabulary were guarding Paisley's home and his church. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman regard those as vital installations, or does he regard Paisleyas a vital installation? It all

depends on which side one is on in this argument.

This is a ridiculous figure. I object even to the figure of 4,000. I object to it on the ground of cost. I do not believe that the taxpayers of this country should be forced to bear this burden to keep a force of between 4,000 and 6,000 men in operation in Northern Ireland when it is unnecessary.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) quoted the Hunt Report and said that we do not really think that there will be any trouble, but the people think that there will be trouble and that, therefore, we must have these 6,000 men there. How silly can one get? If the military commanders, or the security commanders, do not believe that there will be any trouble, one does not create a force merely to please people who think that there might be trouble. There must be a real reason for keeping such a force in existence.

A great deal has been said tonight, but the Government remain completely unconvinced. I charge the Government with having done a deal with the Northern Ireland Government. They are not prepared to listen to reason. My hon. Friends have vehemently supported the arguments which have been put forward to show that a force of 6,000 men is unnecessary. If there is unrest about this maximum figure being put into operation, the blame for it will have to be borne by the guilty men on the Government Front Bench.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 25, Noes 114.

Division No. 22.]AYES[1.59 p.m.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Latham, ArthurNorwood, Christopher
Barnes, MichaelLee, John (Reading)Pavitt, Laurence
Bidwell, SydneyLubbock, EricPrice, Christopher (Perry Bar)
Brooks, EdwinMacDermot, NiallRyan, John
Devlin, Miss BernadetteMcGuire, MichaelSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)McNamara, J. Kevin
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mendelson, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heffer, Eric S.Mikardo, IanMr. Paul B. Rose and
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Miller, Dr. M. S.Mr. Stanley Orme.
Kerr, Russell (Feltham)Newens, Stan
NOES
Alldritt, WalterBoston, TerenceCarmichael, Neil
Anderson, DonaldBray, Dr. JeremyChichestsr-Clark, R.
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceBrown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Clark, Henry
Bagler, Gordon A. T.Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)Coleman, David
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodBuchan, NormanConcannon, J. D.
Blackburn, F.Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Currie, G. B. H.Huckfield, LesliePeart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dalyell, TomHughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Pentland, Norman
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Pounder, Rafton
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Richard, Ivor
Dell, EdmundJudd, FrankRodgers, William (Stockton)
Diamond, Rt. Hn, JohnLeadbitter, TedRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)Rowlands, E.
Ennals, DavidLestor, Miss JoanShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)Luard, EvanSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)MacColl, JamesSkeffington, Arthur
Fernyhough, E.McElhone, FrankSpeed, Keith
Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Mackie, JohnTaverne, Dick
Fowler, GerryMackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Fraser, John (Norwood)Mackie, JohnThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Freeson, ReginaldMcMaster, StanleyTinn, James
Glover, Sir DouglasMaginnis, John E,Urwin, T. W.
Golding, JohnMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Varley, Eric G.
Goodhart, PhilipMallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)Manuel, ArchieWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Marks, KennethWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)Mellish, Rt. Hn. RobertWallace, George
Hamling, WilliamMillan, BruceWellbeloved, James
Hannan, WilliamMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Whitaker, Ben
Harper, JosephMolloy, WilliamWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hattersley, RoyMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Healey, Rt. Hn. DenisMorris, John (Aberavon)Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hooley, FrankMulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMurray, AlbertTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Mr. R. F. H. Dobson and
Howie, W.Oswald, ThomasMr. Ernest Armstrong.
Hoy, Rt. Hn. JamesPalmer, Arthur

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 10, at end insert— Provided that the composition of the force reflects a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discussed Amendment No, 5, in page 2, line 13, at end insert— Provided that any person wishing to enlist shall not be debarred either on grounds of religious or political opinions. New Clause 4—Recruitment:

  1. (1) The Secretary of State for Defence shall establish a recruitment panel to apply the enrolment criteria set out in this Act, and any orders made out thereunder, and to ensure that members of the force are not recruited in a discriminatory manner.
  2. (2) The Secretary of State for Defence shall stipulate by order minimum educational standards in entrants to the force and shall impose standards of physical and mental fitness.
  3. (3) All applicants for positions in the force shall sign a statutory declaration that they are not and have not been members of the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, or any associated or similar clandestine organisation.
New Clause 15—Recruitment Panel: The Secretary of State for Defence shall establish a recruitment panel to apply the enrollment criteria set out in this Act, and any orders made out thereunder, and to ensure that members of the force are not recruited in a discriminatory manner. New Clause 16—Entrance qualifications: The Secretary of State for Defence shall stipulate by order minimum educational standards for entrants to the force and shall impose standards of physical and mental fitness. and New Clause 17—Statutory declaration: All applicants for positions in the force shall sign a statutory declaration that they are not and have not been members of the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, or any associated or similar clandestine organisation.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I have sat here for seven hours and have not made a speech, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) for allowing me to move what I consider to be a particularly important Amendment dealing with the composition of the new force.

The requirement that the composition of the force shall reflect a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland is, to my mind, quite fundamental to its acceptance by that section of the community which hitherto has been kept out of any influence or authority.

We are dealing here with a situation where there has been virtually a one-party State since the inception of Northern Ireland, and in which even now the majority party, together with the even more right-wing section, have 39 out of 52 seats in Stormont. The problem for my right hon. Friend is not to placate the Lardner Burkes of Northern Ireland, but rather to calm the very justified fears of the minority who have been oppressed for 50 years. That is not to say that one has not the equally important task of ensuring that the majority community will not be coerced into a union they do not want to join.

Every party in the Dail—and I was present at the debate there recently—which has a long-term aim of a united Ireland was united on the assumption that this could never be done by force or coercion, so there is only an argument for a small, non-sectarian force which would deal with those extremist sections of the community who would shed blood rather than let the fractured bone of Northern Ireland heal. It must be a non-sectarian force; it must not be a reconstitution of the B Specials under another name, a fear which has been expressed many times in this debate. It is vital, for example, that the battalion commanders of the new regiment are not the county members of the notorious B Specials.

Hon. Members opposite will say—rightly so—that many members of the B Specials are brave and honourable men who did their duty as they saw it. However, they are a relic of the past, just as the Black and Tans are a relic of the past, just as the Peep o' Day Boys are a relic of the past, and just as the Invincibles and the Molly Maguires are relics of the past. They have no relevance to an enlightened seventh decade of the 20th century.

During the debate on the Police Bill I referred to a statement by the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill, who said: Information which has come to hand … makes it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens is threatened by a very dangerous conspiracy, prepared at any time to use murder as a weapoin. He referred to a sordid conspiracy of criminals ready to take up arms against unprotected fellow citizens. It is because there are such people—Captain O'Neill was referring to the Ulster Volunteer Force—that I differ from the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and believe that there is an argument in favour of a force such as this in Northern Ireland.

The Minister has shrugged off all the warnings we have given him tonight, just as successive Ministers shrugged off warnings during the past five years when some of my hon. Friend's consistently warned them of the situation which was developing in Northern Ireland. If there is any blame to be attached for this, apart from that attaching to the Government of Northern Ireland, it should be laid at the door of the Government Front Bench who, in their obtuseness and arrogance, year after year refused to listen to and heed what we said.

