It is my task today to open the debate on Northern Ireland. I think I am right in recalling that the genesis of this debate was the resignation of Major Chichester-Clark and the formation of a subsequent Government by Mr. Brian Faulkner.
It is right for me in opening the debate to pay tribute, which I am sure the whole House will echo, to Major Chichester-Clark for the work he did as Prime Minister, for the integrity, the courage and the endurance with which he carried a burden which must at times have been almost insupportable.
I should also like to pay my personal tribute to him for the unfailing courtesy, friendliness and frankness with which all our talks and discussions were conducted. I believe that he served the people of his country very well indeed.
Northern Ireland is fortunate to have Mr. Brian Faulkner available to take the leadership of the Government. He is a man of quality, of competence, and of very considerable political and parliamentary experience.
The fact that there is a new Government in Northern Ireland does not mean a change of policies either there or here, and Mr. Faulkner has made it very clear from the beginning that this is the way he looks at the situation. But any change of Government and of leadership, though it does not necessarily mean a change of policies, brings with it a new impetus and a new atmosphere. Therefore, I think it is a very good opportunity for the House today to review the situation as it is at present in Northern Ireland, looking, I hope, dispassionately and clearly at both the good and the bad features of the scene there.
It is a rapidly changing scene, and the pressures mount and fall very rapidly, very erratically and very unpredictably. Recently, in the last two weeks, there has been a lull, though a lull in Northern Ireland terms is very different from what it would be in this country. There are still bomb outrages, and preparations going on, and the Army, I am happy to say, is pressing on with its discovery and impounding of arms. Though there have not been in recent weeks the kind of outrages of a short time ago, no one can tell from one day to the next what will happen. The psychological pressure, therefore, on everyone in Northern Ireland, particularly on the politicians of all parties there, is very severe, and we in this House have a clear duty to recognise that in all that we say and do about Northern Ireland.
We need to recognise, first, the urgency of the problems of law and order and economic activity. These are the two really urgent problems in Northern Ireland. At the same time, I think that we must try to keep a steady view of the long-term prospects and trends and try not to be led aside at any time by short-term developments from our long-term goal. Without the advancement of law and order nothing else is possible. I think that it is clear, and I am sure that it will be accepted everywhere, that this is the first and overriding problem, but it is intermingled with the economic problem.
There is a vicious circle here. More trouble on the streets, more fighting and violence, means less investment in the economy. That means less employment, and less employment means the opportunity of and the temptation to commit further violence. There is a vicious circle here which must be broken. I think that it can only be broken by a combination of dealing with the law and order problem and strengthening the prospects and opportunities of economic development.
The long-term objective is clear—to see a return of life in Northern Ireland to the normal tenor and custom of the United Kingdom as a whole with reconciliation and good will between all the communities there.
Let us look at recent developments in Northern Ireland. I should like, first, to mention the progress of the reform programme to which Major Chichester-Clark made such an enormous contribution. I do not think that it is recognised quite as fully as it should be how much has already been done in Northern Ireland. Legislation was passed in 1969 creating a full franchise on the basis of one-man, one-vote in local government elections. There has been the appointment of a Boundary Commissioner, the setting up of a housing executive which will be responsible, as sole housing authority, for the implementing of Government policy on housing, the establishment of a Ministry of Community Relations with responsibility for formulating policies for the improvement of community relations, the appointment of a Parliamentary Commissioner and a Commissioner for Complaints.
It is very encouraging, when we look at the reports of the Commissioners, to see that they had many complaints made to them, quite a number of which were found to be justified; but on no occasion, so far as I know, did either the Parliamentary Commissioner or the Commissioner for Complaints find that a complaint of sectarian bias or discrimination had been justified. I think that the people and the Government of Northern Ireland are entitled to take a great deal of credit from these findings.
There has also been the implementation of the Hunt Committee recommendations converting the Royal Ulster Constabulary from a paramilitary police force into an unarmed police service more closely resembling the other police forces of the United Kingdom. It is immensely important to maintain it and to get the same type of policing in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the United Kingdom and the closest co-operation at all times between the various police forces of the country.
Mr. Faulkner in his speech at Stormont on 30th March listed these reforms: the universal franchise, machinery for impartial redrawing of district and ward boundaries, the establishment of the two Commissioners, the Community Relations Commission, the Londonderry Development Commission, the Central Housing Executive and a points scheme for housing allocation, a plan for reorganising local government, and a civilianised police service. He added:
… there will be no going back on these Measures. I was a party to them in the last Administration because I believed them to be right. My change of office has in no way changed my views.
That was a forthright and clear declaration which was supported by the whole of his Cabinet.
The point is that there is a central housing authority which will ensure a complete absence of any discrimination or any charge of discrimination. I shall give the hon. Gentleman an answer to the specific point in the course of the debate.
I turn now to law and order. Here again I think it is right to record that there has been some progress in one way, but a going back in another. The progress can be seen from the fact that communal or sectarian strife on the streets is much less. Demonstrations have been smaller when they have taken place, and the Army has been having increasing successes both in arresting rioters and finding arms. The improvement in the basic riot situation has led to the more recent development of the violent and criminal activity of murder and terror which is now the main problem of law and order. It is a different problem from that which existed some months ago. It is no less deadly or dastardly.
The economic situation has shown a deterioration and, in a way, I find it surprising how well the Northern Ireland economy has stood up to this problem. The absence of sectarian strife in some of the big industrial plants, to which both management and trade unions make a big contribution and which helped the Northern Ireland economy to stand up to great difficulties under pressure is plainly to he seen. As against all this evidence is the way in which the proportion of new investment coming from outside Northern Ireland has fallen drastically in the last year or so. This is a trend which we must consider very seriously.
What measures are needed? I deal first with law and order. The tension and strife on the streets has been lessening and the Army is becoming more effective and more experienced. It has been getting better weapons for crowd control and I am sure that it has been improving its tactics. This has helped to reduce the problem. There has been a growing realisation of the utter folly of the senseless rioting and how little good it does anyone. I believe that the exploitation of children at some stage in the riots created a feeling of revulsion throughout Northern Ireland and, in a strange way, has contributed to bringing about an improvement in the situation.
But now we have the all-out terrorist campaign to deal with. I have said before in the House, and I say again, that violence is not confined to one side. There are many sources of violence. But at present the main and most dangerous threat comes from the I.R.A., whose members make no secret of the fact that they organise, train and equip people for the purposes of using force in Northern Ireland politics. They make no secret of that, and I see no reason why we should not say so. There is a great problem for any Army operating in support of the civil power. There are complicated legal problems. Great responsibility rests on men, often so young, in situations of great tragedy and great personal danger. They have to make decisions, take action and show a sense of restraint and responsibility which many much older men would be entitled to envy. I am immensely impressed, as I think everyone is, with the performance of our soldiers in these very difficult times.
I think that there is no doubt that the objectives of the I.R.A. forces are threefold. They want to create chaos—social, economic and political—in Northern Ireland as a means of advancing towards what they believe, no doubt sincerely, to be the right solution for the country. Secondly they want to provoke acts of revenge or repression and to give the impression that the security forces are not merely rooting out people who are guilty of armed crime but are trying to retaliate against whole sections of the community. Thirdly, I am sure that they want to weary the British people and our Parliament of the problem in the vain hope that we may be driven to abandon our responsibility. They will not succeed in any of these objectives. I agree very much with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said the other day, that an end to this type of terrorist campaign comes only when the people themselves recognise that they will not succeed.
I have referred to the remarkable restraint of members of the Army. Their task is to handle the situation on the ground. The job of Government is to give the Army and its commanders a proper directive, proper authority and adequate resources and ensure that it gets on with the job with the full support of all people of good will. I do not think there can be any doubt on any of these three scores. The directive to the Army is clear—to act in support of the civil power in every way necessary, to maintain public order, and to frustrate and arrest criminals who are breaking the law.
In their activities to this end there is no restraint on the tactics which members of the Army should use other than that they must obviously operate within the law, and the law provides that the Army must never use more than the minimum amount of force required. There is sometimes a misunderstanding about this. Some people say that this is a political doctrine. It is nothing of the sort. It is the law of the land. It is the Army's duty to use all the force necessary to maintain law and order and arrest criminals, but it must not overstep the mark at any time—it will be in breach of the law if it did—or go beyond using the minimum force necessary for its purposes. With the forces now available in Northern Ireland, the Army has resources in men and equipment which it regards as adequate for the task it has in hand.
Army activity is being constantly stepped up, as the House will have seen from reports in the newspapers, and the latest directive from the G.O.C. is part of the process, not only of introducing new policies, but of intensifying existing ones and ensuring a more effective response and more thorough searching and stop-checking and seeking out and catching the people who have the arms. There is no disagreement between the two Governments on this point. I should again like to quote Mr. Faulkner who, having examined the military and police instructions, said that he was
absolutely satisfied … that nothing is inhibiting them from taking action, however firm, which in their professional judgment would
contribute to the ultimate defeat of terrorism in this community
That is Mr. Faulkner's view. It is equally the view of the Government here.
The Army needs support in these matters, and it works very closely with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, whose contribution should command the admiration of the House because of the difficulties under which it is operating, the restraint it shows and the weight that it carries on its shoulders. The Army and the R.U.C. work closely together in all areas.
I should say something about the so-called "no go" areas. There is an impression, a false one, that the police do not or cannot operate in these areas. I have checked on this matter very carefully because the House should know the facts. The police, in uniform and in plain clothes, operate in all the so-called "no go" areas throughout the 24 hours. In some areas, after dark, patrols in uniform are accompanied, if necessary, by the military. It is the military's job to provide support to the civil police when they ask for it. Patrolling is, I admit, on a lower scale than is desirable in many areas owing simply to the calls on police manpower for security duties.
However, the policing of the so-called "no go" areas is better now than it was even before the outbreak of trouble in 1969. In agreement with the Northern Ireland Government, we have been following a deliberate policy of using the Army to support the police to return to undertaking proper activities in these areas. I am told that R.U.C. beat men and mobile patrols are operating in all areas and have no difficulty in serving summonses, executing warrants or making inquiries or arrests in connection with day-to-day crimes. I have been given figures for each area comparing the number of foot patrols and mobile patrols in operation now with the number in operation before the riots of 1969, and in every case there are more patrols now than there were before the riots of 1969. I hope that I have been able to make it clear that some of the ideas about the so-called "no go" areas are not based on facts.
The second point about support for the Army is the need for more intelligence. This is obviously a very difficult subject which I cannot deal with in detail now, but I assure the House that the Government are well aware of the need for good intelligence in this problem. It is difficult to get intelligence from certain areas where a good deal of intimidation exists and where the so-called wall of silence must be penetrated. We are giving every help to the Northern Ireland Government from every possible source.
I should like to refer to the C.I.D. men from Scotland Yard who have gone to Northern Ireland. They went there at the request of the R.U.C., which was very stretched and which asked for their help in the investigation of particular cases of murder. They are there only for those purposes. They are helping the R.U.C. in detecting, I hope successfully, perpetrators of certain particularly vicious crimes, and they have been given the necessary constabulary powers to enable them to operate.
I repeat what we have said on more than one occasion. There is no contemplation of sending uniformed police to Northern Ireland, and before any question of such a move should arise there would be full consultation with the Police Federation and others.
I did not say that. I deliberately said that the policing was not up to what we would like ideally because of the shortage of manpower. The areas are policed by day and night and the number of patrols operating in the same areas is greater than it was before the riots in 1969. That is the position that I have just confirmed with the security authorities.
I come next to one or two other suggestions which have been made and rejected by Mr. Faulkner, as they would be by the Government here. The first concerns the general rearming of the police. Mr. Faulkner is not proposing that, I think that he is wise in that decision. It is sometimes thought that the Hunt Report recommended no arms for the police. In fact, that is not so. In paragraph 102, the Committee recommended that the firearms retained should be revolvers, rifles, gas pistols and gas grenades, and that they should be kept at selected police stations and issued when required. The Committee also thought that it should be clear that the issue of firearms should be restricted to personnel on mobile or detective duties or the protection of police stations.
This is the policy being followed by the Government of Northern Ireland in providing pistols for use on special, dangerous assignments, and it is entirely inside the framework of the Hunt Committee's recommendations.
Secondly, the call sometimes comes for the restoration of the "B" Specials—
There are at the moment 69,000 licensed guns in Northern Ireland—[Interruption.] Some of my hon. Friends say that there are 73,000. They are licensed, obviously. But there are other guns which are unlicensed. Can we have some information about who owns those licensed guns, at least? It must be readily available. Is not there a policy of a wink and a nod in Northern Ireland and in Dublin about the possession of arms?
I intend to come to that point later on. I agree that it is very important.
I wanted to talk about the "B" Specials. I think that it would be wrong and retrograde to talk of restoring the "B" Specials. It must be a principle in the United Kingdom that, where armed forces are needed in support of the civil power, they should be the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. That is a principle with which I am sure this House will agree. That is why the Army is there in such strength at present.
The third point is internment, about which there has been discussion. It is a power which exists and resides in the Government at Stormont under the Special Powers Act, but there is an understanding that they will not employ that power without consultation with the Government here.
I believe, as I have said already outside this House, that this is more a decision of practice than of principle. Internment is a hideous step to have to take, but it is no more hideous than a campaign of murder. Therefore, we should assess whether it would make a contribution to the cessation of the campaign.
So far, all the advice that the Government has received and accepted from the security authorities is that, in practice, the use of internment would be counterproductive and would not help towards our objective. That is still the view of the Northern Ireland Government and of this Government. It is essentially based on practical considerations which seem fairly clear.
Those are the three suggestions sometimes put forward which are not being adopted by the Northern Ireland Government.
Then on the question of firearms, to which reference has been made, figures are used of something like 70,000 certificates, or possibly a little over, which is a very large number, though I have been checking with other parts of the United Kingdom such as the West Country, Devon and Cornwall, and East Anglia, and I find that the ratio of certificates to population is about the same as it is in Northern Ireland.
The vast majority are shotguns, and most are possessed in the countryside. Having made that point, I can see that any reduction in the number of firearms would be very good, and I think that the House is probably aware that such a move was initiated by Major Chichester-Clark, when he ordered the chief constable to go through all the licences for firearms. That is now being carried out under Mr. Faulkner's authority, with the idea that people should not possess firearms unless they could show a substantial reason for doing so. That is right, and I hope to see that an effective procedure.
I think that the point which the right hon. Gentleman has just made should not be allowed to slip away without being more fully examined. The right hon. Gentleman said that guns should only be held if there was a substantial reason for holding them. Can the right hon. Gentleman enlarge upon the criteria which are to be laid down for "substantial"?
No. That is within the competence of the Northern Ireland Government. The principle that they have laid down is that there should be shown a real need for holding these weapons. It is for them to decide how it should be applied. I have never found anyone disposed to disagree that the possession of large numbers of firearms, especially in urban areas, is not likely to contribute to the chance of law and order.
I come, then, to processions. We are approaching the procession season. The House will be aware that there was a complete ban on processions for some time, and that it lapsed on 31st January. Now we shall see from both communities and other groups as well a return to processions as the traditional times come around. It is my hope that people will hearken to the warning and appeal of Mr. Faulkner and ensure that processions are conducted in a way which will not give rise to immediate danger to law and order.
It was right of Mr. Faulkner to urge people that, while he wants to preserve the right of free association and procession as much as possible, that, like other rights, can be abused where a procession is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. Clearly the authorities are entitled first of all to limit their activities, to reroute their processions or, if necessary, in the last resort to impose a ban on them. I am clear that in these matters Mr. Faulkner, like his predecessor, is trying to hold the right and just balance between the entitlement of people wishing to demonstrate their political views by peaceful means and the importance of not allowing peaceful demonstrations to spill over into the sort of violence which all too often appears on these occasions in Northern Ireland.
I have been dealing mainly with law and order and related problems. I want to come now to the economic situation. As I said, it is a vicious circle that fighting and violence push the economy down and that pushing the economy down encourages violence. We have been disturbed by the run-down in the inflow of new investment from other countries. It was in recognition of this situation that the Northern Ireland Government worked out, in consultation with us, the new system of capital allowances which are, for tax purposes, as applied in Great Britain but which, in addition, provide for capital grants at the rate of 20 per cent. for new plant and machinery and 35 per cent. on new buildings. Grants up to 20 per cent. higher will be payable on new projects providing additional employment. Northern Ireland is preserving a substantial differential over any area of high unemployment in the United Kingdom. They should be entitled to preserve that differential in view of the acute and difficult problems that they have to face. In addition, the Government have provided substantial help. With immediate agreement when we became the Government, we confirmed our predecessor's agreement for an additional £75 million for the development programme, assistance with Harland and Wolff, and so on.
The time has come, nevertheless, to re-examine with the Northern Ireland Government whether the development programme is rightly organised and shaped to meet the situation which has developed in the months since it was first set in train. As a result of Mr. Faulkner's visit, we are to set up a joint study group between the two Governments to go into the status of the development programme and see what can be done to improve it or hasten it further forward.
Finally on the economic situation, I am glad to see some possibility of more cooperation across the border between the two Governments. There is already more co-operation in economic matters than is sometimes realised, in tourism and the electricity industry, for example. Both the Governments seem to realise the advantages here, and I was glad to see that the new Minister of Commerce in Northern Ireland is arranging for a visit of some of his officials on 20th April to discuss these matters with officials of the Dublin Government. All this should be encouraged as much as possible.
I have concentrated mainly on the law and order situation and the economic situation. These are the real interlinked problems of Northern Ireland. There is, I trust, complete agreement between the two Governments as to the right policies to be followed and the right way to go about carrying out those policies. There is a very wide measure of agreement between both sides on the objective and the way in which we should go about achieving it. I am certain that the more we can show our united views in this matter and the more the two Governments can work obviously and closely together, the sooner we shall bring to the terrorists the disappointment and disheartenment which alone, in the long run, will bring their campaign to an end.
The House will want to thank the Home Secretary for the full and frank statement which he has made. The position of the Opposition on the issues covered in his speech was of course set out in the exchanges following the Prime Minister's statement on 22nd March. I said then that the Government were entitled to the full support of the House in the Prime Minister's insistence on maintaining the policies which two sucessive Governments and two successive Oppositions have maintained in seeking a reconciliation between the communities and the outlawing of violence, from wherever it may come, and, in particular, in maintaining the basis on which, within a week in August 1969, British troops were, first, deployed on a major scale in support of the civil power to maintain law and order, and, second, on 19th August to take over the supreme responsibility for security and the maintenance of order.
The basis on which that very grave and potentially dangerous decision was taken—it was a leap in the dark—was set out, first, in the Downing Street declaration of 19th August, published as Command Paper 4154, and subsequently in the changes which took place in the machinery for enforcing law and order, and especially those referred to by the Home Secretary, relating to the reorganisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, following the report of the inquiry headed by Lord Hunt.
It is right that the House should be reminded of the conditions which were then agreed—not least because a fortnight ago, following the pressures which led to the fall of Major Chichester-Clark, there was then great anxiety that the new Stormont Government or the Government at Westminster, or both, might be pushed into policies which led to the partial or total abandonment of the steps set out clearly in the Downing Street agreement and declaration. It is clear again from the Home Secretary's speech, as it was from the statement of the Prime Minister a fortnight ago, that that has not happened.
It is of course right and inevitable that we on this Bench should regard ourselves as the custodians of that declaration of August, 1969, but in a wider sense it was clear from the Prime Minister's statement that our successors equally, rightly, so regard themselves, and they of course have the operational responsibilities today for ensuring that its provisions are safeguarded and made effective.
It is right, too, that just as right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were in Opposition, throughout that period of acute danger and in the months which followed, maintained a constructive bipartisan approach to this question—one can see in retrospect what dangers might have followed if that had not been so, as one factional interest or another might have sought to make capital out of inter-party differences in this House —the present Opposition's position should also be made clear.
As long as Her Majesty's Government unequivocally maintain in the spirit and the letter the terms of the Downing Street declaration and the actions taken in pursuance of it, my right hon. and hon. Friends will give them our full support. The Government can go forward in the difficult path they have to tread—they have the right to ask this—with a united House behind them. Only if they were to begin to depart, either in word or in action, from that declaration should we feel it our duty to oppose them.
It is not only this House which is involved. Hon. Members will have noted that in the entirely helpful statements made by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic during that anxious weekend two weeks ago—the statements he made both in America and on his return to Eire—Mr. Lynch based himself too on his confidence that the terms and spirit of the Downing Street declaration would continue to be honoured.
It is right, since I am speaking seeking to assert an approach in this House which was tragically absent in the divisions of 60 years ago in this House and in the agonies of 50 years ago, that I should remind the House of the terms of the declaration which is and I am confident remains the basis of an all-party approach in this House.
First, the declaration of 19th August, 1969, reaffirmed that the crisis in Northern Ireland did not involve any derogation from pledges by successive United Kingdom Governments, notably by Lord Attlee in 1949, that Northern Ireland should not cease to be a part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland, and that there would be no derogation from the provision governing this question in Section 1 of the Ireland Act, 1949. To quote the actual words of the declaration, paragraph 1, "The Border is not an issue".
Second, while repeating that responsibility for domestic affairs in Northern Ireland was a matter for Stormont's domestic jurisdiction, the declaration went on to say that the Westminster Government had to deal with all international relationships. Let me repeat that, on all matters affecting human rights —one thinks particularly of the Special Powers Act—it is the Government responsible to this House, and therefore it is this House itself, which has to defend in the name of the United Kingdom as a whole, any action which may be taken within any part of the United Kingdom which is derogatory to any internationally agreed standards of human rights. We have to carry the can internationally in this matter.
