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Northern Ireland(Emergency Provisions)

Volume 975: debated on Tuesday 11 December 1979

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4.12 pm

I beg to move,

That this House approves the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 28th November.
Today we have two main Northern Ireland debates, although others will follow. Later this evening we shall be debating financial matters and there will be an opportunity to take note of the heartening signs of economic life in Northern Ireland, despite all the difficulties. That is part of the background to this earlier debate. The other background to this debate is the terrorism that continues to bedevil Northern Ireland; and that is the reason for proposing once again that the emergency provisions Act should continue in force for a further six months. The House will expect me to give, as is customary, an analysis of the current security situation in Northern Ireland. However, before I embark on the details of the current situation I would like to make a few general observations.

It is very difficult, as all who know Northern Ireland will agree, to be objective about the security situation without running the risk of appearing cold and calculating. It is difficult to resist the temptation to say that the security situation is getting worse when there has been a run of terrorist acts. It is difficult also to resist the temptation to claim that the terrorist is on the run, just because there have been some notable successes by the security forces. What I would like to do this afternoon is to give, not only to the House but also to the people of Great Britain and of Northern Ireland, an analysis that seeks to avoid those two traps.

Contrary to what many people genuinely believe to be the case, violence in 1979 has not got a great deal worse than it was in 1978. There is no doubt that some types of violence have increased in 1979, and there is equally no doubt that in some geographical areas of Northern Ireland, particularly Armagh and County Tyrone, there has been a marked increase in violence. But taking Northern Ireland as a whole, and taking all the indicators of violence together, 1979 has seen only a slight upturn in violence since 1978. I need hardly remind the House, however, that there have been some terrible incidents in 1979, including the killing of 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint on August bank holiday Monday, that have deeply shocked us all. One hundred and four people have lost their lives so far this year, 56 of them members of the security forces and nine of them members of the prison service. Every killing is one too many.

The figures I have quoted show to what extent the Provisional IRA has concentrated its venom this year upon the security forces, and recently—more strikingly still—upon the prison service. I want to say a special word about the recent murderous attacks on members of the prison service. Here we have a body of men who are carrying out their difficult task courageously, effectively, and without complaint. The role of the prison officer is to treat those committed by the courts in accordance with the requirements of prison rules—which, broadly speaking, are the same in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain—and to do so with understanding and humanity.

Prison officers are not concerned with the circumstances of the offences for which the men and women in their charge were sent to prison. If the Provisional IRA believes that, by its attack on prison officers, it will further its campaign for special concessions for convicted criminals who belong to their organisation, I have to tell it that it is wasting its time. The Government will grant no such concessions. If the Provisional IRA hopes to break the morale of the prison service, I am glad to say that I have not the slightest reason to suppose that it is having any success.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the courage and devotion to duty which the prison staff have shown.

I am very much aware of the depth of feeling among law-abiding citizens in the Province about continuing terrorist activities. That manifested itself in the resolutions passed recently by a number of local councils. I appreciate the very real concern that lay behind those resolutions but I hope that they in turn appreciate the Government's determination to tackle terrorism effectively.

I am sorry to say that in recent months there has been an increase in what appear to be sectarian killings. There is something peculiarly obnoxious about killing a man because he holds such and such a creed or family name. Those assassinations can profit no one. They will simply add to the spiral of violence. I have to make it clear that the full weight of the law will be brought to bear on the perpetrators of violence, regardless of its origin or its purported motive.

I shall not pretend today that terrorism will not continue to pose a serious problem, particularly in parts of Belfast and some of the border areas. Besides the continuing attacks on the security forces and prison officers, the co-ordinated bomb and incendiary attacks on 26 November show that the Provisional IRA retains the ability to cause disruption and destruction. On that day, of the 35 devices that were planted across the Province, no fewer than 12 were neutralised. That demonstrates how much the general public and the business community can do to frustrate such violence. Their alertness and readiness to report suspicious objects or events can be of immense help to the security forces.

I know that we can rely on members of the Armed Forces and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to continue to serve the community with the dedication that they have shown over the years. Their tasks may often seem thankless, but I can assure them that the protection that they offer to the community—often at risk to their own safety—deserve unstinted praise which I know everyone in this House unhesitatingly gives them.

The House will wish to know what the Government themselves are doing in the face of the continuing terrorist threat. We remain fixed in our resolve to eliminate terrorism and to restore normal policing throughout Northern Ieland. The essence of the policy is that the RUC, with the Army in support where necessary, should bring terrorists to justice before the courts. But there are many ways in which the security forces frustrate the evil designs of the terrorist.

Since I last moved the renewal of this Act on 2 July, 124 firearms and over 20,000 rounds of ammunition have been recovered, and 62 explosive devices have been neutralised—a measure of the terrorist crimes that are prevented. But taking terrorists out of circulation through the processes of the law remains our chief means of combating terrorism. The House will wish to know that so far this year 625 people have been charged with terrorist offences, 44 of them with murder and 34 with attempted murder, and up to the end of last month, 805 people have been convicted of terrorist offences, including 52 of murder and 16 of attempted murder.

Can the right hon. Gentleman add anything to what he said six months ago about the origin not only of the 20,000 rounds of ammunition but of other arms that fall into terrorist hands?

I cannot say where they originated from. We can sometimes discover their country of origin, but it does not necessarily follow that they came straight from there. One of the things that we are seeking to follow up all the time, not just through the activities of the RUC but through other police forces and, indeed, Interpol, is the method by which the terrorists in the North obtain their supplies. Unfortunately, I cannot be absolutely precise, save only that they are brought into the country from their countries of manufacture, not the United Kingdom. The indications are that very few are brought in by sea.

The search for effective measures to thwart the terrorists is constantly pursued.

Does the total arms find that the Secretary of State has just announced include the vast quantity of arms found last week in County Down, which were obviously in the hands of the UDA and not the IRA?

Yes. The figures that I have given are up to date. I have not differentiated, and I do not differentiate, between terrorists. Anyone who commits a scheduled offence is a terrorist and is to be pursued with the utmost force of the law.

The search for effective measures to thwart the terrorists is constantly pursued. I am now assisted in this by Sir Maurice Oldfield, who was appointed a while ago to a new post as my security co-ordinator. For reasons which I know the House will appreciate, I do not intend to detail all the measures that we are taking. I would, however, like to mention a few important developments.

First, as the House already knows, the target strength of the regular force of the RUC has been raised from 6,500 to 7,500. By the end of November, the strength stood at 6,580 compared with 6,110 at the end of 1978. This is an encouraging recruiting trend, and it is matched by many other improvements in the capability of the RUC. The vehicle fleet is being steadily increased; a new and very advanced teleprinter system has been commissioned; a modern command computer system is due to be operational next year; and a substantial building programme is in hand to provide increased accommodation and facilities for the force.

The Chief Constable undoubtedly has at his command a thriving and modern police force well equipped to fight terrorism, but still mindful of its other responsibilities to the community including, for example, regular community relations work.

I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to the outgoing Chief Constable, Sir Kenneth Newman. Under his guidance over many years, the Force has steadily grown in strength and ability. The fact that the morale of the force has remained high, notwithstanding the extraordinary demands and stresses imposed upon it by the terrorist campaign, is a measure of his outstanding leadership and of the respect in which he is held by those under his command. I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express to Sir Kenneth its gratitude for a job well done and to extend good wishes to his successor, Mr. Jack Hermon.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question concerning the weaponry available to the RUC. He mentioned many things that helped to win the battle against terrorism. Can he now give any information about the arms supply from the United States so that the RUC might have proper weaponry to deal with terrorism?

I have no more information to give the House since I last answered questions. A proportion of the arms that we need has been received from the United States. The United States Administration are carrying out a review of their policy. As at today, we are not embarrassed by not having received any more arms. We do not need them yet. That time will come, and I hope very much that the United States Government will have carried out their review before we need any more and that they will be forthcoming.

I spoke about the Chief Constable, and paid him a tribute for all the work that he has done for the RUC. I want also to say that the cool, determined efficiency and professional response of the Army, particularly in the aftermath of the tragedy at Warren point in August, is clear evidence, if that were needed, of the impact and firmness which General Sir Timothy Creasey, who will also be leaving the Province shortly after Christmas, has brought to the Army's work in Northern Ireland.

I am sure that the whole House will wish to join with me in expressing our gratitude to the GOC for the burdens that he has shouldered during the years of his appointment, and, through him and the Chief Constable, to express our gratitude to the ordinary men and women of the Services which they command and which have shown once again their own steadfastness and determination to protect our community on our behalf.

I am sure that the House will also have been heartened by the recent major successes of the security forces of the Republic of Ireland against our acknowledged common enemy. The large arms find in Dublin docks, arms finds in the border areas and the conviction so far of one of those involved in the murder of Lord Mountbatten, are illustrations of the fight being waged against terrorism throughout Ireland.

I have referred already to the development of cross-border co-operation against terrorism with the Republic of Ireland, following the meetings between the Prime Minister and the former Taoiseach and myself and Mr. O'Kennedy. That co-operation, at the working level between the security forces in the field on both sides, has been developing to good effect. The Government are confident that the new Government of the Republic, whom we wish well in their task, share the view of the previous Administration that terrorism in the island of Ireland is our common enemy and that we will continue to work together to defeat it.

I have instanced some of the ways in which we are maintaining the drive against terrorism. We shall take any further measures that we may consider necessary to overcome the threat. The keynote to our policy is flexibility—flexibility in the use of manpower, in the disposition of forces, in the choice of operational tools and in the individual response to particular terrorist activities. But, there are two things we must not do. We must not take actions which have only a cosmetic effect; and we must not adopt draconian policies which, dramatic as they may sound, would involve, in practice, a far less efficient use of security force manpower, or would undermine the success we are having in isolating the terrorists from both local and international support.

The same principles underlie my approach to the business that we have to transact today. The draft order before the House will continue in force all the temporary powers of the emergency provisions Act for a further six months. In recommending this course, I have had to pay regard to the present security situation and to the views of my security advisers. But this is no automatic recommendation. Before making up my mind, I have looked carefully at the range of temporary provisions and the purposes they fulfil. It is only because I am convinced that they all still serve a genuine and essential purpose that I ask for their continuance for another six months.

I am well aware that there is a contrary view that the temporary powers are an irritant rather than an emollient, tending to increase the opposition to the forces of law and order and to encourage disrespect for the law. I recognise that this is no frivolous argument; and, in any event, I have the strongest natural inclination to revert to using ordinary legal provisions as soon as possible when the security situation allows.

Among those who have recommended vigorously to me that a start should be made on this process now are the members of the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. They have recommended, as, indeed, they did last May, that two provisions of the Act should now be allowed to lapse. I have given much thought to their arguments, because they come from Northern Ireland's appointed guardians of human rights. The first of these provisions concerns detention—section 12 of the Act. As the House knows, this has not been used in Northern Ireland since 1975. I very much hope that we shall not have to introduce it again. That hope is not universally shared in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in this country. There are those who consider that it would be the answer to our problems. That is not the Government's view. But I cannot dismiss, as a practical matter, the possibility that the Government might find it necessary in the future, however reluctantly, to reintroduce detention. While that possibility remains, however dimly—and at a time when there is no marked improvement in the security situation—it would be foolish to allow the provision to lapse. However, the reality is that the weapon of detention is not being used today.

The second issue raised by the advisory commission, with regard to bail, is a much narrower one, though in legal terms it is rather more complex. The commission wants section 2(2) of the Act to be allowed to lapse. That section provides that, before granting bail in a terrorist case, a judge must be satisfied on certain points. They are that the accused will comply with his bail conditions, and that he will not interfere with witnesses or commit any offence while on bail. The commission is concerned that the provision breaches the principle that a man should be treated as innocent until he is proved guilty. But I do not believe that the way in which the courts apply the terms of this subsection in practice supports that assertion. The Northern Ireland courts are deeply conscious of the rights of the individual and, where they consider the grant of bail justified, they grant it. In current conditions, I believe that I would be remiss if I gave them any encouragement not to look most closely before granting bail at such questions as the likelihood of interference with witnesses or of further terrorist offences being committed.

I want to mention briefly one other point which the commission has made to me. It is a suggestion for an amendment of the Act, not for the dropping of any provision. Amendment, of course, is not possible under the procedure for renewing the temporary provisions of the Act but would require a separate amending Bill. The commission has suggested that section 8, which deals with the admissibility of statements made to the police, should be amended. The section provides that a statement should be excluded in any case where there is prima facie evidence that an accused was subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment in order to induce him to make that statement. The commission wants the Act to make it clear that the unlawful use or threat of physical violence of any sort will also result in the exclusion of a statement. I assure the House that I would not, for a moment, take issue with the commission on this point.

My attitude toward the suggested amendment is an essentially practical one. It is evident from their rulings that the courts already use their discretion to ensure that the Act is broadly intepreted to cover the point the commission makes. There is, therefore, no practical need to amend the provision and, since the Government have no plans to introduce any other amendment to the Act, I do not feel that I would be justified in putting forward an amending Bill solely to deal with this matter.

