I beg to move Amendment No. 8 in page 2, line 8, leave out:
'(and no writ need be isued to fill any vacancy)'.
One must examine the intention of the Government in introducing this Bill. In the House on Friday the Prime Minister said:
The United Kingdom Government remain of the view that the transfer of this responsibility to Westminster is an indispensable condition for progress in finding a political solution in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Government's decision therefore leaves them with no alternative to assuming full and direct responsibility for the administration of Northern Ireland until a political solution to the problems of the Province can be worked out in consultation with all those concerned.
In other words, the Government have stated quite clearly that this Bill means what it says; it is a temporary provisions Bill giving the Government time to work out a "political solution".
My right hon. Friend enlarged on what he had said by adding:
I argue this particularly strongly, because hon. Members will discover that the business which has normally been conducted at Stormont will place much too heavy a burden on the British House of Commons. Already we have difficulty dealing with the affairs of Scotland and Wales, together with the general affairs of the United Kingdom. There are many detailed matters which are considered daily at Stormont. Much legislation is passed through that place.
I believe that it must be the intention in the long term to restore a democratically elected Government in Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend who has taken on the onerous job of looking after the affairs of Northern Ireland should make full use of the knowledge and experience which are available in Northern Ireland.
I have greatly regretted reading statements which have been made in the heat of the moment in Northern Ireland which seem to indicate that many leading political figures there are not prepared to co-operate. Indeed, confidence in Northern Ireland has been greatly shaken by Her Majesty's Government's action, no less because of the manner in which the suspension of Stormont has been effected.
It was despicable of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to put conditions to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland which my right hon. Friend knew were totally unacceptable and which he knew that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland could not accept and remain leader of his party in Northern Ireland. If it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to suspend Stormont, they should have done this properly rather than put unacceptable conditions to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
As a result of this action, confidence has been lost in Northern Ireland. It is vital that those in Northern Ireland who have taken an interest in politics and who have experience in political affairs should be encouraged to come forward and help my right hon. Friend in his difficult task in the coming year. Only by accepting an Amendment such as this—that is, to allow by-elections to be held in the coming year—can the Government show their good will and help to restore the confidence of those affected in Northern Ireland.
I remember clearly that when this trouble started in 1969 the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland carried the banner "One man, one vote". Those concerned meant one man one vote in local authority elections. If they were sincere, surely it cannot have been their intention to secure the suspension of the democratically elected Parliament in Ulster. If that banner was nothing but a guise covering the intention to achieve something else which they were not prepared to display—namely, their intention completely to overthrow the constitution of Northern Ireland—hon. Members opposite, including the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), who has taken a keen interest in these matters, should support this move to restore the elected Parliament in Ulster.
My hon. Friend is speaking about political slogans. Does he agree that one good slogan for Northern Ireland would be "One people, one Parliament", meaning this Parliament?
No, I do not. This is why I have tabled this Amendment and the other Amendments standing in my name. A system of local Parliaments covering not only Northern Ireland but Scotland and Wales is desirable. I am dealing now strictly with the situation in Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend must be aware of the very great volume of work in the British House of Commons. He must appreciate that it would be impossible for the House of Commons to be expected to deal with all the details of Ulster, particularly in view of the distances involved and the fact that the Irish Channel provides a geographical barrier which tends to produce in Northern Ireland a feeling that the inhabitants there cannot take their grievances so readily to Westminster, both because of Westminster's greater pre-occupation with the affairs of the nation as a whole and because of the physical distances involved. Therefore, the matters with which Stormont has dealt up to now are ideal matters for a local Parliament.
I therefore believe that if my right hon. Friend accepted the Amendment he would do something to restore confidence in Northern Ireland, together with the statement which has been made by the Government that they intend first to restore peace in Ulster. The Government might well say categorically that they are not prepared to restore peace at any price—in other words, that they are not prepared to sell out Northern Ireland. If this indeed is their intention, I suggest that they accept the Amendment.
I oppose the Amendment. We are arranging in the Bill to deprive a certain number of representatives of their jobs, but we are providing to go on paying them. In the circumstances, that is a perfectly proper thing to do. I understand that there are two vacancies at Stormont at present, and there may be others during the year. To provide that people should be elected to fill those vacancies and be paid accordingly when there is no task to be performed is totally unjustified.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) suggests that, as it is not the Government's declared intention permanently to abolish Stormont, it should be kept in moth balls—totally in moth balls—so that it can be reactivated at whatever is the right time. If and when it is reactivated, there will be plenty of opportunity, when the job of being a Member of Stormont is re-created, to issue the writs and fill the vacancies.
The hon. Gentleman is misconstruing my remarks. The whole purport of my argument was not that Stormont should be kept in moth balls but that it should be kept alive and that its Members should be encouraged to feel that it is still alive and to come forward and help my right hon. Friend in his difficult job in the year ahead. That is one of the reasons behind the Amendment.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman who is to be the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will want a great number of people to come forward and assist him in his task and to serve on the Commission, and so on. That is no reason why some people who have not performed any similar function in the past should be paid for doing so, on one basis as full representatives, while others will presumably be able to recoup only their expenses.
If and when Stormont is reactivated, that will be the proper time to issue the writs. If and when Stormont is reactivated, the situation in Northern Ireland is likely to be of a kind when it would be sensible to hold elections to fill vacancies. In the present circumstances in Northern Ireland, to go through the process of holding constituency elections not to get working representatives but to get people who are immediately put into suspense but are paid for being representatives would be an act of folly.
I rise to speak in support of this Amendment because it goes to the very heart of whether we believe that one day Stormont will be reactivated as the Parliament of Northern Ireland or whether we have written it off but are not prepared to say so.
The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) made the point that it seems foolish to have by-elections when the person who is elected cannot do anything and that we should wait for the moment when we reactivate Stormont, if we do, before filling such vacancies. I would remind him that the prorogation of Stormont is only for 12 months and, as many of us in this House who have had to wait for their by-elections to come up will know, very many months often elapse between the moment a vacancy occurs and the time the writ is issued. Therefore, the idea that the moment a vacancy occurs a writ is issued is far from the truth.
But if it is our intention to maintain Stormont as the structure of a possible Government for Northern Ireland, then by the same token, and bearing in mind that a General Election in Northern Ireland is not expected for some years, these vacancies must be filled so that if after 12 months we decide to put Stormont back we put back a complete Parliament for Northern Ireland. Let us not forget that we are talking about the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, not about any section of that people.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when he made his statement last Friday about the prorogation, said:
Our immediate proposals are put forward in an endeavour so to change the climate of political opinion in Northern Ireland that discussions can be resumed in an effort to reach agreement on a new way forward to this end. It is our intention, as soon as circumstances permit, to promote the necessary consultations about the future structure of Government in Northern Ireland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd March, 1972; Vol. 833, c. 1862–63.]
Of course, those words could mean that we are thinking of some totally different political structure. Conceivably, we do not believe that Northern Ireland should
have a Parliament again, but we have not said so in this Bill. We have only introduced a Bill to prorogue Stormont for one year. Therefore, following the intention of that Bill, it seems to me that if we accept the words for what they mean we must maintain Stormont as an entity in suspended animation which can be brought to life whenever we so desire.
It seems to me that this is something at which the Government might well look again. The argument of the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) does not seem to me to be a valid one. What he was really saying was that we should not pay people who are elected to a Parliament which is prorogued, but really this argument applies to the question of paying those who remain in the seats which they already occupy. Either one should not pay the Parliament or one should be prepared to pay somebody even if he is elected while the Parliament is prorogued.
There are surely three paints here which the Government ought to bear in mind if the Lord President is to have the support he hopes for when he gets to Ireland. My two hon. Friends who have spoken have both referred to the fact that this prorogation is officially for one year and that it is hoped that Stormont will be restored at the end of the year. I am very doubtful about this. My own feeling from the moment the Government made their proposals has been that events will have slipped from their grasp at the end of the year. We may never see Stormont again as an effective Parliament.
Nevertheless, the Government say that Stormont is prorogued for one year and that they hope that Parliament will once again operate. If it is going to operate, whether at the end of the year or at the end of a longer period, let us just consider what the position would be if the strength of that Parliament had been eroded in the interim by a number of deaths, resignations or whatever it might be. At the point at which the Government want and need to reactivate Stormont they want a representative Parliament in being at that time to operate as a proper, effective, democratic machine. What they cannot afford is immediately to have to hold perhaps six or eight by-elections, which would amount to a mini-General Election, just at the point at which it will be necessary for the Parliament to be operating properly.
It surely follows, therefore, that as a simple precaution against the time when the Government might need Stormont they must keep Stormont up to strength so that it is able to go into action at exacly the moment when the Government want its help, if they ever do want its help.
I can see that from the point of view of any Government taking dictatorial powers over a Province it will be very inconvenient to have controversial by-elections during the period when they are governing directly. Nevertheless there is something to be said for encouraging the people of Ulster during that period to believe that they have democratic machinery through which they can exercise their suffrage and express their opinions. Indeed, the Lord President may well find it very helpful to be able to take the views of a sample electorate in Northern Ireland during this period to see how far he is succeeding in his task and what volume of support he has among the two communities in Northern Ireland.
In support of my hon. Friend's point, would he not agree that what the Bill does is to provide the Lord President with flexibility? He can issue writs, and he can sound out public opinion as my hon. Friend has just said he may wish to do. Is it not right that discretion should be left to him? It might be very difficult in certain circumstances to hold a by-election.
I do not think so. That has a somewhat nasty ring about it. We know the kind of trouble there can be in this House when writs for by-elections have been unduly delayed by the Government in power on either side of the House. I notice that the Liberal benches are extraordinarily empty when a matter of democratic freedom is at stake, but I seem to remember the Liberal Party complaining very bitterly at being disfranchised for a long time. I do not think it can be left to the Government alone to decide whether a writ for a by-election should be issued. This is surely a matter which must operate subject to some democratic sanctions. After all, in this House, if a writ is not issued in due time, there are certain circumstances in which Mr. Speaker can issue a writ, and if the writ is too long delayed hon. Members have the sanction of being able to put down a Motion and debate it in this House, and indeed to carry a Motion against the Government. I do not think this can be left to the discretion of a dictatorial Government exercising direct rule. I think the Government would find it inconvenient.
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that a writ should be moved in this House? Surely the only place for a writ to be moved for the Parliament of Northern Ireland is at Stormont, and how can a writ be moved in a Parliament that is prorogued?
The hon. Member is making the point which I was just going on to deal with. Of course he is right. I was answering my hon. Friend, however, who said that we should leave the Lord President, the Secretary of State designate, to decide whether or not a writ should be issued. That would, quite clearly, be wrong.
What this Bill does is to take out of the hands of the authorities properly and constitutionally charged with issuing writs the power to do so when they think it is necessary and right. I am saying that the authorities at present responsible for issuing writs should retain the power to do so. I believe that if the Government allow the Parliament of Northern Ireland, perhaps over a period of one or two years, to be denuded of parts of its strength so that a mini-General Election has to be held when they want that Parliament, they will find that it is much more embarrassing than allowing the normal constitutional procedures to operate and individual constituencies in Ulster to express their views democratically as the occasion arises.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), in moving the Amendment, referred to me specifically, and perhaps hope springs eternal in his breast when he suggests that I ought to support the re-establishment of Stormont. He will know that, as from seven years past, those of us who have been involved and interested in Northern Ireland affairs have been putting forward precisely what the Government have now done, which is to suspend or prorogue Stormont. So I do not think he made those remarks in any serious sense.
One hesitates to intervene in what apparently is an internal struggle among the pro-Stormont and pro-integration Unionists. But there is another view on the Amendment, partly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham), which is quite contrary to that expressed by the hon. Member for Belfast, East. There are a number of reasons why one must oppose the Amendment.
Firstly, we all know that it is a meaningless charade to have elections in these circumstances, and that, as such, far from aiding, it would be harmful to any concept of democratic institutions. Secondly, and practically, it must be a ludicrous exercise. It would elect people to be paid for not attending a body which does not exist, or, at least, which is temporarily defunct. It lends itself to the kind of futile symbolism which all too often is unfortunately the heritage of Ireland, and Northern Ireland in particular. Thirdly, and more important, it derogates from the effectiveness of the advisory Commission set up by the Government and, therefore, from the willingness of all sections of the population to participate in it, notwithstanding the blackmail and the threats of Mr. Craig with regard to those who might sit on that Commission. It is certainly not pleasant to be called a Lundy or a traitor, any more than it is for some of my hon. Friends to be picketed by the I.R.A. The most important argument against this, and the peculiar merit of the Bill, as I see it, which certainly led me into the Lobby with the Government last night for only the second time in 7½ years, is that it creates in the advisory Commission the embryo, at least, of some sort of community government in Northern Ireland which could take in Northern Irishmen of all denominations and views, and the sooner we disengage rather than integrate the better.
That is why I oppose the Amendment. I believe that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), who voted against the Bill last night—I understand their reasons—perhaps made the wrong analysis. They are not seeing and grasping the possibilities which exist here for a positive rather than a negative approach with regard to the advisory Commission. Evidently Mr. Craig and the hon. Member for Belfast, East disagreed with them in their analysis, and I understand the reasons for that as well as I understand the reasons for the view that they took. But there is the possibility of building up from that Commission something that would be a representative and democratic institution, in a way that Stormont never was because of its built-in one-party system and built-in majority.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East is really saying that if he cannot have Stormont, if he cannot perpetuate Unionist domination of the Six Counties of Northern Ireland over which Stormont has held sway for 50 years, if he cannot defy Westminster to the extent that he and some of his predecessors did when they refused to allow my hon. Friends and me to even ask Questions or raise matters pertaining to Northern Ireland in this House, if he cannot continue the convention that prevented us from dealing with those matters he and his friends want to find another way rather than to hide behind the convention. If they cannot perpetuate that domination, some of them would prefer direct integration as a second best.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who has tabled new Clause 8, is in danger of falling into a trap in that declaratory Clause. First, it is hollow and meaningless. But it was demolished—and this is very relevant to the Amendment—by his former Cabinet colleague, my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) in a very telling speech last night.
An attempt to spell out in a declaratory statement that the staus quo is to remain for all time with that sort of rigidity and commitment is a nonsense.
We all remember the Colons in Algeria and their slogan "L'Algerie Française", which now has been seen to be a nonsense and a move towards integration, like Amendment No. 9, which we are discussing with the Amendment, which is the alternative strategy. But at least it is worthy of support in so far as it would prevent the charade of so-called elections to a non-existing body.
The present position is that we ought at least to leave the slumbering Stormont in favour of a greater flexibility which is made possible under the new provisions, because this leaves the door open at least for discussions between London, Dublin, the advisory Commission and the Minister. It allows for a peaceful movement of opinion according to the will of the whole population of Northern Ireland. It leaves it open for both communities, and, indeed, people of all persuasions, to deal with this problem without seeing always the Border as a divisive issue. It allows for a kind of flexibility which the presence of the argument about the Border prevents and a by-product of which has been that no progressive movement, north or south of the Border, aimed at real social change has been possible because it has always been diverted, by right-wing extremists whether in the South or the North, on sectarian lines.
Dealing with the question of election writs, this will provide a diversion. It will provide a heightening of tension every time there is an election, which is precisely what is not needed when we require a calm appraisal by both communities in an atmosphere free from violence, strife and intimidation. There can be no doubt that elections fought today in today's atmosphere would only stir up that sort of strife. Elections for a non-functioning body will only help to polarise opinion and freeze existing attitudes. There would be more difficulty in creating an opening by the South or, indeed, in looking to the future of Northern Ireland, whether in the context of all-Ireland or in the United Kingdom, or the general context of United Kingdom-Irish relations or, perhaps, looking further ahead, within the context of the Common Market, if we were regularly to have these battles at election time for this non-existing body.
Finally, while Stormont is prorogued, let it stand as such and be treated as such. Let there be no writs and no elections. As the prorogation period is not known and may well be renewed at the end of the year, and by-elections, if held, will already be outdated—this is the answer to the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude)—public opinion may well have changed by the time Stormont comes into existence again, if ever. Therefore, in opposing Amendment No. 8 I say that it is an attempt to revive, as it were, a patient under ananaesthetic while he is in the course of undergoing a very serious operation. Doing that can have very dangerous results to a patient. It can have very much more dangerous results in Northern Ireland.
I oppose the Amendment. First, the House of Commons in Northern Ireland stands prorogued and I do not see how one could possibly issue an election writ while it is prorogued. That is surely a complete impossibility. Hon. Members have said that they do not want the new Secretary of State to have this power. In that case, I recommend them to accept my Amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 8, leave out 'need', and insert 'shall', which says that he shall not have it and retains it in the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
I think that it is a waste of time for the Committee to spend much time on this matter because there are Amendments of far deeper importance that we could discuss with greater profit. But the Committee would be foolish to suggest that it would be opportune, while the Government of Northern Ireland are in cold storage and a temporary administration has been set up, to run by-elections for a Parliament which does not even meet.
Whether that is so or not, I suggest that it is the usual custom, certainly in Northern Ireland, that the party which last held the seat has the opportunity to make the move for filling it. It is suggested by the Amendment that, in the midst of a temporary Government of Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State should have power to issue writs, since he is to have the full power of Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland. I, on the contrary, would like to take the power completely out of his hands and say that a writ "shall" not be issued.
There are one or two questions which hon. Members have raised on these Amendments which should be answered. It would seem to be clear that the prorogation of Parliament, either here or in Stormont, does not prevent the holding of by-elections when Stormont or this House is not sitting. It would seem that the matter is dealt with in three Acts of the British Parliament which I understand apply to the Northern Ireland Parliament. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will obtain confirmation of that, but I believe it to be the case. The three Acts are the Recess of Parliament Act, 1784, the Election of Members during Recess Act, 1854, and the Elections in Recess Act, 1863.
It is obvious that Parliament in the past has attached great importance to this matter because there are elaborate provisions in the legislation to deal with the situation which might arise when a Speaker dies or becomes insane. The latter event, to the best of my knowledge, has never yet in our parliamentary history—not in recent times, certainly—occurred, in spite of some indications to the contrary at certain times.
The effect, as I understand it, of the legislation is that if during a prorogation a Member of Parliament dies or vacates his seat, any two other Members can force Mr. Speaker to issue his writ for a fresh election. I seem to remember that on one occasion a member of the at present non-represented Liberal Party sought to do this some years ago, causing a good deal of alarm and despondency. But that does seem to be the legal position and the Committee is entitled to know.
I do not think that they are the same. I am dealing precisely with the prorogation position, however. I do so not seeking to give the impression that I speak with authority on the matter, but, to the best of my recollection and on the information presently available to me, what I am saying seems to be accurate.
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that while Parliament at Stormont is prorogued any two Members, under the Acts he is relying on, can move for a writ and that the Speaker can issue it if he be not insane? In that case it would appear that the discretion lies with any two Members of the Stormont Parliament and not with the Secretary of State.
I am asking questions and stating what I think to be the position. I assume, from the inclusion in parenthesis of the words
and no writ need be issued to fill any vacancy
that they were intended to deal with the situation. What the new Secretary of State intends should be made clear. I understand that the purpose of these words
and no writ need be issued to fill any vacancy
is to prevent that situation arising. Or is it? I do not know. The words as they stand seem to leave an area of discretion. They are not a prohibition. In whom is the discretion to lie? Is it in the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Parliament? Is it in the Secretary of State? Where is it to lie?
I cannot help but think that what the Government have in mind is that the words in parenthesis shall mean that "no writ shall be issued to fill any vacancy". Perhaps we can be told. If the intention is not to achieve that objective, then the Secretary of State, who is going to have to carry these onerous burdens in Northern Ireland, may well face a remarkable situation, if I am right so far on the constitutional position—namely, that there can be a series of resignations and a series of testing by-elections over the course of the next 12 months, and if it is thought that it would be good to bring about an era of quiet and potential consensus in Northern Ireland, then I cannot imagine a more deplorable potential course of events than that.
Although at first blush these seem to be unimportant Amendments, they raise important matters and issues, and accordingly I make no apology for raising those matters in direct terms at this stage. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman will require the assistance of the Attorney-General because what I have said is admittedly tentative on the basis of such information as I presently have.
