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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions)

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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Question again proposed.

I therefore reinforce the point that it is not enough for the Government to ask us to renew these orders tonight and to tell us that they seek devolved legislative government for Northern Ireland, that they are engaged in consultations and that they are bending every effort to reach their objective when in fact they are doing absolutely and precisely nothing, even to the extent of not giving Northern Ireland the local government structure that any of us would consider fair or democratic.

I think that the Secretary of State and his Ministers have an exceptional opportunity to take Northern Ireland forward politically. Whether the strike might have been better organised is not for me to say. But in my view—the view of a Member of Parliament for an English constituency —the people of Northern Ireland showed decisively by their rejection of it that they wished to place their future in the hands of constitutional, not para-military, means. Because they decided to back constitutional means and to support their elected representatives, in a sense they said to the Government "You know what our feelings and ambitions are, but we will back the legal process to achieve those ambitions". One of those ambitions must surely be the proper political institutions to give Northern Ireland the same political status as any other region of the United Kingdom.

I ask the Government not to break faith with that new trust that they now possess and not to waste the opportunity simply because they cannot make up their mind what peace and normality for Northern Ireland really will mean when at last the terrorists have been defeated.

Having said that, I should like to comment on some of the security aspects in Northern Ireland. What we have heard about the increase in numbers in the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the fact that those numbers can be increased still further must make us believe that the policy of strengthening the police force and placing the emphasis of security on the police is being borne out in fact.

I wonder what further thought has been given to the question of equipment. My hon. Friend the Member for Abing-don (Mr. Neave) has touched on the question of Land Rovers and carbines. But, as the Minister of State may have seen, there was a worrying article in the Daily Telegraph this week pointing out that this equipment was not coming forward in anything like the quantity that was required and that the carbines had had to be sent back to the manufacturer because they were faulty. To have a larger police force that does not possess the right equipment seems to defeat the objective of making that police force the centre-piece of the security forces. I hope that the Minister of State will be able to tell us more about how the re-equipping is going.

I should like to know how many computers the police have so that, in collecting information and making it available throughout the Province, they have the same up-to-date electronic means as Scotland Yard. Lastly, will the Minister tell the House whether the police have the same kind of radio communications equipment as the Army so that, if need be, the police and the Army can be on the same network and, therefore, work more satisfactorily together?

What the Secretary of State has said about the Army has vindicated the comment so often made by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon about the need to have specialist troops, SAS-type troops, to handle this sort of operation. One applauds the various other suggestions put forward by the Secretary of State.

I have referred to the Daily Telegraph and do so again, because I was worried when I read a story which told me that a married private soldier in Northern Ireland was earning precisely 76p more than a married unemployed person. If that be the case, it is scandalous and is a situation which makes the Review Body on pay look as though it is incredibly out of touch with the realities of men such as the two private soldiers who lost their lives yesterday and of all the other soldiers who are risking their lives every day in Ulster. I feel sure that we would all wish to see our Government ensuring that those who are taking the risks were paid properly for taking those risks.

Concerning security, I ask the Minister of State once again if he will say something about the use of the Territorial Army detachments in Northern Ireland. I admit that I do not know their precise number. But, in answer to a Written Question I put down to the Secretary of State for Defence, I was told by the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army that
"The rôle of the TAVR throughout the United Kingdom is to complete the Regular Army's Order of Battle in war. The TAVR has no rôle in support of the security forces' operations in Northern Ireland, although as part of their training members of the TAVR do mount guard over their own centres."— [Official Report, 25th June 1976; Vol. 913, c. 643–44.]
At a time when the UDR is being pressed into very regular patrol work and guarding duties are taking up many hours of spare time, I find it incredible that those in the Territorial Army who are meant, in the Minister's words,
"to complete the Regular Army's Order of Battle"
apparently play no part in the security duties in the Province. I wonder whether any of us can justify keeping that group of men outside the security operations until such time as Northern Ireland has returned to peace and normality.

The right hon. Member for Belfast, East talked about optimism. He might perhaps have added "complacency". Certainly the figures relating to charges against people have enormously improved. The amount of terrorism has greatly decreased, but the threat is still there, and nowhere else in the United Kingdom would we put up with this level of terrorism.

I hope that the present trend will be continued, but I am sure that with that hope must be a continuing determination, and the efforts of our security forces must go hand in hand with a willingness on the part of the Government to look afresh at the political initiatives and, if need be, at least to express their thinking in a Green Paper, so that we in the House of Commons are not left in the present uncertainty and fog that seem to exist on the issue.

10.9 p.m.

In confining myself to a specific security problem, I do not wish to create the impression that I am dismissing many comments of moment and importance in the speech of the Secretary of State, particularly those related to employment and industry and the wider security issues. Indeed, if I might pause at this stage and give credit to the Minister responsible for commerce and industry in Northern Ireland for the alacrity, industry and enthusiasm with which he has responded to opportunities to increase employment in Northern Ireland, this is no more than his due. But, having done so, I put it to the Minister responsible for industry that I am most concerned about the function of the Local Environmental Development Unit in Northern Ireland. It seems to me in some areas LEDU is creating unemployment and not helping to solve the unemployment problem.

I am also concerned about the contribution which the Northern Ireland Development Agency is making to the present situation. I think of one particular instance. During Northern Ireland Question Time last week the Minister referred to Strathearn Audio. I do not believe that Government money should be sunk into companies which can never compete with other nations which are producing specialised kinds of products.

