Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:42 pm on 26th June 1985.

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Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Witney 11:42 pm, 26th June 1985

I looked carefully for the hon. Gentleman and referred in reasonably complimentary terms to him in his absence during my first speech, when I dealt at some length with the Government's attitude towards Sinn Fein. Further examination is required of Sir George Baker's recommendations. I am not enamoured of his particular proposal, but if the hon. Gentleman will read in Hansard what I said earlier about Sinn Fein he will see what the Government are doing about it.

I believe that the modifications I have mentioned will represent steps towards restoring normality to Northern Ireland. They are small steps, perhaps, but they are worth taking. Because our security policy is not static I shall continue to keep a careful watch upon it, and also upon its legislative basis. Our policy cannot be inflexible and unimaginative. If it is to succeed, it must be capable of responding quickly to changing circumstances.

As for the motion before the House this evening, I do not believe that it could possibly be argued by any realistic person that the security forces and the courts do not need the powers granted by the emergency provisions Act to enable them to combat terrorism. I should be amazed if, in their hearts, those on the Opposition Front Bench, who now have the same length of experience of these matters as I have, had come to the conclusion that these powers are unnecessary. I shall be interested to hear their views on this subject.

We have seen a number of appalling terrorist outrages around the world in recent weeks, including in Northern Ireland, and many Governments are urgently reviewing the steps that can be taken to meet the terrorist threat. Northern Ireland continues to face a vicious terrorist campaign that has resulted in an intolerable loss of life. Some improvement has been achieved, but we are emphatically not in a position to relinquish measures that undoubtedly save lives, for without them the men of violence would be able to operate with greater freedom and to even greater deadly effect. Therefore, I confidently invite the House to agree to extend the life of the 1978 Act by a further six months.