Third, we asserted the ultimate responsibility of the United Kingdom for the protection of those in Northern Ireland who would be at risk when a breakdown of law and order occurred, and, in that context and, as long as the danger lasted, the assumption by our forces there of the law and order responsibility from August 1969 until law and order is again restored.
Fourth—I am still setting out the terms of contract under which British troops were put in to take charge of the responsibility for law and order—in accordance with that responsibility, it was asserted that the Northern Ireland Government's undertaking to take into the fullest account the views of Her Majesty's Government should be recognised, including the equal rights and protection under the law of citizens in that part of the United Kingdom.
The fifth article dealt with reform, and in particular the commitments relating to local government franchise, the revision of local government areas, the allocation of houses and the appointment of an Ombudsman to consider and report on citizens' grievances against other public authorities. This reform programme, initiated by Captain O'Neill's Government, and, as the right hon. Gentleman said today, carried a long way along the road by Major Chichester-Clark's Administration, not least—this should be said—by Mr. Faulkner, not only as Deputy Prime Minister but also as Minister of Development departmentally responsible for much of the legislation, remains a binding commitment on the Northern Ireland Government and Parliament under the declaration.
Equally binding on this and any future Northern Ireland Government is the wide range of issues coming within the ambit of the sixth paragraph of the declaration, which lays down:
The two Governments at their meeting at 10 Downing Street today have reaffirmed that in all legislation and executive decisions of Government every citizen of Northern Ireland is entitled to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination as obtains in the rest of the United Kingdom, irrespective of political views or religion. In their further meetings, the two Governments will be guided by these mutually accepted principles.
The seventh and final paragraph reiterated the joint determination, which is as far from realisation today as it was then, to take all possible steps to restore normality to the Northern Ireland community, so that economic development can proceed at a faster rate—that faster rate which is vital for social stability. None can dispute the damage which continued violence and communal strife and suspicion have wrought and are wreaking on vitally necessary economic development in Northern Ireland.
I have reminded the House of these commitments of August, 1969, because they are binding today, because they and they alone provide the basis on which Northern Ireland can attain peace and progress, and because their total fulfilment, in letter and in spirit, is the prerequisite of the consensus and the unity in this House which are necessary to provide leadership to the people of Northern Ireland, to discourage, to deter and ultimately to destroy a further outbreak of factionalism and violence in Northern Ireland. That I feel confident that this will be achieved in this House by this House is due to the fact that nothing the Home Secretary said today, and nothing the Prime Minister said 15 days ago, appears to derogate from what we, all parties, have mutually agreed.
I go further. On the vital issue of the measures that are necessary to maintain security and law and order, I interpret the Prime Minister as underlining in his statement a fortnight ago the concept which we followed and which it is more than ever essential should be followed now, for the right hon. Gentleman said:
The United Kingdom Government, who have the ultimate authority and responsibility for Northern Ireland, will give their fullest support to any Government there which cooperates in implementing the policies which we judge right for those purposes.
It will be within the recollection of the House that whereas HANSARD could not, of course, italicise the word "we"—and by "we" he meant the United Kingdom Government—the oral emphasis with which the right hon. Gentleman pronounced that word was a clear warning that in all matters affecting security and the deployment and demeanour of British troops there the decisions of the British Government must remain paramount.
The Home Secretary set out the facts, as he sees them, of the present situation in the Province. It is right in a debate such as this that I should draw attention to some of the basic issues. First,as he said, there is the fact of violence—deliberate, calculated and unreasoning violence—and its eradication is an essential condition to any future for Northern Ireland.
The problem for Northern Ireland—for the security authorities and for the British troops—is that it is increasingly difficult to assess the origin and motives of some of this violence. Old-style I.R.A. activity aimed, however hopelessly, at uniting Ireland by force, which has been repudiated both in this House and south of the Border, we can evaluate, however much we deplore it. But some of this violence, be it by I.R.A. regulars—if I may describe them as such—or I.R.A. provisionals, defies analysis.
Some of it seems to owe its loyalty and being to a more internationally inspired resort to violence, having no specific relevance to Northern Ireland or to the rest of Ireland, but to violence almost for its own sake, for the destruction of almost any organised system of economic or political system of society—democratic capitalist, Socialist or even traditional Communist.
Secondly, there is the fact of suspicion and fear, never far from hatred, arising from factional and religious differences and which have found practical expression in the too-long delayed reforms in civil and human rights—until wise and far-sighted men, not without pressure from Westminster and, indeed, from this House, have sought to catch up with the legacy of 50 years in a situation in which not 50 months are available.
Nobody in this debate, conscious that too many people in competing and hostile factions in Northern Ireland are living in the past, will want to jog back unduly. However, I cannot forbear to mention that the situation we face today could have been entirely different if that sixth article of the Downing Street declaration, laying claim on behalf of all the citizens of Northern Ireland to the same rights to equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination as their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom, had been asserted by the Stormont and Westminster Governments in the 40-odd years before 1969 and had become the inspiration of government and local government for a generation. While we must be utterly firm in the assertion of this principle for the future, we cannot, in recalling the past, change the past. Nor should we try to do so.
Thirdly, there is the fact I have mentioned of too many of Northern Ireland's citizens living in the past, and a past long dead. One reason for restraint in this debate—and the Home Secretary hinted delicately at it—is the fact that we are within a few days of the Easter marchers, when the events of Easter 1916 will be commemorated in a world, and an Ireland, radically different from 55 years ago, but when the very recall of those events can import new dangers into that modern world.
If this is true, how can we condone the no less grotesque and provocative behaviour of grown men dressing up in regalia and gewgaws as they identify themselves with their teenage heroes of 300 years ago, the Apprentice Boys of Derry?
The best contribution that those in Northern Ireland who proclaim loyalty to the British Crown could make today would be to recognise that they live in the reign—and, let us face it, under the protection—of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and not in that of his late Majesty King William III, and those opposed to them should equally recognise that they are living in 1971 and not in 1916 or in 1798. [HON. MEMBERS: "1698" Perhaps we had better get back to the twentieth century.
In this situation we must consider, if only to reject, the alternative to the course which at this time both major parties in this House believe that we must follow. There is the alternative of a unilateral declaration of independence, a course which Captain O'Neill, now Lord O'Neill of Maine, specifically and in terms rejected when he sacked Mr. Craig from his Government.
An Orange U.D.I. would be a deliberate act of desperation—more an act of treason—which would have to be met by the full force of resistance by the Imperial Government and Parliament. It would be a U.D.I. in a country in which there are British troops—in a country with a coastline, which few in this House would shrink from the implications of meeting.
Then there is the alternative of direct rule; the alternative of last resort. The Government of which I was the head would have said of direct rule that it was the last thing we would have considered, and I believe that this is the position of the present Government. But in the last resort we would have had to consider it. It is, of course, fully consistent with Section 75 of the 1920 Act, which reserves to this Parliament in Westminster the final decision, because that Section says that nothing in the 1920 Act derogates from the authority of this House in these matters.
It is right that the House should know that, in consideration of this matter, the former Government drafted a Bill, in case of necessity, to impose direct rule, and that Bill is now in the possession of the present Government. I pray, as they do, that it will not be needed. However, if constitutional government in Northern Ireland were to perish as a result of atavistic pressures and prejudices, this House must not shrink from imposing this unpalatable solution.
It is the ultimate deterrent. The purpose of a deterrent is to deter, and the credibility of any deterrent must be a clear willingness to make it effective when reason has failed. In the last resort, which we all hope will be avoided, I believe that that willingness would be unequivocal.
Another alternative sometimes put forward is that of abdication, of withdrawal. Because in any situation a Government must consider every option, I instructed when in Government, that a study be made of this alternative. I must tell the House that the results of that study—I am sure that this is in conformity with the instincts of every hon. Member—confirmed that it was a totally unacceptable alternative.
As the House will recognise, withdrawal because of a breakdown of the law would mean condemning 1½ million of our fellow citizens in the United Kingdom to living outside the law, a prey to anarchy and ultimately to oppression, no matter from where that oppression might arise.
Equally, this House cannot accept the lesser withdrawal, the withdrawal of British troops—as long as they are needed —in a situation in which Northern Ireland remains juridically part of the United Government. The present Government have said, as we said, that the troops must remain as long as they are needed, because the Queen's peace is the inalienable right of every citizen in this Kingdom.
So there is no easy way out except sweating it out until reason and wiser Counsels prevail. And there can be no solution until the reforms envisaged in the Downing Street declaration guarantee equal rights under the law for every one in the Province. And if the troops remain, they can remain only on the same conditions that governed their entry 20 months ago.
What we cannot sanction, whatever pressures we may face, or the Government may face, are proposals that the troops should be employed in a situation in which they take or can be fairly represented as taking sides. They went to do one job: they did not go as agents for any particular form of political or sectarian pressure. On this we insisted, and on this, as I interpreted the Prime Minister's statement, the present Government are insisting. The troops must be, and will be—and I was reassured again by what the right hon. Gentleman said today—vigorous and unrelenting in tracking down subversion, violence, the threat of murder and the fact of murder. The Government, or the Prime Minister, insisted in consultation with the Stormont Government, and acting on the wise advice of the Army authorities, on Westminster having the last word, surrendering neither to pressures nor to panic nor to prejudice.
There was much comment in the crisis a fortnight ago about the alleged need for the Army to set up posts in Catholic areas to root out terrorism. It is my belief, and I take it from the Prime Minister's statement and the Home Secretary's speech today, that it is the Government belief, too, that the Army authorities will enter any area where there is any reason to think that an armed threat occurs, but there is a danger that the pressures for them to set up isolated minigarrisons would quickly mean that they would become isolated, beleagured posts. There is the fear, too, that at least some of those who suggest this particular form of employment of the troops are seeking a confrontation between the troops and the local population, a suggestion which can only have political motives. The Government will have our full support in resisting these pressures from whatever source they may derive.
Going back to the statement a fortnight ago, I was glad that the Prime Mnister concurred when I asked him to resist the arming of the Royal Ulster Constabulary —and I was glad that this was confirmed again by the Home Secretary today—and, above all, to resist the reconstitution of the B Specials. I believe that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary are right about this, and the Prime Minister made it clear then, and the Home Secretary rather confirmed it today, I am sure, that Major Chichester-Clark had not asked for it, nor I am sure, will Mr. Faulkner. In the short term it would be a dangerous expedient: in the long term it would inhibit the establishment of one of Northern Ireland's greatest needs—a citizen and not a quasi-military police force. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of it as para-military. What is wanted is a force of "bobbies", not a gendamerie.
The three very distinguished police chiefs whom we sent over to report in August, 1969—and it is noteworthy, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, that following their report and the Hunt Report, legislation passed last year now enables police officers to go freely from any force in Britain for service there—reported to me personally that in their view a police force which was part of the community and not apart from the community was the biggest need in Northern Ireland.
More hopefully, they reported that there were within the junior and middle ranks of the R.U.C., especially in the younger generation, keen and efficient officers who, in their words, were knocking on the door of policemanship. This we must encourage, and the Hunt reforms were designed to create a police force which is genuinely part of the community—not a race set apart, feared by some, hated by some, still less an arm of the Government in that area. On this there must be no going back.
There are two proposals which we on this side of the House would further urge for consideration. One, and this was dealt with in part by the right hon. Gentleman's statement this afternoon, I put to the Prime Minister and he agreed to give it urgent thought. This would be a ban on all privately held arms subject, as I suggested, to stringently licensed authority for people in remote rural areas; appropriate provision for farmers to possess appropriate weapons. Outside that, the Government should come to the conclusion that the possession of private arms should be forbidden.
It is a freedom to possess private arms under licence but it is a freedom which in the present state of trigger happy Northern Ireland must be suspended. It is a freedom to form and to join rifle clubs, and Northern Ireland has more than its share of them, but it is not an inalienable human right, and recent history suggests that this particular freedom should await calmer days. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the final decision must be taken by the Stormont Government, but they are under pressures which the United Kingdom Government are not under, and this Government should press it upon the Stormont Government.
If such a law were made it would have to be enforced ruthlessly and without discrimination, and it would then immensely ease the task of the forces and of other security services in searching for and confiscating arms, whoever might hold them, because if arms were found they would be illegal arms. It would help them to ensure that strict penalties were enforced against those who retained them. I hope that before long the House will be informed that action on these lines is being taken.
The second suggestion I want to make —the House will have seen this advocated recently in the Guardian—is of an economic character. The immediate prospects of private economic development in Northern Ireland are circumscribed by the consequences of disorder, and the fear of disorder. In these circumstances, where private activity is limited the case for public enterprise in the shape of rapidly expanded public works projects is undeniable and urgent. This would provide immediate work for the workers, and it would help to reduce the bitterness and frustration which unemployment contributes to an already bitter and, indeed, despairing situation. Properly directed, it could help to improve a desperately drab and, in too many areas, squalid environment.
Today we debate a situation which despite a welcome fortnight's respite is vulnerable and urgent. Certainly this is how it appeared when this debate was planned just two weeks ago, and I hope that a further debate conceived out of crisis will be long deferred; and that when we next debate Northern Ireland it will be against a background of continuing calm. But it is not too early now to be thinking of the longer term future, recognising as we must that only when we can think in those terms shall we be able to contemplate the economic development which is an essential prerequisite for the peace and progress we seek, all of us in this House.
Thought must be given to long-term constitutional developments for an orderly and peaceful Northern Ireland. Before the events of July-August, 1969— I think that the House should know this—my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary was considering the calling of a constitutional conference at Lancaster House, representing not only all parties and interests in Northern Ireland, but, and I emphasise this, all parties in this House. That was his proposal. For the long term solution for Northern Ireland will be more acceptable, more enduring, to the extent that it rises above party considerations, either at Stormont or here at Westminster.
Too often in history have we seen the double feedback from Ireland to this country and from this House to Ireland, which has made an enduring future impossible. Recourse, not to reasoned discussion, as my right hon. Friend and I were then hoping, but to not and disturbance, in August, 1969, meant that this, I believe, quite hopeful concept had to be postponed, as it must still no doubt be postponed—and of course the House is also waiting the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which was specifically enjoined to address itself to the constitutional problems of Northern Ireland. But—and I urge this on the Government—when that report is received, and when, as we all pray, conditions in Northern Ireland are conducive to constructive thinking about the future there will be everything to gain and nothing to lose, if that thinking, that discussion, takes place in an all-party conference, all parties here and all parties and relevant interests in Northern Ireland meeting together.
I have expressed the hope that we shall not soon be called upon to arrange a further emergency debate on Northern Ireland. If that hope is realised, it is all the more essential that the debate today looks beyond the immediate dangers to the possibilities and hopes ahead, and indeed, we can today, by our restraint and equally by our vision, help to bring a more hopeful situation into being. It is in our power to give assurance and to create hope.
We must make clear that the religion of no one in Northern Ireland is in danger. We must assert that the freedom of everyone who professes to be and calls himself a Christian to worship God in the way that he feels right is as assured in Northern Ireland as anywhere else in this Realm.
Let us take heart from the fact that one of the most hopeful factors in Northern Ireland is that statesmanlike church leaders of all denominations there, from those possessing the highest authority to those who labour in the field of individual parishes, Protestant and Catholic, are at one with other men of good will to enjoin restraint and reconsideration on those who owe them loyalty. That is one of the hopeful features.
I am old enough to remember pre-war Merseyside, together with other hon. Members on both sides of the House, and to remember how the park railings used to be torn up for use as offensive weapons, by both sides, on 12th July and other marked dates in the Northern Ireland calendar. I have seen, as other hon. Members have rejoiced to see, how this has been changed on Merseyside by the inspiration and courage of such leaders as the late Archbishop Downey, of the Roman Catholic church, and Bishop Martin of the Church of England—not only by the fact of their leadership but by the fact that there were those ready to listen to them. And it is the willingness to listen to such men, and to follow them, that is lacking today in Northern Ireland. It is still to the voices of the past, and those who seek to evoke those voices for factional power, that too many ears are exclusively attuned.
Like Merseyside, Northern Ireland will have a future when age-old hostilities are expressed, not with guns or high explosives, but in the raucous cries such as those we can hear at Spion Kop, Goodison, and, if I may move north of the Border, Hampden as well. If there is a danger that the words of Abraham Lincoln, in a totally different situation, can be abused, the problem is not that Northern Ireland cannot live two-thirds Protestant and one-third Catholic; it is rather than Northern Ireland cannot survive with half its citizens—cutting right across factional lines—living in the past and half of them yearning for a very different future.
For there are those—probably far more than half—and, above all, among the young, in Northern Ireland who want to live in the 1970s and to plan for the 1980s and beyond. I have referred to one encouraging feature, the attitude of church leaders. I instance another, a public opinion poll, receiving far too little publicity, two years ago, which asked Ulster's youth to identify the causes which mattered most to them. The result of that poll showed their answer, unequivocally given, placing employment and housing first, and factional and religious differences a long way down the list. This judgment was made equally by Protestant and Roman Catholic young people. If intolerance is the hallmark of Ulster politics, I rejoice that Ulster's youth so clearly proclaimed their intolerance of intolerance. The question must be asked, indeed, how many of those politically active on either side in Northern Ireland are worthy of the young they seek to lead, when too many succeed only in trying to corrupt them.
In the exchanges which followed the Prime Minister's statement a fortnight ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) called on Unionist Members
… to tell some of their colleagues in Northern Ireland to stop playing the fool and recognise the real position in this situation." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1971; Vol. 814, c. 42.]
The Prime Minister, while not associating himself with my right hon. Friend's actual choice of words, clearly associated himself with the thought. This was advice which the House has not only the right but the duty to commend to bigots on both sides in Northern Ireland. To some hon. Gentlemen opposite, can we not ask, with so many young Northern Irish men and women looking earnestly to the future, that they should cease trying to bemuse them and turn their minds to a dead past, by the invocation of the memories of the sash their fathers wore, and the canonisation of a long dead Dutchman? And equally, to others, have we not the right to ask them to stop stirring up verdant memories of long-dead Irish heroes? What Northern Ireland wants today, and needs today, and what the young people of Northern Ireland put first in their priorities today, are jobs, homes, democratic rights and faith in the future.
If I may address a conciliatory word, on his birthday, to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I would say to him that some hon. Members, among whom I include myself, will be the readier to take religious instruction from the reverend doctor when he himself begins to preach the Christian doctrine of peace and reconciliation and when he himself begins to practise the Christian virtues of humility. There are hon. Members in this House who could contribute more to the future of Northern Ireland if they were not under pressure of the kind of grass roots which the hon. Gentleman commands.
In the crisis of August, 1969, when I accepted the advice of my right hon. Friend the then Home Secretary, I said—and he will confirm this—that the posture of the British Government must be to show themselves firm, cool and, above all, fair. The whole House will agree that this was the posture that he was able to present to the people of Northern Ireland as Home Secretary, above all, in his demeanour when he visited Northern Ireland later in August, 1969, and met representatives of every party, every interest and every religious denomination.
I believe that his successor, the present Home Secretary, has conducted himself, in all his dealings with Northern Ireland, in the same spirit, and he has our full backing in so doing. I was disturbed to read, in the Press, reports of a private meeting within the precincts of this building, at which, if the reports were correct, he was under considerable criticism, which I believe, on his record, he was entitled not to expect. I hope that those reports, as not infrequently is the case with reports of private meetings within the Palace of Westminster, were inaccurate, or at least sensationalised—for, to the extent that they were believed outside, they can only have encouraged extremism and exacerbated the situation in Northern Ireland.
We must recognise—I make this appeal to all hon. Gentleman in all parts of the House—that if the right hon. Gentleman were to be under pressures here as well as unreasonable pressure from Northern Ireland which he has courageously resisted, no man could foretell what dangers may lie ahead.
Today the House has a clear duty. I end, as I began, by referring to the Prime Minister's statement of 22nd March. Our duty as a House, regardless of party, regardless above all of the dead voice of the past, is to back this Government, to back any Government who unequivocally base their policies on the programme of reconcilation and reform and civil rights to which this country and Northern Ireland, through their then Governments, irrevocably set their hands in signing the Downing Street declaration of August, 1969.
I shall not directly follow the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, though he will find that much of what he said may well be covered in the course of my speech.
I very much share the right hon. Gentleman's hope—and I rather liked his note of hope—that this will be the last Northern Ireland debate called in an atmosphere of emergency. I refuse to be drawn into discussions about the relative merits of King William III or any other Irish hero—[Interruption.]—I am not sure that it would contribute very much to the efficacy of the debate.
However, although I share the right hon. Gentleman's view that we need to concentrate upon the future, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it might not be all that helpful to mock at reverence of the past. Often people revere their traditions. I commend to the right hon. Gentleman Lord Macaulay, apart from Abraham Lincoln, who said something to the effect that no community which did not take a pride in the exploits of its ancestors would have anything to leave to be looked back to with pride by its remote descendants.
The debate is the result of events which took place a fortnight ago. At that time I said to the Leader of the House, in view of what I called the grave turn of events in Northern Ireland, that we might well have to ask for a debate very soon.
What was the grave turn of events? At that time the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland—Major Chichester-Clark—had not resigned. The new ingredient in the Northern Ireland situation was that there had been a very definite deterioration in ordinary public morale and confidence.
I suppose the matter came to a head with the awful, tragic death of the three Scottish soldiers. I do not think that anybody who does not live in Northern Ireland can appreciate the sense of shock that went through the entire community as a result of that ghastly murder. The effect, coming on top of a very long period of civil strife in our capital city—we are a small community and the effects of events such as this are felt by everyone—was such that there occurred a distinct crisis of public confidence.
