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Commons Chamber

Volume 922: debated on Friday 17 December 1976

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House Of Commons

Friday 17th December 1976

The House met at Eleven o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Scotland And Wales Bill (Amendments)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the events that occurred at the Table of the House last night after you had read out the result of the Division on the Second Reading of the Scotland and Wales Bill?

You will be aware that it has become the practice—it is a good practice—for the tabling of Committee stage amendments to Bills to be done in the Public Bill Office, behind your Chair. The Clerks rightly decided that on the occasion of such a major Bill the former and more formal practice of tabling amendments at the Table should be followed.

I took the trouble to be early through the Division Lobby and to sit near to the chair in which the Clerk sits. On his return from handing the result of the Division to you, Mr. Speaker, I and others pressed upon him our amendments. In the event, the Clerk marked the amendments in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) No. 1 and mine No. 2. This incensed me at the time, and I made protests to him. He subsequently assured me that there was no malice aforethought and that the amendments were numbered as they came to him, and I entirely accept that explanation.

I am raising this matter with you, Mr. Speaker, not because I feel frustrated but because a serious point arises on a Bill of this nature in that when the marshalled list is printed the first mover of an amendment will be called by the Chairman of the Committee. That will no doubt affect the political tone of the debate and lead to some amendments taking substantially more time than others.

There are solutions which would go a long way to solving the problem of what in effect is a rugger scrum at the Table to gain the first attentions of the Clerk. I spoke briefly to the Leader of the House, and I am glad that he has been able to break an engagement to hear my point of order. We have a duty to prevent the Clerk from being put in this position and to prevent the Floor of the House from being brought into disrepute, often in an emotional way.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

I make no comment—and no criticism of anyone—on what may have happened last night. If the House wishes and it is thought advisable, we shall be prepared to refer the general question to the Committee on Procedure to recommend how such difficulties might be avoided in future.

I am much obliged to the Leader of the House. May I say to the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) that I have been given a full report of what happened and, of course, I was in the Chair and saw some of the activities. The hon. Gentleman, who was originally first in the queue, was defeated by someone getting in front of him and leaving his papers on the Table. If the Leader of the House is prepared to take this matter to the Procedure Committee, I think that the best course would be to leave it there.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions)

11.7 a.m.

I beg to move,

That the Northern Ireland (Various Emergency Provisions) (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 18th November 1976 in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.
This is my first speech in the House since I became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is sad that it should be about security, because there are other aspects—good aspects—of life in Northern Ireland which are all too often ignored in the concentration of public interest on the security problem. However, it does give me an opportunity to restate the essential elements of the Government's security policy in Northern Ireland. They are, first, the development and increasing acceptance of the police as the major instrument for the detection, arrest and charging of criminals to be brought before the courts; and, secondly, for the Army to remain as the essential buttress of this policy for as long as needed. Therefore, I believe in present circumstances that is a sensible, solid, understandable course.

I must say and, indeed, warn that those who argue for a "withdrawal" and campaign for "troops out" would deliver Ulster into increased violence. Also, those who argue for harsh and punitive measures, such as reintroducing the death penalty, would do more lasting harm by the resentment they would arouse than any temporary good they might achieve. The para-militaries on both sides of the divide would savour a martyr on the end of the rope, having publicly given his life for the cause in which they fervently believe. So I must tell the House that I reject the calls of both the "troops out" brigade and the "hard measures" men, both of which play right into the hands of the para-military extremists.

I believe that our way forward is through the rule of law. People are, and will be, prosecuted for what they have done and not for why they did it. People are not prosecuted for the peaceful expression of legitimate views. They are punished for the murders they have committed, and the explosions they have caused, and not for any political or other motives by which they seek to justify the depraved nature of these actions. Those convicted will be treated as the criminals they are, and not as political prisoners which they are not. Bombings and killings will not change that.

I do not want the House to think that I have a false sense of euphoria about the security situation. The House knows only too well from the quarterly statistics published in the Official Report what the situation is. But I think the nature of violence has changed. No longer do we see riots and mass confrontation across the sectarian interfaces. This was the pattern when para-militaries claimed to be protecting their own communities and those claims were believed. The falseness of those claims is now apparent.

The momentum of the Peace Movement has confirmed that there is no longer popular support for violence. The mass demonstrations which have taken place in Northern Ireland this year have been in support of peace. These demonstrations have arisen from the spontaneous feeling of the people; from their weariness and disgust with the violence; and from their growing realisation that those who preach and practise violence can bring nothing but loss, misery and death to the communities whom they claim to protect.

These thoughts have been echoed in the success of the Government campaign of slogans and wall posters under the theme "Seven Years is Enough." I know that there have been campaigns before. But this one above all has captured the popular mood. The people at large will no longer support those who advocate violence. They seek only peace and normality. The trade unions, too, are making their contribution to the cause of peace, with their campaign for a "Better Life for All". They are also dedicated to opposing sectarianism and are pledged to bringing about reconciliation with the community.

There is much loose talk about the paramilitaries, and particularly the Provisional IRA. Some people are led by the high-sounding and phoney titles which it confers on itself—brigade commanders, intelligence officers, and so forth—into believing that it is a vast organisation administered on military lines. Youngsters can be overawed by this presentation and its image. Protestants and Catholics are drawn by the extremists into what they claim are military operations, but really it is old-style Chicago gangsterism.

Within Northern Ireland, the leading terrorists of this rabble, while playing their part in planning crimes, in running supplies of weapons and explosives, also frequently take part themselves in the commission of acts of violence. All these activities are directed towards murder, arson, robbery and other similar atrocities. Whether they commit these criminal acts themselves, or organise and assist in the preparations, or conspire with others, they are committing criminal offences under the law. Virtually every step that a terrorist takes in pursuit of terrorism is a crime.

I want now to say something about what the forces of law and order are doing about all this. In this context I want to lay special emphasis on the vital and increasingly successful partnership between the Army and the RUC in their fight against terrorism and crime.

First, the Chief Constable has been making important improvements in police organisation and methods. He has established regional crime squads, which have already demonstrated their value. The collection and collation of information and intelligence has been further improved and is being used to target criminals, many of whom have as a consequence been caught red-handed on bombing missions. The crime department and the operations department have been reorganised, a fraud squad has been set up and, with help from other forces—particularly the Metropolitan Police—a backlog that was accumulating on the recording and searching of fingerprints is now being overcome.

Particular emphasis is being given to the task of ensuring that every available detective is out on the ground and that administrative matters do not divert them from their task. Recruitment to the RUC continues at an encouraging rate, and I am glad to be able to tell the House that already 1976 has proved to be the best year for recruitment in the whole history of the force. During 1976, about 600 recruits have joined the force, and the current strength is now 5,268. I find that very encouraging indeed.

I do not want to bring sectarianism into the argument, but this is vital. That is encouraging news, but can the right hon. Gentleman encourage us further by saying whether there has been any greater success in attracting members of the minority community into the force?

I am not aware of the percentages, and I do not think that it would be right to start to isolate Protestants and Catholics within the RUC, but the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that it is proving difficult to recruit from the minority. I hope that in due course, once they realise the respectability of the police and how they are being effective, Church and political leaders of the minority party will encourage their people to join the RUC.

The security forces have an increasingly detailed inventory of who are the significant terrorist figures, of what they do, of where they go, of how they get their money, and of their friends and associates. They are matching these life histories and personal profiles against the full range of criminal offences, including conspiracy, the whole corpus of ordinary criminal law and the special criminal law in Northern Ireland deriving from the emergency legislation. By comparing life-styles and the range of offences in this way, they are increasing their knowledge of the weak spots of individual terroists, building up the evidence against them, and preparing to arrest them on the best and most apposite charges. What is important in Northern Ireland is that the resources are being built up, and it is in this way that we shall get more and more of the leading terrorists behind bars.

I think that the leaders face a chilly prospect. As our knowledge of them increases, their room for manoeuvre diminishes. They must be increasingly on their guard. There are fewer people they can trust, and fewer places they can go. They cannot match the power brought against them, and they will be tracked down, arrested and charged, and brought before the courts.

Intelligence, surveillance and the efficient deployment of forces are now showing increasingly valuable results. In one recent case, a plain-clothes patrol of the RUC's special patrol group in Belfast observed a car and a van in suspicious circumstances, and after a chase they detained five people. A 25 lb. bomb was in the car, which later exploded, causing considerable damage. Three others escaped but were located in a private house close by, where a hostage situation developed. Police surrounded the building, and after three hours those inside surrendered.

In another case, a hijacked van and a car being used in a bombing mission were intercepted by the special patrol group and the Royal Military Police. Shots were exchanged and five persons were detained and three pistols recovered.

Now of course red-handed arrests like those make the headlines. But arrests some time after the crime often do not, and hence the capture and conviction of the criminals may pass unnoticed. For example, on 8th November two persons were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of the electricity meter reader killed by a booby-trap bomb in February, a crime that had outraged public feeling when it was committed. Those examples are perhaps more illuminating than the statistics that I regularly give. But the statistics do show the successes of our present policy. The Chief Constable tells me that so far this year, 690 members of the Provisional IRA have been charge, compared with 320 in 1975.

This success applies to other subversive and para-military organisations whose members commit criminal acts. A total of 443 of their members have been similarly charge in 1976, and a majority of these charges are in respect of so-called Loyalists. In recent months, the security measures have been effective, and terrorist charges have been running at the rate of about 30 a week.

Since the beginning of August, no fewer than 63 people have been charged with murder and 60 with attempted murder. In addition, 101 persons have been charged in connection with explosives offences—as many as in the whole of 1975. That reflects very great credit on those responsible for criminal investigation within the police.

Increasingly, evidence is being provided by the community or through police work—for example, in respect of fingerprints or forensic data—and there have been no fewer than 376 convictions for scheduled offences in the three months from September to November, including 15 persons who received life sentences and 62 who received 10 or more years imprisonment. The latter included 18 persons who are considered by the security forces to have been organisers of violence, and sentences ranged from 10 years upwards. This clearly demonstrates that the organisers of violence are not immune from arrest and conviction if the necessary evidence can be obtained.

As the Government have made clear on a number of occasions, no person who is convicted of offences committed after 1st March this year has been or will be given special category status. Let me once again repeat that the Government will not countenance any return to special category status.

Then there is the law. I have considered very carefully what further steps should be taken in the legal field. In the first instance I have examined whether any of the offences committed against society and humanity by the terrorists are not already covered by the law as it stands in Northern Ireland. So far I cannot find any such offences.

Given the nature of the organisations under which they operate and the nature of the crimes they commit, the law itself is fully adequate. I am asked, however, why it is that known ringleaders walk the streets without being arrested. But I have to ask "Where is the evidence?" It not infrequently happens that persons in Great Britain as well as Northern Ireland, known to be criminals from police intelligence, walk the streets free from arrest—for a time. "Known" in this sense, however, does not constitute guilt in a court of law. Guilt has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt; and, I am glad to say, this is still one of the bulwarks of our society, and still applies in Northern Ireland.

I have re-examined and re-appraised all the work that has been done in this sphere. I am clear that the present approach seems to be the correct one. In no circumstances must we allow myths and misconceptions to lead us into false moves which would lower the standard of justice or bring the courts in Northern Ireland into disrepute. Our policy is to maintain the rule of law, not to lower its values.

The way forward is not to change the law therefore or the legal procedure but to continue with our existing policy of catching the terrorists and their leaders. This is certainly achieving results. As I have mentioned already, this year over 1,200 persons have been charged with terrorist-type offences, including 118 with murder and 117 with attempted murder. Those who continue to commit such acts know that their time at large is running out. They know that justice will prevail, especially with improved public co-operation. We know that they are frightened because of the success of the security forces in operating within the present law.

My remarks do not, of course, imply that the present laws are immutable. We have taken steps recently to improve them. On 2nd July my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made certain proposals. He said that the Government intended to apply to Northern Ireland the provisions of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. A proposal for a draft order has been published and that order will be debated in due course. The Attorney-General said that the Judges' Rules applying in Great Britain would be applied in Northern Ireland. This has been done. He said that the penalty for carrying firearms was inadequate. An order has been made doubling the maximum penalties so that the law can deal effectively with the travelling gunmen.

The Attorney-General said that there was a case for increasing the maximum penalty for membership of a proscribed organisation, and we shall bring this forward when a suitable legislative opportunity occurs. The Attorney-General referred to a further matter then under consideration, the case of a person who participated in a crime, but who subsequently claimed to have had no knowledge of the intended crime. The question here was whether existing law was adequate. In fact, just such a case has arisen in practice and the defendant was found guilty on four counts. I can say no more about that, as an appeal is pending. I can say that progress on the whole front of examination of the law in Northern Ireland is being made. I have tried to indicate the progress made since our last debate in July.

Now I have already made clear that the Army will remain—and in sufficient numbers—for so long as required. The exact number at ony one time will depend on a number of things—the level of violence, the operational requirements, and the effectiveness of the police. This is essentially a matter of military judgment and the general officer commanding is in a better position than anyone else to know what forces he needs and how best they should be deployed. He has, for instance, recently come to the conclusion that if he were to introduce some minor modifications to the dispositions of certain units, he would have no further operational requirement for about 500 out of his total 14,500 men. He is, therefore, intending in the next few weeks to slim his forces down by roughly this number, spreading the reduction across the three brigade areas. An important factor in enabling him to take this step is the progress which is being made between the police and the Army towards working out common operational boundaries, demonstrating once again the partnership that is being developed between the Army and the Royal Ulster constabularly.

This reduction, while small in itself, will make a significant contribution to easing the Army's roulement problems, that is, the rotating of units from the British Army of the Rhine, the United Kingdom Land Forces and Northern Ireland. If the GOC needs to bring the soldiers back or to replace them, he can have them without delay. This is in addition to the call that he has on the spearhead battalion. Let me make clear that this change does not represent any change of policy. The number of troops in Northern Ireland has changed frequently over the years, in accordance with the needs of the situation. If more troops should be needed again, they will come back.

At the same time, I am particularly pleased to announce that a start will be made to increase the number of full-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The initial expansion will be by 200 men, and it is our intention that the establishment should be increased further. Members of the UDR, with their local knowledge and skills, are especially valuable soldiers in the current type of operations, and the building up of their full-time element is an important move forward. Naturally enough, the highest standards will continue to be applied to this new recruitment.

In addition, as the House will know, as announced by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Army on 9th December, the flexible deployment of the SAS is now available to areas where its members' special skills and experience can be used to best advantage. Their value in County Armagh has been amply demonstrated by the reduction in violence in that area. We have made a point of never disclosing the actual numbers of SAS involved and I do not intend to depart from this. But I can assure the House that the numbers will be adequate for the tasks. They will of course be kept under review and increases will be considered if the security situation so requires.

I want now to pay tribute to the security forces. The UDR has been subject to cowardly and vicious attacks in recent months. As with most of the ill-conceived projects of the Provisional IRA, this campaign is counter-productive. Far from weakening the resolve of the UDR, these attacks have served to strengthen its determination and demonstrate its courage. The RUC and the Army have also suffered grievously and I cannot commend highly enough their courage and dedication and their determination not to be provoked, as the Provisionals would clearly like them to be.

Therefore, I think that it will be clear to the House that for the purpose of this present review, we need to retain all the emergency provisions which the order covers.

I believe there is wide agreement that it would be premature to reintroduce juries for the trials of terrorists, that it would be unthinkable in present circumstances to remove any of the powers of the security forces, and that it would be contrary to the public interest to drop any of the temporary offences, such as those of membership or support for proscribed organisations or training in making or using firearms or explosives. As my predecessor indicated in July, it would be irresponsible to give up the existing provisions, including those for detention. The same is true today. Like him, I should have recourse to the detention provisions only as a last resort.

The ending of violence in Northern Ireland and the rebuilding of a society at peace with itself will in the end depend on three things: respect for the rule of law, confidence in the fairness of the law, and wholehearted support for those whose duty it is to maintain the law. The three things go together and no one can pick and choose between them.

Respect for the rule of law is something to which the whole community must give its backing, in practice as well as in theory. The recent joint report by the Protestant and Catholic Churches on "Violence in Ireland" put this well when it indicated that the Churches should jointly remind their members that they had a moral obligation to support the currently constituted authorities in Ireland against all para-military forces. The very fabric of society depends on support of this kind.

There is a need for co-operation, and not just in respect of security but across the whole range of Government activity. An ordered society can be achieved only if there is partnership. The Government provide resources to meet the needs of the community, and the community provides the co-operation necessary for the successful use of those resources.

This is true of civil government. It is especially true of security. The Government provide and will continue to provide a full range of security resources. For these resources to produce their full dividend we need full support from the public. There is no instant method of making security policy successful without this support, just as there is no magic law that can secure the conviction of terrorists without evidence. So we look forward to the day when there is full backing for the forces of law and order and when terrorism in Northern Ireland is finally defeated.

In conclusion, I want to place on record my growing pride in all those men and women who are daily serving in the security forces—the young soldiers of the Regular Army, the RAF who have to convey me week after week within the Province, members of the UDR, the Greenfinches, the RUC and the RUC Reserve. I add to those the prison officers, the nurses, doctors, firemen and others whose involvement necessitates arduous and lengthy working hours. All these people have to be at their best when conditions are at their worst.

To them let me say that the terrorists are being caught and gaoled—common criminals as they are—and that this is due to their endeavours. I think we are on course, and we must not allow any more of the terrorists' dastardly deeds to divert us from achieving success.

11.34 a.m.

The right hon. Gentleman described this as his first speech from the Dispatch Box on Northern Ireland questions, and I am sure that the whole House would wish to congratulate him on it. It was very moving and it showed a determined and robust attitude to security problems which we very much welcome on the Conservative side.

I shall have to point out one or two differences of opinion from time to time on how these matters should be handled. In particular, I am rather sceptical, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, about the adequacy of the law on terrorism at the present time. I shall come to that in the course of what I have to say. But we welcome many of the measures he has introduced and make this quite clear at the start.

Like the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, to whom the right hon. Gentleman paid such a splendid tribute—and especially the soldiers and policemen in the security forces—we have to judge by results. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned large numbers of people being charged, but this has to be balanced against the terrible roll of death at the present time among innocent people.

It is clear to me that after seven years of terrorism in Northern Ireland, little is understood of this central problem—the mind of the hard core terrorist. I have drawn the right hon. Gentleman's attention to this point and to my views on it. I was in Northern Ireland a fortnight ago and the RUC told me that the young people now being arrested—some of them must be part of the statistics to which the right hon. Gentleman referred—are among the hardest people they have ever seen. The recent cruel murders of cripples and young children bear witness to that. None the less, there are some splendid achievements, and the fact that 1976 is the best year for recruitment for the RUC is one of the most heartening and hopeful things to have happened for a very long time.

The same may be said about the Peace Movement. But these things will not avail unless we destroy the mainspring of the terrorist mind—his hope of eventual success. Evidently there are those in the terrorist movements who still retain that hope. There must be no more concessions at all that would boost the morale of terrorists. This is why I attacked—I do not want to repeat it in detail—the so-called talks with the Provisional Sinn Fein last year.

I do not myself think that slogans and wall posters—although I certainly acknowledge their success to a certain degree—will be enough. I think there must be a psychological operation here and a programme against terrorism. Every move against terrorism must be aimed at the will of the terrorist to continue. There should be a sustained campaign on television and radio against the belief of the terrorist in his cause and against the fallacy of that cause. I have made my point to the right hon. Gentleman on several occasions.

Instead of the dead-pan news items every day about death, injury, destruction and sorrow, and the details of personal tragedy, there ought to be a concerted attack on these mindless barbarians through the media. It is time that the media gave full support to the Government in this way and dropped lame attitudes to this terrible war against innocent people.

Indeed, the past two weeks have been particularly bad ones for Northern Ireland. I need not go into many details. I only mention Londonderry and the 16 shops gutted after the fire-bomb attacks by the IRA. Numerous people have been injured and others killed in Northern Ireland during this Christmastime. Nearly 1,700 people have now died, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. This is the terrorist way of ushering in Christmas. This is what they think is justified.

The terrorists have also issued a statement claiming a Marxist justification for causing inconvenience to the bourgeois classes. I hope that those in politics who are giving them encouragement by talking of our withdrawal will realise their responsibilities for the murders which are being committed. I was very glad to hear the strong words that the right hon. Gentleman knows. This is the and the Troops Out movement. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Ulster people will be affected. They are treating the terrorist statement with contempt. I hope that this House will do the same.

The Government have stressed the need for vigilance and strict security in the security zones of Belfast and Londonderry. Have the Government any information on how the explosive materials used in Londonderry were passed through the security checks? We have heard that young women have brought such materials in under their clothing. We should like to know what steps are being taken to prevent this happening again. Perhaps new procedures are required.

The latest excuse invented for this campaign of murder and destruction is the ending of special category status in prisons. I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's comments on that matter, and I am sure that the House will support him. We wish to place on record that we fully agree with what he is doing, and we know that he will stand firm. We should welcome some general information about the Government's prison policy, and we should like to know what progress is being made in the building programme and the situation at the Maze prison as well as the policy adopted towards young offenders, because these matters are important.

I turn to the subject of statistics, which can be misleading. There was no complacency in the right hon. Gentleman's words, but if we examine the Written Answer he gave to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on 29th October in columns 912–16, we see that, despite many valuable results and the increase in the number of people arrested, the general security trends in Northern Ireland are not encouraging. I do not want to dampen in any way what the right hon. Gentleman said about the achievements of the security forces, but by every measure violence is climbing again towards higher levels. The figures show that explosions, civilian deaths and deaths of members of local security forces have increased. The RUC and RUCR have already suffered more casualties this year than in any year since the terrorist campaign began.

I notice that the number of houses searched remains comparatively low. The amount of firearms and explosives recovered in searches this year is significantly lower even than in 1975 when there was a so-called ceasefire. I hope that there will not be another of this kind leading to any reduction in security activity. The figures relating to persons brought before the court on security-type offences offer only a limited measure of reassurance. Fewer people have been charged with firearm offences than in previous years, although the right hon. Gentleman mentioned outstanding cases. I take my figures from the information set out in that Written Answer.

Another Written Answer given to the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) recently showed that out of 80 murders in Londonderry City since 1969 only 11 persons have been convicted. One should put the matter in perspective. We still have a war on our hands and we still face a very big problem. I must temper my remarks with those reservations because these are facts which the right hon. Gentleman has told the House. Despite his valiant efforts, there is no room for complacency about the position.

I wish to deal with four main points on which we need to concentrate in a counter-terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland. I shall do so briefly because many hon. Members from Northern Ireland wish to take part in the debate.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the question of removing terrorists from society. We start from exactly the same basis and feel that it is those who incite young people, especially those who organise propaganda and who plan terrorist operations, we want to get at. It is the legmen who blow themselves up, who get shot or who get arrested and convicted, while the organisers go round in smart cars, sometimes on American funds, and ride round the Province giving Harvey Smith signs to the security forces. This is constantly happening, as those who have recently visited police stations and Army posts know well.

As the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said in an oral Answer on 29th April:
"It is the ' Godfathers ' that we should like to have locked up. It is no good to catch the 16-year-old firing Armalite rifles, but it is the organisers who are the men we want"— [Official Report, 29th April 1976; Vol. 910, c. 947.]
Those are the people against whom we must take very firm steps.

I was pleased to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said today, but we must go a great deal further. I was glad to hear about the work being done by the security forces in making an inventory of personal profiles and information about these people, but they have to be caught and we may have to take steps in tightening up the law, a subject to which I shall come in a moment.

I do not believe that constant repetition of the legal difficulties is sufficient. It cuts little ice with those suffering from the destruction and bloodshed that is taking place. The conclusion on the part of the Opposition is that the law is not adequate and needs further examination. We have offered to put before the right hon. Gentleman, but have not yet done so, some detailed plans for changes in the law in regard to terrorism. I shall mention this matter briefly, since we shall be putting forward a case to the right hon. Gentleman later with regard to the general offence of terrorism, because that subject has been raised several times in the House before. However, in the debate on 2nd July the Attorney-General never came to grips with this problem. He gave no reasons for saying that there should not be a general offence of terrorism.

I do not think that the difficulties of obtaining evidence in themselves are an argument for not creating a new offence such as that suggested in the Gardiner Report. It would allow for penalties of appropriate severity for terrorist offences, including incitement, and would allow prosecution of those involved in terrorism in cases where murders and bombings were involved. The type of evidence required depends on the offence that is being prosecuted.

So long as we fail to take a decision on this matter we shall leave ourselves open to the difficulties referred to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir M. Havers) on 25th March who said that there were complications in the absence of an offence of terrorism. He pointed out that when a bomb factory was discovered involving no more than a room in which devices needed for making bombs are to be found, such as wiring, timing apparatus, detonators and explosives, and no actual explosion could be proved to present the matter to a court, the only prosecution that could succeed was one under the Explosive Substances Act. The maximum offence in such a case is 14 years. My hon. and learned Friend said that
"in the present climate of terrorism that maximum is quite inadequate."—[Official Report, 25th March 1976; Vol. 908, c. 705.]
On more than one occasion the right hon. Gentleman will know that learned judges in this country and in Northern Ireland have bitterly complained that they were not permitted to impose appropriate sentences. This is due to their not having a composite offence of terrorism for which the maximum penalty would be life imprisonment for any act of terrorism. It is a logical move for the public, and it would create a better understanding of the problem in relation to the man who commits or attempts to commit or incites another to commit an act of terrorism—an understanding that he should be charged with that act. I make that point and assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall give him our views in full as soon as possible. He said that the law was not immutable and I ask him to re-examine that point.

The situation in respect of proscribed organisations is unsatisfactory in many respects. The answer from the Attorney General on 25th May showed that in the previous 2½ years only 46 people had been convicted for membership of proscribed organisations alone. The offence is sometimes part of another charge or series of charges. We do not know the average sentence for those offences. Are the key men being picked up under these provisions? It appears that they are not. We were told six months ago by the Attorney-General that penalties for membership would be increased. Will the Minister in replying to the debate say when that is likely to happen?

The Attorney-General also referred to the law on conspiracy, with which I shall not deal in detail now. He said that there would be "no hesitation" in bringing charges against conspirators who planned terrorism. But there have been no prosecutions and convictions under the law on conspiracy since he made that statement. We should like to know a little more about the situation. We do not regard the present law as adequate in the sense of saying that the situation on offence for terrorism sohuld apply to the problems that face Northern Ireland.

I want to make clear that any general offence for terrorism should apply to the United Kingdom as a whole, not just to Northern Ireland. We also hope, in regard to the law on the protection of witnesses, that something will be done about the Bill dealing with the protection of witnesses that has been introduced in another place. We want to know what the Government's attitude to that will be. We would like to see something done about civilian identification. This is a matter of some importance—particularly in the border areas—which could provide an important aid to the security forces in their work. Nothing has been said today about cross-border co-operation, which remains extremely important, despite the success of the security forces in South Armagh.

My next point concerns the organisation of the security forces. We Conservatives believe that there should be specially-trained anti-terrorist units in the security forces. This is not a simple infantry operation, as has been said to me recently, especially in guerilla country. Specialised training is required. For this reason I very much welcome what the Secretary of State has said about the SAS and the work it has done in South Armagh, and the fact that it will now be employed in other areas where violence is expected.

Many people believe that an increased number of SAS troops in Northern Ireland would have a big effect on the terrorists. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that point. For security reasons, I do not want to go into the question of deployment of the SAS or matters that are not appropriate for debate here. The training of members of the SAS and their role, of which I have had some experience, is highly suitable for dealing with terrorism. I see that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding his head. Very welcome, too, were his remarks about the Ulster Defence Regiment which I visited only recently. I had talks with the regiment and saw many of the men, who were remarkably cool and steady under the ghastly series of murders to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. There have been very heavy casualties in the last few weeks. It is extremely good news that the Government are planning a force of 200 full-time members of the regiment. I believe that ultimately we shall need nearly 1,000 and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will work in that direction. These men are needed for operational purposes, especially during the daytime. Daytime patrols are very important in stopping terrorists.

I turn now to the question of stopping supplies of arms and money. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Defence will look at how to impose stricter control on detonators, and take action. Without detonators these explosive devices cannot work, and there is no marking system for detonators sold outside Ireland. We would like to look more closely at the Detonators Bill introduced in another place last week by Lord Brookeborough and previously raised in this House. We need the strictest control of marking and accountability by the users of detonators.

Another recent development is the extent to which armed robberies are providing funds for terrorism. We have heard that about £600,000 a year is obtained from armed robberies in Northern Ireland. Have the Government looked at the problem as a whole and tried to devise more effective countermeasures such as a reduction in the amount of money carried by banks, or stricter security? This is a means by which terrorists are continuing their campaign—using this stolen money and the cars which they get hold of.

I regret to say that some of the money is American. Fund-raising by the IRA in America has been a long-standing problem although we were told at Question Time last week that this was declining. We are glad to hear that. Although the Prime Minister of the Republic and the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) have both made important contributions and tried to get this stopped, misunderstanding about Northern Ireland does appear to be rife in America at present and widespread among ordinary Americans. This certainly aids the morale of the IRA and gives it the will to continue, about which I spoke earlier. Are the Government ensuring that every embassy and consulate all over the world that may be in contact with Americans or the American media is given a fair picture of what is happening in Northern Ireland?

We have seen recent reports in American papers quoting uncritically from Bernadette McAliskey about British rule being oppressive and accusing the British Government of being about to execute the Murrays in Northern Ireland—not in the Republic but in Northern Ireland I return to the point about countering propaganda. What are the Government doing about this? With the help of the media they should wage war against this type of misleading, dangerous and deliberate propaganda. It is misrepresentation of a kind which we must stop, which is unfair on the people of Northern Ireland and our security forces.

I very much agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about public co-operation. This is growing and is one of the most impressive things about the Peace Movement. What has to be achieved, however, is the translation of this cry of outrage, represented by the movement, into effective action against terrorism. I have mentioned four fronts, among them psychological warfare, including the use of the SAS troops, because ordinary infantry training in our view is by no means ideal. There is also the detailed proposals we have put forward in addition to the reform of the law. In all of these respects we hope that the Government will listen to what we have to say and will have discussions with us. We welcome the order.

11.56 a.m.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has quite rightly concentrated on the security aspects contained in this order. The right hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) took the same line. I was pleased to hear him congratulating my right hon. Friend. It is good to see the bipartisanship between the two sides of the House on this issue being continued. My experience tells me that I am in order in going wide on this debate in dealing with Ireland as a whole and the reasons why we need these mergency provisions.

I have always had a personal interest in Ireland. My grandparents, on my father's and my mother's side, were born in Ireland. I was brought up in an atmosphere in which I learned to love Ireland very much. Although both sides of the family we devout Catholics I never heard them say anything anti-Protestant or anything denigratory of any other religious bodies. It was brought up to understand some of the problems of Ireland as they saw them.

