I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The object of the Bill is to deal with a serious problem involving the safe custody of young people who have been charged with terrorist offences in Northern Ireland. Provision must be made for them until they can be brought to trial and after trial while they are awaiting sentence.
The participation of young people in Northern Ireland in the disturbances has followed a pattern. Hon. Members will remember, and some will have seen, in the early stage of the civil troubles young people—boys and girls—throwing stones at soldiers and members of the security forces. That behaviour progressed to the stage at which the young people were practised in carrying guns and bombs to members of the terrorist organisations for their use. Subsequently, as the security forces became more effective and some of the older members of the terrorist organisations were rounded up, young people were themselves using those guns and bombs, and they were trained to that end.
While young people became more and more involved in serious aspects of the troubles, the legal controls and institutions available to deal with them remained much as they had been prior to 1968. Juvenile deliquency in Northern Ireland before the start of the troubles was somewhat less than it was in the generality of the United Kingdom. Crimes of violence at that time amongst young people were a rarity.
Under the Children and Young Persons Act (Northern Ireland) 1968, juvenile courts are empowered to deal with all criminal offences, other than murder, involving juveniles under the age of seventeen. Murder can be dealt with only by a higher court on indictment, but juvenile courts may deal with all other indictable offences provided the young person and the prosecution agree. In practice, this means that in the past the vast majority of cases involving juveniles have been dealt with in the lower court.
There, the chief consideration governing court proceedings involving juveniles is the welfare of the young people involved. Bail was granted if at all possible. If for any reason the court considered it undesirable to grant bail, the young person could be remanded in custody to a remand home. The young person could be remanded to a prison if the court certified that he was unruly or depraved to the point at which he was unsuitable for detention in a remand home.
The courts in Northern Ireland have taken the view that in determining whether a young person is unruly or depraved they should not take into account the cur- rent charge. Thus, a young person charged with murdering or attempting to murder a soldier, for example, would not have that aspect taken into account by the court in deciding whether there were grounds for saying that he was unruly or depraved. He may well have been a person of impeccable conduct up to that point.
As young persons became involved in terrorist offences and were charged for the first time, the courts remanded them to remand homes. When the terrorism began there were no establishments in the Province which functioned exclusively as remand homes. There were four training schools, two for boys and two for girls, two Protestant and two Roman Catholic, which had been developed on similar lines to approved schools in the rest of the United Kingdom. Those schools doubled as remand homes. They were open institutions and were not secure. They provided a range of educational, social and recreational facilities which were mobilised for programmes aimed at rehabilitating young offenders. The staff of the establishments were there primarily to assist with that process of rehabilitation.
In the circumstances, absconsions were inevitable, but before 1968 it did not seem to matter a great deal because the schools were fully supported by the community and absconders were usually quickly and easily recovered, as they had no sanctuary to which to turn. That was the situation which the Diplock Commission found in 1972.
A growing number of young people were being sent to remand homes charged with offences which, if they were proved, would be likely to attract lengthy prison sentences. This put great pressure on the young people concerned to abscond. The terrorist organisations to which the young people had given their allegiance applied pressure on them to abscond and to continue to fight. Parts of the community to which the young person returned were in sympathy with the cause for which he claimed to be fighting and sanctuary was widely available. There was a process of intimidation to ensure that his sanctuary was not revealed.
The Diplock Commission recommended that a secure remand home be set up with the utmost urgency. Plans based on approved school experience in England were implemented in the form of premises hurriedly acquired for the purpose. The new school at Lisnevin, which I believe several hon. Members have visited, was set up. Apart from its security features, it is unusual in that the management boards of the existing schools agreed to come together to run it jointly on interdenominational lines. That was a wise and intelligent decision and, given the background of the Province, it was a courageous decision which is deserving of the utmost credit by the House.
However, the school at Lisnevin had been open for only 26 days when three boys were taken from it by two adults who, with one of the boys who was given a gun, held the staff at gunpoint and tied them up before making good their escape. As it happened, the alarm system proved to be effective, and the three boys and one of the adults were taken into custody at a road block 20 minutes after the escape was effected. It was only by the greatest good fortune that members of the staff and other boys at the school were not injured or killed during the incident. After the two adults had held up some members of the staff, other members of the staff and boys arrived at the school and were added to the captive party. Tension built up and there were loaded guns. Hon. Members will readily understand the dangerous possibilities of the situation.
I am satisfied that to try to make a remand home secure to the degree that is necessary would make it impossible for it to function as a remand home. Apart from anything else, the staff there believe that they should devote themselves to rehabilitating boys and for them to have to devote a considerable amount of their time to sheer security would remove a large part of the incentive for doing their job from them and would undermine the whole concept of the school.
There are some figures I should like to give the House. Since 1st August 1973, when the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 came into force, 39 boys charged with terrorist or scheduled offences, listed in Schedule 4 of the Act, have absconded a total of 66 times from ordinary remand homes. Of those 66 absconsions, three were charged with murder, two with attempted murder, 21 with the possession of firearms—it might be in a particularly violent background—two with armed robbery, five with causing explosions, one with intimidation, one with membership of an illegal organisation, one with possesion of illegal documents and three with riotous behaviour. Of the 39 boys who absconded, 13 are still at large. Of that number still at large two have been charged with murder, 10 with the possession of firearms, and one with intimidation.
That sort of situation cannot be allowed to continue. There is a tremendous burden placed on our security forces who very often arrest young terrorists, at great personal risk to their life and limb, who are brought before the courts. Possibly within 24 or 48 hours the young offender is back on the street carrying on the pattern of activities which led to his being seized in the first place.
Would the Minister say what percentage the figure of 39 represents of young persons charged with these offences? Second, how many of these 26 people who then returned were recaptured and charged with subsequent offences committed while they had absconded?
I will ask the House for permission to reply to the debate. I shall endeavour to obtain those figures for my hon. Friend.
In the circumstances which I have been describing, the machinery of justice and the rule of law is obviously brought into disrepute and the lives of the remand home staff are put at risk as I have described in the Lisnevin case. The young absconder's life is put at risk because he attracts again the attention of the security forces. He may, for good or bad reasons, sometimes be regarded by those in the sanctuary to which he escapes as a possible informer against the terrorist organisations, and the results of that are obvious. He may involve himself in further terrorist activities, with the result that he gets killed, not necessarily by the security forces.
For example, one of the young people who escaped from the remand centre took part in an attack on the Royal Ulster Constabulary at Pomeroy. He endeavoured to prime a grenade, which blew up in the process, and he was killed. There are a number of dangers.
The Government and Parliament have a moral responsibility, first to the security forces, secondly to the staff of the normal remand homes in Northern Ireland, thirdly to the young persons—we must never regard them as totally beyond recall and must do our best to rehabilitate them—and fourthly to the community at large.
We have considered whether the best course might net be to amend the Children and Young Persons Act to enable the courts to remand to prison when they are satisfied that the gravity of the charge makes it undesirable for the young person to be held in any other establishment. This would have the merits of leaving the matter entirely in the hands of the appropriate court. However, the decision as to where a young terrorist can be most safely held on remand may turn on security considerations and intelligence information of a kind which cannot be adduced before a court, though we are not considering whether somebody should be detained on remand or not. That has already been decided. We are trying to decide the type of detention that the young person should under. The court of law cannot be expected to base its decision on information from sources which cannot be disclosed to it. On balance, therefore, we have decided that the Secretary of State should assume this responsibility as an administrative decision, basically within the terms of the Bill before the House.