In this interesting analysis of the possible interpretations, may I suggest that there may be a third possible interpretation, that the words do not import a restraint because in that case the natural word for draftsmen to use would have been "shall" and they are not intended to give a discretion to some undefined person, but, being in brackets, they are merely declaratory to say that there will be no duty to fill the vacancy. There is no restraint and no interruption of any power that may exist.
I agree that that is a possible interpretation. As I understand the constitutional position, without some specific provision in the Clause the doubts to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred could well arise in the circumstances I have indicated. I hope that this matter will be clarified before these Amendments reach a Division.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) has done a considerable service by tabling this Amendment. I was not aware of the extraordinary doubts that exist over the meaning of these words. As a simple layman I had read this as being a discretion given to the Secretary of State over whether a writ should be issued. I had intended to address my remarks against that discretion and I was hoping that the Secretary of State designate would tell me something of his intentions.
Perhaps while we are waiting for the Law Officers, or one of them, to come to tell us what the words mean so that we can make up our minds about our attitude towards them, I could say a word about the general argument which is that because Parliament should stand prorogued therefore Parliament is of no account. This is a mistaken conception. Members of Parliament at Stormont remain Members despite the prorogation. They are elected Members and they continue to be paid because they have important duties to perform. No one suggests that when this House is prorogued we abandon all our duties and rights. The Secretary of State designate has said that among the various people whom he might consult about the future of Northern Ireland are the elected representatives—
I am perfectly prepared to accept that my right hon. Friend was opaque about his intentions. He has not said precisely whom he will consult, but I most certainly got the impression that he would consult the elected representatives of the people. The people of Northern Ireland have elected two sets of representatives. They have elected those of us who sit here and they have elected others to represent them on other matters transferred to the local Parliament. These people have a mandate to represent them on those matters. I have no mandate to represent the people of Northern Ireland in those matters. I should have thought that in matters internal to Northern Ireland my right hon. Friend, if he is to consult elected representatives, ought to consult the people whom the electors have selected to represent them.
With his great experience on these matters can my hon. and gallant Friend inform me about a matter which is concerning me and which I think will concern the Commission? Presumably the subjects dealt with by the elected Members at Stormont cover a large range of social and domestic jurisdiction which give rise as we all know to considerable correspondence, interviews and queries from constituents. Does my hon. and gallant Friend think that during this period of prorogation constituents in Northern Ireland will continue to address to their Members these run of the mill constituency queries and if that be so—I cannot think that they will suddenly stop and send them to a Commission instead—would it not be right for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State designate not only to be consulting them but to be receiving their representations on these vital, human matters?
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. He is perfectly right. For example, my constituents concerned with road transport and the question of roads within their own Northern Ireland divisions will not write to me about it. I never had a mandate about that. They will take they matter up with the person whom the elected to represented them in these matters. That person is still an elected Member of Parliament and as such he has the right of access to the Crown which is one of the ancient privileges of Parliament, not taken away by prorogation.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is embarking upon a very dangerous philosophy on this question of mandates when he says that he does not have a number of mandates. If this is the supreme Parliament, extending throughout the United Kingdom, then of course he has a mandate to represent all the interests of his constituents in this Parliament. On the more practical point the hon. and gallant Gentleman would stand out as not being representative of most hon. Members if he is saying that his constituents do not write to him about roads and all the other matters that are often better dealt with not even by Stormont but by a county council. I know that my hon. Friends, and perhaps hon. Gentlemen opposite, get letters which ought to have been referred to a town clerk. I am sure the hon. and gallant Gentleman gets them.
Surely the hon. and gallant Gentleman admits that the mandate of this Parliament is extending itself and it is now taking under its jurisdiction all the transferred powers, so that surely the people who can rightfully and properly make representations will be Members of this House, and I speak as a Member of both Houses? I know what will happen when a Member of the prorogued Parliament goes to a Government Department. It will simply say to him, "You have no jurisdiction now Stormont is not in existence. How can we take your representation?"
If my hon. Friend would care to look at yesterday's Hansard he will see that the Minister said that he gave
the most complete assurance that I will seek to use these considerable legislative powers as little as possible in the temporary period of the Bill. When I have to use them, I will undertake the maximum possible discussion in this House, particularly with the Northern Ireland Members here as well as in Northern Ireland."—[Official Report, 28th March, 1972; Vol. 834, c. 244.]
That is exactly my point. I do not recognise that this Bill makes Members of Parliament elected in Northern Ireland non-Members of Parliament. They are Members of a Parliament which stands prorogued. They have rights conferred upon them when they were elected—rights and duties. They are not allowed to meet as a Parliament, but those rights and duties remain. Therefore, if, on the matters which the Act of 1920 transferred to the Parliament of Northern Ireland, my right hon. Friend should be looking for advice, he would be perfectly entitled and ought to take advice of the elected representatives of the people in Northern Ireland with mandates on the subjects for which they were, responsible.
Would my hon. and gallant Friend care to reflect, when addressing himself to the question of the extent to which the duties of a Member of Parliament persist during the period of prorogation, on the fact that Lord Boyle, in his pay award to Members of Parliament, concluded that we would still be doing our job sufficiently and that we would be paid right up through the period of prorogation and the actual election?
I am very much obliged to my hon. Friend. He underlines the point I was making.
To come, then, to the question involved in this Amendment, which is the question of the issue of writs. It seems to me that it is a dangerous discretion to leave to a Minister of the Crown, the question whether or not a writ shall be issued. Whether the words in the Clause mean that or not I am not sure. No doubt the Attorney-General will be dealing with the point. However, if the words mean that discretion is left to the Minister, that is an exceedingly dangerous one to leave with any Minister.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend, when he replies to the debate, will tell us his intentions. One can see that during this period of prorogation there may come vacancies, and there may be divisions, therefore, unrepresented; some divisions will have Members of Parliament, some will not—that is, Members of Parliament at Stormont. Suppose the Secretary of State in his wisdom decides to consult the elected representatives of the people. There may be certain divisions which will not be represented and which will have no voice whatever in that process.
It is also dangerous, in that a Secretary of State—I do not believe my right hon. Friend would do this—might make selective issues of writs, writs which he thought might help him; he might think other writs would not. It is an exceedingly arbitrary power to put in the hands of a Secretary of State. It is an arbitrary power to put in the hands of a Minister.
My only purpose in speaking was simply to inquire of my right hon. Friend what his intentions are concerning the Members of Parliament at Stormont, and consultation with them.
Indeed. As I said at the beginning, I had concluded, as a simple layman, that these words meant that the discretion was going to the Secretary of State. It might be useful if the Attorney-General were to intervene, or, possibly, the Lord President, to tell us what the Bill means, and whether these words are actually necessary, before we determine our attitude to the Amendment.
Perhaps it will help if I intervene at this stage and inform the Committee what the legal position is, as I understand it, and deal with the various points which have been raised.
In the first place, I want to make two points in general. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) has, as some hon. Members have said, done a service to the Committee, certainly to me, by enabling me to find out exactly the full position, and I am very grateful to him for having done that, and I have found it out. He said I would not consult people with experience and knowledge in Northern Ireland. I can tell him I am most anxious to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) discussed my dictatorial powers. I accept at once that for the period of one year this Bill confers on me very considerable powers, but it is right and very important for me to say that in the exercise of those powers I am answerable to this House of Commons and that in anything I do in the exercise of those powers I can be questioned in this House of Commons. Censure Motions can be put down against me in this House of Commons. If necessary and if this House should wish, it can carry censure Motions against me and get rid of me. It would be within its power.
This is extremely important. After all, as someone with my background as Leader of the House, I should not like it to be felt that I would be likely to treat lightly the position that I am completely answerable to this House of Commons in taking on these powers which, I realise, are considerable. I hope they are temporary, and I hope that it is appreciated that in exercising them I must be answerable to this House of Commons.
Having said that, I turn to what is, I understand, the legal position. By-elec- tion writs in Northern Ireland are issued by the Governor. Under this Bill I take the powers of the Governor. Therefore, his discretion as to the issue of writs is in my discretion. It is also perfectly true that the Governor in these matters would normally act on advice. In paragraph 1(1)(6) of the Schedule to the Bill provision is laid down that I can act without advice simply for the very proper reason that in acting I am answerable to this House of Commons. That makes my position quite different. Therefore, from that point of view, I have the power and I can exercise it as to whether or not I do issue a writ.
That is the legal position, and I think that that clears up the point which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones) raised.
I think we should get this quite clear, because it is a genuinely puzzling point. Are there no circumstances in which, even while the House in Stormont is prorogued, the Speaker of that House can issue his writ for a by-election? Of course we know that it is a matter for the Crown in the case of a General Election, but Mr. Speaker here, as I understand it, can issue his writ while Parliament it prorogued.
I am advised that there is no question but that the Governor issues all writs, including writs for by-elections, in Northern Ireland. If there were any mistake in that, I would tell the Committee, but that is the advice I am given. I think that makes the position clear. I keep on returning to the point that in whatever I may do in these matters I am answerable to the House of Commons.
Now I turn from the legal points to the merits of the case before me and what are my intentions, given that I have this power. Perhaps not for the last time in the task I am now undertaking, I find myself under considerable crossfire as to my best course of action. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) feels that I should say that I will under no circumstances issue any such writ, because as the Northern Ireland Parliament is prorogued there would little point in having Members come to it when they would have no duties. But my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) take the view that there are considerable duties for Members of Parliament in Stormont, even prorogued, as there are for Members of this House, even prorogued, and that I should take that into account.
My advice is, "Yes", but I have no doubt that if it were thought right for this to be done in certain circumstances that could be arranged.
But perhaps on a more serious note I should turn to the reason why the words in the Bill are as they are. It would be fair to recognise both the points of view that have been expressed, which are important. On the one hand, the hon. Member for Antrim, North suggests that it would not make much sense to have a by-election. Should we be able in these circumstances to get men or women of experience and knowledge who wished to take part in politics to stand for such a by-election? We should have to consider that very carefully. It is likely that they would not, and if they would not—
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that such a situation might be attractive to certain people, because they would be paid during the period without doing anything?
I accept that, but if I may say so to my hon. Friend, whose knowledge of this House and experience in all these matters I much respect, I think that all of us here would feel a certain conscience if we were to stand in such circumstances with basically very little to do other than to draw our pay.
It is usual in the Stormont Parliament that before a Member takes the oath after being elected in a by-election he must be sponsored by two Members of Parliament. Surely, in those circumstances, if a by-election were held, in order for the person elected to be a Member of Parliament, Parliament would have to be recalled, sponsors provided and the usual procedure carried out?
I do not think so. I could have had words saying that no writ would be issued. I could have conformed to the view of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. But it is only right, in the very tentative and difficult situation with which we are faced, to have as much flexibility as is reasonably possible. The more I have heard of this debate, the more I think that it is very unlikely that I would seek to take the step of issuing such a writ, and I think the Committee will feel that, too. But it is right to be flexible. I cannot foresee all the circumstances. If I consider issuing a writ, I can be questioned in the House. I am answerable to the House, and I undertake that if there were any question of doing so I would tell the House and explain my reasons.
There is one other important point to be made in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South on the question of constituency problems for those who are at present Members of the prorogued Stormont Parliament. I intend to write to them and say that I am very willing to consider any constituency points on matters formerly in the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government. I shall write personally to each one of them. If they write to me and my Ministers, I will ensure that they receive the most careful and studied replies. That is my responsibility.
I think I have made the legal position clear. I am sorry to go on stating that I am responsible to this House, but it is very important for me to state it, if only to get it solidly in my brain. The more I see the Bill, the more I realise the sort of powers I am being given. It would be wrong to say I am frightened by them, because I must not be frightened by anything, and I will not be.
I am answerable to this House for what I do, and I hope that on that basis the Committee will not press the Amendment.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his careful reply, and I note with interest the points raised by my hon. Friends and other hon. Members, including the right hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Sir Elwyn Jones).
Having listened to this lengthy discussion, my right hon. Friend now perhaps sees a little of what he may be in for during the coming year. He said that he was having discussions with those in Northern Ireland who are particularly knowledgeable in these matters. In the light of those discussions, and because we shall perhaps have the opportunity to return to this point later, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
The purpose of the Amendment is to raise an extremely important point which goes to what I regard as the vice of the Bill. Many hon. Members argued on Second Reading that the Bill was a surrender to violence, but it is not fully appreciated exactly how must we are surrendering. It is one thing to give a Minister in the House of Commons executive authority, but it is another thing to give him the powers of a legislature. I am not sure about the technicalities of the Amendment or about what consequential Amendments might be required, as I am not a lawyer, but the purpose is to remove from the Minister designate the power to make laws.
My right hon. Friend said a moment ago that he was answerable to the House of Commons, and he has constantly stressed this. That is true. He is answerable to the House for his powers of administration, but here he is taking something which no other Minister has, except under specific Acts of Parliament where the power to make regulations is given. The Bill goes far wider. The power that is given is the power of a Parliament, and we shall be giving these powers to my right hon. Friend.
Given the amount of time we shall spend on the Bill, I think we can take it for granted that Government Amendment No. 38 and related Amendments are likely to form part of the Bill as finally passed. If Amendment No. 38 is incorporated into the Bill the Minister will not have the unfettered power to pass legislation without the approval of the House.
The hon. Gentleman is wrong. All that these later Amendments do is to substitute the affirmative Resolution procedure for the negative Resolution procedure. Can the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) imagine the Local Government Bill for England and Wales being dealt with on the basis of an Order in Council subject to the affirmative procedure? Does any member of the Committee think that is a proper parliamentary process? Of course it is not.
The Parliament of Northern Ireland has on the stocks 60 Measures to be dealt with. Of those, 25 have been passed, some are in an early stage and some in a late stage. The Health and Personal Social Services Bill, for example, contains 109 Clauses and 17 Schedules. When that Bill comes before this House of Commons it will be in the form of an Order in Council and no one will be able to offer any amendment to it. There will be no Second Reading, no Committee stage, no Report stage. There will be a kind of abortive Third Reading with Parliament being entitled only to accept or reject the Measure.
If the Secretary of State for Scotland wishes to change the law in Scotland he must bring a Bill to the House of Commons, and that Bill must go through all the usual processes. But what is proposed in this Measure is so totally unparliamentary that it is breath-taking in its scope. The Minister designate will have the total power of legislation. The only people whom the Minister is entitled or has a duty to consult are the members of the Commission, which is his own creation and whose members are appointed by him and paid by him. These are the only people who will be entitled to look at the legislation in draft and to consider it.
It is all very well to say that we are taking power from a devolved Parliament back to the parent Parliament but we are doing no such thing. We are taking power from the devolved Parliament and giving it to the executive Government. This is totally wrong and contrary to all concepts of Parliamentary democracy. As a parliamentarian I object with every fibre of my being to giving this power to a Minister of the Crown—any Minister of the Crown in any Administration—however much I admire him.
This point is rather like the last one. I fully realise the extent and nature of the powers which are temporarily transferred for one year. It might help my hon. and gallant Friend if I were to say that I am ready to discuss both with hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies and through the usual channels how best this legislation can be taken. As the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. George Cunningham) said, the legislation will be dealt with by the affirmative procedure if the later Government Amendments are accepted. I am prepared to discuss how I or my Ministers would best be able to go through the legislation with hon. Members, and I hope to meet hon. Members on that basis.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. One is always grateful for small mercies, but we must remember that the Bill is not conferring powers on my right hon. Friend but upon a Minister of the Crown. We do not know that my right hon. Friend will be the Minister of the Crown. We do not know that these powers will be exercised by this Government. One should never base one's thinking about legislation on ministerial assurances. I accept that that is my right hon. Friend's intentions, and it is helpful to have his assurance, but I profoundly object to giving to any Minister of the Crown, whoever he may be, this enormous power of legislation. My right hon. Friend says that the Bill is temporary, but many of the most tyrannical acts in history have begun as temporary measures—
Is the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) aware that for 52 years this absolute, tyrannical power which he has just described has been in the hands of one individual, namely, the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland? Why did not the hon. Gentleman when representing his constituents in this House object to these powers being held by that Minister?
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has completely missed the point. The Special Powers Act, which no doubt we shall be discussing, was debated by a Parliament before it was passed. We are now proposing to put into the hands of the executive Government, not powers to make regulations, but powers of a legislature. We are to give them the powers of a Parliament—powers formerly held by a Parliament to which the people of a country elected representatives. All that is to be taken away and to be put into the hands of the executive Government.
This is why I so profoundly object to this procedure. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House is an honourable man, and I accept the assurance which he has given. Nevertheless, I shall vote for this Amendment because I am totally opposed to the powers which are to be taken.
I am grateful for that correction, Sir Stephen. Many of the other Amendments which are to be dealt with in this group relate to the same matters mentioned by the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Amendment No. 13 seeks to do very much the same thing as Amendment No. 10. On the other hand, it will be noticed that other Amendments to be taken with this Amendment No. 10 are Amendments tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself on rather different points.
On the specific point relating to the rôle of this Parliament, we feel it wrong to have this form of delegated legislation. I hope that the Leader of the House will give us his reasons for saying that the Government believe it necessary to provide for legislation by Order in Council in the way in which provision is made in this Bill.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said yesterday, on Second Reading, there are no doubt reasons why the Government wish to do this. First, it may be because the United Kingdom Parliament is likely to be subjected to too heavy a burden of work if it has to debate and to have Committee stages on every piece of legislation on Northern Ireland which the designate Secretary of State deems to be necessary. On the other hand, I cannot believe it is right, setting out as we are on this extraordinary venture, that this Parliament should declare that it has not the time to consider the affairs of Northern Ireland. That would be an extraordinary assertion for the Government, or indeed for any hon. Member as a Parliamentarian, to make. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not advance that reason.
Looking at the other reasons, I feel that they rather scrape the barrel. It may be that this is being done so that legislation which is passed while Stormont is prorogued will have authority equal only to legislation passed by Stormont. There may be some hon. Members who would prefer that situation, but I personally would not. However, such a reason may be advanced by the Government. We on the Liberal benches feel that neither of these reasons would be sufficient to justify a major constitutional change.
It seems likely that in the next year citizens living in Northern Ireland would prefer legislation to be passed by the United Kingdom Parliament after debate than for orders to be made by the Secretary of State subject only to the veto of either House. I am sure that view will be widely held in Northern Ireland.
I turn to new Clause 1 and the Amendments which are to be taken with it on which we have asked for a separate Division. We find ourselves in the difficulty which I mentioned in a point of order at the beginning of the Committee stage, namely that this relates to an entirely different matter. We would have preferred a separate debate. However, I accept the limitations which have been imposed, and I hope that we shall be able to debate this matter very fully, albeit in the company of strange Amendments.
The Bill specifically makes provision for the way in which the Secretary of State designate is to operate the Special Powers Act. This is made quite clear in various provisions of the Bill, particularly in the Schedule. Paragraph 1of the Schedule requires the right hon. Gentleman, except in urgent cases, to submit new regulations under the Special Powers Act to the Commission. Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Schedule provides that he cannot delegate powers to make regulations under the Special Powers Act, thus amending the provision of the Special Powers Act which provides for delegation. Paragraph 4(2) of the Schedule provides for regulations under the Special Powers Act to be annulled by Resolutions of either House of Parliament.
This matter lies at the heart of the Bill, and it is for this reason that we on the Liberal benches seek to raise this matter. The Special Powers Acts—I put it in the plural because there are a whole host of regulations which have gone with the legislation over the years—are a symbol of the suppression of races and creeds in Northern Ireland. There is no doubt that this legislation is special restrictive legislation applying only to the minority in Northern Ireland—[Hon. Members: "No."] In theory, of course, it does not, but in practice it is restrictive legislation which has been used time and again as an instrument of discrimination against the minority in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Gentleman knows that on many occasions I have decried the action of men of violence on both sides, though unhappily we know where the majority of men of violence come from. But is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are specific instances in the legislation to which he refers, some very well known, in which both the majority and the minority have been involved.
I am not denying that that legislation has been used in isolated cases in respect of certain recalcitrant members of the majority, but it can be said that about 95 per cent. or more of all the instances in which this restrictive legislation has been used have involved the legislation being used as an instru- ment of discrimination against the minority, and that it was so conceived.
I think I must get on with my speech, and if what I say does not satisfy the hon. Gentleman, then perhaps I can give way later.