I have great respect for my hon. Friend the Minister. If he compares what we wrote on 27th April, 1967, and then reads the Cameron Report, he will find that what we wrote on 27th April, 1967, to the then Home Secretary was virtually a condensed version of the Cameron report which had to be produced some years later. Let nobody laugh about the warnings given by hon. Members on this side and by one or two members of the Liberal Party about a situation which developed just as we forecast it would. We have a right to a hearing tonight.

The Government might also have heeded some words which were written long before that. We know a great deal about Irish history, which goes back a long time. One hundred and fifty years ago something was written which is just as appropriate tonight as it was then. Writing in 1807, Sidney Smith said: I admit that to a certain degree the Government will lose the affection of the Orangemen … but you must perceive that it is better to have four friends and one enemy than four enemies and one friend; and the more violent the hatred of the Orangemen the more certain the reconciliation of the Catholics. The disaffection of the Orangemen will be the Irish rainbow: when I see it I shall know the storm is over. When I see the disaffection of Mr. Craig and Mr. Paisley, I shall know that the storm is over. I greatly fear that what is intended here is to placate Mr. Paisley and Mr. Craig rather than to bring them out into the open and deal with them in the way in which they should be dealt with.

I want clearly to distinguish between what I call Orangemen and ordinary decent Protestant members the community, many of whom have given the greatest leadership to movements for freedom in Ireland. I was delighted to receive a letter the other day congratulating me on what the writer calls your fight for the intimidated decent Protestant Labour supporters and Socialists in Ireland. People like Mr. Norman Porter, the former Independent Member of Parliament for Clifton, have openly said that priority in jobs should go to Orangemen. Mr. Kilfedder, who sat in this House of Commons years ago and who is now a parliamentary candidate for the Unionist Party and, therefore, for the Conservative Party, was responsible for a leaflet which said: Do you want Roman Catholics in your street? 2.15 a.m.

I want to know, "Do you want Roman Catholics in your Ulster Defence Regiment?". I do; and in this, I differ from one or two of my hon. Friends. For years we have been alerting the Government to the imbalance in community relations in Northern Ireland. Some of us have published documents like "The Plain Truth" and "Fermanagh Facts", about the situation in Newry, Dungannon and Cookstown. What was worse was that blatant official discrimination, not only against Roman Catholics but against Labour Party members and trade unionists.

We must make it clear to Mr. Craig and his ilk that we do not accept what he says, that it would be wrong to think that anyone could legislate over the heads of that democratically elected Parliament of Northern Ireland. This is constitutionally, practically and morally wrong. Just as we sent troops over the heads of that Government, I believe that we have the right to pass this legislation, with severe Amendments. The troops were acceptable in the situation in Northern Ireland, except to a small group of people. Who were they? Not those who were waving the tricolour, but the fanatics of Shankill Road, who pumped bullets into British soldiers while waving Union Jacks. Those soldiers were acceptable because they were imported from Britain and were an integrated force. If 40 per cent, of the Irish Fusiliers can be Roman Catholics, why not 40 per cent, of the new force?

The minority population, who were the majority in Derry, cheered when British soldiers were rightly sent by this Government to that city. As I have said before, I believe that that area would have been burned to the ground if British soldiers had not intervened then. Therefore, an even more fundamental point than numbers or names is that this force must not be a repetition of the B Specials. This is why I am asking the Committee to support the Amendment—to say that we will not have another Ulster Volunteer Force or the B Specials in a different guise. We all know their origins in the 'twenties, and the number of Catholics who died at the hands of the Ulster Volunteer Force during those years. We know how the Catholics were forced off the dockside in Belfast by revolvers, and we know the source from which those guns came.

This is why this force is feared and detested in Northern Ireland. We all know what happened at Burntollet last year, that many members of the B Specials participated in what might have been a pogrom. These men must not be allowed in what must be a balanced force. If my right hon. Friend can give an assurance that those who transgressed on those occasions will not be allowed in this new force, it will relieve me of the obligation of pressing new Clause 1.

One reason that I am concerned is that a B Special officer was recently quoted as saying: Seventy-five per cent, of my men would never hand in their arms while the Constitution is in danger, and would fight the British Army if they had to. Is this why, tonight, we face the prospect of this new force of 6,000 men? If it is, I must demand that there be a safeguard, so that never again can there be a Curragh incident or threats of U.D.I, of the type that we have had from Mr. Craig.

What concerns me tonight—this is the underlying malaise of our long debate—is a report in The Guardian, following the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which read: Mr. Roy Hattersley, the Minister of Defence for Administration, last night defended the Government's decision to form the new Ulster Defence Regiment in place of the notorious B Specials on the ground that any other course might have driven the force's predominantly Protestant members"— one might have said, "entirely Protestant members"— underground with their weapons. 'I am walking a tightrope', he said, 'but the Government is keeping well in balance in the centre. The question was asked earlier: where was this agreement made? It seems to me that it was made on a tightrope and that the Government have yielded quite unnecessarily to the Stormont Government. They have yielded in so many ways that I wonder whether they are to yield on the composition of the force. But my hon. Friend said something more hopeful, from which I draw comfort. He said that Great care would be taken to see that recruits were drawn from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. He made no apologies to Miss Bernadette Devlin's protests about the new force; he still wanted her to see that some of her supporters joined the regiment. I welcome at least that section of the Minister's speech because, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster, if we have to have the force, I want to see large numbers from the minority community, large numbers of the underprivileged and of those who have been kept unemployed in Derry and Newry, large numbers who have never been able to participate in a force of this kind or in public life, joining this force. I believe in a smaller force, but I appeal to members of the minority community to join and to try to produce a decent, sane, tolerant and generous society in which the dissensions of the past can be forgotten.

I am not arrogant enough to suggest to the people of Northern Ireland that we in this House should decide their constitutional future for them. I have always made my position clear: it is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom or to become part of the Republic of Ireland. But as long as this Parliament has sovereignty over part of the geographical entity which is known as Ireland, we must be particularly careful and generous in our treatment of the less privileged and we must create a balanced community.

If, therefore, we are to have a military force, the correct balance in that force is an essential prerequisite. Even if we have the reforms for which many of us have fought for years—and let us not forget that the struggle began much longer than five years ago—it is not enough to achieve civil rights in other fields. There must also be equality in this force—and not merely equality on the ground, but equality through all the ranks and particularly in the senior ranks of the force.

If that is my right hon. Friend's intention, then I hope that the minority community will respond. If my hon. Friend can give an assurance that this is no shabby deal to placate the orange at the expense of the green, but rather a force which will unite orange and green and which will help to bring to Northern Ireland the liberties which we possess on this side of the Irish Sea but which they have not possessed for 50 years in Northern Ireland, I shall feel happier. If some of my hon. Friends have been disturbed tonight, it is because we feel that a deal has been done with people who, on their record, cannot be trusted to carry out their side of the bargain. If my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster is more suspicious than I am, I understand that. If she feels, as she said on television, that she could not act as a recruiting sergeant and could not advise anyone to join the force, I understand that, because of all that has happened in the past weeks and because of what she was able to expose about the recruiting for the B Specials. I would rather, in a positive spirit, say, "This has happened, but it is now past".

If my hon. Friend the Minister could assure us that there will only be a force if that force is an integrated body, balancing the communities reasonably, then those of us concerned with good community relations should join with people like Mr. Hume and appeal for support from all sections of the community in forming such a force. I believe that would be the first step to the elimination of the need for the force.