As I grew older and learned to speak and to think for myself I found that many of their views were confirmed. The problem in the history of Ireland is that so many mistakes have been made on this side of the water. If only the Governments of yesteryear, for example at the turn of the 19th century, could have done for Ireland what we are now doing for Scotland and Wales through the devolution Bill, consider how different things would be. I understand why they did not have the wisdom. How can anyone predict history?

The Irish problem has been one of great sadness and sorrow for many of us. My dream has always been that there would be a united Ireland. I have always thought that the Irish problem could be solved only under a Government governing the whole area, a Government who would be elected by the people, not on religious grounds, but on the basis of party politics, with Catholics voting for Protestants and Protestants voting for Catholics on the basis of whatever their political creed might be, and who would rule in the name of Ireland and talk in terms of the economic needs and welfare of its people. Instead, the history of Ireland portrays a small country torn in half, split down the middle. We know from the history of the Six Counties that not all of the Six Counties wished to be included in Northern Ireland.

That is in the past. I have not lost the dream of a united Ireland that I have had all these years. There are those in Northern Ireland who have destroyed my hopes and dreams. A united Ireland is as far away as it has ever been. I say to those who claim that a united Ireland is part of their argument—I am talking about certain types in the IRA—and talk about abolishing the British that, through their actions over the years, they have destroyed people like myself who genuinely believed that a united Ireland was possible through democratic means.

Therefore, my dream of a united Ireland is no longer as vivid and hopeful as it was, and I do not envisage that it will ever be possible in my lifetime. I concede that those who live in Northern Ireland must overwhelmingly agree with that.

It is a long time since I was involved in Irish affairs in this House. I was made a Chief Whip and I had to take the vow of silence. For seven years I operated on the Government Front Bench or on the Opposition Front Bench. I listened to many debates on Ireland and felt frustrated at not being able to make a contribution. I was involved in Irish affairs way back in 1949. Clem Attlee was then Prime Minister and his Government introduced a Bill which regulated the position of the Irish following the Republic of Ireland Act. A number of my hon. Friends and myself tabled an amendment which enabled us to have a discussion on the principle of a united Ireland. Looking back, I am not very happy that I did that. I did not achieve anything. All I did was to get a lot of bitterness out of my system. We lost the vote.

You will be glad to know, Mr. Speaker, that the Prime Minister of that day was very tough. I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, and I was sacked on the spot. That is the sort of language that I understand as a former Chief Whip. However, I quickly recovered because I was made PPS nine months later to somebody else—and I was not all that fond of the first one.

I therefore declare an interest in Ireland. I had great aspirations on the emergence of the civil rights movement. When Miss Bernadette Devlin, as she then was, became a Member of the House, I must say, being a romantic type, that I thought that she might be a modern Joan of Arc for Ireland and that it was possible that we should see a case made for the representation of the minority point of view. She expressed the minority point of view. I remember her maiden speech, which I thought was tremendous—far better than the speeches I have heard from some hon. Members opposite who are smiling now.

However, Miss Devlin did not live up to my expectations. She threw away every chance she had. She destroyed the possibility of leading the minority groups of Northern Ireland into a much better world. It is very sad that she threw away the chance which her electorate had given her. In view of some of the remarks she is alleged to have made in America, some of us have nothing but contempt for some of the things that she has said and done about Ireland.

The civil rights movement marched on. There was a change of attitude and those who had always believed that the minorities had been shamefully treated in Northern Ireland at last saw some hope and chance. I pay tribute—I always have—to the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). His efforts were stupendous. With the Leader of his party, he tried desperately hard to arrive at a temporary solution—it could only be temporary—by proposing the setting up of the Convention and all that followed from it. My party was in opposition at the time, and we gave the right hon. Gentleman enthusiastic support and backed him right down the line.

The Convention could have been a success, but it was not to be. An hon. Member opposite who comes from Northern Ireland for whom I have great respect is the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig). He is not present, but I think that he knew that I proposed to refer to him. Although he is an Ulster Unionist who has not lost any of his principles or attitudes—he is as devout a Protestant as ever there was—he had the courage to say openly that he welcomed the power-sharing which the Convention offered. He took that chance. But they destroyed him. They threw him and the Convention away. I have nothing but great appreciation for all that the right hon. Member for Belfast, East and others tried to do. My hon. Friend—he is my hon. Friend, and I am proud so to call him—the Member for Belfast, North, throughout that period showed himself to be the statesman that he is.

I think that my right hon. Friend has the wrong constituency.

I am sorry. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has shown statesmanship for which I have considerable admiration. Although he is a dedicated Catholic, he was prepared, willing and anxious to work within the Convention and to take his share of responsibility. I say to him and to those who may read my speech—there may be some in Northern Ireland who will read it—that his constituents and his party have every right to be proud of him for the way in which he has conducted himself in the House and outside. He has shown great courage and has consistently expressed a minority view.

I turn now to the hon. Member—I shall get his constituency right; he can be sure of that—for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). When one talks of Ireland, one gets involved in individuals and attitudes. I have watched this story unfold. A great deal of responsibility lies upon the shoulders of the hon. Member.

In an explosive situation, recognising Ireland's history and the extraordinary attitudes adopted by the Protestant and Catholic groupings, about which people here are utterly and completely bewildered, the hon. Gentleman had a special responsibility laid upon him, because he is—and I concede this—a very important man in his country. He is an extreme Protestant, if that is the right phrase, and he could have done so much and given such a great lead. He has not done that.

A lot of the responsibility for the failure of the Convention is down to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. He is so bitter on the one extreme. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I was born and bred in a devout Catholic family. I say to the hon. Gentleman that I have never been anti-Protestant; it never occurred to me to be so. The hon. Gentleman, with all that he stands for, is still uttering phrases and arguing a case which we in this House and the vast majority of people in Scotland, Wales and England cannot believe.

I understand that the hon. Member for Antrim, North is a very important man in the Democratic Unionist Party, and I do not suggest that he said what I am about to read, but I am reading from a fairly recent issue of the Protestant Telegraph, a publication with which, I imagine, hon. Members will be familiar. As I say, this is an issue of recent date, not going back down the years to the Battle of the Boyne. It was an issue in May this year, and—this takes some believing—referring to Cromwell's invasion of Ireland, it said:
"Cromwell came to Ireland with three objectives: to gain military control, to execute God's vengeance, and to stamp out popery. Catholicism, as in Cromwell's day, has no right to exist in Ireland at all …".

The reverend gentleman, the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), says "Hear, hear" to that. The quotation continues:

"… we should complete the task and strive for the conversion of the Irish".
I am not suggesting that the hon. Member for Antrim, North wrote it, but does he agree with that? I am only too ready to give way to him. Does he agree?

If the hon. Gentleman does not intervene to deny it, with the opportunity which I give him in the procedures of our House, I can only take it for granted that he agrees with it. I must assume that he agrees, and, in the context of Ireland today and the explosive situation which has developed and prevailed there over the past few decades alone—in spite of the efforts of the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border and the efforts of my right hon. Friends the present Home Secretary and the present Secretary of State—I can only say that such stuff is shameful. It is appalling in the present atmosphere, and, speaking as a Catholic from England, I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I find such utterances dreadful and utterly objectionable. I can well understand why Catholics in Ireland who know of the sort of thing which emanates from the hon. Member for Antrim, North feel as they do, and I believe that it accentuates the murder and violence which goes on.

I put this question to the hon. Gentleman, who wears his collar the wrong way round. Is that a Christian attitude? Is that what he defines as Christianity, to print that sort of filth and associate himself with it—filthy stuff which, at a time like this, can only lead to the sort of violence which some of my right hon. and hon. Friends have spent so long trying to eradicate?

I put that on record, and I have been wanting to say it to the hon. Gentleman for a long time. What I find so sad about the hon. Gentleman is that he is very much a Jekyll and Hyde. The Dr. Jekyll side of him is here—charming, courteous and suave, with none of his demagoguery in this place, because he knows what we should do with it. But over there in Northern Ireland we see the Mr. Hyde, the double-talk, the stuff about "popery" and all the other rubbish which we have to put up with and which, in fact, inflames the situation.

As I see them, attitudes, speeches and articles of that kind are the reasons why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Abingdon, who now speaks for the official Opposition, have very little chance of getting the peace we all look for in Ireland. There is very little chance of achieving the kind of life in Northern Ireland which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West wants as much as anybody does. I have never read an article by him attacking Protestants with the bitterness which is shown in what comes from the other side. I believe, with much emotion and passion, that while attitudes like that prevail Ireland has no chance.

I wish to refer now to another Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard). I gave her notice that I intended to make these remarks about her. She believes in the Troops Out movement. I suppose that the hon. Member for Antrim, North —although I do not think that he much cares about it—will agree with me on this. If my hon. Friend's view were to succeed, if the troops were moved out of Northern Ireland at this moment, what would inevitably follow? If the doctrine of the hon. Member for Antrim, North were followed through against the Catholic minority, there would be almost wholesale slaughter. It must be so if the idea is that popery must be destroyed. Confrontation becomes the order of the day.

If the Troops Out movement were to succeed, and if events followed as I believe they would, does anyone imagine that Southern Ireland would stand aside? We could certainly expect some trouble from that quarter, too. Speaking through the pages of Hansard to my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside, since she is not here today, I must ask her whether she believes that the trouble would end there and would not come over to Glasgow and Liverpool? Where would it end? The one reason why it has been contained in the form it has—I join here with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—is that we have the most magnificent troops who have done and are doing a sterling job in the most appalling conditions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bright-side, and others too, must understand that the Britain of yesteryear, the Britain which sent its soldiers abroad to see that the natives were kept in their place, the Britain of the gunboat mentality, is not the Britain of today. It has not been so for some decades. The Army is in Northern Ireland for one purpose only, to keep the warring factions in control —some of the factions of the hon. Member for Antrim, North as well as others, the IRA and the rest, which indulge in murder and violence. I have nothing but contempt and almost hatred for both sides.

I put it frankly to my hon. Friend the Member for Brightside that she will do her party and this country a great disservice if she continues with what I regard as the infamous suggestion that at this moment the troops should leave.

I end on this note, with the question which overshadows all our debates on Ireland. What is the answer? What solutions can be found? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, as was inevitable—it was a good speech—spoke about security and the rest, but he could say nothing about the future save that all will try as best they can, and the soldiers will do the best they can. There is no simple solution for Ireland until the bigotry and hatred which has been built up almost for centuries is removed and the hearts of men are changed. Nothing can be changed otherwise.

Having been critical of him, I now plead with the hon. Member for Antrim, North more than with any other member of his party. I have great respect and understanding for the Ulster Unionists and their point of view. Having been a Member of the House for 30 years now, I realise where they are and what they stand for, and I respect their Protestantism. But on the shoulders of the hon. Member for Antrim, North lies the responsibility to say to his people that tomorrow belongs to all people in Ireland, irrespective of whether they be Catholic or Protestant.

12.17 p.m.

Whatever else the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has done, he has certainly got off his chest a great many feelings which were probably stored up within him during the period when he was forced to sit silent on either this Front Bench or the Government Front Bench. The right hon. Gentleman engaged in some theological battle with my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), and I do not imagine that the House will expect me to involve myself in that duel between those two heavyweights.

It was not the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) who said it.

The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, entitled to his romantic view of a united Ireland. We do not fault him for that. Many others in the House have taken that view and continue to hold it. But I fear that the right hon. Gentleman is right when he says that the reality is that that dream has been shattered, perhaps for ever, by the simple knowledge that the real rulers of a united Ireland of the future, if it were to come about, would be not what he referred to quite properly as a democratically elected Government in Dublin but a junta consisting not only of the Provisional IRA but of some other sinister elements which have already shown their hand in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland as well.

I am not sure how that would be so, if it were a democratically elected Parliament. How would that be so if people had a secret ballot and voted for whomsoever they wanted?

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is no stranger to the processes of electioneering. He will have noticed that at successive elections in both North and South the Provisional IRA have shown their contempt by refusing to put forward candidates and refusing to take part in elections and, in addition, they have terrorised and intimidated others so that they do not take part in the democratic process. That is the sinister aspect of it, for it clearly shows that what they have in mind is nothing remotely resembling the democratic process as we know it.

This state of affairs results from what the right hon. Member for Bermondsey referred to earlier as the many ventures and experiments that have taken place over the last eight years. Some of them began in a well-meaning fashion. They had the best of objectives. Yet the net result has been that at the end of all those years we are now in the present sorry state of affairs—and I agree with the Secretary of State on this—where no one can clearly see the way ahead.

The Secretary of State was correct in saying that it brings pleasure neither to him nor to us that these powers must be renewed for yet another term. Every time we approach this exercise we are all buoyed up by the hope that the operation will not be necessary again. We have been reassured to some extent by what the Secretary of State said about the legal weapon that he possesses to deal with the situation. We also welcome his assurance that he does not have a closed mind on this, that he is examining the whole matter, and that he will continue to review and keep alive his examination of the law as it affects terrorism in Northern Ireland.

My party welcomes the news about the increased strength of the RUC, and presumably also the increase in the strength of the RUC reserve. We pay tribute to them because they have gone through a harrowing experience. It was an experience that other forces might not have survived. The RUC went through a period of demoralisation when every man's hand seemed to be against it.

It must be gratifying for the RUC that it now has the support of all right-thinking people in Northern Ireland, whatever their political views or religious creeds. I exclude a tiny element from its supporters for it would be too much to expect that terrorists and gangsters would in any way lend their support to the forces of the law that are trying to bring them under control.

As to the reduction of Army strength by 500 men, my party wants an assurance that the reduction will be taken from the Army's administrative tail and not from its cutting teeth. We hope there will be no reduction in the specialist forces which have been referred to by the Secretary of State and by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). There is no doubt that the improvements that have taken place in the Province have been due to the employment of specialist troops in special situations. That does not in any way detract from what has been done by other elements of the security forces.

My party welcomes the implementation of the promised increase of 200 in the full-time element in the Ulster Defence Regiment. The Secretary of State has given an assurance that vetting will continue to be strict and effective, but everyone would like to see the vetting process speeded up. I am sure that if the figures were analysed we would find that there is great wastage between the time when an applicant lodges his form and the time when he is approved or rejected. Many applicants become fed up with waiting. They cannot understand the delay and as a result drift off and lose interest. It would be in everyone's interest for the process to be speeded up, and that should not in any way make it less effective.

Some people criticise the UDR and some hon. Members have done so in this debate. If there are minor blemishes which lead us to question the effectiveness of past vetting, I should point out that that vetting has been done not in Northern Ireland, but by people working from this side of the water. I appreciate that the object of that is to ensure impartiality, but sometimes the interests of the regiment and of the Government could be better served if the views of local police and Special Branch—who are in a position to know about applicants' backgrounds—were taken into account.

I want to join in the tribute to all the security forces. I was pleased to see that the Secretary of State for Defence appeared on the Treasury Bench during the opening speeches of this debate. On behalf of my colleagues I ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to convey to him our appreciation of all that the Army and the UDR have done.

I have already referred to our own security forces, for which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is responsible. But we also admire the Army, and particularly all those young soldiers who are encountering such a situation for the first time. I have talked to them as they have been going about their duties in the Province. Speaking from my own experience in the services—I served in Germany at the end of the last war—I wonder whether our generation could have stood such a test as well as these youngsters in Northern Ireland. The Army has our admiration and support and I should like the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to convey that message.

It is clear that the Provisional IRA is doing its best to provoke reaction from the security forces and the population in general. It will fail in that, provided it is clear that the Government are reacting strongly to the offensive and provided it is made absolutely clear that terrorists will not be allowed to win. The fear exists in Northern Ireland that at some time, somehow, somewhere, the terrorists might get their way. It is that fear which can trigger off the deplorable incidents which cause the security forces so much trouble.

So long as we have a robust attitude on the part of the Government and the combined security forces that they control, the Secretary of State can be assured that there will be no hasty reaction, however dastardly the deeds in which the Provisional IRA may engage.

At one time these renewal operations were occasions for bitter political argument. We have moved away from that and from the political slanging matches that once overshadowed vital security considerations.

I should like to quote what was written by an Army officer on 10th February this year. He said:
"it has not yet been fully accepted that a militarily imposed peace will have to precede any political solution, as a political solution can come only when fear has been removed from the lives of the ordinary people of Ulster."
I think that we have moved on somewhat from 10th February, but I think we have a duty to put the matter beyond a shadow of doubt.

Various political parties and various groupings are putting forward suggestions and organising peace movements. We in no way wish to belittle their efforts. They are creating a climate. But they must recognise that somehow or other they have to take a positive rôle. There is no point in any of us simply talking about the desire for peace. We are all agreed on that, and we all want it. We have to try to create a new attitude on the part of the people of Northern Ireland.

Somehow we have to look at this dreadful mess of violence and see whether we cannot start squeezing it from all sides, rolling up the edges. We have to see whether we can persuade the mothers not to stand idly by with their arms folded as their children break the street lighting and kick in the windows of the telephone kiosks. Instead we must get them to adopt the remedies that would have been applied to my generation if we had indulged in such activities. Let us then move on to the protection rackets and the intimidation connected therewith, and from that to the gangsterism, the so-called clubs and community centres, and to the other operations which have done so much to damage the social structure of Northern Ireland.

If we could, even by small and limited stages, achieve this kind of progress, we would make it much more possible for the security forces to concentrate on the primary cause of the violence. It has been recognised in this House—unfortunately, somewhat belatedly in some quarters—that the primary cause of the violence is the Provisional IRA. Labour Members have said to me that we have a lot of bad boys on our side. The answer to that is that we have, but that they would not have been there if the Provisional IRA had not first started its operations.

Even if we set that argument aside, the point is that the Provisional IRA is the spearhead of all the violence, it is the mainspring, the primary cause. If that primary cause is eradicated, several things will happen. The fringes will quickly get the message that the Government mean business. They will say that the Government have cleaned out the Provisional IRA, a tougher element than they are. They will think that they had better look to their own future and fold up and go home. Perhaps it will no longer be profitable to engage in the activities to which the hon. Member for Abingdon referred earlier. Even at its very worst, once that primary cause can be removed, Her Majesty's Government and the security forces would find that the other undesirable elements—and I make no defence for them whatever— would be much more easily contained and eliminated, as eliminated they will have to be.

I come finally to the question of confidence within the ranks of the Army itself. Allegations have been made at various times that the Army has been working with its hands tied behind its back, that it has been restrained and so on. I do not suppose that there is in existence any written document telling the commanders on the spot not to do specific things. I do not think that Governments work in that fashion in this kind of situation. However, we have suspected that many times in the past under various administrations there has at least been a lack of positive encouragement. We suspect that by nods and winks it has been made known to the ambitious Army officer—we do not condemn officers for being ambitious—that if they engage in a particular activity, that is fair enough, but that if it goes wrong, their chances of promotion will not be improved. Those of us who have experienced Service life know that that can be a fairly effective deterrent.

Perhaps I may say with respect that the present Secretary of State is regarded by the security forces in Northern Ireland as being very much on their side—as he should be. I think that he is recognised as a man who talks their language. The Army is beginning to feel now that when it makes mistakes—and in a war, although I am not saying that this is a war against a legitimate enemy, these mistakes will always be made—the Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Defence can be relied upon to give the Army and the other security forces their full support.

It comes home to us in this House now because we in turn must give the Government every support through thick and thin. We have now all agreed that there is no way out in Northern Ireland until terrorism is crushed, and we are determined—and I hope that the Government are equally determined—to see the job through in the not-too-distant future.

12.37 p.m.

I was impressed and moved by the emotional fervour with which the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) spoke. I was impressed by the fervour with which he attacked the Troops Out movement. I was impressed also by the robustness of the speech of the Secretary of State on this point. I am sure that his words will have given reassurance to the people of Northern Ireland, but it is sad that at this stage the reassurance still has to be given to the people of Northern Ireland that the security forces will remain to see the job through.

There are fears in Northern Ireland that there will be a pull-out, and these fears were increased recently by a lengthy article in the Sunday Times calling for the long-term withdrawal of the British forces. Following its publication, I appeared on television, I wrote to that newspaper, and various of my words have been reported fairly extensively elsewhere in the Press on that subject. I can only say that I have received no message of any sort saying that I was wrong, and I believe that the idea that there is pressure in this country for withdrawal from Northern Ireland is grossly exaggerated in certain sections of the Press.

Even if there were pressure, I do not believe that it would be possible to withdraw from Northern Ireland. I cannot think of a single precedent in civilised history for a country deliberately withdrawing in peace time from a Province in which the majority of the inhabitants had demonstrated their desire to remain an integral part of the country. However, there is a widespread belief in this country that the people of Northern Ireland should play a still greater rôle in defeating the terrorists. The peace women have given an emotional focus to that belief.

In the harsh world of fighting terrorism one needs not only an emotional focus but a building up of security institutions. I am pleased that recruitment is going so well and I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement that about 200 extra full-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment are to be recruited. For a long time Opposition Members have pressed for a further 200 but that is only one quarter of the number that is really needed.

The Secretary of State also said that there would be some reduction in the strength of the Regular forces in Northern Ireland because of an improvement in the administrative machinery. I hope that that is not a foretaste of further reductions caused by the defence cuts announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The task of the Secretary of State has not been made easier by the announcement of those cuts. We expect him as an ex-Secretary of State for Defence to ensure that Northern Ireland security does not suffer from the cuts imposed on the Defence Estimates. Perhaps the cuts would not have been so high had the right hon. Gentleman remained Secretary of State for Defence.

We all recognise that in the past the Northern Ireland commitment has strengthened the hand of those who believe that it would be wrong to disband any major units of the British Army. That commitment remains, and I hope that there will be no reduction in the fighting units of the Army.

As a result of the cuts, some reductions may have to be made in the amenities and allowances of the Army. I see that the Under-Secretary of State for the Army is in the Chamber and I am sure that he appreciates that we shall be vigilant in seeing that no cuts are made in the amenities of our forces in Northern Ireland or in travel concessions.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) referred to the substantial number of people—too many—who are making a profit out of violence. He said that over the years a kind of Mafia had grown up. Over the years my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) and others have revealed details of the way in which protection rackets have grown up. Substantial sums are involved and they have enabled many terrorist front organisations to purchase legitimate businesses. For example, I am told on excellent authority that shortly before she died Mrs. Drumm paid more than £250,000 in cash for a Belfast pub.

We know the importance of the unending struggle to find legal means of dealing with the godfathers of terrorism. Perhaps we should now pay more attention to finding means of combating the Goldfingers of terrorism. In that context I wonder whether the legal authorities in Northern Ireland are organised as effectively as they might be. At this stage of the terrorist campaign a trained accountant can have not as important but as vital a role as a bomb disposal expert. The Chancellor's cuts give fresh urgency and new opportunity to ensure that no public funds inadvertently find their way into terrorist front organisations.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State cannot say anything about new laws of compensation. I am sure that he is aware of the outcry and the sense of public outrage that follows when substantial sums of public money go to people who are well known to be terrorists and much smaller sums to the dependants of those who have given their lives in defence of law and order and the security of our society. There is still a great deal to be done, but my hon. Friends and I welcome the robust tone of the Secretary of State's speech.

12.48 p.m.

The House is indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the measured and closely reasoned speech which he addressed to the House. Not only should the House be indebted to him but a speech such as that should be fully reported in the Press in the Province and receive full treatment in the other media. It is too often the experience that what is said with less responsibility and in a less considered fashion than speeches made in this House claims space which would, in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, more wisely be devoted to that which is said by those who speak under a sense of responsibility.

The right hon. Gentleman knows that, like his predecessors, in the pursuit of the objects which he set out—this has been already stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux)—he will receive the support of all my colleagues and myself, as indeed we supported his predecessor in the ending of detention and in the abolition of political status. We are here above all in order to uphold in Northern Ireland the rule of law and the Government of the United Kingdom, and for us that duty overrides all others.

For seven years the campaign, the war, which is the occasion of the order before the House, has continued. It has been protean in its changes of shape and in its varying forms; but, as was rightly recorded by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave), its intensity has not diminished.

I invite the House and particularly the Secretary of State to address themselves for a few minutes not to the tactical but to the strategic aspects of this war. Of course a war has to be fought on all levels—at the level of day-to-day tactics, as the security forces fight it in Northern Ireland, and in terms of months and years, but it also has to be fought on the strategic level. It is only at that level that wars are ever won; for wars are won by the destruction of the enemy's will to war.

I understand that the Secretary of State, his advisers and, above all, the security forces are fighting the tactical war, and that their minds must be constantly riveted on the changing impact of terrorism on Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, it is still necessary that they should also be able to stand back and see the strategic factors.

I noticed that the Secretary of State said that the enemy "faces a chill prospect". Yet despite all that has happened in the last seven years to daunt and destroy the hopes of the enemy, his operations continue unabated. I want to ask why that is.

In many respects the background has changed fundamentally. The word" reconciliation", which used to be on everyone's lips a few years ago, is almost irrelevant in the present circumstances, when 99 per cent. of the population are united by the most forcible bond of all —that of being under the terror of the IRA and its criminal backlash from what is called the other side.

No peace movement is needed to tell the people of Northern Ireland that it is not reconciliation between the great masses of the population which is necessary, but liberation from the fear and oppression of that tiny, but still effective and successful, enemy.

That enemy depends upon hope for his operations. All terrorism depends upon hope. All terrorism continues only so long as those who exert it believe there is a prospect of getting their way by the methods of terror. I ask why it is that, when almost the whole of the rest of Northern Ireland recognises that the terrorists are further from their objectives than they were seven years ago and when we all see the situation as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) saw it, that hope is still alive. Why is not the same picture seen by those who are called the godfathers and those whom they enlist in their campaigns of murder and terror? I want to try to answer that question, which I have not asked rhetorically.

It must be that, despite all that has happened—the successes of the security forces, the fact that their determination has not been broken but reinforced, the disappearance of almost all evidence that the terrorists will get their way, the fact that the "Troops Out" campaign is weaker and less echoed than it has been for years—the terrorists still think they are going to win. What is it that fuels that confidence?

One of the most depressing experiences I have had in recent months was when I was with an Army officer in South Armagh who suddenly turned to me and said, almost apropos of nothing "You see, Sir, those boys in the the Maze are certain that they will not serve their sentences out". Why is it that the "boys in the Maze" and the "boys" not yet in the Maze, those who direct and those who allow themselves to be directed, can still believe, despite all that has happened, that they will get their way by violence?

In offering my answer, dilating a little upon it and giving chapter and verse, I am not conscious of saying anything by which offence would be given to the right hon. Member for Bermondsey. I am not conscious of saying anything which denies the reality—for it is undeniable—of the aspirations for a United Ireland to which the right hon. Gentleman gave expression. But the answer is that this House and the Government are still sufficiently ambivalent in their actions, which speak louder than words, as to the future of Northern Ireland to leave room for those who want to hope that terror will get its way to go on hoping and to continue to exert that terror.

A week ago today, the House was debating a Bill on fishery limits. In Committee, we came upon the fact that the sea area of the United Kingdom is not delimited as between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and that provision is still in the Bill.

The background to it is that since the Free State came into existence, it has publicly maintained that, as the whole of Ireland is part of its territory, so the waters around the island are part of its territorial waters and it has treated differently in respect of what we recognise as its territorial waters, boats and fishermen registered in Northern Ireland and those registered in the rest of the United Kingdom. This may be a small matter, but it is a significant one. It is a recognition, potentially, that the status of Northern Ireland is provisional. It is an admission that at bottom the status of Northern Ireland is destined to be that which is claimed by the Republic.

Again, if we go into a shop in Northern Ireland and tender a note, it is more than likely that among the change we shall receive some currency which is not the currency of this country. It is not legal tender—that has been established in answer to Questions in the House. However the Government and the offices of State conduct transactions in that currency as they would in the currency of the United Kingdom, they treat it as if it were legal tender. Yet they do not do that in the rest of the United Kingdom; they would not accept it in a post office in this part of the United Kingdom. They accept it as if it were legal tender only in that part of the United Kingdom which is Northern Ireland.

Let no hon. Member think that this is a small matter. From the very dawn of history currency has been the assertion of sovereignty. Its image and superscription have been the earliest and some of the most effective political propaganda. Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom accept only in Northern Ireland the circulation of the currency of no other country in the EEC, of no other country in the world, but the currency of that State which claims Northern Ireland as part of its territory.

Before the right hon. Gentleman makes too much of a mountain out of a molehill, may I point out to him that in the State of Ireland he will find that not a small percentage of English currency is used as regular tender? In fact, very often in a handful of change a person will have great difficulty in finding any legal tender bearing the insignia of the President of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman should not make too much of this point.

I am well aware of that. The hon. Gentleman has shown that he misunderstands completely the significance in Northern Ireland of the circulation of the currency of the Republic. If we were laying claim to the territory of the Republic, if it were on the statute book of this House that the territory of the Republic was part of the legal territory of the United Kingdom, the hon. Gentleman's retort would have some significance. This is not a molehill. It is this sort of toleration—no, it is more than toleration, it is this sort of policy— on the part of Her Majesty's Government, year after year, that continues to say to those who wish to believe it that Britain is not serious, that Parliament does not really mean that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, that it is only playing things along till a change, that the status of Northern Ireland is transitional, and that consequently there is still hope for those who mean to hasten that change by the methods of terror.

Again, the citizens of the Irish Republic are the only persons not British subjects who exercise the franchise in the United Kingdom. Why is that? What significance must attach to that in the eyes of the people we are talking about? The French and other inhabitants of the European Economic Community are not electors as soon as they become resident in the United Kingdom. Yet the citizens of the Irish Republic are accepted by Her Majesty's Government and by Parliament as indistinguishable from citizens of the United Kingdom, and accorded our franchise, both in the rest of the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland.

What is the natural interpretation of that? It is that the United Kingdom has never accepted the partition, as it would be called, of Ireland, that it regards the status quo in Ireland as transitional and that pending a permanent settlement it continues to treat the citizens of the Irish Republic—alone of all the peoples of the rest of the world—as equivalent to British subjects and citizens of the United Kingdom for the purpose of exercising the franchise.

There is a common travel area between Irish Republic and the rest of the United Kingdom. Although the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 and subsequent legislation applied in theory to the citizens of the Irish Republic as it applied to the rest of those who fell within its ambit, that Act has never been applied to them in practice, because the common travel area overrides the provisions of the Act. The French and the inhabitants of other countries of the EEC do not come and go in the United Kingdom as if they belonged to the United Kingdom, whereas the citizens of the Irish Republic are able to do so.

I am puzzled by what could be the meaning of that intervention. I am sorry if I do not have the point.