We have here enshrined in this Bill Draconian laws which make a mockery of the whole concept of British justice and fair play. I am amazed in reading those laws that any Parliament that calls itself free could have passed them—still more, that it should continue to keep them in force. Perhaps they are best described in the conclusions of a commission of inquiry set up by the National Council of Civil Liberties which examined the purpose and effect of the Special Powers Acts and which reported in 1936. I make no apology for quoting one or two extracts from this report which has proved to be immensely prophetic. I do so not only as a Liberal Member but also as secretary of the Parliamentary Group on Civil Liberties. It said:
…through the operation of the Special Powers Act contempt has been begotten for the representative institutions of Government…that through the use of Special Powers individual liberty is no longer protected by law, but is at the arbitrary disposition of the Executive. This abrogation of the rule of law has been so practised as to bring the freedom of the subject into contempt…that the Northern Irish Government has used Special Powers towards securing the domination of one particular political faction and, at the same time, towards curtailing the lawful activities of its opponents. The driving of legitimate movements underground into illegality, the intimidating or branding as law-breakers of their adherents, however innocent of crime, has tended to encourage violence and bigotry on the part of the Government's supporters as well as to beget in its opponents an intolerance of the 'law and order' thus maintained. The Government's policy is thus driving its opponents into the ways of extremists.
That was in 1936, and I think that it shows that what was being said then was portraying an accurate prophesy of what was to come about—
The hon. Gentleman and his Liberal friends surely cannot blind themselves completely to the true facts in Northern Ireland. It is true that these special powers were designed to restore law and order. It is well known in Northern Ireland that the I.R.A. has existed ever since the State was set up in 1920 and that there have been frequent campaigns of violence. In the most recent one, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have been seriously injured, and the I.R.A. has boasted that it is responsible. How else can one expect the special powers to be exercised, if not against the perpetrators of these terrible crimes?
I intend to come to that point. However, the very defence of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) is that which has been put up for Draconian laws of this sort in every Fascist country in the world from time immemorial. They are reasons which will be put up again and again. They are specious and quite wrong. One can always find reasons why Governments should take these powers. But the Liberal view is that these powers can never be justified, except in the very shortest time scale.
As I shall seek to show, these laws have become not just legislation used for a temporary period. They have become built into the law of the land. That is where the real danger lies, and we are asked to perpetuate this situation in this Bill.
In my view, the continued existence of the Special Powers Act is a major cause of the events which have led inexorably to a civil war situation. As the British Civil Liberties Commission reported in 1936,
These laws are contrary to the fundamental principles of democratic government.
The Act was originally passed in 1922, no doubt in extreme conditions. It was intended to last one year. This Bill is intended to last one year. The Act was renewed until 1933. Then it was made to last indefinitely. That is the Act with which we are dealing in certain parts of this Bill.
It may be doubted whether any so-called free country has ever passed such an Act. It is somewhat doubtful whether there is such an Act on the Statute Book of any so-called unfree country. I doubt whether there are many countries which have Acts of this kind on their Statute Books. It is the kind of legislation that even totalitarian régimes are shy of passing and, when they do it, they usually do it solely to meet some great emergency. But this Act has become part of the ordinary law of the land, and that is the danger.
A few selected passages from the Act make the blood run cold. I was brought up to believe that one of the essential horrors in Nazi Germany was the fact that members of families and friends were invited, indeed obligated by law, to spy on each other. In Section 2(3) of the Act, we find these words:
It shall be the duty of any person who knows, or has good reason for believing, that some other person is acting, has acted, or is about to act, in contravention of any provisions of the regulations to inform the civil authority of the fact, and if he fails to do so he shall be guilty of an offence against the regulations.
That is to build a nation of common informers. I do not think that this Parliament can go along with that kind of legislation.
Later in the Act we find that the offence is not defined specifically. It is unlimited. Its scope is left to the discretion of the authorities. Section 2(4) says:
If any person does any act of such a nature as to be calculated to be prejudicial to the preservation of the peace or maintenance of order in Northern Ireland and not specifically provided for in the regulations, he shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence against the regulations.
It is not provided for specifically. In other words, if we forgot some offence or it was not in our minds when the Act was passed, it is an offence now because the authority on high decrees that it shall be so. That is intolerable.
Again, we have the question of whether one is innocent until proved guilty, and on whom the burden of proof lies. Section 2(6) says:
Where under the regulations any act if done without lawful authority or without lawful authority or excuse is an offence against the regulations, the burden of proving that the act was done with lawful authority or with lawful authority or excuse shall rest on the person alleged to be guilty of the offence.
In other words, anyone infringing the Act has to prove his innocence.
The Act has been successively amended, but usually in the wrong direction. The authorities have taken more and more powers. However, rather than reading from Sections of the Act, which could take up a great deal of time, perhaps I might summarise the major provisions of it.
Under it the authorities have the power to arrest and search without warrant, and to imprison without charge or trial. They can prohibit meetings and processions and declare a curfew. They can also punish by flogging. They can deny a claim to a trial by jury. They can arrest people required as witnesses, detain them against their will and force them to answer questions against their will. They can prevent a person imprisoned without trial seeing relatives or legal advisers. They can force people to be fingerprinted and photographed against their will. They can prohibit the holding of an inquest after a prisoner's death. They can arrest a person who by word of mouth spreads false reports or makes false statements.
That is a wide scope for any authority. They can prohibit the circulation of any newspaper. They can prohibit the possession of any film or even any gramophone record. They can arrest a person who does anything calculated to be prejudicial to the preservation of peace and the maintenance of order in Northern Ireland and not provided for in the regulations.
I think that the hon. Gentleman ought to make the Committee aware of a recent Amendment to these powers where not only does the Minister of Home Affairs have the right to arrest anyone and take them into his own custody, but may designate any other person into whose custody the arrested person may go. He can do it by two or three stages removed.
I have been through every one of the Amendments to the Act since 1922. I will not read out every single thing done in Northern Ireland in the name of law and order. But I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention.
Finally, under this Act, it is an offence to be a member of an unlawful association. What does this cover? It covers many organisations, including Republican clubs, Sinn Fein, or like organisations, however so described. This is a wide sweeping power. Not all this legislation is in force all the time, but it is there for the authorities to call on whenever they wish. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe that it is necessary to have all the powers which I have just outlined?
Moreover, the Act is clearly in breach of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, to which the United Kingdom is a signatory. Indeed, the Irish Government have referred the matter to the European Court.
It is not named in my copy. It is not named in the latest Amendments. However, I see that the hon. Gentleman has a copy. As I said, I have been through the regulations in some detail, but it may be that even I have missed the latest Amendment. It is not a major point.
I must get on. I had better not give way again.
Does the right hon. Gentleman need all these powers? I suspect that he may say that he is prepared to review them, and I shall believe him absolutely. However, ought we, in a free Parliament, to leave it like that? I believe that we should start from the other end. We should repeal the whole rag bag of the Special Powers Acts and regulations.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down South (Captain Orr) shakes his head. I know the point that he is on, but I have got there ahead of him. It is difficult, because the right hon. Gentleman may say, "There are certain of these powers which I shall need." Indeed, I might be prepared to give him certain powers. But why not repeal the Act now and ask the House for these powers? It is much better to start that way round than to leave it to the Secretary of State, or whatever authority is there, to make up his mind about what he needs.
I recognise that there is an awkward gap between the passing of the Bill and the time when the Secretary of State can come to the House and ask for the special powers which he believes he needs. However, that is the Government's problem. I believe that they should have repealed the Act and written into this Bill those special powers which they required so that we could debate them and give them in the new circumstances which have arisen. It is not too late. The Government can accept the new Clause and come back to us tomorrow—it will be past midnight—and ask for the powers that they need.
I want to know exactly what powers the Government do need. I should be jealous of giving the Secretary of State designate those powers, even if he asks. I am very jealous indeed of all the powers to be given to him by the passing of the Bill as it is without new Clause 1 being added to it. I think that we ought to make a new start on this road. Having taken the power and the responsibility to run the show from Westminster with all that that involves, we are now even more taking unto ourselves the responsibility for enforcing the Special Powers Acts and the Regulations. It seems that the Act is so totally against the principles for which this place stands that we cannot possibly allow it to go without challenging the Government on this point.
I hope that the Secretary of State designate will make some concessions on this matter. I hope that he will be able to assuage the fears not only of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself, but of many other right hon. and hon. Gentle- men. However, he will have to argue hard to do so. Unless he is able to do that, I would ask the Committee to accept new Clause 1 when the separate Vote which we have indicated comes to be taken.
I wish to speak to Amendment No. 10. I will not, therefore, follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) in what he has just said.
I support the Bill, because I believe that, a difficult decision having been taken, it is right that it should be given the chance to work and should have our full backing. Nevertheless, I have considerable sympathy with the points put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr).
We are depriving some of our people of parliamentary Government as we know it for at least a year. I profoundly hope that it will not be longer than a year. However, even this one year seems to pose a considerable problem to our consciences. The essence of what we are proposing in the Bill is to pass laws by Order in Council after draft orders have been approved by affirmative Resolution. Certainly this procedure gives us some little time to discuss these laws, but I understand that it is no more than an hour and a half. It also provides an opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to make criticisms. No doubt when the draft orders make the transition into Orders in Council my right hon. Friend, who is, above all, sympathetic and responsive to the wishes of Parliament, will be willing to consider incorporating the changes which are put forward.
The fact remains that we are nevertheless ending the legislative process in Northern Ireland for this period. I hope that my right hon. Friend will carefully consider and perhaps give us further assurances on some of the implications of this.
In particular, it seems vital to try to evolve some more effective Committee procedure or substitute for Committee procedure. It may seem eccentric and masochistic of somebody who has just completed the Committee stages of the Housing Finance Bill to ask for further Committee procedure, but I believe that it is vital that these enormously important laws should receive very full discussion. I should prefer the House of Commons to have taken over the legislative rôle in full for this one year. In other words, I should prefer the proposed laws to go through all the Parliamentary processes: Second Reading, Committee stage, Report, and so on. I believe that that is preferable to what we are doing.
I recognise—indeed, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South made the point—that there is a substantial volume of legislation waiting to go through and that this could pose impossible strains on our system. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to ask my right hon. Friend for a much fuller statement than we have had on why it is not possible for the House of Commons to legislate. I hope that it is not too late to give consideration to the point that we should treat these laws like any others. If my right hon. Friend can convince us that this is out of the question because of the volume of legislation, or for some other reason, I hope that he will at least go on to give careful consideration to the kind of ideas put forward in some of the Amendments which have not been called.
One proposition postulates the setting up of an Irish Grand Committee which would presumably debate at some length the body of legislation. I understand that Grand Committees do not have any real power of decision. They do not have power to vote down Amendments or to pass Amendments; they merely have power to observe and pass votes that have no force. However, this would be one vehicle for providing full discussion on the line by line and Clause by Clause details of a Bill, which is something which we have not got in the Bill at the moment.
Alternatively, there is the possibility of a Select Committee which could do the same. I am no expert in the procedures of the House and I do not think it would be right for me to go further than that, but I repeat that it is vitally important for my right hon. Friend to look carefully at these points. I hope that he will be able to give us more reassurance than we have had so far. He said in an earlier intervention that he is seized of the importance of this matter, but it is of such paramount importance that we are entitled to hear more about it today.
I wish to follow the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) and speak on new Clause 1, having tabledan Amendment which I was not fortunate enough to have selected. I therefore support this one which covers most of the details which my Amendment would raise. The hon. Member did not leave much to be explained about the way in which the Special Powers Act works. When hon. Members read the regulations under that Act they will begin to understand how we in Northern Ireland feel. The Act is an insult to our individual liberty, which is something which should be cherished by the Tory Government.
It is an insult to our individual liberty to ask us to continue under this legislation. The legislation says that all citizens, particularly those in Northern Ireland, who have consistently criticised the Government shall not have freedom to criticise and that almost from the day of their birth to the day of their death they are suspect citizens, subversive elements. In some way our whole being is contrary to the law because of the existence of this Act. I will give one or two examples which hon. Members may feel are small and petty, but which describe how the Act can work in the North of Ireland.
Recently I was travelling from my home to a public meeting in Northern Ireland and taking with me six dozen copies of a newspaper connected with a very small left-wing group, the Socialist Workers Movement, which is by no means an illegal organisation. That movement had never in any way come into conflict with any authority. It had existed for only six weeks. It had just produced the first copy of its newspaper, The Worker. I was stopped by the British Army, powers having been given to the Army by the House to use the diabolical Special Powers Act. I had to produce the copies of the newspaper.
A military policewoman looked at her list of proscribed organisations and she could not find the Socialist Workers Movement on the list. Nor could she find The Worker in the list of illegal newspapers. That seemed reasonable for the movement had existed for only six weeks. She looked through the newspaper and found one photograph of a British paratrooper chasing a youth down a street. She said, "That is anti-British propaganda". When she had done that she managed to get the whole thing working because anti-British propaganda in the present circumstances was likely to lead to a breach of the peace and the paper could be confiscated under the Act. That newspaper in this country would be perfectly legal.
There can be similar situations when a person is walking down a street where perhaps there has been a riot and a policeman or a soldier imagines that he has seen, or he has seen, a number of youths run into a house. The Special Powers Act allows the policeman or a soldier to say that they thought it had happened and under the Special Powers Act they could go into that house and say that these people were suspect. Samuel Devenney did not only pay with his freedom but ultimately with his life because of the existence of this Act.
Now that this Government are taking over responsibility for Northern Ireland, it is not good enough for them to care for nothing but their own reputation and to say to other Governments or Heads of State, "It is not our responsibility, but we are somewhat embarrassed by our Northern Ireland colleagues". That will not work any more, because responsibility for this Act lies solely on the Secretary of State designate. In his own words, he is to do his duty to serve the community. Is he prepared not to use that legislation? Can he envisage himself in that almighty and powerful situation to direct and control other people's liberty? The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will personally review all cases of internees. It might be difficult for him to find them because under the Special Powers Act there is no necessity for cases to exist against internees. The onus of proof is on the internee.
Time after time constituents of mine who have appeared before Lord Justice Brown have asked what the cases alleged against them are so that they can prove their innocence. All that they have received has been scant notification that it is up to them to prove their innocence
and not for Lord Justice Brown to prove their guilt. They are given a small piece of paper which says:
We have reason to believe that you have acted, or are about to act, or were about to act, in a manner prejudicial to the interests of the State.
If someone made an accusation against the right hon. Gentleman that there was reason to believe he was guilty, how would he set about proving that he was not guilty?
I put it to him through the hon. Lady. The Secretary of State designate has said in this House that he will review personally all cases of internees. Unless he invents some new method it has to be remembered that the information which he obtains will come from the sources which existed while Stormont was still in power—the Special Branch in Stormont. The old files will be there and all the old bad people who gave wrong information will still be there. I suggest to the Secretary of State designate through the hon. Lady that if he is to conduct a reasonably impartial review of each internee's case he will have to find different criteria, because the old criteria is clearly wrong, biased and unjust. He will have to use his considerable abilities to enable him to examine new criteria in those cases. If he relies on the old criteria I pity the internees.
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point, just in case I might have forgotten about it.
I remind the Committee of two serious points. One of the main reasons that Stormont finally had to come to an end and finally could no longer exist is enshrined, perhaps, in the Special Powers Act. It is significant that Mr. Simon Winchester, now journalist of the year, no less, has said today that perhaps it was fitting that Stormont should have ended its days surrounded by barbed wire and securely policed. Perhaps it has ended because, almost from the very hour of its inception, it existed under the Special Powers Act.
The fact that it existed in that way proved that it had not the ability, nor the mandate, nor the right, nor the concern, to govern without that kind of indiscriminate legislation. The Committee would do well to bear in mind that, if the British House of Commons made one tragic mistake by conferring the right to use those powers upon the British Army, it can put that mistake right by taking the powers off the Statute Book before they, too, are forced to admit, not only in this country, but internationally, that Britain itself cannot run Ireland without a plethora of emergency and repressive legislation.
I support the Amendment moved my my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), because I agree with the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) that it would be deplorable if it was thought that the House of Commons had not got time to consider laws necessary to Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) said that all the legislation ought to be laid before the House of Commons in proper form and not in the form of delegated legislation. This would raise formidable problems. There is already heavy congestion of our business. There is Scottish business. There is Welsh business. During questions on the Business Statement earlier today, I asked my right hon. Friend the acting Leader of the House about Question Time for Northern Ireland. That has to be fitted into a crowded programme. So there are serious practical problems if all the legislation affecting Northern Ireland is to be brought before the House in the regular way.
This reinforces the case which some of us have been putting for the earliest possible restoration of regional self-government in Northern Ireland. These are very difficult matters. The implication of what the hon. Member for Cornwall, North has said is not so much that we should destroy devolution to Northern Ireland as that we should try to restore it at the earliest possible opportunity and even, perhaps, to extend it through the British Isles. These are great matters, and perhaps in the present situation the Commission on the Constitution which was headed by Lord Crowther ought to be addressing itself rather urgently to the future constitutional position in Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury said that Northern Ireland legislation should be treated like other laws. Although it is open to hon. Members to pray against delegated legislation, there is the strictest limitation on debate. What is more fundamental—this is why the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend reaches to the heart of the matter—is that legislation could be passed here by a majority in the House of Commons which would be against the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. This, indeed, is a very serious matter. That a part of the United Kingdom should in effect be governed by decree, even against the will of its people, without the wishes of its people being able to be properly expressed, would indeed be "contrary to a fundamental principle of democratic government". That is a quotation from the hon. Member for Cornwall, North referring to the Special Powers Act.
I turn now to that Act, which is the subject of a series of Amendments tabled by Liberal and other hon. Members. The Special Powers Act has been a regrettable feature of Northern Ireland life since 1922. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was a little selective in what he said about it. For instance, he said that it was used exclusively—at any rate, almost exclusively—against a section of the population. That case could be made, but it is true to add that the Orange parades were prohibited under this Act and I understand that Act was invoked against the U.V.F. in an earlier period, in 1964.
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for correcting me on that point. She might also have told the hon. Member for Cornwall. North that he, too, is working from the wrong version. [Interruption.] The Liberal Party and I myself will be grateful to the hon. Lady for her help in the debate. I apologise for the mistake I made.
I am not making a great point of it, except that one matter which was interesting was when the hon. Gentleman quoted one Section which he said tended, to "build a nation of common informers". I should not have thought that Northern Ireland was rife with common informers at present. I do not think that hordes of people are battering at the doors of R.U.C. stations to lay information.
The Committee will admit that there is a need in such a situation as this for certain far-reaching, and even arbitrary, powers. My right hon. Friend who expects soon to be Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would not undertake his task if he were not armed with certain far-reaching and arbitrary powers. They are one of the harsh realities of Irish politics.
I do not know whether the hon. Member for Cornwall, North, when he mentioned the list of banned organisations, thought that there should be no restriction passed on the freedom of action of Sinn Fein. That could be argued. What cannot be denied is that this is a situation when exceptional powers are needed. These powers, including the power to intern, the necessity of which we all deplore, have been used south of the border as well as north of the border.
As Tim Pat Coogan, who writes so authoritatively on the I.R.A., has recorded, allegations made of the maltreatment of internees in Long Kesh and elsewhere are far less horrifying than those which have been made by the I.R.A. against the security forces in Eire. A De Valera or a Lemass could be much more ruthless than a Brian Faulkner against revolutionary organisations presenting far more danger to Dublin than to Belfast.
It is really rather hypocritical to inveigh, as is so often done in this House, against the use of the Special Powers Acts north of the Border and assume that it is perfectly all right that such powers should be invoked south of the Border. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Cornwall, North listed the Irish Republic as one of the totalitarian régimes because the Irish Republic has found it necessary to use this sort of legislation—the Offences Against the State Act—and has invoked this sort of power. If so, I take issue with him again, because I consider that to be a democratic régime which sometimes, for the purpose of defending the democratic order, has to resort to arbitrary powers.
While arguing that two wrongs do not make a right and condemning the Republic for this, I would point out that there is one essential difference. In the Republic, obnoxious as it is to intern anybody without trial, the charge against a person interned has to be presented to him after not longer than 14 days. Under this Act men are interned and can be held for ever and a day without any charge being made against them.