As soon as the injustices have gone, as soon as a balanced force exists, I believe that it will be seen not to be needed, except perhaps to deal with Orange extremists. I believe that it would wither away. There is no threat from south of the border; the only threat is a backlash from the North. The creation of a balanced community in Northern Ireland will eventually eliminate the need for a force such as this.

I see no reason why the Government cannot make one gesture now towards members of their own party who have been appealing to them for some gesture. I see no reason why the Government should not concede that this Amendment is within the ambit of the Bill and accept it in the spirit in which it is moved.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

Perhaps I can help the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and his hon. Friends. I recognise the difference of attitude between him and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), although it is perhaps odd to see her name to an Amendment which calls for the force to reflect a proper balance of the communities. I believe that by that she really means O-O.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

I understand the object which the hon. Member for Blackley has in mind. It is one all of us have—that the regiment shall reflect the general membership of the community. We wish to see those who, in the past, for various reasons, have boycotted and refused to join the U.S.C., but who are willing to undertake a task for the security of the country, joining the new regiment. In so far as the spirit of the Amendment is concerned, therefore, my hon. Friends and I would be very willing to accept it. I do not know what technical arguments may be involved; that is a matter for the Minister.

There is only one proviso to be borne in mind. It concerns the timing of the coming into operation of the new regiment. If the hon. Lady had her way and succeeded in persuading the whole of the Roman Catholic community to boycott the new regiment one could not write into the Bill a provision which would prevent the new regiment from coming into being at all. One could not say that one section of the community should have an absolute veto upon the defence and security of the community.

But, subject to that very important consideration, my hon. Friends and I would accept the spirit of what I believe to be the hon. Gentleman's intention.

2.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has asked me to apologise for his absence. He is unwell, but he continues his great interest in the Bill and wants it to be known that he would have been glad to be here and to take part in the debate. Amendment No. 3 contains the principles which those of us who suggested Amendment No. 5 had in mind.

One of the things in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, and why he took some initiative in suggesting Amendment No. 5, was political opinion. On a number of occasions, he has said to me and to others interested in this legislation that what he had in mind—he made a somewhat similar point on Second Reading—was that if someone in Northern Ireland believed as his profound conviction that there should ultimately be one united Ireland, and was on record as holding that opinion, he should not be excluded because of that political belief from volunteering for the force if he wished to do so. That is one of the points my right hon. Friend wished me to put forward.

Amendment No. 3 is particularly important. In Northern Ireland, during the last 40 years, there have been many instances when there has not been a balanced composition in the public service. I will give two examples which were brought to my notice when I was in Northern Ireland with a group of colleagues shortly after the incidents which led to the later developments. It was brought to my notice that in the placing section of the employment exchange in Belfast, the section responsible for allocating jobs to people and suggesting to them where they should go to find a job, until about five months ago there had not been one person from the religious minority in Northern Ireland on the staff for 23 years.

The second example concerns my interview with Commander Anderson, one of the Unionist Members at Stormont, when we visited Derry. He admitted that there was not a single member of the religious minority on the professional staff of the Derry City Council, and added that it had only one application from that minority in 9½ years for the post of deputy head of the educational services, and that applicant had not been appointed.

Therefore, this is a practical Amendment, not put down for propagandist purposes, and one that I very much hope that the Government will accept. They have moved in the direction of the Amendment in all their public pronouncements. We have now heard from an hon. and gallant Member opposite, and I believe that he said he was speaking for some of his colleagues as well, that it would be acceptable to him. It will be up to the Government and not the Opposition to implement the Amendment if they accept it.

But I must take issue with the hon. and gallant Gentleman on one point, and this is one of the reasons why I wished to interrupt one of his hon. Friends at the end of the last debate. It is illegitimate, when the House of Commons, either in Committee or as a House, is passing legislation and asking the Government to accept an important Amendment, to refer to an individual hon. Member and make acceptance of the Amendment dependent on what that hon. Member might or might not say. That is a wholly unreasonable way to proceed, and it is wholly propagandist. Obviously, it is not serious.

There can be no serious argument that if one hon. Member succeeds in her propaganda one cannot ask the Government to accept the Amendment and have a balanced force. We are talking about the way in which the G.O.C. and Secretary of State for Defence, under the scrutiny of this House, will build up the force. That is not dependent on expressions of view by one hon. Member on either side.

The Government should say in accepting the Amendment, first, that they accept its principles, and, secondly, that they are convinced that it is workable, because if they are not all their previous declarations and the policy behind their purpose in asking the House and Committee to accept the Bill would fall to the ground. The Government must be convinced that it is possible to have a properly balanced force. Otherwise, on their own declaration, they could not embark on this enterprise. Thirdly, they should say that they will not hurry with the building up of the force, that they will adopt a policy of phasing in, so that the principle of its being a balanced force takes precedence over any intended big build-up.

Here, I have only one comment to add to what has been said in previous debates, but it is equally relevant here, as to the expectations of the members of the B Specials that there will be a wholesale transfer into the new force. The political difficulties facing the Government at Stormont on this point are very great. I understand them and do not underestimate them. In view of the things they have done—the application forms they have wrongly sent out, the speeches they have made—those difficulties are very great. But it is no part of the business of the Government at Westminster, because of the difficulties facing Major Chichester-Clark and his colleagues, to abandon the major principles on what the legislation should be based. There should be—and I am not referring to nebulous agreements—some plain speaking on behalf of the Government here and the majority view in this House to the Government at Stormont. I do not joint the expressions of opinion that we have on our Front Bench a group who might be guilty men if, as a result of the wrong policy, this does not work as the Government would wish it to work. I am much more concerned not with future guilt, but with present action that will lead to the desired result.

I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to say to the Committee that there is no need to be so secretive about that. One way of dispelling some of the allegations which have been made would be for my hon. Friend to take the Committee to some extent into his confidence concerning the discussions with the Government at Stormont, to say clearly that the Government stand by the principle involved in the Amendment and that they will be speaking frankly, as I am sure they have had to do on a number of occasions in the recent past, to the Government at Stormont to ensure that the principle involved in the Amendment becomes the overriding consideration in building up the force.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

One of the notable features of this evening's discussions has been that as the hour has drawn later, so emotion has tended to lessen and logic and reasoned argument have increased. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not mean that offensively. I think that the debate on this Amendment has been, without doubt, the most cogently argued case yet presented in this Committee stage. That is a personal view.

Certainly, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) I do not cavil at the spirit of Amendment No. 3 or Amendment No. 5. What I am slightly concerned about is whether it is practical to write into legislation either of those Amendments, because repeatedly the Government Front Bench spokesmen have said categorically what their intentions are: that they are determined—and I think that all my colleagues from Northern Ireland would go along with the Government's desire—to secure a balanced force. I would have thought that the Army screening procedure which has been referred to several times from the Treasury Bench more than adequately covers the sort of situation which is envisaged by Amendments Nos. 3 and 5.

I was, however, somewhat interested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) when he talked about a proper balance of 45 per cent.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I referred to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who had said that in the Irish Fusiliers there were 45 per cent. I threw out 40 per cent, as a possible figure with regard to a balance.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I had assumed that one would have talked roughly of a two-thirds-one-third breakdown.