This was not a question of politicians. This was not a question of Right-wing or any other pressures. What happened was that the entire community suddenly appeared to lose confidence in the civil authority and the security forces. We reached a situation where the business community, people totally unpolitically attached, were suddenly beginning to ask, "How can this situation continue?" Investment was falling and becoming negligible. There was the expense of defending and protecting factories, the damage which was being done, the lack of business confidence generally. At the other end of the scale there was the very remarkable walk-out from Harland and Wolff of the shipyard workers, irrespective of creed and irrespective of politics—Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, Labour supporters and others. The sole cry was, "Can we not have order in our streets?"
I do not intend to speak in the debate and I certainly do not wish to be provocative. May I point out that there is a widespread belief in this country—the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to be emphasising it—that three British soldiers were murdered by the I.R.A. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows as well as I do that that is not the belief in Ireland and that is not the belief in the Home Office. Not one of the persons who have been apprehended and questioned about this murder belongs to the I.R.A. This applies especially to the three men and the two women who were recently questioned. I say this because if the truth is twisted only harm can result.
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, whose generous sense of responsibility in these matters I understand and pay tribute to. I did not say who had murdered anybody. I profoundly hope that the murderers of the three Scottish soldiers will be found and brought to book. Then we shall know. I made no assertion as to who had murdered them. I said that the murder had created a profound sense of shock which had destroyed confidence throughout the community and that right across the whole spectrum of life in Ulster there was such a sense of outrage at the continuance of violence and disorder in our city that no administration could have survived it without some evidence of a strong political will to overcome it.
It was this which led myself and my hon. Friends to try to reflect that feeling in Ulster in the House and by any means open to us. Much has happened since we asked for that debate. We understand all the reasons why the debate did not take place just at that moment, and perhaps it is just as well in the event that it did not.
Things have moved on now. There has been a change of Government in Ulster. We have a new Prime Minister, We had the resignation of Major Chichester-Clark. I will not go into the circumstances surrounding that resignation, save to say that one thing that Major Chichester-Clark did by his resignation was to underline and bring to pub-lice knowledge, here and elsewhere, the real gravity of the situation facing the community in Northern Ireland. In that sense he did a very great service.
We now have a new Prime Minister in Northern Ireland. From everything that he has said, from the energy and efficiency with which he has set about his new task, and above all from the note of optimism emanating from him, I believe that he deserves the support of us all.
What caused the crisis of confidence was the law and order situation. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for dealing so much with it, and I am grateful also to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition for recognising, since it was one of the parts of the Downing Street declaration that people had an inalienable right—to use his words, I think—to the Queen's peace, that this is what was being demanded in Northern Ireland. Every effort having been made to carry out everying else in the Downing Street declaration people said, "What about the other side of the bargain? Are we getting that or are we not?".
One of the remarkable developments is that there has been a change in the military deployment, and there have been changes in the actual military directives. I believe that these changes have been in the right direction, and the proof of that is in some of the things which have happened on the ground. We are profoundly grateful that this has taken place.
At no time have I—certainly, speaking for myself—asked for a change in the overall policies. Apart from anything else, I do not believe that it would make practical sense. But what has always been asked for has been the effective use of the troops on the ground to bring the general state of disorder to an end as rapidly as possible.
The new directives have had some valuable results in terms of law and order on the ground. The House may not know, for example, that, over this last weekend, 2nd-4th April, there were a considerable number of searches, and successful searches, for arms. Nineteen occupied houses have been searched, there have been 39 searches of unoccupied houses, 19 different areas carefully searched, and 10,000 vehicles searched. In those searches, the following arms were seized: 12 pistols, 6 rifles, 8 shotguns, 3 air guns, 1,689 rounds of ammunition. There were 26 arrests made, and 8 or 9 persons appeared on arms charges this weekend.
What is much more significant, and what, I believe, can be traced to this activity, is the results of the arms amnesty which the new Prime Minister announced. Formerly, when there has been an arms amnesty, the tiny trickle of arms coming in has been disappointing. Up to noon yesterday, however, from the date of the announcement of the amnesty, the following arms have been surrendered: 96 revolvers, 16 pistols, 141 rifles, 43 shotguns, 46 air guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunntion, 26 grenades, 216 detonators, 2 bayonets, 2 signal pistols, 5 magazines, 86 ammunition clips and 12 flares. That is in addition to quite a number of arms actually handed in for safe keeping, for example, 14 revolvers, 25 rifles, 480 rounds of ammunition and 30 shotguns.
I suggest that in that remarkable voluntary surrender of arms there is justifica- tion for the changes in directives which have been made. It is an indication of a sign of an upturn in public confidence. I hope that it will prove to be so, for so long as people are really afraid that there will be a breakdown of authority and so long as people are really nervous about the inability of the security forces and the police to control the situation, so long will people hold tightly on to arms. The fact that these arms are being surrendered seems to me to be a hopeful ingredient in the present situation.
Now, a word about the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Unless one accepts the proposition that the Army is to remain for ever in the appalling rôle in which it finds itself in support of the civil authority, the time will come when it will have to find some way of getting off the streets. Here—it is no empty ritual —I again pay tribute to the work which the Army does. We owe our troops so much, and we are very proud of the way in which they carry out a difficult and dangerous task. But, as I say—I respond here to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation to look to the future—the time must come when the Army has to find a way of getting off the streets, and this can be done only by rebuilding confidence in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. One must return to policing in the end.
For a wide variety of reasons, morale in the Royal Ulster Constabulary was badly damaged by all the troubles which took place. We have to rebuild not only the morale of the R.U.C. but its numbers and quality as well. One of the problems in building up numbers is that it is not easy to maintain the high quality as one does it. At present, recruiting is going well for the R.U.C. We had about 560 new recruits last year, and everyone must be grateful for the sense of public service which has impelled people to join that force.
One thing which many hon. Members who have influence in Northern Ireland might do is to try to break down any sense among the minority in Ulster that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is in any way one-sided. This feeling still continues, and one of the best ways in which people can help to relieve the Army and return to a situation of normality is to try to rebuild confidence in the Royal Ulster Constabulary itself.
Confidence goes two ways, does it not? The minority would have greater confidence in the R.U.C. if those who were involved in the murder of Samuel Devenney, and the colleagues who know who the murderers were, would tell the authorities concerned who these men are. That, surely, would go a long way towards bringing confidence back.
Perhaps it would. But I think that the Government have done everything in their power, and the leaders of our police force, our chief constable and everyone else, have done everything in their power. Great efforts have been made in the recruitment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to make sure that recruitment is on no sectarian basis of any kind. Indeed, one of the difficulties in trying to give a figure for the balance of Roman Catholics and Protestants in the R.U.C. at present is that we have done away with the requirement that a new policeman should state his religion. So it is difficult to say.
We now have a police authority set up. No longer are the police, as in the London Metropolis, directly under the Home Office. There is a police authority. It may be that the police authority, in the nature of the present operation, has not quite the same operational direction as was, perhaps, envisaged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). Perhaps it is impossible for it to have that kind of operational direction, but at least it should be a guarantee of the impartiality of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
At least, everybody should try to build up confidence in the R.U.C. Let there be no mistake about it, it is a highly efficient force. In spite of the appalling difficulties of the past couple of years, the crime detection rate is practically the same as it is in this country. I think that the crime detection rate of the R.U.C. at present is 40-odd per cent. and that my right hon. Friend will be able to confirm that in Great Britain it is about 42 per cent., so it is practically on a par despite the difficulties of the situation.
Recruiting is going on, and it may not be long before the target is reached. It may have to be increased from 5,000 to 6,000 in due course. But it is a slow business. Someone must give thought to the transitional period. I hope that my right hon. Friend and others are thinking about how to deal with the transition between the Army and the civilian unarmed police on the ground.
The Leader of the Opposition said that what young people were really interested in was houses and, I think, the democratic process. He also touched on the relationship between the Northern Ireland authorities and the Dublin Government. I join him in welcoming what Mr. Lynch said. One of the significant things in his speech on the appointment of Mr. Faulkner was:
Mr. Faulkner's administration faces a difficult task in normalising the Northern society. Anything my Government can do to help in this will be done willingly and without precondition.
That is a remarkable statement. We might put our minds to the ways in which Mr. Lynch could help; there are a number. It is still considered an outrage and a public scandal that the purveyors of violence can find a refuge south of the border in Eire, that they can find places where they can drill and train. I will accept it if anyone tells me that Mr. Lynch's Government are doing their best to bring that to an end. But it is not unfair to ask that a greater determination might be shown. It is a public scandal when someone from a part of Belfast is found to have been injured in the course of training in an I.R.A. camp somewhere near Dublin. Public opinion finds this outrageous.
There are other ways in which great help could be given. It should be possible to bring about greater co-operation between our security forces and the security forces immediately south of the border, between the R.U.C. and the Garda. I am willing to accept that Mr. Lynch is looking at these things.
I welcome co-operation in economic matters, as the Leader of the Opposition does. There is considerable opportunity for economic co-operation. This could open up quite a wide field, but it should be remembered that it has limitations, that, as I think the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, relationships with foreign countries are a matter for Her Majesty's Government here, and that while explorations go on either at official or Ministerial level across the border, ultimately the decisions are made between the Government here and Dublin, between sovereign Governments.
There is one way in which great help could be given from the South to our present economic situation, and that is through a reconsideration of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement. It may not be appreciated that there are still considerable tariffs, which operate very much to the detriment of Northern Ireland industry. We hope that they would disappear under the E.E.C. It is not generally known that there is still a 16 per cent, tariff on furniture, a 40 per cent. tariff on bread, a 33℣ per cent. tariff on carpets, a 30 per cent. tariff on clothing and a 22½ per cent. tariff on footwear, all important Northern Ireland industries.
I come to the general economic situation for a moment. I do not want to take too long, because I know that some of my hon. Friends would like to develop this matter further. But there is now evidence of considerable good will on the part of Her Majesty's Government, which we recognise, including the scale of investment grants and the fact that inducements to industry are now such as to place us in a favourable position.
I should like to make just one point about the new study at official level into what might be done. I hope that it will not be another examination of the economic problems. During the past two decades we have had a series of examinations. The essential ingredients of the Northern Ireland economic position are well known, and we do not want another examination. What we want now is a small committee to decide precisely how best the resources can be used, and used quickly. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that no doctrinaire views about economics should prevent any sensible use of the moneys available. Although my political philosophy is fundamentally against public or State industries, in this context of a desperate situation, where it is perhaps necessary to find immediate employment either in State industry or public works employment, I would not necessarily rule that out, and I hope that the new Commission will not.
Perhaps I might end by trying to answer as briefly as I can the question I imagine everyone, in the atmosphere of this debate, would want to answer—how best can we in this House and in Britain generally help the people of Northern Ireland to return to a normal situation? The first thing is to reiterate, as my right hon. Friend and the Leader of the Opposition have, that the union is permanent so long as the Parliament of Northern Ireland wishes it to be, and to keep on reiterating it. Any possible doubt upon that, any glimmer of doubt upon it, is one thing which could lead to a deterioration of the situation.
Second, what is needed now is not only the economic help that we have been offered and not only the military effectiveness on the ground which we are beginning to see and which we applaud and are grateful for. What is really needed now is a massive injection of public confidence.
Our new Prime Minister in Northern Ireland has said that he has to re-create confidence. The present lull in our affairs should not lead us to be too euphoric, because there is no doubt that we are liable to see great troubles in the future and that this is liable to be a long job. But so long as there is determination, and evident determination to bring the situation to an end, so long as there is plainly the political will to do so, then I believe that it is right to strike a note of optimism and confidence.
What can the people of Britain do for us in Ulster, either through this House or through any other medium, since we have done our best in every way to see that British standards obtain in that part of Britain—why should we not, since we are British people ourselves? They can tell us that at least we can get the assurance of British standards in the maintenance of law and that at least we can get investment and confidence. I would say to people, "Come and see us." On the whole, it is a good country to have a holiday in.
It is indeed. It is curious that the hon. Gentleman, who I thought looked beyond the television cameras, should laugh. Let him ask anyone who has been on holiday in Ulster, even in recent times. Let him ask the people who live there and they will tell him that it is a good place to have a holiday. We depend very much on our tourist trade. I say to the people of Britain, "Give us your confidence, give us your investment, give us your trade. We will not let you down."
It is many years since I had the pleasure of addressing the House on the question of Northern Ireland. On that occasion also I followed the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). We have both grown greyer in the years which have intervened. It is with some regret that I have to depart from the standards which have been set in the debate. I hope, however, that I shall not depart from them too far, because we have listened to two Front Bench speeches today which should be studied in great detail. If I may say so to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, I do not think that I have ever heard a fine speech on Northern Ireland in an my experience in this House.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South spoke about the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He said that it does not now ask what is a man's religion. Perhaps he will tell us whether it leaves out all the other little bits of evidence which would convey a man's religion on the form. If that is so, however, why is not that excellent example followed in industry? So many people in Northern Ireland are employed on the basis of their religion.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman talked about British standards pertaining to Northern Ireland. I cannot resist asking him, "How long?" For 50 years the Unionist Party has been in charge of that part of Ulster—because it is only a part of Ulster, that Ulster that I was taught about at school. If British standards are, indeed, obtaining there now, we welcome it and I hope that there will be reciprocation from the Eire Government.
I represent a Lancashire constituency with many thousands of expatriates. There are many thousands of third and fourth generation Irish there, many of whom like to go home to Ireland for a holiday. That includes all parts of Ire- land. They like to do so even though their loyalties are here. I say that the Lynch Government in Dublin could do one thing. They could bring in medical and social reciprocal measures so that our people going there could benefit just as people from Ireland benefit when they come here and fall in need of our services, when we treat them in the Christian fashion that we should. I hope that people in Ireland are listening to that solid suggestion.
I do not believe that the border is not an issue. I wish it were not. I wish, indeed, that I was tackling the situation of abolishing the border. I remember my mother saying to me, "One day it will disappear like the snow off the Donegal Mountains—as quietly and as dignified as that." The way forward to that day is for the Eire Government, the Northern Ireland Government and the United Kingdom Government to get together in attaining a common denominator in standards of health and social welfare services. Nothing could do more to unit our peoples.
People question the presence of British troops in Northern Ireland. I believe that I was the first person to contact my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Mr. Harold Wilson), when he was Prime Minister, to ask for the presence of British troops in Northern Ireland. I want to stand up and be counted on that issue. I felt on 14th August, 1969, when I visited Ireland, that without the presence of British troops there would be a complete massacre. That is not an exaggeration. My right hon. Friend responded, and I have evidence showing that the Northern Ireland Government asked for troops on the 15th August. That was the timing of my request.
I pay my testimony to the British Army in Ireland. Tribute has been paid by many people, and because I am not repeating their tribute at length I hope that it will not be treated as meaning that my testimony is less sincerely felt. I say this to the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South: I do not know who killed those soldiers but whoever it was, may God forgive them, because I know of nothing that could have set back so far the cause of peace in Northern Ireland as the dastardly killing of these three young immature Scottish soldiers.
It is important to find out how long we are going to stay in Ireland. My right hon. Friend, as did the Home Secretary, stipulated that we must stay there as long as we are needed. But if the present situation goes on we shall be staying there for ever and therefore it is imperative that someone should ask, "How long?" It is important that the Northern Ireland Government should know, that the Government of Eire should know and that we should know. It is certainly important that the people of this country should know because, from what I know of the temper of our people, they do not like the presence of our soldiers in this long-standing argument in Ireland. The best news we could give our own people, before their patience runs out, is that the situation has changed and we can bring our troops home where they belong. Our people do not like our troops being involved in these duties and never have liked it.
It has been said, but not often enough, that the Prime Minister of Ireland, Mr. Jack Lynch, has condemned the atrocities and the violence. We put down a Motion, signed by 130 Members, condemning the pursuit of arms and resort to violence and the killing of innocent people and applauding the wisdom and courage of many moderate people in public life who have denounced such action. That is the sort of message which the Prime Minister of Ireland was conveying, and not only him, but the prelates and priests and everybody else in Ireland.
In the light of all that, the Prime Minister of Ireland has said, and it is significant that this was said recently, as my right hon. Friend said, "Let us not appeal to past gods as if past generations in Ireland had said the last word on Ireland. So many people in Ireland and in this country regard the problems of Ireland, ancient and new, as insuperable, as some kind of legend about Dark Rosaline which cannot possibly be satisfied and which will go on for ever. We have to say that the problem will not always go on and that there are opportunities to end it. I pay my testimony to those engaged in the arduous task of trying to bring peace to this divided province. I admired Lord O'Neill and Major Chichester-Clark-who would envy them their task? I wish the new Prime Minister, Mr. Brian Faulkner, who looks and sounds Irish, the best of luck in trying to bring more social justice to the province.
It is here that I may part company from many others. I heard the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Faulkner, say that Ulster was as much part of the United Kingdom as was Liverpool or Birmingham. The poet has said this better than I can, but I do not know that any Irishman could always completely agree with that. If Ulster is part of the United Kingdom judicially and legally, in many other ways it is very much part of Ireland. If ever a country on the map looked like one country, Ireland is that country.
What is wrong with being Irish? We have played our part, those of us who have Irish ancestry. I was born in this country, as were my father and grandfather, and we have served no country but our own. My loyalties are here, utterly and completely. It is my country and I am subject to the lawful authority of the country where I was born.
What is wrong with being subject to the lawful authority of a united Ireland if the people desire to have a united Ireland, and that is the only qualification? I am a Liverpudlian, but I do not think that the seas divide. For centuries, Liverpudlians have seen ships leaving for the ports of Ireland. I believe that the seas unite, and they have certainly united this country and Ireland.
All over the world there is to be found the view that Ulster and Eire are one country. I will not bore the House with the long and rather beautiful poem which expresses the matter more eloquently than I can put it, but the poet said:
She said, 'I never called them sons,
I barely dared to speak their name.
I flung them to the howling waste,
I tossed them to the foaming sea.'
She said, 'I never called them sons,
Yet still their love comes home to me.'
I should like it to be known that the Orangeman and the Catholic love Ireland as I love my native land, that they love their native land as much as anybody who lives in Cork, Killarney or Wicklow. People are being divided instead of being united.
The Irish encircle the world from Hong Kong to Tand Jong Priok, from New Ross to the White House, from Boston to Botany Bay. The Irish have had to move all over the world to work, and no one would take the dignity of knowing how to work from us. But nobody would say that Ulster was not part of Ireland.
Everybody in Northern Ireland is entitled to his traditions, whatever they may be; everyone in Northern Ireland is entitled to his loyalties, whatever they may be. Everyone is entitled to his dignity. There is no need to fear; there is no need to change. But there is a need for tolerance and compassion and it is in these that there is a solution to this problem, in the Christian tolerance and compassion which I believe to exist in all people of Northern Ireland.
Somewhere we have missed the chance of co-ordinating these great gifts, but that co-ordination is not beyond our reach. Social injustice has been mentioned and there has been talk of housing ghettoes and jobs and insecurity. Has anyone in the House any idea of what it is like to be an under-privileged Catholic? Would anyone like to say how far it is from Marsh Lane, Bootle, to the House of Commons? It is not 220 miles, but a million miles. For the lads in the slums of Belfast to a place in the world where they can express themselves is not just a distance across the Irish Sea, but another million miles, and they know it. The cause of most of the trouble in Northern Ireland is that they do not have an equal chance of a decent job, or a proper education.
The hon. Gentleman is more eloquent than he claims. He now says that the minority does not get the education it deserves. Is it not correct that more money has been spent proportionately on Roman Catholic schools in Northern Ireland than on Roman Catholic schools in this country? Secondly, has not the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland said that it would like to see an end of the segregation of education in Northern Ireland which continues the division when young people should be learning to live and play together?
I will disregard the last part of that question. I do not think it is part of the Irish trouble. As some hon. Members know, I have a great interest in education and I have warmly applauded the financial help which Catholic schools have received from both Governments. I have said before that in this regard the Government of Northern Ireland has shown a tremendous example. If they are so tolerant, so compassionate and understanding in education why could they not spread this to other areas such as unemployment and housing? This was wrong and it was bad. I want it to change and quickly.
The hon. Gentleman is supporting me in my argument. I was chairman of a housing committee in one of the Merseyside districts for a long time and I can assure everyone that the last thing I wanted to know was what religions of applicants were. I wanted to know how many children there were and their living conditions. Until we get this fusing of the people in Northern Ireland we will not get rid of the ghettoes. We may build new houses but we will create new ghettoes.
I was sorry that the Home Secretary could not give any credence to the suggestion made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. He gave the House some encouraging figures about the amnesty. My right hon. Friend said 73,000, I said 69,000. I was more modest. This is a lot of guns to be made available.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there are 73,000 licences issued in Northern Ireland and that each licence means that a person may hold up to six guns? That figure can be multiplied by six.
I am indebted for that embellishment. It was amazing that the right hon. Gentleman could not underline what was said by my right hon. Friend. The amnesty is not enough. If the terms of the Motion placed on the Order Paper in February are the explicit wishes of the House—and I believe that it could be supported by hon. Members opposite—then there are only two bodies in the whole of Northern Ireland which should carry arms. One is the British Army and the other is the Army of the Irish Republic. I suggest that Mr. Lynch should do something about that. We are walking on a knife-edge here. If all of us, the Eire Government, the Northern Ireland Government, the people do not want any trouble this is the way to make a start.
There are martyrs in every cause. I do not believe that there are just Catholic martyrs, and God knows there have been plenty of those. There are not just Protestant martyrs nor Orange martyrs. Every cause and faith, every colour and nation has produced its martyrs. When I was a boy there were names that rang like a legend. They were the names of Michael Collins, Liam Mellowes, Cahill Brugha, Arthur Griffiths, James Connolly, James Larkin, Austin Stack, Terence McSweeney, De Valera, Harry Boland and hundreds of others.
