Home Affairs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd July 1970.

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Photo of Mr Roland Moyle Mr Roland Moyle , Lewisham North 12:00 am, 3rd July 1970

We have a tradition in this House that maiden speeches should be reasonably uncontroversial. I see that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Paisley) has already departed, and that relieves me from a very difficult duty.

I return to the Queen's Speech, which we are discussing. When a new Governernment take office it is normal to have a honeymoon period in which the actions of the Government are viewed with a certain amount of detachment whilst their policy unfolds. My predisposition to grant to right hon. Gentlemen opposite this honeymoon period is under considerable strain because it seems to me that they have won power on the basis of a false prospectus. They have indicated to the electorate that they intend to control the cost of living, whereas nothing is surer than that prices will be higher at the end of this Parliament than they are today.

The Prime Minister has already said that the economic crisis which was spoken about so freely during the election campaign is unlikely to exist for much longer. There are, of course, economic problems; this country always will have economic problems; but to talk of devaluation and an economic crisis a week or two before polling day and then to pretend within two days of the commencement of the new Parliament that they do not exist means that the Government were elected on the basis of an economic gimmick.

It was refreshing to hear the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), the new Home Secretary, make such an excellent statement on the relationship of law and order and freedom, and place law and order in such an accurate context in our political life. All I wished was that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had discovered that relationship before the General Election campaign and not two days after the commencement of the new Parliament.

It was not our desire that the right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) should hawk his honesty round the hustings; he chose to do that; and here within the first two days of the new Parliament there have been two admissions that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are sitting where they are because they won the election by appealing to the electorate on the basis of dishonesty and gimmicks.

The first few days have shown the Government to be a reactionary Government. Their decision to withdraw Circular 10/65 can only be described as reactionary. It means that within certain areas of our country a number of children will still be subjected to the indignities of the 11-plus examination, and in several areas grammar schools will be encouraged to exist alongside comprehensive schools, so that in practice, if not in theory, there will be selection, which is undesirable not only for the sake of the children but also because the nation cannot afford to see talent wasted wherever it may exist.

Then we have had the convolutions about arms for South Africa—indeed, the country is being spared nothing. Just as that other eminent Conservative, the Emperor Nero, was supposed to have fiddled while Rome burned, we have had the right hon. Member for Bexley diverting the nation with musical entertainment while Belfast was burning.

It is paradoxically with a sense of relief, therefore, that I turn to the problems of Northern Ireland, because here I believe that the two Front Benches are trying to work towards the same end. This is a great source of encouragement to all in the House and in the country. Far too often political divisions in this country have sought to feed upon the political divisions in Ireland. This has not been good for the United Kingdom as a whole, nor has it been good from the point of view of Northern Ireland; in fact, it has been disastrous in historical terms. We have in the new Home Secretary a gentleman who is sincere, who intends to follow the course we adopted and who is working hard to do so. I wish him all the luck in the world in the course upon which he has set himself, and I wish him success.

It is difficult to find a few consolations for having General Elections, but one of the great consolations is that a General Election allows a new Government to come in and take a fresh look at situations. It allows people who have been in Government to take a fresh look at what they did whilst they were in Government and, maybe, put forward a few new ideas. One thing which I regret was not done during our period in office was to take a new, closer look at the question of the Northern Ireland judiciary. I will not reiterate criticisms which have been made of the Northern Ireland judiciary by people in Northern Ireland. I am speaking here particularly of the lower ranks of the judiciary. All that it is necessary for me to say at this juncture is that there are a great number of people in Northern Ireland who suspect the integrity of the judiciary. I do not necessarily say that they do so on good grounds, but they suspect the integrity of the judiciary because the context in which the judiciary operates is bound, given the situation in Northern Ireland, to create suspicion amongst those who feel they are in a minority position.

In this country the judiciary is appointed by a Lord Chancellor who is an eminent lawyer and has the respect of the legal profession and of the community generally, and this goes all the way down through the judicial hierarchy.

This is not the position in Northern Ireland. The higher judiciary is appointed by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, and I have found nobody in the Province who questions his integrity in making those appointments. The lower judiciary—I think they are called resident magistrates—are appointed by a political Minister in the Stormont Government, and, without going into detail, are answerable to him in a general sense. The result is that it is difficult to persuade people who are not of the predominant ruling party in Northern Ireland that resident magistrates are politically impartial. I am not saying that they are politically partial; please do not misunderstand me. All I am saying is that, given the constitutional context in which they operate, it is difficult to persuade people that they are impartial, just as it was incredibly difficult to persuade people in Northern Ireland that the R.U.C. was politically impartial so long as it also was answerable to the Government of Northern Ireland.