Perhaps I can explain a little more clearly to the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said that citizens of the Irish Republic have travel facilities here which EEC nationals do not at the moment possess. I pointed out to him that EEC nationals are likely to have the same facilities soon as Irish citizens. Indeed, probably even the right hon. Gentleman has recognised that special facilities already exist at our points of exit and entry to give privileged exit and entry to EEC nationals in line with Commonwealth citizens. Surely in four or five years we can envisage a ready flow and interchange of EEC nationals within the Community.

If the citizens of the Irish Republic were treated exactly as other EEC citizens, my point would not arise; but everyone knows perfectly well that even in respect of employment in this country, where EEC nationals have special privileges, the situation of the citizens of the Irish Republic is a special one and is analogous to that of a citizen of the United Kingdom rather than to that of a citizen of the EEC.

In nothing that I have said today and in nothing that I have ever said is there a hint of the slightest hostility on my part nor of anything but the most wholehearted good will towards the Irish Republic and its citizens. I am saying something quite different. I am saying that the manner in which the United Kingdom continues to conduct its own affairs within its own territory is calculated—as if it were deliberately calculated—to convey to those who wish to believe it that in the eyes of the House and in the eyes of Her Majesty's Government the status of Northern Ireland is equivocal and interim.

I come finally to the debate in which the House has been engaged for the rest of this week. Only in regard to Northern Ireland is this House and Her Majesty's Government still resolute that its citizens shall not be represented in the House on a parity with the inhabitants of the rest of the United Kingdom. Only in relation to Northern Ireland do the Government say that our diminished representation shall be retained pending consideration of what might be the form of devolved government in that Province. That is said almost in the same breath as it is asserted that, whatever may be the devolution enjoyed by Wales and Scotland and whatever may be the legislative powers that their Assemblies will have, their representation in this House will be undiminished.

What natural interpretation can be put upon that resolve, continued year after year and decade after decade, but that the House and the British Government do not regard Northern Ireland as an "integral part of the United Kingdom"? That is the official phraseology of Her Majesty's Government. Northern Ireland is called an integral part of the United Kingdom; but the deeds, which speak louder than words, contradict it.

It might seem that all these matters are far removed from the deaths of innocent and less innocent persons that occur every day in our constituencies. They are not so removed. There is a vital and fundamental connection between the continuance of the reign of terror in Northern Ireland and the continued equivocation of the House and of Her Majesty's Government about the status of Northern Ireland.

The fact that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland will not suffer that status to be diminished, and the fact that the attempt to alter that status would be catastrophic for all concerned in foreseeable circumstances, do not alter the consequences of this continued equivocal action in the matters which bespeak the attitude of a country towards parts of itself. It is just as important that the Secretary of State should address himself to removing these contradictions as that he should address himself to reinforcing, supporting and encouraging the security forces and bringing about and maintaining the rule of law in Northern Ireland.

I do not apologise for having insisted that we should look upon the strategic side and turn our eyes for a few moments away from the tactics of the war that is being waged against the United Kingdom in the Province of Northern Ireland.

1.12 p.m.

What I have to say will be considerably more parochial in content than was the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I want to speak briefly about the security situation in South Derry, which has exercised me over the past 12 months, and the undoubted escalation of violence in that part of my constituency which has led to many deaths and many bombings and burnings.

What I have to say is not a carping criticism of the Secretary of State or his administration in our beloved Province. It comes from the grass roots—the people amongst whom I move and to whom I have been talking. They are largely the people whom I have met at the funerals and in the homes of those who have been murdered by the IRA.

The feeling is that there is a lack of communication between the various sections of the security forces, and there is a clamant need for greater liaison between the Army, the UDR and the police. It is felt that something should be done to co-ordinate the activities of those forces. Their idea is that a local man—say, a commander of the UDR or a senior officer of the police—would be more fitted to do this job because of his superior local knowledge. They ask that this suggestion be looked into by the Secretary of State and those who organise the duties of the security forces.

The Secretary of State mentioned the SAS and its special and important rôle in the security of Northern Ireland. It is a matter of great satisfaction to us that the activities of the SAS have not been highlighted, as they were when the SAS first came to Northern Ireland. We are glad to know that their uniform and headgear have not been described and their area of activity has not been mentioned.

The Secretary of State referred to the poster campaign, and the large poster which appears all over our Province—"Seven Years is Enough". Some of the people amongst whom I move and work suggest that a large edition of that poster might be displayed in the Northern Ireland Office so that Ministers could take a long look at it. They feel that seven years is far too long and that there is a need to adopt a high profile approach to the security problem instead of the present low profile. Because of that, morale in South Derry is very low.

Recent bombings, shootings and murders have brought the population to a condition almost of despair, and people are discouraged. They have been enjoined in pamphlets issued by the Secretary of State to co-operate with the security forces and give information. But many have found that their information has not been acted upon. That may be due to lack of co-operation between the security forces. The private telephone is very little used in South Derry. When it was used, little came of it, and little use was made of the information given thereon.

At the risk of boring the House I want to mention again the bombing of Bellaghy, a little town in South Derry with a population of 800 inhabitants which received four bombs. The result is that the whole business quarter has been wrecked, and the prospect of Christmas shopping for the people there is very poor. That does not help the morale of the good people in that area.

I have discovered from my personal investigations that some of the terrorists who carried out the attack were local. None of the terrorists was masked. They entered the town without taking any pains to hide their identity. After planting the bombs, as they were leaving they shot up the town with guns in true Wild West fashion. I suggest that that might mean a new phase in IRA aggression. They are putting up a new front, an attitude of contempt not only for law and order and the State, but for the security forces.

The hon. Gentleman is making a very serious statement. I do not know whether he is saying that he knows the identity of the terrorists, but it seems that people have told him that they know the identity of them. If he has information like that, will he please let us have it? We shall certainly act on it or make sure that it gets to the appropriate authorities. If he knows the identity of these persons, he should let us have that information

No, I did not say that their identity was known. I said that they took no pains to conceal their identity, because they boldly entered the town, unmasked, and carried out these atrocious acts. I have this from the people on the spot who have suffered.

The hon. Gentleman said that the terrorists were known to be local. He must be acting on information given to him by someone in the area. I know that he is close to the grass roots in his area and talks to the people. If he has information like that, he must hand it over to the authorities. We are only as good as the information that we get. If he will pass over that information, we shall act on it.

I hope that the Minister of State is not inferring that I have information which I am not passing on. That is not so. But I shall further investigate this and get more news and I shall pass on whatever information I can get.

The bald fact remains that these people entered the town and made no attempt to hide their identity. In addition to planting bombs, instead of sneaking away, they shot up the town with guns. It seems to indicate a new phase in IRA activity in that area when it can make such a blatant attack upon law and order, upon the State, and upon the people. It would seem that there is a certain contempt for law and order, for the safety of the people and for the security forces in that area.

In my little village we were bombed last Sunday night. My house is well boarded up now. Several windows were blown in and several ceilings are down. The bomb was planted at the rear of the checkpoint in Moneymore with no regard for public safety. It was planted only a few feet from the footpath between half past nine and ten o'clock when women and children could have been passing by. There is a certain murderous contempt for law and order, for life and property in that action. This concerns my constituency. I am not ranging very wide today.

There is one other point I should like to mention. It may be a highly technical matter, but there are part-time members of the UDR who are, unfortunately, unemployed in this time of depression in our Province. Many of them are part-time members of the UDR. They go out on operations at night risking their lives and well-being. Yet I am informed that when they go to collect their unemployment benefit they have to declare what they are paid for these operations. Their money is reduced accordingly. I know that there may be technical reasons, or reasons of fiscal and financial resources for it, but from the point of view of humanity and of what these men are doing and what they are risking, surely something could be done about it.

I ask the Secretary of State and his Ministers to take note of this and to see whether something cannot be done. What is the use of having big advertisements on television, big posters and full-page advertisements in newspapers asking for part-time and full-time recruits to the UDR when this action on unemployment benefit is calculated to discourage anyone from joining the organisation? We know that many members of the IRA are living off the State. They are collecting the money absolutely free, with no deductions. I ask the Minister to take note of these few facts.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State because, from the personal contact I have had with him, I have the highest regard for him, not only in his capacity now as Secretary of State for our beloved land, but in his capacity formerly as Secretary of State for Defence. He always gave a sympathetic and helpful response to anything I had to say about my particular area. I also accord the same thanks to his successor, the Secretary of State for Defence.

1.24 p.m.

I, too, welcome the speech made by the Secretary of State. I was glad to be present to hear him making his first speech from the Dispatch Box. I think that I can remain loyal to my own party when I say that I hope to hear him make more speeches as good as that in the next few months.

I should like to introduce a special angle in this debate and to refer to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). It seems a pity to me that a person with all that talent and great experience—many of us admire the right hon. Gentleman's experience and have done so for many years—can devote part of a speech in a very important debate to what I would call insignificant trivia—

—such as whether the contents of one's pockets consist of Irish coins or English coins, whether there is a Customs area around the British Isles, or whether, for instance, if one goes across the border from the South of Ireland to the North one is virtually to have one's pocket emptied.

Indeed, so great is the right hon. Gentleman's warped fervour, I think that some good factors should be recalled which still join the British Isles together, and of which I am proud, such as the rugby tours of the British Isles and the various other forms of sporting associations we still have with the Republic of Ireland. If the right hon. Gentleman had his way, he would tear down those institutions as well. I believe that while there are many differences between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain and Northern Ireland, there are many useful links which still exist and which still help one country to have a regard for the other country as being in a rather special position. I am glad that that is the position today, and I hope that it will continue.

I should like to refer to the remarks of the Secretary of State and the reply of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave). I welcome the order and I hope and expect that it will be agreed without a Division. I endorse what has been said from both sides very clearly—that we must make clear, and continue to make clear, that we shall have no dealings of any sort with terrorists.

As the Secretary of State said, we must make it absolutely clear to those who deal in terrorism that they will get nowhere. We must make clear that Her Majesty's Government take their mandate from the vast majority in Northern Ireland who wish to see the Province at permanet peace within itself and with its neighbours and to see Northern Ireland as a permanent and integral part of the United Kingdom. Until such a peaceful situation is brought about, the Government and the civil and military forces must do all that is necessary to restore order.

It is right that all the different ideas which we have heard in debate should be floated, because we who live in Great Britain and Northern Ireland do not live in a muzzled society. We live in a free society and can have a free exchange of ideas without any consequences. It is right that all ideas should be considered, such as what I regard as rather ridiculous ideas on the independence and separation of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. These ideas should be discussed and must be discussed but they can be discussed properly only in an atmosphere which is free from restraint, intimidation and in which sensible thought and discussion can flourish.

In this order, we are extending the life of three Acts of Parliament passed in 1973, 1974 and 1975, designed to combat terrorism. It is right, therefore, that we should look ahead to what future legislation may be considered by the House in this respect in the years to come.

I ask to be forgiven if I range beyond the narrower subject of Northern Ireland and its security problems and look ahead to a rather wider European picture. On 27th January 1977 the Government will be signing the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. The Foreign Secretary told my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), in reply to a Written Question on 22nd November that not only will the Government be signing the European convention on the suppression of terrorism on 27th January next at Strasbourg, but that new laws will be introduced in the House to give effect to it.

In addition to considering the orders now before the House, it is worth considering for a moment the aspects of the European convention on the suppression of terrorism which are of direct application to the situation in Ireland. The convention will be signed by 18 of the 19 member nations of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg next month. The member nation which so far has indicated that it will not sign the convention—it is possible that there may be a change of mind —is the Republic of Ireland. The Irish representative has indicated that for the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland to sign the convention on behalf of the Republic would be difficult because of the Republic's constitution. I hope that in the coming weeks before the convention is due to be signed in January next the Government of the Republic of Ireland will perhaps have second thoughts on this matter.

The convention, which I have here with me, contains 16 or 17 statutes. Many of these have generous let-out or exemption facilities. If a member nation feels very strongly that one statute or another is against its constitution, very generous provisions are made to permit the Government concerned perhaps to have exemption from the particular statute. There are also provisions for a member Government, when signing, to put down a deposition stating its interpretation of a certain statute, or that it wishes to reserve its position in relation to a statute.

The Government of the Republic of Ireland probably disagree only with one, fifth of the convention. The other four-fifths, relating to matters such as the hijacking of aircraft, letter bombs, and so on, probably meet with the full approval of the Government of the Republic of Ireland. It is to be hoped that the part dealing with extradition procedures could perhaps be dealt with, if the Government of the Republic of Ireland felt it necessary, by its representative signing the whole convention and at the same time entering whatever waivers are felt to be necessary.

The convention on terrorism has been considered by the Council of Europe for several months. It has been before a committee which was specially called by the Council of Europe for the purpose. But it is a strange fact that this document, containing 16 or 17 statutes, has never been before any elected Member of Parliament in Europe for consideration, for debate, for discussion, or even for the purpose of getting an opinion.

The convention is entirely the product of a committee of civil servants. It will be signed by our representative in the Council of Ministers in January next year, without any opinions being expressed by any elected Members of Parliament in Europe. I regard this as a pity. Many hon. Members may ask whether this matters, because the convention will not be enacted in Britain until we have passed our own domestic legislation. But in Britain and in Ireland we have great experience of terrorism, of letter bombs, of aircraft hijacking, and so on, with which the convention deals. Probably the convention would have been a better one, and might have had more relevance to the facts of life, had we been consulted about it, and if the Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland could have had their opinions taken into account during its preparation.

The Council of Europe in Strasbourg plays quite a useful rôle in several respects. Like the right hon. Member for Down, South, I have many great reservations concerning the validity or value of our membership of the European Economic Community, but there are certainly advantages to be gained from co-operating in the Council of Europe, with its membership of 19 nations, on matters such as terrorism.

This applies also to other matters in which the Council of Europe has been concerned, such as the pollution of waterways. I am glad to note that the right hon. Gentleman accepts this. I have to tell the right hon. Gentleman and the House that Northern Ireland is losing out in Strasbourg. There is not a single Northern Ireland Member of Parliament on the United Kingdom delegation at the Council of Europe, with its 19 nations, or, indeed, at the European Parliament, with its nine nations.

Frequently matters are discussed in Strasbourg which are of direct relevance and concern to Northern Ireland in particular and to Ireland as a whole. In the absence of any Member of Parliament from Northern Ireland to put the point of view of Northern Ireland, it either goes by default or someone steps in and says "This is what we think Northern Ireland would want". That is patently wrong. I am not sufficiently arrogant to attempt to do that. I would not seek to suggest that I had any idea what Northern Ireland wanted. But there are those who consider themselves qualified to speak for Northern Ireland and who do not come from Northern Ireland or represent Northern Ireland constituencies. It is quite wrong that such people should speak in debates in Strasbourg on matters concerning Northern Ireland.

I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree that Northern Ireland's position within the context of the United Kingdom is so important that it would be right and proper as soon as possible for at least one Northern Ireland Member of Parliament to go to Strasbourg and say what he knows to be best for Northern Ireland as he sees it.

The hon. Gentleman may not have been present when this point was raised a few days ago. I then placed on record, and do so again—although it is not in contradiction with what the hon. Gentleman said—that at no time was any official proposition put to the United Ulster Unionist Coalition concerning membership of the European Assembly. The Council of Europe is a different matter.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I believe that there should be a Northern Ireland Member of Parliament—not necessarily from the UUU Coalition—at both the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. Northern Ireland had a very effective member of the European Parliament in Mr. Rafton Pounder, who unfortunately is no longer with us. I mention this point because I believe that in topics covering the convention and other matters that occur daily, Northern Ireland is not having its voice heard. It has no direct say in what is being decided, and that is wrong and should be corrected.

I wish to congratulate the Secretary of State on his speech. I thought that the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) made a telling speech, and did some good in dispelling a belief that I have firmly held until this moment —namely, that no Chief Whip is capable of making a good speech. I now stand corrected.

1.40 p.m.

I, too, wish to join in congratulating the Secretary of State on an admirable speech and I am only sorry that I missed his opening words. He is a robust Minister and clearly a tough man in a tough job. However, I wish that he had not this morning announced that the number of troops in the Province is to be reduced.

I have attended a good many debates on these emergency provisions in the past, and I have heard of a good many false dawns that never happened. It seems now that the terrorists are under pressure and that another dawn conceivably is approaching. I wonder why at this precise moment we feel it necessary or wise to withdraw any of the security forces in the Province, particularly in view of the massive destruction in Londonderry only weeks ago and the considerable damage in Belfast only days ago.

I wish to question whether the Minister when replying to the debate will say whether the statement made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 2nd July about the RUC and his hope of making it more representative of the community as a whole has come about. I welcome the fact that the actual numbers of RUC and RUC reserves have increased, but unless that force becomes more representative, the concept of the primacy of the police seems to be as far removed as it has been in the last seven years.

Anybody who gives any thought to the terrorist campaign waged in the past seven years—of which, as the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) said, there is no sign of abatement—must realise the enormous logistical support that has been necessary to keep those terrorists in the field, to provide them with their weapons, and to give back-up support which in one way or another they have managed to have throughout most of the Province.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was right to make us think about the strategic objectives of the terrorists along with any short-term tactical gains they hope to achieve. I want to enlarge on what he said because I think that we should see the campaign in terms of overall long-term strategy. Some time ago I remember the right hon. Gentleman pulling up the then Secretary of State who spoke of senseless murders by saying that murders in Northern Ireland are never senseless since all have a political objective. I shall spend a moment or two dealing with these two points.

The strategy remains the same. It is to prove that the Province is basically ungovernable except by maintaining massive security forces of a sort that in the end the rest of the United Kingdom will not be prepared to afford. This strategy exists and seeks to achieve the same concept in terms of the economy of Northern Ireland. We know that in Londonderry it has been estimated that £1 million worth of damage was done by terrorist action a few weeks ago and, more important, 500 jobs were lost.

Northern Ireland is suffering the highest unemployment rate that is to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. Young people cannot find jobs. The country is not growing industrially as it was at the beginning of the terrorist campaign, and recent figures have shown that the growth in the region is the lowest of all the regions in the United Kingdom.

In Belfast a business man has said he would like to bring forward a scheme to revitalise the centre because of the commercial damage done by the terrorist campaign. I was in Holland last week and I met a Dutch business man who spoke to me about marine engines. He said that he thought of Northern Ireland in business terms but added "In view of the terrorist campaign I do not want to go there." There is another consideration —the view that the overall strategy is to prove that the Northern Ireland economy as part of the United Kingdom's cannot and will not be sustained.

On 2nd July, the then Secretary of State in a speech made on the Northern Ireland (Government) Order went so far as to express what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Down, South said today. The former Secretary of State said:
"I accept that Northern Ireland is underrepresented and that this becomes more apparent the longer that direct rule continues. I also have to accept that representations at Westminster from Northern Ireland has to be considered in the context of Northern Ireland itself with its divided community, and, indeed, its history."—[Official Report, 2nd July, 1976; Vol. 914, c. 813.]
The right hon. Gentleman made those statements but, alas, gave no promise of increased representation. He talked no more about political initiative and perhaps was right at that moment, but the fact is that Northern Ireland is now the Province that Westminster would prefer to forget—except those of our Ministers who go there and who serve that Province well, and our soldiers who are stationed there. They are joined by a small group of hon. Members who come to this House from Ulster to remind the nation of what is going on.

The empty Benches before us this morning show how much real interest there is in what is taking place in Northern Ireland. It shows how hands have been washed and minds cleared of the great problems that once filled this Chamber. It must make anybody from Northern Ireland wonder whether concern exists in Parliament about these matters. They must also wonder why, if they cannot persuade Scottish, Welsh and English Members to come here, they cannot have more Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland or, if they cannot have that representation, why they cannot have some form of government in Northern Ireland.

Is it any wonder that independence has suddenly become a subject that is being discussed, perhaps unrealistically, in the Province? Is it not disappointing that the Peace Movement, which seeks to echo the feelings in the hearts of people on both sides of the community, looks like going nowhere because nobody is sure how to channel all that honest emotional feeling in the right way, despite the death and destruction to which all those people wish to see an end?

I find that proposition the saddest part of what has happened this year in Northern Ireland. I say to the Minister of State that if he denies people the aspirations which they can bring to reality only through political means and thus through increased political representation or reform of government in Northern Ireland, he will be creating a State that lives in the uncertainty to which the right hon. Member for Down, South has referred, and which will leave in the hearts of terrorists the feeling that if they can keep up their campaign the day will ultimately be theirs.

All of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon about the extra measures that could be taken to improve the security position are worthy of the closest consideration by the Government. For some reason that consideration is deferred. So many ideas which come from the Opposition take such a long time to become reality. Why is this? I hope that it is not because of a feeling that the ideas come from the Opposition in the first place and so should be looked at with some doubt.

I turn to the point about detonators and how they are marked. My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) originally introduced a Bill which ran into objections from the Home Office. Now Lord Brookeborough is introducing the same Bill. Perhaps the Minister of State can tell us why the Bill has been held up and whether we can have some hope that it will be approved this time.

What is being done to bring the godfathers or the goldfingers of violence to book by some amendment in the law? Can the Minister tell us about Catholic representation, not only in the RUC but in the UDR? Can he tell us whether the police are becoming more acceptable in the Catholic areas and whether the whole community, not just the Protestants but the Catholics, is recognising in the police the security forces to which they should give their trust?

Is the confidential telephone losing its support, as I have been told and as one hon. Member has said today? Above all, can the Minister give any hope to those who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom that the Government intend, once and for all, to blunt any hope of political gain by the terrorists. Can he say that they recognise that the economy of Northern Ireland is a special case in every sense of the word? Will he say what help, if any, the Government plan for the economy, particularly when we hear that Northern Ireland is to be denied a further £5 million as a result of the latest public spending cuts? Almost anywhere else in the United Kingdom this might be bearable, but in Northern Ireland it is to be regretted.

Lastly, I quote some more of the words of the Secretary of State on 2nd July, when he told the House during the debate on Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Order:
"The speed with which a peaceful society can be attained depends upon the resources and the support of the people. The Government will provide the necessary resources, but the will and action needed for their successful employment depends upon the people of the Province."—[Official Report, 2nd July 1976; Vol. 914, c. 883.]
It does not. The people of the Province long for peace. We have the means through our security forces, at least to some extent, to help them towards that peace. But it will be no peace if all we manage to do is to lock up for a time the terrorists, the killers and some of the godfathers, and then find that we are governing a sullen community which does not know where its future lies and which finds that it is somehow the unwanted child of the United Kingdom.

I firmly believe that ultimately it is the political initiatives that can be devised that will make the difference between whether Northern Ireland stays in the United Kingdom or whether the terrorists will win. I endorse everything that has been said about the security forces and the wonderful way in which they have performed a terrible task. If we rely on them and these measures to achieve something that can happen only in the minds of the people of Northern Ireland we shall deceive ourselves. I hope that the Government will accept my words in the terms in which they are meant.

We must think of the people of Northern Ireland as the people of the United Kingdom. We must banish this feeling that they are unwanted. One of the best ways to do so would be to show them that they can have the representation that fairness and democracy would give them if only we had the will to do what is necessary.

12.55 p.m.

I join in congratulating the Secretary of State on the statement that he made this morning. It was one of the strongest statements made in this House since I became a Member. Even the previous Government was never determined to take the steps that the present Secretary of State has taken to give encouragement and help to the people of Northern Ireland, who are so war weary after seven years of violence.

I hope that the whole House will give 100 per cent. support to the Secretary of State and the Ministers who undertake such a responsibility in Northern Ireland at present. I would like to record the thanks of the UDR to the Secretary of State for the speech that he made on 13th November, reported in the Belfast Newsletter, when he paid tribute to the UDR, offered condolences to them and strongly defended the regiment. This was greatly appreciated by every member of the UDR. On behalf of the whole of the UDR I express its appreciation to the Secretary of State for taking a stand and supporting that wonderful, courageous regiment.

Much has been said this morning about the RUC. I have always been a strong supporter of law and order in Northern Ireland, even before the sectarian violence commenced. I have said in the past, and I make no apology for saying it again, that in Northern Ireland we have the greatest police force in the world. Through the efforts of the Government, much of the morale that was taken away from the RUC, perhaps by the previous Government, has been restored.

In Belfast we have six divisions of the RUC. I was encouraged to hear the Secretary of State say that we have 5,268 men in the RUC and 4,704 men in the Reserve, making a grand total of approximately 10,000 in the RUC and the RUC Reserve. In Belfast alone we have approximately five policemen per day guarding each police station. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State will take my humble suggestions as food for thought. I sincerely think that they might be of assistance in backing up the wonderful statement made by the Secretary of State today. Guarding those stations and guarding VIPs, and putting fixed guards on the courts in Northern Ireland are all very essential. All of this takes approximately 300 men per day. One VIP, a former Prime Minister, has 14 policemen guarding his house 24 hours a day. This saps the strength of the members of the RUC.

The Secretary of State said that a regional crime squad had been set up. I am glad to say that he has announced that we now have a fraud squad. I advocated that some months ago. I asked in a Written Question whether it was the Government's intention to set up a fraud squad. It was denied by the then Secretary of State that such a squad was contemplated.

I am glad that we now have determined Ministers responsible for Northern Ireland. I underline the word "determined", because we now have Ministers with backbone who are prepared to stand up to all the terrors in Northern Ireland and to stamp them out. There is need for the formation of a fraud squad to investigate the people and Mafias who are carrying on business in Northern Ireland.

The number of policemen employed each day at fixed points is well in excess of 300. The Minister of State works hard in his Department trying to attract industry to Northern Ireland. He spares no effort in attempting to get jobs for the people of Northern Ireland. I am sure that if an industrialist said to him that he had employment for 300 men in Northern Ireland he would welcome him with open arms and would offer him every possible facility.

I suggest to the Secretary of State that we we could create 300 jobs in Northern Ireland by substituting 300 members of the UDR for the 300 policemen. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is not a question of getting involved with the minority in guarding police stations or of getting involved with members of the public by standing guard outside a VIP's house or of being involved with minority groups by being on duty outside court houses to offer the protection needed in these terrible days in Northern Ireland.

We have been reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) that only half the members of the UDR—honourable, hard-working men—are employed. If they could be offered full-time employment in looking after police stations, VIPs' houses and court houses it would be a terrific boost for the RUC because it would then be able to deploy 300 more men to fight not only terrorists but large-scale crime and petty crime.

I have been doing some homework on this matter. There are six divisions in Belfast. The deployment of 300 members of the UDR in the way that I have mentioned would give 50 extra men to each division. I am sure that the chief constable would welcome it if the Secretary of State were to say to him "We are prepared to give you 50 extra men for each division". The divisional commanders of the RUC could make very good use of them, because they say that they would be able to do much more in combating terrorism, large-scale crime and petty crime and vandalism if only they had the manpower.

It has been said in the House more than once that the purpose of the security forces is to enforce the law. Often the law seems to fall between two stools. We have the police responsible for dealing with crime, and we have the Army as a back-up force.

I therefore ask the Secretary of State to give serious thought to this matter and to consult the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army about it. I welcome what the Secretary of State has said on the question of full-time employment of 200 members of the UDR, but I understand from other quarters that these men will be used as a back-up force for the police in South and East Belfast. I have suggested that 300 members of the UDR could be employed in looking after the important posts to which I have referred.

I come to the question of the procedure for complaints against the police. Since 1975 over 2,000 complaints have been made against the police. I suggest that very few of them have been substantiated. I ask the Secretary of State to give power to divisional commanders such as that which is given to the Army and the UDR. Petty complaints should not have to go through a procedure involving superintendents, chief inspectors, inspectors, sergeants and constables but should be dealt with by divisional commanders.

The reserve police number 4,704. Better use could be made of them in fighting crime. The reserve police are not allowed to get involved in stopping riots. There are three reserve policemen and two full-time RUC men driving around my constituency. I do not need to remind the House that my constituency is the worst area in Northern Ireland for terrorism. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will agree with that. Nearly 60 civilians have been killed this year by violent, wicked, cowardly murderers. Four of them were girls under the age of 16 years. A young mother was watching television with her small daughter. Before she got to the door of her house, she was gunned down in a brutal assassination. That is just a brief account of recent events to show what is happening in North Belfast, the place with the greatest number of interface areas in the whole of Northern Ireland.

North Belfast needs more police, needs more security and needs the assistance and support not only of this House but of every elected representative and every citizen. This is why I have referred specifically to the reserve police. I am sure that my colleagues from Northern Ireland and the hon. Member for Belfast, West will agree that a great deal of the crime takes place at weekends. The reserve police are a voluntary force, and members of it may say to those in charge at a police station that they will not be coming on duty or will not be available for duty on some night or other, including Friday and Saturday night.

Has the Chief Constable any power to say to the 4,700 reserve policemen that they are needed on duty? I ask that with special reference to areas which suffer from terrorism, violence, crime and vandalism. Is there power to say to any reserve policeman "We need you here on duty on Friday and Saturday night "? There is a great temptation for a reserve policeman to say to his officer in charge that he has to go out with his wife on a Friday night or he has a social appointment on a Saturday night. I understand from information which I have gathered from police stations in my constituency that it is difficult to get reserve policemen in for duty at weekends, which is the most important time.

I ask the Secretary of State to take note of that. Is there any means by which the Chief Constable could have power to ensure that these voluntary policemen—almost 5,000 of them—can be called in for duty at the weekend? If they are not allowed to come in contact with riots, at least they can be involved in patrols combating vandalism. No one can deny the consequences and heavy public cost of vandalism and petty crime in Northern Ireland today. I have seen it in my own constituency, and I shall give the House but one example, although I could spend the rest of the debate giving case after case to illustrate the terrible crimes which are being committed.

Only recently in my constituency, an old lady of 84, almost blind, was at home, and boys of 12 and 14 years of age came over the yard wall, broke into her house, beat her up and stole the £14 which she had saved up for Christmas. Our reserve policemen could be dealing with that sort of thing.

I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army is present. I have a great respect for him. He has always had a most sympathetic ear for Northern Ireland, always helpful in listening to advice or giving advice in any way possible. I take this opportunity, therefore, to ask him to note that within the Ulster Defence Regiment we have no Ulstermen involved on the intelligence side. In the greater Belfast area at present there is one member of the UDR on the intelligence side, and I want Ulstermen to be brought in so that they may make their special contribution.

It is delightful to hear—I think that it is the first ray of hope since the trouble started in 1969—that the UDR is to have 200 full-time members. But I believe that we could make use on the intelligence side of the UDR of the many highly skilled professional people within the force. Members of the UDR are not just men who brush the streets. They come from every profession and every walk of life, and I believe that on the intelligence side, now composed of English members, we could incorporate Ulster men, men who know the area, who know the people and who could give guidance and advice. I believe that this would be a great boost in combating crime and bringing many terrorists to court. I agree with the Secretary of State that only when we can catch these men, bring them before the courts and deal with them in the proper way shall we bring terrorism to an end.