The advisory commission is continuing its study of emergency legislation and I look forward to receiving its further comments. I am conscious of having disappointed its hopes, but I assure both the commission and the House that I do not ask lightly for the renewal of emergency powers.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his dismal remarks this afternoon will adversely affect the morale of Ulster people? For 10 long years they have suffered terrible, cruel provacation, violence and agony. When will the Government show that they will defeat the Provisional IRA? With all the statistics quoted this afternoon and those in newspapers and elsewhere, it is clear that the order does not secure, and does not help to secure, the defeat of the Provisional IRA. We need stronger, sterner measures.

Of course, the hon. Gentleman will make his own speech. I ask the House to renew the emergency powers, and I have given the House an account of how the Government seek to operate them. I know that the hon. Gentleman has his own views on the matter and we shall be interested to hear them.

The hard fact is that the powers which I ask the House to renew need to be available. I accept immediately that emergency powers are repugnant in a democracy. Neither the Government nor this House would want to have them unless we were sure that they were necessary. The burden of proof must be on us to show that they are needed. There is no question but that we now have many more terrorists behind bars. Thanks to the efforts of the security forces, violence has been contained at a level dramatically lower than that which prevailed only a few years ago.

But we cannot and must not be complacent. Recent events indicate that the terrorists still have the capacity to kill and wound innocent people—respected members of the community serving that community in many capacities—in the Armed Forces, the police service and the prison service. The terrorists have the capacity to destroy commercial premises by pointless acts of sabotage. Even one such attack would be intolerable and in recent days we have seen far too many.

Her Majesty's Government and the security forces remain totally committed to unceasing efforts against criminal terrorism. We need the powers in the emergency provisions Act for that purpose. That is why I ask the House today to renew those powers for a further six months.

4.39 pm

We are debating not only the grave security position in Northern Ireland but the renewal of an order and of an Act on which that order is based. There are three questions that the House should ask itself before agreeing to that renewal.

First, do the circumstances in Northern Ireland, including the number of terrorist incidents, warrant the extension of emergency provisions? Secondly, do the provisions in the Act enable terrorist offences to be dealt with as ordinary crimes as far as possible? I am sure that the Secretary of State places great stress on the fact that "terrorist crimes" are crimes against the State, and they are just as much crimes as any others. If possible, our law should be designed to deal with such crimes in the same way as with other crimes. Thirdly, and most importantly, are all the provisions of the Act necessary to fulfil that purpose?

It is distressing that the number of killings, woundings and bombings is still far too great. The incidents vary from the mass killing of soldiers to picking out for attack members of the various branches of the forces who uphold law and order. We have seen a re-emergence of tit-for-tat killings, which are alike in their brutality and inhumanity and are indefensible for whatever reasons they are committed. Whoever commits an act of terrorism, for whatever reason cannot be seen to be making a serious political point. Ready and unhesitating resort to violence does not advance or ennoble any political cause.

There are differing views in the House about the working of the Act and the order and as to the way in which terrorism would best be tackled. However, I do not believe that any hon. Member would dissent from condemning violence. As the Secretary of State said, to date this year there have been 104 deaths from terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland. Although that is a quarter of the rate at the height of the troubles, it nevertheless equals the murder rate for England and Wales, which together have a population 30 times as large as Northern Ireland. That figure gives us some idea of the scale of the problem and emphasises the fact that there appears to be no immediate end in sight.

I believe that there is no purely military solution, but neither is there a purely political one, which is a trap that people fall into from time to time. Vigorous, fair and impartial upholding of the law under the primacy of the police must be combined with steady work towards acceptable political initiatives, and the widespread political changes throughout Ireland will cause uncertain reactions from the men of violence. What is the Prime Minister's or the Secretary of State's intention about seeking an early meeting with the new Taoiseach in order to continue the dialogue on cross-border security begun with the previous Taoiseach? [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) interrupts from a sedentary position. As always, I am fascinated by what he has to say and I hope that he will repeat his remarks from an upright position.

I believe that the emergency provisions should be renewed, although I am reluctant about that, as every hon. Member should be. It is a necessity but one that we should not gloat over.

My second question was whether we need all the measures provided in the Act to deal with the emergency. In the main, I believe that we do, and I therefore support the Government in asking for renewal of these powers.

The main difference in the law in Northern Ireland from the criminal law in the remainder of the United Kingdom is the provision for trial without jury for certain scheduled offences. Juries are rightly looked on as the cornerstone of our legal system, yet the possible strain on jurors is obvious through intimidation or the threat of intimidation by those organised in the way that they are in Northern Ireland. It would also be a grave additional burden on the police to guard such jurors. There are differences in the law between the Republic of Ireland and ourselves, but when faced with the same basic problem we reach the same fundamental conclusion—that trial by jury for certain classes of offence is impossible.

In fairness to the judiciary in Northern Ireland, I acknowledge that, although unusual, this form of trial is just and enables a fair hearing to take place. We should pay tribute not only to the forces of law and order, which I unstintingly do, but also to the members of the judiciary who carry out a difficult job in Northern Ireland with the highest integrity and complete impartiality.

I emphasise the need to treat these crimes as ordinary crimes, and I believe that we should move towards normalising the law in that regard. An article in The Sunday Times last Sunday highlighted the fact that of all the things that are hurtful and insulting to a terrorist, his conviction as a criminal is the greatest, and that is why terrorists renew and maintain their calls for political status. We must maintain our view that their political beliefs do not excuse crimes of terrorism, and the Secretary of State was right to say that we should make no concession on that. They are criminals and should be dealt with under the ordinary criminal law.

These are emergency powers and, of their nature, such measures are intended to be short term. However, there is a danger that they are becoming a permanent feature of our life and law. We are in an unusual situation, which we concede by renewing the orders, but we must work as hard as possible to normalise the criminal law so that people who commit crimes can be dealt with on the same fundamental basis.

The Secretary of State has the advantage of advice from the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which has for some time been examining the matter. In May 1979 it issued a press statement on part of the Act and will eventually make a comprehensive statement. The purpose of the commission is to advise the Secretary of State, but will he ask the commission to publish its report so that Parliament and the public may see its judgment on the working of the Act and also the detailed arguments that led to recommendations to amend or maintain the existing law? Without that, there is a danger that we shall lay ourselves open to the two criticisms of those who suggest change.

Their first criticism is that we are being irresponsible and risk crippling the Act by making careless suggestions about amendment. The second is that such suggestions are made in ignorance of the position in Northern Ireland. Neither of those charges can be levelled against the commission, which is well aware of the situation in Northern Ireland. The Government do not have to accept the recommendations of the commission, and that is a judgment for them, but if they do not, the House is entitled to know the detailed reasons. With all the good will that the Secretary of State has exuded towards the commission this afternoon, I fear that, apart from matters of judgment—and these are very fine matters to be weighed up—he really has not given the House reasons for his rejection of the three amendments suggested in its interim report and in the press release that was issued in May 1979.

Let me refresh the memory of the House about those three suggestions touched upon by the Secretary of State. First is the power of the Secretary of State to detain suspected terrorists under section 12 and schedule 1 of the Act. As he has said, this has not been used since 1975 and is obviously regarded by Ministers as the very last resort. Nevertheless, it is still on the statute book, and the argument which lay behind the reasoning of the advisory commission was that it robs us a little of our argument that we should treat terrorists as criminals in the ordinary sense, if we still have a power, although not used, on the statute book which enables them to be detained without trial.

A decision to reimpose the powers would obviously be taken in an urgent and serious situation where some haste was indicated, but I agree with the Secretary of State that non-use of the powers commands majority support, although, I accept, not the unanimous support, of people both in the House and in Northern Ireland itself. It is very difficult to believe that the powers could again be reimposed without Parliament expressing a view upon it. Why not, therefore, take the section out of the Act, knowing that if a majority in Parliament approved of the powers being reimposed they could certainly be enacted very quickly? We in this House, in times of emergency, are used to enacting legislation fairly quickly and therefore I do not believe that a reenactment of the section need provide the obstacle that the Secretary of State obviously sees it in. I hope that he will reconsider the matter, even at this stage.

The second matter is the section dealing with bail, section 2(2), which basically reverses what is now accepted as being the ordinary criminal law under the Bail Act 1976, namely, that a person accused of a crime is entitled to bail unless the prosecution is able to show one of the grounds set out in schedule 1 of that Act, namely, that he will fail to surrender to custody, will commit an offence whilst on bail, will interfere with witnesses or will otherwise obstruct the course of justice.

Therefore, it is not the lapsing of the powers which I seek, because I agree with the Secretary of State that to allow the power to lapse without putting anything in its place would probably be ineffective. To that extent, I disagree with the commission; but we should now consider amending the Act in this second regard, namely, to put in the traditional and otherwise universal presumption for bail, and leave it up to the prosecution to satisfy the judge or magistrates that the person should be denied bail.

Certainly there is everything in schedule 1 of the Bail Act providing that if a person has a serious crime charge against him or has known associates who are criminals and so on bail can be refused. I do not believe, however, that it should or can be healthy for it to be presumed that in such circumstances alone within the United Kingdom it should be up to the person charged to prove his bona fides before being allowed bail.

Thirdly, the commission called for the redrafting of section 8 of the Act, which deals with statements made by the accused. There is no doubt that the question of interrogation of witnesses and the use of statements made by them, obtained during the course of that interrogation, has become a very controversial subject in recent years, which led to consideration being given to it by the Bennett committee, and acceptance by the Secretary of State of a large number of that committee's recommendations. If the Minister who replies has time to deal with that point, I would welcome a progress report upon the implementation of those recommendations because clearly part of the reason for opting to maintain section 8 as it exists must be that the Government are taking steps to see that the incidents referred to in the Bennett Report are not resuscitated or repeated.

I believe that the Bennett report has not satisfied everybody, to put it mildly. For example, at its recent conference the SDLP passed a resolution asking for an impartial inquiry into interrogation and the use of statements. The commission itself criticises the formula used in section 8, which is taken from the European convention, as being unsatisfactory and imprecise. As the Secretary of State has said, the Bennett committee makes it clear that judges have also used their inherent powers to exclude statements if they have been given under duress or by reason of inducement, although that is not in the section itself.

The House will know that the Judges' Rules are under criticism from many sections of the community precisely because they are not enshrined in statute and possibly because they give too wide a discretion to the judge as to the admissibility in evidence of statements taken in circumstances some of which infringe normal Judges' Rules. In my view, that is why the commission suggests redrafting the section. I believe we ought to take it very seriously. As is clear from paragraph 78 of the Bennett report, there is very serious concern amongst lawyers and others in Northern Ireland about the burden of proof in circumstances which fall under section 2(2).

The Secretary of State has said that the use that the judges make of their inherent powers means that, in practice, perhaps not quite as much need for concern exists as has been shown. Nevertheless, where we have put into a statute part of the reasons why a statement should be excluded, we either have to go the whole hog and put them all into the statute, or we have wholly to exclude them, as is done in the Judges' Rules, and make them extra-statutory rules.

For that reason, notwithstanding the Secretary of State's statement that he does not propose to bring forward amending legislation, I urge him to reconsider that decision because it need be only a short measure which would have the good will of the House to pass it. But it would aid clarity as far as the accused person is concerned, and it would prevent misunderstanding among a great number of people who are otherwise of good will.

I hope that the Government will respond to these points. The Act certainly needs renewing and I hope that my hon. Friends will not seek to deny the Government that renewal; but I re-emphasise that we should be aiming for all time at the normalisation of this law, to make it accord as nearly as possible with the normal criminal law. If the Secretary of State listens to the three suggestions for amendment made by his own standing advisory commission, he will make a positive start towards that, and convince people that, although these emergency provisions are necessary, and we approve of them, we will as soon as possible hope to redress the balance and give the accused person a greater sense of justice than he at present feels.

5 pm

Since I last addressed this House, many more men and women, some of them my constituents, have been brutally murdered in Northern Ireland. A gang of thugs, without mercy or feelings, ravage my country, killing at will and spreading sorrow and desolation. I have said before and I say again that the first duty of any Government is to protect their citizens, and this the British Government are signally failing to do. They have not yet begun to come to terms with the problem. They still believe that there is some magic formula, some political arrangement, which will mysteriously allow these murdering monsters to put down their guns. They still believe that they must not punish wrongdoers with the severity that they deserve. They can provoke even greater wrongdoing.

Have the Government learnt nothing over the past 10 years, or is it that they just have not got the moral resolution, the guts, to govern? They boast about their refusal even to give in to the threat of violence, but in fact they are coming to terms with violence—and not just in Northern Ireland. This is a lesson that the Provisional IRA is learning.