The Bill is not long. Clause 1 defines the young person to whom it applies and gives the Secretary of State power to give direction. The definition of "young person" in Clause 1(1) and (2) is that he must be over 14 years of age and under 17. He must be charged with a scheduled—that is, a terrorist—offence under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973. I do not think I need list those offences. Most Members, as a result of their experience with problems in the Province, know precisely what they are. But the Bill does not say that the Secretary of State "must" direct that young persons charged with these offences are to be held in prison rather than a remand home, only that he "may" do so. It is a question of the judgment of the Secretary of State as to the appropriate form of detention in considering the record and circumstances of the young terrorist. Clause 1(5) allows the direction to be varied or revoked.
Clause 2 is concerned with the duration of the direction. The effect is that if the young person is still on remand in custody or awaiting trial after two months, the direction will have to be reviewed. That means that the original period for the direction is one of two months. If the Secretary of State thinks that it is still needed, he can continue it. If not, it will expire. I should emphasise that the direction does nothing to lengthen or shorten the time that the young person is remanded or awaiting trial. It is concerned only with the place in which he is held, that is, whether he should be held in a security prison rather than in what is in effect an open, non-secure remand home. He will appear regularly before the court at the normal eight-day or fourteen-day intervals until committed.
Clause 3 deals with the direction, expiry and renewal, if necessary, of the Secretary of State's powers under the Bill. This Bill, if it becomes an Act, will be a temporary measure only. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced earlier this year that the Government would have to renew the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973 for a further period, and an order giving effect to this has been laid before the House today. This extends the duration of that Act for a further six months until 24th January 1975, which is the same period as that proposed for the young offender provisions. Unless there are further orders extending the Emergency Provisions Act, the young offenders' provisions will fall on 24th January 1975, so we are only asking for a limited period of time in which this may operate.
Clause 3 provides that the orders extending, ending or renewing the Bill shall be subject to the affirmative resolution of this House. That is another safeguard. It is not one of the orders that will carry on unless someone in the House objects to it. It is an order which has to be affirmatively approved by this House before it continues in effect.
There is an urgency procedure for the Young Persons Bill parallel to the simililar provisions in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, so that if the Act or some of its provisions were to be discontinued or reintroduced by the emergency procedure, it would be possible to take the same course we are considering this evening.
The House will want to know that the appropriate arrangements have been made for young persons committed on remand in the security prison. That has been uppermost in our minds in considering this legislation. We have arranged for the construction of a new juvenile wing on the ground floor of the hospital building in the Belfast Prison. Juveniles awaiting trial there are completely segregated from other prisoners. It it is not for all practical purposes part of the same establishment. It is to a considerable extent cut off. Special arrangements are made to provide for separate exercise facilities, educational programmes and liberal visiting facilities. Knowing the importance which the House attaches to this accommodation, the Government invited hon. Members from both sides of the House to see these new arrangements. So far as I am aware, they are reasonably satisfied that they are suitable for young people.
The Government devoted much thought to whether this Bill was essential. We would not have introduced it if we had thought it was not essential, but clearly we have come to the conclusion that the existing arrangements for the remanding of young people are not sufficiently secure to deal with the small class of very young people who have been involved in terrorist activities and who after arrest take every conceivable opportunity to get away from the hands of the authorities. We are reluctantly driven to accept the solution which we are proposing in the Bill as the only practicable one to the problem faced by our security forces, the public, and indeed young people themselves, in Northern Ireland at the present time. I hope that the House will give a Second Reading to this modest but necessary measure.
I wish to begin by congratulating the Minister of State on his appointment to the Northern Ireland Office. It is not a job that everybody would want to have, but I assure him we wish him well. It is agreeable to be able to go on to say that we accept the case for the Bill and, indeed, the arguments advanced by the Minister a few moments ago.
I noticed that the Irish Times when referring to this legislation had the headline
Bill to Jail Young People Introduced".
Although that is true so far as it goes, it could lead to misapprehensions—unless there is a public awareness of the particularly difficult background which the Minister has described and which has rendered this measure so imperative. I believe that that sort of headline could lead, though I very much hope it will not, to an emotive campaign in certain quarters. We have become familiar with the way in which, by means of propaganda, the best of intentions are given an entirely different appearance. This factor must be borne in mind as we examine the Bill.
One the face of it, sending boys to Crumlin Road Prison, even though they will be segregated from the adults there, might appear to some people to be at variance with our policy elsewhere, particularly our policy in dealing with young people in this country.
Several hon. Members, including myself, recently had the opportunity to examine the situation in Northern Ireland in regard to young people. The visit was made possible by Lord Donaldson. No reasonable person who saw what we saw and who examined the arrangements would argue that the Government of Northern Ireland have an easy choice or, indeed, that they had anything other than the option of choosing this course. Perhaps in the light of our experience there I ought to add a few words to the Minister's remarks and to give my views on the situation.
We begin with the appalling fact that one of the consequences of the last five years has been to draw a considerable number of juveniles not simply into violence, disorder and destruction but into organised murder. Lord Diplock dealt rather graphically with this matter in chapter 9 of his report. which appeared in December 1973 under the heading "Young terrorists." In particular it is worth reminding the public of that paragraph, which read as follows:
The Provisional IRA has frequently used boys aged 14 to 16 to carry out a series of acts of terrorism. Such youths have been
known to shoot with intent to kill and to plant lethal explosives. So long as these are at liberty they are a direct menace to human life.
The Province was totally unprepared to deal with that contingency. The regime has primarily involved training schools, and the tradition of the Catholic schools has insisted on virtually open establishments. This is not simply a matter of tradition. To apply what we would regard as adequate security in these establishments, certainly where they are within Roman Catholic communities, would provoke trouble with the community and also with the staff.
Lord Diplock and his colleagues were appalled by the lack of urgency in providing something more secure at least for "scheduled" offenders, and they made certain recommendations. As I understand the situation—perhaps the Minister will confirm this when he replies—the programme of building which the Diplock Report caused to be put in hand is not likely to result in anything which can be of much use before 1977. In other words, before 1977 we shall not have any establishment other than the places we already have. In view of the obstacles which might be placed in the way of such establishments by the community, even 1977 might be an optimistic date.
We have been sending young terrorists to open training centres from which the rate of absconding has proved indefensibly high. The Minister gave some figures, and I shall give a few figures which do not controvert this. The surprising thing to me is not that the Army is now anxious to take firm measures but that the Army has been patient for so long. It falls to the Army to gather in young terrorists, and we can only imagine the feelings of young soldiers who see at large in the streets youths who not very long ago were found guilty of attempted murder.
My figures show that between December 1973 and May 1974 there were 42 absconders, who between them had absconded 99 times. Some had been rearrested as often as four times and a small proportion are still on the run. Those figures are difficult to argue against, but at this point in my remarks I should like to enter a word of defence in respect of the training centres. Naturally they emerge rather badly from this picture because they are not adequate for the purpose with which we are now concerned, but it is not their fault that they are being found totally unsuitable for some of the cases which are brought to them.
The failure lies elsewhere, and I hope that in supporting this measure we are not seen indirectly to be undermining the high standing in the Province enjoyed by those establishments. In fact they are striving to maintain the kind of regime which offers the only prospect of rehabilitating some of these boys. Many of the boys come from disrupted homes and often from difficult backgrounds. They have grown up in the wilderness created since 1968 and their future chances are dismayingly small. The problem of rehabilitating some of the boys who now find themselves in training centres is among the most formidable confronting the Province under any dispensation.
I add, because it is relevant to the Bill, that we should be thinking now rather more about how this wider task is to be tackled. Unless we do that, it could undermine all our attempts to restore peace and order in the Province. Some of these boys have been apprenticed to lawlessness. Apart from security establishments, are we thinking about what should be done for their future? Are we thinking about community service, about foster homes and about sponsorship schemes for them? We are dealing here with detention, but it is right to dwell upon the enormous importance of prevention and the fact that it is allied to what we are discussing.
