Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland (Visit)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1972.

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Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Bristol North East

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement following his recent official visit to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent official visit to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Dr Gerard Vaughan Dr Gerard Vaughan , Reading

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent official visit to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent official visit to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Norman Lamont Mr Norman Lamont , Kingston upon Thames

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on his official visit to Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I would refer the hon. Gentlemen to the answer which I gave in reply to a similar Question on 21st November from my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder).—[Vol. 846, c. 379–80.]

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire

Bearing in mind the developments since then, will the right hon. Gentleman apprise himself of the numbers of sectarian murders in Northern Ireland and the steps that the security forces, with the police, are taking to bring to book the people who perpetrate these crimes? Secondly, has he apprised himself of the nature of the sophisticated weapons that are now being used in Northern Ireland, and particularly the sources of the funds by which these weapons are purchased? What steps does he intend to take with the Governments of the countries who are assisting in the supply of these funds so as to prevent it?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, Sir; I discussed both these matters and apprised myself of the situation. In particular, on the second one, of course, we have known that there was always the risk of weapons of this kind being used. As the House was told yesterday, we have captured one of them. A large number of the markings have been erased and matters are now being studied to see whether it is possible to pin down precisely the origin of this weapon. The House has also been told many times of what we have done internationally to try to intercept any supplies of arms which may have been bought. The Amsterdam case was the most notable of these. As for sources of money, it is always difficult to pin down a source of money which is going to the IRA in the Republic itself; obviously, we have great difficulty in doing that.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Bristol North East

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that in the light of recent events, including the Stephenson affair and the Russian missiles, there is the greatest possible need for the closest integrated action between the British and Irish Governments to combat what is clearly the common enemy of both?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

Yes, Sir, I would agree with that. Certainly, my predecessor, when Prime Minister, and I myself, have always held the view, which we have publicly and privately expressed, that there was a danger not only to Northern Ireland but also to the Republic itself from the activities of those who were using violence.

Photo of Mr Robert Redmond Mr Robert Redmond , Bolton West

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that in view of the measures being taken by Mr. Lynch, which are much stronger than they have been in the past, there is now a greater opportunity for co-operation and for co-ordination of the security forces of both the Republic and the United Kingdom, to the mutual benefit of both? Are not both countries now shown to be under attack not from a religious or political point of view but from a purely ideological point of view?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I entirely agree with the last part of that question. Co-operation has always been forthcoming from the United Kingdom Government and from this side of the border.

Photo of Mr Patrick Duffy Mr Patrick Duffy , Sheffield, Attercliffe

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his first major speech after arriving in Northern Ireland was both courageous and welcome? But does it not now call for action on the ground? Is he satisfied with the action taken this week by Mr. Jack Lynch? Does he not think that Mr. Lynch may be able to hold to that course of action only if the Prime Minister undertakes corresponding moves north of the border against the UDF and those who think and act like them?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

The situation in Northern Ireland is that the security forces, including the police, take action wherever crimes are found. I myself have explained this to Mr. Lynch and have given him the figures of the number of cases brought involving both Catholics and Protestants. At the moment, there are at least three of the present or former members of the UDA Council themselves under charges, and many members of the UDA as well. This is a convincing answer to those who say that the forces only operate—[An HON. MEMBER: "As many as three?"] Three of the top council itself and many members of the UDA. This is a convincing argument that the security forces are dealing impartially with anyone found committing crimes.

Photo of Dr Gerard Vaughan Dr Gerard Vaughan , Reading

I welcome the much firmer line being taken in the south as well as the north. Is this not in part due to the success of our security forces, and in part to the very firm line which my right hon. Friend took on his recent visit to Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I do not think that I wish to comment on the events in the Republic or the action taken by the Prime Minister of Eire. These are internal matters of the Republic, and, of course, the Prime Minister of Eire takes responsibility for them.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

Did the right hon. Gentleman learn of the new proposal of the provisional IRA for a truce while he was in Northern Ireland or since, and what is his view of it?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I heard nothing of this while I was in Northern Ireland. What has happened is that various people have come to us who are not themselves members of either branch of the IRA, saying that they had information that the Provisionals wanted a truce. Obviously, the people concerned have felt it their responsibility to pass it on to officials whom they contacted. That is the way in which any information has come to us.

Photo of Mr Stanley McMaster Mr Stanley McMaster , Belfast East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the IRA have killed, with bomb, bullet or rocket, over 650 people, including 100 members of Her Majesty's Forces, in the past three years? When will he correct the scandal whereby members of the IRA can have functions in England and walk about freely collecting money to buy these rockets from Russia?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I am well aware of the difficulties which my hon. Friend quotes. That is why this Government, like our predecessors, have been so determined to try to deal with violence. As for action in this country, if it is against the law, action will be taken about it, but in this part of the United Kingdom, we have no law which outlaws particular political parties or groups of people. Neither do we have any evidence that money collected here is going to Iron Curtain countries for the purposes that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Just so that the wrong figures do not get on the record, would the Prime Minister not confirm that the figures are even worse than his hon. hon. Friend said, in that, from Government sources yesterday, we heard with deep regret of the death of the 100th regular Serviceman within this year, not within the last three years, which makes it worse? On the second point made by the right hon. Gentleman, about political parties, could he confirm that political uniforms as well as unauthorised military uniforms are illegal in Northern Ireland, yet they are being flaunted every day?

Photo of Mr Edward Heath Mr Edward Heath , Bexley

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the first part of what he said. In his second question, he touched on a very important point. It always comes back to the definition accepted by the courts of what is an illegal uniform. The right hon. Gentleman himself recognised some of the difficulties which arise in that connection.