These were the names I knew as a boy. What did they have in common? They had a love of their native land. What happened to them? They fought together and in the end most of them fought against each other; some of them killed each other. In condemning the violence that could take place in Northern Ireland I say most fervently that these people whom I have mentioned, without avowing or disavowing their principles, would say to their own country today "God save Ireland" but they would say to the Irish "But for God's sake do it without a gun".
Order. I know hon. and right hon. Members have strong feelings about this matter. We have had two back bench speeches in very nearly the last hour. Many hon. Members want to speak. I hope that if possible speeches will be a little briefer.
Despite his early misgivings I do not think that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) strayed very far from the line of what the Leader of the Opposition described as constructive bipartisanship which has characterised most of our debates on this subject. The Leader of the Opposition was fully entitled to remind us that the Downing Street declaration was in the main the basis for continuation of that constructive bipartisan approach. I am perhaps entitled to feel that some of his phrases might not have been used had he still held a position of full responsibility.
He made the point about the marches. Those who march may be provocative but they are not necessarily primitive, as my occasional visits to Trafalgar Square reminds me. Last year I saw the Orange marches and the Apprentice marches. There were a great many young people in both marches. These marches are no longer the prerogative of men living in the past. The Leader of the Opposition spoke movingly about the young and the future, but he should not overlook the fact that there is a depth of feeling associated with those men in the past which, from my observations, some of the youngsters share.
What immediately concerns me and I know it concerns hon. Members on all sides, is the stake we have committed with our security forces to Northern Ireland and the proper discharge of that commitment. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen may offer a preferred solution in the long term but, as my right hon. Friend emphasised in his opening remarks, no solution of any kind can be contemplated, still less negotiated at the direction of a gunpoint. The prerequisite of any solution is to stop this reign of fear which a very small minority has established to secure its own ends—what the Leader of the Opposition called violence for its own sake.
We are not unaware that to many in this country who do not view this affair very sympathetically, this is a manifestation of a chronic condition. They are willing, perhaps more than we would like to admit, to accept almost any solution if they felt it would relieve us of that condition. It must be made clear that it is not as simple. Northern Ireland may be singular but my observations, which take place from time to time over there, lead me to think that what is confronting us now, and more directly our security forces, is not peculiar to Northern Ireland. It is a universal condition. It is, quite simply, an attempt to impose direction by strong-arm methods and the terror which arms instil. That is the reality, and it is important not to regard it as the fantasmagoria of Right-wing Unionists. That reality is not confined to the country under discussion. It is a universal phenomenon appearing in different phases and different stages elsewhere in the world.
That is the situation which confronted the last Government which, to their honour, they sought to meet. They set in hand, as the Leader of the Opposition has reminded us today, steps to restore order against determined subversion. For reasons which we all know and which I need not explain, that confrontation faces this Government even more starkly. It is not now just about Ireland. It is not a symbol of tempers there but of will here, and that is why we have a responsibility to Northern Ireland to discharge these duties by the best methods we can.
Doubts have been cast for various reasons on the Army's capacity to discharge these duties. There should be no doubt on that score in any quarter. Under the directorate of the new General Officer Commanding, with whom anyone who has met him must be enormously impressed, we have struck a very fine balance between passivity and escalation and that, in terms of the operation going on there now, is the most difficult balance of all to strike.
No one can spend a day with the Forces in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast, without being profoundly moved, not simply by the Army's qualities in military terms but by the wisdom with which it is setting about its task. That is a rare thing in military forces anywhere. There is, as my right hon. Friend observed, a matchless blend of determination and restraint. It is easy to show one and to lose the other. All ranks, from the General Officer Commanding down to the last soldier, are on a knife edge, confronted by 300 or 400 of the I.R.A., and some perhaps who are not I.R.A.—I take the point made by the hon. Member. Fifty of those will probably stop at nothing, including the loss of their own lives, and many of them are in two opposing factions.
The Army finds its prime object to neutralise without bloodshed and that—let no one make a mistake about it—involves enormous risks for the Army. The Army has set about it in the right way with active patrolling on foot and no "no go" areas. There is a willingness everywhere to encounter, challenge, search, arrest and stop and ask questions but only in the most restricted circumstances to open fire. Coupled with this resolution, which calls for immense steadiness, bearing in mind that this goes right through all ranks, there is full awareness of the need to regain the confidence and co-operation of the population, to get the population willing to inform, and to report on the side of law enforcement not only to the Army but to the police. The point made by my hon. Friend about the amnesty is absolutely sound. That is exactly the sort of result which will flow as confidence is gained that not only are our security forces in charge but that the population is with the security forces and not apart from them.
Citizens in this country do our Army a great injustice if they suppose it is fulfilling its task simply by force of arms. I am delighted to learn that the higher command has determined that our soldiers shall no longer have to tolerate stoning, abuse and so on without a firm response. The soldiers now have authority to curb this by reasonable means and to arrest hoodlums who in many instances were the people who offered the worst insults.
The higher command is also aware, and has made this awareness known to all ranks, that reprisals are no answer. There was no more impressive episode than that which occurred after the death of the three soldiers when the word went round and was accepted "no revenge". It is a very disciplined Army which will accept that and act upon it. The Army's biggest battle is not a safe one but a psychological one to get the population on its side.
Therein is the virtue of this new style of patrolling. It courts encounters with the I.R.A. and it nips in the bud the incipient trouble of large crowds gathering and disorder getting out of hand. It also makes contact with the population. It is difficult to make contact on a moving vehicle and far easier to do so on foot patrol. It also restores the willingness to give information, and the information which my hon. Friend was able to offer on the weekend of 2nd to 4th April flowed directly from information which the population is beginning to give both to the Army and to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The more the Army can act on information, the less likely are our soldiers to have a fatal confrontation in any one area.
This formula seems to have been communicated to all ranks. By all means let us express admiration for the Army's work in Northern Ireland, but let us be clear on what grounds we are expressing that admiration. People in this country should perhaps more fully appreciate that it is not simply valour that we are praising but sagacity. I am left with the feeling that no other Army in the world could discharge the task which those units are now performing in Belfast.
We are heavily committed. I will not enlarge on what the hon. Gentleman has said about the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but I share all his misgivings. I never go to Northern Ireland without despairing at what appears to be a widening gap between the responsibilities which the Royal Ulster Constabulary should be taking on and what the Army still has to take on. It may escalate. The new methods may lead to sharp response, and we shall be ready for this. It may be said that the régime has certain chronic weaknesses within it and—this language can be overdone—that Mr. Faulkner is the last ditch. It is not hard to find "ifs" and "buts", they abound; it is easy to be fatalistic. I gain the impression that the events of the last 18 months have left their mark on the protagonists. Good men and women on both sides are profoundly shocked by the outrages which have been committed in their name, particularly recently.
We are not now simply engaged in the thankless task of holding a peace line between two warring communities. What we are doing now is seeking to neutralise terror, and those methods should be given a chance to work. The instrument which we have in our hands for carrying this work through enormously improves our chances of success. This is not the Army which some of us remember from many years ago. It is an entirely different force, a new creation. Ultimately it may be controlled from Whitehall by my right hon. Friend and his colleagues, but its strength lies in its being so self-controlled and having intense sensitivity to the nature of the task in hand.
If Northern Ireland comes through this and enjoys better times, the debt which we shall owe these forces will be immeasurable. We should perhaps start to discharge that debt, not simply by giving them our full confidence, but by understanding why we should give them our full confidence.
I am conscious, Mr. Speaker, of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak and I shall therefore be very brief.
It is only on rare occasions that virtual unanimity is achieved in the House. The unanimity shown today reflects the concern which exists about Northern Ireland and our desire to improve, and certainly not to worsen, the situation. I should like briefly to make six points.
First, the Home Secretary emphasised that there would be no change in the policy of reform which has previously been embarked upon. That was underlined by the Leader of the Opposition. Nevertheless, it is inevitably causing a certain degree of concern that certain individuals—for example, Mr. West—who are extreme opponents of reform are now within Mr. Faulkner's Cabinet. This concern is manifest within the Ulster Unionist Party. There was recently the resignation of Mrs. Dickson for the same reason. While clearly the Ulster Prime Minister must seek a broad base in order to have any room for political manœuvre, it is most important that the Government, in this bipartisan approach, should ensure that there is no going back on reform. Major Chichester-Clark—and I echo the tributes paid to him—was forced out of office by Right-wing pressure. Some of those same Right-wingers are now in Mr. Faulkner's Government.
Secondly, it is right to refer briefly to the electoral system in Northern Ireland. When, in the 1920s, the Unionist Party abolished the proportional representation system set up by the Government of Ireland Act which is still playing its part in Eire in the alleviation of sectarian pressures, it undoubtedly did so to secure the dominance of its own caucus. I shall not embark on arguments about proportional representation, but there is little doubt that in the unique situation of Northern Ireland the single-member system simply means that if there is any split in the Unionist Party an opponent, regarded by it as an opponent of the constitution, is liable to get in. There is therefore a movement to the right in the Unionist Party which could otherwise have been effectively prevented.
A moment ago the hon. Gentleman referred to the change from proportional representation to single-member constituencies to solidify the caucus of the Unionist Party. He should look at history, because in 1929, when that took place, the results of the last election under the proportional representation system for the Unionist representation at Stormont were identical to those in the first election under the single-member system.
The situation in Northern Ireland is special. I do not think the intervention of the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) detracts from my point. Obviously the Home Secretary or the Government will say, "We are not in a position to say anything about that because Lord Crowther is proceeding with his Commission on the Constitution". But is there no possibility of an interim report being made by the Crowther Commission? Anything which helped to alleviate the pressures, very often on the Unionist Party, would be of great value.
Thirdly, reference has been made by a number of speakers to the revival of economic co-operation between Dublin and Stormont. This is certainly a very good sign, and I imagine that everyone with common sense welcomes it.
Fourthly, I come to the question of guns. One thing which the Government spokesman who winds up must make clear is precisely what is meant by the need for people to have a "substantial reason" for possessing or using guns. The Leader of the Opposition referred to rifle clubs. Have they a "substantial reason" for having guns? I doubt it. I agree that it would be far the best thing if it were simply said that for a period no guns would be allowed at all. This is an exceptional situation. On the other hand, I regard that as an impracticable proposition because it would be im- possible to implement and I do not believe in passing laws which people cannot put into practice. Nevertheless, I am sure that there must be a tightening up, and perhaps rifle clubs are an area for consideration.
Fifthly, I deal with the question of processions. It would be a constructive, restrained act for both sides to say, "We are going to have a moratorium on processions. We shall put them off for a period. We shall not be provocative." That may be virtually impossible. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) seems to agree. It is difficult for us on this side of the Irish Sea to understand the pressures which make people go through these things each year, but I still say that, looking at it from the outside—and I have not been to Northern Ireland since November—processions contribute nothing towards making the situation one whit better and they considerably contribute to worsening it.
I do not think the two things are directly comparable.
Sixthly, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition about the urgent need for public works programmes to tackle the unemployment problem which indubitably exacerbates the tension, because it means that men have time which they would not otherwise have and are led into the violent situations which from time to time have occurred.
What the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said, namely, that the violent men are few, is probably true. But in a community which is so determinedly divided, it is inevitable that they should appear and perhaps not insignificant that they should be so hard to trace. We in this House are today exercising considerable political restraint, and that is the only message which we can give to the people of Northern Ireland. It is not a very exciting message. It is a very hard message to put into effect, but it seems to me the only possible way out.
I appreciate the restrained and short speech of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Russell Johnsston). I propose to follow him in both respects. I agree with what he said about the withdrawal of arms and the banning of marches.
As you, Mr. Speaker, are I believe aware, I am an Ulsterman by marriage and I have a home in Northern Ireland. Therefore, inevitably, I have been involved in the terrible events of recent years.
I confirm what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said in the course of an interview reported in the Sunday Times, that it is only in the cities, especially in Belfast and sometimes in Londonderry, that this problem exists. Television and newspaper reports often give the impression that Ulster is practically aflame. But those who live there know that the countryside of Ulster is exactly the same as the countryside of England and that the problem is confined to certain urban areas.
Having said that, I acknowledge that Ulster must be one of the few remaining parts of the world where, unfortunately, religion still plays an important and a divisive part in politics. Until quite recently, and perhaps still, Catholic priests used to warn the faithful of hellfire if they voted Unionist—
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) must wait for it. I do not intend to be one-sided in my comments. On the other hand, it was almost impossible for a Unionist to enter public life without first joining the Orange Order. In fact, my wife was ex-communicated from the Orange Order for daring to set foot in a Roman Catholic church in London to attend the wedding of the daughter of an old friend who was to be married to a Catholic. Bigotry can scarcely go further than that, and it applies on both sides of the religious divide.
I do not like extremism of any kind. On all issues, I have always believed in policies of tolerance and moderation and reform. For that reason, I was a good deal out of sympathy with the way in which the Province of Ulster was governed for the first 45 years of its semi-autonomous existence. The Unionist Party was dedicated to the Protestant ascendancy, and until the premiership of the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and later that of Major Chichester-Clark, it seemed that no one was in the least interested in giving equal rights to Catholics in Ulster.
Lord O'Neill and Major Chichester-Clark tried to build bridges between those of different religions. They tried to unite Ulster. But it was difficult, as it always is, to do in four years what should have been spread over 40. They could not, therefore, unite the Unionist Party. The ultra-Protestants thought that Lord O'Neill and Major Chichester-Clark were going too far too fast, and this created the Protestant backlash which, if he will forgive the somewhat hostile expression, is represented by the reverend Gentleman who sits for Antrim, North in this House and for the Bannside at Stormont. I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has left the Chamber, because I do not like criticising anyone in his absence. With his compulsive urge to oppose his own Government on every major issue, apparently even my right hon. Friend is now playing the Orange card.
There is no more excuse today for Catholic extremism than for Protestant extremism. The civil rights case has at last been conceded. The overdue reforms have belatedly been introduced and will soon work themselves through to the citizens of Ulster in their daily lives. So the hitherto divisive speeches of the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), which I hope will not be repeated this evening, are as irrelevant today as they have always been irresponsible. With respect, it is time that they ceased. I believe that this is realised by the ordinary, decent people of Ulster. They have had enough of bloodshed and strife fanned by fanatical politicians who peddle prejudice and lack judgment.
There are no longer the same large confrontations in the streets between Protestant and Catholic crowds hurling stones and petrol bombs at each other. To that extent, the position is healthier. But, perhaps because it is healthier, the I.R.A. has come to Ulster to terrorise and to kill. The arms of the I.R.A. are not just stones and home-made petrol bombs. They are the more professional machine guns, often fired at British soldiers and Ulster policemen from behind a screen of school children and young hooligans. The objectives of the I.R.A. are no longer the traditional Catholic aspirations for a united Ireland, which I respect.
If the hon. Gentleman were more aware of his history, he would probably consider his last remark a disservice to the Catholic Church. It is historically incorrect to say that the aims of the I.R.A. have ever had anything to do with the Catholic Church or the Catholic minority. In its campaign in 1956, during the 1916 troubles and subsequently in the 1920s, members of the I.R.A. and the Sinn Fein were excommunicated by the Catholic Church.
I am sorry if I paid the I.R.A. any compliment to which it is not entitled. But its purpose—and I do not associate the hon. Lady with the I.R.A. —is chaos and revolution. Like the member of the People's Democracy organisation who said it, the I.R.A. does not want reform. It wants revolution in Ireland; and we cannot negotiate with terrorism.
In these circumstances, I sympathise very much with my Ulster Unionist colleagues and those whom they represent. I sympathise with the feelings of fear and frustration which exist in Ulster today among ordinary people. Law and order must be restored in the streets and in every street. That is why the "no go" areas in Belfast are important. I was very glad to hear my right hon. Friend's remarks today on this subject. In fact the troops go in. But they do not stay in. For that reason, I prefer to call these enclaves the "no stay" streets.'
I well understand the Ulster argument which is sometimes addressed to the British Government, though, of course, the situation is better today than it was two weeks ago; and the credit for that, without wishing in any way to sound patronising to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), is due largely to the heartfelt representations made recently by my hon. Friends from Ulster. They made a strong and a remarkable presentation of the Ulster case, and it greatly impressed their Conservative colleagues.
I have received a letter from Ulster which says:
You have disarmed our police, but you don't order your soldiers to keep the peace effectively in our capital city.
I understand that. It is a strong argument, because there are some areas in Belfast where the Queen's writ does not run all the time. It runs some of the time, but not all of the time, and that is a sad situation in any city of the United Kingdom.
But—I want to be fair to everyone, as we all do—I also sympathise with my right hon. Friend. It would be a grave responsibility for any Minister in London to disregard all the best military advice on the spot. I have no doubt that soldiers could commandeer any houses which they wish to occupy in the no-stay areas, but if that is all they are going to do, they may as well sit outside and patrol in as they already do. If they are to be in the streets actually patrolling, every day and all the time, we must be prepared to accept that there would be casualties, that British soldiers would be killed, picked off one or two at a time like sitting ducks by I.R.A. snipers who would then disappear into the ghetto.
The problem in Ireland is as much psychological as it is political and military. The people of Ulster must be assured and must believe that we are winning, that peace will be restored, and soon. If they believe that, they will bear the present position for a little longer, but they cannot be expected to tolerate it for very much longer.
I should like to ask my hon Friend one or two questions. The first may sound naive—I have not studied it. Does he think that an electoral system of proportional representation, aimed to encourage the moderates and discourage the extremists, would be at all helpful in Ulster? I ask that for only one reason —it may not apply—and that is that I remember very well indeed that, when there was murder and arson and civil war between Africans and Indians in Guyana seven or eight years ago, my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) introduced P.R. and it virtually eliminated the race politics which had been the cause of all the trouble.
Secondly, what advice has my right hon. Friend received from the Army commander about banning the marches—I revert to the point of the hon. Member for Inverness—not just the Easter marches but all the marches this year? I should have thought that that might be a very wise precaution. They have always been the cause of trouble in the last two years, and it would be very difficult—I put this now, just before Easter —to stop the Protestant marches later if the Catholic marches are allowed this Easter.
Thirdly, if the troubles get any worse in the summer—unfortunately, they always tend to do so—what are the Army's views about imposing a curfew in the bad areas of Belfast if it became necessary, and also about the banning of private arms in the cities? I underline that last word; why should anyone want a rifle who lives in a city? I take the point of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South that the result of the amnesty has been immensely encouraging, but I should like to ensure that it could be complete.
Generally, there is one important fact about the situation which must be accepted on both sides of the Irish Sea. It is that Mr. Faulkner is Ulster's last chance. If the hard-liners in his own party throw him out, what they will get is direct rule. That is a prospect which surely they would welcome as little as we would. Mr. Faulkner is a professional, an experienced and skilful politician, who will certainly give himself and Ulster a good chance, but the British Government must support him 100 per cent., because he is our last chance as well as Ulster's.
The Protestant militants must realise that Mr. Craig is not an alternative, because his policies are, rightly, totally unacceptable to any British Government and would, in my opinion, cause civil war in Ulster. Therefore, it is no use the Northern Ireland constituency associations choosing hard-liners to represent them at Stormont instead of moderates. Direct rule, of course—I know that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) would agree with the Home Secretary—is a last resort which no one in Britain wants, but it is a possibility which should be spelled out in plain words by my right hon. Friend, as it was by the Leader of the Opposition, because it must be clearly understood in Ulster.
The Ulster Unionists may dislike British policies, but if they do not back Mr. Faulkner, they will end up with British policies and British rule as well. That is not a threat: it is a fact.
Time alone would prevent me from following the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Nigel Fisher). I would rather refer to the speech of the Home Secretary and try to clarify some of the issues on which he seemed to be optimistic, without any apparent justification.
He pointed out that the reform programme which had been brought to the Statute Book in Northern Ireland was now being felt on the ground and that this was the reason for the resurgence of violence—that some people in Northern Ireland did not like the operation of the reforms. I live in the city of Belfast, in the capital city of Northern Ireland, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that, as yet, none of those reforms has had any effect whatever on the everyday life of the population.
Let us go through the reforms, as the Home Secretary did. The principle of one man, one vote has been finally instituted—25 years after it was available in this country, and after many people in Northern Ireland had had to endanger their lives to get it on the Statute Book. As yet, no elections have taken place in local government where this principle has been in operation. The local government elections have been postponed until October, 1972. We have yet to see the effect of this reform.
The Central Housing Authority is one of the major reforms, but its members have not yet been appointed. If we are to go by experience in Northern Ireland, the personnel will be appointed by the Government and the Minister of Development without asking for the advice or the consideration of Opposition Members of Parliament. Since the Unionist party has a built-in majority, with a permanent Opposition, I believe that they have the duty at least to consult the Opposition on who should be appointed to these public boards under the reform programme. The Parliamentary Commissioner is certainly in operation, and we are grateful for that.
The former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and the Leader of the Opposition would accept, I think, that local government reform is one of the paramount issues in Northern Ireland and has been for a number of years. We do not yet know what the Government are going to do in this most important field. If we are to go by experience, if we are to listen to our own suspicions, we must be concerned about the effect and the shape of local government reform. Included in the present Cabinet of Northern Ireland under the premiership of Mr. Faulkner are some of the most hard-line Unionists ever elected to office in the history of that country.
One of my hon. Friends referred to the present Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Harry West. He has made it clear that he stands in total opposition to local government reform as it was first announced in the Macrory Report. Another member of the Cabinet in Northern Ireland is the present Chief Whip, Mr. John Brook, who has said that the principle of one man, one vote would be instituted over his dead body.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health and Social Security, Mr. Joseph Burns, who comes from North Derry, has said in speeches in Northern Ireland that the inception of the Welfare State there had meant thousands of people not wanting to work. He believes that the Welfare State has made things too soft, and this is a man who has been appointed to look after the health and social services, or, in other words, the Welfare State. He will undoubtedly bring strong right-wing pressure to bear on that Ministry.