Returning to this measure, I wish to ask the Minister one or two questions. The first concerns the Lisnevin training centre near Newtownards which some of us saw. At the moment it is divided between an assessment section for about 20 boys and a secure unit for 20. Is the secure unit there to be maintained when the arrangements in what I have called the Crumlin Road annexe are in working order? I understand that the Crumlin Road annexe on the hospital floor will take about 17. Do we go on with Lisnevin as it now is?
I ask the question because it is clear that the present role of Lisnevin puts both the place and the staff at some risk. It is a focal point for attack, and it has suffered such an attack. This is bound to exacerbate the staffing problem there. It seemed to me that the assessment unit was doing important work. It is extremely important that there should be no staffing problems. To what extent will the work being done there go over to Crumlin Road?
I ask the Minister, second, by what criteria will the Secretary of State exercise his discretion in distinguishing, as he will have to do, between the hardened and the adventurous cases? That was the distinction which Lord Diplock made in his report. In a sense, it is the basis for this Bill. It will not be easily implemented. I hope that we shall hear a little more about it.
The third question occurred to me after seeing the ground floor of the hospital block which has been converted for these boys and where they will be kept apart from adult offenders. Let us suppose that in the already overcrowded Crumlin Road Prison there is an epidemic or an outbreak of sickness, which is always possible, and then a call for the full use of the capacity of the hospital block. A problem will arise. There are very few people in the Crumlin Road Prison who can transfer to a hospital which is not secure, and the block has been almost irretrievably converted to the use of the boys. This may seem a detail, but very strange things have happened in the prison and it is always worth looking ahead.
More generally, I hope that before the end of the debate we shall have an assurance from the Government that this measure is seen and accepted as only a small stop-gap measure for a specific purpose, essential though it is, towards a much wider and very serious situation. As Lord Diplock and his colleagues testified at the time, all this has arisen because there was a total failure to look ahead and to provide for future needs. That has to be accepted. It will take a very long time in Northern Ireland, just as it took in this country, to implement any steps now thought out for the future of these young boys. When I say that, I am not talking about detention. I am talking about rehabilitation. It will take a long time to clothe adequately any ideas that the Government of Northern Ireland may have to meet this enormously important problem.
We in this country suffer acutely—probably more in this sphere than in any other—from the fact that in penal matters our administration always lags behind our ideas. We have ideas. We pass Acts of Parliament in this House. Years later we find that we have failed to give administrative backing to the ideas that we have set in motion. That failure in this context could impede our efforts to restore peace and order in the Province. This element will be crucial in the restoration of peace and order.
In giving this measure a fair wind, we have to realise that factor now, and, the Bill apart, we have to act on that realisation.
I address myself to begin with to the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I was struck by the fact that he started his speech by telling us gloomily that this measure was bound to be misinterpreted. He went on to read a headline from the Irish Times saying that this was a "Bill to gaol young people".
I find it strange that the right hon. Gentleman should think it surprising that the Bill should be misinterpreted. All these measures are bound to be misinterpreted. Nothing is more certain. We have reached the situation where whatever my hon. Friend the Minister does, as an Englishman and as a man from Westminster, it will not be right. After five years we have reached the position where the English and the Scots can do nothing right in Ireland. I say to the right hon. Member for Ashford that of course the Bill will be misinterpreted by those who want to misinterpret it.
We have to show a greater curiosity about the background against which we are passing this measure. I was struck by the attitude to this place on going to Ireland. Just after the announcement had been made of our recall for 3rd and 4th June, young people made it clear that they regarded it as a triumph that Parliament had been recalled. "Brought you back", they said; "cut short your holiday". It was not a means to an end. It was an end in itself. Their frame of mind was such that they thought they had established a victory.
Then they said, "We brought Ted Heath back from China early". The fact that they had done the Leader of the Opposition out of a quite hard three-day fact-finding visit to Hong Kong again was represented as a triumph. Something had been achieved. They had done something to him. They had got something out of their system.
Having mentioned the Leader of the Opposition, I had better mention the Prime Minister. It was a considerable achievement that they had brought an overworked Prime Minister back from his much-deserved holiday in the Scilly Isles in order to debate Ireland, and in order to take notice of them.
I may be asked how I know about it. I have two minor advantages. The first is that I am not an Englishman. I have a Celtic heart, and I understand certain gut reactions. Second, it is perhaps an advantage that, unlike some of my hon. Friends who have sweated away for years on the affairs of Ireland and become terribly internal Irishmen, I come to the problem relatively fresh. It is along these lines that I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on achieving his ministerial post, because he too comes to the matter with a relatively fresh mind. That, in my opinion, is an enormous advantage.
I was a bit dismayed to hear my hon. Friend talk of the "only practicable solution". It may be that this is the only practicable solution as long as a British military presence has responsibility for certain matters in Northern Ireland. But a whole set of different assumptions, which it may be out of order for me to go into tonight, might lead to a different attitude towards a British military presence and involvement and, in consequence, remand institutions.
I am extremely concerned about the next generation in Ulster. I am sure that the House will acquit me of being callous about the matter. I happen to care very much. If I have called for the withdrawal of the British Army at a few clays' notice from a given time—not necessarily now; this may not be the right time—it is not out of callousness and a could-not-care-less attitude about the Irish but out of a cold reality, as I see it, of what is best.
I should like to be personal for a few moments. In 1961 I was deputy director of studies on the British India ship school "Dunera". In that experience I formed the highest regard for the pupils who came from the North of Ireland. They were extremely well-behaved and their work and attitude were good. One could not find nicer kids anywhere than the kind of intake that the "Dunera" used to take at Bangor.
My hon. Friend pointed out that juvenile delinquency in Northern Ireland before the trouble started was less than anywhere in the United Kingdom. I quite believe that, because the attitude displayed by the kids whom I knew was excellent. I cannot speak highly enough of them. I suspect that Ulster kids are like kids anywhere.
Many of us shudder to think how the next generation will grow up. When such things happen as are happening at a highly impressionable age, what effect do they have on the next generation?
I was struck by the phrase used by the right hon. Member for Ashford that these youngsters were now "apprenticed to lawlessness". That was a marvellous phrase. I have not heard it used before. But that is the situation. It is new in Western Europe.
My other credential for speaking is that I have talked in depth to returning members of the British Army, not only my constituents. Time and again soldiers say "If these were my bairns, what would I do?" There is a feeling among soldiers that these youngsters might be their own but for the grace of God. Not only visiting politicians but the more sensitive members of the British Army are concerned about what is happening to this generation of youngsters. Therefore, there is the greatest cause for concern.
My hon. Friend referred to children throwing stones. We have heard stories of soldiers on sentry duty having water passed on their trousers by ten-year-olds. Much of this kind of behaviour is encouraged and egged on by parents.
This problem goes beyond Northern Ireland. Many people on this side of the water are becoming extremely worried about youngsters, as a result of what they see on the national television news, being inoculated against violence because it becomes part of their lives. Therefore, from the point of view not only of Northern Ireland but of people on this side of the water, something must he done, and done soon, about the whole atmosphere of violence that is developing.
Are we sure that this is the right road? We are proposing to establish more detention centres. I do not suppose that my hon. Friend has had time yet to visit the women's prison at Armagh, but my visit to that establishment had a traumatic effect which hit me between the eyes. I am not criticising the governor or the staff. I saw girls being shut up in an early-nineteenth century prison in conditions where, again through no fault of the staff, they were all cooped together in little rooms off the main part of the prison with little or nothing to do, other than the cooking and the washing, but laze around.