It is indeed an important difference, but at the same time I would say that repression has been much more ruthless south of the Border than north of the Border. Revolutionaries were shot in the south of Ireland during the world war period. But I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing out one point of difference, because I am anxious that the opportunity should now be taken of transforming these special powers into proper legislation, and to that extent I am in agreement with the Liberal Party. I understand that it was intended that that should be done by Stormont, which now stands prorogued. My right hon. Friend the Lord President does not think so, and he probably knows better than I, but at any rate perhaps an opportunity will arise out of this of placing the special powers within the framework of proper statute law, because obviously some of them are completely obsolete. Reference was made to the power to inflict sentences of whipping. I do not believe that such a sentence has ever been imposed under this Act. I may be wrong, but I suggest that there are obsolete features as well as features which are repugnent to hon. Gentlemen in this House.
It may be that now that the suspension of Stormont has brought this country into more direct confrontation with the I.R.A. we shall need some form of special powers for the United Kingdom as a whole. That, indeed, would present an opportunity for placing these powers within a framework of proper law, and I very much hope that that will be done. I am against the use of delegated legislation when it is unnecessary, or can be done without. Equally, I am against the use of arbitrary powers without adequate control by Parliament.
This is a very important debate. Many of us have raised the issue of special powers on a number of occasions in the House. Like internment, this is alien to our constitution and our society, and I do not think that any hon. Member on either side of the House wants to defend this sort of situation. We have heard the justifications put forward by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) for the introduction of such powers, but when I was in Northern Ireland prior to the beginning of the recent troubles in 1969 one of the issues that was embittering the minority community was the operation of these special powers, and the R.U.C., which came under severe criticism by the Hunt Committee, and the B Specials, who were then operating and used these special powers, helped to bring about the division in the society that so many of us want to eradicate.
The question has been raised whether or not hon. Members are quoting from the current Special Powers Act. All that we can obtain while debating the issue today is a photostat copy of that Act. It has many pages, but of course does not contain the latest Amendments in regard to the U.V.F. Where can this information be found? We can go to our own Library or Vote Office, which supplies us with information and regulations in connection with the legislation that we are now passing in this House. That is the situation that we are in, and I am sure that no lawyer in the Committee would like to defend such a situation.
I went to the Library of the House today to obtain a copy and I got a recent copy with the U.V.F. listed as an illegal organisation. What are not available—and what are far more important—are the S.R.O.s, or regulations made under the Act. They have far more importance than even the Act, and they are very hard to obtain.
I thank the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). I always knew that his persuasive powers were much greater than mine, and I agree with him that the orders arising out of this Act are the important factors.
I should like to tell the Secretary of State designate in this regard that he is going to take over these regulations, passed by Stormont and supplemented and added to greatly since 1922, but passed by a Parliament which he and his Government have seen fit to prorogue. There is a very important point here, as to whether or not he is going to be responsible for the maintenance of these regulations. I want these orders to go completely. He might feel it necessary that certain regulations be brought in over the current emergency—I do not know—but if he has to bring in such orders he will have to present them to Parliament and justify them.
I had hoped to have the opportunity of saying this. The Secretary of State designate will not have to do this. He may have to introduce an Order in Council repealing the Special Powers Act. If so, he will do it on his own authority, and all that we can do is say "Yea" or "Nay"; we cannot say that we will have regulations 1, 2, 3 and 4 but not regulations 6, 7, 8 and 9.
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that intervention. He will know that under a later Amendment regulations would have to be laid before the House, and Parliament would have the procedure in the Bill as it is now before House, and Parliament would have the right to examine any order that the Secretary of State designate made. Both my right hon. Friend and, I think, the Minister have put this down.
I should like to bring in aid in this argument the Hunt Committee Report.
Lord Hunt examined the question of the R.U.C. and the Special Powers Act itself. I refer the Committee to paragraph 143 of the Hunt Committee Report because I think it is worth putting on record what is said about this:
We considered also the position with regard to the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts (Northern Ireland) 1922–1943 and regulations made under the Acts. The common name, which we shall use, for the Acts and regulations is the 'Special Powers Act'. There has been much criticism of the Acts and on more than one occasion the Government"—
that is, the Stormont Government—
has considered repeal; but on each occasion fresh acts of violence have occurred, leading to pressure for retention of the Acts. A number of police officers with first-hand experience of dealing with riots and extremists told us that they considered that the powers given to them under the Acts were unnecessary, and that the relationship between police and public would be improved if the Acts were repealed.
I hope that the Leader of the House will pay special attention to the last words of that quotation. He is now moving into a new situation which has great dangers, but also great opportunities. It is his desire and his job to try to build up confidence in the community and that means creating confidence among the minority as well as the majority. I am not taking a one-sided view, but I believe that building confidence in the majority is as important as building confidence in the minority. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to build his bridges, these arbitrary powers of search and arrest without warrant where a police officer feels that it is necessary, must be removed, particularly if the police are to be allowed to enter areas which are closed to them at present.
I recently spent three days in the Bogside, where the writ does not run for the police. They do not and cannot go in. The only Army post in that area has to be relieved daily by Saracen. Some of our soldiers are incarcerated in a little bunker for 16 or 20 hours and their presence aggravates the situation. If we want to see the writ running again confidence must be created, and it will be created only if people can see that the police, under the right hon. Gentleman's direction, operate and act impartially.
I am sure that everyone in the Committee wants to see this, and it is some- thing that we must work towards. But it means creating confidence in the community. The regulations would be brought in in a democratic State only in the most extreme circumstances, and would last only for a minimum period. An example of these measures were the special powers taken by the Government in the fuel emergency, which removed the power of Parliament. Many of us were unhappy at that, just as we were unhappy at the use of similar powers by a Labour Government. But in Northern Ireland the regulations, which have been in existence since 1922, have grown, like Topsy, into pages and pages, and they ought to be swept aside. They have certainly not helped to keep law and order. They have not helped the situation any more than interning 900 people has reduced the violence. Such measures do not help in a democracy. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) has left the Chamber. He supports the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland and he supports similar powers in Rhodesia. In that country can be seen extreme cases where people have been interned for nine years. That sort of thing can go on indefinitely.
The Leader of the House is committed to a review of internment, and he recognises that it is a barrier to progress in the present situation. But the same can be said of the Special Powers Act. I do not believe that its removal would in any way undermine the powers of the police, just as I do not believe that in a proper society a separate police force and a separate army, like the B Specials, are necessary. If a society is properly regulated, and if all people in that society feel that they can use the law with confidence, they are not essential. But a section of the community in Northern Ireland does not believe that it can use the law with confidence. It feels that the law has been biased, and the Special Powers Acts are an example. We are celebrating their 50th year and it is about time we got rid of them. If we cannot sustain a democracy without these powers, something is radically wrong.
Would the hon. Member say whether he would have supported the use of Regulation 18B during the last war to intern those thought to be in sympathy with the Nazis and the Fascists?
We were involved in that war and we were not very pleased with the people who were selling us down the river. The Government took special powers, but there were procedures for appeal, and there were special procedures and certain rights under those powers. The powers were taken only for a minimum period of time.
I thank my hon. Friend, who has taken a great interest in this matter. Democracy is faced with a dilemma of whether to take special powers in times of crisis. I tend to oppose taking such powers. I tend to be in favour of allowing democracy to exist, and of permitting the freest expression of opinion. I know that there are great difficulties, especially if it leads to violence and the use of arms. But even Regulation 18B powers were held only for about 4½ years, and some of those who were interned were given very kind treatment—perhaps they were a lot better off than many of us who were abroad in uniform.
Has it occurred to the hon. Member that some special powers might soon be necessary in this country to deal with the I.R.A. here and to make it an illegal organisation?
We have proper laws in our society which can impose pretty severe sanctions and sentences. I believe that those laws can stand up and can be properly implemented. The trouble in Northern Ireland is that because of the loss of confidence by a large section of the community it has not been possible to maintain the authority to carry out those laws. Once the Government start on the slippery slope of taking special powers and adding to them they cannot get rid of them. The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that when internment was started there were a few people who had proved to be violent who it seemed would be interned. Before one knows where one is, there are one or two internment camps. The right hon. Gentleman will be faced with a fantastic task of dismantling something the creation of which many of us disagreed about. We know that the British Army disagreed about it. Now the Government have the terrible task of dismantling it. It will not be easy.
The same thing applies to special powers. We get laws and then tend to lean on them and to use them. They become matters of everyday usage, and normal democratic procedures are swept aside.
In support of what my hon. Friend says, I wonder whether he is aware that a quite independent commission of Belgian lawyers has looked into this and concluded that in present circumstances peace and order in Northern Ireland would be sufficiently protected by ordinary law. Would he not agree that hon. Members opposite are concentrating entirely on internment, whereas the special powers provide, for example, for the refusal to hold an inquest into the death of a person in police custody? How can any hon. Member justify that as one of the things in the Special Powers Act? There is nothing in that which helps to combat the I.R.A. It is purely something that could conceal brutality.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving that information to the House. It would be possible for all of us to make long speeches about the Special Powers Act and to read out large parts of it, and so on. Probably most hon. Members are aware of it. I am dealing with the principle with which we are faced. I am deeply concerned about it.
In many ways the Special Powers Act is one of the kernels of the problem with which we are trying to grapple. It is a failure of a society which cannot rule 1½ million people in an acceptable way. I listened to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, who is very knowledgeable about Northern Ireland. He spoke about the Secretary of State designate having powers to pass legislation and do all sorts of things which many of us, perhaps, are not too pleased about.
I come from a conurbation of about 2½ million people. Under the Local Government Bill it will be a county authority, which will have a million more people than Northern Ireland. When we recognise that the size of the problem can be magnified and that there is a representation in the House—if one takes away security and defence, on which no other part of the United Kingdom has its own powers or ever has had—we realise that it is social and economic issues which are involved in Northern Ireland.
Some people do not want complete unification. I understand those who genuinely hold that point of view. I understand those who wish for a united Ireland, as I do. But that has to be arrived at peacefully. The issue has to be left open for those in Ireland to decide their destiny. We do not want to close the door on arguments of that sort. Therefore, we do not want regulations such as the Special Powers Act, which do not assist but hinder the matter.
It is a moral issue, as much as any other, that faces us as a democratic society, with the Six Counties at present part of the United Kingdom. It is an open admission of defeat that we cannot govern without Draconian measures such as this. I hope that the Secretary of State designate will take this into account and give the Committee real assurances about what he will do in this matter.
I shall try to appeal to the Committee in as non-partisan a way as possible. Yesterday considerable urgency was expressed for my right hon. Friend to take appropriate action in Ulster as soon as possible. He has bent over backwards already, in what he has said so far, yesterday and today, to make it absolutely clear that he is extremely conscious of the obligations that he will have to the House of Commons for everything that he does. If we pursue all these Amendments as deeply as we are pursuing this one we shall merely delay the possibility of my right hon. Friend's getting on with the job which we all want to see him carrying out as effectively as possible and as soon as possible.
I recognise the need for an enormous sense of understanding by my hon. Friends the Ulster Unionists in the Committee for the very grave decision that the Government have taken and the appalling position that it puts them in. But even in this small debate we are already in danger of losing sight of what we have to tackle. We can utter a great deal of hyperbole, with respect, about the civic rights which we all know to be deeply embedded and enshrined in everything that we hold sacred in the House of Commons. We can delay on them; but if we do we shall protract discussion all through the night. What the condition of my right hon. Friend will be at the end of it, after all the stress that he has been through in the last week, I do not know.
We have expressed our regrets in the Second Reading debate. Many hon. Members have spoken outside the House of Commons about their feelings on this matter. My appeal to the Committee is that, in so far as it is possible, we should try to curtail the debate on each of the Amendments to the minimum, rather than drag it out.
In conclusion, I feel that we must keep in mind the whole time what my right hon. Friend will have to fight when he gets to Ireland. In that spirit, and in a way which is as non-partisan as possible, I appeal to all hon. Members to let the Committee get on with its business.
In listening to the speeches about the Special Powers Act, I believe that it would be for the benefit not only of this Committee but of the whole country that every regulation of that Act should be written into the record of the House of Commons. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) who, perhaps unintentionally, wished to curtail discussion on this Amendment. That is why we have had so much trouble in Northern Ireland.
I remember coming to Westminster in 1966. I wore out three or four pairs of shoes running up and down to the Table Office, trying to put down Questions about Northern Ireland, with the help of my hon. Friends. We were told, "This is a matter for Stormont, not a matter for this House." In debates on Consolidated Fund Bills we raised points of order to highlight what was happening in Northern Ireland. That was the only way in which we could discuss the situation then developing there.
I respectfully suggest to all hon. Members that this is a major debate, and that the British public should be made aware of what has been happening in Northern Ireland under the Special Powers Act. I have noticed that some hon. Members today have been trooping up and down to the Library. It is obvious from their reactions that they have never read the Special Powers Act. Many of them were amazed at some of the regulations and Sections of that Act. But every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland is aware of just what effect this Draconian legislation can have on their everyday lives.
I want to relate a personal experience. In 1935 I lived in Dawson Street. I live only a few yards from it now. A curfew had been imposed then, under the Special Powers Act, to allow a very provocative Orange Order parade to pass the end of the street. I did not understand then that there was a Special Powers Act, and that a curfew had been imposed under it. As a kid of nine years, all that I was concerned about was to listen to the music of the bands. I ventured a little further than I should have done, to the end of the street, to see the band. I was lifted by a B Special—I did not even know what a B Special was then—acting under the Special Powers Act, and slapped very heavily on the face—under the Special Powers Act. I wondered why I had been so treated by that man, but I learnt the next day just why I was chased out of the area. It was because there was a curfew under the Special Powers Act. That was my introduction to the Act.
Every youngster in Northern Ireland, particularly in the New Lodge Road, Ballymurphy and the Bogside, knows the Sections of the Act. When soldiers come into a house to raid it at three or four o'clock in the morning, kids aged 10 or 11 will say, "Under what Section are you raiding the house? Regulation 10 or Section 7?" These youngsters know almost every Section in the Act.
The hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) read from a report issued by a delegation of the National Council for Civil Liberties in 1936. Few hon. Members knew about it. He quoted the findings of the delegation which I regarded, when I first read it, as a damning indictment of the operation of the Act in 1936. I am sure that the Committee will be interested to know that one of the eminent persons on that delegation of inquiry into the Act, which came to such a damning conclusion on its operation, was none other than you, Mr. Mallalieu.
I thought that the Committee should be made aware of the fact, Mr. Mallalieu, because I believe that that condemnation of the Act in 1936 should have had some effect on the deliberations which have taken place in the House since then. One of the tragedies of the situation is that there has not been discussion of these matters, and this has been one of the factors leading to the disastrous position in Northern Ireland. Almost every Act passed by the House since that condemnation has had the words,
This Act shall not extend to Northern Ireland
attached to it. I wonder whether the Secretary of State designate would be prepared to write into this Bill, in relation to the Special Powers Act, "This Act shall not extend to the United Kingdom except Northern Ireland".
What an indictment that would be! If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to write those words into the Bill, it can be taken that within a short period the Act could be extended—here I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme)—to any other part of the United Kingdom. As my hon. Friend has said, when one starts to operate such powers for any part of the United Kingdom, the danger is that they will be operated for the whole of it. Not only should the Secretary of State examine these powers to see whether he could dispense with some of them; he should consider the abolition of the whole notorious Draconian Act.
If there is any need for emergency regulations, they should be promulgated through the House, and we should not be taking the left-overs from such an institution as Stormont. I am sure that the Committee will agree that even at the height of the two World Wars, with all the emergency legislation and the powers that the British Government had at their disposal, nothing even approximating to the Special Powers Act was contemplated, much less used. Never, since mediaeval times, has anyone on this side of the Irish Sea had to live under such Draconian legislation.
Is the Secretary of State designate prepared to defend the Act in the councils of the world—in the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, in the United Nations and in the diplomatic discussions which he will be having with E.E.C. countries? Is he prepared to defend the Act which the Council of Europe and the United Nations have condemned? Altogether, 22 of the regulations under the Act are in complete violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. How can the British spokesmen at the United Nations or at the Council of Europe say, "We are operating these powers not at the behest of the Northern Ireland Government but because we were forced into a position of accepting them"?
A good deal will depend on the attitude adopted by the right hon. Gentleman. Many hon. Members have laid stress on the internment question. It is urgently necessary that he should look at every case of internment. He will find himself in extreme difficulty in accepting some of the recommendations which have led to the internment of the individuals concerned. There are no criteria. The only basis are the reports of the Special Branch in Northern Ireland. I do not say that all of them are biased, but many of them are. What criteria will be used by the right hon. Gentleman in determining whether or not an individual should be released?
At the moment, the Army, particularly in the New Lodge Road, Ballymurphy and other areas, is still carrying out arrests. It is still making the early morning raids. It is doing it without the help of the Special Branch. At one time, the troops had to be accompanied by an officer of the R.U.C. Now they are acting of their own volition. Now that the Westminster Government have assumed power, they will be acting under the Special Powers Act. The soldiers tell the person in the house raided that they are acting under Regulation 10 or Section 7 or Regulation 11. Will they still be acting on information given to them by the Special Branch?
It is not too difficult to imagine a Special Branch officer who has a particular dislike for someone who is, perhaps, of a different faith, or a different way of political thought, passing on information to the Army—and the Army will have to do the dirty work. It will have to search the house, acting on infor- mation which in the first instance could have been phony. When that sort of thing happens, most of the people living in that household, in that street and in that district are forced to adopt an anti-British Army attitude, a hostile attitude towards those who have raided the house so unjustly.
The right hon. Gentleman will have to be very careful about the way in which the Special Powers Act is to continue—if it is to continue to be used. With the support of my hon. Friends, I have every intention of calling for the total repeal of the Act, because I have lived under it for almost 50 years. I would not want to wish it on any hon. Member, not even the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). I would not wish anyone to live under an Act of Parliament so Draconian. I recognise that the hon. Gentleman has attempted to justify the existence of the Act by saying that at one time it was used against the Ulster Volunteer Force. It was never so used. The Northern Ireland Prime Minister of the day, Captain O'Neill, said in Stormont that he would use the Act to prohibit the U.V.F. coming into being. What happened when internment was brought in? Surely there will be no argument about the fact that the explosions carried out in 1968, 1969 and 1970 were the work not of the I.R.A. extremists but of extremists who wanted to drive Captain O'Neill out of office. At that time it was recognised that those persons were acting in a subversive way. Why was it that on 9th August this year those persons who were well known to the police were not served with internment orders?
I can give the hon. Gentleman the answer. He knows perfectly well that some people who were engaged in illegal activities were found guilty by the courts and sentenced while the others were discharged by the courts.
That is not a valid argument, because within the past three months—and I limit it to three months—many Protestants and Catholics have been brought before the courts in Northern Ireland, charged with illegal possession of arms. If they were Protestant and were acquitted they walked from the court free men. If they were Catholic and were acquitted by a Protestant jury, when they walked from the court they were immediately arrested by the Special Branch. Those are some of the cases the Secretary of State designate will have to examine. They were found not guilty in the courts, and immediately served with internment orders. The argument advanced by the hon. Member does not hold water, and will not bear scrutiny by anyone with an impartial mind.
Of all the new Clauses this is the most important. There will undoubtedly be some difficulty with the other Amendments in relation to the take-over by the Secretary of State designate. Unless and until the Special Powers Act, 1922, is removed from the Statute Book there can be no real hope of bringing together the communities in Northern Ireland.
I listened with considerable sympathy to the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) and the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) all of whom spoke on the same theme. No one listening to a description of the special powers could do anything other than have sympathy with what they were saying and regret at what has been done over many years. I was glad that they expressed themselves in the way they did and particularly glad to hear the hon. Member for Cornwall, North speak of the lack of every kind of democratic safeguard to which we have become accustomed when passing legislation affecting Northern Ireland.
I doubt whether it is realised, except by those who heard the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) just how far we have gone by this Bill in destroying the democratic principles in the observance of which each one of us was brought up—no taxation without representation; one man, one vote—the supreme value of the democratic election. The point I seek to make to hon. Members opposite is that I fail to understand their logic. Last night they voted for a Bill which says:
…the Secretary of State shall act as chief executive officer as respects Irish services instead of the Governor of Northern Ireland…
It says later on:
…Her Majesty shall have power by Order in Council to make laws for any purpose…
It is no good voting for that on Tuesday night and on Wednesday afternoon complaining of a lack of democracy.