I end on this note. I should like every right hon. and hon. Member and all people in the little hamlets and large cities of England to give some thought especially at this time of year to the people who live along the small lonely country roads of Northern Ireland, in the little farm houses and the small streets—all hard-working people—and remember that at this Christmas time there will be vacant chairs, there will be brokenhearted mothers, there will be children crying for fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters whom they loved. The people of Northern Ireland have suffered for seven years.

At the same time, I want the people of England and the members of the British Armed Forces to know that we, the Ulster Members here, appreciate from the depths of our hearts the service which British husbands and sons have given to Ulster. They have not laid down then lives in vain. I want the people of England to know, in the spirit of Christmas, that our thoughts, our sympathies and our prayers are with the loved ones who are left behind and with all the people at home.

2.17 p.m.

On the last occasion when we renewed this order, I pointed out that for some people in Northern Ireland it was as easy to take a gun and murder someone as it was to take a cup of tea. I made that case to show what I regarded as the necessity for capital punishment.

Despite what the Secretary of State has said, I do not believe that that case has in any way diminished. Whether the House of Commons will ever take its courage in its hands and introduce such legislation or whether it will be left to, we hope, a Parliament in Northern Ireland to take that decision, I do not know, but the day will ultimately come when we have to take measures of that kind to deal with those who have dealt out the violence and brought the tragedies referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson).

Today, however, I wish to dwell on another aspect of life in Northern Ireland, which came forcibly to my mind last Monday. While, on the one hand, there are those who commit terrible crimes and those who suffer the consequences of those crimes, on the other hand there is a large section of our community which has learned to live with the violence, has taken account of it and now lives a life which seems to pretend that the violence does not exist or regards it only as an irritation. I believe that that attitude is dangerous, and there is a growing tendency in Northern Ireland now to accept a certain level of violence.

My wife and I went to shop in Belfast last Monday. We could not have picked a worse day. I should have expected everyone in Belfast to be as angry and frustrated as I was. There were bombs and threats of bombs, road blocks, fire engines rushing through the streets and everything one could imagine in a situation of crisis. But were the ordinary people concerned? They simply took notice of the signs at the edge of the road. They heard someone directing them this way or that. They took out their shopping lists and said to themselves "We cannot do it in this order of priorities, so we shall have to do it another way."

Eventually, my wife had to try to get out of the centre of the town, and she went searching for a bus. She could not find a bus and asked a number of people. Eventually, someone was found who was going in the same direction with us, then two more, and eventually, after about 15 minutes, there were seven people who wanted to go in the same direction. They looked for a taxi and finally managed to convince one of the black taxi drivers to go.

There was no anger. There was no annoyance. They accepted it. They paid 80p each for a two-mile journey—which I thought extortionate—but that was the way of it. They accepted the violence and the life style as something with which they had to come to terms.

There are tremendous dangers inherent in that thinking. A vast sector of our community has opted out of the war in which we are engaged. These people only watch it on television like so many other people in the United Kingdom. Five members of the security forces have been killed in my constituency during the last five months—that is one a month, three policemen and two UDR men. But this is no longer even a three-day wonder. It is a one-day wonder. The 18-year-old who was killed in my constituency this week was a one-night wonder. He made the evening news but he was not mentioned again in the morning news, and that is symptomatic.

The Secretary of State has given some encouraging news about the SAS and the UDR, but I want to express a word of caution on the subject. It took a long time to get the SAS introduced into South Armagh. I shall not comment on their success, but anyone can judge the situation this year as compared with last year. Any impartial observer can see that there has been a substantial improvement. There have been far fewer complaints against the SAS than probably would have been made against the ordinary uniformed troopers.

Therefore, when one talks about redeploying the SAS to other areas, it should not be forgotten that South Armagh was once described as the burning torch of republicanism in Ireland. It was the area to which the IRA looked for the success of its policies. It would be dangerous to take out of such an area the men who have achieved the level of normality that now exists there. I hope that this fact will be taken into account when consideration is given to redeployment of the SAS.

What has been the Government's reaction to the murders of five security men in South Armagh during the last five months? One of their reactions has not been going on to the offensive. There appears to be an emphasis on the siege mentality. After seven years there are no longer metal barriers across the roads but there are nine-inch thick concrete walls. When a policeman searches vehicles, another armed policeman protects him. There is now a demand that the Army should defend the armed policeman who defends the policeman who searches the vehicle. I have supported this in certain circumstances, but when one really considers this it can be appreciated that after seven years of strife, instead of going after the terrorist, we are retreating into our fortresses, police stations, UDR camps, or town centres.

I was disturbed when, after the death of the second policeman, I put down a Question about the follow-up operations and was told that houses had been searched and a few people questioned. If our intelligence is as good as we have been led to believe, the security forces should have had a good idea of which houses to search and whom to question.

It is important that we should get out of this defensive mentality. The Peace Movement should have helped to create an attitude in Northern Ireland that would encourage the security forces to be more aggressive. It is all very well to say that we are like a sponge and that if we take everything that is thrown at us we shall win in the end. If Northern Ireland had a population of 50 million people, or if we had towns like London with populations of 10 million, we could afford to do that. But we have only 1 million people. One day's bombing can destroy a village, or a shopping centre in Londonderry. We cannot afford to take the attitude that we shall be victorious in the end. If we settle for that, it will be too late.

The terrorist is not buoyed up just by the nine-inch concrete walls, which are signs of his success, or by centuries of republican mythology and tradition. Over the past seven years he has been buoyed up by the destruction of the B Specials and the proroguing of Stormont. These events are seen as victories by the terrorists, who have even faced the might of the British Army and have not been defeated.

Another matter was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Terrorists are supported by the national insurance system. We should not make the mistake of thinking that terrorists in Belfast or anywhere else in Northern Ireland exist and make a comfortable living without supplementary benefits. Terrorists take full advantage of our community services—electricity, housing and gas—and they do not pay for them. An interesting article in one of the morning papers showed that there are 84,000 debtors in Northern Ireland owing a total of £19 million.

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South spoke about rolling up the edge of the carpet, and he suggested that we should roll it up to show those people who are not paying their way. It is not pensioners who do not pay their way but people who could afford to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South said that that was something that should be taken into account, and I also urge that effective measures should be taken to make sure that these people pay their way. We were told a few years ago that the Army was capable of running power stations if workers went on strike. If that is possible—and I do not deny it—when employees of the Northern Ireland gas and electricity services cannot get into these areas to cut off supplies, why cannot this be done by members of the security forces?

I do not ask that the deserving people should be deprived of these services. I do not want to see low income families, widows and one-parent families suffer. But I do wish to see suffering by those who are taking all that they can from Northern Ireland and who at the same time are going out to shoot policemen, innocent civilians and soldiers. They are the people whom we should tackle. It is not sufficient to take 50 pence a week off social security benefits. More strenuous efforts must be made.

The introduction of a fraud squad and the extension of its activities is useful. But the courts and other statutory bodies in Northern Ireland give an air of respectability to the republican and loyalist Mafias. I do not understand how people such as the IRA can go to court to seek drink licences without questions being asked. I want to know why it is that when they buy large establishments in Belfast or other large towns, some investigations are not made to find out from where they got the funds. When such people produce sums of the magnitude of £250,000 or £500,000, they should be asked to account for it. Did the money come from their various successful Post Office and bank raids?

At this point I want to pay tribute to the two women who this week beat raiders out of a Falls Road post office when they tried to steal family allowances and benefit money. The local population turned on the raiders and drove them out. I hope that there will be more examples of such a thing happening.

I am asking today for a shift from the defensive to the offensive. The authorities must go out and search and arrest. They must question more than two people when a member of the security forces is killed. I hope that more action has been taken over the death of that young policeman in my constituency. The authorities must cut off the gas, electricity and other services to those who are not prepared to pay for them.

There must be an investigation of those people who claim unemployment benefit to which they are not entitled. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) knows that there are employers in his constituency, just as there are employers in County Armagh, who cannot get people to work for them even though in many instances they are paying above the union rate. Often, if the employer will not co-operate in giving time off to people he employs so that they may collect their unemployment benefit, he can expect a bomb the following week for his efforts.

Action must be taken on these matters. Extra special investigatory force was introduced in Great Britain to tackle these problems. I believe that we may need to increase the number of special investigators in Northern Ireland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South spoke of rolling up the edge of the carpet. If we can take action against the peripheral activities of the hoodlums and the gangsters, we can clear the deck for dealing with the hard core of terrorists. I hope that while the Government may argue that there is no room for a change in the law, they will take action within their existing powers on some of these problems.

2.32 p.m.

When these provisions were first introduced the House was well attended. There was a forceful debate during which many things were said to the detriment of the people of Northern Ireland and especially to the detriment of the majority community. Now that Stormont has been prorogued and destroyed, the only democratic forum we have outside this House is in councils with very little power, and this House now seems to be washing its hands of the situation.

When I first came to this House there were many outspoken critics of Northern Ireland. Very little tribute has ever been paid to the vast majority of Protestant people who have remained calm and quiet throughout the whole situation. It is now time that tribute was paid to them, even by those who might disagree with them in political terms. The majority of people in Northern Ireland are Protestant and take the title of Loyalist. If those people launched themselves into a campaign of anarchy and rebellion the House would have a very serious problem to deal with.

I still wait to hear from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition a eulogy of the law-abiding Protestant people. I am not forgetting the law-abiding Catholics who have been praised by both sides. However, it is also time that the Protestant people were given credit for what they have done.

I welcome the Secretary of State's strong statement today. I discerned within it the will and determination to deal with terrorism. We welcome that. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, confidence in the will of the House to carry this battle effectively to a conclusion and to keep Ulster firmly integrated within the United Kingdom has been seriously eroded.

I will not reiterate some of the factors which had led to a breakdown of confidence in the determination of the Government to do those things, but there has been a suggestion of economic withdrawal, the symptoms of which have perturbed many people in Northern Ireland, including many in the trade union movement who are traditional supporters of the Labour Party.

I welcome very strongly the fact that the Secretary of State has succeeded in persuading his colleagues in the Cabinet of the economic plight of Northern Ireland and that they have softened the blow of the cutbacks. I have been a severe critic of the Government, but I welcome what they have done. They have given confidence to people. People have said that if the Government can do that they must mean business in Northern Ireland. They know that if the cuts which are being applied to the rest of the United Kingdom had been imposed on Northern Ireland the effect on employment in our factories would have been catastrophic.

We appreciate what the Secretary of State has accomplished. We are glad that a new factory is being established in the Newry area and that the Minister of State has succeeded in attracting American investment to Northern Ireland. I hope that this is a harbinger of better things for Northern Ireland.

The confidence of the people must be re-established. The Secretary of State mentioned that there are certain things which are essential to the success of the drive against terrorism. He listed respect for the law and confidence in and wholehearted support for the security forces.

Let me deal first with confidence in the security forces. They must be seen more on the ground, because that is one of the difficulties for the people of Northern Ireland. They cannot be expected to have confidence in the security forces when they do not see them in operation.

I accept that there are areas in which it would be unwise for the security forces to make an open appearance. But the people must see them clearly in operation and must see that they are in control or are regaining control of areas where their presence has not been felt in the past.

I welcome the objectives of the Secretary of State for the police, and I trust that we shall see an increasing involvement of the police. Many things have been said about the police in Northern Ireland but I do not know any police force anywhere that has been so misrepresented. When I first came to the House it was a popular indulgence among Members who were not aware of the situation to make vicious, scurrilous unfounded attacks on the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

When we discussed these provisions in July, I drew attention to the eloquent testimony paid to the RUC's impartiality, to its fairness and to the quality of the protection that it gives to all sections of the community. The Army had succeeded in pinning down gunmen and those gunmen realised that if they persisted in resisting the Army they would suffer at its hands. So they appealed to the Royal Ulster Constabulary to arrest them and take them out of the hands of the Army. That shows that the RUC is acting in a way to which even its enemies pay testimony.

We echo all that has been said by the Secretary of State, the timely tribute he paid to the Army, the UDR, RUC and the Reserve. We echo his tribute to the people who are working under such stress and who are giving Ulster their best in this dark hour of Ulster's crisis.

The former Chief Whip of the Labour Party gave notice that he would refer to me in the debate. I am one of the few notified hon. Members who have turned up. I wrote the right hon. Gentleman a note saying that I would be glad to hear what he had to say.

He has declared that his dream, objective and goal is to see a united Ireland governed by what he called the democratically elected Government in Dublin. My political feeling is well known in the House. It is my objective, aim and goal to keep that situation from coming about. I make no bones about that. If the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) thinks that that is some new attitude, I refer him to speeches that I have made in the House. I have said that any attempt against the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Northern Ireland to create an all-Ireland situation would be resisted. That is on record. I make no apology, because that is the feeling of the people of Northern Ireland. I only represent the people. If they do not like what they see, they can turf me out.

The right hon. Gentleman said that the Irish Republican Army has been responsible for putting off the implementation of his dream in his lifetime. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman will go but I shall not be joining him in purgatory.

The right hon. Gentleman has not acquainted himself with the unshakeable determination of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland not to accept an all-Ireland situation. Those are the facts. The right hon. Gentleman is like a Rip Van Winkle suddenly awakened. I do not blame him for being tired after his arduous task of being Chief Whip and I wish him well in his retirement from that post.

I shall continue with my speech. I did not interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when he was making his speech.

The right hon. Gentleman sees the IRA as some vicious thing which has come in to keep him from attaining his goal. On the other side of the coin he sees another vicious thing—me. I challenge him to come to Antrim and look at the situation on the ground. I invite him to find any members of his Church in Northern Ireland who can say that on any constituency matter I do not fight the corner for them as effectively as I fight for my Protestant constituents.

It is interesting that the Roman Catholic vote in my constituency has dropped. It is not rising. If I am the character that the right hon, Gentleman portrays me to be, surely his co-religionists should be conducting a great crusade to put up a massive vote. There are many of his co-religionists in my constituency. Out of a total electorate of 109,000, 25,000 are Roman Catholics. One would have thought that under those circumstances, if I am such a wicked character responsible for the trouble in Northern Ireland, as the right hon. Gentleman inferred, they would be crusading against me. If they could not unseat me, one would have thought that at least they would try to show that they knew the type of man who represents them.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) tells us that he represents the minority and that his party speaks for the minority. One would therefore assume that the votes cast for his candidate represent the protest votes against the sitting Member. In the February 1974 Election, the SDLP candidate polled 10,056 votes. I received 41,282 votes, which increased my majority from 2,500 to 27,000. I am sure that many hon. Members would like that majority and might even break the tenth commandment and covet it. There was another election in Northern Ireland—and momentous happenings between the General Elections in February and October 1974. The same SDLP candidate polled only 7,616 votes and my majority was increased to 34,000.

I invite the right hon. Member for Bermondsey to come to North Antrim and tour my constituency with me. I am one of the few hon. Members in Northern Ireland who can go into every part of his constituency. Some parts are not very acceptable to my political thinking, but because of my attitude to every person in the community I have an entrance to those areas. I should be happy for the right hon. Gentleman to talk to my constituents and to let them tell him what they think of me.

The right hon. Gentleman seems to be a nice, gracious person and if he comes to my constituency perhaps seeing will be believing. If he is afraid to come round with the monster that he seems to think I am, I shall arrange for one of my Roman Catholic constituents to escort him. He will be well protected. No harm will come to him, and he will be able to investigate on the spot just what the people of North Antrim think of me.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey paid tribute to the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) and said that he held him in the highest regard. But I remember when the right hon. Member for Bermondsey was Government Chief Whip and his entire Front Bench called for the prosecution of the right hon. Member for Belfast, East, because of certain things that happened. Suddenly there is a change of view and this man becomes a statesman. In the past, the Government Front Bench believed that he should join me in the Crumlin Road prison.

Let us examine the reasons for this change in their attitude. The right hon. Member for Belfast, East is not here. If I had known that he was going to be mentioned, I should have done my best to get him here. The right hon. Gentleman opposed power sharing. Let us have no nonsense about that. His Vanguard Party and my party entered into a coalition based on an utter rejection of power sharing. That was the right hon. Gentleman's political philosophy and it had not changed when the Convention was set up. He voted for the Convention report.

Then suddenly, the right hon. Gentleman said that we should not have the SDLP in the Cabinet of Northern Ireland as of right—which is the official policy of his party and was reaffirmed at its recent conference—but that perhaps there could be a voluntary coalition with the SDLP and certain Unionists reaching agreement and forming a government.

That is power sharing. I was the right hon. Gentleman's proposer in Belfast, East and I know that he and I have no mandate to go back on a firm commitment to the electorate. We have invited the right hon. Gentleman to go to the Prime Minister with the UUUC to ask for a General Election so that we can resubmit ourselves to the electorate.

The tragedy is that the ballot box in Northern Ireland has been debased. If a vote went against the Union just once, this House would rush through a Bill and have us into a united Ireland. But because the elections have gone the other way, the House, in its folly, has refused to pay heed to the ballot box. That is serious and sinister and there will be serious results if we take away people's democratic rights at the ballot box.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey said that there ought to be a democratic Government in Ireland. Let me ask him why there should not be a democratic Government in Northern Ireland. If it is good for a united Ireland, it is good for a divided Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman cannot argue it both ways.

The right hon. Gentleman put a quotation to me which I had not heard or seen before. He admitted that it was not mine and I fail to understand what it has to do with me, but he challenged me to reply to it. Ulster people are not dumb, nor are Ulster politicians. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he can throw out a challenge in the House and when someone rises to the bait he will be ready with his reply, he must be very naïve.

However, I do not run away from anything. I am not in the habit of running away—though I must say that if I ran away from my General Election commitments and agreed to power sharing, the right hon. Gentleman would come running over to me and say that I was a statesman, that it was terrible that I had ever been sent to prison and that the Government never realised that I had such a loving heart.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey read a homily to me about love and Christianity. The right hon. Gentleman talked about his own near hatred of my followers—his near hatred, in other words, of the vast majority of people in North Antrim, and indeed, his near hatred of the vast majority of the Northern Ireland electorate. That is because he cannot get his dream fulfilled.

I must tell him that his dream will never be fulfilled. He can dream on. He might buy a Dunlopillo mattress and have as much slumber as he likes, but he will never have his dream fulfilled. If I in some way hinder that dream from being fulfilled, that is the best political compliment that has ever been paid to me in the House. When I return to North Antrim and tell my constituents that I have been picked out by a Knight of the Holy See, my majority at the next election will be slightly greater. The right hon. Gentleman's kiss to the right hon. Member for Belfast, East might prove to be the kiss of death. He might discover that what he intended to do has happened in the very opposite way.

What all this has to do with the killings in Northern Ireland, what this has to do with the people who today wear the wreaths of mourning, what this has to do with the very serious situation in Northern Ireland, I fail to understand. However, I have heard all these objections before.

An inquiry was set up in Northern Ireland at the behest of this House. It was presided over by a learned judge. We all went before him on oath. All sorts of things were said about everybody, including the RUC. I was painted as the big bad wolf. I was two and a half days on oath in the witness box. It was a wonderful experience.

Three of the right hon. Gentleman's co-religionists, the most brilliant QCs in Northern Ireland, grilled me, cross-examined me and questioned me. They did not bring merely one footling quotation but quotation after quotation. The right hon. Gentleman should have seen them. They had paper after paper. At the end of it, when all the accusations had been heard, when it had been said that I in person had been responsible for blowing up half of Belfast, the learned judge said of the hon. Member for Antrim, North:
"he neither plotted nor organised the disorders under review and there is no evidence that he was a party to any of the acts of violence investigated by us."
It is nice to have that on record, especially as I am an ex-gaolbird. Those remarks served to overthrow the courts that sent me to various terms of imprisonment on the very charges under investigation.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey has found one quotation, but if he had consulted me I could have provided him with many others. However, he does not seem to understand. He has found a quotation but in fact the words were not written by me. This is the quotation that he felt worthy to introduce into the debate. It states:
"Cromwell came to Ireland with three objectives."
I had a shrewd suspicion that there were some people who did not want the statue of Oliver Cromwell to be re-erected outside the House. I shall have to look more closely into that. Maybe there are some people, led by the right hon. Gentleman, who have different ideas. If the right hon. Gentleman walked with me down the Lobby he would see another statue of the Lord Protector of All England.

I have no apology to make for Cromwell. This is a matter that was brought up in the proceedings of the Scarman Tribunal. I said that I had no apology to make when I passed into the House of Commons. That is when I saw the Lord Protector's statue overshadowing the doorway of the House. Lord Scarman said that as an Englishman he had no apology to make either. I was in very good company. The accused and the judge were agreeing on that. In fact, I still agree on that.

The quotation states that Cromwell went
"to Ireland with three objectives."
I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman thinks that Cromwell went to Ireland to do, but the quotation sets out the three objectives and there is nothing historically wrong with it. We went to Ireland "to gain military control". I wish that the Government would gain military control in Northern Ireland. I wish that they could claim to have beaten the IRA.

Cromwell's second objective was to "execute God's vengeance". That is exactly what Cromwell said when he came to Ireland. His third objective was "to stamp out Popery". Yes, that is what he intended to do. That is what he attempted to do. When he reached Ireland he said that his spite was not with the ordinary Roman Catholic people but with the priests who had misled them. I shall not weary the House with Irish history, but that is what he said. The quotation continues:
"Catholicism, as in Cromwell's day, has no right to exist in Ireland at all."
We should complete the task.

From the way the right hon. Gentleman read the article he quoted, one would have thought that it referred to the extermination of extreme popery. It did not. It was written for the purpose of striving towards the conversion of the Irish. I would strive hard for the right hon. Gentleman's conversion. He attempted at the end of his speech to strive for mine. I see nothing wrong in striving to convert people from a system with which one disagrees. I have heard hon. Members on the Labour Benches say that capitalism should not exist. They did not mean by that that they wanted to kill every capitalist. I have heard other expressions used about capitalism and Socialism. If he likes, after the debate, the right hon. Gentleman can come to me and look at the Prayer Book. He can examine the 39 Articles and the canons at the back. He might find that the Prayer Book was a little more extreme than are hon. Members. We must get the facts right.

Argument between the former Chief Whip and myself will not alter the situation on the ground. We want the police in Northern Ireland to have the full support of the whole community. We want them to know and understand that the Secretary of State and his colleagues are behind them and will back them. I am talking not about individuals but about the police force as a police force.

We are being asked to renew a series of draft emergency provisions, which include Sections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 to 21, 23 and 24 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973. Section 3 applies a limitation to the power to grant bail. Subsection (5) makes an exception:
"This section applies to persons who have attained the age of 14 and are not serving members of any of Her Majesty's regular naval, military or air forces."
In the execution of their duty and in dealing with terrorism the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary should not be treated differently under the law from the rest of the security forces. They should stand on a par with the other security forces.

When a member of the RUC attempts to deal with a terrorist by telling him to leave his car, the terrorist will not leave it. He has to be pulled from his car, and there may be a scuffle when the RUC officer attempts to take away his gun. When that terrorist comes to the police station he files a complaint. He makes a serious scheduled charge against the police officer. That is reported to the officer's superior, and he is taken off the case. If the Director of Public Prosecutions feels that it would be better for that officer to appear before the court, he cannot get bail.

Yesterday we were lobbied by the police, who said that it was hard for them to feel that the Government were upholding them in the way the Government say they are. The police said that they were not treated in the same way as the rest of Her Majesty's forces. I am alarmed by this state of affairs.

Immediately after this debate we shall go on to debate police complaints. The Secretary of State should look again at this matter and I hope that, when he does so, he will be able to help us. Nothing would help the RUC but a change of attitude in this matter.

I welcome what has been done, albeit a little belatedly because a firm promise was made in July, about the increase in the number of full-time members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but if there is to be a reduction of 500 in the number of troops—I understand that the Secretary of State said that that was the figure—would it be possible to increase the UDR by 500 instead of 200? That would mean that there would be no reduction in the overall number of the security forces. I know that the Minister may make this point in his reply, but I do not think that it is the exact number of troops that will win this war. It will be won by the way in which the troops are deployed and used. I do not want to make a big issue of this down to the last number, but I think that the promise made in July should be kept.

I conclude by referring to the terrible scenes that occurred last week in our city. I ask the Secretary of State to look again at the strategic plan for Belfast. I ask him to consider particularly the bridges in Belfast, because once the bridges are blocked the whole city comes to a standstill. That is what happened on Monday. There was a car bomb on Queen's Bridge, and there were traffic hold-ups on the Albert and other bridges. Would it be possible to have a permanent guard on the two main arteries for traffic entering the city? There should be a notice on the bridges saying that no vehicle is allowed to stop on them. Once a vehicle stops on a bridge and the driver runs off, that clogs an artery into the city and causes chaos for hours and hours. Those who live there know what terrible confusion was caused last Monday.

I do not see why action should not be taken to prevent vehicles from stopping on the two main bridges. If that is not done soon, with Christmas coming next week, shoppers going into the centre of the city could find themselves in difficulty and being held to ransom. I admire the two policemen who got one of the bomb planters and put a rope around his leg and made him drive his car away from where he had left it. It was fortunate that the bomb did not explode, because that would have been a serious offence. The police did a very good job and got that car out of the area.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) referred to certain matters relating to the RUC Reserve, and what he said is well worth considering. I trust that the Secretary of State, having made his declaration today and told us what he intends to do, will take action so that we see something flowing from this further renewal of these emergency powers and we see the war won against the terrorists. As my hon. Friend said, the real spearhead of the terrorists is the Provisional IRA. If we can win the war we shall not have to come to this House to discuss further renewals of these powers. I trust that that hope will soon be realised.

3.14 p.m.

In opening the debate my right hon. Friend said that this was the first major debate on Northern Ireland since he took office as Secretary of State. I am glad that we have had this opportunity to debate Northern Ireland and I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to Mr. Speaker, for the generous latitude shown by the Chair to every speaker during the debate. Although strictly we should have been confined to discussing the order before the House, the Chair has recognised that it is not possible to discuss security in Northern Ireland in the total absence of political attitudes and issues. They are both so inextricably tied together that of necessity one must discuss politics with security. We have seen that adequately demonstrated today in the speeches of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and of the former Chief Whip, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish).

The Secretary of State in his opening remarks and throughout his speech spoke to a great extent of statistics, the number of people who have been brought before the courts, the number of people charged and convicted, the numbers of troops and the number in the UDR. Those figures are academically interesting, but people in Northern Ireland are more interested in another set of figures—how many explosions took place, how many people have been killed, what are the ages of the victims, and in all that has been happening in Northern Ireland over the past fortnight.

When one lives in Northern Ireland and hears the sound of the explosion, knows the victims, attends at the homes of the victims and meets the bereaved relatives, naturally one is more inclined to be swayed by that than by the academic reading of the success of the security forces. Even the figures announced by the Secretary of State today will be used by some people in Northern Ireland to suit their own political ends. I take the example of 500 troops being withdrawn. The Secretary of State said that they will be withdrawn because the Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces, in Northern Ireland believes that they are no longer necessary. There will be people in Northern Ireland who will see the withdrawal of the 500 troop as an indication that the Army is getting out. It will be said not only in the Loyalist community but in the minority community that this is another overt sign that the Army is withdrawing and will not come back.

I do not believe that argument, but it is what will be said. When the Provisional IRA hears of the increase of 200 in the UDR, it will say that the Government are now trying to get the B Specials dressed up in UDR uniforms into areas so that they can attack Catholics. The IRA will say that it will go out and shoot the UDR men. That will be the IRA's interpretation.

I turn now to the SAS. The Secretary of State will know that in the whole community in Northern Ireland, particularly among the warring factions, the SAS has a particular name. The Loyalist community accepts the SAS as being a regiment of the British Army which is very skilful in its actions and which can be used in certain ways, not in complete conformity with other units of the British Army, to root out and to destroy the IRA. The IRA, on the other hand, uses its propaganda to tell the Catholic minority population that the SAS is nothing more than a set of bloodthirsty murderers, that it will do anything and that it is not hemmed in by any restrictions applicable to other regiments in Northern Ireland. Even merely announcing these things has an effect in Northern Ireland.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), in attempting to answer some charges which have been laid by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey, spent some time saying how well he was accepted in the constituency of Antrim, North by all sections of the population. He did his best to refute any slanders or smears which have been cast by the publication of an article in the Protestant Telegraph. The Protestant Telegraph, like its editor, the hon. Member for Antrim, North, has been in existence for a long time. That is not the only article that has caused considerable disquiet throughout the period of the publication of that paper in Northern Ireland.

I well remember reading an article in the Protestant Telegraph in which members of the minority religion—the Roman Catholics—were referred to—and the hon. Member for Antrim, North was editor then, too—as two-legged rats. To say the least, sentiments like that are not printed with the intention of bringing about religious harmony or rational togetherness in Northern Ireland.

I had occasion many years ago to bring one of the issues of the Protestant Telegraph to the attention of the House because of an article in it that referred to me. That article was referred to the Committee of Privileges. The Committee found that the article was a gross contempt of the House but decided not to take any action because it would only have suited the publishers of the paper at that time, who would perhaps have gained political advantage out of it.

The hon. Member in his concluding remarks quoted from the Scarman Report. Believe it or not, I have not read the full Scarman Report and did not know that Scarman had got round to passing verdicts on different individuals. I shall have to read what he said about me.

The hon. Member has stated that he was in no way involved in any terrorist activities or involved in any way with explosives, and I accept that. I am delighted that he is here. At the same time, I want to tell my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that last Sunday in Belfast a paper which is widely read, the Sunday News, carried two front-page stories. One of them concerned a statement issued by the Ulster Loyalist Coordinating Committee. This committee, I understand, is composed of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the UVF, an illegal body which has been proscribed by this House, and of the Red Hand Commandos, another illegal body, which I understand is under the leadership of someone known as Mr. McKeague.

These two organisations have admitted to being involved in a series of heinous crimes throughout the past number of years. They have admitted to killing many people in Northern Ireland. I have absolutely no time for them whatsoever, nor do I give any credibility to any statements which they may make. I have no time for para-military organisations of any description, whether it is the UDA, the UVF, the Red Hand Commandos, the Provisional IRA or anyone else. I do not subscribe one iota to any tenet of their beliefs, nor would I enter into any discussions with them.

But it is rather disquietening to read front-page stories in which this organisation claims that it had the support of politicians and Members of Parliament engaged in a conspiracy in 1968 and 1969 to bring about the downfall of the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill.

The Mr. McKeague who, I understand, is the leader of the Ulster Loyalist Coordinating Committee, as it is constituted at the moment, is well known as having been a former political colleague of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. This is well known, and Press reports can adequately prove this.

The right hon. Member for Down, South was not in the House when I originally mentioned this matter. I am referring at the moment to an article which was in the Sunday News last Sunday.

I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to bring my former colleagues up against me.