All I know is that if I were a parent or a visitor I would have a burning sense of resentment about that, and that would be a natural gut reaction. I am under no illusions. Some of those girls may have a bad record and may have helped to burn down a good deal of the city of Belfast. Once one sets up that kind of centre, however, one had better be careful that one does not reap a whirlwind.
Having mentioned Armagh I would like to say—and not only as he is here—how very much I enjoyed a delightful day with the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), who gave up his time to take my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. East (Mr. Lamond) and me round his constituency. May I say in parenthesis that those who have had the good fortune to go round and see things for themselves may have a very different view from that of a great many people who are laying down what ought to be done about the situation in Northern Ireland without having set foot there.
I wonder how some of my colleagues can be so dogmatic about what happens in Northern Ireland but when I ask gently "Have you ever been there?" they tell me "No". That happens with intelligent people. I have a colleague who often sits on this bench who shall be nameless, an expert on finance and housing and a very careful man who never makes a silly speech, but he pontificated with an air of certainty on Ireland such as I have about few subjects. What happens to people? It is very strange that people should be so certain about what should be done in Ireland without ever having set foot in the place. This creates a great deal of difficulty.
I have a request to make to my hon. Friend the Minister. I hope that he himself will go there with plenty of time, more time than I had, actually to talk to these young people in the women's prisons in Armagh and Long Kesh. I would also like him to take with him a senior, well-respected director of education or chief education officer from England or Scotland. I would also like taken with him a senior social worker, a heavyweight who is respected. I am neither a professional chief education officer nor a director of social work, but as a former teacher in a comprehensive school I really was appalled to see these girls of from 17 to 18 up to 25 years old, some of them I suspect with a mental age of 14 or 15, who might have been my pupils 15 years ago before the raising of the school leaving age. I would like my hon. Friend to see them all cooped up in these conditions. As a professional educator I cannot imagine that this serves any good purpose for them or the society that put them there.
If I had been a relative or visitor I would have revolted against this and my gut reaction would have been to go and do something to the English. In matters of this kind I regard myself as a fairly relaxed man, but if it had that effect on me what kind of effect does it have in Ireland? I know because I saw some of the people waiting to get into Long Kesh to visit their relatives. What effect does it have when there are mothers with babes in arms who are really angry at what has happened? All this has to be taken into account. I hope that before we make up our minds too much on policy my hon. Friend will go and talk to these people in a relaxed manner, as he would talk as a constituency Member of Parliament, because he might then get a very different view from that which has obtained so far in the Northern Ireland Office.
I wonder too how many civil servants—on the whole I am a very pro-Civil Service person—have actually had this kind of experience. It is one thing being here or in Whitehall. It is quite another thing to be where the action is taking place.
I do not know too much of the details of what she may or may not have done, but I was struck when I went to the women's prison to hear from Miss Hickey, who was the spokeswoman for the Provisional IRA. The first thing she said—my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East, who is PPS to the Minister of State, was present as a witness—was "Now, of course, if Ian Paisley was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, that would be all right by us." I may be told to take that with a great pinch of salt. I may be very naive about this, but it is striking that she actually said this.
I hope that my hon. Friend will be curious about what makes these people tick. On the whole people do not do this sort of reckless and destructive thing without some kind of rationale behind it, strange though the rationale may be to us, the inmates of Westminster.
I come to the set-up of the visiting commissioners. This is not the time or place for me to go into a letter which the Secretary of State wrote to me about the case of Miss McKee. It seems exceedingly unsatisfactory that this person should have been held for many months without a formal court order. I know that the commissioners have visited, but this is not quite the point. We have to take into account the sense of grievance that can be exaggerated, inside and outside that place. What worries me about the Bill is that it builds up the sense of grievance that has been growing over the last few years.
The Minister of State says to me "Oh, yes, but it was a Labour Government which sent the troops, with Conservative support, in 1969." I defy any hon. Member to suggest that they would have sent the Army in the role of a peace force to Northern Ireland if they could have foreseen at the time it was done that it would be five long years and more before it could be extricated. As I understood it, when we were in opposition and in government, this was an emergency operation which would last six months or at the most a year. That was the understanding of most of us at that time. It is a different set of circumstances now.
I was much perturbed when I visited Long Kesh. We have there another institution. There are miles of netting. It is on a sizeless scale which most hon. Members simply do not realise. It is entirely to our discredit, and I take as much discredit as anyone, that when we were told about Long Kesh by my hon. Friends the Members for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), for too long we sat here bored, thinking They are on about Ireland again." We should have paid far more attention to them.
Anyone who goes to Long Kesh will be struck by the fact that we are running a prisoner-of-war camp. It is modelled on Stalag 9. Why the English should suppose that their prisoner-of-war camps are any better than anyone else's, I cannot think. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) present—a respected member of the Tribune Group. I wonder what kind of speeches we would have had from Tribune platforms, quite rightly, if at the time of Hola we had been running a place like Long Kesh in some colony.
The movement for colonial freedom would have been eloquent. We would have had my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services on the platform. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development would have been there too. How they can ignore this kind of thing absolutely baffles me. In my opinion the Left of the party has gone off its collective nut.
I am listening with interest to my hon. Friend's speech, which is not connected with the Bill but is nevertheless interesting. A visit was made to Northern Ireland by members of the Tribune Group. They spent a long time visiting the place my hon. Friend is talking about. We examined all aspects of Belfast society and northern Ireland society generally. We were particularly determined to do that. We are especially horrified at the policy of internment and its consequences. We recognised that it was short-term expediency, dictated by a situation virtually unknown in any part of the United Kingdom until 1968, certainly within recent history.
That is an interesting comment, which I accept. But did my hon. Friends detect the sense of martyrdom which is building up? The only thing to which I take exception is my hon. Friend's remark that what I am saying is not directly relevant to the Bill. He was kind enough to say that I am making an interesting speech. Whether interesting or not, it is extremely relevant. Under the Bill we are setting up another kind of institution which will be misinterpreted in the way that the right hon. Member for Ashford described.
We will again be brought into this morass. The Minister's language itself was suggestive when he talked about sanctuary being widely available. We are dealing with young people who to us may be criminals but who find an element of the heroic in what they do. Once one engenders in young people the idea of daring, of snubbing society and authority, once one gives them the impression that what they are doing is brave, one is in deep trouble when creating this kind of institution.
I am not anti-Army, as the Minister knows. He and I have taken part in possibly 12 annual defence debates. I am in favour of many things connected with the forces, including a good military salary. But we must take into account the reaction of these young people to the soldiers. The feeling is gaining ground—Irish Members will tell me if I am wrong—that the British Army is fair game, however honourable the motives of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) which sent them there in the first place. They may have been mistaken but they were undoubtedly honourable. Whatever the motives, however, those young people now think of "these awful Anglo-Saxons", and anything we do must be wrong. I think that that includes setting up this kind of institution.
I may be asked whether I have any evidence that things will be different. I can only refer to what the leader of the IRA in Long Kesh Mr. O'Hare, who is well known to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central, said to us. He said that for three generations his family had been in this kind of difficulty, that he had four children, the youngest of whom, who was four years old, he hard hardly seen since he was a baby, that he did not know his own child and that there were many men in the prison in the same position.
I may be accused by the right hon. Member for Ashford of being simple and naive. All I can report to the House is that Mr. O'Hare and others gave me the impression that if prisoner-of-war status were accorded them as is accorded to most prisoners of war, at the end of the war there would not be a bloodbath. If there is not to be a bloodbath, surely we have to think hard about how we can extricate ourselves or at least reduce our involvement. The critical issue is that of law and order when the whole chemistry of nationalism has advanced because of what we have done.