I would find it somewhat disturbing if the following eventuality were to develop. Earlier this evening, the Government spokesman told us that they were prepared, to secure a balance, to have a slower rate of recruitment than might otherwise happen to meet, say, a deadline of 1st April. I do not wish to make any more selective quotations from history and thereby follow some of the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite, because charge and countercharge is a wholly sterile operation, but the history of the last half century, particularly the 1920s, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary was being set up, shows that there was a disinclination by the minority to take up the places which had been reserve for them in that force, namely, the one-third.

One was then confronted with a situation that either one had a weaker force than was required for Northern Ireland or, alternatively, one had to make up the shortfall by any applicants who were prepared to come forward. Let us hope that a similar situation will not arise with the proposed Ulster Defence Regiment. I would be interested to know what would be the Treasury's thinking in the hypothetical situation which I have mentioned.

As I have said, I sincerely hope that circumstances will not require anyone to give thought to such a procedure, but when we are talking, as we have been doing all evening, about the new regiment, one has to think of possible eventualities, and this is certainly one in which we would be deluding ourselves if we ignored it completely. If there is a serious shortfall in the balance which both sides of the Committee earnestly seek, it augurs very ill indeed for the improvement in relations which we all seek.

2.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

This point is crucial to the argument. This force will be an arm of the British Army. We have been told that the British Army today consists of about 40 per cent. Roman Catholics. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Anyway there is a larger proportion than there is in the population as a whole. No one worries about this, because religion is not taken into account. It would be absolutely untenable for a force to be created in Northern Ireland which, once again, reflected the B Specials who had been disbanded. If the hon. Member is posing the same question as was posed by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), he should know that we cannot start on the basis of the B Specials.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

I am not necessarily following any argument which may have been advanced earlier. I accept, of course, that the new regiment will be an arm of the British Army, but it will have a slight difference because it will be a predominantly home force. Unlike the T.A., it will not have a N.A.T.O. commitment. There are differences—administrative differences. It is important that we have not to envisage 100 per cent., 99 per cent., or 98 per cent, coming from one religious denomination, but to try in a balanced force to secure proportions similar to those in the population as a whole. That and no more is the argument I seek to advance.

I thought the hon. Member for Blackley was falling into an error when he sought to confuse internal and external problems of Northern Ireland. This has been a recurring feature of our discussion tonight. It is all very well to talk about what will happen when from time to time Northern Ireland has certain problems, but this regiment will be dealing with external possibilities. It would be a great mistake to argue that when internal problems have been resolved this force will become unnecessary. It will be geared to external possibilities.

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

I tried to say that if Northern Ireland's internal problems were solved, there would not be people outside Northern Ireland who would want to make incursions into Northern Ireland because social justice would be prevailing there as it has not done during the period of Unionist rule.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

The hon. Member is confusing two issues. There is a group of people—its numbers are perhaps uncertain—which still have territorial interests there and this cannot be overlooked. This is the purpose of the regiment. I think the hon. Member is being a little disingenuous in following that line.

Photo of Mr Arthur Newens Mr Arthur Newens , Epping

Is the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) saying that this regiment is designed purely to face a Catholic threat from the South and that it will not be concerned with controlling the other section in the community in Northern Ireland as well? If I followed his argument against that of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) correctly, he suggested that the only thing the force will be concerned about will be external security, by which he means that it will be directed entirely to the South. If that is the sort of force he proposes, how does he expect the Catholic part of the community in Northern Ireland to be willing to join it?

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

It is clear that I have allowed myself to fall victim to the hour. If I did not make myself clear, I will be more precise.

As I understand the function of the regiment, it will be guarding, for example, communications. That will be one of its internal rôles. It will also be guarding, for example, the border, and that will be one of its external rôles. If I have overemphasised the external angle, I apologise, for there is also an internal one. However, once the internal problems have been eliminated, external problems will remain. At present, there are internal and external problems, but as the situation changes, so the emphasis should change between the internal and external rôles.

I hope, therefore, that the balance which hon. Members on both sides seek for the new force can be achieved.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) pointed out that the debate on this Amendment had been cooler and more cogent than earlier debates. I hope not to interrupt that happy illusion under which he has been living.

While I do not want to raise the temperature, I suggest that a possible explanation why the hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) are ready to show good will towards the Amendment is because they consider that it cannot be translated into legislative form. Because hon. Gentlemen opposite expect the Government to express platitudes about the difficulty of accepting a proposal of this kind, they are willing to show good will towards it. But they are not giving anything away.

While not wishing to be critical of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), since the discussion of the Amendment serves a useful purpose, he must be aware that the proposition "we want a good, balanced force" will be accepted in every quarter of the Committee. No hon. Member—I can say this freely in the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham)—would say, "I want an unbalanced force".

It is worth remembering that in Northern Ireland a prominent part of the disease—not just the current one; there is a history of this—has been a hatred of the B Specials because it was, and still is, a 100 per cent, sectarian force. That is part of the disease which we must cure.

My inhibitions about supporting the Government even on this part of the Bill are because I do not believe that we are taking sufficient steps to cure the disease. A whole series of Amendments has been put forward to persuade the Government to achieve the end of abolishing the sectarian force, but nothing I have heard from the Government has convinced me that that will occur. It would be a disaster if at the end we still had a 100 per cent, sectarian force, and this could well happen even with all the safeguards that have been incorporated in the Bill.

Even with the G.O.C. in this country being in command, and all the other provisions which are supposed to safeguard the new force from the old B Specials, it is still possible and likely that the outcome will be a 100 per cent, sectarian force, or an overwhelmingly sectarian force.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that is defeatist, but he also tried to present in advance an excuse, if this should happen, directed against my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). The main part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument was that my hon. Friend in one breath says that she has no influence and the next moment she is dictating what force it is to be, and a word from her will be sufficient to exclude all Catholics entering the force. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument was that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster is sabotaging the possibility of making the new force non-sectarian.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is already attempting to qualify his extravagant remarks, but there is a graver charge. If he is really opposed to a sectarian force, as he pretends, it is not a question of attempting to sabotage. Some people in Northern Ireland are already succeeding in sabotaging.

No answer has been given to the letter from a B Specials staff officer, which was read by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and which said that those who apply and are active enough will move across without any delay into the new defence force, with the words "without any delay" underlined. That is the letter which has been sent to all B Specials from headquarters. That is certainly sabotage of a non-sectarian force because that is a statement made on behalf of one of the officers in the force, saying "If you all move in fast enough, I give you the assurance that you will all be taken into the new force."

3.0 a.m.

We are now told that everybody wants a balanced force. At the same time, those who hold official positions in the existing B Special force have sent out a letter to all B Specials saying that they will all be able to get into the new force. Instead of wasting their breath in accusing my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster of attempting sabotage, if hon. Gentlemen opposite want a non sectarian force they should deal with the people who are actually engaged in sabotage.

Everybody acknowledged the powerful speech made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration. The most impressive and acceptable part of it was that in which he gave the assurance that if it was a choice between filling up the numbers or securing a balanced force all his preference would go to ensuring that we got the balanced force first. It is all very well to say that to the House on Second Reading, since in this place we are all so agreeable to one another, but why does he not say it to the B Specials? Why does he not say it to the Government at Stormont?