Why do not the Government assess their own worth and record? If they have not the ability to control part of their own country, they should have the honesty to admit it and leave it to those who can, and those who could do so, before their woolly-headedness and their stupid blunders make the country virtually ungovernable. If the Government think that they have the ability, then, in the name of the increasing thousands of our bereaved, they should govern—do it.

The Government should rid themselves of the silly notion that a political solution will come before a military solution, which just means that the demands of a minority in our community must be met before the majority can sleep safely in their beds at night.

The Government must stop looking with effeminate nervousness over their shoulders to see how ill-informed people, sometimes outsiders, are reacting to their words. They should learn what the problems are and they should have the courage to deal with them. Their reluctance to do so is causing the loss of life that, day after day, plagues our community.

I do not propose today to weary the House by reciting once more what should be done to curb the indiscriminate terror. I shall not participate in what is only a bitter pantomime by solemnly repeating the Government's obvious failings in the security field. To do so would give the impression that the problem is one only to be talked about and not solved. To do so would be to betray the urgency of the crisis and to misrepresent my people.

Do the Government know that their action, their obtuseness, their vacillation and their cowardice cause them to be held in contempt by thousands upon thousands of the Queen's loyal citizens? If they do not have the courage to act like a Government, at least let them have the guts to act like men.

In 1940 the Royal Fusiliers, of which I was a member, were stationed on the French-Belgian border. We came back through Dunkirk. Where were we placed?—none other than the only place in which England was invaded, Hastings.

I say here and now that we should cut out this willy-nilly stuff. Get in and get the Provos.

5.5 pm

I must say how glad I am to speak after the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade). I agree with so much of what he said in highlighting the dangers inherent in the so-called political initiatives. I hope that he is expressing those reservations to certain members of his own party who are only too willing to participate in the games that he described to us.

May I continue by suggesting that the hon. Gentleman should address some of his remarks to the deputy leader of his own party, the Rev. William Beattie, who had the nerve to tell the people of Northern Ireland a few weeks ago that he could see a glimmer of light in the security situation for the first time in 10 years. The only glimmers of light that people in Northern Ireland have seen over the past few months have been the reflections from the fires in the business premises in Lisburn, Dungannon, Newry, Omagh, Londonderry and Warren point. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make those comments to the House, I hope that he will make some of them to the deputy leader of his own party. Then his party will not be accused of speaking with a forked tongue on this issue.

We shall no doubt hear before this debate is over assertions made by some people that these powers are not needed. There might even be a Division at the end, in which people will vote to say that these powers are not needed. If anyone thinks that, he should come to my constituency and talk not only to my supporters but also to those on both sides of the religious divide, to the parents of the two teenage Roman Catholic boys who were killed by the IRA in March this year and to the families of those other innocent Roman Catholics who were murdered by the IRA in the Crossmaglen and Forkhill areas, because they obviously did not agree with the actions of that organisation.

The Secretary of State candidly admitted that there had been a deterioration in the security situation. He said that it was perhaps slight in some areas. But it certainly is not slight in County Armagh. Over the past few years we had some hopes that there had been a slight improvement, even in my border constituency. In 1977, 11 people were killed; in 1978, 15 people were killed; in 1979, to date, 27 people have been killed. In saying that 15 of those have been killed since the change of Government, I would mention to the right hon. Gentleman, with all due respect, that the deterioration in the security situation throughout the Province has occurred primarily since the change of Government. Nineteen of the 27 people killed have been members of the security forces. A quarter of the total number of people killed in Northern Ireland were killed in County Armagh. One-third of the security forces killed this year in Northern Ireland were killed in County Armagh.

I suppose it should not surprise us, when we hear statistics such as those, that some people in Northern Ireland are only too glad to rush to find comfort in a conference. They are encouraged by bishops, lawyers and politicians from the Alliance Party and other parties into be- lieving that this conference will, somehow or other, resolve the security situation and bring peace. Those are almost the words that are used. In reality this is likely to worsen the situation. Worst of all, it provides a smokescreen which diverts attention from the real problem as described by the hon. Member for Belfast, North. It allows this Government and the Government of the Irish Republic to abdicate their responsibilities.

It also allows the SDLP the luxury of being the most important political party in Northern Ireland at the moment, and at the same time to be the most irresponsible, by refusing to give support to the security forces and, by its members' rhetoric, justifying the foul deeds of the Provisional IRA. If anyone disputes that, I refer him to speeches made in recent months by Seamus Mallon, the deputy leader of the SDLP, and to statements made by Michael Canavan, its so-called spokesman on law and order.

A few weeks ago I received a letter from a soldier who has served on the South Armagh border for some months. As well as demanding "better generals",
"officers who did not think that the Army was up against boy-scouts",
and "better grub", he stated:
"We are not issued with good binoculars."
I hope that the Secretary of State will take note of these observations, because the right hon. Gentleman said that he was prepared to take further action. The soldier said that on occasion he and his colleagues had to purchase telescopes and binoculars for their own use. He also reminded me of a fact that I had forgotten and that the House may not know, namely, that helicopters in use in border areas are not armed and cannot be used in offensive actions. Considering the frequency with which helicopters pursue terrorists and watch them finding sanctuary in the Republic, perhaps we should employ what the soldier requests, namely helicopters armed with Browning machine guns.

The soldier also claimed, no doubt from personal experience, that:
"The IRA are still getting detonators from England"
and that soldiers had been shot at with
"factory-fresh bullets".
Three or four years ago, when terrorism was at its worst, there was a concerted drive to ensure that the source of detonators dried up. Action was taken on munitions and so on. I hope that the Secretary of State will be able to reassure us that the drive is continuing and that the action spearheaded by his hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) will also continue.

The soldier concluded by saying that what were needed were, as I have said before, far more secret observation posts along the South Armagh border and the proper use of the SAS in the area. Nowhere in his letter did he place any reliance on co-operation from the authorities on the other side of the border. He was being more realistic than his military or political masters. Events of the past week should have convinced everyone how right he was.

The change of Prime Minister in the Irish Republic was brought about primarily because of Mr. Lynch's agreement with the British Prime Minister, and none of us should underestimate that fact. Any hon. Member who does not accept that should read the reports in the Irish press over the past three or four months. They show the build up of pressure which ultimately led to Mr. Lynch's resignation.

As a frontline representative whose constituency will, no doubt, be the first to feel the effects of Mr. Charles Haughey's premiership, I take no comfort in assurances given in Dublin at the weekend or condemnations of the IRA and violence.

What I and my constituents heard and will remember were the raucous calls for
"the unification of the people of Ireland"
and the demand for my Government to encourage unity in Ireland and
"to declare their intention to withdraw"
and betray the majority of British citizens who live in the Province.

It is no consolation to us to be assured by Mr. Haughey and others that that is to be achieved by peaceful means. Those assertions are the clear and unambiguous objectives of the Provisional IRA. To those who declare that such comments are not an encouragement to terrorists, let me quote some words with which Mr. Haughey should be familiar since they were spoken by his co-defendant John Kelly at the arms trial in Dublin in 1970. In explanation of his behaviour in the gun-running episode, John Kelly said:
"Dr. Hillery, the Minister for External Affairs, had gone to the United Nations and stated 'The claim of Ireland, the claim of the Irish nation to control the totality of Ireland has been asserted over the centuries by successive generations of Irishmen and women and it is one which no spokesman of the Irish nation could ever renounce'. And Taoiseach Lynch in what has become known as his 'We will not stand idly by' speech said"—
At that stage, John Kelly was interrupted by the judge, but he was obviously about to quote a statement by Mr. Lynch that was similar to that issued by Dr. Hillery. After explaining that to the judge, Mr. Kelly continued:
"It was in this situation, in these circumstances and against this background of speeches by people, political figures in authority in this part of Ireland, speeches which had led the Six County minority to believe sincerely that a new era was dawning"
that he had decided to embark on training and gun-running for those people.

Mr. John Kelly was a militant Republican and I suggest that his mentality is that of the Provisional IRA. Speeches give encouragement to terrorists, speeches justify terrorist acts and speeches can kill. They have killed nearly 2,000 people in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Michael O'Kennedy, the weekend's "king maker", also made some comments to the people of Northern Ireland. He said:
"Every index you look at is better in the South than in the North—agricultural development, unemployment, wages, manufacturing output."
He held out those inducements to the people of Northern Ireland as an encouragement to them to seek their place in an all-Ireland Republic. Those words are based on the false assumption that the primary motivation of an Ulster Unionist is his economic well-being. There is a lot more than that to an Ulster Unionist. Mr. O'Kennedy and Mr. Haughey will learn in the years ahead that their view is a gross misconception.

The index that we study in County Armagh is that for death and destruction, much of which emanates from the Irish Republic, as Government statistics prove. We look at the rapidly diminishing Protestant population in the Republic, killed by kindness no doubt, and ask what future is there for us in an all-Ireland Republic.

5.17 pm

I welcome the Secretary of State's statement, because, as he said it was not the entirely gloomy statement about the year's security activity that we might have feared. Indeed, one cannot help feeling that, but for the appalling casualties at Warrenpoint, my right hon. Friend's statement would have been similar to the statement on security activities last year.

Since the parents of Colonel David Blair, who lost his life at Warrenpoint, live in my constituency, perhaps I may say that all the incidents in which members of the security forces have lost their lives underline the incredible devotion to duty that police and soldiers have shown throughout the past 10 years and which commands our praise whenever we refer to it.

My right hon. Friend referred to the improvement in the numbers in the RUC and the improvement in police accommodation. Can he tell me whether the Army has fared as well? A few months ago we were told that soldiers were still stationed in temporary accommodation that provided them with the bare minimum of creature comforts. Are they now in premises more like Army barracks, rather than in parish halls and other converted premises?

I have to ask whether the panoply of powers provided by the emergency provisions Act meets the simple needs of soldiers facing a screaming group of hooligans—perhaps a mob of children—stoning them and throwing missiles. Those soldiers do not have the Riot Act to fall back on and are left wondering how they should meet such a problem. We often refer to "reading the Riot Act", but I am sure that hon. Members are aware that the Riot Act was repealed in 1973. The onus therefore, is on the security forces to prove that they are coping with a riot.

We then come up against the definition of what is riotous behaviour. I suggest that the young soldier holding his security shield above his head and facing a screaming mob of hooligans armed with bricks, bottles, implements and other missiles must wonder whether he is coping with a riot. He must wonder exactly what is his legal position. That point has been raised by a senior officer who served in Northern Ireland. He said that we may think that we have given our security forces all the powers that they need, but we may conceivably have left them with an Achilles heel. That might cause them more concern and place them in greater danger of criticism than many of the other powers that they possess.

Does the Secretary of State believe that the security forces are adequately covered in that context, or is there a need for a new Riot Act to meet the present dimension of terrorism?

Having discussed the Army, I turn my attention to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, for which I have nothing but praise. With the Secretary of State, I pay tribute to Sir Kenneth Newman who proved to be an outstanding Chief Constable.

I listened to what the Secretary of State said about community relations. Surely none of us doubts that if the gap between the two sides of the community in Northern Ireland could be bridged and their wounds healed peace might come to the Province more quickly than we might dare to imagine. At present the Royal Ulster Constabulary can spare only 100 policemen for this vital job. Has the Secretary of State given thought to the creation of a group of people trained in this work who might be attached to the police? In his desire to recruit up to 7,000 men, is he laying emphasis on the sort of people who might play a constructive role in that task. Is the Secretary of State satisfied with the number of detectives available for work with the RUC?

Sir Kenneth Newman reorganised the CID but are there sufficient detectives to carry out the vital job of catching terrorists? By the same token, is the Secretary of State satisfied with the forensic and surveillance techniques available to the RUC? I ask these questions because the mere renewal of emergency powers will not be enough unless the men on the ground have the necessary back-up to enable them to do their work as efficiently as their numbers allow.

A fortnight ago we debated the working paper on new government for Northern Ireland. When presenting that paper to the House, the Secretary of State said that political devolution of a kind was sought for the Province but he did not suggest that it could be the political initiative—the philosopher's stone—that we have all looked for to end the violence in Northern Ireland. I commended the Secretary of State for what he said. Tonight we are debating the continuing terrorist campaign which has disfigured the Province and which in a sense is at the core of the future of Northern Ireland with the United Kingdom.

Some years ago people thought that political moves might buy off the terrorists and satisfy some of their political aspirations while still keeping the Province within the United Kingdom. None of us holds that view 10 years later. We wonder why the terrorists continue to cling to the view that the killing of their fellow men and women will persuade the British Government to change their view that if Northern Ireland wishes to remain part of the United Kingdom it should be allowed to do so.

If we look back over the last 10 years, what political success can the terrorists claim? In the last six or seven years there has been no advancement in their terms. Instead there has been a strengthening of the bond between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. When the extra Members of Parliament come to this Chamber from Northern Ireland in 1984, or whenever, that bond will become stronger and more realistic than it has been during the last 50 years.