There are many reasons for this, all of which I am sure are well known to the Minister. One of the most important is that such companies will never compete with the Far East countries which use underpaid female staff. I therefore ask the Minister to look at projects very carefully before sinking Government money into them, even though I know that he is concerned to create employment. If that sort of wisdom is not applied, we compound the problem of joblessness in Northern Ireland and get a poor economic return.

I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) when he spoke about the Quigley Report. I should very much like to have an opportunity of expressing views about that report, as would my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I quickly return to the specific security issue that I wish to ventilate tonight be- cause I feel that it is of utmost importance. I refer to Provisional IRA involvement in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast. I do not believe that I am exaggerating or putting the problem too highly when I say that the battle which is going on there tonight, and which has gone on for the last five years, is a battle for complete and utter control in that hospital. The Royal Victoria Hospital is a prize that is up for grabs between the Provisionals and the British Government. Unfortunately I believe, and I have been led to believe by many consultants and other notable members of the staff, that at present the Provisionals appear to be winning that battle hands down.

I wish to substantiate the claim that the IRA is definitely involved in the Royal Victoria Hospital. Just this week the police have been given names, and have had photographs submitted to them on which the faces are clearly displayed, of persons belonging to the IRA who are on the staff at various levels in that hospital. That is not mere conjecture. It is a statement that can be substantiated by the RUC.

I turn to the question of missing equipment. The Minister will have heard about the theft of £70,000-worth of food supplies. Those supplies were not stolen but were deliberately misdirected to St. Mary's Training College on the Falls Road. Vehicles belonging to the Health and Social Services Department, which were used to deposit that £70,000-worth of food in the training college, were ordered by a member of the staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

I understand that just today, when the police went to the training college, they discovered that £12,000-worth of that £70,000 bulk had been misplaced, removed or stolen—one can use whichever term one likes. It was a consultant, and one of the morning newspapers in Northern Ireland, who drew the attention of some politicians to the theft of very important photographic material and typewriters. The interesting thing is that a key was obtained which could only have been obtained by a member of the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital. So we have, in the removal of equipment, serious and important evidence that there is definite IRA involvement in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

I come to the pressure exerted on the staff of that hospital. There are two names. I have no wish to mention them in this debate. I believe that it would be irresponsible to do so. But I shall give the names to the Minister if he would like them. They are two people who have definitely been told not to report for work in the hospital because they are part-time members of the security forces. They have been told that probably they will be re-established in another section of the health and social services. This is the kind of problem which is intensified in that hospital and the kind of pressure which is put on staff at all levels, from the security personnel right up to the consultants.

The pressure is also felt by the nursing staff. I know that the Minister of State will want to join me in paying tribute to the nursing and medical staff of the hospital, who do a tremendous job under very difficult circumstances. But some of the nurses are molested on their way to and from their rooms within the hospital complex. This again is not hearsay. It can be established directly by consultants in the hospital.

I come to the morale of the staff. Obviously the problems that I have outlined to date are bad enough, but when the fact emerges that the chief security officer in the hospital responsible for the security personnel—the men who patrol the grounds and precincts of the hospital —is himself a known IRA man, one can visualise the great damage that that inflicts on the morale of the staff in the Royal Victoria Hospital. This is the man who is responsible for employing other security personnel. He is known to be linked directly with the Provisional IRA. Morale is at an all-time low at present. How can it ever recover when that kind of problem obtains?

We also know that people who have been convicted of theft have been reestablished in their original positions which involve no small amount of trust. There again, a great wound is inflicted on the morale of the staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

I come, then, to a very important matter relating directly to the British Army. It concerns the strategic importance of the RVH. If the British Army were removed from the precincts of the hospital, it would be a strategic victory for the IRA. At present, British troops are located in such a position as to be able to intercept the movements of the IRA on four roads known to be used frequently by that reprobate organisation. If the troops were removed from the hospital, gone would be the possibility of immediate interception and gone would be the possibility of catching some of these reprobates in full flight and bringing them before the courts. No one knows that more than the commander of the IRA in the Falls Road area. So the strategic importance of the Army within the precinct of the hospital cannot be overstated.

I ask hon. Members to consider the strategic importance to the IRA of gaining control in the Royal Victoria Hospital. The fact is that IRA men would have an advantageous position to inflict all kinds of physical terror upon neighbouring Loyalist law-abiding areas. They would have at their immediate disposal medical supplies which could be used to bolster up their troops and fit them again for warfare.

I come next to the wider issue of violence in the West Belfast area. I do not believe that if the IRA gained control of the Royal Victoria Hospital it would be satisfied with that. It is not a one-off situation. Over the past seven years the IRA has made concerted effort to control the seven-mile strip or enclave stretching from Castle Street to the Twin-brook Estate. If it could do this, the IRA could operate within that area extracting further funds and exploiting the minority community who do not really want anything to do with this reprobate organisation.

Because of the absence of British forces, the IRA would be free to exploit the people and operate from the area. Also, the organisation would have easy access to the heart of the city and would have an escape route laid on. Because of the present involvement of the British Army in the Royal Victoria Hospital, that possibility does not exist now. The issue of violence in the wider context of West Belfast must not be divorced from the problem of IRA involvement in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East pointed out the difficulty that we face in deciding between the innovation of making a change in the law of evidence so that we can grapple with apprehending the IRA before its members carry out their dastardly deeds and resorting once more to internment. He was right to pose this difficult choice. Whatever optimism may be gleaned from the figures of IRA members brought before the courts, the fact is that policemen are being killed just as frequently as ever. Army personnel are involved in these murderous activities as much as they were before. There is little comfort for the people of Northern Ireland or of the rest of the United Kingdom in being told that the detection rate is improving greatly when the dreadful scars are as deep and as numerous as before.