I ask my hon. Friend—and I hope that on this matter at least we shall have a simple "Yes"—was the sentence in his speech about the preference for a balanced force in fixing the numbers part of the deal with the Stormont Government, about which he boasts so much on other occasions and which his hon. Friends have mentioned. Was that part of the agreement? We understand that there was a rough-and-ready agreement about the name of the force, and that there has been an understanding between them about the numbers. But I want a clear undertaking that in that document, if there is such a document, the matter of giving preference to a balanced force was included as part of the agreement with the Stormont Government. I hope that the answer is a simple "Yes".

If it was not included in the agreement with Stormont it is a fraud on this House. It would be a sad state of affairs, because Stormont would have been deceived. That part of his speech which comprised an undertaking essentially in those terms was agreed with the Stormont Government, and it is as much understood in Stormont as it was by those who will be giving directions to the G.O.C.

The second of my questions is more important because we want the people of Northern Ireland to know about this matter. The people who have to be persuaded to accept a balanced force are not primarily hon. Members in this House, but the people who will form the force in Northern Ireland. Since a letter has been sent out by the B Special officials in Northern Ireland, let another letter be sent out to all B Specials by the Ministry of Defence in this country. Let it be signed by the Defence Minister, who is responsible for the new force, telling them the truth about the new force. They have already been told lies about the force. Why should they not be told the truth?

That is a perfectly proper request. I ask the Government to give the assurance that a letter, signed by the Minister of Defence, will be sent out making clear to all B Specials that the new force will be properly balanced and that the Government will not fill up the figure of 6,000 with all the old B Specials because they have to make the force balanced. If they are not prepared to send out a letter of that kind, then they will be deceiving not merely the House of Commons but the people in Northern Ireland as well. I am making a perfectly reasonable request to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr John Maginnis Mr John Maginnis , County Armagh

If the hon. Gentleman looks in paragraph 10 of the White Paper, Command 4188, he will get his answer.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I have paragraph 10 here, but it is improbable that I shall find the answer there. "Lord Hunt's Committee recommended"—we know that that is not a very powerful recommendation, because half of Lord Hunt's recommendations have gone out of the window. But I should not interrupt myself. Lord Hunt's Committee recommended that this new force should provide full opportunity for all citizens of Northern Ireland to serve the community as a whole. To this end, enrolment will be open to all male citizens of good character of the United Kingdom and Colonies, normally resident in Northern Ireland, whatever their denomination. All applications will be considered centrally by Headquarters, Northern Ireland, which will be the final authority for acceptance of recruits after strict security vetting. Like all entrants to the Army, recruits will be required to take the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. The hon. Gentleman has not followed the point. I understood that the Government, and even Stormont, have agreed that they should say to the people of Northern Ireland that people of all denominations would be entitled to join the force. But that is not what we are arguing about. The Minister of State is committed to the proposition that he will hold back the entrance of old B Specials, the sectarian B Specials, into the force to ensure that there is a full opportunity for others to come in. To do that he has to repudiate the statement that has been sent out to all the B Specials that they can transfer en masse into the new force.

Photo of Mr John Maginnis Mr John Maginnis , County Armagh

The hon. Gentleman must understand that the present B Specials are still in operation.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I understand it all too well.

Photo of Mr John Maginnis Mr John Maginnis , County Armagh

And that if any member of the B Specials, who is acceptable, joins the new force he will immediately transfer from the old to the new force.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

The hon. Gentleman must not come to the assistance of the Front Bench. They do not welcome it, because the Minister of State has made a proposition which would conflict with what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is describing what has happened and been promised to them. What has been promised is that all of them—not the cripples, of course—will be able to get into the new force. That is what they have been sold in Ireland, but that is not what the Government are selling to us. We welcome the hon. Gentleman's bluff honesty. We had all these smooth utterances from these sophisticated people from Northern Ireland before the hon. Gentleman came and "spilled the beans".

Photo of Mr John Maginnis Mr John Maginnis , County Armagh

The hon. Gentleman must realise that I am the only man in the House of Commons with any experience of these matters.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's "maiden" speech on these matters and look forward to hearing him on future occasions. His intervention has been of great assistance. However, I am serious in my demand that the Government must take steps to correct this absolutely false impression compared with their undertakings to the B Specials. If they do not take them, they will have no chance of building up any such balanced force. If the Government have already made these matters clear in letters to the B Specials—and I do not mean only in general undertakings—let us be told in what terms they have been clear.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will agree with me when I say that with the best will in the world it will be extremely difficult to build a balanced force. Even with the efforts of the Government, united with the efforts of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and with the assistance of the Government at Stormont—though many of us are not convinced that the Stormont Government want a balanced force in this form—we think that it will be very difficult. It will be difficult because of the reputation of the B Specials, and because of some of the other provisions which still hem round this proposal.

That is why some of us have been arguing all night to try to get the Government to understand that if they are to get this new force off to a new start it has to be named differently, it has to be organised differently, and that it cannot be arranged and fixed on a basis which defies many of the recommendations made by the Hunt Committee precisely for this purpose.

It is not only that the Government have abandoned in the Bill some of the essential recommendations of the Hunt Committee. They are also abandoning the spirit of that committee's recommendations for a balanced force. The conclusion in the first section of the Hunt Report is that the great danger of violence in Northern Ireland arises not so much from terrorist acts at all. The Hunt Committee does not dismiss them altogether, but it puts them in the background. The great danger is the recrudescence of sectarian strife. That is why we on this side of the Committee argue, and we are united in this, that if the Government go ahead and re-create a new sectarian force, particularly if they are pretending that they are doing something different, they will only feed that sectarian strife. But, more than that, they will be putting the faggots on the bonfire. They will not be solving the problem.

This is the gulf between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite. However much they talk about a balanced force, they want to deal with what they describe as terrorist acts. They are a legacy of the I.R.A. They talk about people not thinking about the past. They think that the I.R.A. and terrorist threats are the real dangers with which they have to deal. That is the argument on which the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South bases his stories of people having to watch all these installations all the time. That is why he says that the force in Northern Ireland must be different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what he thinks the danger is in Northern Ireland, but that is all out of date. The Cameron Commission and the Hunt Committee came to a different conclusion. They concluded that the danger in Northern Ireland derives from the whole system, which breeds sectarian strife. That is the root evil on which they live, and which we have to root out.

I shall vote for the Amendments if they are pressed to a Division, but I do not believe that they will make any major difference. The Government must carry through a whole series of other alterations to the Bill, which they have so far shown no sign of doing. And, even if they accept the Amendment, or the spirit of it, they must translate that into practical action in Northern Ireland. They must make sure immediately that every B Special understands the undertakings which the Minister has given to this Committee.

3.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is as articulate and persuasive as ever in his argument. Unfortunately, he seems to contradict himself. On the last Amendment hon. Members opposite argued that the force should be restricted to 4,000 rather than 6,000. If we want a properly balanced force the bigger it is the better; the less likely it is that those members of the B Specials who want to remain part of the Defence Regiment can form the predominant part of it, and the more places there will be in it for the minority.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

The hon. Member is arguing that to get a more balanced force more people are needed. Surely the validity of that argument is based on the existing number in any section being fixed. Even if there were only three people in a community it could be balanced if it were representative of everybody in the larger circle. Therefore, if we are talking about the proportional balance, to which I am opposed, it is as easy to have 40 per cent, of 400 or 4,000 as of 6,000. The hon. Member's argument betrays the fact that he is well aware that there is to be a fixed number in this regiment.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

That is so. It is as easy to get a certain proportion with a small as with a large force. But the whole burden of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was that all the B Specials were going to rush straight into the new force. If that is so a larger force is necessary.

