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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:06 am on 26th June 1985.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Chelsea 1:06 am, 26th June 1985

I have time to deal with only a few contributions. I must say to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) that it is not my responsibility or that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to say who may at present be detained and charged as a result of the recent arrests on this side of the water. That is a responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and, in due course, the information that the hon. Gentleman seeks will become apparent.

The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) claimed that there was no co-operation between the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the British Government and, by implication, between the security forces—[Interruption.] Since he described the Garda Siochana as a political police force in a way not understood on this side of the water, the implication was clear.

Without the co-operation of the Government of the Republic of Ireland, I do not believe that we would have had the interception of the Marita Ann bringing its cargo of arms to slaughter men and women in Northern Ireland, the discovery in the north of Dublin of a bomb factory which manufactured timers for bombs, the finds in recent months of explosives on the other side of the border, the identification of command wires running across the border and the establishment of the vehicle check points that have been frequently set up to assist the security forces operating in Northern Ireland. Far from getting no co-operation from the Government of the Republic, we have had excellent co-operation in recent months and years.

I go on to the assertion of the right hon. Member for South Down that the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the IRA have a common aim. I believe that few statements could be further from the truth, for the Government of the Republic see clearly that their democracy is as much at risk from the operation of the terrorists now operating in Northern Ireland as is democracy in Northern Ireland itself. Divisions between the Republic and this Government could only help, not hinder, terrorist activity in Ireland. I have no intention of following the right hon. Member for South Down in his perverse interpretation of recent Anglo-Irish relations, save only to say that his interpretation certainly does not accord with mine.

The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) should cast his mind back to 1957 to the plea that Aneurin Bevan made to the Labour party conference about not being sent naked into the conference chamber by being deprived of the nuclear deterrent. If ever, alas, the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues became responsible for security in Northern Ireland, they would find that within a week they would need these powers in order to conduct the battle against terrorism. They will be not in a conference chamber but in a real conflict in which liberal democracy is under attack from vicious terrorism in which the lives of innocent people are at stake.

The success that we have had in Great Britain was unequivocally stated by the Home Secretary to be due to the powers of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act is relevant not to Great Britain but only to Northern Ireland. Those powers are essential, as I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman, as a founder member of the British Institute of Human Rights. I have become convinced of the necessity of those powers in the job that we seek to do in Northern Ireland.

A vote against those powers now will be a blow at those in the security forces who need those powers to do their job. As I have said, if ever the right hon. and learned Gentleman became responsible for these matters, he would quickly find out that he, too, needed them.

In conclusion, I repeat that the primary objective of the Government's policy in Northern Ireland remains the eradication of terrorism. The Government do not accept that there is a halfway house. The emergency provisions Act plays a major part in enabling the security forces and the courts to deal effectively with that terrorism.

The House will have an opportunity in due course to deal in detail with the changes which may be made in that Act when the Government introduce a Bill incorporating the revisions which have been outlined. Meanwhile, I have no doubt that we need these provisions, and I commend the order to the House.