I have not made up my mind about the two choices before us. Something attracts me to a change in the law of evidence. I realise that this would put policemen in the front line, but they are there already. The Republican Government in the South has not had a 100 per cent. success record, and I appreciate that fact. I urge the Government to take seriously the need to choose one or the other, because the lull which appears to have descended on Northern Ireland is only temporary.

If one looks at the past seven years, one sees that at this time of the year there is naturally a lull in IRA activity, but this inevitably disappears in the autumn and once again there are horrific bombings, murders and killings. I leave the difficult choice with the Government.

I turn to the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). I believe that it has escaped him yet again that if a political solution were found tomorrow—whether an exotic type of power-sharing Government or a straightforward Government based on the Westminster structure—the IRA would still keep on fighting. The men of violence would still operate on the streets of Belfast. We must recognise that we are fighting two battles. One of them is a battle for the minds of people in Northern Ireland, and particularly for the minds of the members of the minority community.

I believe that a great deal has been achieved, through the activities of my colleagues in this House, to reassure members of the minority community that, whatever blasphemous propaganda led them to believe that we were jaundiced and unreliable, those rumours and lies are unfounded. I hope that those who are concerned will think again. The battle for people's minds in Northern Ireland must be pursued, and it can be won. But even if it is won, despite the mistakes of the Roman ecclesiastics and the Southern politicians who were irresponsible in their views about defeating the gunmen, I believe that there is only a small group of people who are equipped to beat the gunmen. I refer to the legitimate forces of the Crown. Therefore, there must be a political pursuit, but there must be also a military pursuit in Northern Ireland.

It was not without great significance that the hon. Member for Belfast, West ran away from the possibility of drawing Northern Ireland yet a little further into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. He had no rational argument against bringing our membership in this House to a realistic level. The reason is simple. The hon. Gentleman is a Republican. He does not espouse the British cause, and if at all possible he will guide the people of Northern Ireland away from a deeper involvement in the British way of life. That simple but important fact must be recognised by Her Majesty's Government. I urge them to listen to what the hon. Gentleman said about a devolved Administration and about his detestation of an upper tier of local government. I ask them to balance those matters against his illogical comments to the effect that devolved government is all very well for Scotland and Wales but not for Northern Ireland on an agreed British principle, They should balance what the hon. Gentleman said in one part of his speech against his remarks about not pursuing proper representation in this House.

I hope that when we return to this House in a year's time there will be a marked change of attitude to the constitutional issues of Northern Ireland by Her Majesty's Government and also a realistic approach to the security problems in the Province.

May I remind the House the winding-up speeches will begin in 40 minutes. There are three hon. Members who still wish to take part in the debate, and this part of the debate will finish at 11.30.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was under the evidently mistaken impression that under Standing Order No. 9 the period of three hours would be added to what otherwise would have been the time for the termination of the debate. I apologise for my ignorance.

It is not often that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong when it comes to parliamentary business, but, unless I am given urgent advice in the next few minutes, I believe that I was right in what I said. May I appeal to the first two hon. Members whom I shall call to be brief in order to make it possible for the House to hear the third hon. Member who wishes to contribute.

10.30 p.m.

I agree wholeheartedly with what the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said about the security forces. I should like to express my sympathy with the relatives of the two young soldiers who were so brutally murdered last night. They certainly died defending the rights of the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland against the criminals who murder and mutilate.

It is essential that everyone in the Province should support the forces of law and order, and the SDLP cannot pick and choose the occasions when it will support the RUC. The SDLP must come out emphatically in support of the police. Of course, on occasions some policemen will go wrong and some soldiers will behave in a way that they should not, but that happens in every army and police force in the world. However, it does not stop the people of a country giving the police their full support, knowing that the courts will deal heavily with those who go astray.

I wish to confine my remarks to the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1977. I cannot support the order and I shall seek to divide the House on it. We are engaged in a political charade—nothing more and nothing less. By taking part in this debate we are encouraging the deception that all this means something worth while for the Ulster people. I wish that the Ulster people could sit here and listen to this debate. They would see how few Members are here and compare the cosy, complacent attitude and atmosphere here with the terror which exists in the Province.

I wish briefly to expose the hypocrisy of those who, by paying lip service to the principle of devolved government in Northern Ireland, are, in fact, conniving at making direct rule permanent. They want what they call an improved form of direct rule through an Assembly of limited powers. I not only object to such a device, whatever it is called—a third tier of local government, an administrative assembly or a council—but I should be ashamed to offer it to the Ulster people who have suffered so much during the last eight years and who now have nothing but a restricted form of democracy.

Ulster and the Irish people as a whole have been deceived before. I have in my study at home a large picture of Grattan addressing the Irish Assembly and pleading with that last Irish Parliament nearly two centuries ago not to destroy their own devolved Government and Parliament for English honours and money. The debate was like the debate today —basically about democracy and freedom. Those who were deeply concerned about poverty, social conditions, commerce, agriculture and the advancement of the community of Ireland lost out. Their arguments were overwhelmed by those who were more concerned about languishing in an English Parliament than labouring on behalf of the ordinary people of Ireland, most of whom lived in penury.