There is a long-standing custom that even when one has grave reservations about parts of a Bill one sometimes votes for Second Reading and reserves one's position according to the attitude of the Government on Third Reading. I cannot speak for my hon. Friends but it is no secret that I voted for the Second Reading last night with a considerably heavier heart than most of my hon. and right hon. Friends. I would strongly suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits until Third Reading to discover how I shall vote in the light of what the Government have to say on this and other Amendments.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I thought it was fair to point out that we are in a situation very different from what is commonly understood. When hon. Gentlemen opposite point out the necessity for removing the Special Powers Act, what they must also be able to show is that in the new circumstances the chances of being able to remove the more offensive parts of that Act are likely to be increased. That is a theme upon which I have not heard anyone dwell.
I take the hon. Lady's point. If we are to consider the Special Powers Act we must look back to see what we did last night. We did not set out, as some speeches opposite might have given the impression, to improve the Parliament at Stormont, we did not set out to introduce reforming measures which might make government in Ireland easier—proportional representation, special posts for Catholics, integration, or a dozen other things. Had these been introduced I could understand the speeches made about the Special Powers Act.
What we have done over a substantial proportion of the soil of the United Kingdom is to abolish representative Government, and I find it hard to see a Liberal bench come forward in favour of that proposition. This is what worries me. We have set up a chief executive officer who, it is suggested can govern a country
from London without representation in any essential matter. It is argued that he will be able to do this. How? He will do it with 17 battalions of British infantry, nearly half the British Army. This is his only instrument. Further, he will do this certainly not in the face of diminished hostility from those who live in the island. One must say there is likely to be increased hostility. It is a small point but I read with horror on the tape this afternoon that a woman who having been petrol-bombed has now died. The next sentence was:
Ulster has returned to normal.
There in two succesive sentences is the irony of what is happening.
I must draw attention within the context of the Special Powers Act to the way in which this new move is likely to work. I hope I may be wrong and I hope that hon. Gentleman opposite may be right. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than that. But if I were asked to prophesy the future in the next few weeks or months when representation has been removed, when we are dependent upon the Army and nothing else, I am afraid that I would prophesy an increased rather than a diminished use of the Special Powers Act. We have abolished a Parliament.
I reckon I know Dublin reasonably well. When I walk around Dublin, when I visit the Dail, when I see statutes I see almost everywhere a recorded image, which has formed a legend through a century of Irish history, of what the British did to Dublin. They took away their Parliament. For a hundred years that legend to a large extent brought about Irish resentment. We would be failing in our duty if we were able to see in this Bill another Parliament taken away without raising questions of this kind.
I conclude by saying to hon. Gentlemen opposite, sadly, that I do not believe this will work. This Bill cannot work. Great as is my sympathy with the hon. Member for Salford, West and his friends—much as I understand their concern, their desire to see this Act go—I do not believe that in voting for the Bill last night he and his hon. Friends did anything likely to promote the object they have in mind. What they do is increase the very dangers they deplore.
I shall follow the example of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King) and be brief. I have considerable sympathy with the points made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), I think it was. It is right when we are passing a Bill of this sort that the House of Commons should be absolutely clear about what it is doing.
We are, in effect, creating government by decree, by Order in Council. It is not a question, I say with respect to the hon. Member for Dorset, South, of dissolving a parliament. We are not. Had we been dissolving a parliament, and had we taken to this House powers which that Stormont Parliament at present operates, then I would have no constitutional complaint.
Speaking for myself, I should think that Northern Ireland would be better run from Westminster than it has been from Stormont for the last 50 years. But we are not doing that. Indeed, specifically this Bill is to enact not that the Stormont Parliament is to be dissolved but that the Stormont Parliament is to be prorogued. Therefore, in law, as I see it—and I hope that somebody at some stage in these debates will give an answer to this point—such powers as are at present devolved upon the Northern Ireland Parliament remain in Northern Ireland. They do not, as I understand it, come here to the House of Commons in Westminster. What, therefore, is to happen under this Bill, as I understand it, is that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is now to operate the legislative powers which by successive Acts of the Westminster Parliament have been devolved upon the Parliament in Stormont.
Would the hon. and learned Member not agree that under this legislation Members of the House of Commons can put Questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as he then will be, on matters which at the moment are strictly for the Members of the Stormont Parliament, and that we can put Written and Oral Questions?
I certainly hope so. If I did not believe that I would be more appalled at the constitutional arrangement which is to be brought about by this subsection (3) of this Clause.
However, I think it is important that the Committee should realise that what we are not doing is taking to ourselves legislative authority which up to now has been exercised by Stormont. It will not, I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), be for the House of Commons to say we will approve the operation of Regulations 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the Special Powers Act regulations. We could not do that. We would have no initiative or legislative power to do it under this proposal. What would happen, if the Secretary of State were to agree that this House of Commons should have initiating power over what Special Powers Regulations should be used, would be that he would first have to come to the House with an Order in Council, repealing the whole of that Act.
One of the great difficulties which I see in the structure proposed in this Bill is that when he comes to the House of Commons with a legislative proposal of his own he will be coming with an order which we will discuss by the affirmative procedure but which we cannot amend. It will not be open to the House to try to amend it, or any legislation which the Secretary of State may bring up. All we shall have power to do will be to say "Yea" or "Nay", and say whether we approve or not what he is doing. While I have sympathy with what we are doing we should be quite clear that we are creating a statutory Czar of Ulster. It may be necessary, and it may be that in the person of the present Secretary of State we have the nicest, most pleasant, most effective czar which the House at this time can produce. But we must be absolutely clear about what it is that we are doing.
Speaking as a lawyer, the proposition enshrined in this subsection (3) is one which appals me. I was brought up, and I think most hon. Members were brought up, in the belief that if somebody is to be legislated for he ought to have the right to a say about the terms of that legislation. Some hon. Members may now be saying "Hear, hear", but I fear that they will not be in two or three minutes' time.
I wonder where they will come from.
However, as I understand it, it will not in any shape or form be possible for there to be such a say by this House of Commons in considering any legislation which the Secretary of State may propose for the good order and government and security of Northern Ireland. We just do not have the power to do it. I would say to my hon. Friends on this side that whereas we may be very pleased to see the present Secretary of State there, I can imagine—and it does not take a great deal of imagination to see it—that if other occupants of the Government Front Bench were to be the people to have these Draconian powers given them I would be extremely worried about it. It will not be possible for the House of Commons to consider in detail the legislation which might be proposed. As I said a moment ago, by all means let us have government by decree; by all means let us create this genial, statutory Czar of Ulster; but let us be clear about what it is we are doing.
Surely my hon. and learned Friend must not get this out of perspective. We are not taking power away from another country abroad. We are talking about taking it away temporarily from part of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend is about two steps ahead of me. All I am trying to emphasise at this stage of what I want to say, which, I hope, will be brief, is that we are giving to the Executive enormous legislative and initiative powers which, as far as I know, the House of Commons of this country has never given to the Executive over any part of the United Kingdom. We have never done it, not even in time of war.
Therefore, there are, it seems to me, only two questions which have to be answered. The first question is, is the giving of this enormous power to the Secretary of State justified or is it not justified? Secondly, if it is justified, what additional arrangements have to be made?
I think it is utterly and totally justified as a temporary measure. The Government at Stormont have, in my opinion, over 50 years forfeited their right to be treated as a democratically elected assembly. They have not operated as a democratically elected assembly in the interests of the whole of the people of that province. If I may say so to hon. Gentlemen opposite, over a large part of the time, for the past decade at any rate, they seem to have operated more in the interests of the Unionist Party, even perhaps of the Orange Order in Northern Ireland, than in the interests of the good government of the majority of the people.
I am not insisting, but asking. Would the hon. and learned Gentleman concede that though there may be a case for reform of the Ulster Parliament—and there certainly was—that is a wholly different matter from the case for abolition? When we abolish or destroy a parliament, we violate the country, with effects which may last for generations.
It is interesting to hear the hon. Member talking of the case for reform. Some Members of this House of Commons, notably on this side, have been advocating the case for constitutional reform in Ulster with a great deal of vigour and a great deal of noise over a large number of years. The hon. Member was not exactly notable for his support for those reforms which were proposed from this side of the Committee. There is a strong case for reform of the constitutional arrangements under which Northern Ireland has been governed for 50 years. The hon. Member's support for that case is somewhat tardy, to say the least of it.
Again, I would say to the Secretary of State and to the Committee that I support this Bill; I support giving him these Draconian powers as a temporary measure because the Parliament at Stormont has forfeited its right to be considered as a democratic assembly. It was an assembly which could not even guarantee the security or the property of the people in the Province until the House of Commons and the Government here, and the previous Government, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and the then Prime Minister, spoke in very strong terms to the Government in Stormont about reforms which had been obviously needed for many years. Not until then were they conceded by that legislative Chamber.
Therefore, if I am forced into a balance of inconvenience, on whether or not Stormont exists in the form in which it has existed up to now or whether it is temporarily expedient to put these powers into the hands of the Secretary of State, at this moment of time I prefer to see the legislative authority for the Province of Ulster exercised by the right hon. Gentleman rather than by Stormont as it previously existed.
I have only one more point to make, and I am trying to be brief. Many hon. Members wish to speak, so I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way.
My final point is one made by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, that if we are to give the Secretary of State these powers, enormous as they are, there must be some form of Parliamentary control and overseeing of the way in which he exercises them. Question Time and an affirmative Resolution of the House will not be sufficient. Somehow he must devise a satisfactory parliamentary system to deal with Measures which would have been considered by the Parliament at Stormont, where there would have been a Committee stage, and each word and comma, each jot and tittle, of a Bill would have been considered. Somehow or other a parliamentary system of control must be devised here.
The Bill is to cover a period of 12 months. I should not be in favour of passing it for a longer period. Indeed, in some ways I think that perhaps the period of 12 months—
I accept the rebuke, Sir Robert. I am just about to end.
All I am trying to say to the right hon. Gentleman is that we give him these powers and wish him well in what he is doing, but it is up to him and the Government to devise a better way in which we can see with greater clarity and detail exactly what he will be doing in Northern Ireland.
Before I call the next hon. Member, I should like to announce that following on the exchanges at the beginning of these proceedings I am now prepared to select Amendment No. 43, in the Schedule, in page 4, line 31, leave out from 'days' to 'after' in line 32 and insert:
'(being forty days Mondays to Fridays inclusive on which Parliament is sitting, and on which the Standing Orders and practice of each House, respectively enable such business to be taken in Orders of the Day)'.
in the name of the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). We may discuss with it Amendment No. 51, in the Schedule, in page 4, line 43, leave out from 'instrument' to end of line 44 and insert:
'during a period of forty days, being days Mondays to Fridays inclusive on which Parliament is sitting and on which Standing Orders and practice of each House, respectively enable such business to be taken in Orders of the Day'.
I have listened with great interest to the speeches about the special powers and the enormous powers given in the Bill to my right hon. Friend the Lord President. I am impressed by the display of conscience with regard to the special powers. We must share the feelings of disturbance at the implementation of such powers in Northern Ireland. I appreciate the inconvenience to people whose houses have been raided at three or four o'clock in the morning, and the serious inconvenience to people who are taken into custody. But against all that we must weigh the bloodshed and the lives lost. If there is inconvenience and hon. Members' consciences are disturbed, as we have heard today, that is well worth while in a state of war such as has existed in Northern Ireland. The enormous loss of life and the dreadful things that have happened there have fully justified a Special Powers Act. Whether or not those special powers have been properly applied is another matter. I do not know. I have not been there. I have not experienced the situation at first hand. Most certainly we should need such special powers in this country—I should need them in my constituency—if there were here the bloodshed and dreadful loss of life that has been happening in Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend is in good company. While most of us dislike the idea of special powers very much, in 1969 the then Prime Minister, now Leader of the Opposition, endorsed the fact that the Northern Ireland Government had no option but to use them then, long before tension rose to the height we have seen recently. He said that no Government in their senses could conceivably at that time do away with the Special Powers Act.
Many things are said by people in Government that are different from what is said when they are in Opposition. I fully appreciate those words.
I, too, am concerned about the very wide powers given to my right hon. Friend. I should be very concerned about such powers being given to anyone. But, like other hon. Members, I voted for the Bill last night because on balance it seemed to me the only way out of the difficulty. But if it had not been temporary, that would have been a different matter.
One thing that should have been in the package deal was a decision on passports or identity cards and the border. Enemies of this country can come from a foreign and alien State, sometimes through Northern Ireland, to collect money and social security benefits here and return to Ireland and use them for the I.R.A. With the very wide powers that he will have, does my right hon. Friend intend to consider the question of passports and identity cards? As I see it, his powers would include the power to introduce passports or an identity card system.
I mention this particularly because of the trouble we have had in my constituency and in Birmingham generally, where there are I.R.A. sympathisers and supporters. We saw them at work in the recent strike. We may need special powers in Birmingham if this sort of thing goes on.
Unless the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and this country is sealed, I foresee greater difficulties and more bloodshed. We must remember Aldershot. What can happen there can happen in Birmingham.
Ministers have argued that it is impossible to seal the border. It may be very difficult, but I am sure it is not impossible. One thing that is possible is for my right hon. Friend to introduce legislation in Northern Ireland requiring the use of identity cards or passports, and he can seal the border between Northern Ireland and England. If he did so, many of the risks would be reduced. We must accept the argument that it is difficult, but to say that it is impossible is ridiculous. It is a question of how many lives will be lost. At some stage this system will have to be introduced, and I should like to hear from my right hon. Friend—
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I must ask him to tell me to which of the group of Amendments he is addressing himself. Unless the Chair keeps some check on how the debate goes we shall never finish.
I have been talking about new Clause 1 and the special powers. Before you came to the Chair, Sir Robert, this was mentioned. I should like to have a reply from my right hon. Friend, because I am pessimistic about the operation of the Bill, although I voted for it. I think the time will come when the problems will be transferred from Belfast to Birmingham.
The logic of the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) is that we should have a yellow star system as there was in Nazi Germany so that people can be discriminated against. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like people to go around with shamrocks or oranges tattooed on their forearms. Perhaps he would like to have a system in which people parted their hair in a particular way to show the division in Ireland.
The hon. Member for Selly Oak might also remember that a considerable number of men from Southern Ireland served in the British Army during the war and there are many in the British Army now. Many of the airfields built in this country during the war were built by Irishmen. If the hon. Gentleman fears that this sort of legislation will be needed in Birmingham, from the record of what he has said on a number of similar issues, he will bring it upon himself, and he deserves everything he gets. He and people like him have suddenly found a need to reform Stor-mont—not to abolish it. There have not been so many conversions to the reform of Stormont since the Chinese general baptised his troops with a hosepipe. The hon. Gentleman should remember that it is a great thing to go before the Holy Ghost asking for a conversion after death, and this is what Stormont and the people who support it have done.
My hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) and I, long before this trouble started, when we were new Members of Parliament, said, "Look at what is happening in Ulster, look at the rotten ness at the core. If the Government do not do something about it"—it was a Labour Government at the time—"it will explode in our faces." We were told that there was a convention that we must not talk about it, we must leave little Ulster alone. It was the Conservative Front Bench that for 13 years was more responsible than anyone else—
Order. I do not want the hon. Member to get carried away with the exuberance of his oratory. He must try to keep to the Amendments. Perhaps the hon. Member will tell me to which of the Amendments in this group he is addressing himself.
On a point of order. A series of slanderous statements has been made about Northern Ireland, under the umbrella of dealing with the Special Powers Act. May I take it, Sir Robert, that hon. Members on this side of the Committee who represent Northern Ireland constituencies will be allowed to reply to these statements and to put the facts on record?
I am not saying anything in this Committee which I have not said outside far more strongly.
It has been said that we are taking away the legislature of a representative Parliament. The hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King) said that we should weep when we take away representative government, but the representative government of Ireland was not what was established after the troubles, in the Six Counties. It was the democratic wish of the peoples of the whole of Ireland to have home rule and an independent Parliament. While people may choose arbitrarily a particular date to justify a particular situation—I am not advocating the point that I want to see a united Ireland, which I do—it cannot be claimed that Stormont has ever been a representative Parliament when one- third of the population felt that they were robbed of their birthright—
With the greatest respect, Sir Robert, it has been said to me continually that here we have a repre- sentative Parliament democratically elected. The argument I am advancing is that I do not agree that Stormont was a democratically elected Parliament, because a person could choose his own line of representation and then claim it to be representative. Even if the powers which are to be given to the Secretary of State designate are arbitrary and Draconian, which they are, I consider that to be far better than the situation which existed when he was forced to take these powers. That is the logic of my argument.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it was not the fault of Stormont that one party was in power for 50 years but the fault of the legislation passed by the House of Commons under the Government of the then Mr. Attlee, who wrote into the Ireland Act, 1949, a guarantee which meant that the people of Northern Ireland always supported the Parliament which gave them a guarantee that they would stay in the United Kingdom?
With the greatest respect, it was the fault of hon. Members of the House of Commons—Castle, Galloper Smith, Bonar Law. The people of Northern Ireland said that they were prepared to support armed uprising in the north of Ireland to try to keep the whole of Ireland within the Union. Then eventually as a second best they had forced on them a Stormont Government. Suddenly they have taken it and clutched it to their bosoms as a way of repressing people.
I am not concerned about the powers that come here. There will not be just the Ulster Unionists, a few Nationalists and a few of my hon. Friends and the S.D.L.P., but over 600 Members of Parliament will be keeping an eye on what is happening in Northern Ireland. They are likely to be more representative and to be able to ask questions about what is going on and to examine the situation. They are more likely to apply the things which we hold dear in this country: freedom under the law; equality before the law; no arbitrary arrest or imprisonment; freedom of political expression; freedom of publication; freedom to express ideas. They will be able to see that these matters are put intooperation—matters which have been denied under the provisions, of the Special Powers Act.
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that the representation of Northern Ireland in this Parliament should be substantially increased so that people who know something about Northern Ireland should be here to argue their case?
Order. I am afraid the hon. Gentleman in his heart knows that this just will not do. Either he should finish his remarks quickly, or throughout his speech he should assist me by saying to which Amendment he is addressing himself. There are a number of them and I should like to know to which he is referring.
I apologise, Sir Robert. I now turn to new Clause 1. Today I wrote a letter to the Secretary of State designate for Northern Ireland. In fact, I wrote the letter at 3.30 this afternoon, and this is the reason I arrived late for the Committee stage of this Bill. The letter concerns a man called John Daly.
This afternoon I had a telephone call from Mrs. Edwina Stewart, the Secretary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association—[An Hon. Member: "Is she not a Communist?"] I could not care less whether she is a Communist, a Catholic or an Ulster Unionist. She happens to be a source of information which is very good indeed, and her facts generally are objective. She is concerned about the situation of people in Northern Ireland. Certainly her policy for Northern Ireland is not one I would adopt.
This is what I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman:
I have just received a telephone call from the Secretary of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association concerning Mr. John Daly. She informs me that Mr. Daly was injured on 9th March in Clonard, when the four boys were blown up, that he was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital and then into military custody at Musgrove Park. I am informed that he is still suffering from injuries to his ear and face, suffering from deafness and lack of balance as result of the explosion"—
we all know that it was an I.R.A. explosion—
but nevertheless has been taken to police barracks interrogation centre where his solicitor"—
this is where the matter is of importance—
Mr. Desmond Marrinan has been unable to obtain access to him, nor has he received any information concerning him. There are many witnesses to the fact that Mr. Daly was not involved in any way with the particular incident, and he was in fact going to visit his father when he was injured by the explosion.
The evidence at the moment, and what people are saying, is that this man was going past this house when the explosion occurred. He was injured, taken to hospital and then was taken to the Palace Barracks to be interrogated.
I shall outline the matters which should be concerning English Members of Parliament. First, there was no access by his legal representative; secondly, no information was given of the charge, if any, on which he is being held and indeed as to the grounds on which he is being held. These are two little facts. I introduce them this afternoon, not because this is a particularly terrible case in the catalogue of cases, but because this happened this afternoon. This is the point the Secretary of State designate should be bearing in mind. These are the sorts of incidents which occur under the Special Powers Act and which build up to feelings of resentment.