Therefore I say to the Government that instead of bringing in yet another institution of this kind and going down an inevitable road, on balance of risk, after this Convention and some of the things in the White Paper have been given a chance, they should say "Very well. We have to face it on the critical issue that the Protestant areas will be looked after by Protestants and Catholic areas will be looked after by Catholics.' There may be a dialogue between them—for example there is the conference at Oxford which many hon. Members have been asked to attend. But let the Government take this new departure, take this risk. There is sufficient evidence to give us hope that it might turn out for the better. I ask the Government to recognise the brutal reality that anything we do is counter-productive and that the last thing we should do is to set up more institutions of the kind which the right hon. Member for Ashford said are open to misinterpretation, and which are the children of tonight's Bill.
I share completely with the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) the deep concern that he has expressed about the future of our younger generation in Ulster. I think that it is tragic and sad—to put it no higher than that—that a Bill of this kind has to be introduced at all. But I do not share his analysis or his cure. We can debate the wider issue next Tuesday when the House discusses the Government's White Paper, so I will not explore the matter further now.
However, I cannot feel that our younger generation at present would be served by the removal of the British Army, because I do not think for one moment that the operations into which these youngsters have been led are aimed specifically against the British Army. They are aimed against the British Army only because it is the British Army which is upholding the civil power. They are aimed at the destruction of whatever civil power might be there. That is the tragedy of the situation.
In considering the Bill, I begin by welcoming the Minister of State to his office. He is in a curious position. Apart from the Bill, the Second Reading of which he has moved, he is not responsible to this House at all. He is supposed to be responsible to an Assembly which is prorogued, but a portion of the Bill will in the meantime make him responsible to this House.
We should get this clear. My hon. Friend is a Minister of State in the Northern Ireland Office, and our responsibilities are for security. My hon. Friend also happens to be Minister for the Environment and Minister of Education in Northern Ireland, but those are very different from his responsibilities, through me, to this House.
I appreciate that. All I am saying is that the Minister of State is not responsible in the sense that we can question him. We cannot put down Questions to him about matters concerning the environment, for example, which were, by Act of Parliament, devolved upon the Assembly. In other words, we cannot question him about what is his primary job in administration at the present time. We look forward to the time when we shall be able to do so.
On the Bill itself, we accept what the Minister of State has said and also what my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) has said—that it appears to be a dire necessity. The concept that young persons should be removed on remand from remand homes or training centres and put into a wing of a prison, however segregated from the rest of the prison it may be, is peculiarly horrifying to anyone who has any civilised human feelings. But the alternative at present is probably even more horrifying.
That is the problem. The figures for the rate of absconsion that the Minister produced, and the degree of security and the danger to society and the boys themselves, are so horrifying that plainly something must be done about this matter.
What worries me is that the accommodation in the hospital annex of the Crumlin Road Prison is very limited indeed. There are to be four cells, each of three people, making 12 places which, together with a few others, make an absolute maximum of 17 places. In the light of what we may have to expect from now on, that seems to be woefully inadequate provision.
Let us make no mistake. We have all been labouring under an illusion that this is a very short-term measure. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act will be extended, if we give authority for that on Tuesday, to 24th January 1975. Let no one be under any illusions: it will have to be extended again or will have to be replaced by something that is very like it. Let us be under no illusion that what we are looking at in this Bill is something that will be the law for a very considerable time. The Bill contains very remarkable powers to put into the hands of a Secretary of State. As long as the scheduled offences concept lasts, so long will this Bill last. I hope that the Government are looking at the prospect, whatever he the financial question involved, of a better prison system, even if necessary providing another prison or some other kind of secure establishment.
I dislike the idea of young persons being in an adult prison, however they are segregated. In a way, that is offensive. I hope that there is some forward thinking about that and that the Government are not simply saying that this is a very temporary measure which will do for the time being. I do not believe that it will do. In the interests of humanity and common sense, if nothing else, there ought to be some thinking on those lines.
Yes, I understand that. But I am saying, first, that we are likely to have more on remand to begin with than it will be possible to contain. I am also saying that I do not like the concept, even in ordinary times, of young people being in adult prisons. When we have this temporary floating problem, we ought to use the time and the opportunity to do something different in Ulster now, because it would be money properly spent.
The Minister refers ail the time to boys, but what is happening about girl prisoners on remand—because there is clear evidence that the Provisional IRA, as well as using young boys, is organising on a fairly big scale the training of young girls? I know that some of my hon. Friends want to speak on the subject and I will therefore not take the matter further.
I hope that the whole concept of what we are about to do in the immediate future, not only about our young persons, but about the problem of Long Kesh and everything else, will be looked at again. We cannot go on like this. We must spend money and be more imaginative. We must break up the great complex of Long Kesh, if nothing else, because Long Kesh is not only a vast security danger but a vast training area. a university or academy of violence, and there ought to be some humane forward-thinking on what should be done.
At the same time we must recognise—and here I disagree with the hon. Member for West Lothian—that the risks are far too great for the course he is at present advocating. There must be a more sensible political situation, a civil power which is broadly acceptable and an adequate degree of security before we can proceed to a measure of that sort.
My qualifications for speaking in the debate are limited. First, I was one of those who strenuously opposed the introduction of the emergency provisions. I make no apology for that. The debates we had on that Bill have resulted in the emergency powers and the operations of the Diplock procedure being operated as fairly as they are. To that extent, I am sure that our debates were valuable and I do not retract a single word of criticism I made at that stage.
My second qualification is that, like the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons), I visited the remand homes in Northern Ireland. I should be the last person to approve of the introduction of a measure which is so offensive to the people of this country. It must he offensive. We would repel the idea of any youngsters accused of offences in this country being sent to prison on remand before they had been convicted. It is alien to the whole legal and penal system of the United Kingdom. It is therefore right that the House should not pass a measure of this sort without proper debate on it.
At the same time, the House should realise that while we are concerned, and should be concerned, about the treatment of young people in this country, we should equally be concerned about how we treat young offenders in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I would go further and say that we should be more concerned, because the pressures on young people in Northern Ireland, the examples given in the areas in which they live, and the whole aura and atmosphere of violence make it that bit more important that when society has to deal with them it should deal with them in the right way.
One thing which impressed me when I visited remand homes in Northern Ireland was the dedication of the staff. It is astonishing to me that, while there are many horrors taking place in Northern Ireland, there are also teachers concerned about rehabilitation. Their concern is basically, as it ought to be, the rehabilitation of youngsters who are what we in this country would term delinquents. The remand homes were built to help carry out this rehabilitation.
Remand homes must be built and must be run in such a way that those in them do not believe that they are in prison and realise that they have a chance of going out into society again. It is wrong that teachers who have been trained and who are dedicated to one end should have to deal with those youngsters who have committed the sort of offences with which the teachers are not qualified to deal.
One reason why we find it offensive that young people should be sent to prison is that they would fall under the influence of hardened, adult criminals. But, equally, we should be concerned that those other youngsters, who are merely delinquents, or who may be disturbed or deprived, may come into contact with other youngsters who are potential murderers. We should look at this not only from the point of view of youngsters charged with serious terrorist offences, but also from the point of view of those other youngsters who are sent into a remand home from a bad home. That is one reason why I cannot bring myself to oppose this measure.