Today, the people of Northern Ireland are being treated with scant regard. Ulster remains the poorest part of the United Kingdom—in spite of fine promises from successive Governments, Labour and Conservative, to bring Ulster's standards up to the national level. Instead we have lower wages, higher food prices, greater unemployment and heavier mortgage repayments than the rest of the United Kingdom. Clearly, Ulster would gain from looking after its own affairs through a devolved Parliament. The will of the people, as expressed in the Convention, was spurned by the very Government who set up the Convention. In spite of the last eight years of terrorism, the Government have not advanced one inch in their thinking about the Northern Ireland situation.

It is illuminating that on a matter which may seem minor, but which is of great importance to the farmers of Northern Ireland, for some spurious reason the Government will not introduce the urgently-needed dog control order ahead of the Great Britain legislation. There have been complaints that Northern Ireland lags behind the rest of the United Kingdom in some legislation, but here we want to go ahead, as in other matters such as family law reform, and the Government are dragging their feet. I hope that they will change their mind and that the Minister will announce that later.

The Government are as intransigent as ever over compulsory power-sharing. The plain political fact is that there is no chance of such an arrangement of political incompatibles ever succeeding in Northern Ireland. It would certainly succeed nowhere else, but this Government, like: the Conservative Government who destroyed the Stormont Parliament, will try every political device to avoid the sensible democratic course of establishing a devolved Government and Parliament at Stormont in accordance with the British democratic system and the wishes of the Ulster people in election after election.

Ulster wants a Parliament at Stormont. We should welcome equality of treatment in regard to the number of representatives from Northern Ireland in this House, but no increase in the number of hon. Members from Ulster will silence demands for a restored Stormont Parliament.

In 1972 I supported briefly the idea of total integration because I thought that it would help Northern Ireland. Within five months I had changed my mind, and I am totally convinced that we must have a devolved Government and Parliament. It is no use the Government offering a third tier of local government or an administrative Assembly with no legislative power.

I cannot see why we cannot have a devolved Government and Parliament. Some time ago I moved a motion here urging the Government to introduce a Bill of Rights in the United Kingdom. The Government rejected my demand and, in order to prevent the matter becoming a political football, I withdrew the motion, saying that I would return to the subject.

People have nothing to fear from such a Bill of Rights and they have much to gain. I should be prepared to restrict such a Bill of Rights to Northern Ireland alone if this House is concerned that the application of the ordinary system of British democracy in Northern Ireland would not be perfect. Of course it would be perfect, but a Bill of Rights should satisfy the House that the rights of people would be equally and impartially upheld.

Under direct rule, we have rampant bureaucracy that is cramping initiative and making life difficult for our people. Those who bring problems to me are annoyed that many officials treat them indifferently and sometimes contemptuously. Despite the anger that I rarely display, I sometimes find it difficult to get some departments and bureaucrats to act fairly on behalf of the people of the Province. If we ended direct rule and had a devolved Parliament and Government at Stormont the people would grasp the opportunity to come together and go forward as one body.

Whatever else has happened, we have moved on many years since the outbreak of terrorism. The centre of power is now more at Strasbourg than at Westminster. Northern Ireland is prepared to play its part in Europe. It has much to offer the people of Great Britain and the EEC. The working people of Ulster are ready to play their part.

10.41 p.m.

At this late hour I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) into the constitutional and economic issues that he raised and which were dealt with earlier in the debate in powerful speeches by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I wish to confine myself to security issues.

I welcome much of what the Secretary of State said. He has adopted many of the security ideas that we have urged upon him. They have had a measure of success in recent months. I am particularly glad that the number of full-time UDR men has been increased substantially. I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) that the time has come to look yet again at whether the TAVR units in Northern Ireland should play a more active role in the security of the Province.

I also welcome the formation of the nucleus of a Fraud Squad. It is long overdue. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) recently told us an astonishing story of the thefts at the Royal Victoria Hospital. We know that this is the tip of the iceberg and that millions of pounds are misappropriated by the Mafia wings of the terrorist organisations. It is important to silence the Godfathers of crime, but it is equally necessary to eliminate the Goldfingers of crime.

I was surprised, therefore, to receive an uncharacteristically surly reply from the Under-Secretary of State when I asked him
"how many people have been arrested in the past 12 months for extortion, the demanding of protection money, the running of illegal drinking clubs and other fraudulent crimes related to terrorism?"
I was told
"This information is not readily available and such a time-consuming exercise would not be justified, particularly at this time. I am satisfied, however, that within their resources the police are doing everything possible to eliminate all these activities."— [Official Report, 12th May 1977; Vol. 931, c. 557–8.
] That reply suggested to me that success on this front was very limited indeed and that the figures, if they could have been assembled, would present a pretty sorry story. I am elad that more action is to be taken.

It is worth recalling that the most notorious gangster in Chicago in the 1930s, Al Capone, was never arrested for the many serious crimes that he ordered to be committed but was finally put behind bars for income tax frauds. This may well be the way to deal with some of our present Godfathers. As my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) has rightly pointed out, at present the success of our security operations in Northern Ireland, despite the build-up of the indigenous security forces, depends to a substantial degree upon the continuing high morale of the British soldiers there.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) earlier cited, naturally enough, a number of cases spread over many years in which he thought that British soldiers have misbehaved. I am sure that there have been cases in which British soldiers have misbehaved. But I am sure that over the past seven years the British Army in Northern Ireland has been less trigger-happy than any force of its kind in history. In the debate on the Army, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, who has attended much of our debate this evening, announced that there was to be a special inquiry into pay and conditions in Northern Ireland. Concessions have been made, as we suggested, on the charges for rent and food for those doing long-term tours in the Province. But is this the end of the inquiry? I hope not, because there is still a great deal of work to be done.