It may be the man is completely innocent. On the other hand, it may be he is an evil man, a supporter of the I.R.A. and perhaps of some of its most vicious actions. I do not know the answer to these questions. However, if he were in England we would know why he had been arrested and would have the possibility of seeing any evidence which had been adduced and would have a legal right to see him.
I was asked to keep you informed, Mr. Wallace, of the Amendments to which I was referring, and I am relating this matter to new Clause 1. The right hon. Gentleman has said that he will individually examine every case of every internee to see whether he is being correctly held. I put it to him that there are roughly 900 internees. If he spends 15 minutes on each case—not much when a man's liberty is at stake—it will take him 225 hours and, assuming he does an eight-hour day, this means that 28 days will be spent on this task.
What criteria will the right hon. Gentleman adopt? How will he operate under the Special Powers Act, if the Committee allows him to do so? We have heard from Press leaks—whether they come from Downing Street or Stormont, I do not know—that there are some 450 internees who can be let out immediately because there may be nothing on them or because they are not a security risk. If this is so, why on earth are they being kept in custody, and why have we not seen the evidence?
I mentioned this to the Prime Minister when he made his statement and I pointed out that these would be the two key issues. At the end of the day people will be left without fathers, mothers, brothers, sons and cousins and there will of course be resentment. Therefore, it is of tremendous importance that these matters should be dealt with.
We must get rid of the Special Powers Act. The Attorney-General yesterday said that something would be done about the situation, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say what is to be done. Will he publish a White Paper and, if and when one is published, will we have the opportunity to see it? Does he intend to get rid of the Special Powers Act, or will he do as the Hunt Committee told him to do? Does he intend to say that the situation in regard to control of explosives will be dealt with but that all the rest will go?
For the period of a year during which Stormont is dissolved, we shall give Northern Ireland what it has not had for 50 years, a taste of the rule of law—not the rule of law as it has been operated by Stormont, but as we have come to expect in this country, with every person able to express equality of opinion.
We have heard a great deal about the Special Powers Act. I should like to correct some of the things which were said a little earlier in our discussions. It is rubbish to say that this Act has operated against Roman Catholics and has never been applied against Protestants. It is not so long since a large number of the members of a Protestant organisation were prosecuted under the Special Powers Act and were sentenced to imprisonment or heavily fined. This is in marked contrast to other recent cases where members of the minority, including two hon. Members of the House of Commons were given suspended sentences and fined very much more lightly.
The hon. Gentleman is obviously referring to me. However, he is misleading the Committee. I happen to have been given a suspended sentence, but it was under the Public Order Act or one of its Amendments. The complaint here is not against Acts under which prosecutions have been brought but against Acts under which no prosecutions have been brought. The hon. Gentleman is misleading us, further, when he says that large numbers of a certain Protestant organisation have been prosecuted and imprisoned under the Special Powers Act. That is not the case. They, too, were dealt with under the Public Order Act.
Will not the hon. Gentleman agree that many of the processions banned in Northern Ireland were banned not under the Public Order Act but under the Special Powers Act and that those who violated the ban were prosecuted as a consequence under the Special Powers Act? Some people on the Protestant side have been in prison. Let us be absolutely fair. Let us also be fair and say that there are Protestants who have been put away without trial under this Act as well.
I can confirm what the hon. Gentleman says. What is more, if I may take up a point made by the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), it is far from a very insignificant number. In one case, the ban imposed under one of the Special Powers regulations involved no fewer than 123,000 members of Loyalist organisations, which is by no means an insignificant number.
Despite the powers that we are conferring upon the Secretary of State designate, my prediction is that we shall continue to have complaints in the House, just as we have had in the past and just as we have had today, simply because many of the grievances were imaginary to begin with. I call in evidence the words of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) on another occasion when he said that the reforms which had been introduced and implemented had made not a scrap of difference to the man in the street in his constituency or to anyone else in Belfast. He asked what possible benefit it was to the man in the street to have "one man, one vote" in local government. In fact, we have that system in Northern Ireland for elections to the House of Commons. We have it with minor variations for elections to the Stormont Parliament. For local government elections we have a rather different system. It is the same as that which operated in this enlightened island until 1948, when it was changed by a Socialist Government. I make no complaint about that. But it was not discrimination against Roman Catholics. At worst, it was discrimination against people who did not pay rates. But that applied whether they were Protestant or Catholic.
I turn to a more serious matter and one which is possibly more relevant. I wish to register my objection to the powers that we are giving to the Secretary of State designate. I do so not because I have fears about his integrity, his ability or his fair-mindedness. I object to these powers being conferred on any Minister, in the House of Commons or elsewhere. I object even more to the powers being conferred on other Ministers in the House. The words which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) seeks to delete appear to confer on other Ministers in the House certain powers which were exercised formerly by the Stormont Government.
The propaganda which has convinced people about the so-called faults in the Stormont Administration which resulted, for example, in only 82 per cent. of the new houses in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clarke) being allocated to Roman Catholics, has obscured the fact that much of Northern Ireland's legislation dealing especially with social matters, has been years in advance of anything that we have in Great Britain. For example, the Northern Ireland Mental Health Act, 1948, has not yet been overtaken after 24 years by legislation in the House. It is a direct consequence of the chaotic division of authority and responsibility in Great Britain which has resulted in so many of the scandals which have saddened all of us in the House.
I have in mind especially the different attitudes and procedures which have been adopted in social legislation in Northern Ireland. If some of these aspects suddenly should come under the influence of a British Secretary of State, I have my fears. We could find that in a great many Health Service matters in Northern Ireland we were throwing the machine into reverse gear. For example, we have a scheme for the training of teachers of handicapped children which is the responsibility of the unified Northern Ireland Hospitals Authority. This has created a great deal of unity and continuity throughout the service which looks after handicapped children. In this enlightened island that responsibility is divided between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of Education and Science, with a great deal of unnecessary confusion, and we want to avoid this sort of fragmentation in Northern Ireland.
There is a broadly similar situation with regard to agricultural education in Northern Ireland. Until now, it has been operated and organised by the people most fitted to deal with it, namely, the Northern Ireland Ministry of Agriculture. Over here, again we have fragmentation. I understand that agricultural colleges are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Clearly there will be a great deal of genuine resentment in Northern Ireland if those involved in these spheres are forced to take what they will regard as retrograde steps. I emphasise that a great many of these devoted public servants are not involved in politics in any shape or form, and it is essential that we do not alienate them from the system. We should not create additional resentment to that being felt about this Measure among other sections of the population of Northern Ireland.
My subject will be new Clause 1, which deals with the necessity for special powers. However, perhaps I might be permitted to divert for one moment in order to express my sincere personal good wishes to the Secretary of State designate, since this is the first opportunity that I have had. They are very profound, although the right hon. Gentleman is going to a task which I judge to be almost hopeless.
What we are concerned with here is a revolutionary group. We are concerned with violence. We are concerned with a group very much like the Irgun Svei Leumi that we experienced in Palestine. It is a group dedicated, first, to expelling Britain from Ireland and, secondly, to upsetting the Government of Ireland and establishing a revolutionary régime. That is not a group which will be appeased.
We must recognise that whatever may be said of this move as a political solution it will not improve the security situation, for this is a security situation. On the one hand, we are depriving the Army of the support of an established Government and of the good will and, indeed, the trust of a majority group in that country. On the other hand, we are conferring on the I.R.A. a signal victory. Let us not kid ourselves. We are here now because of the success of the violence of the I.R.A. But for those actions, rightly or wrongly—possibly wrongly—Stormont would still be functioning.
It is the snipers, the bombers, and the dynamiters who have destroyed Stormont. We must recognise that we are embroidering on the banner of the I.R.A. the battle honours of Stormont. That gives it an expansion of prestige which will not make it easier to control. We are giving the I.R.A. the expectation at least of receiving reinforcements from Long Kesh. The I.R.A. is in exclusive control of a fief in Derry.
People who are encouraged by the statement of the Provisionals in Derry that they will suspend part of their operations for some weeks are certainly not
students of the thoughts of Chairman Mao. Almost certainly the I.R.A. are students of the thoughts of Chairman Mao. I should like to make one quotation—it is not an exact quotation—from those thoughts, which goes like this:
When the forces of Imperialism and reaction seek conciliation or offer a truce, the opportunity should be taken to organise a greater leap forward.
I believe that this is the situation with this unappeased force.
Without special powers, what are we going to do about the Bogside? This is an area from which the police and the military are excluded, and in which the I.R.A. runs its own courts and inflicts its own punishments. It will not be persuaded to leave.
I should like to quote one passage from a remarkable speech, which people should read, delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut-Col. Colin Mitchell) in the debate on the Army Estimates on 16th March, in which he said:
Once an area in under terrorist control, moderate opinion is silent because it is dead. Force is the only arbiter and political exhortations from outside the terrorist-controlled areas, whether they come from Westminster, Stormont, or anywhere else, will never work unless they are backed by a strong, permanent police military presence inside that area."—[OFFICIAL Report, 16th March, 1972; Vol. 833, c. 823.]
What is to be done? Are we to leave Derry as a sort of assassins' castle from which the I.R.A. can sally forth at the date and time of its choosing? Or are we to go in and move it out? Are we to do it without special powers? To move it out the battle of Derry will make what has been referred to as "Bloody Sunday" look like a picnic.
I do not know from where the hon. and learned Gentleman got his earlier quotation, but he might be interested to know that that is exactly the policy which the last Prime Minister but one in Northern Ireland wished to pursue and over which he fell in March, 1971.
Whether that be so, it is not particularly relevant to my speech. This is the situation with which the Secretary of State designate has to deal. It seems somewhat naïve to think that he should go into that kind of situation having been deprived of the special powers of his predecessor. The right hon. Gentleman will need far greater powers.
Over and above the Derry position, the right hon. Gentleman will have to deal with terrorism generally throughout and perhaps beyond the Province. As far as I know—this is a lesson from history—political settlements do not work until rebellion has been either crushed or surrendered to. There can be a political settlement which hands over power to the rebels, there can be a political settlement which destroys the rebels; but there cannot be a political settlement which leaves the rebels exercising violence. When we have tried that, it has always failed.
In Malaysia, with all the necessary powers, we first smashed the rebellion and then established a Government. In Cyprus we did the reverse, and there we have a bottled up civil war which everyone knows will break out some time and that large forces will be engaged in trying to keep it down.
Another fundamental lesson is that no guerrilla movement has ever been controlled and beaten by an Army that did not have martial law to operate. Martial law involves power to interrogate. Also involved within the laws of war are hostages and reprisals. We cannot do without them. No Army faced with a guerrilla situation has been able to do without those powers. This is the same situation with which we are faced.
When I said that recently, somebody—I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan)—asked about France. He said, "Did not the Resistance movement in France grow when the Nazis used these methods?" He and I received a letter from somebody who had been a high officer very much concerned with the guerrilla movement in Norway and the Resistance in France. He said: "I do not know what guerrillas you have been in company with. I can assure you that if the Germans had not used reprisal, if they had not used interrogation, we would not have needed an invasion of Europe; we would have taken over the place. If, indeed, the Germans had been working on the rules applied to your Army in Ulster, we would have had no difficulty at all. All Europe would have been in our hands." In fact, the German Army was in France for four years and its soldiers were able to go about unarmed in almost every town.
That was because of the threat in the background. We cannot just kid ourselves that when violence is resorted to we can carry on without that. The worst of all examples was that of Israel. There we were faced with an Arab rebellion. We tried to come to a political settlement with that, and it forced a Jewish rebellion. Eventually we simply fled. That seems a horribly close parallel to the situation that we are going into now.
We have enlarged the prestige and power of the I.R.A., deprived ourselves of the support of an established Government and antagonised the Protestant community. We are inhibiting ourselves by tighter rules than applied in the past even to this Army, and they are tighter than were ever applied to an Army before. In the circumstances, what do we do? Having imposed impotence on our forces I believe a civil war will become inevitable. Maybe the next incursion we have from the Liberals will be a demand to ask the United Nations to come and put confusion on chaos, for this seems to be the final abdication.
I find this a deeply sadly depressing moment. I was unable to support the Bill yesterday. Of course powers are needed, the strongest powers are needed, but the settlement, I believe, will prove disastrous.
We have just heard from the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) a characteristically forthright speech setting out in the clearest possible terms the realities of life and death in Northern Ireland today. I was present for the whole of yesterday's debate and have been present much of today. In dealing with the Special Powers Act earlier we were discussing fundamental liberties of the subject. That is something which in the House of Commons is always of interest and usually is discussed well. In this situation, in the end, human life is more important than political liberty. In Northern Ireland in recent months life has been more at stake than liberty.
I recognise fully the sincerity and the passion with which hon. Members of the Opposition have spoken about our liberties. I share their views. The problem we have to face today in considering these Amendments is whether we could afford to allow the situation in Ireland to return to a sort of 19th century Gladstonian Liberalism while these appalling acts are taking place. I believe hon. Members opposite, with the exception of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, have been living in cloud cuckooland. There is war in Northern Ireland against urban guerrillas, ruthless and bestial war, worse I am told that some of the appalling sights and scenes which some of us witnessed in the Second World War. For instance, men there are killed in front of their families which is something that even the Gestapo did not do in the last war.
In these terrible circumstances any civilised Government must have strong additional powers. We shall do no service to anyone if we pretend that violence does not exist. Some of us believe that we are not even winning this war against the terrorists in Northern Ireland. There is a real risk that that war may come over to these shores as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) rightly pointed out. I believe it quite futile to talk of legal quibbles and niceties and normal legal processes when we all know that no witnesses dare appear for fear of death or terrible injury. Of course we all want a settlement, but I do not believe that we shall get one by pretending that the gunmen do not exist, or by giving way to them.
I speak now as an English Member representing a constituency in the heart of England. I hope that an Englishman can still speak in this Chamber and raise the voice of England. I believe that the supreme interest of England, and indeed of the rest of the United Kingdom, is that the guerrilla war against the terrorists in Northern Ireland should bewon and that everything possible should be done to prevent that war coming over here to our large cities. I, and those who like me abstained last night, would vastly have preferred a military initiative followed by a political one, and not the other way round. The present drastic and ruthless action against the Stormont Government would have been far more palatable had that been in the package.
We also wanted to see not only a continuation of special powers in Northern Ireland and all that goes with them, but some sign of a stronger will here in the Home Office and in the Government and with the new Secretary of State to bring pressure to bear on Mr. Lynch and the Republic to control the movement of terrorists and the flow of gelignite. I am thinking, as of course we must in this context, that at some stage probably the most difficult military decision which my right hon. Friend will have to take will be to go again into I.R.A. enclaves and bring in the police force and then get the military out. This may well mean declaring martial law and the curfew and more elaborate controls at the Border. That may well mean bringing more troops from Germany. Those measures would be heartily supported by the great majority of people in England who are loyal to the Crown. I believe that they would receive overwhelming support.
The present calm—we have been talking here until recently in a calm enough atmosphere—I fear will last only for a few weeks. I believe it sheer folly to believe that by our expressing lofty liberal policies the I.R.A. will throw away their guns. It is a military organisation, nothing less, and it will use this time to reform, re-equip and return to the fray all the stronger for this period of rest. We have heard that the Government have here a reserve of 4,000 troops. Let them be sent over immediately and put on the Border. Unless we control that Border, however expensive it may be, we shall never get peace in Northern Ireland.
We have heard much about those who are interned. Obviously internment is a grave and distasteful business. We all hate it, but in this supreme emergency what could any civilised Government have done? Surely the very greatest care and concern must be exercised to see that no murderers, bombers, assassins and others are let out, as the hon. and learned Member for Northampton said, to reinforce the ranks of the terrorists.
The Bill, which I could not support, although I support the special powers, when enacted will be only temporary, though I cannot see the possibility of Stormont being restored. The clamour against it when the time comes, from all the left-wing populists, would be too great. The only answer may be to integrate Northern Ireland into this country.
Many people in this country, and indeed many of my constituents, believe that the I.R.A. has won a big victory in the presentation of the Bill. For Heaven's sake, let us not make that victory even greater by accepting the new Clause about the special powers.
As I shall be brief, I hope that the hon. Member for Oldsbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I content myself with the single observation about his speech that I cannot believe that his contribution to our debate, any more than that of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), can help the Secretary of State designate in his work; nor can it assist in the restoration of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland which I take it the hon. Gentleman wishes to come about just as ardently as any other hon. Member. I do not mistake the hon. Gentleman's motive. I just fault his analysis.
I understand that Mr. Aneurin Bevan, who was responsible for many unforgettable utterances, once reminded us that nowhere could greater peace and quietude be found than in a cemetery. I cannot believe that in pursuance of those policies we would not eventually be driven to such paths as would leave us with a desolation that would eventually become unacceptable, not only to the House of Commons, but to the people.
I support the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) and I want to speak about new Clause No. 1. I want to talk about the application of the Special Powers Act, because the technicalities of the Act have been well aired by my hon. and learned Friends as well as by hon. Members opposite who are well qualified to do this.
I want to talk about the application of the Act in a way which has not been so far raised in the debate. I want to remind the Committee of the brutalising effect the Act has had on the police in Northern Ireland. I also want to ask what effect the Act is having upon our Army. I even want to ask what effect the Act is having upon institutions in this country, notably the law. I also want to ask what effect the Act is having upon our good name abroad and also upon the Prime Minister's chances as he seeks to take Britain into Europe, because of the way in which the Act must call into question our credentials.
Finally, I want even to ask hon. Members opposite who are members of the Ulster Unionist Group within the Conservative Party what effect the Act might yet have upon them.
Even though I was most impressed by the manner in which the hon. Member for Cornwall, North propounded the Clause, he conveyed only a hint of the enormity of the conduct and the violation of human dignity which are involved when, as a result of a midnight search and seizure of civilians in their beds, in former years by armed police and more recently by armed troops, the whole majesty of the law suffers; because eventually not only the people who are so seized but their families and their friends come to question the application of the law, the basis of that law, and then the system of which it is the legal expression. They question also those who are carrying out the law.
In years gone by it was the police. I speak here with the greatest possible respect for the Northern Ireland police. No one who has any experience of Northern Ireland can be in any doubt that they are distinguished from the police in England or in Scotland or in Wales—
And, I dare say, the police in many other parts of the world. No one who had wartime experience of Northern Ireland can be in any doubt of this, especially if such a person has served in any other country abroad.
No hon. Member who served as officer of the day or as duty officer of a ship of the Royal Navy which had occasion during the course of the last war to put in to either Belfast or Derry and who had experience of other ports in this country as well as abroad could possibly mistake the difference, not only in temper on the part of the police of Belfast and Derry, but also their conduct. If hon. Members think that this is an unnecessary distinction, I can only invite them to consult the wartime logs of naval ships. I assure them that any duty officer or officer of the day would have been lacking in his duty if, among the other advice that he gave ratings going on shore leave, he did not give the very important advice that they should not in any circumstances argue with the police ashore.
The hon. Gentleman accused my hon. Friend the Member for Oldbury and Halesowen (Mr. Stokes) of being unhelpful in his remarks. Does the hon. Gentleman think that this attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary is helpful, particularly when his denigration and sneers are not based on information derived in recent years but are based on information derived many years ago?
The hon. Gentleman has not heard me out, neither has he read the Hunt Report, otherwise he would not have made one remark that he just made. The fact that I am drawing upon events of many years ago does not alter in any way the relevance of that experience to our debate and what I am now about to say.
Far from my having denigrated the police of Northern Ireland, I thought that I was at pains to say earlier that I would refer to them with the greatest possible respect. When the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) offered a possible explanation of the conduct of the police in Northern Ireland, I was ready to agree. I understand why they behave like this, and I do not believe that policemen anywhere in the world could have behaved differently in those conditions. Cannot the hon. Gentleman see that the behaviour of the police is an inevitable expression of the conditions that have been brought about? It is their inevitable reaction to these conditions, for which they are not responsible, which causes them to behave in this way.
If the hon. Gentleman would leave the police alone I do not think he need worry about what he is saying in this Committee. Two things are certain. One is that the Royal Ulster Constabulary have learned that there is in the House of Commons a tremendous respect for what is one of the finest police forces in the world. By his utterances the hon. Gentleman shows that he knows very little of what he is talking about.