Before the right hon. Gentleman came into the Chamber I was drawing attention to a report which last week appeared in the Sunday News in Ireland concerning a statement made by the Ulster Loyalist Co-ordinating Committee to the effect that Members of Parliament in this House at the moment had been engaged in a conspiracy to cause explosions and to use arms, import arms and cause terrorist activities in an attempt to bring about the downfall of Terence O'Neill.

I look round the House at the moment at the Members from Northern Ireland. I know that the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I were here in 1969 and 1970 as representatives of Northern Ireland, and there is no doubt that the hon. Member for Antrim, North is as honest as I can expect him to be. He will know to whom members of the ULCC were referring. They were referring to none other than the hon. Member for Antrim, North and suggesting that he was involved in arms dealing and conspiracy to cause explosions and to bring to an end the premiership of Captain Terence O'Neill. They also said in their statement that they challenged the Member of Parliament concerned, because he will know to whom they are referring, to go on television and admit whether what they said was right.

They have also mentioned another politician, as they call him. They said that he was an elected representative, had attended a meeting of loyalist paramilitary forces in Northern Ireland, and told them "I am not the cashier but I can get you £30,000 for the importation of guns. That is what I intend to do." That politician, who is known on the streets of Belfast, is Mr. Ernest Bird. He said —and this was not 1968 or 1969 but last year and the year before—that he could get money for the importation of arms.

Another politician has been named. I refer to John Taylor, who is a member of the Official Unionist Party. The charges laid against him are not so dangerous, but he is alleged to have been in a particular company when a discussion took place about the assassination of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor, Dr. Philbin. Mr. Taylor is alleged to have been an elected representative and a former Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland. He is alleged to have been in that company, and whether he agrees with the sentiments expressed is a matter for him. Apparently somebody said "I know that the Bishop of Down and Connor does his gardening in the Antrim Road at a particular time. Would it not be a good time to bump him off?" Whether those allegations are true or otherwise they should either be refuted or shown up for what they are, a tissue of lies. It should be made clear that there was no involvement of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, Mr. Bird or Mr. Taylor. Let us get that cleared up one way or the other.

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept the view of the distinguished judge, Lord Justice Scarman, in relation to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)?

I began my remarks by saying that I had not read the Scarman Report, and I am delighted to be told that that was the conclusion arrived at by Scarman. The hon. Member for Antrim, North in his own interest should be putting the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on inquiry to prove that members of the ULCC are the liars they are—and nobody wants them to be proved liars more than I do.

I am unhappy about the attitudes of some members of my own party such as Paddy Duffy, Paddy Devlin and some others. I am sure that my colleague Paddy Devlin is deeply involved. He and Mr. Mallon have said they are willing to have discussions with Mr. John McKeague, a member of the ULCC, who is involved in allegations of gun running with the hon. Member for Antrim, North. They are to have discussions with him to see whether it is possible to bring about an independent Northern Ireland.

That sort of thing does me no good physically or in any other way. I do not believe that those people in the ULCC speak for anyone in Northern Ireland, especially Mr. McKeague, who had the audacity and temerity to fight an election in North Belfast. He received a derisory number of votes and then received three years in jail for robbing a post office. There are other things that I could attribute to him but I shall let my generosity take over and allow people to make up their own minds. I do not think that Mr. McKeague represents anyone but himself in Northern Ireland.

Last week the Secretary of State told the House that he had been on a tour of duty with the UDR. Perhaps he thought that it was right to do so to instil morale into the regiment and the people of Northern Ireland. The very next day the hon. Member for Antrim, North made a statement saying that he had also been on a tour—in South Armagh with the Ulster Special Service Corps, which as far I know is not a legally recognised part of the security forces. It is looked on with great suspicion by the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland who believe that it is made up either of former members of the B Specials or anti-Catholics who are hostile to the minority and engaged in illegal activities. That action by the Member for Antrim, North was not designed to instil confidence into the UDR.

I listened carefully when the hon. Member for Antrim, North invited the right hon. Member for Bermondsey to go on tour with him to North Antrim. I can tell my right hon. Friend that it is a wild and mountainous part of the country and that it is not too safe even for Ministers to travel around in. [Interruption.] I know certain parts of the area. The hon. Member for Antrim, North tells all and sundry that he knows everybody in North Antrim, but I have never seen him in Cushendall, Cushendun, Waterfoot or Longhiel. There are a lot of places in North Antrim where the hon. Member for Antrim, North would not be particularly welcome.

This debate was originally designed to be about security, which is the most important feature of the debates now taking place about Northern Ireland. On Tuesday morning this week I was sitting in the House of Commons Tea Room when a friendly Conservative Member whose surname I do not know bought a cup of tea, sat down beside me and said "Things seem to be going pretty well in Northern Ireland. They seem to have quietened down." I nearly fell off my seat hearing this after what had happened the previous day and the previous week, when all sorts of killings and murderings had taken place and Derry was blown half asunder. It shows how remote the House of Commons can be from Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), told us of a situation in which he found himself on Monday when explosions were taking place in Belfast.

The IRA is not concerned about jobs or houses or about eradicating deprivation. It does not care how much chaos it causes in Northern Ireland. The excuses that have been peddled recently by the IRA are increasingly bringing it into utter public contempt. A little girl in Lurgan and a man in Derry were blown up by booby trap bombs. Yet 48 hours later the IRA said "We made a mistake. The bombs were not meant to kill that man or that girl. They were meant to kill soldiers, policemen and UDR men."

Presumably the IRA expects that excuse to be accepted. The excuse is almost as bad as the original murders. Then, after blowing up all the shops in Derry and Belfast, the IRA pushes out excuses the next day saying "We are not terribly concerned with bourgeois retailers—we are concerned with our people in the Maze." I do not know who is writing their scripts for the IRA so that it now seems to be able to spell "bourgeois". However, it was inconveniencing not only bourgeois retailers but thousands of innocent people in Belfast who could not get home from work. The parents of many young people were at home absolutely terrified that something might have happened to them. If the members of the IRA believe that we shall accept that their only intention was to inconvenience bourgeois retailers, they have another think coming.

I have said repeatedly over a number of years that we cannot hope to solve the security problem in Northern Ireland without a political movement. The two must go together. We cannot have a military victory—I do not believe that that objective is obtainable—and then hope that the politicians will find an answer.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) is not present. On Monday evening this week he made a speech—

I am delighted to hear it.

Now that the hon. Member for Antrim, South has returned to the Chamber, may I say that I was referring to a speech which he made in the devolution debate on Monday. He seemed to be opening up new political ground in Northern Ireland. He was saying "We do not want Government structures in Northern Ireland with legislative functions. We do not want a power-sharing arrangement, as is advocated by the Government and by the Opposition. We want an adminstrative set-up in Northern Ireland involving the whole community. The major legislative political decisions would be taken here."

I may be able to help the hon. Gentleman before he goes too far with this line of thought. I did not say that we did not want a legislative Assembly. I was trying to make the point, perhaps somewhat inadequately, that there were two layers of government missing in Northern Ireland, and it was clearly not possible in the foreseeable future to have both of them restored. It seemed to me that it would be sensible to go for that which was attainable, namely, a local devolved administration.

I do not object to the new ground which has been opened up by the hon. Gentleman. However, earlier today the hon. Member for Antrim, North said that people and politicians in Northern Ireland are not stupid. What the hon. Member for Antrim, South said meant that he now accepts that there is no possibility of the Convention Report being accepted by the Government.

In the foreseeable future. He indicated that in the absence of the restoration of Stormont, with all its ascendancy powers, and full acceptance of the Convention Report, in the meantime people in Northern Ireland, or at least the people for whom he speaks, would be prepared to accept some form of administration, perhaps on the lines of the GLC, with committee levels. What the hon. Member for Antrim, South said was so vague that perhaps I shall have discussions with him privately, or perhaps we can communicate with each other, to ascertain exactly his ideas, because as yet I am unsure about them.

Will the new trend which has been opened up by the hon. Member have the support of the Conservative Opposition? Do they support this new departure? Also, what effect will it have on my right hon. Friend's attitude in relation to political steps and decisions which will have to be taken in the very near future in an effort to resolve Northern Ireland's political problems?

It is right to ask also what support the hon. Gentleman has in other quarters when he puts forward his new proposals. Does he have the support of the Official Unionist Party in Northern Ireland? Does he have the support of the titular head, the alleged leader of the Official Unionists, Harry West? Does he have the support of Martin Smith, a very influential figure in Unionist circles in Northern Ireland?

I ask those questions because only last week I should have taken it that the Unionist Party and its members were standing rigidly by their demand to this House for acceptance of the Convention Report. I am glad to see that they now recognise that there never was any hope or possibility that the report, in the way it was presented, would receive the approval of the present Government or any incoming Conservative Government.

As I say, I should have to hear the new proposals explained in far greater detail before I could make any comment. At my own party conference quite recently I said that I and the party would look at every aspect of the independence proposals. Gerry Fitt's mind is made up on that one, but, by the same token, I should like an opportunity to go into the new proposals put forward by the hon. Member for Antrim, South.

I hope that my right hon. Friend recognises the tragic nature of the security situation in Northern Ireland. The IRA is now, I believe, engaged in a very bitter part of its campaign. It believes that by vicious attacks and a series of explosions it can get its way and achieve its political end. On the other hand, the so-called Loyalist para-military forces are engaged in an even more vicious and brutal campaign. In North Belfast, in particular—the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) spoke of the situation there—they are engaged in the slaughter of innocent young girls of 14, 15 and 16, who are being mown down mercilessly by so-called Ulster patriots or Ulster nationalists. On the other side, as I say, the IRA commits its atrocities in the name of Irish nationalism.

When the persons who killed young Geraldine McKeown, young Ann McGee and young Carol McMenamin are caught and convicted, and when the person who last Monday brutally slaughtered a cripple, a young fellow named Roy Young who worked in Hall's brush factory and who could not defend himself—it was subsequently admitted by the IRA—when these people are caught, they will have no support from me in waiting political status. I make that quite clear now, whatever danger I may bring to myself in Northern Ireland. When they start demanding political status, they will get absolutely no support from me. They are criminals, they are murderers, and they cannot mask their bestial activities under the guise of some form of patriotic justification.

When we first had to bring emergency legislation on to the statute book here, it was done to replace the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. I do not like emergency legislation, I do not like oppressive legislation such as we have had in these measures, but I shall not vote against the order today.

I recognise that there is now a terrible tragedy in Northern Ireland. The Government must take measures to combat these dastardly men who are wreaking terror in Northern Ireland.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) made serious accusations against my character in his speech today. He referred to certain Press reports which did not refer to anyone in particular and which did not name any hon. Members.

At the time of the reports there were more hon. Members of Parliament than there are now. The whole of Stormont was filled with them. The hon. Member for Belfast, West named people who were not named in those articles. He suggested that I had been reticent in coming forward to answer charges but those charges had never been laid against me.

In the course of my speech I mentioned certain accusations that are raked over again and again and I quoted from the Scarman Report. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make accusations against the character of another hon. Members and to pretend that charges have been made against that hon. Member in the Press when, in fact, no hon. Member was named? Lord Justice Scarman investigated these accusations and found no substance in them. If the Secretary of State wants to put the whole of the Special Branch on to this matter, he can do so. I will stand before any tribunal to answer. But I could not have had anything to do with this matter because I was safely behind bars in the Crumlin Road Prison at the time. That makes a folly of the whole accusation.

By tradition, it is essential that personalities be avoided in the House at all times. I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) does not feel that his character has been impugned. It is difficult for the Chair to come to conclusions about personal accusations and about accusations made against persons of whom the Chair has no knowledge. I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North will in that spirit accept that as far as I can judge there was no personal imputation against his character.

3.48 p.m.

I want to pay tribute to members of the UDR, to the police, to the police reserve and to the Army. One cannot praise them often enough because these men and women show remarkable courage, patience and dedication, and they deserve the unqualified support of every decent person in the Province.

It is sad—and we cannot overlook the fact—that few Roman Catholics have come forward to join the services that exist to restore law and order in the Province. I hope they will reconsider this matter because the IRA and terrorists in Northern Ireland are a threat to the future of all the people of the Province and to their children. The issue in Northern Ireland is clear. It is the battle of the forces of evil against the forces of good, and there can be no one who abstains in that battle.

There is one happier aspect of the problem of Northern Ireland. Despite the campaign of violence that has lasted for seven years, and despite the danger of polarisation that could easily occur, there is a growing sense of religious harmony in the Province, and we must thank God for that. Nothing should be said which would cause that process to be reversed, a process which may hold out the best hopes for Northern Ireland.

However, there are certain facts which cannot be challenged in this debate, even though they may well be clouded over or camouflaged. They are hard, cruel, cold and ugly facts. The evidence of those facts is to be found in the graveyards, in the hospitals, the mutilated bodies, and in the devastation of the cities, towns and villages of the Province. The death, injury and destruction is far greater than that suffered by Ulster during the Second World War under the German bombs when Ulster men and women fought to preserve freedom and to remove oppression and fear. Those times were made more bearable by the knowledge that an all-out war was being waged against a common enemy.

When Ministers and Service chiefs were thought not to be adequate for their job they were removed. Even the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chamberlain, suffered that fate. That is not the case with this Government. One feels, particularly remembering the former Secretary of State, that the Government considers that beating one's breast is preferable to beating the enemy.

The terrorists have killed 1,600 persons in Northern Ireland. From time to time Northern Ireland Ministers declare, either from this House or from the Stormont redoubt, that the IRA is on the run, that it is defeated, or they make statements intending to give that impression. The Secretary of State has said that the statistics he offered the House showed the success of the Government's policy. His most remarkable comment was
"I think we are on course".
But what course does he mean? If we are on course, and if the IRA is being defeated, why do the killings continue. Why were there 246 victims of violence last year? Why is the death toll this year up almost to 290 murders, a 20 per cent. rise on the previous year's catalogue of violence?

I clearly remember when a dozen persons were slaughtered in Birmingham in a bombing incident. Every hon. Member emphatically demanded measures to be taken against the Provisional IRA. Right hon. and hon. Members crowded this Chamber, and their anger could be felt. An all-out investigation was begun and it did not let up in its attempt to catch the vile perpetrators of that evil deed. That is in contrast to what is happening in Northern Ireland, where 1,600 innocent persons have been killed but when only a handful of hon. Members come into the Chamber for this debate or for other debates on security in the Province.

Is it any wonder that the Ulster people want Ulster control of Ulster security? There is a security committee at Stormont. The head of the RUC is English, and so is the head of the army in Northern Ireland. The Secretary of State chairs that security committee, and he is English, too. The former Chief of the Ulster Defence Regiment is also an Englishman.

That is correct, but I say that the people of Northern Ireland have suffered for seven years and the killings go on. It is time Ulster had some control over its own security. London control of the RUC, the police reserve and the army has done nothing to make life safer for the people in the Province.

There are 5,300 square miles of British territory in Northern Ireland. During the hours of darkness over 1,000 square miles slip into the grasp of the terrorists until dawn brings a brief respite from the fears and dangers of the night. On Monday and Tuesday of this week in Belfast and North Antrim 1,500 soldiers and 10,000 police and police reserves were unable to protect the Queen's subjects from the Queen's enemies in an area less than half the size of the GLC.

Do the Government know the number of terrorists in Northern Ireland? Is it 1,000, 2,000 or 3,000? The Government released over 600 terrorists from detention earlier this year, including those described by the then Secretary of State as among the most dangerous. How many of those have been apprehended by the security forces and dealt with by the courts?

The number of assassinations has not diminished. There has been no reduction in the number of Protestants and Roman Catholics murdered. Something should be done to give hope to the Province. The slaughter goes on. It is no wonder that the Ulster people look with incredulity and disbelief at statements churned out of Stormont Castle and Westminster. More must be done by the Government to see that all the forces available are mobilised to fight terrorism.

The order is a renewal of provisions which have proved inadequate in the past It is an inadequate measure which has been ineptly handled by a government who do not seem to be 100 per cent. sure of their policies. Security in Northern Ireland has not improved under these orders. It is incredible that this is all that the Government can suggest for the conduct of the anti-terrorist campaign for the next 12 months.

The Government have decided to accept what a former Home Secretary, who was in control of Northern Ireland affairs for a time, described as "the acceptable level of violence". That was a shocking statement to make at the time. It is still shocking. The House should know that the Ulster people have had enough of violence and do not find any level of violence acceptable.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said that he and his colleagues support the Government. I do not. I have never made any secret that I do not support this Government. I have made no secret that I feel that the sooner this Government are out of office, the better for Northern Ireland. I hope that if the Conservatives were returned to power they would act more strongly on security and restore peace. I cannot be absolutely certain of that, but I do not think that they could do less than the present Government.

It suits hon. Members in the UUUC to support the Government, just as it suits them to attack devolution for any region of the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland. They are vague about their proposals and it is not surprising. It would need a political psychiatrist to understand what they mean if they do not mean that they are against the restoration of a directly-elected Stormont with legislative powers. That is what the people of Northern Ireland want—the restoration of Stormont. They are totally disenchanted with the present system of direct rule from Whitehall.

The people feel that they have been reduced to the status of a colony, and that is not acceptable to them or to me—though it may be acceptable to the hon. Members of the UUUC.

It is all very well for the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) to say "Oh", but the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) did not give way, and I shall follow his precedent. I do not want the people of Northern Ireland to be conned any longer by the hon. Members of the UUUC who say one thing here but speak and act in a different way in Northern Ireland. There, they suggest to the Ulster people that they are loyalists par excellence, while here they support the Labour Government.

They support the economic policies of the Government which are detrimental to the people of Northern Ireland.

It is largely due to their support that the Labour Government remain in office.

Order. If the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) does not wish to give way, he cannot be pressed to do so.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was going to ask if you could restrain the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) because I could not hear what the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) was saying.

One thing is certain. Neither the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) nor any other Member of the UUUC will shut me up or stop me from speaking and voting against the Government.

The Ulster people had better be warned. The campaign of terror can and will last for another seven years unless sterner measures are taken to defeat terrorism. Money is still coming from the United States to the IRA, which is recruiting an increasing number of young people to replace those who have been arrested, sought refuge in the Republic or retired from active service.

That is the future for the people of Northern Ireland unless something is done about it. Something must be done by the Government, and I hope that even now they will be able to offer hope to the people of Northern Ireland.

4.4 p.m.

Far from the Members of the UUUC wishing to shut up the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), we simply wished to give his words further expression. I hope that I shall be permitted to do so by referring to a statement made by the hon. Gentleman in 1972, when he said:

"I am not an opponent of direct rule—by no means. By that I mean I support the full integration of Northern Ireland within the rest of the United Kingdom. To me it is far better to have full direct rule—full in the democratic sense—than a sham Parliament at Stormont. Certainly it would be far better than the charade which would have existed if the Northern Ireland Prime Minister had agreed to the demands which were put to him by the Government after the discussions last Wednesday and Thursday.
Only last Wednesday in an article in the Belfast Telegraph I set out at length my views about direct rule. I have been criticised by Unionists for holding these views, but I hold them firmly, and I am of the conviction that the best future for Northern Ireland is to be fully integrated within the United Kingdom. I do not believe that a local Stormont Parliament can preserve the union as strongly as if we were fully within the United Kingdom. Then there would be one people with one Parliament."—[Official Report, 28th March 1972; Vol. 834, c. 282.]

Does my hon. Friend accept that the conditions referred to therein in which Northern Ireland would have regained its Parliament are precisely the same as those laid down by the Conservative Party, which the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) is so eager to support?

I accept my hon. Friend's point, which on previous occasions he has put extremely succinctly. There is a price which the Ulster Unionists are not prepared to pay. That is because we have no mandate to do so. That is the simple basis upon which we were elected. We are acting in keeping with our manifesto promise, a manifesto to which I understand the hon. Member for Down, North also subscribed, although he now conveniently finds that it suits his purpose to set it to one side.

I return to the wider debate. In the past, I have listened with interest and at times with considerable amusement to speeches made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). However, this afternoon we heard a speech from the hon. Gentleman which, in my estimation, was a tragedy. I say that for two reasons. First, it was a tragedy because it somehow subverted the significance and importance of a debate that at times had reached an elevated level. We listened to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), who is no longer in the Chamber, who related the economic problems of Northern Ireland to the security forces. We listened to the points made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and other Members from Northern Ireland. During the course of those contributions the debate reached an extremely high level, but all that was subverted by the personal tirade launched on my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev Ian Paisley). I feel that it did the debate a great disservice.

My second reason for saying that the first part of the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West was tragic is that all the valid and significant points that were made about the security forces and about commerce being affected by a lack of security will perhaps not be covered by the media and the Press to the extent that they merit. That may well be the result because of the rather cheap comments that have been made in this Chamber. For those reasons I feel that a fine debate has suffered from the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West.

I briefly touch upon the comments make by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). Only on one previous occasion have I listened to the right hon. Gentleman speaking in the Chamber. Admittedly the situation was rather different, but on that occasion he spoke with a great deal of humanity and compassion. Today we had an equally tragic speech made by the right hon. Gentleman as by the hon. Member for Belfast, West. It was tragic because it was totally destructive. There was not one constructive comment to be imported into Norther Ireland to give the people there any degree of hope. The right hon. Gentleman had only despair to add to despair.

It was also tragic because he was totally ignorant of the real facts of Irish history. He revealed his ignorance to a great extent. I was saying "Hear, hear" when the right hon. Gentleman read out the various policies of Cromwell as stated in the article to which he referred in the Protestant Telegraph. I said that for one basic and simple reason. Anyone who knows his Irish history knows that between the Reformation and the present time there have been only two periods which enjoyed real peace and prosperity. There was one period in the eighteenth century and another period during the reign of Cromwell.

It is part of the function of a Member of Parliament to reflect the feelings and apprehensions of his constituents, particularly about security. Had the debate taken place at the beginning of this week instead of the end, forceful speeches would have been made after the violence which occurred during the weekend and the beginning of the week. Another part of a Member of Parliament's function is to give calm guidance, and to offer hope and consolation amidst the frenzy which exists. Even if at times those words are not accepted, that has been the practice of my colleagues in the United Ulster Unionists.

We have pressed for a balanced attitude to security in the Province. While we appreciate that almost all our constituents who have suffered from bombs and bullets would say that the security forces should go into the areas where the rebels are found and wipe them out, we have counselled that that is not the way to go about it. The way to effect a realistic balanced security policy is to realise that the enemy has the advantage of the surprise. He also has the dubious characteristic of a depraved mind. We must, therefore, expect at times horrendous activities to take place. The answer is not to barge in and flatten the estates in pursuit of the terrorists. They would like nothing more, because it would add to their credibility. There is a passage in Holy Writ which goes something like this, "The children of darkness are wiser than the children of light in their generation". The terrorists have on their side the element of surprise and the dubious characteristic of a depraved mind. What do we offer on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland by way of recommendations to improve security?

We ask that it should not be beyond the ability of the Government to pursue policies that would isolate the terrorists, render them devoid of all support in the community and encourage a flow of information. During the latter part of 1976 it appeared that that possibility was emerging, with the help of the spontaneous movement in Northern Ireland. I fear that that movement has been infiltrated and is now militating against a realistic and successful security policy.

Whereas we had the opportunity of overtly showing that 99 per cent. of the community was against the terrorists, there is now equivocation. Mr. McHugh—who should not be at the head of any respectable movement—not having the courage to say it in his own country, says in another country that the troubles in Northern Ireland started with the bullets of the guns of the RUC. That sort of statement will not help if we are to isolate the terrorists, as we must, and if we are to get this free flow of information about their movements and activities, which we must get.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, West is not present—perhaps he will read the debate. I remind him that some of his colleagues in the SDLP are amongst those who make calculated statements about the security forces, and that immediately following such statements one hears of the deaths, of UDR men and police reservists in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). It is significant that after a calculated verbal attack on the security forces there invariably follows the deaths of members of those forces. Not only is there that kind of evidence of direct opposition to the security forces, but there is this persistent equivocation when it comes to the SDLP giving full verbal support to them.

When someone in Northern Ireland is summoned for jury service—and if we are to bring these terrorists to court, and if they are to receive sentences commensurate with the crimes that they commit, people must perform this service—he must come to the court unintimidated, but some of the notices for jury service go out with the words "jury service" stamped across the envelope. Many people in the community want to assist the security forces and to play their part in restoring normality to Northern Ireland, but one of the ways in which we place them in an invidious situation is by sending them jury summonses in easily recognisable envelopes. The letters can be intercepted, and those concerned become marked men and women.

It is not beyond the ingenuity of the Government to send UDR members their pay in ordinary envelopes; without any indication of what the envelope contains. I ask the Minister of State to consider this problem with his colleagues to see whether it would be possible to put jury summonses in envelopes that are not readily recognised. I say that particularly with the minority community in mind.

One aspect of the emergency provisions is to do with jury service. For scheduled offences there is no jury service. It is only on the other side that juries are involved.

I take the point, but the fact remains that problems of the kind that exist in Northern Ireland cannot be neatly categorised, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North said, there is no clear demarcation line between intimidation, brutality, robbery and similar crimes. There is an interrelationship between them in Northern Ireland, and that fact does not escape the attention of the IRA, as the hon. Gentleman knows. I feel that the point that I am trying to make is important, and I should be grateful if the Minister would address his mind to it.

In Northern Ireland, the fact remains that even after the apprehension and conviction of IRA terrorists their reign of terror does not end. In the prison at the Crumlin Road there is the most dreadful situation, in that IRA terrorists there exercise a reign of terror. This reign of terror sometimes makes it impossible for other prisoners to receive adequate exercise. It sometimes makes it impossible for other prisoners to gain access even to the light of day. For 23 hours, or, even, sometimes, 23½ hours of the day, prisoners on the non-IRA side have to stay in their cells for the sake of sheer protection, and even then they are placed with IRA men and there is no relief from the continuing terrorism and intimidation. I ask Ministers again to look at the very serious situation in Crumlin Road.

I reiterate my earlier point. There is a need as never before for support for the security forces and for the flow of information, and there is a need as never before for a realistic policy of apprehension and pursuit by the security forces. I believe that if these two policies were to run simultaneously, the bloodbath forecast by the Troops Out lobby and those who wish to perpetuate the para-military organisations need never come about.

4.21 p.m.

May I at once give the apologies of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) for his absence, which is for reasons that he has explained to the Secretary of State, who has also had to depart? I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State who, despite his cold, made so forceful and impressive a debut. I am sure that the whole House appreciates also the attentive presence for a major part of the debate of Ministers concerned with the Armed Forces.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) most movingly spoke, as did the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), who hoped, as we all do, for more Roman Catholic recruits to the security forces and about their devoted service to the Crown in Northern Ireland in such dangerous and difficult conditions. Since the reporting of Northern Ireland debates is inadequate—and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) spoke about this—I ask Ministers to make sure that those serving with the Regular Army, the UDR, the RAF and the Royal Marines in Ulster, and those serving in the police, the prison service, the fire service, the ambulance service, the hospital service and other civilian services know that they are very much in our hearts at this season.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) was one of those who paid eloquent tribute to our soldiers. The Labour Party is not here exactly in force, but we welcome the right hon. Gentleman to the debate. Indeed, he livened it up. Although I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), who regretted the diversion of the debate, and, I expect. the reporting of the debate, from the subject matter of the order, I have a feeling, that the Roman Catholic grandson of a Presbyterian—not a Free Presbyterian—belonging to what is now the constituency of the right hon. Member for Down, South—I had better not enter into the ecumenical dialogue between the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), in which the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) also joined. I think that I shall keep out of the conversion-striving business for the time being and continue my earnest study of the Protestant Telegraph.

Like the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I am grateful for the Secretary of State's efforts to encourage investment in the Province, where there has been some success, and for protecting it from the full rigour of the Government's retrenchment programme. This is not irrelevant to the debate, because distress and unemployment are grist to the terrorist mill.

I was interested in the evolution of the mind of the right hon. Member for Bermondsey on the Irish question. He had a dream of a united Ireland which the Provos have shattered. I, too, had a dream of a united Ireland, united under one Crown, but I am as unlikely to see the Union flag flying again from Dublin Castle as the right hon. Gentleman is to see the tricolour flying from Stormont Castle.

I need add nothing to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Troops Out movement. He dismissed it with contempt. The right hon. Gentleman referred to his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard). I trust that we may take the hon. Lady's absence and silence as her consent to the renewal of the emergency powers. The right hon. Gentleman also condemned by implication the strangely concerted campaign drummed up by the media for an Ulster free of United Kingdom sovereignty and United Kingdom soldiers.

I referred to the thinness of the Labour Benches, but the Liberal Party is wholly absent. Doubtless its Northern Ireland spokesman, the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud), is busy trying to restrain his hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), who has become a strident advocate of independence. The SDLP, however, has the same problem.

If there be any stuff and substance behind this independence campaign, it doubtless arises from a variety of factors, such as the frustrations of direct rule and the unsuitable local government structure. It is unsuitable in the absence of a Northern Ireland parliamentary assembly. This was referred to by the hon. Member for Antrim, North.

Then there is the matter of under-representation at Westminster. There is the trafficking with those whom I have called the political commissars of the Provos. This was raised in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon, and also by my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr), who gave the House the benefit of his experience in the European vineyard and spoke about the European convention on terrorism. I only hope that Dublin will find a way to adhere to that convention.

In that connection and in regard to what my hon. Friend has just said about those who would advocate a course of total separation for Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, will he not agree that the situation which exists today must add fuel to that theory? Luxembourg, a little country with a population of 357,000, has six Members of the European Parliament and six Members of the Council of Europe. Northern Ireland, with a population of 1,536,000, has no representative in either Assembly.

In my opinion it is desirable that Northern Ireland should have adequate representation in United Kingdom delegations. This is most important.

I refer finally to one of the factors making for the demand—I think it is a very much exaggerated demand—for the independence of Ulster. The right hon. Member for Down, South described this as equivocation and ambivalence on the part of Her Majesty's Government or, indeed, of politicians generally towards the permanency of the Union. I agree with him that it is vital that it should be asserted with complete conviction, and with all the authority of Her Majesty's Government, that the Union is paramount in our consideration of all these matters—that Union which is the wish of the overwhelming majority, including many Roman Catholics, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the polling booths. We shall then go far to deprive the IRA of its hope of success that buoys it up if we can assert the paramountcy of the Union.

My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) made this point in an admirable speech. Violence still rages, and the right hon. Member for Down, South and the Member for Down, North presented the situation in grim statistics. I can endorse in a small way the impression given of conditions in South Derry by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), because I had the privilege of touring his constituency in his company. I noted his plea for better co-ordination of the security forces. This recalls some of the representations I have made from time to time, but I shall not weary the House with them now because we have other important business on Northern Ireland ahead of us. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) spoke with grim humour of the hazards of Christmas shopping in Northern Ireland. How many shopping days to Christmas? I suppose the IRA would say "How many bombing days to Christmas?" IRA members assail the Christmas shopping trade because they want to destroy the morale, economy and society of a people who will have none of them. As the hon. Member for Antrim, South said, it is because they cannot face the polls in any part of Ireland that they reject the democratic process common to the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic and intend to impose, by bomb and bullet, an Eira Neua based on the historic Provinces including a nine county Ulster.