We know that many men going to Northern Ireland on emergency tours suffer considerable financial loss. I have suggested in earlier debates some of the ways in which this could be put right. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has made it plain that she thinks that no soldier serving in Northern Ireland should suffer financially as a result of that tour of duty. I hope that the whole House can accept this point of view. I hope that this evening we can be told that this inquiry that the Under-Secretary started is still under way and that we can expect further action from the Government soon.

10.48 p.m.

As someone who is not an Ulster Member of Parliament I rise with some apprehension in a Northern Ireland debate, because there are so few of these debates that I think that Ulster Members have a considerable right to be heard on behalf of their constituents. There are a few points that I should like to raise which have come out of the debate. I listened carefully to the speech of the Secretary of State and I welcomed, as, I think, did the majority of hon. Members, his announcements about the lower figures of deaths and other "successes" by terrorists. I was unable to understand the reasons for his secrecy about the new application of the SAS and the new posting of units to Northern Ireland.

We cannot be happy about the terrorist situation until the climate of the Six Counties is such that someone who witnesses a crime can go to the authorities and say "That is the person who committed it". The more publicity that is given to the new forces that we have, to the new units of the SAS and other security forces that we provide for Northern Ireland, the safer it will be for people to do just that. I hope that the Secretary of State will carefully consider whether it is not against the public interest to be so secretive about the forces that we now have and did not have before. I believe that such publicity would not only encourage people to go to the police with information but might deter those who finance the terrorists, whether from the South of Ireland, the United States or elsewhere, because no one, however easily he acquired his fortunes, will give money if the purpose is likely to fail.

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilifedder) complained of Northern Irish legislation being behind that of the rest of the United Kingdom. He could not have listened with care to the Secretary of State's speech. We should welcome the moves the right hon. Gentleman has announced, particularly the £18-a-week plan for youth employment for 6,000 youths, because there the Northern Irish legislation is ahead of that for the United Kingdom. I dearly wish that in my constituency there were such a plan, because we have appalling unemployment. The hon. Gentleman mentioned divorce, civil rights and homosexuality. He is absolutely right. There is clearly a great deal to be caught up, but in all fairness we must welcome the right hon. Gentleman's statement.

The Secretary of State said that direct rule was not our preferred method, and the whole House echoes that. But we are debating the Northern Ireland (Various Emergency Provisions) (Continuance) and the Interim Period Extension Orders, and it is to those that I wish to come as my last point. We have heard that a Speaker's Conference will be convened to look into the question of Northern Irish representation. It seems to me that all parts of the House are agreed about the appalling under-representation of the people of Northern Ireland. Whereas that was absolutely right when Stormont existed and the Northern Irish had their own Government, as it were, it must be totally wrong in the context of today's politics.

If we look at "The Times Guide to the House of Commons" published after the February 1974 election, we see, for instance, that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) represents an electorate of 118,000.

The hon. Gentleman had a majority of 35,644 and the man whom he beat so decisively had nearly 500 more votes than the then right hon. Gentleman who won Newcastle upon Tyne, Central, who received 12,182 votes from an electorate of 25,000. If ever there were an argument for accelerating a Speaker's Conference, surely this is it.

It seems quite astonishing to me that the leaders of the political parties in this House should have been consulted by the Prime Minister, a right hon. Gentleman who has every Christian virtue with the possible exception of resignation, and that everyone should have agreed that there has to be a Speaker's Conference but that we should not know when it is to be. The idea of the conference is presumably to increase the number of Members of Parliament representing the people of the Six Counties at Westminster.

Since we are here to discuss the continuation of emergency provisions, we should think very carefully whether we should agree to extend them for another year unless the conference in your name, Mr. Speaker, is to be held in the immediate future. It seems to be agreed in all parts of the House that it should be held immediately, and the results of it are not in any way in dispute. There seems to be no political party that would not like the people of Ulster more constructively, more properly and more equitably represented in this House.

10.57 p.m.

Like many of my colleagues and other hon. Members, I should like to welcome some of the initiatives announced by the Secretary of State tonight. I was, however, rather angry when he spoke of the RUC and of the manner in which it behaved in May this year during the Loyalist so-called strike. The Secretary of State seemed to be saying that this was the only time when the RUC acted impartially. I should like to put on record the fact that for eight long years, while it has been kicked about by politicians and former Governments, and while it is being used by the SDLP as a bargaining factor in some sort of settlement, the RUC has acted impartially, and it was acting impartially long before the Secretary of State even knew where Northern Ireland was.

The RUC gets a special allowance for hardship amounting to 50p per day. I want that increased to £1. Lord Melchett is touring Northern Ireland saying that his resources for assisting community groups are unlimited. But the policemen —and their families—who live in the Province for 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks a year are exposed to the threat and terror of assassination by the IRA but are limited in this allowance to 50p a day.

I support the Army 100 per cent. and would support it more if that were possible. The soldiers, however, have one comfort. When their duty is finished, they can go behind guarded doors with sentries to protect them. The police do not have that security. The Government should urgently consider increasing the hardship allowance to £1 a day.

I give credit to the Secretary of State for the initiative he has taken on the improvement of security. It is much to the liking of those who represent Northern Ireland and the people living there that there has been a step-up in security. It is now at its best since I came here, but I am not satisfied and I shall not be until I see the terrorists rooted out of Northern Ireland for all time.