The hon. Gentleman could not have made that last observation if he had had any knowledge of my experience in and my visits to Northern Ireland, or my long period of domicile there. Neither could he have made the first observation if he had been aware not only of my understanding of why the police in Northern Ireland behave in this way but also of my respect for them in these vary difficult circumstances.
Why are they unacceptable in many parts of Northern Ireland? Why can only the Army attempt to fulfil a policing rôle? We know that the Army cannot go on fulfilling this rôle. We know that there are "no go" areas in Northern Ireland, and I take it that hon. Gentlemen opposite are just as anxious as hon. Members on this side of the Committee to see those "no go" areas restored to law. I want to see the police in those areas policing them. I put it to the Committee that the police cannot do so until they become acceptable, and they will not become acceptable while they are handmaidens of the Special Powers Act. That is my first point, and I do not see how any hon. Member of this Committee can possibly argue with that.
Of course, hatred of the police is a characteristic of any police State, indeed of any totalitarian régime. That would be widely acknowledged by hon. Members of this Committee and the Presss if it concerned any other country but their own.
I must say that I read rather ruefully a remark attributed to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) a few weeks ago, suggesting that if Judith Todd had been interned at Long Kesh some of my hon. Friends would have been camping outside. I am afraid that is true. But it is not only some of my hon. Friends who have shown less concern for some of the effects of the Special Powers Act than one might have expected, given their record and their concern about such conduct, or misconduct, in other parts of the world.
What of the supine attitude of the official and unofficial organs of the legal profession? What of the Bar Council, the Law Society, the Society of Conservative Lawyers, the Society of Labour Lawyers? What, even, of the Haldane Society? All these have decided views on all aspects of the law, including constitutional and administrative law. Why, then, have they not challenged more vigorously the greatest threat to our liberties mounted in our time by Governments of this country?
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not give way. I have given way twice and I really must not take up too much of the time of the Committee. I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety, but I feel sure he will have a chance to speak later.
I come now to my third point. We have heard much from the Government in the past year about our being a part of European civilisation. Our dictatorship in Northern Ireland suggests that, whatever other aspects of European civilisation we are a part of, we are slowly becoming the heirs of that aspect of European civilisation to which we should be most sensitive—the Third Reich.
I was interested earlier in the debate to hear the hon. Member for Waltham-stow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) raise the matter of the wartime 18B Regulation, and ask my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) if he accepted the need for that in wartime. I will tell him now that, for my part, I did not then, and I cannot see how any hon. Member of this Committee could now, in view of what we now know about its application then, about the doubts of some hon. Members and about some of its results, as well as about the application of a similar regulation in the United States.
I do not know how much hon. Gentlemen opposite know, for example, about how members of United States society, especially in the western districts, in California, were not merely interned but lost their property and were not compensated. This is regarded as one of the most shameful matters—perhaps the most shameful—in the domestic affairs of the United States, and I say unhesitatingly that the House needs to be reminded periodically of what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North
(Mr. McNamara) said in an intervention earlier when this matter was raised. We need to be reminded occasionally of Lord Atkin's famous dissenting judgment in Liversidge v. Anderson delivered on 3rd November, 1941, which contained these words:
In England amidst the clash of arms the laws are not silent. They may be changed but they speak the same language in war as in peace…I protest, even if I do it alone, against the strained construction put upon words with the effect of giving an uncontrolled power of imprisonment to the minister.
I think the hon. Member will understand why I have no hesitation in declaring myself against such a regulation as 18B in wartime and against the continued application of the Special Powers Act now.
I come now to the effect of this on the Army. Can anyone take any other view but that the Army has been cast in a rôle that is militarily unsound as well as politically unwise because of the way it has been made an instrument of policies which we have reason to believe—certainly this was the case last July and August—it did not believe in? The Army has been made an instrument of the Special Powers Act, which we know has been viciously one-sided in its application. This was not accepted by some hon. Members earlier in the debate but John Graham writing in the Financial Times of 9th February this year said:
As far as I know there is only one non-Catholic among this number.
He was referring to the number who were then interned—only one non-Catholic out of about a hundred internees. The Army is not even an efficient instrument and this is demonstrated by the tremendous turnover of men who have been detained in recent months. Do hon. Members on the Government side realise that if the special powers are used persistently they cannot be confined to terrorising Catholic homes in search-and-snatch operations? They must in future be employed logically to pursue the gun holders on the other side. They must be used to check on Mr. Craig's men who have declared their aim to be the liquidation of the enemy. I do not want that, but do hon. Members opposite want it?
I rise to oppose new Clause 1 but in saying that I would add that I wish the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) had not drawn his amending Clause in such a way as to suggest that the whole of the special regulations should be done away with at this juncture, because I believe there is room for amendment of the regulations.
First, I must take issue with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). I am not a Northern Irishman, but I had the privilege to serve in a Northern Irish regiment and to work in Northern Ireland. My experience of the R.U.C. is the same as my experience with the police in this country. They are able-bodied servants of the people, who serve their society well and who have been maligned out of all recognition in the House by far too many hon. Members who have never seen them at work.
Let me say that I dislike the concept of arbitrary powers being used against anyone. For that reason, I find some sympathy with the new Clause. But when a society is threatened with violence—when, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, it is in a state of war—the people who make up that society have the right to special protection. Therefore, unlike the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe I believe that special powers are required. I would have supported Regulation 18B in the last war.
Any of us who have been to Northern Ireland recently—and anyone who has connections such as I have, and who has worked there, as I did, when Northern Ireland was a peaceful country, when no special powers were in action—will know that that society can be as our society is in the rest of the United Kingdom. The violence that is there now has not always been there. We stand here so often and castigate the Government at Stormont and the Northern Irish M.P.s for what we imagine to be the appalling conditions in Northern Ireland, but until 1968 very few people in the House of Commons ever found much time to concern themselves with the problems of Northern Ireland. So if there be faults there, those faults lie on all our shoulders for having ignored that society for far too long.
The Northern Ireland unemployment figures since the war have always been very much higher than they have been here. As one who worked in the aircraft industry there, I can tell the Committee that many delegations came to Westminster and asked for much help, but seldom was the help found for them. Northern Ireland was a peaceful province, and its problems were a bore to most of us in the House of Commons.
But suddenly, in 1968, something happened. Maybe the civil rights marchers were right. Perhaps, unfortunately, they were misunderstood. Whatever may be the case, as we know, the sniper and the bomber took over from them. In those circumstances, with innocent men, women and children being gunned down, could we rely simply on the ordinary legal processes to protect them? They did not think that we could. Hunt dared to suggest that we might. What has happened? We disarmed the police, only to rearm them some years later, after the terrorist had got a grip on the community which so far we had not succeeded in prising him from
I cannot support the Bill, but, even if I could, I could not support the new Clause because every bit of sympathy I have goes to my right hon. Friend who is to take over as Secretary of State. I admire his abilities enormously. He has every good wish I can give him. I appreciate enormously the fact that he has stayed in the Committee virtually from the start, because he is hearing many things which he may find very boring. The fact that he went to Northern Ireland as quickly as he did, and the way that he is doing his utmost to master this most (intractable of problems, deserves and gets both my gratitude and heartfelt admiration.
However, were I to support the new Clause I would know that I was supporting a Clause that robbed my right hon. Friend of the one thing that he has got to do for himself, more than any Westminster politician has ever had to do. He has got to rebuild the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland—and I speak about all the people of Northern Ireland. He has to build their confidence in himself and in his colleagues, as being fair-minded administrators who care about the suffering of that province, who seek peace—as I know they do—and who intend to see that the terrorists shall not succeed, and that society and decent ordinary people, regardless of their reli- gious persuasion—and I sometimes think that that is the biggest red herring that we have allowed to creep into our recent deliberations—may be able to live the sort of life that we live in this country and never give a second thought to.
I believe, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will need the Special Powers Act for some time to come. As I have said, totally to demolish that Act at this moment—when my right hon. Friend has to persuade 1½ million people in Northern Ireland that he is concerned with their safety—would be an act of absolute madness.
Sometimes when one hears hon. Members speak about the people of Northern Ireland one imagines that bigotry is on one side and fairmindedness on the other. It is not so. They are ordinary people, with all the faults which make up each one of us. But the fact is that once internment was introduced—as the Belfast Telegraph said at the time—a wedge was driven between the two communities which did nothing to improve community relations, although conceivably—no more than that—it took off the streets some of those who otherwise would have been involved in the violence that has plagued that society.
Yet it is also fair to say that internment in the arbitrary way it can be introduced—I am thinking of Sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Act—allows one man to make the order of detention and one man to make the order of internment without any need to consult anybody else and thus to test his judgment. As I understand it, the detention order is made on the advice of the Chief Constable and was, before Stormont was prorogued, recommended to the Home Affairs Minister, who, in fact, was also the Prime Minister. The Chief Constable, I gather, made his recommendation on intelligence provided by the Army and the police. Thus, it was the Chief Constable who advised the Home Affairs Minister, who in turn signed the detention order if he was satisfied with the case the Chief Constable had made out.
I suggest to my right hon. Friend that something ought to be inserted between the Chief Constable and himself because, presumably, if he intends to maintain the power of internment—and I do not see how he can do away with it at this moment—he will find himself in exactly the same position as was the Home Affairs Minister in Northern Ireland. Thus he will be exercising the same arbitrary powers of detention and internment unless he allows himself the benefit of a number of advisers to tell him whether they think the Chief Constable's suggestion is sufficiently strong.
Then again, when one has interned a man, can one really hold him without charge in a part of the United Kingdom sine die? If we want to see the judicial processes of the United Kingdom restored to all parts of the United Kingdom, is there not a need to change the process of internment? My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said last Friday that a procedure to review the case of each internee will be introduced. I welcome that statement. I am sure that it is right. But are we ending the policy of internment with the appointment of the Secretary of State, or are we merely changing the overall procedure of that policy? This has not been made clear, and I would be grateful if we could have some clarification.
I do not see how we can do away with the Special Powers Act. Let us be fair to Mr. Faulkner; he has accepted the need for a change in the internment procedure. This is one of the two proposals that he accepted. What has to be done is to bring internment much more closely into line with other United Kingdom procedures, and I suggest that at a certain moment of time after internment the internee must either be charged with an offence or released. If he is charged he must be put on trial. The argument has always been that we cannot do that—that witnesses will be intimidated. I wonder whether that is really the case.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the city of Belfast in the last few days I.R.A. men have been brought before the courts, been tried and found guilty by a jury and put away for terms of up to ten years? Would he not agree that that is the right way, if possible, of dealing with the vast majority of these terrorists?
I am grateful to the hon. Member, because he has made my point. When I was last in Belfast, just over a fortnight ago, I asked that
question when I was at Stormont. I will read from a letter sent to me soon after my visit. It says:
During the past two-and-a-half years there have been 36 known cases of court witnesses having been intimidated—
I dare say that we would find the same amount in the courts in England—
most of them in those parts of Belfast where the I.R.A. have their bases. Over the same period there have been 80 known cases of reprisals against members of the public, for giving information or for associating with H.M. Forces or for other reasons.
I do not consider that those figures make out a case for preventing the possibility of some form of special court if need be, but certainly they make out a case for a judicial procedure to deal with those held in internment.
Does my hon. Friend not realise that the situation has deteriorated a great deal since he obtained those figures? Is he aware that in the last three or four weeks one Crown witness in my constituency—Sidney Agnew—was shot dead in front of his wife and children to stop him giving evidence against boys who had hi-jacked a bus?
Is the hon. Member aware that the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) concerned a member of my congregation so I know (he facts? Is he aware that this man asked for police protection and was refused it and that the police came at a quarter to nine and told him he would attend court the next day and at nine o'clock he was shot? Is he aware of the strong representations which have been made and the deep resentment felt throughout the whole of Belfast over the fact that this man was not given police protection?
That raises another point upon which I wish to touch in a minute. I believe that the policy of internment can be changed in a way which will make any fair-minded person in the community of Northern Ireland feel that the community is much more within the normal judicial procedures, ft is possible to read the Special Powers Act, Section by Section and to say, "Goodness, how frightful to think that they can do that". Many of the laws of our country, if only we knew them, would probably frighten us considerably. Until we have a debate like this we do not know what is within those laws. Unless every one of those laws is implemented they will not disturb the freedom of the ordinary citizen.
I had the opportunity of meeting some senior officers of the Ulster Constabulary and some of its inspectors a fortnight ago. They were optimistic. Sure, they do not know what to do about the bombing. How does one know in which car boot there is a bomb? How does one know which young girl is carrying a bomb in her shopping bag? If this were to happen in London we should be just as hard pressed to know what the solution should be as they are. But there was optimism, and yet we are talking of this crisis as of such dimensions that we must take these drastic powers and get rid of Stormont.
The Ulster Constabulary asked me a question to which I did not know the answer, and I put it to my right hon. Friend. Why is it that in those areas of Belfast where the I.R.A. have been winkled out the Army will not return civil authority to the police, where it belongs? Peace in Northern Ireland means that the community is governed by the normal authority which we expect in England, Wales and Scotland, and through the normal processes of the law courts and the police force. If we are unwilling to hand back authority to the Ulster police we are in some respects guilty of maintaining a crisis situation where none need exist.
I am not going to close these remarks by suggesting that Northern Ireland is on the brink of peace; it is not. It would, however, be equally wrong if I told my hon. Friends that in my experience—which consists of military service as well as of working there—Northern Ireland is tottering over into chaos and disaster. I do not say that. But from now on each one of us must weigh his words very carefully, because now more than ever everything we say has a direct bearing on the lives and the future of 1½ million people.
There are certainly two things in the speech of the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) with which I agree. First, I share his apprehension about the consequences of internment, although, as I shall show later, I differ in my conclusions as to how to deal with that situation. The second thing in respect of which I go along with him is—and here I endorse what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—the expression of good wishes to the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President. As other hon. Members have done, I appreciate the way in which he has listened to the debate. We are all aware of the enormity of the task that faces him, and we wish him well.
Nobody who, like me, was born in a working-class area of the City of Manchester could grow up without knowing something about the Irish situation. When I was young I thought that the world was peopled 50 per cent. by Roman Catholics and 50 per cent. by others. Only later did I find that there was not quite that balance in the community. At a very early age I grew to detest the operations of the Special Powers Act, and it is on that matter that I want to speak tonight. Therefore, I support new Clause 1.
The other thing that I want to say right away concerns the actions of Westminster in relation to Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East complained of Westminster's inattention to the affairs of Northern Ireland. That is not my fault, and it is not the fault of many of my hon. Friends who, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) reminded us, tried repeatedly in years gone by to raise the question of the operation of the Special Powers Act and other important matters affecting the welfare of the community in Northern Ireland. It is the irony of the present situation that now, as a by-product of terrorism, the House of Commons is repeatedly debating Northern Ireland. For years we were denied the opportunity of debating it in this House.
Having seen one wave after another of Ulster Unionists come to Westminster, I utterly despise their conduct. They could have deployed themselves here in years gone by in a way that might conceivably have prevented the community explosion that we have seen. But year after year they have pretended that it was not hap-pening—saying that discrimination did not exist, seeking to show that their presence in such overwhelming numbers at Westminster was the result of a fair electoral system, and so on. I was in the House when we managed to get rid of one of them—a Rev. MacManaway—who arrived here under false pretences. But, lamentably, his successor was no better.
The Ulster Unionists have a heavy responsibility. When I hear them today talking about violence and terror I reflect on their failure over the 26 years that I have been in the House to say anything about the way in which Westminster could have taken an initiative many years ago to prevent the present explosion. I was in the House when the 1949 Act was passed, and so was the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King), except that he was then a member of the Labour Party. I voted against the Labour Government in 1949 on the Ireland Act because I believed that in those years immediately after the war it was possible for Westminster to take an initiative to produce a change in the situation. My right hon. Friend the present Opposition Chief Whip was with us on that occasion. That is a story from his murky past. When we were operating in that way we had no support at all from the hon. Member for Dorset, South, and certainly none from the Ulster Unionists.
The hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) rebuked one of my hon. Friends who was speaking, as I am, in favour of the new Clause. He told him, "The practices of which you complain are not unique to the North. They happen in the Republic." I agree. I do not have a great deal of time for those of my parliamentary colleagues who discriminate on the matter of freedom, who are concerned about what is happening in Vietnam or South Africa but are not concerned, for example, about what the Israelis are doing in the occupied Arab lands. These are all matters for concern. If the hon. Member for Chigwell were here now I should tell him that I accept his argument about not being selective in our protests against the invasion of freedom, but that it would be much more convincing if he took the same attitude to Rhodesia and South Africa. We cannot carry our colleagues in a free assembly by selectivity of that kind.
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here. I should tell him that it is no part of the case of those of us who want to see the ending of special powers that the Government should be denied powers to deal with a situation that is far from tranquil and may become even worse. What we are saying is that the Government, who are to assume the powers implicit in the Bill, should obtain the consent of the House for whatever powers they require and not rest on the discredited Special Powers Act of Stormont. That is the case of those who support new Clause 1.
What has been happening in Northern Ireland in the past two years has horrified us all. The situation has escalated and is getting apparently more and more insoluble. Those who would send the Army into the "no-go" areas should remember what happened in Deny, and the world-wide reaction to it. The Army is in an impossible position. On the whole, our troops have behaved with remarkable restraint. The solution does not lie in supporting people who commit acts of murder, but in taking this new initiative we must substantially turn our backs on what has happened in the past. One way of doing that is to reject the special powers and make a clean start, and if powers of that sort are needed Westminster must be asked for them.
For 15 years before I came to Westminster I was involved in counter-insurgency operations in the Army. Over the years I have seen these dangers getting closer. Now they are on our doorstep, and that is one reason why I entered politics. The decision on the political initiative was a crunch for me and that is why I abstained from voting last night. This policy is not a weakening of the resolution of the Government, but it may well be seen to be so by the terrorists, and this may increase their prestige and morale.
We have been learning our political lessons every day since the decision has been taken. I will put to the Committee two military lessons. First, one talks of political initiatives, but there can be no peace settlement until the war is won. Otherwise we shall find that we have not won the war. Secondly, we cannot disengage in the face of the enemy without the gravest difficulties and consequences.
The main problem which my right hon. Friend will find is that in casting aside one's friends one may end up with not enough people on one's side. If we alienate the Protestants, and the Catholic population are dominated by the gunmen and we cannot detach them, we shall have on our side nobody at all.
I have great sympathy with the purpose of Amendment No. 10. We are faced with the gravest constitutional problems. The dilemma is that we are trying to discuss the Bill and look with great care at these constitutional issues but at the same time there is a need for speed and urgency. Tonight is not the time for constitutional engineering.
My right hon. Friend has listened to all the pleas that have been made to try to make the system more democratic. Apart from the legislation which is going through Stormont at present—the Education Bill, the Local Government Bill, the Fire Services Bill, and so on—the rest will be of an emergency nature. It is most important that this legislation should be scrutinised, otherwise it will not be effective.
Unless we push through legislationspeedily—and having abstained I feel I must support my right hon. Friend—we shall find that there is no Government left in Northern Ireland. I am sure that no hon. Member wishes to see such an eventuality. I hope that the legislation can proceed and, now that the decision is taken, we shall lose no time in putting it through.
The reason I voted—strangely, as many people might think—against the Bill last night, was from no desire on my part to maintain Stormont in any shape or form. One important reason for voting against the Bill is that it still contained provisions relating to the Special Powers Act. I could not now, or at any point in the future, vote for any measure which contained reference to the Special Powers Act or anything like it.
That is only one reason for my voting against the Bill. The atrocious and Draconian nature of the Special Powers Act is fairly well known in this Committee. Hon. Members in all parts of the Committee must now have some idea of what it is like to live in the shadow of such an Act. They must have some idea of the sort of power it gives to one person.
It is therefore strange to hear hon. Members opposite arguing that it would be wrong to give such powers to the incoming Secretary of State. I am not in the least in favour of government by decree, but it is strange to hear hon. Members opposite say that dictatorial powers should not be given to any one man. It is mainly the Unionist Members who have been concentrating on this theme. Those self-same Members are the most fanatic supporters of the Special Powers Act which gives absolute and total power to one man. It makes him judge, jury and executioner all at once. There must be some consistency in this matter. If it is wrong to give one man dictatorial powers, it must be wrong to give all men dictatorial powers, whatever the circumstances.