As the terrorists survey the effects of their activities, what successes can they claim that should make them want to go on with their campaign of murder and destruction? Can it be the endless procession of funerals? Is it the burial of innocent men, women and children who wished to live in peace but had to live in Ulster? When the terrorists realise, as they must, that the dead are on both sides of the community, surely they must ask themselves whether a campaign of carnage is achieving anything. If I say that the corpses of those killed by terrorists bear silent witness to the words of the Pope at Drogheda in the summer, I think I say not less than the truth. The Pope said:
"Nobody may ever call murder by any other name than murder. Let us remember that the word remains forever. All who take the sword will perish by the sword."
Yet the Provisional IRA claims some moral sanction for what it does. It would like the world to believe that Northern Ireland was held within the United Kingdom by the force of arms and by the oppression of Westminster. As the Glover report said so eloquently in 1978–and without the IRA we might not have read its words—the Provisional IRA continues to justify its activities by claiming that it is merely reacting to the security forces and that violence is the only response to the repression of the Catholic Community in Northern Ireland.

That is the justification; the moral sanction, that the members of the IRA believe places them above the words of the Pope. For 10 years the IRA has been telling the world that this is the case. For 10 years, I suspect, that argument has not been properly answered. The Pope gave them the reply as he unmistakably warned them about violence. He also said in Ireland this summer:
"The struggle is not, despite what is so often repeated before world opinion, a religious struggle between Catholics and Protestants".
The Pope himself has destroyed the argument which the IRA claims gives it the moral sanction for what its members do. As it continues its campaign the press and the media continue to report it. I suggest that the media sometimes report the doings of the IRA in a style that denies the strength of the Pope's view that the struggle is not between Catholics and Protestants, although it is depicted as such before world opinion.

The IRA goes about its business and succeeds in maintaining the strength of violence as a result of propaganda coverage throughout the world. Brigadier Glover stated in his conclusions:
"Propaganda considerations will frequently dictate Provisional IRA strategy, both in avoiding action that would alienate public opinion and in mounting spectacular attacks that would capture the press headlines."
Of course, he is right. What must we do about it?

I have examined the type of material that the Central Office of Information issues, particularly in North America, about events and incidents in Northern Ireland. I assumed that the COI would put across the case for Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. I am sorry to say that, although the COI sends out much press material, it seems to rely exclusively on press releases of the type which can be found in the box in the Library under the heading "Northern Ireland press reports."

Are the people of North America interested in the parochial events of Northern Ireland? Surely, when we are faced with a propaganda campaign, brilliantly orchestrated by the IRA on what it believes to be a sympathetic Irish audience in North America, we should think in terms of presenting the case for Northern Ireland with rather more skill than that involved in sending out press releases to American newspapers on the off chance that they will use them. Even when they use them, all that appears is a factual report of an event.

Large arms hauls are still being discovered in the North and South of Ireland. Money comes in from the organisations in North America which mistakenly believe, unlike the Pope, that this is a battle between Catholics and Protestants. Is it not time for the Government to initiate a public relations campaign in North America, not only to present the facts about certain events in the Province, but to shape public opinion in order once and for all to kill the view that Northern Ireland is all but the last colony left in the British Empire, and that if it were not for the bayonets of British soldiers, Northern Ireland would be away as quick as it could go? Something more effective than an endless succession of press releases is required. I hope that the Secretary of State will ask the head of the COI to examine the present approach with a view to improving it.

We were all shocked when we heard that it was possible that the BBC "Panorama" team had found an opportunity to film the IRA and was willing to enter into an agreement with IRA personnel in Carrick more. Subsequently the BBC conducted an exhaustive investigation into what happened. I regret that it was an internal inquiry, but we are told that the BBC is now satisfied that the original story that we read on the tapes was not the correct version of what happened.

It is not for me to say whether that is correct. Suffice it to say that I trust the BBC to show the impartiality which it should show as the national broadcast- ing corporation, and to carry out an inquiry to relieve any doubts that may continue to exist that the BBC was prepared to do a deal with enemies of the State.

As the Member of Parliament for the Carrick-more area, may I say that I did not react as violently as some because the IRA often carries out such operations in my constituency and in other areas. The IRA has carried out road checks unhindered on the main road through the Glenshane Pass on the way to Londonderry. Possibly the BBC team was lucky in that it happened to be in Carrickmore and was able to report one such incident. Not long ago I travelled through the village of Greencastle in County Tyrone. Five minutes later the IRA mounted a patrol and checked the traffic on the way to Omagh.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that intervention, even if it was slightly surprising. From what the hon. Member has said, the BBC seems to be absolutely in the clear. In those circumstances, I wish that it would publish the report.

Two issues spring from this. First, the team apparently did not tell the controller in Northern Ireland that it planned to do a programme on the IRA. If it did not, why did it not? Whatever justification might be used, we must remember that the IRA has stated its wish to destroy the link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, and that it is prepared to pursue that policy by any means. The IRA should not gain the co-operation of a body as prestigious as the BBC, which is funded by the British taxpayer.

Secondly, what thought do the British media give to the effects of their reporting? If no thought is given to how reports may affect what happens in Northern Ireland, is it not time that the editors, news editors, and producers met the Secretary of State to hear how he sees the situation and how they can help to bring peace to the Province?

I am slightly shocked by the intervention by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. There are 14,000 British soldiers—sorry, soldiers—6,500 police and 7,000 UDR men, and yet the hon. Member says that many parts of the Province do not have a security presence of a kind which makes it impossible for IRA men to mount road blocks and to set up an incident in Carrickmore for the BBC, during which we saw a couple of men strolling down the road with guns in their hands.

We are renewing the emergency provisions. Surely we can be assured that when continuing these draconian powers there is not a corner in Northern Ireland which is not under the surveillance of the security forces—a corner where no IRA man can sport his illegality in the way described by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster.

Before the hon. Member sits down, I should like him to clarify a point; I may have misunderstood what he said. He mentioned British soldiers and then said, "No, soldiers". Surely they are British soldiers. Ulster is British and part of the United Kingdom.

I am grateful for that interjection. I left out the word "British" because Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, it seems to me that they are as much the soldiers of Northern Ireland as they are of the rest of the United Kingdom. I should add that I was in a British regiment that happened to be called the Royal Irish Fusiliers. We thought of ourselves as British soldiers, and that is why I made my remarks.

5.40 pm

I will not pursue the points made by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) about the particular BBC "Panorama" programme, but it is fair to say, looking at the other side of the coin, that a great many of those in the BBC who present programmes on Northern Ireland agonise over what they should or should not do. There are certainly many within the BBC who, hour after hour, wrestle with their consciences about how they should present difficult events. So the blanket castigation which is made of the BBC is less than fair.

I make no apology for intruding on a Northern Ireland debate for the second time in three weeks. I am entitled to note, with a certain sadness, that this House is not much fuller today when it is considering what, heavens knows, must be one of the most urgent and domestic questions facing the House of Commons. I can perhaps be forgiven for saying that in the past—possibly we are all guilty—these debates have been far too internal, though that is certainly not the fault of hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), I do not think that any of us ask lightly for the renewal of these emergency powers. Ten years ago I was among those who, rightly or wrongly, went to plead with the then Secretary of State for Defence—indeed, other Ministers in my own Government, not least the Prime Minister—not to send the Army to Northern Ireland. I claim no great foresight, but we saw that it was one thing to put an army in and it was quite another to pull an army out—altogether less easy.

Since that time, how often have we been told that we should be patient and wait for a bit, and that a solution was just round the corner? How often have we been told not to open our mouths too wide and not to make things more difficult?

The hon. Member for Newbury and others, are entitled to say that for over a decade of our political lives we have been reticent and guarded and have said that such matters are better left to other people. That, perhaps, is the mood of many Members of the House. It is a modest and by no means dishonourable feeling that these intractable problems are better left to others and that anything we say can only make matters worse and not better.

It is with a certain reluctance that I speak on Northern Ireland matters. I can understand that, in some quarters, there might well be resentment of those who are not constant visitors to the Province talking about what are the day-to-day affairs of those who have the burden of representing whatever party they represent in Northern Ireland, that troubled Province.

I ask the Minister who will be winding up the debate this question. It refers to something said by the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State said that the argument that temporary powers are an irritant is not "a frivolous argument". I am glad that the Secretary of State made that point, because there are some of us who want to choose our words and thoughts very carefully but who nevertheless feel that after more than 10 years we have a right—not in strident, but in very quiet and gentle terms—to say to Government Ministers "Are we sure that the presence of the British soldier in Northern Ireland is not a counterproductive irritant?

I am tempted to raise that at present precisely because the Secretary of State himself raised the question in his opening speech. However, I make it clear that I have nothing but admiration for the young soldiers of the Army stationed in Northern Ireland. They often face the most appalling provocations and are often taunted not only by teenagers, but by very young teenagers. I do not think that anyone in his right mind would regard the situation that they face as other than desperate.

I was talking to a constituent in Bath-gate the other day, who had been a sergeant-major in the Seaforth Highlanders in Malaya in the middle to late 1940s. He said to me "Do you realise that what my son who is serving in Northern Ireland goes through is far worse than anything that I went through in Malaya?"

There is no doubt that those who serve us in Northern Ireland deserve our highest regard for their personal courage on what may be the fifth, sixth or seventh tour of duty. It is one thing when someone of one faction or another, born in Northern Ireland, dies, but I think that my Northern Ireland colleagues will agree that it is a rather different thing when a British soldier dies. On that side of the water the British soldier is anonymous. He is just another British soldier, and whatever heartache his death may cause in London, Edinburgh or one of the villages that many of us represent—like many other hon. Members I have had to talk to mothers of soldiers aged 18 or 20 years who have had to lay down their lives in Northern Ireland—it does not have the same effect on the Northern Ireland communities as the death of a local person.

Could I respond to that, because I happen to be the Member of Parliament for the constituency in which the soldiers were murdered at Warrenpoint? I can assure the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and the House that, if anything, my constituents showed greater horror, resentment and anger when that occurred than they do at the repeated incidents which affect their own towns, townsmen and relatives. That is the fact. That is how it happened.

I can say sincerely that I am glad to be put right on this point by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon)—sotto voce from the Front Bench—who was in the Army and who has had ministerial experience in Northern Ireland.

I recall visiting the women's prison in Armagh with my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond). I will put the reaction that I received in exactly the terms that it was put to us. A young girl of 19 years of age of the Provisional IRA—I cannot imitate the Irish accent so I will not try—said "Ah, if Mr. Paisley was Prime Minister that would be all right by us provided you Brits got out." I do not know for how many that young lady spoke, but I ask this question—it is a fair question to put after 10 years, and it was put by the Secretary of State—to what extent is the presence of the British Army an irritant that makes the situation in Northern Ireland worse and not better?

I put it in a different way. Those hon. Members who have been to the Maze prison must be horrified, as I was, and regard it as a university or training ground for violence. Only this weekend we read in the press of an advertisement that was inserted which offered congratulations to X on "three years in a blanket." It is all a question of praising martyrs. It seems to me that this feeling of wallowing in martyrdom gains a momentum of its own. In these circumstances when will we see a light around the corner? It is not a question of giving in to violence—that is not the issue. Instead, we must face the brutal reality. I am quite prepared to be knocked down or rebuked on this matter, but I still wish to ask to what extent the presence of the British Army now acts, rightly or wrongly, as an irritant.

I do not know much about the past work of Sir Maurice Oldfield, but I wonder whether it is really productive to appoint as a kind of supremo a man who has a history in the British security services. Some of us who have Celtic blood in our veins wonder whether this appointment, as seen by the Irish, of such a man with such a past will not create counterproductive feelings. This is regardless of Sir Maurice's competence. I see my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) nodding. A number of us in the Labour Party have been reticent and have kept our mouths shut. We have not joined in the strident speechmaking and we have tried to be peace makers. Yet we were simply horrified by the provocative nature of such an appointment, regardless of the merits or otherwise of the gentleman in question.

If we continue to appoint such people to this kind of job, even those who are not dedicated to a particular view about what should happen in Northern Ireland may well be irritated. I am not English; I am a Scot and I know how irritating the English can be. In the very different circumstances of Northern Ireland from Scotland, might not the same feelings that are just pinpricks to the Scots be seen very differently by those in Northern Ireland bearing in mind the history of the Province?

I am not suggesting that we should wash our hands of the problem. If I thought that, I would not have sat through Northern Ireland debates as I have for many hours at a time. I would have kept my mouth shut and concentrated on other matters. That would have been much easier. I do not think we should wash our hands of this problem, but I suggest that it is perfectly respectable to believe that we, on this side of the water simply are not the right people for the job of bringing peace to Ireland.

This raises the related issue—the question of the military safety net. We think that we are imposing a military presence for the good and safety of many people in Ireland. Perhaps it will turn out that that so-called safety net is an irritant. When one goes to Northern Ireland one realises that it is a very different place from this side of the water. History and myth are omnipresent. As a Scot I must say quite bluntly that the British Army is often seen simply as the "English army".