The Secretary of State has said that there are to be 11 full-time companies of the UDR. We welcome that as an addition to the back-up forces for the RUC promised by the Secretary of State. While it is possible, perhaps, to draw back the Regular Army, it is essential that the part-time force should be able to back the RUC at all times and in all places in Northern Ireland.

I should like the Secretary of State to tell us now about the areas where the UDR cannot operate, in my constituency and in other parts of Belfast, and why the UDR is not permitted to back up the RUC in areas where the Army is being drawn back and the police are not getting full backing. I am grateful to the Undersecretary of State for Defence for the Army for the concern and interest he has shown about the UDR and the British Army. The UDR, like the British Army, should be operating in all areas whether green or orange. It does not matter so long as full support is given to the RUC.

The Minister mentioned that £4 million is being spent on police buildings. I should like him to tell us where that £4 million is being spent, because we have Dungannon RUC station where work was started a long time ago but the steelwork is now rusting away because the IRA has threatened those working on it with their lives. Their lives are in danger, so I suppose that that is not part of the £4 million. We also have Lurgan Police Station, and my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) has said that the workers cannot work there because of intimidation by the IRA.

We sit here and realise that the Government are bending their knee to the intimidation of the IRA. We cannot build Dungannon and Lurgan Police Stations because of intimidation by the IRA. If the Government are prepared to implement law and order in other parts and to back up the police with the Army and the UDR, they should bring the right people to build Dungannon and Lurgan Police Stations which are long overdue.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) mentioned various complaints against the RUC. I gave a promise to finish shortly, so I have not the time to go into this but I would remind the hon. Member that there is a complaints department with, a superintendent, a chief inspector and other members of the RUC. That is a competent and effective department of the RUC. I have been told in an interview with the Chief Constable of the RUC that, of all the complaints made against the RUC which have been investigated, few have been substantiated over the past 12 months.

I welcome the Secretary of State's decision to release members of the RUC doing duty outside ex-politicians' houses. That was long overdue. Men so vital in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland were engaged in protecting men who have been members of the Northern Ireland Government or who have been acting in a legal capacity in Northern Ireland.

Finally, the Secretary of State, in agreement with the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army, should release the RUC members who look after the courthouses and the police stations at fixed points so that they might take up other duties. There are about 600 policemen involved in those operations. If they were replaced by the British Army and members of the full-time UDR, it would give the Secretary of State—and I am sure that he would be pleased to have them—600 more policemen to fight against terrorists in Northern Ireland.

I appeal to the hon. Member whom I am about to call, the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), to bear in mind that it is agreed that in five minutes the winding-up speeches should begin. I am sorry to ask a Methodist local preacher to take only five minutes, but it would be helpful.

11.6 p.m.

I shall not indulge as a Methodist local preacher, Mr. Speaker. I give you my word that I shall give the Minister his due time to reply.

I deprecate the bitter and vicious attack of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) once again on the security forces. This seems to be his bi-annual treat. We are treated to the same attack time after time. Once again he had to mention the 50 years of Unionist government in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentlemen's speeches have become just like an old "78" record with the needle stuck somewhere in the middle. I fear that very soon he will begin to believe the things that he says in this place.

The Secretary of State talked about the acquisition of vehicles for the police and the security forces. Did he think that it was a good thing to send in the three policemen who were recently murdered in my area, near to one of the most notorious IRA strongholds in the whole of Ireland, in an ordinary car with no protection? Their car had no protection, not even bullet-proof glass. They were sent into an area that is notorious for attacks on the security forces. It is infested with IRA personnel. Who sent them there without standard military cover? The Army should have been there too.

I do not want to indulge in a euphoria of emotion, but I stood in the homes of the victims of the attack. It was a traumatic experience to meet both a widowed mother and the widow of a full-time policeman—there were six in the family —whose husband was gunned down like a dog. Surely something should be done. No members of the security forces should be required to go into such an area anywhere in the North of Ireland without the protection of weapons, vehicles and the Army, which is expected to give the necessary cover.

I mention briefly the murder of the two soldiers. What sort of vehicle were they using? How was it that one sniper could shoot down the two of them and seriously wound a padre in a matter of seconds? What sort of vehicle were they using to go into an area of the Falls Road? It is certainly no picnic for any of the security forces to go to such an area. Surely there was some slip-up in that operation.

The Secretary of State mentioned guns that are being supplied to the RUC —namely, Ml carbines. I was told by a senior Army officer that some of the guns were defective. Indeed, that has been admitted. He also said that there was no ammunition for the weapons and that all that the police had was the ammunition that was captured or acquired from the IRA. I received that information from a senior Army officer. I cannot give his name although I know that I am likely to be asked for particulars. He told me that if I mentioned his name the best thing that he could do would be to fly out of Northern Ireland and keep going strong.

I ask the Secretary of State to consider the two points that I have made—protection for the security forces in respect of vehicles, arms and Army cover and suitable weapons for the police to reply against the IRA with its sophisticated and modern weapons that are directed against the security forces.

11.10 p.m.

I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) for his forbearance and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) for his gracious words about the constructive criticism offered from time to time by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and myself, to the benefit of Ulster.

The Secretary of State gave an encouraging but not complacent report. There is nothing to be complacent about. As the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) observed, there can be no rejoicing about Ulster's condition of constitutional limbo. To him and to the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), I repeat what was made clear by my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon— namely, that increased representation at Westminster has long been Conservative Party policy, and we are glad to learn from the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) that it is also Liberal Party policy, but that this is no substitute for a constitutional settlement. We can take no satisfaction from the regrettable necessity of again renewing emergency powers. Tomorrow we shall return to the economic plight and prospects in Northern Ireland and take up the secondary education controversy. I shall devote my remarks tonight to the security aspect of the debate.