The Special Powers Act also from its introduction has created a crisis of confidence in the law. We have heard much talk from the Conservative benches about law and order and, of course, there must be law and order, but with it must come respect for the law. And there has never been, and never can be, respect for the law among the minority community as long as the Special Powers Acts lasts.
The prophets of doom foretell violence from the other side. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said yesterday that 500 gunmen on the Protestant side at this moment may be ready to fire at the Army. If that is the case, the Unionist population have up to the present felt that the Special Powers Act existed to protect them from their Catholic neighbours. Now they obviously feel they have been let down by Westminster. Later on they will realise that all along they have been let down by their own leaders. But at present they are distrustful of Westminster.
Therefore, if the present Government feel that they are appeasing the Protestant population by continuing the Special Powers Act, they should realise that it may be felt that those powers will soon be used against the Protestants themselves. They do not trust them. When they were in the hands of a Unionist Minister for Home Affairs, they were confident that they would not be used against them. If they are in the hands of a man whom they do not know and whom they have reason to distrust, they will feel that the special powers will be used against them. I am against the use of special powers wherever and against whoever they are operating. If there are 500 gunmen on the other side, I do not recommend that the special powers should be used against them. Special powers are wrong, horrific and inhumane. They should be done away with altogether.
As many hon. Members on this side have demonstrated, the special powers have brutalised the R.U.C. and all the agencies of law enforcement in Northern Ireland. In consequence, there has grown up a complete distrust of the law. Under the Special Powers Act, Brian Faulkner, when he was Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, had power to make any law that he fancied. Constantly we were told that we must be law-abiding and must respect the law. But how can anyone respect a law which he recognises to be a bad one? For a long time, I have not respected most of the laws which have emanated from Stormont. I have been given a number of suspended sentences for demonstrating my disrespect of a particular law emanating from Stormont.
An hon. Member opposite asked why the Law Society had not spoken out against the Special Powers Act. At a recent meeting the Law Society, composed of Protestant and Catholic lawyers, expressed its strong condemnation of the Act. The Act pervades every fibre of society in Northern Ireland. It is totally dominant. Its worst expression is internment. I shall deal with that in a moment, but it shows itself in all sorts of ways.
When there is such a crisis of confidence in the law, it cannot be helped by actions of the sort which perhaps I might illustrate by one example of the powers of Ministers of Home Affairs, and what some of those Ministers used to do. There was a Minister named Topping. There came a time when obviously he was getting a bit fed up with being Minister for Home Affairs. It so happened that the Recordship of Belfast fell vacant. Mr. Topping appointed himself Recorder of Belfast. Hon. Members might think that that is crazy and could not happen, but it did. How could any anti-Unionist have any confidence in decisions that that man might come to on the bench? It could not be expected.
Internment is the worst aspect of the Special Powers Act. The powers of internment have been amply demonstrated by eminent lawyers in this country, in my own area and elsewhere to be the strongest ever to obtain. It is well known that a former high-ranking Minister in South Africa said that he would give up all his legislation for one or two Sections of the Special Powers Act. That is a fairly high recommendation from the Minister of a country like South Africa. They must be fairly powerful for him to say that.
The Prime Minister and the incoming Secretary of State said that they intended to make a start on the phasing out of internment. What does that mean? I know a man from the City of Derry, Sean Keenan, who told me that, in a previous internment, from the day he heard the talk, the rumour, that internment would be phased out until he was actually released was four years. If that is what the Government mean by phasing out of internment, it is obviously not on.
As I said in a previous debate, phasing out of internment is a nonsense. If it is held to be wrong, then it must be abolished. If it is held to be right, then it must be retained. We cannot have it both ways.
I am coming on to what the Secretary of State designate said about considering the case of every internee. There are no cases to be considered. If there were cases to be considered, why have they not resulted in some kind of legal action? Internment has been with us for almost eight months. It is nonsense now to speak of reviewing each case after eight months. Surely everything is known after eight months. Many brave Members of Parliament have stood up, under the privilege of this House—
I seek information. The hon. Gentleman asked why there had been no cases. Will he answer his own question? There have been 240 murders and not one conviction. Can he tell us why?
That is an interesting interjection. The point is that, whoever committed these murders, they have not been caught. If we want to find out all about a man and he is locked behind wire for eight months, surely that provides every possible opportunity of finding out about him. When a man is taken away from his home in the middle of the night, so that he has no time to prepare himself or to cover up incriminating evidence, if there be any, there is every possible opportunity to find out everything about him.
However, excuses are given for not bringing cases. There are allegations of intimidation. That is not a valid argument. Every day in the courts in Northern Ireland people are being sent to prison for 10, 15 or even 20 years. The courts are full; they are jammed. Yet cases are going ahead. So to put up the argument about intimidation is nonsense.
I and most of the minority hold the view that internment is wrong. The British Government may regard it now as an embarrassing blunder, but that is not good enough. It is not enough to say, "We are awfully sorry. We were wrong in 200 cases. We will let those chaps out, but we must hold the rest because we have reason to believe, on information supplied to us"—by a discredited and bigoted Special Branch—"that we must hold them." This is not on. The Government are trying to angle themselves into a position where they can say that the ending of internment is conditional on the ending of violence. That is not on either. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) inadvertently made that point.
It was inadvertent. The minority will not tolerate 900 hostages being held for the good behaviour of those outside. Some people have been in Long Kesh and other places for almost eight months. They cannot and will not be held as hostages for the good behaviour of people outside Long Kesh. In other words, the ending of internment cannot be connected with the ending of violence. The men who have been interned for eight months clearly have not been responsible for any violence. How could they be? Of course, one or two have escaped. I do not know what they have been doing. However, the vast majority of the people inside are under surveillance 24 hours a day, so they cannot be responsible. They cannot and will not be used as hostages in political bargaining. I believe that the Secretary of State designate will discover that that is the attitude of the minority, and I believe it is a right and proper attitude.
If I were to do so in the privilege of Parliament I would be doing what other hon. Members have done. If hon. Members are so convinced that many of the internees are moderates, why not let them go and face the consequences? Then the internees would have some redress, but as we all know they have none. I believe that there are not many, but I will not hazard any guess as I have no positive information.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) refused to give way to me and then to another hon. Member. I was trying to redeem the traditions which had been breached earlier. There is no answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). If the hon. Member believes all that he reads in the paper I cannot be responsible for his beliefs.
Does the hon. Member agree that spokesmen of the I.R.A. have said on occasions since internment was introduced that lieutenants in the organisations have been interned? Does he also agree that whenever anyone escapes from Long Kesh or Crumlin Road Prison he goes to Dublin and proclaims his affiliation to the I.R.A. and takes pride in the terrible work it has carried out in Northern Ireland resulting in death and mutilation?
Does not my hon. Friend recall that the point of this argument is not what people say when they are inside or outside a prison but that by British standards we do not put people inside until we have evidence by which we can show that those people are what we claim they are?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention.
One of the compelling reasons why the Stormont Parliament had to go is bound up with the Special Powers Act. Not only is there that Act but related legislation emerging from the thinking behind it. I challenge contradiction of this. The only legislation which has emanated directly from Stormont in the last two years and which was not prompted from this Parliament was the Public Order Act, with a few Amendments and the Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Bill. It introduced mandatory sentences while the Public Order Act forbade all sorts of demonstrations.
In support of the Amendment and my hon. Friend's speech, I point out that one of the proposals in the laws emanating from Stormont which he may have forgotten has been described as the most reactionary ever to go on a Statute Book. That is the Act referring to collection of debts, whereby they have stolen money won by such organisations as trade unions and organisations, it could be argued, which could be representative of Protestant working-class people. This money has been literally stolen from supplementary benefits and family allowances and it is money which has been paid from taxes and contributions. It was stolen because we went on legitimate rent strikes.
Will the hon. Gentleman admit that it would be better to say honestly that people have withheld their rates and their rents as a protest, and that it is only right that this money should be recouped to the public purse? If people persist in not co-operating this way, there is no other option to be followed. Although many of us do not want to take this action, it has been forced on us, because these same people want to have social benefits, as, indeed, they need them. Is not the attitude—"Give us the social benefits, but we refuse to meet our obligations"—unjustifiable? Will not the hon. Gentleman admit that privileges carry responsibilities?
I am sometimes hopeful that the hon. Gentleman is something of a Socialist, but there he talks like a typical Tory—as if social benefits were a gift from a faceless bureaucrat. They are not. They are what people have earned. They have paid their taxes. Social benefits are not a concession from the State; they are people's due from the State. When the fathers, the brothers, the cousins and the uncles of those interned are released, there will be no problem.
May I interpose a question arising from what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has said? My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) mentioned the question of civil disobedience and the withdrawal of rates, to prove the point that 40 per cent. of the minority have withdrawn their consent to being ruled by the Unionist Party. May I ask the hon. Member, who asked such a pertinent question, whether he agrees that many of those involved in the strikes which have occurred in Northern Ireland over the past two days—which I believe that the hon. Member for Antrim, North condemned yesterday evening in the Chamber—will lose one, two or three days' wages, not because they wanted to support the Vanguard Movement, but because they were intimidated in their employment? Will he agree with me—
On a point of order, Sir Robert. Is it in order for an hon. Member, in an interjection, to pose a series of questions to another hon. Member who does not even have the Floor?
What I was asking related to the question on retaliatory action, which has been put to my hon. Friend. I put this question due to the courtesy of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. Was it not civil disobedience that yesterday and today thousands of people took part in the civil disobedience campaign which I believe that the hon. Member for Antrim, North has condemned? But would he attempt to draw a line of differentiation between those who have involved them selves in rent strikes and rate strikes—
This is going too far altogether. I am not even sure whom the hon. Gentleman is addressing—whether it is me, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), or someone else. All I know is that the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor ought to be allowed to get on with his speech, which a long time ago he said was coming very quickly to an end.
Except for my very good nature and good manners in giving way, it would have come to an end. However, I will bring it quickly to an end now, because the Secretary of State designate, who has a reputation for being a pleasant man, is beginning to look a bit unpleasant, and I do not want to disturb his even temper.
The last thing that I will say is that at the moment a sort of special power is in operation, and that is the ban on public parades. I ask the Secretary of State designate to call off that ban immediately, because it is silly, and it has proved to be unworkable. Yesterday, 100,000 people broke it, and it is simply not on. However, I would warn the right hon. Gentleman that if he lets it run over Easter and then lifts it he will be showing that he is not any better than the man who preceded him because he will be taking a sectarian action, for we all know the significance of Easter and July.
I should like to return to the Bill before us and support the Amendment moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). First of all, I offer my condolences to the right hon. Gentleman who has taken on the mantle of the Secretary of State designate for Northern Ireland. I understand very well the great difficulties that lie before him, and as I have listened to this debate this afternoon and this evening I have realised fully that he will need about six heads in addition to the one he already has in order to solve all the problems that he will face during the next 12 months.
Nevertheless, I believe that the Amendment put down by my hon. and gallant Friend gets at the very kernel of what we are all talking about this evening. One aspect of the Special Powers Act has been debated at great length here. It has been argued, mostly from the benches opposite, that the Special Powers Act has created violence, but the Act was brought in not to create violence but to 'top violence which had already been created by the Irish Republican Army at that time. That must be remembered; it is absolutely true.
When the hon. Gentleman talks about violence and the Special Powers Act being brought in because of and to prevent violence, would he not attempt, historically and objectively, to remember that his Parliament—the one that he now seeks either to defend or to integrate—was brought in simply because the people who supported his ideal, in the face of a democratic decision taken in 1918 by 83 per cent. of the Irish population—with the threat of violence, the promise of violence, and actual violence—created an artificial State?
That is not at all relevant to the point that I am making. All I am saying is that to argue that the removal of these special powers by the right hon. Gentleman who will be taking over responsibility would remove the violence is sheer nonsense. Today's debate was necessary because of the violence brought about in Northern Ireland by the I.R.A. We are conferring on the Secretary of State designate substantial powers, and I would remind him that he is now in the position of head of all the various Ministries which composed the Parliament at Stormont. I know he will have the support of the civil servants but he will have many problems and he must remember that in the end it is the people who matter and not the Parliament. I urge him to look after the interests of the people and of the constituencies in Northern Ireland. Those constituencies will have many problems which would normally be dealt with by their elected Members of Parliament.
The various chiefs of departments will be stood down after the Bill becomes law, and the right hon. Gentleman will need far more than one head to deal with all the problems which will arise. Above all else he should give priority to the problems of the citizens, no matter which side of the fence they belong. The more I listen to the debates and proceedings the more I am convinced—
I can answer the right hon. Gentleman right away. I was elected to the House to represent the constituents of Armagh and I have no intention of resigning my seat—[Interruption.] It is the people who count in the end. [Interruption.]
I will not give way. I want to finish the point. I will not speak for anyone but myself. All I have been asking the right hon. Gentleman to do is to put the people first so that those who now have no local M.P.s can have their problems dealt with most expeditiously by the new Department. The Ulster Unionist M.P.s at Westminster will have their responsibilities, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not refuse to hear from us complaints which would normally go to Stormont but which we will now have to pass on to him.
I could say a lot about what has been said in the debate, but I understand other hon. Members wish to speak on the two important matters, Amendment No. 10 and new Clause 1. By this Bill we are bringing upon ourselves responsibilities of which we are not aware. I make the plea that every effort be made to see that some form—I am not saying which form—of regional Parliament should be re established in Northern Ireland.
I have always stood by the suggestion which I have put forward in the House of Commons on many occasions. I believe that in the future the House of Commons, with the added responsibilities of Northern Ireland, will slowly grind to a halt. Therefore, we have to regionalise. If we cannot revive a regional Parliament at Stormont, parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom will grind to a halt. I am asking my right hon. Friend not only to attend to the problems of the people of Northern Ireland—I know that he will do that—but also to give a lot of attention to the resuscitation of the Parliament at Stormont, and, if he can do that, I ask him for goodness' sake to take the ultimate step and do it directly from the House of Commons.
Perhaps I could observe first to the Secretary of State designate that if he did not know that he had a difficult job, the last five hours will have brought it to his notice.
I concern myself mainly with new Clause 1 and Amendment No. 13, which is very germane and important to the argument in new Clause 1 put down by the Liberal benches. I remind the Committee that although new Clause 1 seeks to do away with the Special Powers Act, new Clause 13 would give powers to the Secretary of State designate to introduce regulations for the preservation of peace and maintenance of order in Northern Ireland.
Before coming to that, with regard to Amendment No. 10, put down by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), the Secretary of State designate has already given assurances that parliamentary scrutiny is to be strengthened, and I hope that he will indicate tonight how he will seek to strengthen scrutiny in this respect. Overall, from this side of the House, we support the temporary powers that are given to the right hon. Gentleman, but the whole matter of parliamentary scrutiny is one to which we shall have increasingly to put our minds.
In the Second Reading debate I argued that one of the things that marks out Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom is that it has a permanent Special Powers Act. That is not so for the rest of the United Kingdom; it is for historic reasons in Northern Ireland. One finds other things as well when looking at legislation. For example, there are differences in trade union legislation in Northern Ireland as compared with this country. The major aspect that we are dealing with in this group of Amendments is that of the Special Powers Acts. These Acts, which are permanent, need examination. So that we get it right—because what matters tonight is what the right hon. Gentleman says about this—yesterday evening my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said:
I therefore make a firm request to the Minister to re-examine the existing special powers and to come to a conclusion on how many of them are needed. I ask that he should justify their need in the course of a White Paper. We will give him time to review this matter and publish his conclusions in due course so that Parliament can take its own view on these matters. We all find these powers repulsive, we none of us want them, but the Government must be given the opportunity of making their case on them before we come to a final conclusion.
In winding up, the Attorney-General, said:
With regard to the special powers review and the Special Powers Act, of which many right hon. and hon. Members have spoken, my right hon. Friend wants to make it clear that he intends not only to review the case of each and every person who is now interned under the Special Powers Act, but he also intends to review the whole operation of the Act and of the regulations."—[Official Report, 28th March, 1972; Vol. 834, c. 253–363.]
Tonight we seek more information from the right hon. Gentleman on this matter.
I have here, on the question of the Special Powers Act, a document called "Reconstruction", put forward by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. It had this to say:
The Committee recognises that a democratic state requires powers to protect the security and the liberty of its citizens. Legislation appropriate to this purpose, which is in accord with the international obligations
entered into by the United Kingdom Government, and which protects the principle of innocence until guilt is proven, should, without delay, take the place of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act N.I. 1922, which is in conflict with internationally accepted standards of justice and human rights.
The trade unions of Northern Ireland are not asking that there shall be no legislation, but they are asking that the permanent Special Powers Act shall be removed.
On behalf of the Liberal Party, the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) has moved new Clause 1, and the major Amendment that goes with it is Amendment No. 13, which also stands in the names of Liberal Members. Under these proposals, after removing the Special Powers Act the Government would have power to make regulations. These would not be made under the Special Powers Act but would be brought to the House in the manner to which we are accustomed, and would be justified to the House. It is important that that point should be made clear.
Time and again in this debate hon. Members opposite have concentrated on the Special Powers Act. None of them has referred to the fact that in Amendment No. 13 the Liberal Party has put forward a proposal whereby, if there were need for powers to deal with security, they could be made available, but in the way suggested. The Liberal Members do not simply say that we should remove the Special Powers Act; they ask, first, for removal of the permanent legislation and then for new legislation to come before the House. There is a difficulty. This Bill is unlike the Northern Ireland Act which, on an issue which merited longer discussion, was recently rushed through in one day. This Bill is the last-resort legislation which gives power to the right hon. Gentleman to take over the rôle of Stormont. It is not dealing with special powers except in so far as he takes over all the powers which up to now have been exercised by Stormont.
There is a gap in time until Parliament reassembles after Easter. If we passed only new Clause 1 the regulations could not be made until we reassembled. The hon. Member for Cornwall, North is aware of this. He is concerned with the principle involved. It is a technical and difficult problem. It raises problems for all those in Ulster—Northern Ireland, to be more precise—for whom the right hon. Gentleman and Parliament would be responsible from the moment this Bill is passed. Those of us who are asking the police and the Army to act on our behalf should be very much aware of this fact. This is, however, a line of approach which could be followed. In my view it should not be done quickly. But I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the argument that has been put forward on this side of the Committee in the spirit in which it was made. We are not seeking merely to remove the Special Powers Act and leave a blank.
The right hon. Gentleman has to create, and I know he wants to create, a new situation. The Special Powers Act in its present form is a symbol in Northern Ireland. Even when one goes there for the first time it marks them out from the rest of the United Kingdom. Symbols of this type are best removed and we would be interested in the right hon. Gentleman's wider thoughts on this. I cannot expect him to commit himself in detail this evening, but can he tell us what sort of procedures he has in mind for the House? What timing has he in mind for the Special Powers Act as a whole?
I presume that if and when he takes action on internment his powers will be taken from the Bill that we are now discussing. I have here a copy of a regulation passed in 1970 in the Stormont Parliament dealing with public processions and meetings, Regulation No. 198 of 1970. There is a long list under the Special Powers Act, and we heard the worst of them earlier. In the last Administration at one point of time, I think properly, marches were stopped. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman will put his mind to this part of the Special Powers Act. It may be that as part of this change of opinion which the right hon. Gentleman seeks to bring about perhaps the traditional parades could be allowed once more.
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that in the House the attitude has been adopted that by stopping various parades peace would prevail? Over Easter there will be marches involving the minority and traditional parades involving the Loyalist organisations. Does he not think that it would be a good time for a gesture from the Secretary of State designate to take action on what is common ground in the House and to allow these traditional parades to go on? I should like to see all the parades going on, but let us start with the traditional parades.
The marches are not banned under the Special Powers Act but under the Public Order Act. There is a great difference. I agree with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) when he says that there will be traditional marches on the Republican and the Loyalist sides. I understand that the Secretary of State designate may be visiting Northern Ireland. If he allows the Easter marches to proceed it is almost certain that he will have to allow the Loyalist marches. If he permits one, he must permit all the others to take place. I suggest that my hon. Friend makes a plea to the Secretary of State designate to call off this ban.