When the Secretary of State talks about irritants, what does he mean? We are faced with a bizarre situation which is epitomised by the physical presence of hon. Members in the House of Commons tonight. We see here a number of Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. Shortly their numbers will be increased to 17–quite rightly in my opinion. Yet we also see here five Ministers who represent English constituencies. Each of those Ministers is a good Member of Parliament; he has a good record, and he was no doubt chosen for his suitability for the task. I stress that I am not being patronising. Each one of those Ministers is flogging his guts out, as my colleagues did when they were in the Northern Ireland Office, but nevertheless they are English Ministers and they are in a position that is wholly different from their Scottish and Welsh counterparts.

How can I, as a Scot, say this? For many years many of us have thought that the Welsh had an enormous say in the running of the Labour Party. Scotland has had a whole succession of Government Ministers this century. For example, there have been two Scottish Prime Ministers—Ramsay MacDonald and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, now Lord Home of the Hirsel. Then there have been many Conservative Ministers with Scottish connections who have not represented Scottish constituencies—Mr. Harold Macmillan and the late Mr. Iain Macleod are but two examples. But the Northern Ireland situation is deeply different.

I end on a conciliatory and not too woolly note. Some of us think that, if the present situation continues for any length of time, there is a case, regardless of which party is successful in the elections, and with 17 representatives from Northern Ireland in the House of Commons, for two or three of these hon. Members being found posts in the Northern Ireland Office, if we are to have such an office. In a previous debate three weeks ago I questioned the pro-consular nature of the Northern Ireland Office. I am not criticising those who have served in the Northern Ireland Office, either under the previous Government or this Government, but the situation raises all sorts of questions. As a Scot I understand the kind of irritant which will produce a gut reaction which will end in disaster because of the very nature of the set-up. Let us face it—in the past five centuries the English have not had a particularly wonderful record in Ireland. This is a matter which must constantly be taken into account before we come to the dismal task of discussing the renewal of this order again in six months.

5.59 pm

We are glad that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is present for the debate. I share his view that it is a disgrace that so few hon. Members are present for a debate that affects the lives of so many people in Northern Ireland. If we were debating Rhodesia, which is thousands of miles away, this place would no doubt be crowded. Because we are debating Northern Ireland, where violence has gone on for 10 years and where people have suffered from the activities of the Provisional IRA, there are few hon. Members here. Their absence shows a lack of sympathy for the long-suffering Ulster people and for the members of the security forces who, courageously and gallantly, day and night, do their best to maintain law and order in our stricken province.

The hon. Member for West Lothian agonised for some considerable time over the presence of British, or, as he went on to say, English troops in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman pondered on the possibility that the troops would be regarded as an irritant. I believe, in fact, he went further and was more positive, saying that they were an irritant to many people in Northern Ireland. What the hon. Gentleman and this House must realise is that the Provisional IRA certainly wants the Brits out. That is its slogan. It can be seen all over the place. There is a sign "Brits out" near the scene where Lord Mountbatten, the elderly lady, and those two young children, were slaughtered. I believe that sign is still there today, despite that atrocity. The Provisional IRA want the British forces out of Northern Ireland. When that has been achieved, their next slogan will be "Ulster Protestants out".

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) referred to the Pope's visit to Drogheda in Southern Ireland last year. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Pope's words in Drogheda when he condemned violence. As the Pope rightly said, murder was murder. Until the Pope's visit, such stern words were not heard from the Roman Catholic cardinal in Ireland. I believe that the hierarchy in any other country would not only have condemned the violence from the beginning but would also have taken active measures to help the Government of the day to bring violence to an end in their communities.

Judge what statements have been made. A statement was made by Father McManus that a holy war was being waged against Northern Ireland and the Ulster Protestants. Once British troops go, attempts will be made to drive out the Protestants. Anyone who believes that peace will be brought to Northern Ireland by the removal of British troops is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. There would be terrible slaughter of Ulster people—innocent people, Protestants, and any Roman Catholics who stood in the way of the evil men who, for too long, have had their way in Northern Ireland.

The House and the Government must realise that violence can only be brought to an end by stem measures. I had to interrupt the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland towards the end of his speech to point out that it was a dismal speech that would affect adversely the spirit of the people of Northern Ireland. I felt that whoever drafted the speech had gone through the speeches of every Secretary of State in successive Governments over the past 10 years. All the same expressions, all the clichés of the day, were contained in the speech. There was no comfort for the Ulster people. It is worth reminding the Secretary of State of what he did say. I do not think that he is truly conscious of what will be the effect of his speech on Ulster people who have lost friends and relatives or who have had relatives mutilated and businesses destroyed. I will give two or three examples.

Just as the hon. Member for West Lothian cannot put on an Irish accent, I cannot put on the English accent of the Secretary of State and my repetition of his remarks therefore loses impact. But the right hon. Gentleman, at one stage, said that we remain fixed in our resolve to restore normality to Northern Ireland. At another stage, he said words to the effect that the search for effective measures was continually being pursued. At another stage he said that we must not be complacent. Later the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were totally committed to unceasing efforts to defeat the terrorists in Northern Ireland.

These expressions have been uttered time after time. But people have continued to die in Northern Ireland. It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to mouth those expressions, to think that they will give any comfort to the people of Northern Ireland and to believe that they frighten the Provisional IRA.

The Provisional IRA laugh at such remarks. As we heard from the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), the Provisional IRA, with impunity, set up road blocks in different parts of Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Newbury was astounded. The hon. Gentleman is a good friend of Northern Ireland and has paid many visits to the Province. If he seems not to be aware of what happens, the Government will not be aware, either, that one can travel throughout Northern Ireland and sometimes never see a soldier or a policeman in many areas. If the police and soldiers are not to be seen, the evil men will come out from beneath the stones and try to terrorise individual communities where they enjoy some sympathy, perhaps, from a certain section of the population.

I suggest that the Secretary of State and his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Office get rid of their police escort and travel round the Province in a small unmarked car. They will realise what farmers are facing in isolated areas. They will realise that business people, ordinary people, members of the UDR, police and prison warders, going about their daily lives and doing their job for the Ulster people, are dying because the Government are ignorant of the fact that there is little or no law and order in various parts of the Province.

This Government stand condemned by reason of every death that has taken place in the Province this year. It is no use the Government washing their hands and the Secretary of State saying at one stage—it was a remarkable expression—that the situation is not a great deal worse than in 1978. Any man who utters that expression should be run out of Northern Ire- land. The right hon. Gentleman made a full admission of his failure, as other Governments have failed in the past, by stating, at the beginning of his speech, that, in his analysis, he would seek to avoid two traps—one of saying that the IRA was on the run—we know that is not true, anyway—and the other of saying that the IRA was not being defeated.

The hon. Gentleman has made some stirring comments about the Secretary of State and what he alleges was my right hon. Friend's use of clichés. I would gracefully point out to the hon. Gentleman that he has used a cliché. The hon. Gentleman has talked about the need for "stern measures." Northern Ireland is an area of about 10,000 square miles with a population of about 1,500,000. The hon. Gentleman will accept that there is a limit to the amount of manpower or money that is available. This has been generously on offer so far. In the light of his stem comments to the Secretary of State, it would be helpful to the House if the hon. Gentleman would interpret his own cliché of stern measures and say what exactly he has in mind.

If the hon. Gentleman will persuade his Government to surrender their responsibilities for Northern Ireland, since they have already failed the Ulster people, I will help to give some security advice if I have the responsibility. The hon. Gentleman will know that it is no use my trying to advise the Secretary of State. He and his predecessors have ignored my advice and the advice of others over the years. I shall not repeat it now and then expect the Secretary of State to act. He has not acted. But if the hon. Genteman wishes me to set out my policy in detail, I can ask the Secretary of State to hand to him all the notes, memos and letters and, indeed, the recent statement by councillors of Lisburn district council, who set out the details.

One thing is clear. If one cuts through all the Secretary of State's clichés—I notice that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) are laughing. They may find this a humorous debate. They certainly enjoy taking part in debates such as this one. They do not mind how many people are murdered in Northern Ireland so long as they can sit here, in this Parliament, without a Stormont Parliament in Northern Ireland. That is what they want. But I shall come to the right hon. Member for Down, South after I have finished with the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State's clichés will not hide the fact that 104 people have been killed this year in Northern Ireland. If one person is killed, we ought to make sure that all the forces are marshalled to capture the terrorists and to punish those responsible for the atrocity. The fact that we have 104 dead should bring all of the Ulster people out to march in protest. It is 10 years, and we have suffered terrible, cruel, agonising provocation. The Ulster people still show great restraint and great patience. I wonder whether their patience can continue for another year, or two years, five years or 10 years. We expect to see some action from the Secretary of State.

My criticism is not of the security forces. As I said at the beginning of my speech, I pay full tribute to them—the Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the police, the police reserve, and indeed, as the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) said, the judiciary; and, of course, the prison service, which has lost so many people already at the hands of the provisional IRA. We need some action from the Secretary of State.

The people in the Army tell me that their hands are tied. They say that they are not allowed to, take the strong measures that they feel would bring the troubles to an end, that the Army must keep a low profile and that it cannot operate as harshly as it would operate in other parts of the world in a similar situation.

I turn to the right hon. Member for Down, South and his little group of Official Unionists. According to a report in The Daily Telegraph, the proposed talks—I welcome them on the basis of the White Paper—will be worthless if the Official Unionists do not join in them. Of course, that is blatant nonsense, because the Official Unionist group has become irrelevant to the Northern Ireland situation. The Official Unionist Party, by refusing to take part in talks—and they did not commit it to anything other than honestly trying to reach some political settlement in Northern Ireland and the creation of a Stormont Parliament—has shown itself to have abdicated from responsible politics. Its decision to boycott the talks based on the White Paper signals the end of a party which dominated Ulster politics for over 50 years.

Whether or not the talks succeed, the initiative will now pass to other political parties and to other persons in whom the Ulster people will increasingly put their trust. I believe—because I hope to be responsible for it—that a new Unionist Party will emerge shortly to take the place of the old Unionist clique, whose only interest is to keep themselves in power and in this place. That new Unionist Party will work for the people and will provide leadership and vision.

Ulster men and women have had their stomachful of the right hon. Member for Down, South. He leads the Official Unionist Party by the nose. Indeed, if one looks closely, one sees that the noses of its members are getting longer and longer, because the right hon. Gentleman keeps tugging at them, pulling them as they try to go one way or the other. The right hon. Gentleman is like the soothsayer in the television comedy called, I think, "Up Pompeii", who was always waving her arms about and crying words of woe. That is the right hon. Gentleman. He is like some witch-doctor in darkest Africa a century ago. He holds on to power, and the way that he holds on to it is by spreading fear. He screams, incants, expresses warnings, gesticulates, mesmerises, threatens and abuses.

For instance, the right hon. Gentleman described Unionist voters in North Down as fools because they dared to vote for me against his wishes. He believes that he can come to Northern Ireland and tell the people there what to do. He may be able to tell his little group what to do, and he may whip them into line, but he cannot whip the Ulster people into line.

The right hon. Gentleman labelled all the voters in the European Assembly election as traitors. At the weekend he called his former close colleague, Mr. William Craig, a Government stool-pigeon. The right hon. Gentleman described the hon. Member for—

Order. This debate is limited to certain aspects of law and order. I do not think that what the hon. Member is saying now has very much relevance to law and order in Northern Ireland.

I am dealing, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with points that were put by the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker). I think that my remarks are relevant because they deal with the question of the proposed conference. The right hon. Member for Down, South is trying to spread fear all round the province so that people will have nothing to do with the conference, so as to make sure that it fails, because he wants no Stormont to be brought about in Northern Ireland. Indeed, he described the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as a fall guy merely because the hon. Gentleman has said that he would attend the talks.

Order. The debate is about whether we should continue the order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will address himself to whether we should or should not do so.

Not only do we have trouble from the right hon. Member for Down, South—who, incidentally, has insulted the Bishop of Down, Dr. George Quinn, in a most appalling way—but we also have the Eire Foreign Minister, Mr. O'Kennedy, who has come to the fore—

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please relate his remarks to the order that we are discussing.

I am dealing with Eire, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Eire has something to do with the security situation in Northern Ireland—so I am constantly told. Indeed, I was told so this afternoon by the Secretary of State. Therefore, I think that I am entitled to refer to the Eire Foreign Minister. If you think I am not entitled to do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall finish my speech and sit down.

Mr. O'Kennedy attempted in his statement to still the fear of Ulster Loyalists by saying that they have nothing to fear from Mr. Haughey, the new Eire Prime Minister. The very fact that such a statement and similar remarks were necessary indicates the true nature of the Eire Prime Minister. Everyone regards him as having a deep personal hatred of Ulster and the Ulster people. That was manifested in the sordid gun-running episode in 1970.