By its successes against the terrorist gangsters and protection racketeers— I noted what my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) said about the importance of the Fraud Squad— including those who defile the title "Loyalist", and by its energetic protection of workers during the strike, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has proved itself efficient, devoted and impartial and entitled to the thanks of all who profess to uphold the law.

I welcome the praise by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) for the new, young Royal Ulster Constabulary; but no one should use allegations of police brutality, which are now properly investigated, subject to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is an impartial officer, as an excuse for withholding support from a force to which people owe their very survival.

The Chief Constable, in that important article in the Belfast Telegraph of 24th June, said:
"It is the object of all terrorist organisations to discredit and destroy the police, and in Northern Ireland that objective is pursued ruthlessly. If the terrorists can neutralise the police, the community is theirs".
He also ventured the opinion that police officers had lost their lives because of allegations unfairly made against members of the force.

We have the Chief Constable's assurance that any police officer found to have ill-treated anyone would receive no mercy, that such conduct was illegal and "extraordinarily stupid and despicable", because it would bring the force into disrepute and put back its efforts to provide a wholly acceptable police service for all Northern Ireland people.

As the role and responsibility of the RUC increase, so, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) emphasised, it must be provided promptly with the weapons, vehicles and equipment that it needs.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Carson) mentioned the lack of urgency in building new police stations. I shall not rehearse that unsatisfactory Adjournment debate initiated on 22nd April by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) on the tale of the Lur-gan Barracks—a tale of prevarication and procrastination. When will the new police stations at Limavady and Dun-gannon, started in 1974, be opened for business? I do not necessarily ask the Minister to reply to that question now.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury concentrated our thoughts, if there were any need to do so, on the young light infantrymen who were ambushed and murdered in Belfast. One always lacks words with which to praise the Armed Forces. Surely it is a matter of honour that they should be fairly remunerated. I know that the Secretary of State, who was formerly at the Ministry of Defence, will have heeded the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham on that matter.

I was glad that the Secretary of State expressed admiration of Her Majesty's Prison Service in Northern Ireland. Another officer of that service was murdered only last week. The Prison Service requires courage of a different order from that expected of the security forces but of a high order. It has dealt very well with the problems arising from the ending of special category status. Its members deserve our thanks.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) mentioned Southern Irish politicians. There is no border to terrorism. Her Majesty's Government will have to work with a different Government in Dublin. We would give a farewell salute to Liam Cosgrave, who, like his father before him, gave his country firm and responsible leadership. Conor Cruise O'Brien lost an election but has won a place in Irish history by his courage and clear speaking. In his lecture at St. Anthony's College, Oxford, on 6th May, Mr. O'Brien said:
"Many Northern Unionists, and many people in Britain too, think the IRA want Northern Ireland to be handed over to the Dublin Government. But that is not at all what the IRA want, either formally or substantially. For them the Dublin Government is a vassal Government of England and the Dublin Parliament a vassal Parliament."
For the IRA no Irish Government, no Government in Ireland, is legitimate which does not stand in the apostolic succession from that proclaimed at Easter 1916. The corollary of "Brits Out" is "Lynch Out". The only political solution satisfactory to the Provos would entail the overthrow of constitutional government in Dublin.

Mr. Ruairi O'Bradaigh understands that Provisional Sinn Fein can expect no favours from the Fianna Fail Administration. He said at a Press conference in Dublin on 21st June:
"Before Fianna Fail went out of office it had closed down our offices in Dublin and banned us from RTE."
That is more than the BBC did.
"Fianna Fail set up the Special Criminal Court and brought in the Offences against the State Act to use against Republicans."
There are reasons of interest and of precedent why the new Government in Dublin should prosecute with increasing vigour the struggle against the tyranny of terror. If there be an "Irish dimension" to the question of Ulster, let it be that of a united front in the defence of democracy against a murderous clique rejected by the people throughout the whole island of Ireland.

11.17 p.m.

At this time of night, and on Northern Ireland occasions, some of us have still quite a journey to go for the rest of the evening. At this stage, however, I should like to thank hon. Members for the generous manner in which the debate has been conducted. I have lost count of the number of these debates that I have now attended, but apart from one or two small occasions I think that this has been the most good-mannered and good-tempered renewal debate I have attended.

Renewal debates are bound to get back to the question of security when we are talking about Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend explained that we certainly have no complacency on that issue. He explained the efforts and the policy that he is pursuing on this front, and it is gratifying to us to hear the words of praise for all the security forces—and I mean all the security forces—in Northern Ireland.

It was also gratifying to hear the expressions of sympathy for the relatives of the two young soldiers so brutally shot down the other evening on what can only have been their second day in Northern Ireland. After eight years one can hardly understand the mentality of people who can do acts such as this and think that this is one of the ways in which they will pursue their political ambitions. They have long lost any chance of saying that they are pursuing political ambitions of their own.

While I do not wish to go over the statistics, I have the responsibility of keeping up with the successes of the Army and police by keeping one step ahead in regard to prison accommodation. The problem of prison accommodation in Northern Ireland, as I have said before, has taken on gigantic proportions. In 1968 there were 700 prisoners in custody in Northern Ireland. We now have nearly 2,800.