This debate has been largely concerned with law and order and one of the most important aspects of this from Northern Ireland's point of view has been the Hunt Report, which was initiated by the Labour Government. Its recommendations have been accepted by all in Northern Ireland who believe that law and order should be administered in an impartial way to all citizens.
However, since the departure of Sir Arthur Young, the former Chief Constable, who had the support and confidence of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, a ferocious attack has been mounted on the Hunt proposals. That attack has been led by the Minister of Agriculture in the Northern Ireland Government who has said that he would not belong to an Administration which implemented the Hunt proposals.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has given vociferous support to those sentiments expressed by the Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture, and there are many right-wingers in the Northern Ireland Government who have also voiced total opposition to the Hunt proposals.
One can only draw a straw in the wind and wonder what is to happen. A few weeks ago we had the promotion in the R.U.C. of a person who was formerly known as District Inspector Meharg. He has now been appointed Assistant Chief Constable, a position of very senior rank. Hon. Members may recall that on 5th October in Derry this man ordered a batton charge against defenceless women and children. [Interruption.] Yes, and my hon. Friend the Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) was in Derry that day to see for himself.
It would appear that there is real reason for the suspicions that are now being voiced by people in Northern Ireland about there having been a departure from the Hunt Report. I hope that the Minister will allay these fears, particularly in connection with law and order. To do this he must answer a number of specific questions.
Has there been any change in respect of law and order in Northern Ireland? In other words, have different directives been given to the British military and security forces there?
If there has been no change of policy, why did the former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland have to resign? Is it that the present Prime Minister there has been given certain guarantees by Her Majesty's Government which they were not prepared to give to the former Prime Minister, Major Chichester-Clark? If so, I do not hesitate to say that Major Chichester-Clark was treated shabbily by those from whom he could have expected support.
If that is the position, then he was driven to the inescapable conclusion that the Tory Government in London wanted rid of him. If that is not so, and if there has been such a change—in other words, if different directives have been given to the British Army there—we are entitled to know what those new directives are.
It would appear, as the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, that in recent days the Army has been carrying out searches. "competently"—his word. The hon. Gentleman quoted some figures, and from whence he got them I do not know. Have the British security forces been given authority or new directives to carry out searches in only Catholic areas, which is what has been happening? This has been causing a great deal of hostility.
We recall how, on 9th October, 1969, after the Westminster Government had been forced to intervene and accept responsibility for law and order by sending British troops there, the first shooting that took place was not in a Catholic ghetto or in, for example, the Falls Road area, but in the heart of a so-called loyalist area, where machine guns, rifles, revolvers and all manner of arms and ammunition were used against British troops.
In those exchanges a young British policeman lost his life and 20 to 30 British soldiers miraculously escaped death because they were wearing pro- tective clothing. But they did not find the arms that were used against them. They did not even look for them.
Yes,and.it lasted for perhaps two hours. The searches in the Catholic areas have lasted for years. The people in those areas, having suffered the traumatic experience in 1969 when their homes were burnt out and their possessions lost at the hands of Unionist extremists, felt that they should acquire arms to prevent that sort of thing from happening again.
I am not saying that they were right to do that and I am not seeking to justify their action. However, they know that at least 73,000 firearm licences have been issued to others in Northern Ireland. These licences entitle the holders to carry upwards of six guns of different calibre per licence, which means that the figure of 73,000 can be multiplied four or six times. How can those whose homes were burnt down in Belfast be expected to look with anything but fear when their areas are being searched and other areas are being left completely alone? If there is to be any confidence in the security forces in Northern Ireland, be they the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the military, it must be made quite clear that they are there for the protection of each and every individual in Northern Ireland.
We listened this afternoon to the Home Secretary and to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition telling the House that there would be no departure from the reform commitments entered into in the August declaration of 1969. But many people in Northern Ireland are not prepared to accept that these guarantees will be given. I believe that the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will prove to be a high watermark in Northern Ireland because he said that if the right wing of the Unionist Party believes it can have success by sheer force in Northern Ireland, the British Government have contingency plans for direct rule. It is time that this was said and it should be spelt out more clearly than has been the case up to the present.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for voicing the sentiments that the Northern Ireland situation cannot be allowed to remain in the frozen position in which it has existed over the last 50 years. He said that within the shortest possible time all political parties in the House should have an opportunity to discuss with all political parties in Northern Ireland an eventual constitutional settlement. I believe that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 has failed. After 50 years of the operation of this Act, which devolved responsibility on to Stormont and brought forth the Special Powers Act, which gave rise to an armed police force and a para-military force, such as the "B" Specials, and with all the extra pieces of oppression which have been placed on the Statute Book year after year, we have still had trouble, distress, turmoil and tragedy stalking the streets of Northern Ireland. Now is the time for the British Government, bearing full responsibility for every person, place and thing in Northern Ireland under Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, fully to accept that responsibility.
The House originally was to have debated Northern Ireland as an emergency matter. It would appear that for the moment the emergency has passed, but nobody can be in any doubt that the position has not settled down in Northern Ireland. Until there is a constitutional settlement and a redress of the wrongs committed in 1920, it will always be a trouble spot in the United Kingdom. I believe that all men of good will in this House, whether Conservative, Liberal or Labour, should now apply their energies to ensuring that this situation, which has existed for far too long in Northern Ireland, should not be allowed to remain one moment longer than is necessary. If this happens, I am certain that men of good will in Northern Ireland—and there are many—will accept the fact that they are Irish and that their future lies in a national reunified country. The sooner this is realised by the House, the better it will be for everyone concerned in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom.
It is with great diffidence that I address the House on Northern Ireland. I have some sympathy with hon. Members since, being a Scotsman, a Roman Catholic, a Unionist, and having married an Irish woman who is now writing a book about their greatest Parliamentarian, Oliver Cromwell, I appreciate what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) may occasionally feel about the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). I have some appreciation of the feelings which are rife in the Province.
I had the good fortune last weekend to travel to Belfast in my capacity as a Member of Parliament and a Roman Catholic. I remember as a young man reading that great poem by Yeats when he watched the Easter Rising, and it will be remembered that the poem ends with the words:
… no terrible beauty was born.
Well, no terrible beauty has been born in Belfast. This is a tragedy which faces this country and which unless these matters are put right, could be a matter of national shame.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did not pay sufficient attention to history this afternoon, because it is there. There is no question that it still has a dominant influence in Irish life and is a factor which cannot be disregarded. The first duty of the House is to make clear where its responsibility in Northern Ireland lies. The whole history of Ireland has been bedevilled by the vacillation of Westminster again and again, whether in the potato famine, or at the time of Curragh or during the 'twenties. This weakness and change of mind has been the father of Irish violence. This is why it is so desperately important that the House should make quite clear where it stands tonight.
The Leader of the Opposition was correct to spell out the Downing Street declaration. I do not wish to make such a formal statement but would emphasise that it is essential we should know where we are and that Ireland and Ulster should know where they are. The first condition is clearly that the people of Ulster are an integral part of the United Kingdom and that we shall defend their right to be an integral part of the United Kingdom until their minds are changed. The second point, which must be made clear, is that because they are in the United Kingdom we in this House are finally responsible for their good government. This, alas, has been a principle which for too long has been disregarded by this House.
Within the parameters of the rights and duties of this House another matter of vital importance for this House is to do something about law and order, because it is our responsibility. Law and order is conditioned by two things—first by the application of law and, secondly, by the production of order in which law can thrive. That means remedying of abuse and seeing that those things on which violence thrives are eradicated. That is our function as a House of Commons. Beyond this it is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide their own fate. It is for them to decide what sort of country they are to be.
I do not take the ultra-pessimistic view that is taken by some hon. Members. Ireland is an island full of noises, but one of the troubles is that there are far too many Calibans and not enough Prosperos around.
Despite the failures there have been—and looking back through the history of Ireland to 1916 one realises that the successes have not been very great—there has been great economic advance in the Province, but political difficulties still abide. Nevertheless I see two things which are hopeful, and what I have to say may offend hon. and right hon. Members on both sides. First of all, I see that the political power of the Roman Catholic Church to which I belong is diminishing, and I believe that, on the whole, to be good. Secondly, I see that the Protestant ascendancy in Northern Ireland in political terms has been modified, if not surrendered voluntarily. That is borne out chiefly by the fact that the military machine which sustained that ascendancy has now gone. These are remarkable changes in Ireland as a whole.
There are other things which are im-portant and helpful.There is the ecumenical feeling throughout the Churches. There is greater toleration than formerly. There is a feeling of greater interest between the Governments of the South and of the North. The whole House must have welcomed the arm of help stretched out by Lynch to the Northern Ireland Government, and the reciprocating action by the new Minister of Commerce in sending a mission south.
All these things are to the good but, at the same time—because perhaps there is a new breeze of reform throughout the island—we are faced with a new and special peril. It is no longer a question of the old I.R.A. As the Leader of the Opposition said this afternoon, much darker forces are at work today, not just in Northern Ireland but in the South as well. These constitute the real danger, far more than schoolboys saying in the Falls Road area, "I am the colonel of the I.R.A." These people, whether they operate in the North or in the South, are political thugs and potential murderers, and must be put down. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Who are they?"] I could give names, but I will not weary the House with them. These people exist.
We have to make sure that in the North law and order can be preserved. I shall not say anything now about the great task which the Army is performing. Far the best statement of what the Army is doing was written by Lord Chalfont in a publication of which I am not necessarily fond, the New Statesman. Lord Chalfont in his last paragraph said:
There are those in Westminster and Stormont who could learn lessons from the British Army in patience, compassion and political reality.
I believe that statement to be true. The way in which the Army has carried out its task has been wonderful, and I have only one comment to make about it. I speak with not a little experience of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Africa and closer home during the last war. It is possible that in the past one of the failures of the Army has been to go for too wide a target. It is essential that when an army is carrying out a policing role it should aim at the smallest target, because that causes the least disturbance amongst people whose support that army must seek.
I believe that some of the Army searches, spread over a wide area—which produced very little—and the use of tear gas, which has been abandoned, were in error. The Army must aim at specific targets, and this is being done far more. Army support must go in parallel with the forces of order. There must be an eradication of the reasons for violence and the grounds on which it flourishes. This has been touched on in several ways this afternoon but I will just touch on two specific aspects.
First, there is the problem of provocation. I believe that this is being looked into by the new Prime Minister of Northern Ireland; the question of the marchers, the modifying of the impact of "Ulster 1971". These matters are of importance. Secondly, as was said by the hon. Member for Belfast, West, it must be seen on the ground that reform is really becoming effective. This is true. Here I speak to my Catholic colleagues—[Interruption.]or my fellow Catholics—
It is vital at this stage that when these opportunities of reform have been offered, Catholics in Northern Ireland should take up the positions that it is now possible for them to take up. I know as a Roman Catholic the small disadvantages one suffers even in this country today. They are very minor, but Roman Catholics once suffered quite considerable—
It is important that those people should take the chances that are offered. Reforms will work only if they are made to work by those who have the opportunities. We have the present Government, we have a House of Commons which I believe is on the whole dedicated to the concept of reform, and we have a new Government in Northern Ireland, however many astonishing conversions there may be on the "road to Damascus" of Stormont. This is the force we have, and this is the force we have to make work.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) in his emphasis on the role of Westminster in Irish and Northern Ireland affairs. I found it rather strange to see nods of assent coming from members of the Ulster Unionist Party who, only six years ago when I was trying to break through the barrier of convention, raised point of order after point of order to prevent the House discussing the problem in Ireland which some of us saw looming ahead at that time. Unfortunately, at that time we were ignored. I also agree with him that the decision about the future of Northern Ireland must rest with the people of Northern Ireland.
This means that the constitutional position is one which must be flexible and must be left for an element of decision by the people there. There can be no question of forcing a State which has existed for 50 years into a shotgun marriage with the Republic, which would result only in Unionism in reverse, in discrimination against another minority within a larger majority, and so we would reach the situation where a united Ireland would be operating Unionist policies in reverse. That is why I have no reservations in condemning forthrightly violence, from whichever side it comes, especially violence from that side which, I believe, has smashed everything which we in the Civil Rights Movement and the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster were working for, and working for with some success.
When the British public saw the spectacle of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) assaulted by an R.U.C. baton charge, they woke up to the iniquitous work going on in Northern Ireland. There was a great fund of sympathy, but there is no fund of sympathy for people who shoot from hide-outs or windows, or who shoot British soldiers on the streets, for no other reason than their fanatical devotion to a cause—a cause which, I believe, they damage. It is for this reason that the question of Ulster has been difficult for many of us here over recent months, because the work we have done was sabotaged both by those who refused to listen, in the first place, and those who jumped on the bandwagon, in the second place.
We have to ask why it has happened that a movement so full of promise has been damaged in this way. We have to look at what happened at Bombay Street, where a whole street of Catholic houses was burnt out. We have to put ourselves in the position of a person in a ghetto of that kind, faced with the fact that the forces of law and order appeared to be the very forces helping the arsonists, the looters and the people forcing others out of their houses at that time. We have to understand that for those people, wrong as the gunmen were, they appeared to be the only persons prepared to defend them.
I should like to see again the day when British troops were cheered, as they were in Derry when they saved the Bogside from being burnt to the ground, instead of being thought of as the bogymen that the I.R.A. provisionals have made them, because British troops must be seen to be operating a policy which does not discriminate against any section of the community. That is why they were sent. It is not surprising that in Ballymurphy, for example, there was easy recourse to violence, when one understands that 47 per cent. of the adult male population is unemployed. So a massive injection of economic aid, of house building and the rest, must be an essential prerequisite to extinguishing some of the fires which have been lit in that area.
I find it difficult to know how, in a situation in which 800,000 people are unemployed in the United Kingdom as a whole, and with the current policies of the Government, we shall see the kind of economic aid which is needed in Northern Ireland. Certainly the philosophy of the "lame duck" cannot be applied to this area, unless we are to accept the gravest political consequences.
We in the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster, which includes 100 Members on this side of the House, tried to remove the gun from Irish politics by basing our programme upon reform. In 1967, four years ago, a report was submitted to the then Home Secretary in which we forecast almost exactly what would happen if the reforms were not forced through fast enough—if they came too late. The great problem is that the reforms came through too late, and they were seen, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West said, purely as paper reforms, reforms which have so far not affected in any degree the lives of ordinary people in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the lives of many are a great deal worse because of the current unemployment situation.
There cannot be a great deal of confidence on the part of the average Catholic inhabitant of Belfast when he knows that out of 10,000 shipyard workers, only 300 are members of his faith. Discrimination even occurs—and we on this side of the House hate to say this —at the level of the trade union movement.
This is why I welcome the formation in Northern Ireland of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, a party which, I believe, has a great deal of hope in it for uniting members of all faiths and none, in trying to work within the constitution, even though their long-term aims may be for what makes sense politically and historically, a united Ireland, but a united Ireland can come only by consent and not by force, and which works against the kind of bigotry that we have seen coming from all sides and which we see in that grotesque example of a funeral procession attacked by people merely because a tricolour happened to be covering one of the coffins.
Out of this situation a new Government has emerged, the Government of Mr. Faulkner, who is undoubtedly the first able politician to emerge on the Unionist side at Stormont. Many of us here feel that what is happening is a slide of the Rhodesian type, that we are going from the Garfield Todd, to the Ian Smith, to the Lardner Burke and so on; a gradual slide to the Right. It must be emphasised for those people in Northern Ireland tempted to slide any further to the Right that there can be no further move that way without direct rule from Westminster, because a further move to the Right cannot be acceptable.
There must be strong opposition—I am glad that there is a certain unanimity about this in the House—to the arming of the police as such, to the resurrection, in whatever form, of the "B" Specials, to the creation of internment camps or to the occupation of what might be termed the Catholic ghettos. Surely the object is to prise the population free of the gunmen, not to force the gunmen into the arms of the population. It is by dividing the gunmen from those who genuinely want to see changes and have genuine grievances, not by making the gunmen into martyrs, that one deals with a situation of this kind. In a Province as volatile as Northern Ireland, one cannot allow 73,000 guns to be distributed among a population of one and a half million, or allow 108 gun clubs, most of which are not sporting clubs, when we know that Mr. Craig quite openly talks about a private army that would be prepared to fight for a U.D.I.
If this Government were to assert its authority, in the last analysis there must be a clear statement from the Government to the Craigs of Northern Ireland that their policies cannot be acceptable and will be met by the full weight of this House, and all that it has at its command, if there is an attempt to stem the reforms which must go through if Northern is to live in peace.
I do not want to see direct rule, because ultimately the people of Northern Ireland must decide their own future. There can be a very strong argument for direct rule for a temporary period, followed by constitutional reforms, not only at local government level but nationally with proportional representation, reforms not merely on paper but reforms which would be carried through by the House if the Unionist Party in Stormont is not able, because of its extremists, to carry them through there.
Successively we have seen one Unionist Prime Minister after another topple because of their failure to kowtow to the Right. Therefore, they resign in desperation rather than take on the Right. It may well be that if Mr. Faulkner does not succeed, direct rule may be the answer. There cannot be a great deal of confidence in a Government which includes Mr. West, Mr. Burns, and Mr. Taylor—especially Mr. West. Certainly assurances were given to him. The House would like to know what assurances were given to Mr. West to allow him to join a Government and to Mr. Bleakley which allowed him to join the same Government. They are strange bedfellows indeed. When Mr. Craig talks about the Government being given two months, one wonders whether they are slipping, Rhodesia fashion, from Right to extreme Right.
I should like to know whether the Government propose to get together at top level so that the Prime Ministers of this country and of the Republic of Ireland can discuss these differences rationally.
Although originally I had no intention of speaking in this debate, I felt that it was necessary for someone who had been involved in this for a considerable time and who has been attacked by certain hon. Members opposite as formenting trouble, to say that those of us who are concerned about civil rights have nothing but hostility and contempt for those who have used civil rights for ends other than those for which we have fought and nothing but contempt for those hon. Members opposite who kept silent and refused to admit the faults that there were in Northern Ireland when there was still time for them to corerct those faults.
The hon. Gentleman knows that he is again deliberately indulging in double talk, for he knows that the campaign for democracy and civil rights in Ulster contains no one of that sort. When I talk about the civil rights movement, the hon. Gentleman knows what I am talking about, for he was one of the hon. Members six years ago, five years ago, and four years ago who refused to admit that there was a thing wrong in Northern Ireland, who told us that it was all a figment of our imagination, and who raised point of order after point of order to prevent the ventilation of legitimate grievances in the House. He put the lid on the pot which has now boiled over. If he wants to cross swords, I tell him that he and his hon. Friends are responsible for it.
I ask only that rationality can replace the rule of the gun, that reforms can replace reaction, that Ireland in the North can live at peace with itself and at peace with the Republic in an atmosphere of harmony and co-operation—there is great scope for economic and political cooperation across the border—and that reconciliation should replace bigotry. I do not think that there is any dichotomy between these two things—that the North can come closer to the South and that by so doing the Republic can come closer to the United Kingdom.
If British statesmen in the 19th century had not treated Ireland so abominably as they did, there would not be two separate countries today on two sides of the Irish Sea. There is still hope in a very tense and difficult situation and I believe that we must build on that hope. We will not build on it by the recriminations that pass between the hon. Member opposite and myself. We shall build on it only when we smash the ghetto mentality, the bigotry and the hatred which exist, when we ensure that Northern Ireland adopts the same standards in relation to political institutions and economic standards that we accept here.
Hon. Members who for years have prevented our moving towards that position have very little part to play. We who are sceptical of the ability of the Unionist Government at Stormont to achieve this have a right to be sceptical. As one hon. Gentleman said, this is their very last chance. If they do not take it, we in Westminster will have to seize it and see that these reforms go through.
Mr. Norman St..John-Stevas:
I do not think that there is any hon. Member who would be likely to under-estimate either the gravity or the difficulty of the situation in Northern Ireland.
Although the Leader of the Opposition has been praised for his speech, I find it impossible to join in that chorus, because I thought that his speech, though it was said to be framed with a helpful intent, was quite otherwise in its content. It was wounding in its phrases and full of innuendoes which will undoubtedly complicate the situation, rather than alleviate it.
The situation in Northern Ireland is so complex and the troubles there so deep-seated that there is no one in the House of whatever point of view who knows what the long-term solution to the problems of Northern Ireland is. All we know from a study of history is that English interventions in Irish history have almost invariably made matters worse, rather than better. That is the only record we have to go on.
Further, English people easily become bored with Irish affairs. They do not think that the Shankill Road is the centre of the universe. There is a trend in pub- lic opinion in Britain in general—on this island—which wants to be shot of the whole problem. That is a dangerous but understandable feeling.
However, Northern Ireland is an intrinsic part of the United Kingdom. It may be a peculiar part. If it were not a peculiar part, we would not be facing any of these problems. It is an intrinsic part of the United Kingdom. Belfast and Londonderry are identical with cities such as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff, in the sense that their citizens are as much entitled to go about their business unmolested and without fear of interference as are the citizens of any other city in the United Kingdom.
The attitude of the House today has been and should be sympathetic to rather than critical of the Government. This is not a party matter. It is not, fortunately—in this House, at any rate—even a sectarian one. In a situation where there are not lacking those who counsel extreme courses, the Government seek to ensure by their policies that reason and civility shall rule the forces of passion, hatred and violence which have been unleashed in Ulster. The Government have sought to control these forces through support of the Government at Stormont. This is a policy that the Government have been right to pursue.