The sad thing is that, while we are debating an order dealing with the campaign against terrorism and being asked to renew it for six months, we are now faced with a situation in which the Eire Prime Minister is no friend of either the Ulster people or the English people. He has made that quite clear in the past. Sadly, I think that if he takes action it will be in an attempt to shed the image of the past as a gun-runner.

I do not believe that the security forms in Northern Ireland can totally destroy the IRA and bring terrorism to an end in the Province unless we have the wholehearted support of the Eire Government. At present the IRA crosses the border with impunity. The Eire Government refuse to allow the extradition of terrorists from the Republic to Northern Ireland to answer for their crimes in courts of justice. We still have the IRA operating from safe areas on the Eire side of the border. Until the Eire Government demonstrate their sincerity by acting against the IRA in these areas, we shall need an army along the border to deal with incursions by terrorists there.

The Ulster people are crying out for the restoration of law and order in the Province. They are entitled to have, today, a clear statement from the Secretary of State which they can interpret as bringing hope of peace and an end to terrorism this year. There was nothing in the remarks of the Secretary of State to indicate that that will happen. I am sorry about that. The statistics produced today show that the order, in its present form, has failed to deal with terrorism and that stronger measures are needed.

The Government are responsible for every person who has died since they took office this year. I ask the Secretary of State to bear that in mind when he returns to the safety of his home. I ask him to think about the Ulster people.

6.21 pm

In the early stages of his speech the Secretary of State mentioned that there was a comparative cessation of violence in various parts of the Province. He mentioned that there was an increase of violence in Armagh and Tyrone. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) has forcefully put forward the facts about Armagh. I mention Tyrone, especially the town of Omagh, which has suffered grievously from heavy and savage bombing within the past weeks and months.

I received a strong letter from the Omagh district council. It deprecates the fact that the Secretary of State has refused, at least twice recently, to visit that area and has suggested sending a Minister. I was requested to bring the matter before the House. Whether or not I am in order, I request the Secretary of State to think again and, quietly, earnestly and without any acrimony, try to find time in the near future to visit the area that is known as West of the Bann, which is sometimes neglected by the Ministries that operate from Stormont.

The people of Omagh would like to see the Secretary of State because of the violence and for other reasons. I assure the Secretary of State that I shall consider it an honour and a privilege to conduct him around that area if he agrees to a visit in the near future. The Secretary of State has, at the urgent request of Lisburn district council, visited that town and viewed the ravages of the bombers. Surely, the people of Omagh and the surrounding area should have the same facility from the Secretary of State.

The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), mentioned various parts of the emergency provisions. He referred to "detention"—an inflammatory and explosive word in Northern Ireland. Some feel that a measure of detention should be re-introduced in the Province to deter the terrorist organisations.

Not long ago I had a conversation with a senior commander of the police force in my constituency. He took me into his private office and we talked. He said that some measure such as detention would need to be introduced in a limited and selective way, and that the present law on detention should be used, to some extent, to deter the terrorists.

He told me that they had detained one of the so-called godfathers of violence, an older man. They detained him for the statutory seven days in the police station. The commander said to me "John, he would neither walk nor talk. When he wanted to go to the toilet he was taken on a stretcher, accompanied by a doctor. He refused to talk in any way about his work." The commander said that he knew, from the investigations, that the man was one of a dozen men in the area who are the godfathers of violence. He said "John, they are the men who decide that you must die. They set in motion the machinery for bringing about your death, whether it be by shooting, bombing or any other method".

I know that detention is a last resort, but if the authorities could get hold of these people, take them out of circulation and put them behind bars during the duration of the emergency suffered in Northern Ireland, surely that would be a good measure and would bear fruit in the reduction of terrorism and defeating the IRA.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd mentioned the bail order. He seemed to imply that it was rather harsh and was not used enough. We know from experience that when it was easier to get bail those who received it found refuge in the Republic. An hour and a half's driving would take them out of the hands of the police, and of the control of the authorities, and they would find themselves in a safe haven where even £10,000 of bail would not matter one iota to the authorities.

That was not the point that I was making. Where does the burden of proof lie in granting or refusing bail? I said that it should lie, as it lies in the rest of the United Kingdom, on the prosecution to prove that the defendant is likely to fail to surrender to custody. I did not say anything designed to rob the magistrates or the judge of his ability to refuse bail in a suitable case.

That is the reason why bail is refused on many occasions. Those who are sitting in judgment on defendants know quite well that those who appear before them have a refuge and a way out if bail is not imposed.

I was impressed by the thoughtful speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), who has now left the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman thought that the presence of our soldiers—and I use the words advisedly—in Northern Ireland was an irritant to the minority population. There are those whose memories are long enough to know that in 1970,when the soldiers went to Ireland on the orders of the British Government, they were welcomed with open arms. They were given tea in the streets of Londonderry, where now they are spat upon, stoned and made the subject of all the odium that people can pour upon them. They were received with open arms in Belfast. I can remember watching a television report when Dr. Philbin, the Catholic bishop of Down and Connor, said "Our people are terrified and we are glad to see the Army here." I have not heard that gentleman use such words for a number of years. He is not supporting the British forces in Northern Ireland.

The dismantlement of the B Special force—which, incidentally, was established by a British Government—was one of the main factors in the rise of the IRA. It was known as a super-irritant to the minority. Yet the facts and figures and the history of the B Special force proves that it was responsible for far fewer deaths than the Army. During the time that the B Special force was in control in Northern Ireland—when it gave its services for what were only buttons in terms of payment—the IRA tried to raise its head on many occasions. It failed to get any hold upon the country, or even upon the minority population, because of the presence of the B Specials—local people with local knowledge who knew what they were about and knew the enemy well.

On so many occasions I have said in the House while contributing to debates on Northern Ireland that there is a need for a local home force. During the Second World War we had the Home Guard. Its membership included people of all sorts and of all ages who could walk or carry a pitchfork. Their supreme object was to protect their country against the threat of invasion by the Nazi forces across the Channel.

Some of us served in the Home Guard in Northern Ireland and in other forces of the Crown. We know what an important part they played in keeping down terrorism. The terrorist was active during the Second World War as he is now. I firmly believe that people such as myself who, because of age, debility and several other factors, have no chance of getting into the security forces, the reserve police force or the part-time UDR, would willingly serve, at weekends and at times when not engaged in the business of the House, in a local force commanded by local people who know the district. We would be glad to serve in a force with the authority of the State behind it. It would seriously inhibit the movements of the IRA and make it much harder for its members to move about so freely. The incident in Carrickmore would not have happened if there had been a force such as a local home guard active in County Tyrone.

There has been a complete swing of the pendulum. One of the greatest victories of the enemies of our country was the disbandment of the B-men along with the abolition of Stormont. The Government should consider seriously the possibility of enlisting the services of those such as myself who want only to defend their own areas. The Secretary of State knows that if one night, greatly inflamed by some happening in the district, I went out with a double-barrelled shotgun and shot at somebody who I knew to be an IRA man, I should be caught, charged and imprisoned for 10 years for having an offensive weapon. However, if I had the authority of the State to move in my area I could move about, help to protect my own fireside and make it hard for the bombers and destroyers of our business premises to move about so easily as they are able to at present. That applies to places such as Omagh and Lisburn and the areas of South Armagh.

I repeat my invitation to the Secretary of State. For the sake of the people in the district of Omagh, I ask him to visit the area. We shall be glad to welcome him.

6.33 pm

I join with those who have paid tribute to the police and to the Army for the splendid way in which they have tried, to the best of their ability, to carry out the job that has been assigned to them. It is a difficult job. It is one that does not commend itself to most people. However, they have stuck to it with fortitude and conviction. The entire United Kingdom, not merely the people of Northern Ireland, owe them a debt of gratitude.

I pay tribute to the fortitude of both the communities in Northern Ireland, and to the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland. There are times when we in the House are mildly irritated and experience a sense of frustration. We feel that insoluble problems are not helped by the attitude of some of our colleagues from Northern Ireland. In those circumstances we would do well to remember the difficult circumstances in which they have to operate. I pay tribute to them.

A 10-year emergency is almost a contradiction in terms. Either something is an emergency or it lasts for 10 years. To talk of a 10-year emergency makes one wonder exactly what it is that we now face. Despite the comments of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), I think that there is a considerable fund of good will in the House to the Secretary of State and his Ministers as they tackle the problems. I am sure, however, that they will not take it amiss if suggestions and contributions are made from both sides of the House on the ways in which they may more effectively tackle the difficult problems.

As the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) tells us from time to time, those who live in the border areas have a stronger streak of republicanism—I am talking about those in the minority communities—than those who live elsewhere in the Province. That is a fact of life of which the Government must take note. However, the border area is as much an integral part of the United Kingdom as anywhere else. That strong streak of republicanism cannot be allowed to interfere in the effective rule of Her Majesty's Government.

I pay tribute to those, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who have visited the area. I pay tribute to their great personal courage. However, they have gone in quickly by helicopter. They have done so quietly and they have slipped out quietly, again by helicopter. I do not seek to detract from their personal courage when I say that that is a reflection of how far Her Majesty's Government's rule extends in that area. That should be a matter of grave concern to the House.

Unlike some of my hon. Friends, I do not believe that the border can be sealed. Physically it is beyond our capacity to do so. It would be unacceptable to do so politically. It would seem a strange position for a country that prides itself on its democracy to have to resort to something that we condemn in a divided Germany. I do not say that the motivations would be the same for the setting up of such a barrier. In fact, they would not be the same. Nevertheless, the appearance would be politically unacceptable. I do not think that sealing the border is a viable option.

Where else do we turn? My right hon. Friend has conducted negotiations with members of the Government of the Republic of Ireland. We understand that the arrangements that they came to must of necessity be secret if they are to be effective. I think that the whole House accepts that. Nevertheless, if that acceptance is to be sustained, the arrangements must be seen to work. If I may use a colloquialism, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. The good will is extended. The hope is extended. However, we must see the goods being delivered. It may be that in six months' time my right hon. Friend will be able to report a decrease in the amount of violence that takes place along the border. Those of us who are familiar with the affairs of Northern Ireland will draw our own conclusion—namely that the arrangements have worked.

It is fair to say to my right hon. Friend that, if the arrangements do not work, and if they are not seen to work, the defence of our people must take priority over the defence of other people's people. It is required of the Government that they shall act by whatever means they see fit to defend our people. If negotiation and consultation prove to be ineffective, some more direct means of bringing pressure to bear on the Republic to protect our people must be entertained. What that should be at this stage one does not care to speculate or indicate to the Government. There is a variety of options—economic, political and national. If one option does not work, some other means must be found to protect our people.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Down, North has left the Chamber, because he made a good point. However, I did not agree with his intemperate attack on the Secretary of State and I am sure that most hon. Members would deplore it. The Government face a diffifulty that must be recognised. As the Government wish to increase the role of the RUC, and concomitantly decrease the role of the Army, it is difficult to project an image of an Army that is taking stern measures and acting effectively. That balance is difficult to strike. I agree with the Government's policy, but nevertheless it creates an impression in the minds of many, particularly in Northern Ireland, of an Army that is weaker than it should be.

The Armed Forces wish to have greater strength in order to carry out their job, and that is understandable. I enjoin the Minister to devote more thought to explaining the increased responsibility that is being given to the RUC in relation to the role of the Army in the Province, as that would help to dispel the uneasiness that exists.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) put his finger on a significant point. Many hon. Members have been told that the authorities know the names of many of the ringleaders but that they are powerless to do anything as they cannot produce the evidence required in a court of law. However, the authorities can name names; and, if one mentions a certain part of the Province, they can say who is responsible for the violence in that area. Yet those people continue to walk around freely. Occasionally, when the heat is generated, those ringleaders take a sabbatical in the South and later return to resume their livelihoods. That fact is generally known in the Province and is a cause of aggravation.

I do not accept the solution advocated by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. I would not reintroduce detention, because it is not worth the trouble that it causes. Perhaps the Government will apply their minds to finding a variation on the judicial process so that it is possible to take action against those who are known to be involved. I am worried about the increase in terrorism that has brought with it a decreased regard for law in the Province. I have no statistics to offer, but no doubt if I am wrong it will be pointed out to me.

There is a widespread impression that, in addition to the increase in terrorism, there is also an increase in general crime. Terrorism has had an effect on the general attitude towards law and order. Many examples can be given. For example, there is a fairly high number of refusals to pay bills that are owed to nationalised industries or local authorities.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West knows of the irregular transportation of the public in and through his constituency. Whether the statistics bear out that increase in crime, the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland perceive such an increase. It is vital to come to terms with that fact. I therefore welcome the increase in the number of police mentioned by the Secretary of State in his statement. We are on our way towards fulfilling the new official quota.

In line with the Government's policy, if, having attained the figure of 7,500 policemen, a need for more remains, I hope that my right hon. Friend will seriously consider increasing that ceiling again. Confidence in the forces of law and in the ability and will of those forces to carry out every aspect of policing—the minor crimes as well as those involving security—is vital.