I do not agree that this is the main problem or stumbling block to the creation of a properly balanced force; the main stumbling block is the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). I have asked her before, and I ask her again: will not she encourage the people of her religion to join this force straight away? There is a proverb that is probably familiar to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, about leading a horse to water. No matter how the Amendment is worded there will be a minority in Northern Ireland who will not be prepared to co-operate. Therefore, although I feel that the Amendment is a very worthy one——

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

I am quite prepared to support it. My only worry is that it implies that there will be questions asked concerning the religion of persons who apply to join the new force. I should like to think that we will soon reach the position when nobody will be asked his religion when he applies to join a new force such as this one—when it will be as irrelevant as asking him what school he went to.

Photo of Mr Christopher Norwood Mr Christopher Norwood , Norwich South

That is the whole point. Is it not the custom in the Six Counties to ask people what school they went to, and is it not easy to deduce from that what faith or persuasion they follow? Will that be changed?

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

It is for that reason, among others, that I suggest that questions as to religion or education should be regarded as totally irrelevant to any security vetting in such a force.

The difficulty is summarised in the Hunt Report. On page 13 it points out that: Following the passage of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the setting up of a separate Parliament for Northern Ireland, a Departmental Committee of Inquiry was set up by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Sir Dawson Bates, to inquire into the existing police organisation in Northern Ireland.

This committee, set up under the Minister of Home Affairs, then recommended that a police force be set up with a strength of 3,000, one-third of which was to be recruited from the Roman Catholic faith. Unfortunately, in practice, only 10 per cent, of the Roman Catholic faith came forward and applied for places in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

My worry about this particular provision is not putting it into the Bill—I should like to see it put into the Bill—but the reluctance the minority might feel in joining the force. This is the stumbling block, and I feel that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) was perhaps under-emphasising the difficulties in Northern Ireland. Anyone who reads the Hunt Committee's Report—particularly the first two chapters—will know that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from a republican minority which is determined to overthrow—

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

Is it not patently clear from the Cameron and the Hunt Reports that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from social discrimination, job discrimination and housing discrimination against the minority of the community? That is why they did not join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If the party opposite is going to bring in these sweeping reforms we shall get a new system, but everything which the hon. Member says leads me to believe that he is reluctant to have these reforms.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would do better if he would just listen a little more. He should have listened to any of the speeches made in the House by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. He should have referred to paragraph 22 of the Hunt Report and dealt with that—I will read one sentence: Historical factors are important. Soon after Northern Ireland came into being it had to deal with rioting, arson and brutal killing on a large scale. For example, in three weeks in February, 1922, 138 casualties were reported—96 among Catholics, 42 among Protestants.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. May I point out to him that I was not born until 1947?

Photo of Mr Alfred Broughton Mr Alfred Broughton , Batley and Morley

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is straying somewhat from the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

I will come back to it immediately. I am dealing with the proper balance in the community, and the point has been made by hon. Members opposite that the reason for the troubles in Northern Ireland is because there is not a proper balance kept in these bodies. I am trying to answer that, and to point out that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from the subversive activities of the I.R.A.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order. At present, we are less concerned with the troubles in Northern Ireland than we are with the composition of the force.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am very interested in the points he is making about the proper proportions and balance in this force. As I understand, what he is asking for is roughly a basis of two to one, majority to minority. He cites as evidence for this incidents which happened earlier in the century. The interesting thing about the evidence he set out was that although the ratio he is looking for is two to one, Unionist to minority, the casualties he is citing as evidence against these extremists were two to one the other way.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

Yes, the casualties in that case in 1922 were a total of 232 people killed and over 1,000 wounded, and £3 million worth of damage. But to come up to date, the hon. Lady has referred to her own lifetime. It will be within her experience that there was a similar campaign of violence between 1956 and 1962. During that period there were 1,600 incidents of violence; six members of the security forces were killed; 32 were injured; and damage to property amounting to more than £1 million was sustained.

Figures like these, which are shocking, show that the problems in Northern Ireland do not stem from some internal grievances. There is a direct violent, armed attack from outside and from within by a subversive element who wish to upset the State. The facts speak for themselves.

I want to contradict some of the statements which have been made to the effect that the Roman Catholic minority is downtrodden in Northern Ireland. It is not.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Order, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to develop that theme he must relate it to the composition of the proposed force.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

I certainly shall, Sir Alfred. It has been suggested that the minority does not play its full part and, therefore, will not join the force and make it work. I will give some examples of the way in which the minority plays its part in the community. The hon. Lady may know that the President of Queen's University Association last year was a Roman Catholic woman doctor. The President of the Incorporated Law Society in Northern Ireland was a Roman Catholic Coleraine solicitor. The present President of the Ulster Chemists' Association is also a Catholic.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

As the hon. Member addressed these remarks to me, I think that I should make my position clear. I do not care if everybody he has listed is Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, black or white. I am not basically interested in who, what or when in regard to the woman doctor from a university. I am worried about the average of 10 per cent, unemployed in Northern Ireland. I am not particularly interested in the religion of those who are unemployed, either. I am worried about those who are not president of anything. I am not worried about the religion of somebody who gets to be president of something.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

I see that the hon. Lady does not like having the facts stated. I have referred to a group of leading citizens in Northern Ireland who are Roman Catholics. In the police force, two of the Six Counties have Roman Catholic head constables Last year, four out of the Six Counties had Roman Catholic county inspectors. The Deputy Commissioner for Belfast is also Roman Catholic.

An Hon. Member:

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

The hon. Gentleman who shouts "Order" has not listened to the debate, otherwise he would have heard the point being made by the hon. Member for Blackley and others—

Photo of Mr Paul Rose Mr Paul Rose , Manchester, Blackley

It was the hon. Member for Blackley who shouted "Order".

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

—that the reason for the troubles in Northern Ireland was that the composition of public bodies was unbalanced. I have quoted a few facts to disprove that point.

I ask the hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to use their influence to secure, not only that the words they wish to be incorporated into the Bill are so incorporated, but, also, that the minority is encouraged on every occasion and in every way to join the new force and make it work. Only in that way will we establish a progressive society in Northern Ireland and tackle some of the problems of poverty about which the hon. Lady is worried.

3.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I rise before some of my hon. Friends who want to speak and who may continue to want to speak, because I suspect that some of the things I can say may change the course of the debate, if not fundamentally at least to a degree which both sides would welcome. I will try to do that by answering as best I can some of the direct questions put to me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Paul B. Rose) asked for two specific assurances. The first was that the Government at Westminster had not yielded to the Government at Stormont. The second was that there was no shabby deal. I hope that we will not have to reiterate at the be-beginning of every debate that not only has there been no shabby deal: there has been no deal at all. I make that point very clear as, and with the authority of, the Minister of the Government who carried on most of the conversations with the Government at Stormont.

Of course, conversations there were. As I said on winding up the Second Reading debate, I take the view now, as I did then, that conversations between this Government and Stormont were absolutely appropriate and that to have refused to talk to Stormont would have been certainly irresponsible and probably unconstitutional. Of course there were attempts between this Government and the Government there to produce a formula for the force which was acceptable to both Governments.