When I speak of the Provos I am aware that they are not the only terrorists in this bloody business. But as the hon. Member for Antrim, South said, it is their campaign that is evoking forces of counter terrorism. The Provos are an elitist conspiracy against the people of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic.

The right hon. Member for Bermondsey spoke of the civil rights movement. One can describe the IRA as an anti-civil rights movement, because the most important civil right is to be able to live at liberty under the law.

The Secretary of State quoted a call by the religious leaders in Ireland to Church members to do their moral duty of supporting the security forces of their country against para-military organisations. The hierarchy of my own Church has spoken in condemnation of a perverted few who are holding us up to ransom.

I am reminded of a phrase in Sean O'Casey's play "Shadow of a Gunman":
"I draw the line when I hear the gunman blowin' abt dyin' for the people, when it's the people that are dyin' for the gunman."
The hon. Member for Belfast, West told us of one colleague on these Benches —obviously not a Conservative, but probably a Liberal—who thought that all was well in Northern Ireland at the moment. There are insular minds that prefer not to think about what is happening there and who avert their gaze from the horror. But even some of the most insular minds must have been affected by the attack on the wedding party and the shooting of a man who was killed because he did not obey the terrorist command to lie on the floor. He could not do so because he was crippled by polio. The hon. Member for Belfast, North referred to one of the many instances of the activities in his own constituency. These deeds would do credit to the SS troops of Nazi Germany.

My hon. Friends the Members for Abingdon and Newbury referred to the Women's Peace Movement, about which the hon. Member for Belfast, South had reservations. It is true that Sinn Fein seeks to counter the anguished cry for peace which the movement seeks to express by substituting the slogan "Peace with justice".

After the Trafalgar Square rally I noticed that Cardinal Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, seized on this point and said that the restoration of peace came first. In an editorial in The Guardian of 12th October headed:
"Peace needs defining"
the leader writer shrewdly remarked that the phrase "Peace with justice" had been wisely chosen by the Provisionals,
"because where peace is not open to argument, the definition of justice can go on for ever":
The leader writer speaks of the campaign against the Women's Peace Movement and says:
"One thing in the Provisionals' favour, in their new campaign against the Belfast peace women, is the adjectival richness of the English language, which can be manipulated to serve any end. Where the women are genuine they can be called naive; where they are effective they can be called publicity seeking; where they are non-sectarian they can be called middle-class (which is now accepted as a term of abuse); where they are impartial they can be called traitorous. Their supporters, instead of being impressed by truths, become, in Sinn Fein's description 'duped by simple slogans'. By choosing their vocabulary the Provisionals could do a swift demolition job on the Sermon on the Mount: unscientific, facile, vague and totally lacking in explicit condemnation of the Roman oppressor."
The fabric of our democratic society is fragile and vulnerable. The urban guerrilla, the revolutionary in Ireland, knows this. He is alert to exploit the injudicious repressive action. He has read the mini-manual of the urban guerilla. He applies the jargon— "institutionalised violence"—to the defensive use of force by the agencies of the State. He welcomes the erosion of democracy and of the rule of law which would take place if excessive measures were taken and a police State were to come into existence which could be held up to international execration.

Therefore, our security forces do not and must not lower themselves to the level of their adversaries. Legitimate force has to be applied with intelligence and foresight as well as with vigour and resolution. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) rightly acknowledged the service which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) performed in exposing the rackets by which the terrorists have got rich. The hon. Member for Belfast, North spoke of the Fraud Squad, which is so important in defeating terrorist crime.

The Secretary of State has spoken of the successes of the RUC. We congratulate it most warmly. It seems that it is the tools who are being caught, however, rather than the master craftsmen, those who direct the Mafias of murder, armed robbery and extortion. They keep their hands clean of explosives and their premises clear of arms. They remain out of prison. They employ callow youths, they cause the little ones to stumble. The House would agree with what the hon. Member for Antrim, South said about the responsibility of parents.

How are we to bring to justice what the present Home Secretary called the godfathers and godmothers of terrorism and what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham termed the Goldfingers? We have spoken about this subject before. We must return to the issue until an answer is found. Detention is over, ended as an act of faith. It was accepted as such. If this order is approved, the power to detain would remain in the hands of the Secretary of State who has said that he would use it as a last resort. If he does not intend to use it in other circumstances, an alternative must be found. It is intolerable that a Province of this realm should year after year live not under the rule of law but under a reign of terror.

If the murdering, maiming and destruction suffered through seven years so patiently by the loyal, decent and courageous Ulster people had been reproduced in mathematical proportions in any other part of the United Kingdom, there would have been a storm of popular fury sweeping through the country, even if it did not blow the Government of the day from office.

I am saying this not in any party way nor as an attack upon the Secretary of State. We greatly welcome his fresh, friendly and practical approach to the Northern Ireland people and their problems. Nor, as has been snidely suggested in some quarters, is it a disadvantage in present circumstances for the Minister responsible for security in Northern Ireland to have had first-hand experience of directing the Armed Forces of the Crown. But he must surely concentrate his mind and his resources on the central problem of eliminating the brains trust of revolutionary terror.

Of course, there is a dilemma for the right hon. Gentleman and for all of us, because we uphold proper judicial procedures and the rule of law. But, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury said, we on this side have been ready with constructive suggestions which have deserved their answer. However, to say that the problem cannot be solved by a democracy defending its existence is to cast a shadow on the future of constitutional government and civilised life. In recent history democracies went down because they would not, or could not, find a way to suppress a totalitarian enemy within.

The hon. Member for Armagh detected and welcomed—so do we all—the spirit of the offensive in the speech of the Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman will have the full support of the official Opposition in all that he does to bring these vile, protracted troubles to an end and to make 1977 a year in which Royal Jubilee may be celebrated in a Province at peace.

4.42 p.m.

I apologise to the House and to the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) for my absence earlier today. Unfortunately, it is one of the prices one has to pay for being a Minister in a small team of Ministers involved in Northern Ireland affairs, with a stretch of water between us and all the present inclement weather. No offence to the House was intended. My absence was unavoidable. We try to be in three places at once, but today I found it difficult to be in two places at once.

Although I did not listen to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this morning, everyone realises that I know what was in it and what he said. It is particularly pleasing to us that all the speeches which have followed, including that of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison), have backed the tone and substance of my right hon. Friend's speech.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest chided us for the absence of Members from the Government Benches. None of us has anything to be proud of in this respect, except the Members from Northern Ireland, who have turned out in force.

I shall deal later with a speech made on this side of the House.

I have no wish to take anything away from Members representing other constituencies in Northern Ireland, but I do not think that there are two other hon. Members who have such dreadful problems from the point of view of not only security but housing, jobs and so on, as the hon. Members for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) and Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). One wonders what would happen if constituencies in this country suffered from such terrific problems. I wonder how I would tackle them.

I thank all hon. Members for their speeches and for the tributes which they paid to the Army and all the security forces. As I say, we have difficulties because we are a small team. Immediately after the debate, I shall be going back to Northern Ireland, if that is at all possible. It is my weekend on duty and, as I visit units, I shall pass on the views which have been expressed in the House today. I only hope that I can get there. I understand that there are travel problems still.

I am grateful also for a note which, I think, has sneaked into the debate, by which I mean, an expression of tribute to my ministerial colleagues, my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Carter) and for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. Dunn), as well as my noble Friend Lord Melchett in the other place. We had a very difficult time in the last Session in trying to perform our duties in Northern Ireland and to carry out our onerous duties in the House as well. It is pleasant to have felt today that, although all hon. Members may not wholeheartedly agree with what we have been doing, at least they give us credit for a lot of the hard work we have put in.

I do not want to enter into the exchanges which occurred at one or two points today. All that they showed, I think, is how difficult our job is. I certainly do not intend to involve myself in the cross-fire. However, we shall look carefully at many of the suggestions which have been made.

There have been many references to the police. The police order is to be discussed immediately after this debate, and I have no doubt that more will be said then.

I gather that some hon. Members say that they have never heard a speech from my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) before. He has already explained to me why he has to be absent now, as have several other hon. Members, and I quite understand the difficulties created by the inclement weather and the fact that we are here at this time on a Friday. Although some say that they have never heard from my right hon. Friend before. I can only add that, during six years in the Whips' Office, I felt the lash of his tongue not just now and again but pretty often.

It may interest the House to know that my right hon. Friend sacked me out of the Whips' Office. I am still trying to find out why, because about half an hour later I was sent off to Northern Ireland. Although I wondered at that time, I must say that I am thankful now because I should not like to have missed my experience of Northern Ireland. It has given me, so to say, a greater vision as well as more thought and more caring for that troubled Province. I was as guilty as any when I first came to the House in saying that I did not want to get involved. I feel that there is a problem in the House in that not enough Members want to get involved, and I think that, to some extent, that may be why we have finished in the present sorry state. However, I thank my good friend the ex-Chief Whip for his foray—he was one of the Back-Bench speakers—and I thank him also for sacking me at that time and having me sent off to Northern Ireland. It has done me a power of good.

The hon. Member for Abingdon asked a number of questions. He said, for example, that the amount of explosive recovered this year was lower than the amount recovered in 1975. That is not so. In the first quarter of 1976 we recovered more explosive than in the whole of 1975.

The hon. Member for Abingdon suggested also, as did his hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson), that changes in the law were necessary and that we had not taken action because of legal difficulties. In fact, as my right hon. Friend explained, we have taken the steps which we consider necessary. It is not a question of legal difficulties. Evidence plays a fairly large part as well. However, we should be pleased to consider the hon. Gentleman's views, which he has promised to put to us. He has promised us a memorandum, and I think we have repeatedly asked for it to be sent to us, because we shall certainly look at it gladly, as we shall look at any suggestions or views. There is no question of our having a closed mind.

The hon. Gentleman suggested—this has been echoed by other hon. Members —that a full-time force of 200 in the Ulster Defence Regiment was not sufficient. The hon. Member for Abingdon said that the number should be about a thousand. Of course, the 200 are 200 extra. The force is now at a level of over 1,600. I hope the hon. Gentleman understands that.

The hon. Gentleman also talked about the adequacy of army training for Northern Ireland. Before any unit goes to Northern Ireland it has a special period of training and, from what hon. Members have said today, it is recognised that their work there is highly professional.

The hon. Member for Abingdon said that there had been no convictions for conspiracy since 2nd July, but, in fact, there have been six convictions for conspiracy since that date. One was for conspiracy to obstruct the course of justice and attracted a seven-year prison sentence. Three of the convictions were conspiracy to cause explosions, and they attracted prison sentences of 18, 15, and six years respectively. The other convictions were for conspiracy to murder, and a ten-year sentence was imposed in both cases. We should get that on record.

The hon. Member for Abingdon also asked about our relationship with the Government of the Irish Republic. Actions of the Irish Government are, as we all agree, an important influence on the security situation in the North. I applaud the statements made by the Irish Government and the new measures that they are taking. They are not prepared to tolerate terrorists and terrorism any more than we are. We now look forward to greater co-operation between security forces on both sides of the border. We like to have the greatest possible degree of cross-border co-operation and we do receive a good deal but we are striving to better it.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) made a helpful speech. He wanted me to pass on thanks to the Secretary of State for Defence for what the army are doing in Northern Ireland, and I shall be pleased to do that. The hon. Gentleman also asked for vetting procedures for the UDR to be accelerated. I understand his concern, but if we are to maintain a high standard of recruiting it is essential that we should be absolutely satisfied about applicants' suitability. The procedures to achieve this inevitably take time. Of course hon. Members can use the various means available in order to bring pressure to bear on the Government about particular cases and, indeed, individual cases have been looked at in the past. But we must select these people very carefully, and this must take a little time.

The hon. Member for Abingdon and other hon. Members put questions about the prison service in Northern Ireland. I assumed responsibility for the Northern Ireland prison service on 1st March. There have been great changes in that service in recent years. as can be borne out by a few statistics. At one stage in 1969 there were imprisoned 582 convicted prisoners, 104 borstal prisoners and 35 untried people, giving a total prison population in Northern Ireland of 721 persons. At that time there was only the Crumlin Road Prison and a prison for females at Armagh. Looking back, it is easy to see why there were no plans to build more prisons in the Province. But on 5th December 1976, there were more untried prisoners in Northern Ireland than there were convicted prisoners in 1969. In fact, the prison population has grown from 721 in 1969 to 2,268 today.

These figures become even more startling when related to every 100,000 of the population aged 15 and over. In Northern Ireland in 1969, the figure was running at 141, compared with 189 for England and Wales. For females the figure was two in Northern Ireland while for England and Wales it was four. The Northern Ireland figure has now grown to 508 per 100,000 of the population, whereas the figure for England and Wales is 210.

Thus, from being about two thirds the rate for England and Wales it is now two and a half times the rate. This has meant an increase in prison staff from 300 to a present figure of more than 2,100.

It has also meant that we have had to build more prisons, and that we are doing. Of course, that costs money. Cellular accommodation is being provided at the Maze Prison for 800 prisoners. Two cell blocks are already built and are capable of holding 100 prisoners. They are now occupied. A further three cell blocks are nearing completion and should be ready by the end of February 1977. A further cell block should be ready by mid-March. Three other such blocks are in the course of construction, one of which should be available for occupation in May 1977, and the other two in October of that year. These blocks cost £1 million each, and, as hon. Members can imagine, they have been a drain on resources. We have had to provide them pretty quickly.

There have been some wild allegations about the conditions in these prisons. We have heard complaints about the heating, but I can tell hon. Members that it takes 300 gallons of oil a day, costing £100 a day, to heat the cell blocks. We keep the temperature at a statutory 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The nonconformists have normal meals, all medical facilities, the use of a library and so on. Because they do not obey the prison rules and wear prison clothing, which is a modern-cut, grey suit, they cannot have visits.

Bedding is always available at night. Generally during the daytime a blanket is always available, but a prisoner is not permitted to take any part of the bedding out of his cell. If a prisoner leaves his cell, he is not permitted to wear the blanket, which is an item of bedding, not clothing. The bedding is removed only during the daytime when a prisoner is confined to his cell for not obeying the prison rules. Such confinement can last for a maximum of only three days at any one time.

I took the trouble of finding out the menu for the Maze Prison today. Breakfast was porridge or cornflakes, a pint of milk, tea, bread and margarine. Luncheon was cod in batter, mashed potatoes, peas, rhubarb crumble and custard. Tea was grilled bacon, fried egg, fried potato bread, tea, bread and margarine. For supper the meal is bap rolls, jam, margarine and tea—

I have said that myself at times.

With the ending of the special category, of more than 100 special category prisoners, 48 are non-conforming in places such as this. About 64 are conforming and would be special category prisoners if that had been allowed.

I must stress to the House the identity of those who are non-conforming. They are not the shoplifters from Marks and Spencer or Harrods, they are not in prison for non-payment of debt. For example, one prisoner is in there for the murder of what is known in Northern Ireland as "the Good Samaritan." He protests that he wants special status for that crime. Six more were detained when the passengers of two cars were stopped after behaving suspiciously. The cars contained firearms and two assembled bombs prepared for some dastardly deed. Those are the people who are protesting. When we catch—and I do not say if we catch—the murderer of the 15-year-old girl, the murderer who shot the polio victim because he was not quick enough in dropping to the floor, and the fellow who shoots soldiers in the back, they will undoubtedly claim political status.

I was given the task of looking at the prisons and the ending of special category status. I do not intend to go back on it. Hon. Members need not worry about my right hon. Friend or myself on that issue. It is absolutely necessary that we give no political credence to crimes of this nature.

Hon. Members have today praised the army, police, fire services and certain other sections of the community in Northern Ireland. I want to pay tribute to thet Prison Officers' Association, a new organisation. It was 300 strong in 1969 and there are few experienced members of it. But they have come through intimidation of the worst kind. Some have been murdered or shot up for carrying out not their policy but our policy. They are carrying out that policy for the good of Northern Ireland. The same can be said of all sections of the judiciary in Northern Ireland. I want to thank them. I work with them in the Department. I also pay tribute to the Civil Servants. They, too, have been threatened and intimidated.

It has been spread around that it will take only one more shove and the protestors will win. That is why we must be careful about giving even a little. If people think that they can get their foot in the door and will then be back to special category, I warn them that it would need more than a little shove for me to be pushed over.

I turn to the subject of compensation, which was raised by the Hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart). My right hon. Friend's predecessor commissioned separate studies, which are now complete, of the statutes concerning compensation for criminal injuries. In considering what changes need to be made to the present law we shall take into account the recommendations in the review, views expressed by hon. Members here and elsewhere and all relevant problems to date in the administration and the cost to the public.

The proposals for a draft Criminal Injuries Compensation (Northern Ireland) Order in Council dealing with compensation for personal injuries will be published for public comment in mid- January and an explanatory memorandum will be issued at the same time. Changes in the legislation introduced by the draft order are intended to remove inequalities in the present legislation and to improve its operation in the light of experience. My right hon. Friend hopes to make the legislation more readily understandable, thereby reducing the considerable volume of criticism, much of it ill-informed, thrown at this legislation.

As the Minister has announced the date on which it is expected to publish the proposals, can he give some indication of how much time there will be in which to obtain views? Obviously we shall want to get the legislation as quickly as possible, but we shall also wish to consult among ourselves and take as wide an area of advice as possible. If we could do this in advance, it would be possible for a certain amount of preparation to be made.

This is a complex problem. We do not want to rush at these proposals. We can negotiate on the timing. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has ever found me lacking when he has wanted to discuss problems.

The proposals will have to have regard to Government expenditure in the field while providing fair and adequate terms of compensation for victims of terrorist attacks, especially those who are the most deserving. The special needs of the widows of Service men killed by terrorist action will not be ignored, but it would be unjust to discriminate between the official forces of law and order and others in Northern Ireland. As far as compensation is concerned, everyone in Northern Ireland must be considered to be equally in the front line against terrorism and should be treated fairly and equally.

Legislation on property compensation is, if anything, more complex than for persons. As I told the House on 13th July, it is a matter which raises many far-reaching issues. Careful consideration of them all is necessary. It is our aim to publish proposals for a draft Criminal Damages Compensation (Northern Ireland) Order later in the new year.

Much unfair criticism has been made of claims for damages made under civil law which allows any citizen to sue any other, even a servant of the Crown, for damages. It is not possible to limit such claims or awards for damages, but these are not made under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act. These damages are usually for pain and suffering and are usually at common law. The claims which have been settled for considerable sums derive mainly from pain and suffering caused by the interrogation techniques which were in use five years ago and which have not been used since.

There are no more claims outstanding from this 1971 issue. Where amounts are mentioned such as those referred to by hon. Members, and awards of damages made by the courts or settled out of court by the parties taking cognisance of what the court might have been likely to award, they should not be confused or compared with compensation for criminal injuries. This has led to misconceptions and resulted in much ill-judged and misguided criticisms of awards made under one or other of the legal provisions.

This has been a good debate with many interesting points put forward by hon. Members. I stress again that special category prisoners can forget about an amnesty. They will be locked away as the criminals they are for the things they have done and not for the reasons for which they are supposed to have done them.

I have now been in Northern Ireland for two and a half years. I have been involved in all Departments but one. I sometimes think that I am becoming part of the landscape like the Giant's Causeway and the Mountains of Mourne. Since I have been in Northern Ireland I do not think I have made many personal enemies. I might have made some enemies because of what I represent, but I have made many personal friends.

I should like to think that soon we shall not have to ask for the renewal of these powers, but from the speeches that have been made today from all parts of the House it seems obvious that that time is not yet. It is right that we should have to keep returning to the House for the renewal of these powers. None of us takes any pride in the special powers and it is with some sadness, bearing in mind all the good people from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, that I must ask the House to approve this measure.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Northern Ireland (Various Emergency Provisions) (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 18th November 1976 in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.

Northern Ireland (Police)

5.12 p.m.

I beg to move,

That the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 7th December, be approved.
The purpose of this order is to introduce an independent element into the procedures for handling complaints against the police in Northern Ireland. The need for an independent element can be said to have its origins in the belief that justice should not only be done, it should manifestly be seen to be done. I am satisfied that in the handling of complaints the Royal Ulster Constabulary already affords utmost priority to such inquiry and action as may be necessary. Indeed, the Gardiner Committee, which considered measures against terrorism in the context of civil liberties and human rights, noted in its report that:
"The procedures for investigating complaints against members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are more thorough than those at present in existence anywhere else in the United Kingdom."
Although the Committee was thus emphatic that complaints were fully investigated, it nevertheless recognised a certain disquiet and a lack of public confidence in a system by which the police themselves are solely and absolutely responsible for dealing with complaints against members of the force. The Committee went on to express the view that the introduction of an independent element into the procedures could be an important step towards restoring universal confidence in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The proposals in the draft order do not therefore stem from any lack of confidence on my part, or that of my ministerial colleagues, in the ability or the will of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to deal promptly, properly and justly, with complaints made against it. Rather, the proposals are a recognition that our confidence is not always wholly shared by others in Northern Ireland. The order accordingly represents an endeavour both to dispel the unease, which has not, of course, been confined to the procedures in Northern Ireland, that the handling of complaints rests solely with the police themselves, and moreover to reinforce the growing acceptability of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the community at large.

Before I turn to the provisions of the order, it may be helpful if I outline very briefly the existing complaints procedure. As in Great Britain, the Chief Constable is under a statutory duty to record and have investigated any complaint made against a police officer by a member of the public. Unless satisfied that no criminal offence has been committed, the Chief Constable must send the report of the investigating officer to the Attorney-General and the Director of Public Prosecutions. In addition—and this is an important difference between the procedure in Northern Ireland and England and Wales—the Chief Constable is required to send to the DPP the report on the investigation of any complaint alleging a criminal offence by a member of the RUC. Decisions as to whether disciplinary charges are to be preferred are made by the Chief Constable, but in the case of a reference to the Director of Public Prosecutions such a decision is deferred until the DPP has decided whether to initiate criminal proceedings and, if so, until after those proceedings have taken place. If disciplinary proceedings are taken, the complainant is allowed to attend the hearing in order to give evidence and to put questions to the accused officer.

The draft order follows the recommendation of the Northern Ireland Working Party on Complaints Procedure that revised arrangements for the RUC should be similar to those proposed in what is now the Police Act 1976, and the arrangements outlined in the order correspond closely with the provisions of that Act, with one additional feature in Article 4 to which I shall refer in a moment. The order provides for the establishment of a Police Complaints Board for Northern Ireland, to which are to be sent copies of the reports of police investigations into complaints. The board is empowered, in certain circumstances, to require that disciplinary charges be preferred against a police officer, or that they be heard by a tribunal on which the board is represented.

I come now to the detailed provisions of the order. Article 2 deals with interpretation, and in particular provides that the order is to apply to the regular RUC and the full-time Reserve. Part-time reservists are essentially volunteers and not career officers, and hence when a disciplinary offence is committed by a part-time reservist the sanctions available to the Chief Constable are limited to a reprimand or dismissal. As with the arrangements for special constables in England and Wales, it was thought inappropriate to provide the board with a statutory locus in these cases.

Article 3 and the schedule provide for the appointment by the Secretary of State of a Police Complaints Board for Northern Ireland and for the administration of the board. Aticle 4 is the additional feature of the Northern Ireland scheme, and it requires that the Chief Constable send to the board a copy of a complaint as soon as it is received by him. The intention is that the board will thus be aware at the outset of every complaint against members of the full-time force, Regular and Reserve, and will have a record of these complaints.

Article 5 provides for police investigation reports to be referred to the board, together with notification as to whether the Chief Constable has preferred disciplinary charges against the officer concerned.

Article 6 provides that, where disciplinary charges have been preferred, the board may recommend that they be heard by a tribunal on which the board is represented; where no charges have been preferred, the board may recommend and, in the last resort, direct, that they should be preferred.

Article 7 provides for the hearing of charges by a tribunal.

Under article 8 investigation reports are not to be sent to the board until the Director of Public Prosecutions has dealt with the question of criminal proceedings. When the reports are subsequently received by the board and where it appears to it that any information relevant to the question of criminal proceedings has not been furnished to the DPP, it may request that it be transmitted to him.

Article 9 empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations as to procedure, and Article 10 empowers the Board to arrange to undertake corresponding functions in respect of complaints against members of "private" police forces in Northern Ireland. The article also contains a default provision under which the Secretary of State is empowered to make such arrangements by order.

Articles 11 and 12 require the board to make an annual report to the Secretary of State, and make it an offence for a board member or officer improperly to disclose information.

Provision is made in Articles 13 and 15 for amendments to the RUC discipline regulations and to the appeals regulations. Article 14 provides a statutory safeguard against double jeopardy for police officers.

The opportunity has been taken in Articles 16 and 17 to make two amendments of an administrative nature to the Police Act (Northern Ireland) 1970.

Article 16 relaxes the prohibition on the Police Association being associated with any outside body or person, and thus brings the police representative bodies in Northern Ireland into line with their counterparts in Great Britain.

Article 17 will no doubt commend itself to the House in reducing the bureaucratic procedures necessary to bring increases in certain police allowances into effect. As now, police regulations will specify the conditions under which the allowances are payable, but the amounts of those allowances, which are subject to fairly frequent review, will be determined by the Secretary of State instead of being prescribed by the issue of amending regulations. The new procedure, which is already established practice in England and Wales, has the full support of the Police Association and the Police Authority.

The RUC is a force earning increasing respect, and it is a young force, led by an energetic and dedicated Chief Constable. Each month sees a new intake of recruits further to add to the 3,000 or so officers who have joined since 1970. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to this on the earlier order. It is an expanding, forward-looking force, operating in a society which is itself changing.

The legacy of past distrust is gradually diminishing as the men and women of the RUC demonstrate that the service they provide is for the whole community. They continue to face a tremendously dangerous and difficult task, and those who come into contact with them cannot fail to be impressed by their courage and dedication. I am satisfied that the introduction of the procedures in the order will assist the force to demonstrate the integrity and impartiality of the police in Northern Ireland.

The order represents a further step towards securing that identification between the police and the public which is the very foundation of policing in a civilised society, and I therefore commend the order to the House.

5.23 p.m.

I thank the Minister for his explanation of what is a somewhat complicated order, but he has not, I fear, removed some of my misgivings. These misgivings arise not just from the words on the Order Paper that

"The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments have not yet completed their consideration of the Instrument",
but from other reasons, too.

Successive Secretaries of State, including Conservative ones, have made it clear that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is under the law. Its officers are citizens subject both to the law of the land and to a strict code of discipline and behaviour. There is one thing on which I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that is that this young force, as he called it—it is young in age but not in history—is earning increased respect under its able Chief Constable. All would agree that the members of the force are working under great stress of terror and danger, not only to themselves but to their families, and therefore they deserve the backing and understanding of all law-abiding citizens. We must be very careful that in legislating and in following the pattern in general of Great Britain we do not make their difficult work even more difficult.

It was agreed at the Sunningdale Conference that an independent complaints procedure should be set up. Sunningdale came out with a package deal. It was hoped that the elected representatives of the minority would lend their full support to the RUC and the security forces. That hope has not been entirely fulfilled. Sunningdale is now past history.

Reference to the desirability of an independent complaints procedure also appears in the report of the Gardiner Committee, which this House has never debated—I am not quite sure why. The report favoured the introduction of this independent element. Paragraph 96 says:
"The procedures for investigating complaints against members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are already more thorough than those at present in existence anywhere else in the United Kingdom."
Nevertheless, the committee recommended the introduction of an independent element. I am not quite sure why.

The working party heard the views of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland. I turn to page 27 of its report, where, at the bottom of the page, we read words which should have the attention of hon. Members.
"We categorically refuse and resent the implied suggestion of partiality where police are involved in investigating complaints of this nature. It is our view civilian independent investigators should not become involved in police matters of this nature. The primary objection appears to evolve around the independent element, but we submit this is already provided for. The Police Authority"—
which does not exist in the same way as on this side of the water—
"the DPP Department and HM Inspector of Constabulary all have an independent supervisory role."
That is a view put forward by the Police Federation and it should weigh with us.

Further, the working party formed the view that change was necessary only in relation to offences against discipline and not in relation to allegations of criminal offences, which, in Northern Ireland, go direct to the DPP, who is an official independent of the Executive.

In our consideration, then, we have to bear in mind the fact that the terrorist is adept at propaganda and that malicious complaints are terrorist weapons. When, two months ago, I was speaking at Trinity College, Dublin, I found myself on the same platform as Mr. Oliver Napier of the Alliance Party, and I noted certain words that he uttered in rebuke of those who easily make complaints against members of the security forces and who condemn collectively the UDR or the police because of the crimes or blunders of members or former members. He said:
"We have almost got used to the endless trail of deaths. But if one policeman or one soldier makes an error of judgment, even though we know it will be fully investigated and that legal trial will follow, enormous emotions are raised."
I should have thought that there was good existing procedure for the full investigation of criminal or indisciplined acts on the part of the RUC.

The working party found that
"in the vast majority of cases in which disciplinary proceedings were taken against members of the Force, the proceedings resulted from external control exercised by senior officers rather than complaints made by members of the public."
It concluded that this was a
"clear indication that firm disciplinary control is exercised within the RUC and the evidence given by the Police Authority representatives bears this out."
I noted one sentence in the chief constable's report for 1975 under the heading of "Dissatisfied Complainants". It states:
"Of the 1,016 completed investigations the number of complainants who on their own initiative subsequently made formal representations of dissatisfaction with the investigation or its outcome was 16, or 1·5 per cent."
I think that is impressive in the conditions of Northern Ireland today.

When the Great Britain measure was being debated in this House, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths), who has been an eloquent spokesman for the police, urged two things. I am not quite sure what would be the situation in Northern Ireland in this respect. My hon. Friend urged that policemen who are accused should receive a copy of the complaint. Secondly, he urged that the Police Federation be freed from restrictions on the use of its funds to pay for defamation proceedings against malicious complainants. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will deal with those points in winding up.

It is not clear to me what function or standing the police authority would have in future in connection with complaints against the police. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say something about that.

It seems to me that Parliament is multiplying the authorities, commissions and boards in Northern Ireland. Here is another one. I sometimes wonder whether the men and women of probity and competence will be found to man and serve them. May I ask to whom police files would be made available in complaints cases? This is a very important question in present conditions in the Province.