I also welcome the Secretary of State's statement that there has been an increase in community involvement by the police. Anyone who has traveled recently in Belfast will know of another problem. Many police stations, particularly the larger ones, resemble fortified barracks. They are like medieval forts, surrounded by concrete and wire mesh. One understands that, and does not quibble with it. However, it makes it more difficult for the ordinary citizen to penetrate them and to take a complaint to the local police station. There is a difficult balance between the need for security and the need to build community relations by trying to bring the police and community as close together as possible.

I admit that there is no easy solution, but the involvement of the police in the community is a step in the right direction and one that I am sure the House welcomes. As part of that interrelationship between Government, security forces and community, it is important that the people of Northern Ireland believe that Ministers understand their points of view. If it is not presumptuous of me to say so, Ministers should ensure that they have access to genuine grass roots advice and opinion. I am sorry that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is not here, because he spoke of the need to involve the people of Ulster more in the affairs of that region.

Apart from when I presented my Private Member's Bill, I have made only two speeches in the House, both on Northern Ireland. I do not wish to be seen as one who speaks on no subject but Northern Ireland, yet in line with the remarks of the hon. Member for West Lothian, I have a responsibility to contribute whatever I can in some small way. I hope that other hon. Members who have considerable connections with Northern Ireland will do likewise. Like the hon. Member for West Lothian, I find it depressing that so few hon. Members are present. If one includes those on the Front Benches who are obliged to be here, and those hon. Members representing Ulster constituencies, who for political reasons have to be here, there are few who want to be part of the debate. Being a new boy, perhaps I understand the pressures better than most. Indeed, I have not yet come to terms with them. Nevertheless, it is a cause for sadness that so few hon. Members are present tonight.

I shall pick up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) concerning security. He drew attention to the difficulties that soldiers face in riot situations. Soldiers dodging stones is not a recipe for firm action. As the hon. Member for Newbury indicated, some thought needs to be given to what other steps should be available to the members of the security forces in crowd and quasi-riot situations in order to take a firmer and more positive line against those who break the law.

I have full sympathy with every uniformed soldier in Northern Ireland. I do not blame them for anything. But let me say here and now that only a couple of years ago a commanding officer said that petrol bombers would be shot, and as a result petrol bombing ceased for a long time—

Order. If the hon. Gentleman is intervening he must direct a question towards the hon. Member who has given way.

My point is that if commanding officers give the order to the troops, few stones will be thrown. I can assure the hon. Gentleman of that. I served under many commanding officers, and one said that if the soldiers were not allowed to do their job they would be withdrawn to barracks. Let the commanding officers be enabled to give such an order.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. He made suggestions as to what more positive steps the soldiers ought to take. I content myself simply with pressing on the Minister the fact that there is a need to look again at this question. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury said, it is not only unsatisfactory in relation to the Army and the riot, but it is politically most unsatisfactory to try to tell the people of Northern Ireland that every measure and step is being taken when they can see on television soldiers hiding behind shields trying to dodge stones.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) stressed that terrorists in the context of Northern Ireland are nothing but criminals. One would certainly wish to identify oneself with that comment. It must also be said that no action of those criminals, no matter how physically repulsive it may be, or for whatever propaganda value it is committed, must be allowed to cloud the issue that criminals are criminals and that they are responsible for their own actions. It is no use their trying to persuade people, particularly in North America, that in some way they are the victims of circumstance, because that is quite untrue.

I do not wish to be at odds with the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade), but in my view security cannot be divorced entirely from political reality. Soldiers and police, no matter how good a job they do, do not win hearts and minds. They protect, and help to create the right environment in which politicians seek to win hearts and minds. There is a need for the Government and for the elected Northern Ireland leaders to seek to lead those in the various communities who are law abiding towards some degree of co-operation against the criminals who seek to destroy both communities. Whether or not that exercise should take place here, or in a conference or in some other form which may emerge as time goes by, is not a matter towards which we should direct our thoughts today. But it must take place. If it does not, and if there is no political will to go hand in hand with firm security, there will come a time when emergency powers legislation will no longer be sufficient. The House must recognise that fact. But in the meantime, and with a degree of hope and good will to the Secretary of State, I support the order.

6.55 pm

In just over a week's time, the House will go into the Christmas Recess. Therefore, this will probably be the last occasion in 1979–indeed, the last occasion of this decade—when we shall discuss the problems of Northern Ireland, both security and political.

The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) said that he has spoken twice in relation to Northern Ireland since his election to the House in May. I have not counted how many times I have spoken during the past decade, but it must run into hundreds. It certainly runs into scores. In this, the last Northern Ireland debate of 1979, I find myself looking back at the past decade of tragedy through which I, my constituents, my family and thousands of other families have lived. I cannot say that I view the beginning of a new decade—the 1980s—with any degree of optimism after having lived through the past 10 years.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), in a constructive, considered, lucid and concerned way, and in a very low key, posed certain questions to the House and to the Government. I propose to do exactly the same. I believe that at the beginning of the 1980s all parties to the Irish dispute will have to ask themselves some very fundamental questions. They will have to ask where they are going and how they will get there.

I should like to set out the order of priorities as I see it. Early in the 1980s, when we return from the Christmas Re- cess, the Government will have to decide what they will do, and how they will do it, to try to achieve a solution to the Northern Ireland problem. I do not believe that any hon. Member, or any member of the Government, can contemplate with equanimity the thought that at the end of the lifespan of the present Government in 1984 and the election of a new Government, be they Labour or Conservative, we shall then be saying "Yes, we must find another initiative". We have tried so many initiatives over the past 10 years, and they have all failed.

In the interests of their own electors, and in the interests of all our constituents, the Government must ask themselves the question that was posed so lucidly by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. Are they prepared—here I pass no opinion—to see young British troops in Northern Ireland being slaughtered during the next five-year period? That question will be asked increasingly by the electors throughout the United Kingdom.

I believe that there will be an answer to the Northern Ireland problem within the next five years. That answer can be either malign or benign. It can either mean real tragedy or it can mean that the political representatives of all the factions in Northern Ireland will realise the stark staring tragedy facing not only the Province but the Republic and the other parts of the United Kingdom.

It is no good for the Government to swashbuckle and say that the troops will remain, that the security forces will stay until the IRA is beaten. There is no military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. The new Taoiseach has been quoted in the Irish and British press as being a hard-line Republican. I am not sure what that means. We can only wait and see what his attitude will be. It was said that the outgoing Taoiseach, Mr. Lynch, was regarded as being too soft-line in his attitude towards the British and too hard-line towards the IRA. Fianna Fail has its history and roots in the Civil War of 1916, after which it was formed as a political party. It clings tenaciously to the belief that there must be a united Ireland. Does the new Taoiseach agree with the recent ESRI report? That report said that 72 per cent in the Republic of Ireland wanted a united Ireland with or without the consent of the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland. Will the new Government in the Republic subscribe to that view?

The new Premier will have to weigh up the problems. On the one hand, he must placate the hard-line Republicans in his Fianna Fail Party. Perhaps that will be to the detriment of bringing about security co-operation on the border. Will he revert, as would appear likely, to the 1975 policy of Fianna Fail? That policy demanded a British statement of intent to withdraw from the island of Ireland. If the new Premier demands that I can only say, as somebody who lives in Belfast and who knows what is happening on the ground, that contrary to what some people in the Fianna Fail Party might say and contrary to the philosophy of the IRA, there would be an outbreak of sectarian murder in Northern Ireland. Catholics, particularly those east of the Bann, would be in real danger. The new Government in the Republic must face that question. Irrespective of the myths of Irish history in relation to the unification of Ireland and irrespective of the passions that flow in the blood of somebody living in Cork or Galway, the realities are that to bring about the unity of Ireland will not be an easy undertaking. I believe that before that can be brought about, there needs to be a blood sacrifice. I hope that I am not living in the island of Ireland to see that day.

I no longer speak in this House as the leader of the minority political party in Northern Ireland. However, I speak with great knowledge of how that minority feels. During the debate—we have not yet heard it—we shall hear that the Catholic population does not support the security forces in Northern Ireland. To a certain extent, that is true. I say that now in my role as the representative of Belfast, West. The attitude of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland depends on where people live.

In Londonderry there is hard-line hostility and animosity towards the RUC. Many would say that that was with good reason because of what took place in that city in 1968 and 1969. The people there live close to the border, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Peterborough. They do not feel beleaguered, as does the Catholic minority which lives in North Belfast. They feel reasonably sec- ure, that they do not need the protection of the RUC. There has been no sectarian trouble in Londonderry but it has taken place in Belfast. If there is an outbreak of sectarian violence in Londonderry, the border is only yards away and the Catholics can go to Donegal. It is not so easy for Catholics who live in Antrim Road, Short Strand or in West Belfast. Therefore, the attitude to security forces is determined by where people live.

That is also true of the attitude to the British Army. Some Catholics in Northern Ireland would be fearful if the British Army were taken out of their district, particularly those living in Belfast. Catholics in Crossmaglen, Newry and Londonderry do not want the British Army there because they feel safe and they know that they will not be attacked in a sectarian way. As a whole, the Catholic population must make up its mind. Does it want the British Army withdrawn from Northern Ireland? It cannot be withdrawn from one part where Catholics feel reasonably safe, such as in Crossmaglen, and not from another where they feel in danger.

Reference has been made to the brutal killing by the IRA of 18 young British soldiers at Warrenpoint. That killing immediately incensed and inflamed the Loyalist population in Northern Ireland. That Loyalist population could not find those who were responsible for the murders so it did what has been done so often and wrongly—five Catholics in Belfast were picked off and murdered within a week. Therefore, the IRA men who set off the bombs which killed the 18 soldiers in Warrenpoint also indirectly but effectively pulled the triggers which killed the five Catholics in Belfast.

The hon. Gentleman pronounced one sentence which I believe he did not mean. As the subject of the sentence in which he spoke of five Roman Catholics being murdered, he used the expression "the Loyalist population". Thus, he identified the great body of the majority of Northern Ireland with the action of that reprisal. I am sure that that was not the hon. Gentleman's intention. I hope that he will not mind my drawing his attention to that matter, as it could be misunderstood.

I have no hesitation in clarifying that point. Just as the majority of the Catholic population does not support the actions of the IRA, neither does the majority of the Protestant population support the actions of the UDA or the UFF who claimed responsibility for those murders. When the IRA kills members of the security forces, retaliation takes place on the innocent Catholic population. That has happened throughout the past decade.

The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) mentioned the Pope's visit to Northern Ireland when he said that it was not a Catholic-Protestant war. I have never regarded it as such. I say here in defence of the IRA—although I do not want to use the words "support" or "defence"—the IRA has never regarded the present problems in Ireland as a conflict between Catholics and Protestants. The IRA regards its fight as being against British involvement in Ireland and not as a Catholic and Protestant confrontation. By murdering and killing Catholic prison warders, Catholic members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and Catholic policemen, the IRA has made it clear that it does not regard it as a religious war but a war for national liberation, or whatever term it wants to use.

The hon. Member for Newbury also said that he was disappointed in the Central Office of Information, which I understand is a Government agency that disseminates, for want of a better word, propaganda or gives reasons for Britain's continuing involvement in Northern Ireland. I say this to the hon. Gentleman, and all hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies here tonight will support me. Only last week the three main daily newspapers in Northern Ireland—the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and the News Letter—were full of reports of policemen, members of the security forces, who were charged with the serious crimes of kidnapping and bombing. Four or five members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary were charged in Northern Ireland with conspiring together and throwing a bomb into a Catholic bar in Armagh. The IRA propagandists have only to transmit those cuttings to Boston or Washington, and the Central Office of Information will have no answer.

When the Secretary of State told us the number of arms that had been found, I intervened to ask whether his figures were up to date. He said that they were, but quite a number of those arms were being used by members of loyalist organisations and not the IRA. They were found in loyalist areas and were intended for use not against the security forces but against the minority population.

The hon. Member for West Lothian posed certain questions upon which I wish to enlarge. I ask the IRA from the Floor of this House if it believes that the unity of Ireland and the absorption of the Six Counties into the 26 counties is of such vital importance that it is prepared to see many thousands of co-religionists—because many members of the IRA claim to be Catholics—slaughtered before that unity can be brought about? The IRA will have to ask itself that question in the early 1980s.

The question that Northern Ireland politicians—and I am one—must ask themselves is whether we are prepared to seek total and absolute victory over our political opponents. Are we prepared to stand with our backs to the wall and say that we will not discuss other points of view but want to bring about our own wishes, because that is what has beer happening over this past terrible decade? If elected representatives in Northern Ireland maintain that intransigent attitude, it can only be to the advantage of the men of violence who are trying to impose their will through the bomb and the bullet.