But, as I said on Second Reading, there were occasions when that sort of agreement was just not possible. I said that it was not possible, for instance, in terms of the training obligation which we require members of the force to undergo—for us, a fundamental point of principle about the character of the force. When we believed that our principles could not be accommodated within the terms of reference which Stormont hoped to lay down for the force, we stood by our terms of reference and our principles. There was no deal of any sort, which implies that points were given and taken not on their merits, but in the simple hope of achieving some sort of agreement between the two parties.

We are utterly open, as is every Government, to the accusation of misjudgment about the White Paper and the proposals, but the accusation to which we cannot legitimately have to give answer is the accusation that it is not our own judgment. If there are errors in the White Paper and in the Bill, they are the errors of this Government and this Government alone. Although—I say again—it was our hope that we could take the Stormont Government with us entirely, it was our success that we could take them with us substantially, but the policy is ours and, of course, must remain ours.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley, expressed fears about the "shabby deal" in terms of a speech which I made about a fortnight ago. I said then—and what I say about the Amendment must be seen against the background of what The Guardian called "the fears in the minds of the majority"—that it would be irresponsible of this House not to realise that there are many people among the majority of the community in Northern Ireland who are fearful about the prospects for the future.

It would be irresponsible of us not to echo the words of my hon. Friend, whose phrase I fear I paraphrase, about a small force which would or might resort to violence and would not let Ireland's wounds heal. His phrase was slightly more metaphorical even than that, but he talked about the existence of these people, and our attempts to create an acceptable force must bear in mind that such people do exist, and to a degree we must take cognisance of their existence.

But to them and to the Committee and to my hon. Friend, when he asks the frank question, "Do you want Catholics in this regiment?", I answer, as I believe every hon. Member answers, "Of course I do." It is a fundamental part of the Bill and a fundamental part of the answer to that question that the question is being asked in the House and of the Government at Westminster. My hon. Friend asks what assurance we can give that Catholics will be recruited voluntarily. I go even further than to say that that is an assurance which we give. I believe that it is more than a matter of simply ensuring that the minority community is not kept out; we have an important job to do in ensuring that the minority community is encouraged to come in.

May I describe the ways in which we hope to achieve a balanced force? I accept entirely that there are a number of acid tests which are in the minds of hon. Members and of people in Northern Ireland by which they will judge whether we are sincere in that desire, and at least three of them have been put to me formally and forcefully tonight. The first is the issue whether there will be wholesale transfer of the Special Constabulary from that force into the new regiment.

If the answer to that question is one on which hon. Members will base their judgment of the desire to produce a properly balanced force, they can be absolutely reassured. There will not be wholesale transfer of Special Constables into the new force if by that my hon. Friends mean or imply that it will be an automatic process done in large numbers and in complete groups—something which Special Constables can take for granted. I regret burdening the Committee with details at this hour, but I must explain what will happen. Individuals will apply to join the new force by drawing application forms from such public centres as those at which forms for various purposes are to be obtained throughout the United Kingdom. They will post those forms to the G.O.C., Northern Ireland. That is what will happen if they are men who have no previous service in the Army or the police or if they are men presently serving in the Special Constabulary. They will apply individually and they will be judged on their individual merits. The question of wholesale or automatic transfer is very far from our minds and will not be operated.

The second issue which is a litmus test of our good intentions is that about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) warned me that he wanted to know and which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has raised on his behalf—our attitude towards those who believe in a united Ireland. Our position on that is equally clear. There can be no place in the force for anyone who believes in an unconstitutional change in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Clearly, there can be no place in the force for anyone who does not accept the constitution of the United Kingdom and the sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen and all that goes with it. But if there are people who say—and I take the example of one constitutional method—that if there were to be a plebiscite in Northern Ireland tomorrow they might vote for unity with the South; or if there are people who say, "If there were candidates in General Elections, properly nominated, who stood on the platform of unity, we should vote for them"?—that could not possibly be a reason for their exclusion from the force.

Photo of Miss Bernadette Devlin Miss Bernadette Devlin , Mid-Ulster

This is a serious problem. My hon. Friend says that one could vote for such a candidate and still be a member of the force. Could a person who stood as a candidate be a member of the force? If a person said, "I accept the existence of the constitution, but I will endeavour through peaceful means to change it", could he be a member of the force?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

That is covered by a later Amendment but the regulations governing the force will prohibit members of it from issuing election addresses, and in their case, as in the case of other members of the Armed Forces, a candidate will not be eligible for membership of the force, or at least, at the point of his candidature, he will have to resign. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will forgive me for citing him as an example. His beliefs will not prevent him from joining the force, but his membership of this House will.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) asked for a double assurance. He referred to the sentence in my speech on Second Reading when I said that, were I to choose, or were I to be forced into a choice, between a force which ran up to the maximum size at an early date or a force which was properly balanced, I would choose a balanced force.

My hon. Friend asked whether that was part of a deal with Stormont. I hope that he accepts from me, as he did from my hon. Friend, that it could not be part of a deal because there was no deal. I hope that he also accepts that the decision about the force levels and the choice between a large force and a balanced force is a decision for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale will be here ensuring that my right hon. Friend's decision is carried out, although I am sure that he has no doubts about my right hon. Friend's integrity in this matter.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

I thank my hon. Friend for the clear way in which he has stated the answer. I certainly do not question that the Secretary of State will try and carry that out, but I want to know whether or not Stormont has agreed to his interpretation. My hon. Friend may say that there is no such thing as a deal, but I believe that it is a question of semantics, because I believe that there has been an understanding or conversation or discussion on this point and I presume that the conclusions are written. I want to know whether this undertaking on behalf of the Secretary of State has been accepted by the Stormont Government.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

There is no question about this. I have no doubt that the Stormont Government are as anxious to obtain a properly balanced force as we are, but it is not possible for me constitutionally to commit Stormont to a specific point of view. I think that my hon. Friend will accept my judgment of their attitude towards this new force; which is an enthusiasm for a balanced force. That enthusiasm is shared between them, my hon. Friend and myself. Nothing I have heard or read or seen suggests that Stormont would stand in the way of a balanced force of the sort we all choose.

My hon. Friend also asked about advertising, the television programmes and the application forms. I believe, as I said on Second Reading, that it was a misguided but not dishonourable step. But we must think about the future rather than the past and the future will be more clear if the regulations governing the recruitment of the force are made clear to some members of the Special Constabulary who may now be confused as to what the recruitment obligations are.

While I do not wish to recriminate about the application forms, because that would be inappropriate, I am attracted by the suggestion that the proper and appropriate method of recruitment should be notified to the members of the B Specials. I reject the idea of writing to all the members of the B Specials, I shall look as sympathetically as I can at the idea of writing to the force outlining the appropriate methods of recruitment as I have given them to the Committee.

Photo of Mr Michael Foot Mr Michael Foot , Ebbw Vale

Not only outlining to them the proper methods of recruitment, but also the meaning of my hon. Friend's undertaking, outlining to the B Specials that some of them, after applications go ahead, may be held back for the purpose of securing that there shall be a balanced force and that that takes priority. Then they would know that this is to be a quite different force from the B Specials.

[MR. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

3.45 a.m.

Mr. Harttersley:

My hon. Friend's suggestion is getting dangerously near the level of recrimination which I have rejected. However, I assure him that we shall certainly send a description, which is in no way polemical or contentious, of the proper method of recruitment. I hope that he will think that that is a proper step and a step which is absolutely on all fours with what we wish had been done four weeks ago.