During my visit to Northern Ireland I talked to some of the youngsters convicted of terrorist offences and who at that time were occupying a hospital wing. It was a remarkable experience. I have spent most of my professional life in the criminals courts and most of the youngsters with whom I have come in contact have been convicted for breaking and entering or taking and driving away cars, or similar offences. But we were talking to youngsters who had been convicted of trying to kill soldiers with bombs, or of ambushing or kidnapping civilian adults, or soldiers—all offences which we in this country would think it impossible that youngsters could get up to, if I may use that neutral phrase. I find it appalling that youngsters like that, who would be hero-worshipped in a remand home, would be able to influence other youngsters.
I am pleased to see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State present, because I know that he is equally concerned about this. As has been said, we should not take this matter lightly. This should be a temporary measure, and nothing more, to meet a situation for which there is no alternative.
One of the sad facts of life is that sometimes something that is meant to be temporary becomes permanent. There is a danger about allowing it to become the norm that administrative decisions can be made by which youngsters are sent to prison. That would be wrong, and a retrograde step.
Has it not occurred to my hon. Friend, who is an imaginative man, to wonder why youngsters behave, as he says, quite unlike youngsters in most places? Has he noticed that there is a direct parallel with youngsters in Algeria and Vietnam who behaved like that, and that it is partly a consequence of the presence of armies?
I do not know whether I am imaginative, but I also think that youngsters in Chicago and Nazi Germany behaved like that. That is why we should not isolate Northern Ireland. But interesting as my hon. Friend's speech was—and I mean that—I do not want to go on to more controversial ground, because whenever I speak on Northern Ireland I am misunderstood. Innocent words that I use are dissected and a motive is ascribed to them that I never intended.
I do not think that at present there is any alternative to the Bill, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State must look to the longer term. I am sure that he will not say, "We have not got the money". That would not be the right answer. If there is a problem, it must be dealt with and longer-term facilities must be supplied.
How many youngsters does my tight hon. Friend expect will be sent to Crumlin in any one year? If the facilities there were not in Crumlin, those that I saw would be very good. The teaching facilities were excellent, and there was a most charming teacher by whom I should have been delighted to be taught anything, but at that time there were only three or four youngsters there. If there are more than Crumlin can take in any year, what other facilities does my right hon. Friend have in mind? In what other way will he deal with them?
We should not just say, "Well, they are in Crumlin", because Crumlin is not like any other gaol I have visited. There is something peculiarly horrific and depressing about it. That is not to criticise the staff or the governor, who is very dedicated and very interested. I say it because the adults there are what they are, and because it has to be divided between IRA and UDA and those who have committed other offences. One cannot escape the atmosphere that pervades the place.
It is vital that another institution be built at the earliest opportunity so that the youngsters concerned cannot escape from it but are allowed to escape from what must be a corrupting atmosphere.
I thank the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) for his generous comments not only to me but to the people of Northern Ireland and the teachers in schools there. I also thank the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson) for his generous comments.
Do not let us be surprised when we see normality. As the Secretary of State has told the House many times, there are vast areas of Northern Ireland where normality exists. The vast majority of young people in Northern Ireland are still the young people whom the hon. Member for West Lothian met.
I refer to an incident that took place two years ago following the prorogation of Stormont. I was addressing a large outdoor meeting in Lurgan which was attended by over 2,000 people. About 200 children were standing in front of me. Twelve hours earlier those children had gone on an orgy of destruction down the main street of Lurgan. They had broken every window in every shop in the town. I looked down at the meeting and I saw the children whom I had taught only a short time before looking up at me. They came from decent home backgrounds and they were decent children. I told them that I could in no sense condone what they had done the night before but that I could not condemn them for what they had done.
At the same time I accepted that I had some responsibility for their behaviour. When we consider the level of delinquency prior to 1968 it is clear that this House and Stormont must accept a large degree of responsibility for destroying a situation which was conducive to young people leading a decent life and suddenly turning them into hooligans and stone-throwers. It is important to point out that the balance is split distinctly into stone-throwing hooligans—the delinquents, the type of person that I have been describing—and the vicious young thugs and killers who are the products primarily of the youth movements of the IRA.
I have many friends and relatives in the RUC in Belfast. They have told me that in the New Lodge Road area and in other places they have apprehended explosives experts aged 13, 12-year-old armaments experts and quartermasters aged 14. Unfortunately we have that group of killers and potential killers, and we must not forget it.
I do not think that an extra wing in the Crumlin Road or another cage in Long Kesh is the way to handle the young people. They are equally the product of their background and environment. We must concern ourselves with their education and physical well-being and try to give them training which will equip them for other things than those for which they are now being equipped.
It would be nice to think that we were talking in terms of six or 12 months, but the present level of violence in Northern Ireland is almost as bad as the level of 12 months ago. Unfortunately the end is not immediately in sight. We are not talking about a situation that will last for six or 12 months. I could not agree in normal times to put a young child with hardened criminals. In normal times that could not be condoned. Of course, to put children with the type of people who are in the Crumlin Road and Long Kesh is to compound the problem.
We should seriously and urgently be considering setting up a secure young persons' remand centre. We shall need it. More teenagers will be arrested. As we eat into the adult membership of the IRA, more young people will be arrested and we shall have to handle them. We must adopt the attitude that I adopt to the three boys I am rearing in Northern Ireland. I am hopeful and optimistic that they will live through the present situation without being tarnished. They are not living in an ivory tower or in a vast container. Perhaps it is necessary to be a bit of an optimist to live in certain parts of Northern Ireland.
I believe that we can pull our way out of the present troubles. I believe that the young republicans are still open to influence. If we create the right type of institutions we shall have the opportunity, while they are secure, to try to undo some of the damage that has been done.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyle) on his appointment as Minister of State. It is a job to which he is particularly well suited because of his experience of Northern Ireland and in advising people about Northern Ireland. He could not have started off with a worse measure to have to introduce to the House, and I commiserate with him.
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) made a good point when he said that he could not condemn his young listeners who had been on a voyage of destruction because by doing so he would be condemning himself. We are thinking now of imprisoning young people in the Crumlin Road on remand for an indefinite period. When the troubles started these young people were in primary school, thinking perhaps of transferring to a secondary or grammar school. They are not just young IRA thugs; they are thugs from right across the community, as my hon. Friends who were with me in the Crumlin Road can confirm. Whether they are IRA thugs or Tartan thugs or of any other organisation we have to be concerned about them as people.
We who have responsibility have seen what is happening and have perhaps thought that if we looked away from the problem it would disappear. We have failed miserably in our treatment and assessment of young people who come from the depressed areas of cities and villages and rural and urban slums. There is also a sprinkling of the middle classes, the poetry writers. These are the people who are our particular concern. We must therefore look carefully at the Bill and its provisions.
With several hon. Members I visited remand centres in Northern Ireland, and I pay tribute to Lord Donaldson for his delightful company and for the splendid way in which he explained his problem and organised the trip. He brought together all who were concerned with the problem, including the principals of training schools, prison governors, the Army and the civil authority, so that we could consider all the arguments.
I know the sensitivity of my hon. Friend the Minister of State and I understand the embarrassment he must have felt at having to introduce the Bill. One knows that with his Home Office experience he would revolt against it. I have regretfully come to the conclusion that the Bill is necessary, not because of the problems of the security forces but because of the work that has been done by the training centres. They have a tradition which must not be lost. For example, in St. Patrick's right next to Anders-town, there is an open boys' training centre.
One of the strangest things about the situation is that with the sanctuary so close there have not been many more absconsions. One of the great things one saw there was evidence of the training and dedication of the brothers and the staff. I am told by those who have visited Lesniven that there is the same dedication and awareness there of the problems. The desire to maintain this sort of open institution holds out a hope for something better in the future—a better and more ordered way of running society and of treating young people. Therefore, I regret the decision to introduce the Bill, but such a measure has to be supported.