This debate—which I suppose will be a fairly short one, although it is a very important matter—gives the House an opportunity again to record its grateful admiration of the valour of the men and women of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve who are in daily and nightly danger. We salute the memory of those who have laid down their lives. By the end of September more officers of the RUC and RUC Reserve had been murdered in the present year than in any previous year. These are terrible figures.

We look forward to the day when the policing of Northern Ireland will again be strictly for the RUC, and when the army which sustains the police can withdraw to other duties and to its former garrison rôle in Ulster. The recruiting figures which the Secretary of State announced in an earlier debate are most encouraging.

I came across some words of the present Home Secretary, formerly Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when he addressed the Police Superintendents' Association of Northern Ireland on 2nd September. He said:
"Let the people of Northern Ireland demonstrate their continued support for the police in every way."
I have reservations about the order. I have to be convinced of its necessity, because I feel that in passing it there is a danger that we might be thought to be lacking in the continued support which the Home Secretary insisted should be given to the police in every way.

5.34 p.m.

As the Opposition spokesman has well said, this is a very important order. There are some matters that we should do well to highlight in this debate and on which we seek observations from the Government.

I should like to make it clear that the elected representatives on the Unionist Bench give their full-hearted, unequivocal support to the police as the police of Northern Ireland. It is to be regretted that the Government say to us—our constituents find it very difficult to understand this—that we must have enforced power sharing with those who cannot even at this late hour give their full-hearted support to the police.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is missing, as he usually is when we come to vital matters concerning the police. It is to be regretted that once again at the SDLP conference its policy of not supporting the police, the Army and the other forces of the Crown was continued. We know what happened to Councillor Tom Donnelly, who had the courage of his convictions and stood up and said that the SDLP should support the police and the Army. He had to resign and leave public life altogether. I want to put that on the record.

I am against Sunningdale, and we still have bits of it lying round. The matter of extra-territorial jurisdiction is not worth the paper it is written on.

Yes, perfectly futile. We now have before us this order, although I am not suggesting that it, too, is perfectly futile. However, I have some grave doubts about it, as have some of my colleagues.

Our doubts are not about the conduct of the RUC. We believe that complaints against the integrity of the RUC will be fully answered. We do not have doubts because we are afraid of investigation. Our doubts relate to the fact that it is the people who do not support the police who are clamouring for a complaints system. That is the sad aspect of the matter. It comes not from those who support the police, but from a section of the community that does not support the police and also from some of its elected representatives.

I wish to castigate the minority representatives who hold on to bitter antagonism against the RUC and the other forces of the Crown and who bring scurrilous accusations against hon. Members from Northern Ireland and then, when it comes to the crunch, say that they are behind the police. It is noticeable that the hon. Member for Belfast, West was the only speaker who had no word of thanks for the police, and yet he was hailed as a statesman by the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), a former Labour Chief Whip. We deplore the hon. Gentleman's conduct.

I turn to the order, in which there are provisions that worry us. I am informed by the Police Federation of Northern Ireland that under the present complaints system the date off complaint is entered on the personal file of the constable, sergeant or officer concerned. There is no explanation written into the personal file as to the nature of the complaint, or what happened to it, or whether the man in question was exonerated. When that file comes up and the man is due for promotion, the complaint is entered there on the file and that is it.

The reason is simple. The constable is allowed to see his personal file in normal circumstances. However, under the present complaints system he is not allowed to know the person who is making the complaint against him. I should like an assuarnce from the Minister that under the new system there will be a full statement about the complaint on the file, with information as to what happened as a result of the complaint and whether the officer was exonerated.

I agree with the Minister that something must be done about those who bring malicious complaints against the police. We live in days when the whole complaints system could be brought down by the number of frivolous complaints. There could be two or three members on a board from the minority who may sit on that body only to hold up its work. If they say "We are not happy with what has happened and want a thorough investigation", that can hold up the whole process. I was in the office of a senior police officer the other day and he had a number of complaints on his desk. He said "These are holding up all our investigations because everything stops when the man is charged. There is a black mark against his name and things have to stop". Another officer from another district has to go in and follow up a complaint. I am aware that there is a need for a system but I do not want Ulster to have a system that will prevent the police from doing their proper work.

I am grateful to the Minister for circulating information giving us the contrast between this proposed system and the system in the rest of the United Kingdom. It is most helpful. We believe in the Union and, for good or ill, we believe that the laws passed in this House have to be accepted since this is the sovereign body. We feel that we have the right to use this Parliament as a forum to bring matters to the attention of the Government. Under this proposed system every complaint must go forward to the board. According to paragraph 4 of the explanatory note:
"Where a complaint is referred to the chief constable under Section 13(1) of the Act he shall, as soon as reasonably practical, send to the board a copy of the complaint."
This is different from the English Act. We should like a fuller explanation from the Minister. He feels that this is a minor matter but we want to know why in Northern Ireland every complaint has to go to the board while that is not the case of the rest of the United Kingdom.

In Northern Ireland severe criticisms are made about politicians interfering with the prerogative of the Chief Con- stable. Yet under this order the board can interfere with the prerogative of the Chief Constable. The notes say:
" Where the chief constable has not preferred charges the board may, if it disagrees with his decision, make a recommendation to him as to the charges which it considers should be preferred. If, after the board has made such recommendations and consulted the chief constable, he still is unwilling to prefer such charges as the board considers appropriate, it may direct him".
That impinges upon the authority of the Chief Constable. There have been accusations that politicians have been seeking to interfere with the authority of the Chief Constable. Here is a board, the membership of which we do not know, which will be able to interfere with the Chief Constable's authority.

These are serious points with which we trust the Minister will be able to deal. I apologise in that I and some of my colleagues may have to slip away before the Minister replies. However, my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) will remain to hear the full debate. I hope that the Minister will recognise that it is not meant as an insult to him if we have to leave shortly. However, duty calls and aeroplanes go at set times. I have duties to do on the Sabbath day. I am not like some who have a rest on that day. If I do not get home, I shall be in trouble.

I quite appreciate the reasons why the hon. Member must leave. I can assure him that I shall try to give him a reply tonight, but it may be that it will be better if I take his complex questions away and give a detailed reply, even to the extent of circulating it to his colleagues as copy correspondence.

5.44 p.m.

Despite the courteous and characteristic intervention made by the Minister it may be to his convenience—as he will probably shortly be replying to the debate—if I briefly add one or two comments to those that have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Paisley) who has just left the Chamber, although certain signals which appear to have been hoisted suggest that meteorological conditions may not be in favour of those who intend to travel between the two parts of the United Kingdom.

From what my hon. Friend said, it will be clear that if this order had come forward in isolation, we would have had a very much more severe debate and my hon. Friends and I would have been in very much greater doubt whether to support it. In fact, it comes before us as an order which except in one particular—and that, I believe, is not a substantial one—brings the law in Northern Ireland into accord with that established in Great Britain by the Police Act 1976.

The conditions under which the RUC operates in Northern Ireland are very different from those under which the police in Great Britain operate. Nevertheless, so strongly do my hon. Friends and I feel that in this respect, as in many others, the law should be uniform throughout the United Kingdom, that we unanimously decided, after studying the order, to support the uniformity of the law which it creates. This is a minor commentary perhaps upon something said in the debate earlier this week and it illustrates how important to those representing Northern Ireland is the principle of the uniformity of law as made by Parliament applying to the whole of the United Kingdom.

It is clear from the order that its result could perfectly well have been achieved by the Police Bill, and probably it would have been better had that been done because a number of my hon. Friends and myself would have been able to take part in the discussions on the Police Bill instead of contemplating it as a kind of appendix to the Great Britain legislation.

The Under-Secretary of State was very helpful to my hon. Friends and myself in supplying us with an analysis of the minor differences which remain between the law as this order will leave it and that created by the Police Act in England and Wales. I should like the hon. Gentleman to confirm that the effect of Article 4—that is, the purely Northern Ireland article—is marginal and that under Article 5, as I understand it, all complaints will in any case reach the Police Complaints Board under the England and Wales arrangements when the Chief Constable has made his investigation and that the only difference in Northern Ireland is that there will be a notification to the board in advance.

That is puzzling. It appears to be a minor, almost an administrative, complication and an additional wheel to the coach. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North that we did not get a full explanation of what benefit it would be. However, I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be able to confirm that it means that no more complaints will reach the board than would in any case have reached it sooner or later and that the only difference is that in Northern Ireland we shall have prior notification.

5.48 p.m.

A number of questions have been put to me, and I shall attempt to answer them. However, I am sure that hon. Members will appreciate that some of them relate to rather complex matters and to the Police Act 1976.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) raised an important point. He expressed a view about the procedure for legislation relating to Northern Ireland. He will be the first to appreciate that I have very little influence on the means of procuring the legislation, and he will know that the Secretary of State and those of us who serve as his ministerial colleagues have always been aware that to incorporate into United Kingdom legislation all the Acts required for Northern Ireland can, from time to time, cause more difficulty than is expected. If we tread with care, it is perhaps because we are overcautious, maybe even over-considerate, to those whom we serve. We know the need, and there are ways of serving it.

However, I shall bring his comments to the notice of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and of those who see to the drafting and the incorporation of various parts of the United Kingdom into legislation which comes before the House.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mr. Biggs-Davison) put to me what he felt was a problem in relation to the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. So far as I am aware, what is happening here is that there are exchanges of correspondence with a view to clarifying matters rather than going into an area of disagreement. It is a question of interpretation, and I think that it is probably only for that reason that we have not received any further communication from the Joint Committee. I have made inquiries, and I am led to believe that there is no reason to think that the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments would have any reservations about the order. It seeks only clarification.

The hon. Gentleman drew to my attention what he regarded as the lessons of the working party report. There were representatives of the Police Authority and of the Police Federation on the working party, and, had there been any serious objections to the proposals being made by the working party, they would have come through in the report which reached us.

The working party report was a base upon which further consideration was given to how to deal with any police order for Northern Ireland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that what we aimed to do was to reflect upon the debates and discussions relating to the Police Act for England and Wales and then to take account of suggestions made by the House in regard to all matters which were or subsequently might be raised with reference to any police order for Northern Ireland. This process gave time for further representations from interested organisations in Northern Ireland to make their views known.

In addition, as hon. Members have acknowledged, we circulated a note relating to the order, in an effort to give further opportunity for consultation. It was our hope that, if there were any serious reservations, they would be notified to us. We should have been prepared to look at any suggestions made by hon. Members to see whether there was need to amend the draft regulations eventually put before the House on 7th December.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest will recall that an assurance was given by my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State in regard to criticisms during the passage of the Police Bill. The Home Secretary at that time gave an undertaking that any amendment relating to the use of police funds or Police Federation funds operative for England and Wales would be brought before the House at an early date. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, if that is the wish of the Northern Ireland Police Federation, we should accept a corresponding amendment. That was the statement made by my right hon. Friend, then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and now Home Secretary—I echo it on behalf of the present Secretary of State—that any amendment passed to the Police Bill would automatically be given consideration, that we should consult and we should put the matter before the House.

On the question whether the accused officer will receive copies of the complaint, I can give the assurance that according to the order he will do so. The Secretary of State has further powers under Article 9 to remedy any defect or to bring into existence any regulation that might be the result of further consultations. The article vests an enabling power in the Secretary of State. There is no closed door in respect of the problems that hon. Members have brought to our notice.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) raised a number of points, beginning with the question whether the Secretary of State could give an undertaking about the provision of copies of complaints to the police officer concerned. But the hon. Gentleman went further than that and said that he wanted the police officer to receive not only copies of the complaint but also any record that may be placed in his personal file that is held by the police authority or by the constabulary. This is basically a matter for the Chief Constable, but I have taken note of what the hon. Member for Antrim, South has brought to my attention.

I will bring the matter to the notice of the chief constable and if I am not satisfied with his answer I will refer it to the Secretary of State to discover whether there is any need for further regulations to be enacted. In justice, and following the customs and practices that we value highly in this country, all are innocent until proved guilty. A man can answer a charge only after he has been made fully aware of it. Following that practice I think that something could be done in this matter.

The Police Complaints Board will have a copy of the complaint whether the complaint is made direct to the board and then conveyed to the Chief Constable or whether the complaint is made to the chief constable and a copy then conveyed by him to the board. The consequences of various stages of investigation will be notified to the board, which will have a comprehensive record of these matters and will be able to answer any question that may be brought to the notice of the board. The board will ensure balance in any investigation, and will ensure that the community at large has confidence that any complaint that is made will be so notified and recorded so that, as hitherto, allegations cannot be thrown at the RUC unjustifiably.

It would be reassuring for my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) if, when the Under-Secretary has made his investigations, the Minister would let my hon. Friend know what the procedure will be with regard to the entries in records police officers' records.

I certainly undertake to do that. I do not know whether I can go as far as I would like, but the Secretary of State has the right to make regulations and I will proceed on that basis with the Chief Constable in order to find out whether an understanding can be reached.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) asked about the validity of complaints raised against the police and whether there should be powers for dealing with malicious or mischievous complaints. I can assure him that powers already exist. If the police feel that those powers should be used, it is a matter for them to decide. I am sure that the hon. Member for Antrim, North and other hon. Gentlemen can recall cases arising from the operation of the Police Act in England and Wales in which malicious complaints—particularly those made frequently—have been brought to the notice of the courts and offenders have been dealt with.

I think that I have answered all the questions raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North, or at least those which fall within the purview of this order. He mentioned one or two other matters of which I shall take note and which I shall probably raise with him at some later time, but they were not primarily related to the order.

Let me deal now with the question of Article 6. The difference is that the Police Complaints Board has the right in the final analysis to direct that proceedings shall be taken. It has no right to adjudicate upon the verdict, so in that sense there is a difference in Northern Ireland. I think the reason for that will be generally understood. If there were grounds for a genuine complaint that proceedings had not been taken that could be the cause of disorder in a way which is not likely to occur in England and Wales. It is for the protection of all those in the force and of those who command it that we believe that it is far better to write into the order strenuous protections which afford the defence of complete impartiality. In that way no one can ever claim that, although a complaint was made, no further proceedings were taken. This will be left to an independent body, and that independent element is essential in public relations in Northern Ireland at present.

The right hon. Member for Down, South asked about the advance notice which will be issued to the board. That will be issued only under the criteria of the order. If the Chief Constable is dealing with criminal proceedings and he then refers the papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions, until the Director of Public Prosecutions has determined that matter, the board will not be notified in advance. It will be notified in the wake of the decisions that are made.

I believe that this order will give the RUC the protection which it should have possessed over the past decade. I meant every word of my introductory remarks when I said that the force acts with great courage, great dedication and great determination. It is daily put at risk, sometimes unreasonably so, by the silly behaviour of others. If we as Ministers do not always give answers in the statistical form which is being sought it is only to protect the members of the RUC. We do not want to provide any information for intelligence units belonging to the unlawful component of the Northern Ireland community. We do not want to grant any facilities to the para-militaries. We shall do all in our power to support this force in the execution of its duty and the wonderful service it provides for all the people in the Province.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 7th December, be approved.

European Community (Skimmed Milk)

6.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. E. S. Bishop)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of Commission Document No. R/2866/76 on Skimmed Milk.

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the names of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and his hon. Friends, including the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). It may be for the convenience of the House if both the motion and the amendment are discussed together.

The subject of our debate today is EEC Document No. R/2866/76. This is a draft Council regulation that would enable the value of milk powder that has been held in intervention agencies on 31st December 1976 for more than one year to be written down by 30 per cent. of the intervention price. It may be helpful to the House if I begin by explaining a little of the background to this proposal and in particular the broad outline of the arrangements for accounting for stocks held by member States' intervention agencies.

At the end of each year the stock of most commodities held in intervention stores is revalued on the basis of intervention prices valid on 1st January of the following year. However, this draft regulation would depart from the normal pattern by extending to the valuation of stocks of skimmed milk powder the principle of depreciation which is already applied to stocks of butter and beef and veal. It would do this by writing down by 30 per cent. below the intervention price on 1st January 1977 all stocks of skimmed milk powder held in intervention for over a year at the end of December 1976.

This write-down recognises the large amount of skimmed milk powder held in intervention and the difficulty of disposing of stock which has been held for a relatively long time. Such stocks cannot hope to command the same price as "younger" stocks and will probably have to be sold for animal feed. The Commission has taken the view that some 600,000 tonnes will be affected by the write-down and that some 400,000 tonnes of this will be sold in 1977 and the remaining 200,000 tonnes in 1978.

The Minister said that 600,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder were in intervention. In the debate on 22nd October the Secretary of State said that there were nearly 1,300,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder in intervention. What has happened in that one and a half months to reduce the amount? Is there some inaccuracy in the figures and, if so, whose fault is it?

The amount affected by the proposal is about half the total and we refer to stocks that are over 12 months old.

The loss on sales which the write-down represents would be met out of the 1976 budget instead of the budget in the year in which the skimmed milk powder is expected to be sold. This timing suits the United Kingdom very well since our contribution to Community expenditure in 1976 will be at the key rate of 16·3 per cent. whereas in 1977 the rate will be 19·24 per cent. and in 1978 it will be higher still.

In addition the Commission estimates that there will be a saving to FEOGA over the next two years of some £4·6 million—11 million units of account—on interest charges which it pays member States on the value of stocks held in intervention stores. The estimated overall effect of this proposal for the United Kingdom would be a saving of about £3 million up to the end of 1978. I am sure that honourable Members will agree with me that this proposed regulation is a sensible, realistic and useful measure.

Now I come to the amendment that appears on the Order Paper in the name of my honourable Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). The Government have no difficulty in accepting it. We, too, deplore the circumstances which have given rise to the need for this measure. We, too, deplore the continual creation of unwanted and costly surpluses under the common agricultural policy. We do not pretend that we are going to be able to reform that policy overnight, but we intend to maintain the pressure on the Community for a more sensible and saner use of resources in the agricultural sector.

We cannot subscribe to an approach to agriculture which produces far more than consumers are prepared to buy and at a cost which reduces demand. We shall therefore continue to support moves designed to bring a better balance into the milk market and, in doing so, we shall know that we have the support of this House and of the country. I therefore recommend the House to accept this amendment.

6.11 p.m.

I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add,

"but regrets that the high level of stocks of milk powder make this measure necessary; and urges the Government to secure a modification of the CAP in order to avoid the continual creation of such structural surpluses".
There may be 1 million tonnes of dried milk powder in intervention stores, but to some of us it seems that we have been waiting almost 1 million minutes for this debate. If someone wanted to invent a way to get some business through the House quietly, he would give 24 hours' notice, put it down for the Friday before the Christmas Recess and arrange for it to be taken after an open-ended Irish debate. That is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves.

I am not surprised that the Minister was a little briefer than usual in moving the motion because there is a great deal more to the document than meets the eye. It is not just a matter of saving this country £3 million. It is right to explore this matter further and I shall reinforce and underline why my hon. Friends and I tabled the amendment, which I am pleased my hon. Friend has accepted.

Can the Minister tell us a little more about the reasons for this becoming virtually an emergency debate? In the agenda of likely events to come before the Council of Ministers provided for us in November, the Agriculture Ministers' meeting is scheduled for 20th and 21st December, but there was no notification of this item. Why must it be taken at the second meeting in December? Why could it not have waited until January? Why was it not put on the notional agenda?

I presume that the basis of the document is that the Community has to decide to write off this amount of money now or pay a subsidy later. Whichever way is chosen, dried milk is being subsidised.

The Minister said it was being done this way for accounting reasons and that we should have to pay £3 million less for this onerous burden. The Community will save £4 million through interest savings on the money due to members.

I cannot quite follow that argument. Perhaps he could explain it in more detail when he winds up the debate. Presumably we make interest savings on a loan. The milk will be there whether it is written down or remains at its original price, so I do not see how these notional savings arise.

This debate, though brief, is part of the continuing saga of the milk sector of the EEC. On 12th April the House disapproved a regulation which had already been approved by the Minister of Agriculture in Brussels. In an Adjournment debate on 22nd October we had before us Documents Nos. R1734/76, R2295/76 and R2387/76 to 2391/76, all of which dealt with the milk sector. Unfortunately, the House could not approve or disapprove those documents, nor could any Member move an amendment to them. That was not possible because, unlike today's debate, the documents were taken on a debate on the Adjournment.

If my hon. Friend cannot do so now, perhaps he will tell me in correspondence what happened to the proposals in those regulations. Is it that this regulation in part displaces some of the proposals in that package, or is it entirely auxiliary to it?

The milk sector is not unimportant in the CAP. It varies between 37 per cent. and 41 per cent. of the total FEOGA budget. That is no mean sum. We are talking about a sector of the CAP that takes up a high proportion of the total support funds of the Community. As my hon. Friend has said, we share part of the burden.

There is no obligation in terms of the Treaty to maintain these stocks. Articles 38 and 39 of the Treaty of Rome do not provide that there shall be intervention buying. Article 39 states:
"The objectives of the common agricultural policy shall be".
It then lists a number of items. Item (e) states:
"to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices."
Surely we are bound to ask ourselves whether the consumers within the EEC milk sector get their supplies at reasonable prices.

On 22nd October 1976 my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) quoted The Times, which reported a Consumers' Association statement. The association stated:
"The real problem is the high price fixed in Brussels. Butter in the EEC is now 270 per cent. of world market price; skimmed milk powder 330 per cent.".
My hon. Friend says that it will be written down by a third. Presumably it will be written down to a value which is still about 200 per cent. of the world market price.

In that respect the consumer in the British Isles pays three times. He pays the original price of New Zealand butter, of which we get all too little, and that price is nearly doubled on the levy to bring it up to the EEC price. Thirdly, through various own resources and taxes, consumers pay their contribution towards the subsidy which is keeping the skimmed milk in store, and then pay a higher than market price for it. Clearly, the objectives of the Treaty of Rome that I have quoted are not being fulfilled over a wide range of the Community's agricultural activity.

The subsidy which is being paid is not evenly spread. I see from the FEOGA annual report that about two-thirds of the dairy herd of the EEC is in France and Germany, but only a quarter of the production of those two countries' herds is used for liquid drinking milk. That is in marked contrast to our own market. Of the 2,000 million units of account that are used in support of the milk sector, a very high proportion will go to dairy herds and farmers in France and Germany, yet there is no such support for British farmers. Therefore, there is a great difference between the two milk sectors producing the enormous stockpile of which we have heard and to which our farmers have not contributed.

However, Britain has contributed in the writing down of the values and in the maintaining of stocks. I understand that our share is in the region of £140 million. Many of the costs stem from storage. The storage of 1 million tonnes of dried milk, whatever its price, is not a cheap affair; nor is the paperwork that goes into ensuring that it is there, that it is in good order and that the people who store it, let alone those who sell it, are being paid.

Unfortunately, as the House was told on 19th July, there is no satisfactory method of checking the accounts and the operations of the European Agriculture Guarantee and Guidance Fund. Document R118 of 1976, the Audit Board report of the EEC, states on page 69:
"only very limited examination by the Audit Board of the operations of the Guarantee Section of the EAGGF has been possible. As in previous years, the Board has not been in a position to form its own judgment of the manner in which the operations have been conducted or to give an opinion on the reliability of the financial management of this sector of expenditure. Such a circumstance is irreconcilable with the specified task which Article 90 of the Financial Regulation requires of the external audit body and should receive attention from the Council and the European Parliament."
I have asked my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the Treasury is doing about this matter of public financial importance. In a Written Answer the Under-Secretary said:
"The Audit Board has complained that, while it has been able to be present during inspection visits carried out by the Commission of the European Communities in member States, the Board has not been able to carry out its own independent audits there. The Financial Regulation of 25th April 1973, which lays down the powers of the Audit Board, does not provide for the Board to carry out independent audits in member States. The Audit Court, which will be set up when the Treaty signed on 22nd July 1975 has been ratified by all member States, will have the power to carry out independent audits. It is the hope of Her Majesty's Government that ratification will be completed in the near future."—[Official Report, 13 December 1976; Vol. 922, c. 549.]
While I am not opposing the measure, I point out that there is still grave dissatisfaction with the way in which the 600,000 tonnes, the 400,000 tonnes and the 1 million tonnes of dried milk powder are assessed, and the way in which moneys are paid to those who store it and to those who sell it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, I hope, will be answering another Written Question of mine to tell us what the British Government are doing about the Treaty to set up the Audit Board. I hope that we shall get value for the £3 million.

The system is not sacrosanct. As I said, Articles 38 and 39 of the Treaty of Rome do not require this particular system within the CAP. It was arranged by regulations that were passed in the late 1960s, and that we have had to accept willy-nilly. There are questions which the British people have asked and will wish to ask again about the milk machine.

My hon. Friends, who have always been opposed to the working of the CAP, cannot be accused of being entirely negative. We all know that there are other ways in which agricultural endeavour on the mainland of Europe can be properly supported. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise other ways acceptable to other member States. A possibility that has already been widely canvassed is a dual support system relating to prices and to soil, climate and agricultural conditions.

Another area in which there might be some improvement is in feeding surplus milk directly to pigs. Why must it be made into dried milk powder? Traditionally, bacon has been a dairy-based product. In smaller dairies in the United Kingdom many years ago skimmed milk was fed to pigs. Why must there be a considerable increase in the production of dried milk?

The House of Lords Select Committee report on milk, Document No. 326, published on 30th September last, drew the attention of their Lordships and the House to a significant matter. It states:
"The most significant factor has been the increase in the skimmed milk powder manufacturing capacity of the Community's dairy industry, which is understood to have risen some tenfold in the last few years."
It may be that some adjustment can be made in the other direction. We all know of the success of our Milk Marketing Board. In a recent debate Conservative Members were unanimous in their praise of marketing boards, which do not find a great deal of support on the other side of the Channel. There is this line of argument which I hope my hon. Friend and his hon. Friends will pursue around the table at the Council, because the price which the housewife has to pay in this country, and the way in which we write down these stocks, should be associated with improvements in the system. If we cannot talk about them at the time when we vote the money, we shall not be able to talk about them at any other time.

Another thing that my hon. Friend might like to do is to find out exactly where the distribution of milk production is, particularly in the more remote areas of the European mainland. This is no doubt something which the agronomists, both in this country and on the mainland of Europe, have at their fingertips. Is there any way in which the Commission and the Government can sustain agriculture in these areas without having to sustain it by high subsidies to the milk sector?

In moving the amendment and asking these questions of my hon. Friend I do not wish to do so in too critical a manner. Those of us on this side of the House who have been in opposition do not always want to appear negative.

I hope that I have said enough in this short intervention to provide some positive suggestions whereby the needs of the agricultural community and the rest of Europe can be met. I understand their needs, and I am not saying that they should not have a decent return, but that it should be met in ways that do not fall upon the consumer in the way that they do in the milk sector, and at the same time they should provide farmers with a reasonable return for their efforts.

I hope that the House and my hon. Friend will accept the amendment, because this is the only way in which the British Government can go, and they should start going this way when they agree to additional expenditure, to reduce the terrible milk mountain of which we all know and which is the worst imaginable advertisement for the CAP.

6.28 p.m.

It was only 19 hours ago that I got to my feet and made something of the same speech as I am about to make now. Before I do so may I say that I shall not follow what the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) has just said. I agree with most of what he said, and I agree with his amendment, but I do not agree with his whole approach to the question of the Common Market, being a stout supporter and advocate of it.

I have attended with a reasonable amount of diligence at all sorts of hours of the night and day at which these Common Market debates come on—not always speaking, mostly listening and learning. When today's debate appeared on the Order Paper I thought that I had discharged my duties quite conscientiously hitherto. We have had a very busy week, and we shall be busy next week right up to Christmas. It being Friday today, I thought that I might be able to do some shopping and help my wife, and because of the kind of money that we are paid as Members of Parliament, which on the last count left me little more after tax had been deducted than I would have received if I were unemployed with two children, I thought that perhaps I need not attend this debate.

However, before I left this Palace I went to the Vote Office and asked for the documents for this debate. I did that because on every other occasion that I can recollect being interested in a Community debate there has been an inadequate supply of the relevant documents. They have either not all been present, or we have had to debate issues on documents that were out of date. Last night, we had the spectacle of my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) reading out a letter which an interested outside body had received, commenting on a document which we in this House had not been privileged to receive. I recall a recent debate—the hon. Member for Newham, South brought it to my attention last night—about water. There again, we were debating a document which was not before the House and which had changed the whole picture.

When is this insanity to stop? What is there about the Common Market which makes those responsible for providing the information upon which the House of Commons is supposed to make judgment decide that it really does not matter?

I am still waiting to hear whether the hon. Gentleman has had difficulty in getting the documents for this debate. If he has, I am surprised, because I have been to the Vote Office today and got the documents, which are available to every hon. Member.

In the Vote Office, there is a translation of the proposal, dated 26th November, an explanatory memorandum, dated 7th December, and an extract from a report, not yet printed, from the Select Committee drawing this matter to the attention of the House. The translation document is headed:

"Proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No. 2306/70."
That original regulation has been unobtainable. The diligence of the Library, to which I, as always, give the strongest commendation and praise, has unearthed a copy of the document. But that is not good enough when the Vote Office is meant to provide us with all the documentation which will enable us to make reasonable and balanced observations on the subject. It is not the Vote Office's fault, but the Ministry of Agriculture's fault, because the Ministry is the body responsible for initiating the debate.

The point is not that I have to stand up at 6.30 p.m. on a Friday and to draw this to the attention of the Minister. The point is that it is the second time I have had to do it in 19 hours, and the umpteenth time we have had to do it in such debates. Since I became a Member of this House, I cannot honestly remember —perhaps my memory is in error—an occasion when all the documentation has been present for such debates. It shows that no notice at all is taken of our complaints.

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman and the House by pointing out that the document we are discussing—R/2860/76—begins by saying

"Please find enclosed a proposal for a Council Regulation amending Regulation (EEC) No. 2306/7."
So he has the documentation which is under discussion. I am not unsympathetic to the problems he raises, but he should be careful before apportioning blame in anything before he has the facts.

I am sorry to inform the Minister that the proposal for a Council regulation amendment is only a summary, as I understand it, of the original document which gives to it a large number of articles but does not appear in any documentation I have received. I now have doubts whether the hon. Gentleman has himself even seen the original document.

I have this in commission, as it were, from the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), to whom I acquainted the fact that I intended to make this point, and who is quite unusually absent, as is my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), who otherwise always graces us on these occasions but must have slipped out for a moment. There are two things that one can do in this situation. One can either shrug one's shoulders and go home or shopping, or one can hang on and complain yet again. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of hanging on. I hope that eventually the point will sink in. The Minister has been good enough to say that he has some sympathy with me on this point.

Finally, I ask two questions of the Minister in relation to this matter. The financial savings about which he has told us are obviously based upon an assumption that 400,000 tons of the stuff would be sold in 1977 and 200,000, I think, in 1978. Upon what basis is he able to make an assumption that either of those two amounts is likely to be sold in 1977 or 1978? Or is it just a guess? If so, it would affect the amount of savings involved.