I make two or three other points which, I hope, will be of some comfort to hon. Members. Understanding as we do the absolute necessity of promoting enthusiasm among the minority in Northern Ireland for membership of this force, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already asked the new colonel-commandant of the regiment, General Anderson, to take as a special and immediate charge the obligation of promoting it within the minority community and visiting the leaders of the minority community so that they should be encouraged to join.

One of his special tasks will be to recruit wherever possible Catholic ex-Service men, people who could join the force and become immediately effective. What one does not want is a force which is composed of Catholics who need to be trained over some period and Protestants who could go out into the country immediately. We will, therefore, be concentrating on ex-Service men who can fulfil an immediate part in the force so that there will be a balance of effective members as well as of members on the roll.

As the Committee knows, we have announced the setting up of an advisory council which will advise the G.O.C. on the composition of the force. Being well aware that the proper balance of the force is a matter not only of recruitment but of promotion within the force and who does what in the force, we have now constructed terms of reference for this advisory council which require it to advise the G.O.C, Northern Ireland, on the general policy for the administration of the Ulster Defence Regiment. These are all things which. I hope, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and the supporters of his initial Amendment will regard as encouraging.

I say that because I now have to say to him that regrettably—and I hope that he will understand that I mean regrettably—the Amendment is not in language which is capable of legal definition and, therefore, cannot be put on the Statute Book in the knowledge that its interpretation and operation might be challenged in the courts.

I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone that the Government have an obligation to do more than say that an Amendment is technically incorrect, that they have an obligation to correct it if they believe in its spirit. I hope that what I have said now demonstrates that the Government do more than what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale described as mouthing the usual platitudes. We have a cogent policy for putting the policy outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley into operation. I hope that my hon. Friends, who share with me the desire to see the spirit of the Amendment incorporated into our policy, will believe that it is not only the Government's intention, but that we now have the wherewithall to do it.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

Of course, we accept the assurances of the Minister of Defence for Administration. It would be desirable for the Minister's reply to that section of the debate which we have completed to be circulated as widely as possible in Northern Ireland. I therefore regret that the Government have compelled us to have this debate at a time when it will be impossible for those words to be reported in any of the Northern Irish newspapers. Still, that is a matter for the Government and not for the Opposition.

We know that the Government intend that there should be a proper balance in the force. We know that the Government intend that the whole recruiting and vetting procedure for the regiment will be in the hands of Regular soldiers answerable to the Ministry of Defence. It seems to me inconceivable that in the foreseeable future any Minister at the Department will not want the regiment to reflect a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland. Any Government, both here and at Stormont, are bound to want to get a proper balance between the communities.

But the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that he feared there was a likelihood that the force would be 100 per cent, sectarian. I do not think that after the Hunt Report, the White Paper, the Second Reading speeches and the discussions we have had tonight one can say that the force will be 100 per cent, sectarian because of any recruiting or vetting procedures that the Government would introduce. If it is 100 per cent, sectarian, it can only be because one section of the community chooses not to come forward.

The Hunt Committee, in paragraphs 121 and 122 of its report, outlined some of the pressures that members of the Catholic community have been subjected to in the past to try to persuade them not to enlist in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There is a danger that pressure will be put on some Catholics not to accept membership of this force. I hope that that will not be so, but if Amendment No. 3 were accepted the danger of that happening would perhaps increase, because people might think that they would then have a veto power on the establishment of the whole force.

The Minister referred in passing to Amendment No. 5, which says: Provided any person wishing to enlist shall not be debarred either on grounds of religious or political opinions. That is a perfectly reasonable point of view to hold in Penistone or, indeed, in Beckenham. But there are places where political views are stronger and more violent. I hope that the Government will accept the views expressed by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland at the weekend, when he said: We cannot be expected to accept as a responsible member of our community someone who speaks peace today but who advocated or even used violence yesterday, and may do so again tomorrow.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that by that statement the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland is condemning the last Prime Minister but one of Northern Ireland, Lord Brooke-borough, and so many members of his own party who preached treason, sedition and criminal action against the Crown in 1912?

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

That is not one of the more sensible interventions we have had this evening.

We should bear in mind that the religious balance is not the only balance that matters in Northern Ireland. It is important for the success of the regiment that there should be a reasonable flow of recruits throughout Northern Ireland in both country and urban areas. The only guide that the Government can have as to whether recruits are likely to come forward in all parts of Northern Ireland comes from those much-maligned application forms which have been sent to all members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

I do not know what the response to those application forms has been, but I would like the Minister to say what would happen if recruitment went very badly in one or two counties. Is it intended that, in that event, the vulnerable points in those counties should be guarded by members of the Ulster Defence Regiment drafted in from other counties, or will Regular soldiers be expected to undertake this rôle? Does the Minister intend to take any further soundings about recruiting intentions before the force is established?

Meanwhile, I am sure that the whole Committee, with almost no exceptions, will hope that a satisfactory balance in every respect will be achieved in recruiting for the regiment, and I hope that the leaders of all communities will encourage their followers to join.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

The speech by my hon. Friend the Minister has shortened my speech considerably and I am certain that I speak on behalf of many of my hon. Friends when I say that he has allayed a good deal of their suspicions.

I want to make clear, for the benefit of my constituents at home and for the minority in Northern Ireland, the undertakings which we have been given by the Minister in his remarks at the Dispatch Box. Can I tell my constituents that any of those people in Northern Ireland who believe in the peaceful reunification of the island of Ireland—the reunification being the joining of the six Northern Ireland counties into a republic where there would be one Government for the island of Ireland—provided that they set out to obtain this by peaceful methods, by the ballot box and by persuasion, will not be debarred from joining this force?

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

My hon. Friend can tell them that as long as they believe in the constitutional and peaceful process they will no more be debarred from joining the force or the British Army than would people who believed in the constitutional and peaceful process which might produce separate Parliaments for Scotland and Wales.

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

I accept that. Those who may be opposed to the Unionist Party, the Government party in Northern Ireland, at present and for many years have been regarded as politically suspect and dangerous by the authorities in Northern Ireland. I accept what my hon. Friend has said that they will not be debarred from joining this force.

Before finally accepting my hon. Friend's assurances, however, I should like to put to him a few minor points which could be major points in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend has told us that he is thinking on the lines of an advisory committee. Could he give any indication of the way in which that committee will be set up? Will it advise on recruiting or have any say in the intake or the personnel who are recruited for the regiment?

Here is a most important point. I take it, now that the Minister has almost accepted the Amendment, that he wants to have a balanced force in Northern Ireland in the regiment. How will we know, however, how recruitment for the force is going? Will we be advised by the advisory committee in Northern Ireland, or can we put down Questions in this House?

Photo of Mr Gerry Fitt Mr Gerry Fitt , Belfast West

If I am not here, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) can put down Questions. In what way will we frame them? Will we ask whether there appears to be a balanced number of people from the community in general, or will we specify Catholics or Protestants outright, so that people in Northern Ireland will understand? If we asked Questions requesting the Minister to say how many Protestants and how many Catholics had joined the force at that time, would the Minister be able to answer? If it was found that in the weeks immediately following the setting up of the force that there seemed to be a representative body joining the force, that would encourage others and we would finally arrive at the ideal of a balanced force.

Can the Minister give undertakings on these points, for they are most important? They will determine to a great extent the efforts of the community in Northern Ireland.