We are concerned not only with the number of prisoners but with the makeup. At the end of May 1,402 prisoners were serving sentences for serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder, explosives and firearms offences and robbery. A total of 219 were serving life sentences, mainly for murder. The remaining 1,183 were serving sentences totalling 10,371 years, or an average of 8·8 years apiece. That is the dimension in which we are working within the prison system in Northern Ireland. No one talks about the success of the security forces in bringing these criminals to justice.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) and by almost every other hon. Member who spoke, about equipment for the RUC and about the charges arising from the attempted UUAC stoppage. My right hon. Friend has made clear the importance that we attach to providing the RUC with the equipment that it needs to protect itself and the community from terrorist attack. Equipment needs are regularly reviewed by the Chief Constable and the Police Authority and we work closely together to ensure that any necessary items of equipment are provided with the minimum of delay.

One has heard of the request for Ml carbines. I would tell the hon. Member for Abingdon that the police have other weapons at their disposal and that there is plenty of ammunition. However, nearly 500 policemen have already been trained on this weapon and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they have been using live rounds.

Will the Minister comment on the Chief Constable's remarks in the Press recently that he was dissatisfied with the delivery of weapons and vehicles to the RUC to help it to combat terrorism?

Of course he is as disappointed as we are. It is one thing wanting the vehicles and the Ml carbines but another thing getting them delivered as quickly as we can. However, steps are being taken to deliver these as quickly as we can. There have been difficulties. We are not trying to hide those difficulties. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working on this point.

With regard to the Ml carbines, I do not think that the hon. Member for Abingdon would want me to go into detail on our security measures. I think that we perhaps give away a little too much information when we discuss security measures in this House. I therefore do not think that the hon.

Gentleman would wish me to go into detail about the weapons that are in the hands of the RUC.

I turn to charges arising from the UUAC strike. As at 21st June, 32 people had been charged as a result of the strike under Section 1 of the Protection of Property and Persons Act (Northern Ireland), which creates an offence with regard to intimidation. Nine people are remanded in custody. Altogether 113 charges have been preferred for offences of various descriptions arising out of the strike, and it falls to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether prosecutions should be instituted.

I was also asked about the Economic Council. It is no surprise that there has been frustration in this regard. My right hon. Friend and the rest of my colleagues in Northern Ireland have felt some frustration because the stoppage came in the middle of this and caused us to divert our attention elsewhere. But things are now moving, and we expect that they will move fairly rapidly from now on. We are satisfied that the Council will soon be working and looking into the economic affairs of Northern Ireland.

I was gratified to hear hon. Members speaking about the efforts which have been made with regard to the Northern Ireland economy. This has been an effort directed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Not only have we doubled our overseas trade missions, but I myself have participated in missions and have found great interest in America and elsewhere where benefits can accrue to Northern Ireland. This means that we have also taken on a vast visiting arrangement to the main cities in Great Britain, and we are pursuing this with the help of the Northern Ireland Office and the Ulster Office in London. It is gratifying to us to know that note has been taken of this.

Let me again offer my apologies to the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) for the disturbance about airport security. I do not know what more I can say to him. We seem to have been running together on this one for some time. Every time that I go by there, I look to see whether it is in order and working. It always seems to be. I do not know what else I can do, apart from going with the hon. Gentleman to make sure that it operates all right when he wants to go through. Perhaps he will let me know when he is proposing to go through so that I can be there to see it.

Reference has been made to the Speaker's Conference. A number of hon. Members asked why there had been a hold-up of the Speaker's Conference on Westminster representation for Northern Ireland. Now that all the party leaders have agreed the principles, we are seeking agreement on terms of reference. This should be forthcoming quite soon. The next step is to settle membership. This will be done without delay through the usual channels. My right hon. Friend is anxious to proceed as quickly as possible on this.

Will not the hon. Gentie-man accept that the terms of reference have been agreed?

The principles have been agreed. The actual terms of reference have not yet been finalised. I am not suggesting that this will hold up matters for any length of time. We want to get on with this without delay. The usual channels will be operating as quickly as possible. My right hon. Friend is anxious that we move on this as quickly as possible.

We have had a number of references to direct rule and the improvements referred to by my right hon. Friend. I single out one improvement to put this matter in perspective. Special mention was made of one particular order. That shows what can be done, if good will is displayed by all sides, to make the direct rule system effective and responsive.

Tomorrow, the House will debate the draft Criminal Injuries (Compensation) Order. That order was originally published as a proposal in January of this year. As is now normal practice, there followed a consultative period during which any interested party could comment. The proposal was considered in the Northern Ireland Committee during a lengthy debate. Many useful suggestions were made. As a result, my right hon. Friend has changed the original proposed draft in several important respects.

I have little doubt that the House will agree that the procedure for debating proposals in the Northern Ireland Committee fulfilled a valuable function in the case of compensation for criminal injuries. Last week the Committee also considered the proposals for a draft order for compensation for damage to property. Again, there was a useful debate. I attended those debates in the Northern Ireland Committee, and I think that all concerned found them very valuable. We shall continue to do everything possible to respond to suggestions made in that Committee.

Unfortunately time is running out, and there are still a number of important matters outstanding with which I have not dealt. I wanted to comment on the position at the Royal Victoria Hospital, for example. But I undertake that on some of the major points which remain unanswered I shall communicate directly with the hon. Members concerned.

This has been a useful debate. This, again, is one of the renewal orders. I should like to see the time come when we do not need these orders. That time is not yet, unfortunately. Meanwhile, i commend this order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Northern Ireland (Various Emergency Provisions) (Continuance) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th May, be approved.