There has been much speculation as to why Major Chichester-Clark resigned after playing the honourable and courageous role that he did. He went the same way as Lord O'Neill before him. Whatever nuances of interpretation there may be, I think that they both went ultimately for the same reason—they were decent, civilised and fair-minded men who eventually simply got tired, despaired of the folly, obstinacy and mean-mindedness of so many people who were involved about them.
Major Chichester-Clark has been succeeded by Mr. Faulkner. I know nothing personally about Mr. Faulkner, but what I know and have read publicly is encouraging. There has been speeches in which Mr. Faulkner has declared that his purpose is to be scrupulously fair to everyone under the law and that his wish is "to make Northern Ireland a better place to live in." Everyone will wish him well in those two objectives.
If Mr. Faulkner fails, Northern Ireland fails with him. It is not merely a question of constitutional change. It is a question of the Province going into a long decline in which the victims will be the inhabitants of Northern Ireland. An economic slump is ecumenical in that it makes no distinction of religion and it will put out of their jobs Catholics and Protestants alike. They will be united, if not in a common prosperity, then eventually in a common ruin.
Today the Home Secretary laid down once more the principles of Government policy—to put an end to terrorism, to encourage the Government at Stormont to press ahead with their reform programme, and to strengthen the economy of Northern Ireland. Those are principles with which no sensible person can possibly disagree, whatever dissent there may be about the details of implementation.
As for the first principle—putting an end to terrorism—I certainly wish to associate myself with the praise which has been given to our troops in Northern Ireland for their conduct. After all, six of those soldiers have been murdered, and our troops have shown a forbearance and restraint under intense provocation which is truly remarkable. If there is a dispute about military tactics, as to where British troops should or should not be stationed, surely, the people whose advice should be followed on such questions must be the military commanders themselves. It must be left to them.
We must remember, also, that nothing would better suit the extremists, be they of the I.R.A. or any other organisation, than to have British troops in an exposed position where they could be picked off, where further murders could be committed in order to exacerbate feeling.
Law and order must be maintained, but the security problem should not be considered as though it were alone in a vacuum. Security comes first in time, it is the necessary means, but security is not first in the order of ends. The end which all these measures are intended to achieve is a state of society in which the two communities can live together in peace and harmony.
In a situation in which the minority is disaffected and suspicious—I do not pass on the reason why this is so; I merely point to the fact—the Government must be extremely careful not only to be impartial but to be seen to be impartial, and, above all, to avoid actions which might have the effect of driving the minority to make common cause with the terrorists, for, if that happened, both security and the political battles would be lost at the same time. At the moment, the minority of the community is quite distinct from the terrorists. The activities of the terrorists are condemned as much by Catholics as by Protestants, and they have been repudiated without qualification by Cardinal Conway and other members of the Irish hierarchy in terms as absolute as those uttered by any Protestant prelate.
In the promotion of harmony between the two communities, it is the reform programme which has the most important part to play. Of course, there will be no peace in Northern Ireland without reform. The Home Secretary gave us an impressive record of progress, but that progress must be maintained and reform must be fully implemented, especially in employment and housing.
We all know that behind the social, the security and the religious problems there looms the question of the Border. The position of the minority in Northern Ireland would not be so difficult were it not for the fact that many, though not all, of the minority have never accepted the Constitution. They want a united Ireland. But if Ireland is ever to be united—I have no a priori judgment against that solution—it must be by the free determination of the Irish people, whether they be in the North or in the South. The people who have to be persuaded that this is a reasonable and desirable solution to their problem are, in the main, the Protestants of Northern Ireland.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), quoting Yeats, said that his terrible beauty was not to be found in Belfast. But it is not to be found in Dublin, either. Yeats' vision for Ireland has never been fulfilled, and those in the Republic who want a united Ireland must assess the changes which they will have to bring about in the life of the Republic if this is ever to become a reality. They must ask themselves, is the price worth paying? They will transform a unitary society into a pluralist one. They will have to alter a great many of their laws. They will have to modify or sweep away laws governing abortion, contraception, divorce and censorship.
That is the hon. Gentleman's opinion, which, coming from him, causes me no surprise. But it would surprise me if it were the opinion of Mr. Lynch that the Republic of Ireland would be the better for those changes. Ireland would be transformed into a totally different society. It would be a different kind of society from that which it is today. Is the Republic prepared for this?
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument closely, and I have some sympathy with certain of the points which he has just made, but is he trying to establish that the essence of Irishism and the Irish country lies in the fact that those Statutes stand upon their Statute Book or in the fact that the majority of the people willingly accept them as disciplines and would do so whether they were on the Statute Book or not?
I am merely pointing out that, if people will the end, they must will the means; they must face the question fairly and squarely, not in an emotional way but looking at what will have to be done if that end is to be achieved. However, I had finished my argument on that point, and I was about to move on.
What is important in the short and medium term is the achievement of peace and concord in Northern Ireland now. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke of people looking to Westminster for a guide in this direction. The solution to Northern Ireland's problems does not lie here in Westminster, however well intentioned Members of this House may be. It does not lie even in the hands of Parliament at Stormont. A solution to the problems of Northern Ireland will be brought about only by the people of Northern Ireland themselves. In that they may be helped or hindered by laws, but the final decision rests with them.
What is needed in Northern Ireland is something way beyond politics and way beyond laws. It is a metanoia, a true conversion, a real altering of minds and hearts on the part of individuals, in whatever community they may find themselves. Surely, the time has now come to end the religious hatred and fanatacism which is still alive in Northern Ireland, from whatever source it comes. Those who exploit these passions succeed only in one way; they bring Christianity into disrepute, and they make agnosticism an attractive alternative.
How hideous it is that at Eastertide, of all periods of the year, the festival when we celebrate the triumph of the Prince of Peace, in Northern Ireland there should be fears and forebodings of the bloodshed, violence and disorder which this season will bring.
In the final analysis, there is only one way forward for the people of Northern Ireland to go, and that is for the members of both communities to stop hating one another and to begin—only to begin—to love one another. It really is as simple and as difficult as that.
In the small lull between last week's crisis and the possibility of next week's crisis, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides seem to be in a great deal of agreement. There is one point on which we can all agree, that the situation in the North of Ireland, give or take an immediate crisis, is not very healthy but is a very bad situation.
The situation is not helped by the fact that the majority of the British Press and major politicians of both parties in this country actively conspire to conceal the facts of what is happening in Northern Ireland from the British public—from the rest of the people in this country. For example, let us take Mr. Brian Faulkner. Mr. Brian Faulkner is our new Prime Minister. He has been projected to many Members of this House and to the public, through the Press and by many speakers in the House today, as a moderate, a tough-minded liberal, an able politician who will not give way to sectarian pressure from the Right wing of his own party. But how much does this reflection, this portrayal of Mr. Faulkner, give us a picture of the man? What are the facts on Mr. Brian Faulkner, the third noble-minded gentleman to come to power in Northern Ireland?
I have no intention of denying his ability as a politician. I hope to explain that ability by giving not a condemnation of him in my words but a condemnation of him in his own. The Leader of the Opposition referred to voices from the past. It may not be too far in the past to go back to 1954. If we go to 12th July, 1954, we see the young Brian Faulkner, undoubtedly an able man and an astute brain, knowing, having his foot on the bottom rung of the political ladder of Tory Unionism, how ultimately to reach the top. Therefore, he says on the 12th July, 1954, platform:
The Church of Rome runs the world-wide organisation which favours Irish republicanism as much today as ever in the past
But, like hon. Members in this House today, he knows that one must talk about economics in order to get anywhere in political life, so later in his speech he says:
There is no reason why Orangemen should not interest themselves in the economic welfare of the community. I mean by that statement that we should be anxious to find employment for our own brethren
Perhaps hon. Members will say that that was a long time ago; perhaps the young Mr. Faulkner learnt something as he went along. He did. We find him in 1960, perhaps by coincidence on 12th July, stating quite openly:
I have said it before, and I say it again, the Orange Order is the backbone of Ulster.
In 1967, still perfectly aware of what the backbone of Ulster was, he supported the main resolution which came before the Loyalist congregation on 12th July condemning the Rome-ward trend in Ulster. Yet in 1971 we find the same Mr. Brian Faulkner addressing the Ulster Unionist Council like a tough-minded liberal, and he says:
If you want a get-tough, hard line on the Catholic community, you must look elsewhere.
I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, do you have to look elsewhere for a hard line on the Catholic community?
Mr. Brian Faulkner would appear to be the last hope of this House for democ-
racy, but what is his record in defence of democracy? In February, 1967, he spoke in defence of the corrupt Derry Corporation, which was subsequently dismissed from power and replaced by a Commission. What had he to say? It was this:
It is high time we answered back the unfair criticism levelled against local councils.
Mr. Brian Faulkner believes in an unarmed police force in 1971. On 17th August, 1969, when Bombay Street was burnt down, when there was a pogrom against the people in the Catholic ghetto areas of Belfast, what had he to say when asked a direct question at a Press conference about the "B" Specials and the police opening fire on the civilian population? He replied:
The 'B' Specials returned fire. What do you expect them to do when they are shot at and killed?
—[An HON. MEMBER:"Hear,hear."] With some astuteness of mind an hon. Gentleman opposite says, "Hear hear" He might do well to remember that not one solitary "B" Special was wounded, never mind killed, in 1969, and that Mr. Brian Faulkner was aware of the fact. But facts do not interfere with one's political ambition, it would appear.
The most significant remark which probably explains Mr. Brian Faulkner's role is that made at the first of our long list of crises, the possible fall of Captain Terence O'Neill from power. At a meeting then of the Unionist Parliamentary Party, he said:
I see the beginnings
—he was referring solely to the Unionist Party, and therefore solely to the Protestant population—
of a class war, and I will do all in my power to see that it goes no further.
Either this tough-minded liberal, Mr. Faulkner, has had a Damascus-to-Downing Street conversion or it is not that he does not like Catholics, not that he will have perhaps a hard line on Catholics, but that the truth of the matter is that the man portrayed in the British Press as the third in a line of liberals is a hard-necked political reactionary who has on public platforms in Northern Ireland made his way to the ton by mouthing sectarian obscenities, and that he is a man whose political word is not worth its weight in dirt.
That is the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. I condemn him only out of his own mouth.
If that has been the portrayal of the rôle of Mr. Brian Faulkner in the Press, if the double-dealing and dishonesty has been such in his case, it has been much more so on the rôle of the British Army, the I.R.A. and the whole area known in Northern Ireland as security. In 1969, when the Army was sent to Northern Ireland, it stopped the pogroms in Belfast. There were many pepole, myself included, who believed at the time that there was more to sending the Army to Northern Ireland than the humanitarianism of stopping pogroms, that the Government at the time were not so much opposed to pogroms as such but realised that this particular one, if it were allowed to continue, would upset the balance of power between the ruling classes of the United Kingdom and those of the Republic of Ireland. I do not intend to go back into that theory again, but I hope that by explaining a number of incidents to the House hon. Members may see that lies are never very helpful, and they are consistently told in this House.
Let us consider the rôle of the British Army in a number of incidents, and the portrayal of the British Army in the Press in this country. Three British soldiers were shot in the North of Ireland. What was the attitude in this country? Let us examine it again, not out of my words but out of what the British public was told. The Sun on the morning of 11th March was typical. Under the headline
Troops massacred by I.R.A. gun gang
it ran the report:
Three British soldiers were kidnapped at gunpoint and murdered in cold blood by an I.R.A. execution squad last night.
No "ifs", no "buts", no "perhapses". It was stated in that newspaper as fact.
Perhaps I may refresh the memories of hon. Members about that incident. The national Press continued in that vein for the whole of that day. These were the headlines;
So, for the whole day and right through the following week, it continued. There is not and was not, and I hope that the Home Secretary will tell us that there still is not, one shred of evidence on which to base what was claimed as fact by every major newspaper in this country—that the I.R.A. killed the three British soldiers. This has an effect on people in Northern Ireland because they read British newspapers and they can see what is put across as propaganda to ordinary working-class people here.
Let us come to the other side of the story. The British Press does not act in isolation of politics. We must ask ourselves what was the motive of running that kind of story. How could every newspaper do it? I believe that it was done to soften up public opinion for the possibility of imposing, if necessary, more oppressive measures in Northern Ireland in order to shore up Tory Unionism.
There must have been many hon. Members who heard the most disgraceful interview ever heard on the reliable B.B.C.—with what was purported to be a responsible I.R.A. leader, who did not deny the murder of these three soldiers.
Perhaps I may correct the hon. Gentleman. Every faction of the I.R.A. clearly and publicly stated their denial of any involvement in that incident. I know of the interview to which he is referring. The man was asked questions on the basis of his sympathies and attitudes, not about his action on that point.
It may be within the recollection of the House that, earlier today, I raised this matter and the Grand Master of the Orange Order told me that he never accused the I.R.A. of committing these murders. Why, then, the attacks on my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin)? I also said that I was convinced that the Home Office does not believe that the I.R.A. did these murders. Let us have no more nonsense in interruptions of a very good speech.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think that the words of the Home Office, through the mouth of the Home Secretary, will be taken by members of the British Press in the Gallery. No one with any responsibility had a right to express a view, let alone as a statement of fact, on a matter like this. That is the point I am trying to make.
Let us consider not only that aspect but also the aspect that credence is given to the idea that everyone who is shot or shot at in Northern Ireland is a terrorist, that the British Army can do no wrong, that the dead and wounded are all terrorists. One again comes to the main point of the honesty and integrity of the Press, of the response of people in this country to the facts of what is happening in Northern Ireland. Let us take the case of Bernard Watt.
On the morning of 6th February, Mr. Watt was shot dead in the streets of Belfast by the British Army. He had no stones; he had no petrol bombs; he had no guns. He was an ordinary working" class citizen of Belfast, and he was shot dead by the British Army.
A reporter for The Guardian, Mr. Simon Winchester, was present when that happened. He wrote in his report, published in the early Manchester editions of The Guardian, what he had seen take place—that Bernard Watt was shot down by a British soldier for no seemingly good reason. Hon. Members will find that in the early Manchester editions of The Guardian. But the editions they are most likely to have read are the final London editions of The Guardian, and I quote directly from that. It carried the official Army line. It said that Bernard Watt was
…a rioter who threw two petrol bombs at an armoured car in Butler Street.
The following Monday, Mr. Winchester, presumably to set his own record straight,
again had an article of his own in The Guardian. He said:
Similarly, the Army's action in the Crumlin Road on Saturday morning after an armoured car had been set on fire was the act of a military and not a civil force. Whatever may have been said subsequently, there is no doubt that the troops had fired deliberately at a group who they thought had been responsible for burning out their vehicle. There was no suggestion at the time that the troops had been returning fire. No enemy shots had been fired at that time. The Army shot and killed Barney Watt as they might have shot an Arab guerrilla—not for what he had done but for what he was.
I say it once again to the people who have a responsibility for the facts, a responsibility for creating peace and harmony in Northern Ireland, and I put it as a challenge from this House to the editor of The Guardian, Mr. Alistair Hetherington—no less than the Journalist of the Year—to deny that what appeared under the by-line of Mr. Simon Winchester in the London editions of The Guardian of 6th February was a story concocted in the editorial office of The Guardian in order to condone the cold-blooded murder of Bernard Watt.
The effect of all this on the people of Northern Ireland is that the ordinary people feel that they can be shot, that they can be terrified, that they can be terrorised, but that politicians will continue to slander and the Press continue to libel them and that they have no redress.
I put it to this House that such activities are not solving the Northern Ireland problem. I have said before and I say again that repression will not work. I reiterate the demand for something that I believe will work, and I add to that at this stage, without qualification, what I have not said before—that the Government should withdraw the Army, give us a democratically elected police force and allow the peace-keeping role to be taken over by peace-keeping forces of trade unionists inside the factories, because the role of the Army has become a bad progression.
The hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has made serious charges against The Guardian which clearly should be followed up and the truth should be uncovered, as Sir Arthur Young endeavoured to uncover it in previous cases when the R.U.C. was concerned.
However, has she no good word to say for the Army as a whole and its behaviour in Northern Ireland? Has she nothing to say about the plea she made to me personally on the telephone two years ago asking that British troops should be sent there, because she knew that they were the only forces likely to keep the peace? Has she no good word to say about their bearing since?
If for the last time in this House I may correct the right hon. Gentleman; I remember well not only that telephone conversation—I made the call from Bogside—but the 74-word telegram which I sent to him days beforehand warning him of what was liable to happen. I did not ask for his military Army; I asked for his police, and if he goes back over his little tape recorder, which was humming merrily in the background at the time, he will find that that is so. [Laughter.]
The problem of Northern Ireland remains as it was there before 1968. What must be done to solve the housing problem is to enact legislation to wipe out the crippling debt of the house-building authority. To solve our unemployment problem, which existed long before a stone was thrown, the House and the Government must recognise the absolutely dismal failure of private enterprise in Northern Ireland and institute State-owned industries under the democratic control of the people. Existing private industries in Northern Ireland must be forced to recognise their responsibility, and, in the transitional period, forced to reinvest in Northern Ireland part of their profits made out of our labour.
To implement such measures requires something more than the Government here. They would not implement these policies, because they are against their economic ideology. The measures are anti-Tory and the Government are Tory.
Therefore, I direct my call not just to the deaf ears of the Government opposite, but from this House to the Socialists in Britain and to the Irish community in Britain. Up and down the country rankand-file trade unionists are organising to defend their standards of living, their rights and their wages. I urge Irish workers in this country to get into the trade unions in this country and to get into that struggle and to work for their own class, to bring down the Government and to bring down the system that affects not only this country but the people of Northern Ireland. I urge the people in Northern Ireland to work together in their factories for the same demands as transitional steps on the way to a Socialist Ireland. I call on all the groups in the various parts of the North of Ireland, this country and the Republic of Ireland to start working towards the kind of Socialist policies which mean that working-class people can live together and enjoy the benefits of their labour.
One of the most important things that can be done is for Sinn Fein to state, and state quite clearly, at this time that there will be no attempt, and that there is no attempt, on their part and nor will they tolerate an attempt by anyone else to coerce or to shoot the Protestant people of Ulster into a 32-county republic to which they do not want to belong. If they make that clear, they will have the grounds for Protestant and Catholic working-class support for their radical social and economic policies in the North of Ireland.
Rather than kid oneself that one can form a parliamentary opposition in a vacuum in Stormont. as the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) seems to think, I believe that the S.D.L.P in the North of Ireland, the People's Democracy, the North of Ireland Labour Party, the Socialists within all those groups and in the smaller groups, must work towards the achievement of a working-class Socialist programme to solve our unemployment problem and to bring us democratic control of industries, to bring us democratic control of the police and to prevent our people from being sold into the slavery of the Common Market, and ultimately to break down not only this House, not only the Government here, but the Government in Dublin and the Government sitting in the North or Ireland and to institute democratic control of the people.
The debate began on a note of cautious optimism. With few exceptions, that note has permeated the debate. One important fact has emerged from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and that of the Leader of the Opposition—it would be disastrous if we in this House, no matter what our political persuasions, became divided on the Northern Ireland issue. Only by a united effort by the whole of this House will the democratic rule of law and order return to Northern Ireland. I welcome the words of the Government and the Opposition on this matter.
Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) I was shocked, as was the rest of the populace of Northern Ireland, by the deaths not only of the three soldiers, but of members of our gallant police force. These men died so that the people of Northern Ireland as individuals would have the right to decide their future democratically and not by the rule of the gun.
The hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has quoted profusely from the newspapers. I was recently reading a report in the Irish Times concerning the amount of money being allocated to relief in Northern Ireland. The House will be aware that the Dáil Public Accounts Committee held an inquiry into whether this money was spent on the purchase of arms for use in Northern Ireland. There was one significant passage which I should like to quote. It is as follows:
Captain Kelly gave the committee details of arms bought on the Continent. The total cost was £42,750 including the £8,500 advanced by Mr. Albert Luykx.
Four hundred sub-machine guns, at a cost of £16 each, were bought. There was also 25 heavier types of machine guns, at about £30 each, 40 bullet-proof vests at about £70 each, and about a quarter of a million rounds of ammunition at about 9d. each. There were about 400 pistols at about £25 each.
The one name that crept into my thinking was the name Albert Luykx. After listening to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition about international organisations taking part in the affairs of Northern Ireland, I wondered whether this was the same man previously referred to as Albert Lynx. He was a Nazi war criminal, sentenced in Belgium to the death penalty, which was later commuted to life imprisonment. He escaped and is now believed to be living in the Irish Republic. We also
had recently in Belfast students who did not belong to the Kingdom at all and who were arrested on certain charges. It seems that outside influences have been brought to bear.
What pressures have been brought to bear on the Southern Irish Government by Her Majesty's Government to find out what can be done to stop this infiltration from outside bodies and the training of I.R.A. personnel in the Irish Republic? Recently a young man from Belfast named Tony Henderson died, so a report says, during a training session in the Wicklow Mountains. I agree that the Irish Republic Premier, Jack Lynch, is making an effort to help in this serious situation in Northern Ireland and I take it to be an honest effort.
At the same time it should be made clear to the Government of the Irish Republic that all possible steps must be taken to eliminate this evil in their midst as we are trying to eliminate it in Northern Ireland. The Leader of the Opposition made a very good speech and on one or two occasions referred, perhaps jocularly, to the Apprentice Boys and later the Orange Order, saying that all these things should be cast on one side. Would he go so far as to abolish the Beefeaters, the House of Peers, the Tolpuddle Martyrs' March and various other events which take place here?
The majority of members of the Orange institution are loyal citizens of the United Kingdom. They do not want to create a situation in which law and order cannot exist in Northern Ireland. I have been a member of that institution for nearly 40 years and have never heard anyone say that they hated their brother Roman Catholic who lived in the same area.