I did not support the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill, nor will I the renewal of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act, not because I wish to deny the Army's powers but because of the incidence of detention. I regard detention as dishonest within the terms of that order and politically disastrous. I warned against it before it was introduced and have regrettably seen my fears proved so true.
I mention the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act because it is in this context that young people are being caught. When one comes to this situation one realises there is a problem. It may have to be dealt with immediately. I shall come later to the other points, where I think my hon. Friend has not done his case sufficient justice.
In this situation, why have Crumlin? We are told that it is secure and that these people will be accommodated separately in a hospital wing. But those young people and their visitors will go through the entrances used by their political heroes. They will pass through a tremendous system of security. In this situation there is a fear of getting, if not graduates from terrorist schools as one gets from Long Kesh, certainly a sort of academic accolade of O- or A-level students or even the scholarship level people that one obtains from the Crumlin. This will distinguish the institution from St. Patrick's with a degree of selectivity one would not want to see. I am not suggesting that one wants a com- prehensive prison. I suggest that one has to look very carefully at the effects that this will have on particular individuals.
When I look at the terms of the Bill and the way the powers will be exercised, I see that this will be an executive power, an executive exercise. Will the Secretary of State, through his representative in the court, make an announcement in the court that the young person is to be remanded to the Crumlin gaol—or presumably, if it is a young girl, to Armagh? After the two-month period, will a statement again be made in the court or will there be an automatic renewal? Will there be any way in which the question of renewal—the Secretary of State's assessment of the potentiality to escape of the particular person on remand—can be challenged? How in the first place will these people be chosen to enter Crumlin?
We should like to have from the Minister a list of the people who have absconded. We should also like to know what is the percentage of young people charged with crimes in relation to the total community.
One person who is brought up on a scheduled offence may be sent to Crumlin Prison, whereas another person who comes up for the same scheduled offence may be sent to St. Patrick's or Lisnevin. The young person who is sent to Crumlin is put at a disadvantage compared with the other young person who does not go there, and a situation is created in which there is a degree of selectivity over which no competent social worker, lawyer or judge will be able to challenge the Secretary of State. We do not know the criteria because it will be purely and simply an executive decision—a decision not justified in open court.
What do I conclude from all this? I conclude that anybody on a scheduled offence is likely to be sent to Crumlin Prison. Therefore, we must look at the provision made for young people in the prison wing. When we saw the wing it was in the best possible circumstances. It was a sunny day and the place appeared to be bright-walled. The sun can make a slum look like a palace. We went into rooms where the teacher-pupil ratio was one to four, a ratio with which I should like to have worked when I was a teacher. We went into rooms which were clean, neat and well-kept. I am sure that the conditions were not laid on for us and, indeed, that the rooms are always like that. We saw a classroom which was full of good equipment—again, equipment which I would like to have seen when I was a teacher. We saw in the wing a good range of books. But—and here comes the rub—we saw the wing when there were only four people there.
I repeat that we saw the prison under the best possible conditions, but I want to know what will happen as more and more people come in on scheduled offences. The Secretary of State, with the best will in the world, will not draw a distinction between those who should go to Crumlin and those who should not. If this happens there will be overcrowding and young people will go to the wing—youths who have been sentenced and who are awaiting assessment before dispersal. Then the "graduates" will appear—in other words, the people who have come in having been convicted. I believe that a real problem will be created in the new wing of the Crumlin Prison. Because of the nature of the wide, sweeping powers, the system will not single out the potential escapee but will send to Crumlin any person who the security forces feel should go there.
The Minister will need to give the House more details. We should like to know the number of young people involved in scheduled offences, how many have absconded and what was the nature of their scheduled offences. We also want to know whether these scheduled offences were specifically associated with a political motive as opposed to politics-cum-thuggery.
I should also like to know what sort of education is likely to be aimed at in this establishment. Young people who are in such a place for nine months or a year may spend their time going to and from the prison, and I should like to be given information about what proper educational process can take place in such a situation and how the Government propose to deal with it. This too we should know, because at least in the training schools there are workshops, swimming pools and other facilities to keep the young people's minds active and not inward-looking to high walls and thick bars.
I come back to whether we shall have enough teachers, how we shall get them and whether we shall be able to give them the range of subjects and the training facilities necessary in a place of this kind. As a small secure place for half a dozen it is smashing and I could have no complaint about it. But I believe that it will expand and expand.
I have these requests to make to my hon. Friend. The first is for more details of figures. The second is to know exactly what procedure is to be followed. The third, which perhaps we may have to seek to do in Committee by moving amendments, is to ask my hon. Friend to consider presenting a report to us on the workings of the Act before we are asked to renew these powers, because I am sure that we shall be asked to renew them. If we say that we are doing this in a very special case because it concerns young people who are so dear to us, the very least which can be offered is that, before we are asked to consent to these powers again after the passing of this measure, there should be an account prepared and properly assessed of the workings of the system. These are not matters that we should have to drag out of the Executive by means of question and answer.
I have a special interest in this Bill because I represent a constituency which has more corrective establishments in it than any other constituency in Northern Ireland and, for that matter, than any other in the United Kingdom. I have in North Down not only the only borstal in Northern Ireland. I have the Rathgael training school. I have the Lisnevin centre for young offenders. I also have the Maze Prison. Therefore I can speak with a little authority on these matters.
I thought that this was a relatively simple Bill—unpalatable, perhaps, but a necessary Bill. Yet I found myself listening first to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and then to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) and I wondered just what we were debating.
The hon. Member for West Lothian showed great compassion—and I must say that I believe we should show compassion to all young offenders. But perhaps the hon. Member ought to look at borstals and other training centres in Great Britain. When I practised at the Bar here, until 1970 when I was returned to this House, I saw these places and I saw the young persons in them. I found a more fearsome story there in comparison with Northern Ireland, and the offences with which those persons were charged were minor compared with the charges facing those detained in similar centres in Northern Ireland.
I was careful to say that I had no criticism of the prison staff and the governors. But I have found in no borstal on this side of the Channel the sheer hatred of Westminster, of politicians and of authority that is to be found in Ireland. What is more, the sight of youngsters from both communities drilling voluntarily would never be seen in a borstal here.
I have heard of cases of young persons in centres in Great Britain committing arson, assaults on prison warders and all sorts of different crimes while in these institutions. I agree that we cannot criticise the staff in Northern Ireland. We must praise them for their dedication and the way in which they control their establishments.
Let me just deal with the example mentioned by the hon. Gentleman about young persons drilling. Whose fault is that? Is that our fault? Is it the fault of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Should we not put an end to drilling, or is that beyond the powers of those who control these establishments?
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central nearly brought tears to my eyes when he spoke about the difficulty facing the Secretary of State in deciding whether a young person charged with a scheduled offence should go to prison or to some other place.
The hon. Gentleman talked of a young person going to prison and being denied the sight of green fields. Who in Northern Ireland suffers most? Some of these young persons may be innocent. Certainly we do not condemn them until they have been tried and found guilty. But what about the bereaved, the maimed, the terrorised? Should we not pay some attention to the great majority in the community, Roman Catholic and Protestant alike? That is why the Diplock Com- mission recommended a secure place to accommodate these young people. The hon. Gentleman may show a great regard for these young persons, but I think that he should also bear in mind that in courts in this country—I am not talking about Secretaries of State—magistrates, high court judges and others every day of the week have to decide whether a person should be remanded in custody or allowed bail.
Often cases are quoted in the Press of people seemingly wrongly released on bail and others wrongly remanded in custody. That happens frequently. Quite apart from individual circumstances, a decision will vary from judge to judge. I have come across such cases. I have sometimes felt that certain people appearing before the courts ought to have been allowed bail when it had been denied and that others who were granted bail should have been remanded in custody.