The second and perhaps more important question from my point of view is this: what on earth has happened to the Commission's scheme to incorporate skimmed milk into animal compound feed, which we debated on 12th April 1976 on a "take note" motion, and of which this House strongly disapproved? Have we been successful? Did it matter? Did anything we did in this Chamber matter? Did it help to change the mind of the Commission, or is it going ahead notwithstanding the united objection on both sides of the House to that particular scheme?

6.37 p.m.

We on the Conservative Benches give a general welcome to Commission Document R /2866/76. Our long-term aim is still to try to solve the problem of structural surpluses within the Community's agricultural production, particularly in the dairy sector. This is the fundamental problem. I think it was very much in the mind of the Minister in opening this brief debate—and in the mind of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in moving his amendment—that in touching on this question of the surplus in skimmed milk powder this evening we are touching only the fringe of the problem.

The underlying problem remains—that of the structural surpluses. In the end it is clear that the Community will have to deal with this. In the meantime, we believe that the draft regulation is a step in the right direction. It shows a degree of realism, and we therefore support as a short-term measure the proposals for writing down the value of powder that was in stock at the beginning of this calendar year.

I wholeheartedly support my hon. Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) in his comment that it is intolerable that the House should be discussing this draft regulation at such very short notice. We on this side of the House heard about it only on Wednesday. We are discussing it—in what I think could be politely described as out of office hours—at 6.30 on Friday evening, when you, above all, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will know that we have had a fairly long week. This has led to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Howell), who was to reply to the debate for the Opposition, unfortunately being unable to be present due to a long-standing engagement. I am therefore standing in for him and would not pretend to have a jot of his expertise in these matters.

Further, as my hon. Friend the Member for Burton has commented, the original document, 2306, to which the draft is an amendment, was, as he said, simply not available in the Vote Office. I was able to get a copy, as I think he was, from the Library, but it is in French and there is no translation available. Fortunately, some of us realise that the words
"les interventions sur le marchè intérieur du lait ecremé en poudre"
refer to the mountain of skimmed milk powder that we are discussing today. But that would not necessarily be an expertise available to all Members of this House if the Chamber were rather more packed.

We are in the position of trying to play Hamlet without the prince, in the shape of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North, without a script and at a very strange hour of the day. That, I submit, is not the way—this is the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton—in which to treat a draft document which the Select Committee has thought to be of sufficient importance to refer to the House.

In opening this brief debate the Minister referred to the cost. He pointed to the immediate benefit to the United Kingdom because our rate of contribution is only 16·3 per cent. this year and will rise to 19·24 per cent. next year. Therefore there is a saving of £3 million to the United Kingdom. Naturally we support this and are pleased about it, but the Minister glossed over the total cost to the agricultural budget. That involves a figure of 164 million units of account, which by my reckoning amounts to £68·3 million at the old Smithsonian rate of exchange or £100 million at today's rate of exchange. That is what this writing down of the stock will mean because of the excessive quantities now in intervention and they must be disposed of before they become totally useless. Therefore it involves £100 million on that one item. I understand that the matter was discussed in the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament in November of this year but it was not brought before the European Parliament.

There are therefore a few specific questions with which I should like the Minister to deal in his reply. The first covers the same point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Burton. Why are only half the stocks now being written down? I take it that that was the quantity in store at the beginning of the year. But that is an arbitrary deadline if the Commission has decided that it will not get rid of the stocks taken in since then at the intervention price. Would it not be better to take a realistic attitude and to write down the whole lot now and try to get rid of it before what has already gone into intervention this year deteriorates and has to be sold off in a year or two at a much lower price?

Why is there to be a 30 per cent. reduction? The Minister gave us no explanation of that figure. Is it purely a theoretical reduction that the Commission has pulled out of the air? It is not the same as the meat reduction of 25 per cent. or as the butter reduction of 6 per cent.? From the figures given by the hon. Member for Newham, South, I had the impression that the reduction to reach market value should be very much greater.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned that the Commission's intervention price for skimmed milk was 330 per cent. of the world market. If that is so, a reduction of only 30 per cent. in value will not aid the Commission in getting rid of the milk powder. It would be helpful if the Minister could apply his mind to that point and say what in his judgment is the current market value of the stock that has to be sold. The proper way to handle the matter would be to value the stock at cost or market, whichever is the lower. It would be the normal business practice to write down to that value and then to take the whole of the potential loss into the books. I suspect that the Community will not do this but will take a smaller figure to paper over the problem and that that figure will not be large enough to enable the stock to be disposed of.

What are total present stocks in the EEC and the United Kingdom? I also wish to know how, in the Minister's judgment, the incorporation of the skimmed milk powder scheme has turned out since it began. What has been achieved? Finally, do the Government accept Mr. Lardinois' view that the production of milk and skimmed milk powder will be no lower this year than it was last year despite the drought? If that is so, there is every likelihood, despite the dry summer conditions which led to a considerable fall-off in milk production, of the mountain being added to, with the result that we shall have the same problem this time next year. Once again we shall be debating this measure at an unrealistic hour and probably having to write more off the value because the more the consumers know there is in stock which has to be sold the more they will lower the price.

Everyone who has spoken will agree that we are convinced that this regulation will not solve the problem of excess dairy production in Europe. It is acceptable only as a short-term measure. Nor will the problem of excess production be solved by the other measures currently being proposed and due to come into effect only in April 1977—nearly a year after their formulation.

We therefore urge the Minister to press the Council and the Commission for more realism and more positive action to reduce the wasteful and embarrassing production of milk in those Member States who are producing straight from the farm into intervention and who continue to maintain about 2 million cows too many beyond what the market requiries. These are spread particularly between France, Germany and Holland. I repeat, 2 million cows too many.

C'est la vache qui rit! In the days of unemployment and economic difficulties it is clear that, long term, the EEC cannot continue to afford such an extravaganza.

6.47 p.m.

Despite the late hour and the sparse attendance, we have had a useful debate. I begin by giving an explanation of the timing of this debate and the short time that is to elapse before the matter is considered in Brussels.

I draw attention to the fact that the document we are discussing is dated 26th November and was received here the following week. The Department then had to consider it. The memorandum that I submitted to the House was dated 7th December. The Scrutiny Committee saw the document soon afterwards. Time has had to be found to bring this to the House this week despite the important debate that we have had on another matter.

The Commission is to consider this measure and we need to agree it before the end of the year if we are to finance it from the 1976 budget and to save money. I am sorry if the time allowed is short, but the House will recognise that the matter has not been entirely in our hands. It is important that my right hon. Friend will have had the opportunity to consider the points made today before going to Brussels.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). Although I sometimes may disagree with him, no one can dispute his tenacity in sticking to this job. He does good work in keeping track of what is going on. This debate is not on the Adjournment but on a "take note" motion. My hon. Friend has had the opportunity to table an amendment to it which I have been pleased to accept. The Government agree that some of the points he has made are relevant.

The current stocks of skimmed milk powder held in intervention by the member States' intervention agencies amount to 1·2 million tonnes. About half—600,000 tonnes—would be affected by this proposal, because of the age of the stocks. When a stock is taken into intervention by an intervention agency, the cost of the purchase is met by the member States' national exchequer, but when the commodity is sold out of intervention, the EAGGF meets any loss incurred. If, however, a profit is made on the sale, it is credited to the EAGGF.

In addition, the EAGGF pays member States a standard rate of interest on the capital that they have tied up in stocks held in intervention, plus storage costs at standard rates fixed by the EAGGF committee after consulting the management committees. The Commission has estimated that the loss which the guarantee section of the fund would have to bear on sales if the write-down did not occur would be £45·4 million—equivalent to 109 million units of account—in 1977, and £22·9 million—55 mua—in 1978. There is a write-down for other perishable commodities—6 per cent. below the intervention price for butter and 25 per cent. for beef and veal. These reflect the extent to which the commodities deteriorate in storage.

That is one of the reasons why the write down percentage recommended has been so apportioned.

I do not know whether the Minister intends to return to this matter but does he propose to take up the point about the market value of the skimmed milk powder in stock? He says that 30 per cent. represents depreciation of the powder while in stock, but on what basis?

I was about to come to that.

The stocks that are less than a year old were produced in 1976, a year of great drought, so there is not a great deal. These can be sold for human consumption. The 30 per cent. write-down for older stocks recognises that some, but not all, can be sold only for animal feed. The real value of the powder for pig feed is estimated to be about £100 and for calf feed £300 a tonne. The percentage write-down recognises the general depreciation and what is likely to happen in the deterioration in the feed.

I turn to the question of the quantities which are available. Of the 600,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder being written down the United Kingdom holds just over 100 tonnes. France and Germany hold the largest stocks in the EEC. The total held in the United Kingdom in intervention stocks is about 12,000 tonnes. Those are the figures for which the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) asked.

With regard to the interest rates paid on stocks held by the member State's intervention agency, as I pointed out, the guarantee section of the fund pays member States a standard 8 per cent. interest rate on the value of all stock held by member states' intervention agencies.

I have been asked about the contribution and how the key rate of the contribution is constructed, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South raised certain points about accountancy in regard to intervention and the Community agency. This is a matter for Treasury Ministers, with whom my hon. Friend has been in touch. However, we are very much involved in the assessment of the situation.

The United Kingdom contributes to the Community budget under the own resources system. The Treaty of Accession provides for a transitional period running to 1980 for the application of the full own resources system. During this transitional period the United Kingdom's relative share of the budget rises in steps each year, from 8·78 per cent. in 1973 to 19·24 per cent. in 1977. I made some comments earlier on how that variation in the budget contribution will affect the saving in relation to the matter now before the House.

Before the hon. Gentleman moves on, will he answer my question about why the assumption was made that 400,000 tonnes would be sold in 1977 and 200,000 tonnes in 1978? It is referred to in the financial statement on the back page of the document which I have been able to obtain.

I understand that the Commission has made provision for that figure. If the hon. Gentleman wants more information, I shall be pleased to write to him about it.

I turn now to the general policy on surpluses. Although the House will, I am sure, support the motion and the amendment, the real problem which we face has been detailed before many times. My right hon. Friend has stated, and the House agrees, that the surplus problem must be tackled resolutely. Hon. Members will recall that a month or two ago the House had an opportunity to debate the general package of proposals intended to deal with surpluses. This matter is still before the Community. I shall not go now into the seven points which have been detailed and the Government's attitude to them. We feel that the surplus problem is serious and should be tackled at the earliest opportunity, and my right hon. Friend has put forward constructive proposals of which the House is aware.

It is important to recognise also—we have said this on a number of occasions —that within the Community it is for us to ensure that our CAP mechanism is such as to encourage the most efficient producers in the dairy sector while discouraging less efficient producers. These factors will be taken into account in consideration of the milk package.

The hon. Member for Burton raised a question on the compulsory purchase scheme, which was a matter of some concern in previous days to hon. Members on both sides. The arrangements for taking deposits on imported vegetable protein, such as soya, ended on 26th October. It was, I think, the date expected, although there had been fears that the Community would want a much longer extension. The powder remains available until 31st January 1977 for the redemption of deposits put down before that date. About 330,000 tonnes have been denatured in the EEC as a whole and a further 39,000 tonnes have been contracted for. In the United Kingdom over 30,000 tonnes have been denatured. I think that the House will be pleased to hear about the termination of this scheme, which we all deplored at this time.

With those comments, I commend the motion and amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, agreed to.


That this House takes note of Commission Document No. R/2866/76 on Skimmed Milk but regrets that the high level of stocks of milk powder make this measure necessary; and urges the Government to secure a modification of the CAP in order to avoid the continual creation of such structural surpluses.

Statutory Instruments

Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 73A (Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, Etc.).

Capital Transfer Tax

That the Capital Transfer Tax (Relief for Agricultural Property) (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th November, be approved.—[ Mr. Thomas Cox.]

Sea Fisheries

That the Herring Industry Board (Exchequer Loans) (No. 2) Order 1976, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th November, be approved.—[ Mr. Thomas Cox.]

Question agreed to.

Sixth Standing Committee On Statutory Instruments, &C


That the Sixth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c., be discharged from considering the National Health Service (General Ophthalmic Services) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations.—[Mr. Thomas Cox.]

Thamesmead (Health Centre)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Thomas Cox.]

7.1 p.m.

Even at 7 o'clock on a Friday evening, I welcome the opportunity of drawing public attention to the difficulties that have been caused to thousands of my constituents in Area 3 of Thamesmead over the continued delay in providing temporary health centre facilities. The delay has been caused by a quite extraordinary degree of muddle and confusion between the public bodies involved.

Thamesmead was conceived as a city of the twenty-first century, a new town for 60,000 Londoners, built within London's boundaries on riverside land largely released by the Woolwich Arsenal. It was to be a model of planning, not just of homes but including factories, schools, recreation facilities and all the services that people need. As so often happens in these cases, the reality has fallen far short of the dream, and nowhere more so than in the provision of health services. The original plan called for a superlative health centre serving the whole of Thamesmead, but staged development of what were extremely isolated areas made it essential that area health centres were built.

The need for such a centre in Area 3 was discussed by representatives of the London borough of Greenwich, which was responsible for health centre provision, and the Greater London Council back in 1971 when a site was earmarked. It was intended that the project should be included in the 1974–75 capital programme. If the approval of the Department of Health and Social Security was not forthcoming, agreement was reached between the two authorities that the GLC would provide the necessary finance.

However, despite repeated approaches to the Department, including a personal letter to the then Secretary of State for Social Services signed by all the local authority leaders involved, approval of the scheme had not been received by the time that the Greenwich and Bexley Area Health Authority took over responsibility in April 1974.

Perhaps not surprisingly in view of the chaos of National Health Service reorganisation, little more was publicly heard of the project until November 1975 when the area health authority produced a report indicating that
"Negotiations with the Greater London Council are intended to provide a temporary building in Area III to serve a population of approximately 7,000 which will be reached by about 1980–81."
Once again the project disappeared from view until March 1976 when the area health authority received a report which stated:
"Greenwich Borough Council Architect is acting on an agency basis and working drawings are in the process of preparation. It is hoped to take over the site of approximately one-third of an acre, located in Stage IIIB, in May 1976, the terms and conditions of which have yet to be received from the Greater London Council for consideration. It is hoped however that the building will be ready for occupation by the end of the year."
Throughout that period the council has been pressing for action on the temporary centre and it has been assured that the area health authority welcomes its support in the struggle to find proper health facilities at Thamesmead.

By July 1976 the CHC had become extremely worried by the continued absence of any signs of progress. Its minutes said:
"The District Administrator explained that the building of the temporary health centre was in the hands of the RHA. Every pressure had been put on them by the District and Area. There was no hope of it being up and finished until February or March. The situation had been made worse through the GLC moving residents in more quickly than they had informed the health authorities they would do."
The CHC therefore decided to make urgent approaches to both the RHA and the GLC. On 25th August 1976 the general administrator of the South-East Thames RHA replied to the CHC as follows:
"Responsibility for this scheme rests with the Greenwich and Bexley Area Health Authority and the Region's involvement apart from the design of the engineering services, which is being carried out by our works officers, is only on a monitoring basis. The latest programme, which is at present being updated, shows a completion of the Centre in June 1977."
So the district said that it was the responsibility of the region, the region said that it was the responsibility of the area, and the completion date slipped again from March to June 1977. Small wonder in view of all this that the CHC minutes said
"Members made sounds of despair".
In the meantime the GLC categorically denied that it was moving people into Area 3 at a faster rate than had been planned. Completion in June 1977 was bad enough, but worse was to come. At a meeting in November the CHC was advised that the regional health authority had referred part of the plan for a temporary centre to the Department for costing when the Department had queried the cost of the whole project. The entire scheme had now been referred back to the regional authority. It was suggested that the main problem was the cost of reinforcing the centre to make it vandal-proof. The main result was that the work would not start until May 1977 and the building would not be completed until May 1978.

When I put a Question on the matter to the Secretary of State asking why there had been still further delay, a Written Answer from him stated:
"I am informed by the Greenwich and Bexley Area Health Authority, which is now responsible for health centre provision, that the original plans for this project were unacceptably expensive. However, it is being redesigned, and it is intended that building should start in May 1977, with completion in May 1978."—[Official Report, 2nd December 1976; Vol. 921, c. 256.]
I suggest that the clear implication of that answer is that the Department was not responsible for any delay, but when I asked the area health authority why it had been foolish enough to design a building which was unacceptably expensive it presented a different picture. The area administrator told me in a letter dated 14th December
"The original brief for the building included the usual cost limits imposed by Department of Health guidance, but did not take account of rules issued in 1971 on the reduced costs to be allowed if a building were to be temporary, i.e. to have a life of less than 25 years. These rules were issued to former Regional Hospital Boards and to the Boards of Governors but not to local health authorities (which were then responsible for health centre provision), and it was only belatedly that we were informed that these rules were considered now to apply to health centres".
In other words, the area administrator is claiming that the Department changed the rules when the scheme was part-way through. In fact he told me that as far as the area health authority was concerned the project was on target until July 1975 when the DHSS procedures were imposed to require the regional health authority to undertake monitoring of the project.

This effectively meant beginning all over again and consulting additional people, so slowing down the whole programme. I am sure that my hon. Friend will understand that the sounds of despair that I mentioned earlier are now becoming much more widespread. If the results were not so tragic this bureaucratic buck-passing would be funny. No doubt it would provide the basis of an excellent script for the programme "The Men from the Ministry".

Meanwhile, back at Thamesmead two doctors, two health visitors and two students, a social worker, a community psychiatric nurse and two medical students are all attempting to serve almost 4,000 people from a converted flat. That means that nine staff members are trying to work in five small rooms in which they have to cope with four surgeries a day. Although 1,000 people per month are being seen by the doctors in this building, and a further 400 a month by other professionals, there is just one toilet for the use of patients and staff. There are no changing facilities for patients.

Files and medical supplies have to be stored in the bath, and it is not unusual for the bathroom to be used for meetings, and for patients to have to wait in a corridor so narrow that two pregnant women could not pass. The population of the area will have reached 4,000 by the end of the year and will be up to 5,000 by the end of 1977 when, on present information, the temporary centre will still not be ready.

The staff at the centre have over the past few weeks repeatedly pressed the GLC to provide larger accommodation to fill the gap before the temporary centre is ready, although why they should have had to do this themselves when it is clearly an area health authority responsibility to negotiate with the GLC I do not understand. Some of the offers of alternative accommodation by the Council have been ludicrous. They have involved trying to run a health centre from two separate flats, or expecting patients to climb up to 60 steps to reach the centre.

The GLC has now offered three adjoining maisonettes to house the health care team but these are some way from the centre of Area 3 and cannot be occupied until the Post Office provides telephones, which is expected to be in February 1977. In the meantime, the GLC has suitable maisonettes available in the centre of Area 3 which have been unlet for almost a year. They would provide ideal accommodation, but I understand that the GLC intends to offer that accommodation to the potential tenants of shops that have also been empty for some time. I recognise the problem faced by the GLC, which is not of its own making. No housing authority likes to see housing units used for other purposes, but the GLC's sense of priorities of putting the possible needs of future shopkeepers above the immediate needs of the Health Service must be open to question.

The latest news is that the GLC has come up with an offer of a building which is being used as a staff canteen by building workers at Area 3. This might be converted into a temporary health centre. It is on the site originally earmarked for the temporary centre but it was withdrawn because the GLC wants to see a petrol station there by 1978. I understand that the site will be available until 1984 and that the area health authority is examining its suitability for conversion as a matter of urgency. I welcome that step and I hope that some thing will come of it.

I am surprised that two public authorities such as the GLC and the AHA could not have got together to discuss the availability of this building earlier in the game before considerable time and public money had been spent on designing a temporary health centre elsewhere. It is yet another example of the communication problems which have dogged this project from the start.

I apologise to my hon. Friend for going into such detail. I could have provided much more information but I hope that I have said enough to explain the sense of anger and frustration which is felt, first, by the health care team and, secondly, by my constituents about the bureaucratic bumbling which has plagued the project. No one can claim to have been taken unawares by the development of Thamesmead. It was planned long in advance and the housing has been so delayed that other services have often arrived first. The schools in Area 3, for example, were ready long before the bulk of their pupils arrived.

Why should an essential service like health be the one that lags behind? Is it, as some suspect, that there are jealousies about the amount of Health Service resources being devoted to Thamesmead rather than to other parts of the area? If that is so, I hope that my hon. Friend will take steps to counter it. Thamesmead is effectively a new town with all the problems of a new town. Its citizens suddenly find themselves in a totally new and strange environment, cut off for the next few years at least from neighbouring areas and with many problems to face.

The high proportion of families with young children is another reason why demand for health facilities in the early days of the development is above the national average. No one is asking for favours for Thamesmead but it is entitled to expect, if not the original dreams of twenty-first century provision, at least services which are acceptable by twentieth century standards.

Having examined the whole sorry story I ask my hon. Friend to do two things. First, will he set out clearly the responsibilities of the AHA and the RHA and his Department for the mistakes and delays that have occurred so that we can at least see an end to the buck passing that has gone on for too long? Second—and most important—will he take a personal interest in the issue and bang together whatever heads need banging to ensure that my constituents and potential constituents in Thamesmead will be able to see a doctor without having to queue in a corridor or be examined in a bathroom?

7.14 p.m.

I welcome the opportunity which this debate affords to give a fuller explanation of the circumstances regarding health centre provision at Thamesmead than was possible in replies to my hon. Friend's recent Questions.

The problem raised by my hon. Friend concerns the provision of primary care and I want to make clear from the outset that my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State fully agrees that this is a matter of key importance, particularly in a new and expanding town.

In March of this year, we issued a consultative document on "Priorities for Health and Personal Social Services in England". As is said in the introduction, that document:
"restates the role of primary care in helping to relieve pressure on hospital and residential services by caring for more people in the community. The family practitioner services will continue to expand at an average of 3·7 per cent.; the health centre programme will be maintained and it is proposed that the growth of vital supporting services such as health visitors and home nursing should be given high priority. An expansion of 6 per cent. a year in both these services is visualised."
The consultative document later reaffirms that:
"Health Centres make an important contribution to the development of primary care teamwork."
The Government are fully aware of the need to give proper priority to primary care services. We are also convinced that the team approach, which develops as a result of the close working relationship between staff—of all disciplines—in a health centre is valuable. It helps to produce a more integrated service and, therefore, a better one for the patient. The consultative document adds that:
"priority should be given to establishing Health Centres in areas where inadequate accommodation is hampering the development of primary care teams ".
These are views which particularly apply in a new community such as Thamesmead. The provision of new homes, mainly for families from other parts of London, started only in 1967 and the fact that there are already 14,000 people living there is an indication of the progress being made towards the target of rehousing a population of about 50,000. Both the pace at which the community is developing and the fact that services have to start from scratch mean that particular consideration has to be given to such facilities as education, health and welfare.

The part of Thamesmead which concerns us today is usually referred to as Area 3 where the first houses were let in October 1974 and which, after growing to accommodate 1,900 people by the end of 1975, now has more than 4,000 residents.

It has always been planned that a main health centre should be provided for Thamesmead, but the responsible authorities realised that pending the final development of that centre they would have to make provision for some temporary facilities. A site for these was chosen within Area 3, as this will form part of the catchment area for the temporary facilities. I have used the phrase "temporary facilities", but the continuing rapid expansion of Thamesmead over a number of years must mean that such facilities will remain in use for as long as 10 years.

The paradox of so-called "temporary facilities" having to last for such a long period is an aspect of planning the services for a totally new and growing community. It must mean that special care has to be taken over the planning and design of such facilities and this, in turn, means that they cannot be provided as quickly as one would normally expect for a building described as temporary.

The area authority felt, quite rightly, that the population moving into Area 3 must, in the interim, be provided with services from premises convenient to their homes, and if acquired a maisonette made available at Nassau Path by the Greater London Council.

These interim premises had a floor area of only 79 square metres and it is obvious that they could be regarded only as a stop-gap. The number of patients on the list of the two doctors practising at Nassau Path has grown from 736 in October 1975 to almost 2,300 at present. This has meant, as my right hon. Friend emphasised, that the pressure on the space provided in the premises has also grown. Although it is difficult to be precise in measuring such matters, available figures suggest that the Nassau Path premises began to slip below normal standards for the number of patients from about July 1976.

I should like to pay tribute to the efforts of the staff who have worked in overcrowded conditions. The problem of assessing the overcrowding is especially confused because Nassau Path also accommodates two medical students from Guy's Hospital, as part of the general arrangement that students at the hospital will receive part of their training in Thamesmead. This arrangement is, of course, very valuable, but one can see how it could aggravate accommodation problems in the health centre premises.

The original plan was that the Nassau Path premises would, in 1977, be replaced by the Area 3 Centre but as my hon. Friend has said, the provisions of that centre has been delayed.

This delay is indeed unfortunate. The area and regional health authorities fully appreciate the anxiety which it has caused. In view of the importance which the Government attach to primary care services and health centre provision, I am greatly concerned that it should have happened. However, I feel that a number of points must be made in explanation.

First, the fact that for the reason I have already given the Area 3 centre was to have a longer life than one would normally expect from a truly "temporary" building meant that much greater care had to be taken over its design and construction.

Secondly, health authorities assumed responsibility for the planning and provision of health centres only in April 1974. This had previously been the responsibility of local authorities. The changeover meant that the health service authorities had to take on an important new activity and absorb the expertise which would enable them to adjust to the relevant DHSS guidance and handle the problems which are bound to arise. Health centres must, as I have said, be convenient to the population they serve and overall planning of health centre provision in Thames-mead has been made even more complex by the fact that the development of Thamesmead's housing is centred around several focal points and shifts in the GLC's relative priorities for each focal point often mean a consequent adjustment of health centre plans. Whilst this factor has not directly affected the services for Area 3 it has certainly complicated overall planning.

Thirdly, this change of responsibility was only one aspect of the re-organisation of the health service. Not only were there profound changes in the constitution and duties of the health authorities but the new authorities had to build up their management structures and establish relationships between the various tiers in the new service. Furthermore they had to set up effective arrangements for liaising with local authorities, who were still providing social services.

All of this was bound to mean a difficult process of adjustment, and in that process the Greenwich and Bexley Area Health Authority is, in conjunction with the South-East Thames Regional Health Authority, and in common with all health authorities in the country, at present carrying out a review of its services and resources.

As my hon. Friend is naturally aware, the area health authority has, in connection with this review, just published a "Consultative Document on Health Resources in the Area". This has, I understand, been distributed to all staff groups and to a wide range of other persons and organisations for consultation and comment.

At a later stage some of the proposals may—in the absence of local agreement—have to come to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services for decision. I am sure that, in this light, my hon. Friend will appreciate why it would not therefore be proper for me to comment on particular proposals at this stage. I shall confine myself to saying that the review was necessary and that the work involved in carrying it out has led to increased pressure on authorities and their officers. This is particularly so at area level in Greenwich and Bexley where the review has had to face very difficult issues and has been conducted well in advance of reviews in most other parts of the country.

All the work involved—and it has been an ongoing process since October 1975—must be borne in mind when we consider the handling of health centre plans in Thamesmead.

This does not, of course, offer a complete or final explanation of why the health centre has had to be delayed. It is certainly unfortunate that the authorities did not appreciate at an earlier stage that the proposed design for Area 3 could not —because it was not a permanent building—take full advantage of the cost allowances set out in my Department's guidance for the design of health centres.

The fact remains, however, that when matched in the correct way against the cost allowances, the cost of the design for the centre so exceeded the allowances that the authorities had to decide that they could not proceed with their plans. I am sure that this was the correct decision at that stage, although clearly one could have wished that the facts had been fully appreciated sooner and the decision taken at a time when alternative arrangements could have been made before the pressures at Nassau Path became so acute.

I can assure my hon. Friend that the appropriate lessons will be drawn from this experience and that the health authorities are now pursuing vigorously several possible alternative arrangements.

In the first place they are recasting their plans for the Area 3 centre. A new design—and I am assured that the costs of this will be acceptable—should be finished this month. Tenders will be invited in January 1977, received in March 1977 and, when these have been scrutinised, work on site could start by May 1977. Latest estimates are that it could be completed by December 1977 and the centre occupied early in 1978.

Simultaneously the area authority is investigating the possibility of acquiring a temporary building in Area 3. This would be available in July 1977 and, although the investigations are still at a very early stage, the present indications are that it may provide a very acceptable solution. Certainly, it is well worth looking into and the authority hopes that its examination of this possibility will be completed before it has to decide on tenders for the site.

The authority is also discussing urgently with the Greater London Council the use of larger premises in the interim period. These would replace the present interim provision at Nassau Path, but will be about three times as large and should ease the present accommodation difficulties.

I understand that the discussions have covered premises at Chadwick Court and at Postgate Court, although the area authority would, like the staff at Nassau Path, prefer those at Chadwick Court. The Area Administrator is to join a meeting with the Chairman of the GLC Thamesmead Committee next Monday and will press this view. I understand that my hon. Friend has also been invited to that meeting. In any event, the other houses offered are no more than 500 yards away and their use, if necessary, would I hope have little effect on the service to patients, which after all is the paramount consideration, as I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree. I can assure the staff that they and other bodies such as the community health councils, which have displayed such a lively interest in this matter, will be consulted over future plans.

I repeat, the delay that has occurred here is regretted. Much more should have been done at an earlier stage. I am assured that everything feasible is now being done to ensure that acceptable health centre premises are provided for my hon. Friend's constituents as quickly as possible.

I am grateful to my hon. Friends for his detailed explanation and for the news about the meeting on Monday. I am grateful, too, for the invitation to that meeting which has not yet reached me in any other way.

I am sure that my hon. Friend accepts that the work done by the area health authority does not necessarily excuse the delays—

Is the hon. Gentleman speaking for a second time? He needs leave to do so.

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I put to my hon. Friend that the work on the consultative document does not necessarily excuse the delay on the design work for the temporary health centre? Secondly, will my hon. Friend tell me whether, when the area health authority takes advantage of the temporary building, all the design and other work that has gone into the temporary centre will represent abortive expenditure?

If the area health authority takes advantage of the existing canteen building, will all the effort and money spent on the design of the temporary health centre be abortive?

I do not want to backtrack over the points I made. I certainly was not making excuses for the delay in the design and the work that had been going on merely because of the change-over in responsibility for health services from the local authority to the area health authority. I was trying to indicate that it was a factor that had to be taken into account. That factor also has to be taken into account in other parts of the country.

On my hon. Friend's second point, rather than answer it off the cuff, I would prefer to drop him a line when I have further information on that detailed point. In the meantime, I am sorry that he has not yet received an invitation to the meeting on Monday. I am confidently assured that he will get one, and that he is invited.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-eight minutes past Seven o'clock.