All this talk about the division among the population in Northern Ireland, the war of attrition and all the rest is idle talk. The main problem facing us is a confrontation between the forces of law and order and the forces of anarchism. The Hunt Report has been mentioned today along with other reports which have been made in Northern Ireland. Many hon. Members opposite have criticised the Northern Ireland Government for not introducing reforms but now criticise them for having done so.
I listened carefully to the attack made on the present Prime Minister by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. She read extracts from his speeches. I would like to put the record straight. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) have said on numerous occasions that what they want is a revolution, not only in Northern Ireland but the whole of Ireland.
I am not. The majority of people in Northern Ireland want to remain citizens of the United Kingdom —and is there anything wrong in that? There is not. I was born under Westminster. That may seem a long time ago. The Unionists of the day never wanted Ireland divided. They wanted to remain under Westminster, but they agreed to the compromise of the 1920 Act. If hon. Gentlemen have read the Act they will recall that both Parliaments in Ireland were set up under that Act, including a Council of Ireland in which both sides could discuss their problems at high level, but this did not get off the ground.
There is nothing wrong with the desire of the majority in Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. There are certain elements in our community who want to get us out of the United Kingdom by the rule of the gun, but this will not succeed. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary reiterate that this would not succeed. We must get back to the democratic process which this country has had for hundreds of years, and we must realise that people cannot be forced into any situation. One man can lead a horse to the water but a thousand will not make him drink.
There is a way out. If we in this House seriously believe that the majority of Northern Ireland citizens want to remain part of the United Kingdom, it is up to us to give them every assistance. I am firmly convinced that when all this nonsense about political reform and the rest has passed into oblivion we shall see a report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution which, as was hinted at earlier in the debate, will hope to see the day when both sides in Ireland will come back within the United Kingdom despite all their differences.
I remember in 1968 making a particular note of the item contained in the Queen's Speech about the Commission on the Constitution. In this context something could be done to solve this ever-recurring problem in Ireland as a whole. Here is the basis for the return of both sides in Ireland under Westminster, with two regional Parliaments. This may seem a pipe dream, but pipe dreams sometimes come true. I should like the message to go out from this House today that we Members of the Unionist Party here feel that we have a great responsibility on our shoulders, as every hon. Member has, and I hope that nothing will be said in the House today to exacerbate the situation.
I pay tribute to the work of the Army in Northern Ireland. The Army has a difficult task. Its object is to forget who is Protestant and who is Roman Catholic and to search for arms where it is thought that they are. This is the Army's real objective. If the hon. Member for Belfast, West would look at the recent Press reports, he would see that throughout the whole of Northern Ireland, not only in the City of Belfast, area by area has been searched. One of my constituents, a Protestant, is now in gaol because arms were found in his house which he perhaps was not aware of. To say that the Army searches only in Roman Catholic areas is quite false.
In 1970 there was a wages review by the Sugar Confectionery and Food Preserving Wages Council and an award of 7½d. became effective last July to the food preserving industry in Northern Ireland, and another 2d was added last December. This bears very heavily on the apple canning and apple growing industry in the constituency which I have the honour to represent. I ask my hon. Friends to use their influence to see whether something can be done to stop the flood of imports of Italian canned apples. Up to the end of December, 1970, no fewer than 7,512 tons of Italian canned apples were landed on our shores. Yet we have approximately 40,000 tons of home-grown Bramley apples in store for which there are very few markets.
If we take seriously the suggestion of both sides of the House that we need an injection of capital in Northern Ireland to get industry going again, I hope that the basic industry of agriculture, and particularly the apple-growing industry, which employs directly or indirectly 6,000 people—no mean figure—will not be forgotten. I plead with the Government to do something to stop the import of apples. I am firmly convinced, despite all the arguments to the contrary, that these apples were purchased by the European Economic Commission and were then taken off the market. It seems to me that these apples are finding their way into the canning industry in Italy and have been sent to the United Kingdom to the detriment of our own apple-growing industry.
I have had to cut down my speech. If I had said all I had intended to say, it would have lasted, not 10 minutes, but most of half an hour. I apologise if my speech has been patchy. There is a will in Northern Ireland to get out of our difficulties. I hope that people on both sides of the political fence, including mine, will exercise the utmost caution during the religious festival period we are about to enter. I hope that no one in Northern Ireland will mar the religious festival of Easter by resorting to violence. If we can get through this period safely, and if a little common sense is exercised, there is no reason why there should not be a bright future for the people living in Northern Ireland.
In view of the speech of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis), I should first ask for an undertaking from the Government that any Italian canned apples going into Northern Ireland will not be imported through Dublin and not bought with funds supplied by the Irish Republican Government. Perhaps I can now turn to some of the more important points raised in the debate.
First, we should congratulate the Unionist Members on the wonderful brain-washing job they did on their right hon. and hon. Friends at that famous meeting of the Home Affairs and the 1922 Committee, as a result of which the right hon. Members for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser) and the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) delivered speeches which, to a large extent, were out of character with them and their public protestations, particularly that of the right hon. Member for Ashford, which contained statements whose implications were rather alarming.
The right hon. Member for Ashford said that we were seeing in Northern Ireland purely and simply an armed militant minority and then implied that it was part of an international conspiracy. He almost fell into the trap of suggesting that we had there a nasty little militant organisation coming into an otherwise peaceful and happy scene in Northern Ireland and creating trouble where it had never existed before. But the evils and the difficulties were there. If people have come in and exploited them, it is because of the 50 years of neglect by Unionist Government in what was known as Britain's slum.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke with a proper regard for history when he referred to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Leader if the Opposition about the canonisation of a certain Dutch nobleman in the Calendar of Saints of the Northern Ireland Presbyterian Church. But one of the difficulties of the situation is that the people of Ireland have created not only their saints and heroes but their own demonology and given to them an authority and importance far beyond their status. Perhaps I might give one example by quoting some words of the hon and gallant Gentleman:
The last war resulted in a great drawing together of people but alas and unfortunately in 1964 there was the return of a Labour Government at Westminster. This is the fount and origin of all our troubles in Ulster. Make no mistake about it, in that great Labour victory was brought to the House of Commons a gang of people—the Paul Roses, the Stanley Ormes, the Kevin McNamaras and all the
rest—to join Michael Foot, and the old radical mischief makers bent on making trouble.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and Mr. Justice Cameron will no doubt wonder what their effort was about. What is Scarman doing? This is to fly in the face of all the existing evidence. To suggest that Paul, Stan and Kevin, or any two of them, represent a working majority in any unholy trinity of the demonology of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South is exaggerating the case somewhat. What nonsense and foolishness this is. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman believes that and says it on a public platform, what sort of nonsense does he peddle to his own followers in the Orange Order? He speaks with a forked tongue.
I want now to comment on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), and I warned her of my intention. I believe that she did a disservice to the cause which she and I and many others on these benches support and to the motives which lead people to support many of the principles in which she believes.
My hon. Friend suggested that the Duke of Wellington's own Yorkshire Regiment went into Londonderry in August of that fateful year to bolster up British imperialism and to save British capital. She knows perfectly well that the reason why it went in was to stop the "B" Specials being thrown in as the last reserve behind the Royal Ulster Constabulary. She knows that, on the first evening of the disturbances, I telephoned my right hon. Friend and asked for the British Army to be sent to protect the people of the Bogside. She knows that, when the troubles occurred in Belfast, the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) telephoned me at my parents' home in Liverpool on the Sunday asking me to get in touch with the Home Office in London—an Irish way of going about it—in order to get troops in to protect the Mater Hospital because gangs were mustering in the streets and adopting a threatening attitude.
To suggest that a Labour Government sent in British troops to do other than protect the lives of our fellow citizens is both a disgraceful and a lying history of the truth of the matter, and it is to attribute an objective to the British Army which no one on this side would countenance it serving.
When they went in they carried out a difficult rôle and one which was welcomed by the people whom the hon. Lady claimed to represent. That is still the situation despite these times of tremendous difficulties—there has been a change of Government, but there have been firm statements from both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary that they will continue the policy which we started. We have no reason to doubt them. They are honourable men, even if, on occasion, they are tainted by original sin, and therefore they will keep to what they have said.
This is our policy, and the hon. Lady is wrong to draw all sorts of queer conclusions from the attitude of the Press to a particularly horrible incident in Northern Ireland, when those three soldiers were killed, and to conclude that this was the official policy of the British Government or that this was being officially peddled in one particular way.
The Guardian can speak for itself, but I must say, in defence of the right hon. Gentleman, that he deliberately refused to point his finger at anyone as the cause of the deaths of these three soldiers. I would hate to think that the time had come when the British Press, which is not particularly favourable to my party, and which shows all the evils of capitalism in many ways, was peddling a line dictated to it by a British Government. That would be a very bad thing.
I hope that, in this way, I have kept honours even, by attacking the hon. Members for Down, South and Mid-Ulster, both of whom have done nothing to help in this situation. I want to turn now to some more constructive thoughts.
First, on gun licences. In August, 1969, my right hon. Friend said that there were too many guns in Northern Ireland—67,000. In 1971, the number of licences—not necessarily guns— is 73,000, an increase of 6,000 in two years. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, we must call in all the arms which are not needed for agricultural purposes, for keeping down vermin and rodents. It has to be done, because otherwise, no matter what promises are made, the amnesty will not succeed. If a person is killed, it does not matter whether the bullet conies from a legal gun or an illegal one. The people in Belfast remember that when Bombay Street and the other streets were being burned down, most of the bullets came from legal guns, and they did not draw so nice a distinction.
While there are rifle clubs and while people legally hold guns who are thought of as supported, tolerated or accepted by the Government, people will keep their illegal guns, and the amnesty will not succeed. Figures were read out of the numbers of weapons which had come in, as though it were a list of great battle honours. They were nothing. The guns must be brought into a central armoury—
Does the hon. Gentleman seriously believe that a withdrawal of gun licences will have the corresponding effect of bringing in the illegal arms? Goodness knows how many there are. If he does believe this, how does he propose to accomplish the feat?
I am suggesting that, while there are so many legally held guns, people will continue to hold guns illegally, because they fear that the legal ones may be used against them. If we draw in the legal arms we shall be in a situation in which we can be accused of impartiality. Every area must be searched, not just minority areas, where guns are thought to be held illegally.
There have been a number of leaks in the Press that Crowther Report might come out with a special report on Northern Ireland with some provision about proportional representation. If this is the intention, it should be introduced now before the introduction of the new local government boundaries. To introduce it afterwards, unless the boundaries are drawn with that in mind, would render the exercise nugatory.
I welcome discussions taking place with Dublin, having called for them on a number of occasions. The Minister of Commerce in the North has accepted the invitation of the Prime Minister of Southern Ireland to discuss economic problems. I am also glad that the Government have kept to a regional policy for Northern Ireland. It is part of the United Kingdom and I would argue that what is good for Ulster is good for Merseyside, the North-East, North Hull and parts of Yorkshire, and I hope that we shall get some of the sort of development that they have been getting in Ulster.
In the South of Ireland a learned and distinguished cleric has written a pastoral on the subject of personal morality which I regard as detrimental to the situation. If we are to have a united Ireland we must have a pluralistic society. If we are to have a united state it should be a secular state in which personal moralities and Christian principles are accepted by people for what they are, not because of any force of law of the State, so that contraceptive pills and pornographic literature are not smuggled in from this country and people do not come over here for their abortions.
The rôle of the State is to protect and strengthen the family, not to impose upon people particular standards of morality. This has to be accepted by the South if they want people in the North to enter into an association with them. I am sorry that people should look to the State to bolster up a rôle which the Church should have because it is convincing people of the logicality of its special, divine rôle in life. If the Church looks for that sort of support from the State it deserves all the criticism about clericalism and obscurantism that it gets.
I will go on for ten minutes then. Since on previous occasions I have condemned violence from all quarters I do not want anyone to think that, because tonight I want to draw especial attention to I.R.A. activity, I am not prepared to condemn subversion from whatever group. Behind the recent disturbances many folks would argue that there has been, not too far in the background, the sinister figure of I.R.A. subversion.
We have heard mention in the House today about where the blame lies in regard to certain matters. But when Gunner Curtis was shot, we saw on television two I.R.A. men who made it clear that they had the right to say what British soldiers they would shoot and under which circumstances. What is more, in the streets of Belfast we have had provocative I.R.A. funerals, which one hon. Member opposite this afternoon tried to justify. Murders by the I.R.A. have been admitted. The life of a policeman is just as valuable as the life of a soldier and the life of any civilian is equally valuable. We must not forget that two policemen were gunned down in the streets of Belfast, that the Army returned the fire and that one of the individuals, an I.R.A. provisional, who was shot, was taken over the border and was recently released from a hospital in Dublin.
We have also heard talk today of Mr. Jack Lynch and his hand of friendship for the North of Ireland. Terrorism can survive only when, first of all, there is a training ground on which terrorists can be trained. Last Sunday another young Belfast man, an I.R.A. provisional volunteer, was accidentally shot, we are told, on an I.R.A. training ground in the Republic of Ireland. If Mr. Lynch wants to demonstrate his real friendship for the North of Ireland, there must immediately be an extradition treaty which covers political murder. When a policeman or soldier is murdered in Northern Ireland and those responsible can find safe sanctuary across in the Republic, the situation is impossible to face and equally impossible to defeat.
There has been a good deal of talk about "no go" areas. Today the Home Secretary said that more warrants were now being executed in those areas than has occurred before. The Minister of Home Affairs was recently questioned on this matter in Stormont. He was asked a question about attacks on members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary during normal patrols. The reply dealt with the B district, which is part of the district relating to the "no go" areas, and was on the lines that in 1965 two people attacked policemen and two people were apprehended and brought before the courts. In 1970, 811 people were attacked and only 18 were apprehended. How can anyone contend that the writ of law runs in these areas? We also know that in 1965 in the D district, which includes another "no go" area, 11 attacks were made on policemen and 10 people were apprehended. In 1970, 200 attacks were made on policemen and only 17 people were apprehended. These are hard facts.
An editorial in the Daily Telegraph on 23rd March hit the nail on the head so far as Ulster people are concerned. That editorial said:
The so-called 'no go' areas can be entered by the police with heavy military escorts and the Army can drive through them at high speed. For the rest, however, they are free from interference by the representatives of public power. Every writ that is successfully served, every distraint that is successfully carried out and every arrest that is made is nowadays carefully totted up to be paraded as proof that police authority has been restored. But the fact remains that crime flourishes within these fortresses.
In a recent raid by the military on premises in Leesson Street about 200 car keys were found, and we know from Stormont that 189 cars were burned recently in these areas. These are some of the things that cause concern to Ulster people.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that I was opposed to the Hunt proposals. He knows perfectly well that I am opposed to using the Hunt Report in order to refuse to give the Royal Ulster Constabulary the fire power necessary to retaliate when attacked by terrorists. I have asked whether there cannot be armed protection at police stations and have been told that it is an impossibility. I ask hon. Members here to consider how a police station, attacked by terrorists with machine guns, can resist the attack unless the policemen have sufficient fire power.
That is something quite different from a general rearming of the police. There are some areas where there is no need for the police to be armed, but it is wrong to make members of the R.U.C. sitting ducks for terrorist pot-shots, particularly when we remember that those taking the pot-shots can skip across the Border to freedom from apprehension.
My time has gone, and I want to make only one comment on the birthday homily which the Leader of the Opposition was pleased to give me this afternoon. He spoke of humility, and having looked into his record my only comment is that example is better than precept.
It is well known that it is always the devil who can quote the best texts, and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is living up to that aphorism.
In the time at my disposal I want to divide my remarks into three parts, and to discuss each quite shortly. First, there is the issue of what has became known as law and order, although I have heard the Home Secretary say on other occasions that he does not like the phrase—he used it many times this afternoon—but prefers "freedom under the law", which is also my personal preference. Secondly, there is the question of unemployment and the economy and, thirdly, the issue of the constitution and the politics of Northern Ireland. These three seem to be the issues upon which the House has focused today.
I must also say at the outset that I, too, regret the years in which we did not discuss the affairs of Northern Ireland. Although we may well have thought that we were right to keep the subject out of the House, our debates and discussions have had an emollient effect, if that is possible in Northern Ireland, and have also had some impact as long as both parties have been able to speak broadly along the same lines.
That is of very great importance indeed, because Northern Ireland is a very introspective place. The people there constantly feed not only on their own myths but on their own demonology, and it is useful that this House can turn on the affairs of Northern Ireland a sympathetic yet objective eye. We have had examples of this from both sides. My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), both of whom have made visits recently, had much to say about the situation that is worthy of very careful consideration by everyone who either represents that area or who lives there.
The only thing I fear is that our words, although widely reported, are not as carefully listened to as their value merits. Much of the time, as I have sat here, I have felt that although we have had a rational, sensible debate, and a constructive debate too, it is far removed from the atmosphere in particular areas of Northern Ireland, which one finds as one moves around. The two hon. Members who got nearest to it, as they have before, are the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for Antrim, North, because they were discussing the politics in the raw that Northern Ireland itself talks about.
Do not say that the people of Northern Ireland cannot unite. They can. I had a unique experience last week outside the Ulster Hall. When I finished a tumultuous meeting, a group of Protestant women rushed my car and kicked the panels, and the women sang in unison,"Go home, you bum". Forty miles away, the next day, in Newry, I was chased down the main street by a group of Irish Republican youths. They chanted in unison"Go home, you bum". Never tell me that the Irish Catholics and Protestants cannot unite. They succeeded admirably.
On the situation in Belfast and the "no go" areas, almost everything that has been said today, from the Home Secretary onwards, is true. What the Home Secretary told us was true. With respect, what the hon. Member for Antrim, North said was true. It is a most complex situation. I happened to be walking around in the "no go" areas last week. It would not be true, as the Daily Telegraph said according to the hon. Member for Antrim, North, that the Army drive through at high speed. I can only say that I saw, in this area, an Army truck, stationary, with the soldiers there walking around, certainly with their weapons, but walking around in the same way that they would around any other part of Belfast—but, I am glad to say, as they would not walk around any of the major cities of Great Britain.
One tends to see the police standing on the fringes of the area. I did not see any of them inside the area. They have great difficulty in getting inside the area. It is no use blinking this fact. I return to what I have said on an earlier occasion. This is not a new phenomenon, nor has it existed only since the troubles of August, 1969. Those areas are like some areas in this country at the turn of the century, in the sense that they have never been adequately policed—never. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that we must not give way to panic, pressure or prejudice, and he congratulated the Government on not doing so. But unless we get this fact clearly in our minds, that what we are asking the Army and the R.U.C. to do is immediately to undertake policing of areas that have never been adequately policed, we shall not know the commensurate size of the problem which we are asking them to undertake.
There are other areas in the world, after all, where very few police are to be found, such as in certain parts of Washington, New York, Rio de Janeiro and a number of other capitals. This is a phenomenon not to be brushed under the carpet. I hope that I am not doing that. I want to put it in perspective.
I had a talk with Cardinal Conway about this problem because clearly he, like everyone else, is deeply concerned about this matter. I believe that he and some of his helpers have ideas which would enable the R.U.C. to be introduced into the so-called "no go" areas where —I repeat—sometimes people go and sometimes they do not go. I believe that this would be possible, but it must be handled with care. The situation must not be rushed. It must be done slowly if the basic element of long-term successful policemanship is to prevail, namely, that the police work with the public and not against the public.
It is no use thrusting policemen into those areas if the first result of an over-zestful thrust is to turn those who live in those areas against the police who are being introduced into the areas. This is why I am ready to leave to the judgment of the R.U.C. and the military, subject to continuous political oversight, the pace and the extent to which people should be introduced into those areas to police them.
I want to make my position clear, though I do not think that the House needs to be clear. I want to see these areas policed as well as any other areas. They are not being policed as well as other areas at present. Yet it is vital that they should be properly policed. I say this having had experience of talking to ordinary people and entering their homes. I went into the home of an old-age pensioner and his wife. They were Protestants. Their bed was tucked against the wall away from the window, around the corner, because they were living in fear every night of some explosion, of stones being thrown, of some violence that would disturb them.
We must say to the people of Ireland that if we are to ensure that they, whoever they may be, can live their lives quietly in their homes, they must accept that the police are their best safeguards, and the police must accept a rôle and be doubly—no, trebly—careful about the way in which they handle their entry into areas that they have never before policed properly.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman distinguish between the situation in "no go" areas in Northern Ireland and those in such places as Washington and Rio de Janeiro, in that in Northern Ireland there are openly seditous forces at work which have intimidated and terrorised the people in those areas and resulted in 50 deaths in those areas in the past 18 months?
I have not much time, so perhaps I could return to that point a little, except that I should say immediately that the hon. Gentleman puts only one side of it. He, too, must remember that two years ago there was a genuine fear among the minority in Ireland that they would be victimised by the police, that their homes would be invaded by the police.
It is no use the hon. Gentleman shaking his head, because if we cannot establish this as a fact there is no hope of our trying to get a new policy. This is a fact. Those in the minority were in fear. The hon. Gentleman may regret it, but it was a very real fact. It was because of this fact that the Army had to go in. Let us start from there and move on from that point. That is all that I am saying to the hon. Gentleman.
I come to one point which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition amongst others. I ask the Government to put clearly to the Army and to the Security Committee in Northern Ireland whether they believe that the forthcoming processions should go on. I am not referring only to the Easter processions. I am referring to the processions over the next six months, over the summer season. I agree with the hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Nigel Fisher) about this matter. There is no doubt that maximum tension has been roused when processions have taken place.