When I expressed a degree of concern for these young people I hoped that it would be shared by the whole House. Surely we do not want any young person charged with a scheduled or any other type of offence to be put in this situation. We are all concerned about the safety of our society. That was why, regrettably, we felt that the Bill was necessary. But we should be equally concerned to see that the law is operated fairly and impartially. That is one of the main problems in Northern Ireland.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to the traditional system that operated in Northern Ireland before the suspension of Stormont. I hope not, because that is not what we are debating.
Regrettably, it is necessary to have a system of detention. I do not like it, but I regard it as essential.
When travelling from Westminster to my constituency at the end of last week I was sitting beside a young Army officer. He told me that there was nothing more appalling than seeing someone who had been detained and then released and, in his opinion, engaged in terrorist activities, or seeing someone else well known to him as a terrorist not detained. That is what gets the Army down. Our soldiers feel that they are fighting a battle against urban guerrillas but without the full support of Westminster. I forget the description given to these young people by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes).
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. But the hon. Member for West Lothian thought when the Army first went in that the terrorism would be defeated in a matter of months. I remember giving up by own Adjournment debate in this House, when UDI was declared, to the right hon. Gentleman who was then Prime Minister. I was not thanked for it by him, I may remark, but that is neither here nor there. But he announced that within six months Rhodesia would be brought to heel. That is many years ago now.
It is the same with this situation. I believe that many in this country do not fully appreciate the reality in Northern Ireland just as they do not appreciate the reality in Scotland. That is why there is the genesis and spread of Scottish nationalism. It is the same in the North-East of England. Before leaving the hon. Gentleman's speech I must say I wondered whether Miss Hickey, the spokeswoman for the Provisional IRA, in Armagh Prison, meant her words to be uttered in this House or publicly,
I do not wish to give way to the hon. Gentleman as it is getting rather late. The hon. Gentleman mentioned that with him on his visit was the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister. I do not know why he was speaking to the spokesman for the Provisional IRA and the women prisoners in Armagh but it would be interesting to find out.
May I deal with the borstal, which is only about one mile from my own home. It is interesting for me because police cars with their alarms sounding pass my home frequently—every time a borstal boy decides to abscond. Hardly a month passes without one or two boys escaping, and this adds enormously to the burden placed upon the police force, who should not have to chase after those who have been arrested, perhaps with the greatest difficulty; and of course it puts extra strain on the staff of the Borstal at Mill-isle who have an onerous task in helping those boys and putting them on the right path. That indicates, therefore, that there is a need for better security in these establishments and obviously a great need for the proposal in the Bill.
To be fair, the hon. Gentleman has referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), and I must make it clear that we went to Long Kesh and Armagh with the blessing of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It was entirely above board. We were allowed to talk to whom we liked, and naturally we asked to talk to the spokeswoman.
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's explanation and I am glad to have given way to him on the point. But at this borstal at Millisle, thousands of pounds worth of damage has been done, as I am sure the Minister can corroborate. Windows have been broken, doors have been ripped off and slates removed and damaged, and there has been damage to other facilities at the institution. This was not the case there a year or two ago. I would emphasise, as we all accept, that only a relatively small number of the inmates are involved in such conduct.
A few miles from my home is the industrial training school at Rathgael, in the suburbs of Bangor. Again, it does a good job. The staff try to help these boys. This is what we ask of anyone who is a teacher or a helper in some capacity in such corrective institutions. Boys are often seen in the seaside town under supervision, and they are well behaved.
Regrettably, that training school has been used from time to time to house some boys charged with serious criminal offences, generally activated by political motives. The use of the training school for remanding such persons introduces an element of dissension and a degree of disrepute. It places an intolerable burden on the staff.
Outside Newtonards a young offenders centre has been established. This was against the wishes of the people in the area. The Government rode roughshod over them. As a result of representations I made to the then Secretary of State, an inquiry was held, but it was a rushed job. People could not organise the experts in time and the inspector who conducted the inquiry decided that the centre should go ahead.
The Minister has mentioned one example when four boys attempted to escape from Lisnevin. One of them was armed with a gun. The staff and the other boys were obviously put in grave danger. I dislike the fact that the young terrorists are there, can abscond and can wreak havoc in the community even if they do not escape across the border into the sanctuary provided by the Irish Republic.
I particularly welcome the fact that the persons in the category envisaged in the Bill, who are a danger as much to their co-religionists as to the whole community, can now be placed in prison and kept there for such time until they are due to appear in court.
These are not ordinary young persons. Many have been recruited by the IRA. Perhaps the behaviour of some is due to seeing others behave in a criminal fashion, and to seeing on television the results of terrorist activities. This is the fault of the news media. None the less, these young people are being used more extensively by the IRA, shooting at the police, the Army and members of the fire brigade. They have caused explosions. Many are members of the junior wing of the IRA, which is virtually the equivalent of the young thugs in the Hitler youth movement in pre-war Germany.
I know that the Secretary of State will exercise his responsibilities with discretion and caution. I hope he will exercise them firmly and with full regard to the need to secure the safety of the community and uphold the rule of law.
I am concerned that these young persons are to be sent to the hospital wing of the Belfast Prison which the right hon. Member for Ashford said could accommodate only about 17 young persons. More than 17 young people will need a secure place in which to be kept in custody. The Government should now prepare the ground for providing a place for these young people so that they and any relatives who visit them do not have to pass through prison gates.
The accommodation envisaged is too small. Is that why the Bill says in Clause 1(3) that they shall be held in custody
… in such prison or other place as may be specified in a direction given by the Secretary of State"?
Is it contemplated that these young people will be put in Lisnevin, and that it will be turned into a more secure unit? I should not like that to happen.
As I have often said since direct rule was imposed, it is high time that the Government decided that a new prison was built in Northern Ireland, with all modern amenities, that the preparations are now begun and a public inquiry held if necessary so that the building could be built within the year. I hope that, as a result of this debate, the Government will make a decision about a new prison.
Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill. I also welcome the Minister to his new post and wish him well in it.
I do not pretend to be an expert on Northern Ireland. I have been there only one day in my life, which I spent in three institutions—St. Patrick's Training School, Lisnevin Detention Centre and the Crumlin Road Prison. The Northern Ireland Office in its wisdom flew me and other hon. Members there to prepare us for this debate. I suppose that, in the way of Governments, the Department hoped that its forethought would be repaid with fresh support against some of those who might be inclined to oppose the Bill.
At St. Patrick's Roman Catholic institution we found dedication and an open system which was not ashamed of a 30 per cent. abscondence rate—including all the youths, not only the "political" ones. It stood in pleasant grounds and had a pleasant atmosphere, relying on the persons voluntarily sent there wishing to take advantage of its facilities. One has to measure those advantages against the problem of putting in the institution youths charged with murder and attempted murder. Since they were on the edge of a Roman Catholic area which was not unknown for violence, the staff took the view that any soldiers brought in would attract the terrorism which up to then had been missing from the institution. The priests who ran it appeared to have the general confidence of the surrounding population.
Lisnevin has more security in the sense that those inside cannot easily get out without outside help, but there is no security against people outside aiding escapes. That is what happened when the IRA tied up the staff and released some of the boys. Boys who do not voluntarily go to these institutions are "called for" occasionally by the IRA when, it is suspected, one of their special skills is required for an operation.
One sympathises with the Army when it sees back on the streets someone it has arrested for a serious offence. It is an incentive to the UDA and the IRA to recruit young persons if they can say to them and their parents, "Don't worry—if you are caught you will be sent to an open remand institution and can leave the day after tomorrow."