I should be willing to accept the advice of the military and of the Security Committee if they, having considered the matter, decided that on balance it was better that the processions should be allowed to continue and be contained rather than that they should be stopped. However, I think that the military and the Security Committee should be faced with this alternative. Judging from what I have heard in the House today, I would say that if the military and the Security Committee were to decide that the processions should be stopped there would be no criticism from the House. If things then went wrong, the House would believe that it was something that had been genuinely tried in an attempt to take the heat out of the situation.
I am not one who wants to ban processions, for obvious reasons. However, I put this in all seriousness to the Government. This means all the processions. It means the processions on 12th July as well as the processions of the Hibernians at Easter. If we were to ask for the considered judgment of the Army and of the Security Committee, I for one would be willing to accept what they said. I should like the Army and the Security Committee to know that, if they decided to ban, they would, I believe, have the support of the House of Commons in doing that, if they thought that it was the right decision.
I turn now to the problem of unemployment and the economy. Everybody who goes to Northern Ireland and everybody who lives there knows that what is needed is a raging, tearing campaign to get people back to work there. It is a situation which in some ways takes me back to the 1930s in South Wales, for in some of the small Irish towns in the North the young men who are hurling stones and have nothing better to do never had a job since they left school and are not likely to have one.
This is a problem which we really must tackle. Our Government had a go at it. The present Government are trying to do something. But it seems to me that there is a case here for special financial assistance. My right hon. Friend referred to the question of public enterprise, and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said that he would not object to it in a desperate situation— though why he should want it only in a desperate situation, I do not know. We always seem to turn to it in those circumstances, as in the case of Rolls-Royce, for example. However, there does seem to be a case especially here for looking at that possibility, and I plead for the establishment of two institutions to that end.
First, I suggest that there should be a reconstruction corporation rather on the lines, though with extended powers, of the I.R.C. which has been thrown away in this country. I am sure that there is a case for doing something like that.
Second, I suggest a development bank which could provide special credit facilities and, perhaps, favourable interest rates for industry in Northern Ireland. This could be done if it were desired. I know that there are Irish banks, but I am asking for something in addition which, I believe, could help in the establishment of new industries and could help the liquidity of those which are in some difficulty at the moment.
The third proposal I make in this connection is that this is essentially an area in which the regional employment premium ought to be doubled, not abolished. If the North of Ireland were an independent State, it would devalue its currency and would alter the exchange rate. It cannot do that. In a far-fetched way, one can say that doubling the R.E.P. and giving a large wage subsidy in that way could be something like the equivalent of altering the exchange rate. I have put this to the Government before, and I put it again, for I believe that there is no solution here too far-fetched to be tried in an effort to reduce the dreadful searing level of unemployment.
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) raised a serious point in his references to the difficulties of agriculture. Here again, I believe that there is in Northern Ireland a case for substantial protection for the small farmers who are suffering quite severely at the present time. There is a case for the establishment of real marketing boards, boards with genuine marketing powers, and, for livestock farmers and dairy farmers, for the bulk purchasing of feedingstuffs. As I see the situation, it seems to me that they are too much in the hands of people on this side of the water, and they could use their combined power if they got together in the form of co-operatives much more ably than they have done hitherto. That is another proposal, therefore, which I advance.
The House will understand that I am hurrying along, since the time is rather late, and I come now to my final suggestion on this part of the problem. Many of us have now seen the central area of Belfast where most of the trouble occurs. I am sure that all those of us who have seen it acknowledge that it is an area which, on town planning and amenity grounds alone, should be swept out of existence. There is no reason why that area—probably a mile and a half each way could not be redeveloped. Indeed, I put it positively and say that it should be redeveloped, and the houses swept aside. Protestants and Catholics alike are living in equally bad conditions in this area. The contest in Ireland is not between the haves and have-nots: it is between those who have not and those who have very little more. Yet, somehow, they do not combine to fight their own economic and political battles.
I suggest—I have said it before—that the Belfast Corporation should be seriously pressed, and the funds allocated —there is a £75 million development scheme now—to demolish that area and to rebuild the houses elsewhere, turning the centre of Belfast where the trouble occurs into a park. I see no reason why that should not be done. In this country, if there were no politics and no difficulties about it, it would be an area ripe for development—indeed, over-ripe for development. I should like to see the Belfast Corporation and the Northern Ireland Government get on with it. Of course, there will be a lot of local politicians whose seats depend on it who will find good reasons why these things should not be done. But we are concerned with wider issues than that.
I leave the question of unemployment and the economy with the words that this House has a very serious responsibility to ensure that Northern Ireland does not remain as far behind the rest of the country as it is now. It has lower wages, lower productivity, a lower output, and a lower standard of life than any of the rest of the parts of the United Kingdom. That is not something this House should tolerate for long.
I turn finally to the third issue of the constitution and the politics of Northern Ireland. In the end, everything comes back to politics there. On the question of the constitution I have always held the view—as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition made clear this afternoon, he and I were absolutely agreed about this—that taking over the North was the last thing anyone should or would want to do. We adhere to that policy. I go further, and say that I want to see Stormont made more representative, probably larger in numbers than it is now. Especially now that it is taking over new functions like the local authority functions now accruing to the centre, there could well be more Members in Stormont. I should like to see its authority build up, but it will build up only on two conditions: first, that it is representative, and, second, that there is the prospect of changing the Government. One of the weaknesses of the Northern Ireland system is the single-Government system under which it has laboured for 50 years. Just think what it would be like after 50 years of Conservative Government in this country.
We will wait and see.
This has had a serious impact on thinking in Northern Ireland. It is vital that non-sectarian politics should begin to be established in that country, so that it is possible to replace the existing Government. I am not commenting on them in particular, but no matter how indolent, how unsuccessful, how unpopular, how unrepresentative the existing Government are, they cannot be replaced. There is at present no opposition capable of fighting the seats in Stormont to form an alternative Government. That is why I say that I believe that it is essential for the life of Stormont that an opposition should be established and built up which is capable of taking the place of the existing Government.
I do not know whether the Minister who replies to the debate will spell out
the constitutional position, but at some stage, if not tonight, it needs to be spelled out. The Home Secretary has said something about it, but it needs him or the Prime Minister once again to spell out the meaning of the constitution. They can do it with far greater authority than I can now, but I will read the words of the constitution, because some confusion is I think deliberately being created over there about the rôle of Westminster and what degree of intervention there can be. I say that I think that it is being created deliberately, and I stick to that. Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, says:
Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament … of Northern Ireland, … or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kinedom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland and every part thereof.
That, to me, is clear. The advice I had when I was Home Secretary was clear on this, and I dare say that the present Home Secretary's advice is clear too. There are some people in Northern Ireland who will be labouring under a great delusion if they believe that by removing the present Prime Minister and putting in his place someone else, who might then decide to call a General Election, and might even get a substantial verdict in his favour, he would be free to turn to Westminster and say, in the vernacular, "Hands off." That is not what Section 75 says. No more could we rid ourselves of the responsibilities laid upon us in Section 75—
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what that Section does is to preserve the legislative supremacy of this House, not the administrative supremacy of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, unless legislation to confirm it is passed?
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to give comfort to anyone who is taking the view I have been referring to, so I want to agree with him at once. But, as my right hon. Friend said, we had prepared a Bill and we would have put it to the House for the decision of the House in order that we might assume the responsibilities that are laid upon us under Section 75, but I think that what needs to be made clear, as I understand the Home Secretary made clear last August, is that, in certain circumstances, he would not hesitate to introduce such a Bill for the decision of the House that would enable us to assume our responsibilities—and we would be legally entitled to do so. Indeed, I go further. If there were to be a serious departure from what we have come to call the "standards of the United Kingdom" in Northern Ireland, we would not only be legally entitled to do so, but morally entitled to do so, and indeed bound to do so.
What we have to do here is not warn, because in some ways that jars on the people of Northern Ireland—I understand that, and I am not trying to do it in that spirit—but make clear certain things. I believe, indeed, that the majority of people there are already clear about them. If the United Kingdom as a whole, and Great Britain in particular, is to ensure their peace, as is being done through the presence of British troops; if we are to insure their financial viability, as we are doing at present—and immediately this debate is over an Order will he introduced for the provision of £50 million in terms of capital to Northern Ireland—and, more than these particular matters, if they claim, as they do and mean, to be part of the United Kingdom, then the other side of the penny is that the standards which exist here must apply there. This is a bargain and a compact between us, and both sides of the compact and the bargain must be carried out. I believe that it is essential to make clear to those, referred to by my right Friend, who may have some idea about U.D.I. in the North. It cannot happen for very good reasons, practical as well as legal.
We often quote Aneurin Bevan. He was a man gifted with summing up a situation in a phrase. Even those of us who opposed him on certain matters can well afford to remember some of the things he said. He once said. "If you ride a bicycle and stop pedalling you are going to fall off". This is essentially true of Northern Ireland. One cannot stop pedalling for a moment there. One must constantly keep moving in that situation.
What is needed in the present situation is a continuation of the political initiative which I believe has begun. We should not hesitate to develop the kind of initiative the Home Secretary referred to, in which the Northern Ireland Minister of Commerce is visiting Dublin in order to discuss with the Eire Government matters of commerce that are vital to both countries. We should tell the people both of the North and the South that we support this kind of initiative—indeed, that we should like it to be carried further than it is at the moment.
I believe that the time is coming—it may come sooner than I thought three or four years ago—when discussions between the two Governments in Ireland will help the political situation in the North as well as the political situation in the South. I believe that it will also help towards a solution of the problems of the peoples in both those areas. We should indicate to the people of the North that we hope that they and their Government will take this initiative in order to improve relations between both parts of the country.
I do not think that it helps in the present situation to attack Mr. Lynch in the way which one hon. Member has done today. Let there be no doubt that the I.R.A. is as much Mr. Lynch's enemy as it is the Northern Government's enemy, and Mr. Lynch must handle his political situation in the way he thinks best, just as we are being asked to ensure that the Government of the North handle their political situation in the way that they think best.
I am not hope about the situation. I wish I were. I would like to see the resurgence of confidence that is asked for. But I fear that a serious situation is ahead of us. My right hon. Friend called the situation both vulnerable and urgent. I think that he was right. I am not at all complacent about the future. We are fortunate that this debate takes place in a lull, but I believe it is only a lull and that we shall move to conditions again when there will be great pressure on the Home Secretary to yield to panic and prejudice. I trust that he and the Prime Minister and the Government will resist it in the future as they have done in the past.
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said that in recent months the debates in this House have been constructive and moderate. Anyone who has listened to the debate today and to the right hon. Gentleman's speech would agree that it has been helpful, constructive and, with very few exceptions, forward-looking. The right hon. Gentleman ended by expressing some doubts about the restoration of confidence. We all share his doubts. The very fact that this debate has been helpful and forward-looking is of value because, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, what is needed more than anything else to restore the position of security in Northern Ireland is a restoration of confidence.
Many speeches have naturally and rightly referred to the security aspects in Northern Ireland. I want to concentrate mainly on these matters. I will speak of the nature of the challenge being made to the authority of the Northern Ireland Government and I will indicate the operational policy being followed by the security forces. The fact that I refer mainly to security matters and the maintenance of public order in no way diminishes the fact that this is only part of a much wider political objective. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) said, security cannot be regarded in a vacuum; it is only part of a very much wider political objective.
Our overall purpose is to ensure that where real grievances exist they should be dispelled. It is for this reason that we support the institutional changes being made to bring about greater fairness between one citizen and another in Northern Ireland. We must help to provide jobs not only because of the long-standing unemployment situation in Northern Ireland, which is a cause for concern in itself, but because the recent deterioration in the economic position is one of the most grievous problems which the people will have to face in the immediate future and in the years ahead.
Our purpose is to ensure that the programme of social reform is carried through vigorously and effectively. It is these social policies which will help the people of Northern Ireland forward to a better standard of life. The progress which has been made in recent months in implementing these has already removed some of the sense of grievance which existed not so long ago. Already it is reducing to some degree the tension between the communities. It is this, the prospect of a better standard of life, which is being put at risk by the extremists who, far from wishing to see any improvement in relations, are seeking to exacerbate relations and to promote strife, hatred and reprisals.
The impression I have is that the nature of the problem facing the security forces has gradually been changing in recent months. There has been a noticeable improvement in that there is a lessening of violence between the two communities. There is an increase in the number of people who want to see an end to sectarian strife. More and more people are heartily sick of the violence which disgraces their cities and towns.
Good men and good women are profoundly shocked by the events of the past few months, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said. Where riots have occurred in recent months, one has had the feeling that they have been the result of a deliberate attempt by a very small minority of people to stir up trouble. They have been quite different in character from the spontaneous outbursts of feeling which took place a year or so ago. There was a spontaneity about them which characterised them. Whether they arose from fear, or distrust, or anger, they were characterised by spontaneity which was just not visible in the riots which have taken place in recent months.
That is an improvement, but the other change in recent months is far more sinister. It is the increased use of firearms. It is the stepping-up of a campaign of murder and violence and intimidation. Again the campaign is being carried out by a relatively small number of men and, in so far as it has a purpose, in many ways it is simply, as the Leader of the Opposition said, violence for the sake of violence, and, in so far as there is a political purpose, the immediate purpose is to try, by murder and by violence and by stirring up riots, to force the British authorities to take steadily increasing repressive measures. They hope that the measures which will be taken by the security forces will be indiscriminate. They hope that those measures will alienate the ordinary people of good will and first build up a reaction against the Army and ultimately recreate the sectarian strife which almost tore Northern Ireland into two last year.
In these circumstances, the duty of the security forces and the civil police is to root out this terrorism. This duty is being pursued with the utmost vigour. Our success in doing this will depend on our ability to isolate the gangsters and to eliminate the hard core of terrorists without at the same time drawing the Army into conflict with a large section of the community.
The success of this policy of isolating the gangsters and bringing the trouble makers to justice depends very largely on the effectiveness of our intelligence, and as this is a matter which has been frequently raised in debate, I should like to say a word about the intelligence available to the security forces.
The House will understand that they are gangsters wherever they come from. The House will also understand that it would not be in our interests if I were to make a detailed statement about the work and the structure of our intelligence service in Northern Ireland.
But I emphasise that it has been appreciated on both sides of the water for a long time that there is a vital need in present conditions, particularly in Belfast, for an efficient intelligence system, and practical steps to increase efficiency are being introduced as fast as possible. There is no simple formula for achieving instant success in intelligence, but I assure the House that men with considerable experience in this work have examined what needs to be done, and their advice has been taken by both ourselves and the Northern Ireland authorities.
For example, there are now well-established measures to achieve better co-ordination between the military and the police. We have appointed specialist officers and warrant officers throughout the Province whose purpose, among other things, is to achieve continuity when battalions change over and whose duty is to liaise between the military and the security forces. For obvious reasons, I do not want to go into more detail about the structure of our intelligence, but I do not want in any way to give any impression of complacency or of seeking to cover up any inefficiency: that is very far from the case.
However, there is one aspect of intelligence gathering and assessment in the Northern Ireland situation which I should mention. It is extremely difficult and often impossible to make an accurate assessment of what sort of violence will be perpetrated at a certain time in a certain area, even when we have hard evidence. The reason for this is the unpredictability of the criminals with whom we are having to deal. Their organisation is loose, and they often act on impulse. They act frequently against targets of opportunity which present themselves.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch has been greatly strengthened over the last year. Advice from experts has been sought and has been readily given. I feel that this force should be allowed to get on with its incredibly difficult and dangerous task with all the support which we can give it.
One has heard a good deal in this debate, and on other occasions, about the wall of silence. Of course there is not complete confidence everywhere in the Province. It will, sadly, take a good deal of time, I suspect, to restore confidence. Until this is done, there will always be people who will suppress evidence out of motives of fear. Evil men who are utterly ruthless and perfectly willing to perpetrate murder are intimidating a small proportion of the population. In urban guerrilla activities and warfare this has always been the case, but I am glad to be able to confirm what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said, that information is beginning to flow in more readily than it has in the past.
I have said that the Army is pursuing its task of rooting out terrorism with the utmost vigour. Complaints have, however, been made that the R.U.C. and the Army are not effective enough in the pursuit of their security tasks. This is not the view of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who told the Stormont Parliament on 30th March that, after discussion with the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and the Chief Constable, and after learning of the instructions which had been given to the subordinate commanders, he was absolutely satisfied with their desire to get to grips with the problem. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland stated his conviction that nothing was inhibiting them from taking any action, however firm, which in their professional judgment would contribute to the ultimate defeat of terrorism. This communiqué was issued after the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland had seen the Prime Minister last week, and he expressed his satisfaction with the attitude of the security forces.
I will give an indication of the scale of the Army's undertaking. This year alone the Army has made over 420 arrests, and, as a result, over 230 people have been sentenced. Nearly 140 of them have been sentenced for riotous behaviour, and a further 60 are awaiting trial.
Arms searches have been extremely effective. I missed his speech, but I was informed that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) suggested that searches were being undertaken only in Catholic areas. This is not true. Searches are undertaken wherever evidence leads one to believe that arms may be stored. An indication of the success of arms searches may be seen in the fact that in the first three months of this year 77 firearms, 24,000 rounds of ammunition, several hundreds of pounds of explosives and great quantities of detonators, fuses, grenades and petrol bombs have been found. I confirm, for instance, the information given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South that this weekend—and this is indicative of the improved information which is available to us—19 occupied houses and 39 unoccupied properties, 19 areas and 9,300 vehicles were searched. Thirty firearms and 1,600 rounds of ammunition were found and 20 arrests were made. This scale of operations is some answer to those who accept the criticism of the security forces that they are inactive.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the so-called "no go" areas. I can only repeat the assurance which has been given repeatedly that there are absolutely no areas where the security forces do not go at their will, on foot or in vehicles, for as long as they wish, by day or by night. Of course, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North and my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Fisher) mentioned, there are in certain areas, particularly in parts of Belfast, extreme difficulties in keeping order. That is because there is only limited co-operation from the local residents. If we follow the right policies and win the co-operation of the local residents, and if gradually they come to look on the police as being their natural protectors, difficulties of restoring order in these areas will be overcome.
I should like to say a few words about the operational policy under which the Army is operating. It is based on a policy of minimum force. I do not think that this is as widely understood as it should be. It should be widely understood because it is the basis on which the Army operates and the basis of its tactics. It is the basis on which it deals with all forms of violence, from the fairly innocuous violence of housewives banging on dustbin lids to violence of the nature of gunmen with automatic weapons. Sometimes it is little children yelling obscenities, even at the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East telling him to go home. Sometimes it is young children throwing stones. Often it is that hideous mixture in riots of stones, petrol bombs and bullets.
"Minimum force" does not mean "inadequate force". For instance, if a gunman is firing or is about to fire, he cannot expect a warning. No shots are fired overhead. The forces will shoot that man to kill, and it is impossible to be tougher than that. The point about minimum force is that it is the level of force needed to restore order, and no more. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford said in his remarkable speech, a very fine balance must be found by the highly professional Army serving in Northern Ireland between restraint and escalation. It requires great skill and steadiness by the men who have to face this situation.
If there is indiscriminate retaliation by security forces, we risk turning peaceable people, people of good will, towards sympathy for the extremists. If large numbers of people suffer because of the misdeeds of a few murderers and gangsters, bitterness and frustration will be increased in Northern Ireland. We believe—and this is the view of those who serve there—that this is the right policy for restoring order in Northern Ireland.
I have spoken largely about the security aspects, because these have been raised so frequently in the debate and they are my own departmental responsibility. I come back to the point that I made at the beginning of my speech. The restoration of public order is only part of a much wider political objective. On taking office, the Prime Minister, Mr. Faulkner, said that the programme for progress which has been such a notable feature of the past 18 months or so will be energetically continued. When he announced his Cabinet he said that he had sought a broadly-based Cabinet and that every member of it endorsed the principles of the policy that he had outlined on taking office.
I am sure that the House will accept that the social progress which has been made in Northern Ireland in the last 18 months by any standards is a remarkable performance. Legislation has been passed creating a full franchise, one man, one vote, at local government elections. The full franchise is available to people at the age of 18. When the next local government elections take place in 1972, they will be held on a radically reformed local government structure. The Minister of Development has taken over responsibility for housing. The Housing Executive Act is already on the Statute Book, creating a housing authority which is responsible for the allocation of houses. A Parliamentary Commissioner has been empowered to investigate complaints, and a Commissioner for Complaints has been appointed.
Clearly, in Northern Ireland there are no easy solutions. No amount of improvement in Army tactics, weaponry and expertise and no improvement in troop levels will solve the basic problems. What the Army can do is, by backing up the civil power and the R.U.C., to subdue violence and to provide a desperately needed breathing space so that one citizen in Northern Ireland can learn to live at peace with another citizen.
As in all such situations, the main cause of disaffection is fear. Let me therefore repeat the pledges given by the United Kingdom Government. The reform programme will proceed. The Border is not an issue and will not disappear or be changed unless with the consent of the people and Parliament of Northern Ireland. The Army will remain in Northern Ireland as long as it is needed, and it can be relied on entirely to maintain the rule of law absolutely impartially.
To take up a point made by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, during the coming days it would be of great value to have the fullest co-operation of those who will be organising the parades and marches. The security forces have to bear a very heavy burden, and they are entitled to expect the utmost help and co-operation. It would contribute significantly to a reduction of tension if the provocative elements of some of these marches could be avoided. I hope that those in Northern Ireland who rightly call on us to do our utmost to preserve order will themselves be prepared to assist the forces in this way.
That is not quite what I asked. I asked whether the Government would put the particular point to the Security Committee in Northern Ireland.
If the Government felt that a certain march should be banned—[HON. MEMBERS: "All or none."]—the recommendation would be put to the Security Committee. It is not necessarily the view that the banning of all marches would contribute to the reduction of tension. If that were the view of the military, it would be put to the Security Committee and I am sure would be considered by the Stormont Government.