Everyone in these islands will be faced early in the coming year with a decision. The British people will have to ask themselves whether the British Army is an irritant in Northern Ireland. It is an irritant to the IRA in certain parts of West Belfast and to some sections of the loyalist community. There are also "Brits out" and anti-RUC slogans in loyalist areas. Going from the top of the Cliftonville Road towards what we all know as the "Hairpin Bend", anyone can see a slogan "RUC bastards" which has been there for a number of years, and that is a loyalist area. Antagonism against the RUC is not restricted to the minority community. People in the loyalist community are also bitterly opposed to the very existence of the security forces.

I opposed this legislation when it first came on the statute book in 1973. It was to replace the hated Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. That Special Powers Act went on the statute book in 1922, and it had to be sanctioned every year from then on. That emergency legislation came about at the beginning of the creation of the Northern Ireland State, and was renewed in 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929. In 1929 the Minister of Home Affairs in the Stormont Parliament said that it was a waste of time to seek renewal of the Act every year, and to save all that time and trouble, the Act should be made permanent. It was made permanent in 1929 and remained so until 1973 when it was taken off the statute book by a Conservative Government. It was permanent in 1972, but the Government replaced it with even more draconian legislation—that which we are discussing today—the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Throughout all those years in Northern Ireland we had trial by jury. This Act did away with that practice.

Since the inception of the Northern Ireland State in 1920, why have we had emergency legislation for that part of the United Kingdom? There must be something wrong. Such legislation does not exist in Scotland, Wales or any other part of the United Kingdom, so the Northern Ireland State must be different. I have repeatedly said so, and thousands of other people in the United Kingdom are now beginning to say so.

The Government must ask themselves another question. How far are they prepared to look to the future to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, to keep their army of young soldiers in Northern Ireland and to keep this "temporary measure" dealing with emergency provisions on the statute book? The crunch is coming.

I completely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd that the question of bail must be examined. It is a major issue in relation to the Diplock court procedures in Northern Ireland.

When the Act went through the House I found myself in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), and we both supported an amendment to try to retain jury trials. In the absence of jury trials, the law as we know it in the United Kingdom is left open to abuse. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd rightly drew to the attention of the House the great unease over the question of confessions which is felt not only by the Northern Ireland Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights but by all who respect the British judicial system which has survived for so long. A person, on his own admission, on the ground that he has voluntarily made a confession, can be sentenced to life imprisonment for a serious crime.

I recognise that this is not an easy matter, because the IRA and those engaged in violence can exploit it and, in the absence of a jury, can say that the confessions were beaten out of them. But there are questions to be answered. Persons have been brought before the courts in Northern Ireland on the ground that they had confessed to a particular crime and the judges in Northern Ireland have not accepted the confession and have acquitted the accused.

There are questions to be answered because when a judge says "I am not prepared to accept as evidence that confession which was allegedly made to the police", he is also saying to the police "I do not believe that that was a voluntary confession. I believe that you may have ill-treated that particular suspect and that the man is innocent." In those circumstances, would it not be right at least to question the bona fides of the interrogating officers, the people who, by one means or another, extracted that confession which has been rejected by a judge sitting in a court of law? If nothing is done those policeman will carry on interrogating others when the whole of their actions are being called into question.

I suggest that where a judge does not accept the evidence given by the police in such a case, and rejects the police evidence of a confession out of hand, those interrogating officers should be looked at most carefully. If we have a series of such cases that can only bring the law in Northern Ireland, such as it is, into serious disrepute.

I see this debate as something more than one which asks us to renew, for the last time in 1979, the Northern Ireland Emergency Provisions Act. It is much more important than that. It is a question that has been posed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian, which I again pose. It is a question to do with where we are going in the 1980s. We are not prepared to see a dragging on, year after year, of this continuing tragedy in Northern Ireland. To the people who will have to take decisions I ask: are the Government prepared to continue with the British Army in Northern Ireland, and to continue governing Northern Ireland by legislation such as this?

I pose the question to the new Taoiseach of the Republic: is his republicanism of such a nature that he must say and do things to placate those who are so stubbornly republican? Does he recognise just how dangerous the situation in Northern Ireland is and can be, entering the 1980s? Through their elected leaders I ask the Catholic population, whose spokesman in this House I have been for a number of years: do they want the British Army out of Northern Ireland? Do they want it out of only certain places in Northern Ireland? Do they want a united Ireland over and above everything else? Is the ideal or the mythology of a United Ireland more important than the thousands upon thousands who are unemployed, particularly in Belfast, and those in my own constituency, whom I can see very clearly in my mind's eye, who are living in an area where social deprivation is worse than in any other comparable part of western Europe?

I know my constituency. Yes, those living in it want to see a united Ireland brought about by consensus. They are not prepared to attempt to bomb, kill or shoot their Protestant countrymen into a united Ireland against their will, but they do tenaciously cling to that ideal. They will have to face up to the questions that I am posing to them. Do they want the British Army out of West Belfast? Do they want the RUC out of West Belfast? I do not believe that they do.

I very well remember that, early this year, when the RUC station in Roden Street at the foot of the Donegall Road was closed, I had a petition signed by 152 Catholics asking me to approach the RUC to ask that the station be re-opened. I went to the then assistant Chief Constable and pleaded with him to keep that RUC station open. He did not do so, allegedly for the reason that the Army could not give the RUC protection. Since then there has been nothing but vandalism, robbery, hooliganism and violence.

The people in Northern Ireland cannot be selective and say they do not want the police in Crossmaglen, but they want them in the Antrim Road and the Cahill Road, where so-called "loyalist" thugs blew up a Catholic chapel that was to be opened in a fortnight's time. The terrorism is not exclusively on one side.

There are questions that have to be asked and I can see myself at the end of 15 years in this House and, contrary to the political attitude that I have taken through all the years of my political representation, saying to the Secretary of State in whatever Government happen to be in power—and it will probably be this Government, because I believe many things will happen in the next four years in Northern Ireland—"I think it may be as well in the interests of everyone to withdraw your troops from Northern Ireland, because the longer you stay there the more you exacerbate the situation".

I hope I do not have to say that, but I am being driven to that inescapable conclusion. I say that in a sense of unhappiness because I do not want to concede victory to the IRA, that organisation which I have opposed with all my will since it fired its first shot in Belfast in 1970. I do not want to concede victory to it, but in the absence of the Catholic community determining where it stands and what it wants, in the absence of elected representatives from Northern Ireland seeing the real pay-off that can face us in the future, and sitting down together round the table, trying to find, at the eleventh hour, some formula that will allow us to live together, I believe that that can happen.

These are the issues and this act of renewal is only a sympton of the very great problem that we shall all have to face in relations between this House and Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

7.29 pm

I am sure the House has listened with great interest to the speech that has just been made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and also to the questions that he has posed to various sections of the community, to the Government, to this House and to the Government of the Republic. There is, however, one matter that I need to underline at the very commencement of my speech. It is simply this: let no one think that it is the presence of the British Army that is keeping Northern Ireland within this Kingdom.

The hon. Gentleman said be believed that, if at any time a united Ireland were achieved, it would be at the cost of blood sacrifice. I say to the House that no one need think that the people who want to uphold the Union, and remain within the United Kingdom and outside the Irish Republic, are in any way weakened in their determination. There are serious divisions among the Unionist leaders. Although there may be grave difficulties on certain policies, on the policy of remaining within this Kingdom and outside the Irish Republic, there is a rock solid, impregnable will. Neither this House nor anyone else will ever break that will.

I think it should be said that there is not very much faith in Northern Ireland in any British Government or in this British Parliament. We should be begging the question if we did not face up to that. Even the leader of the Official Unionist Party, the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), in addressing a meeting in the constituency of the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker), is reported as having said:
"the British Prime Minister…promised Mr. Jack Lynch to put the screws on the loyalists in return for tightening of security along the border and his help in getting the United Kingdom financial contribution to the EEC reduced at the Dublin summit this week."
He, as the leader of the Official Unionist Party, was busy telling the constituents of the hon. Member for Armagh that the Prime Minister had done a behind-the-back deal with Jack Lynch that in return for his support in seeking to get back some of our own money that is poured down the EEC drain and some kind of security on the border, the screws would be put on the Loyalists. It is evident that the members of the Official Unionist Party have no faith in the Government, although one of its spokesmen, a Mr. Jeremy Burchell, when addressing a Young Conservatives meeting in Scotland, said what great faith the people of Northern Ireland had in the Prime Minister on the question of preserving the Union. It ill becomes anyone from the Official Unionist Benches to talk about forked tongue on this matter.

If the hon. Gentleman is right—and I have a suspicion that he is—that the people of Northern Ireland have no great faith in this House, would it not be better that Members of Parliament should recognise that fact, however unpalatable it may be to our amour propre, and act accordingly?

Yes. I think that that is what the House should do. Members of Parliament should leave it to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to come up with a decision on this issue. The elected representatives of Northern Ireland participated in an elected convention that was set up by this House. They held debates and produced a report for this House. But no credence whatever was given to that report. It was quickly put under the carpet. Over and over again this House has refused to listen to the will and wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.

Today we speak about the few Members participating in this debate. However, I am sure that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) remembers the days when the House was packed for Northern Ireland debates.

Every time the attack was on the B Specials, Stormont, 50 years of misrule, civil rights and police brutality. Stormont fell. There was great euphoria in this House the day a Conservative Prime Minister announced that Stormont was to be prorogued. I remember walking out into the Lobby. Members from both sides said to me "It is all over now. We are going to have peace." I said "What you had was a Sunday-school picnic. You will now see the trouble really starting". They laughed. But those of us from Northern Ireland knew what would happen.

Today one hon. Member said that the IRA had not made much political mileage in the past few years. However, it made tremendous mileage in the first few years of its struggle with the fact that this House did away with Stormont and the B Specials, disarmed the police, and took sides in the matter, it seemed, against the wishes of the majority. The IRA says "If we keep at it the British House of Commons and the British Government will weaken." We all know—and we need to face up to it—that over the years British Governments have said certain things in certain places. Then, when the chips were down, they did the very opposite. This is what is at the heart of the ordinary unionist—spelt with a small "u"—in Northern Ireland: the great fear that that might happen again.

This is what I say to the people of Northern Ireland.

I shall give way in one moment, but there is one point that I should like to add.

This is what I have said to the people of Northern Ireland. I continue to say it. They need not worry about what the British Government do, as long as the Unionists have a majority. That is their guarantee that they cannot be pushed about. That is all that they need to worry about. I have preached this up and down the country: "You are the majority and as long as you are there you cannot be pushed about." That is the only point about which they need to worry.

If the hon. Gentleman has that opinion of British Governments—and frankly we have had virtually no success, not just in 30 years but in hundreds of years—how does he justify the presence of the instruments of any Government, namely the Armed Services sent by that Government?

We have to face the fact that this is the Government that we are under. We must recognise that the Government have responsibility, which they took. Consider the 50 years of so-called misrule. Look at the picture of Northern Ireland in those 50 years and compare it with that of the past 10 years. Then toll me who did the best job—the Stormont Government, with all the opposition that was arrayed against them, or this Government, who took responsibility? Belfast was not then in the state that it is in tonight; neither was Londonderry; neither was the constituency of the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford); nor was my constituency in its present state.

We saw the sad havoc of those years. This Parliament should face up to the fact that it has made a mess of Northern Ireland. There needs to be deep thought on the part of Members of this House.

Let me add one point before the hon. Gentleman intervenes.

The position is that the House should be supporting the Secretary of State by every possible means in considering whether the politicians of Northern Ireland cannot have some say in what the Government will put to the House on the question of the future government of Northern Ireland.

There are things in the paper produced by the Secretary of State that are repugnant to Unionists. Yet there is a basis in that document, as it declares that we shall discuss neither a united Ireland nor the old power sharing executive. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] There is no mileage to be gained in discussing that. The hon. Member for Belfast, West said that if there is to be a united Ireland it will be a blood sacrifice. We should not talk any more about blood sacrifice. We should not talk further about a matter which will exacerbate the situation. We should talk about things that can be done for the benefit of both sections of the community now. We should not try to rake over old ashes.

Order. Before any other hon. Member interrupts, may I interrupt to say that the hon. Gentleman should confine his remarks to the emergency provisions order which we are discussing.

Whether we like it or not, the period to which the hon. Gentleman refers as a mess happens to coincide with the presence in Northern Ireland of the Armed Services. I said much about that in my speech, and I praised the individuals in the Armed Services. The time has come to put a direct question to the hon. Gentleman. Is he or is he not in favour of the presence of the Armed Services?

I am certainly in favour of the presence of the Army. I wish to look into the minds of the terrorists. The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said that he did not understand the intentions of the IRA. The IRA and the Irish patriotic terrorist—if he wishes to call himself that—will always be against the Establishment. What lies at the root of that? Let us consider South Armagh. We should learn from history. Let us examine the South of Ireland. De Valera was President of the Dail. He disagreed with the treaty and he left the Dail and formed the irregulars, and so began the most terrible page in the whole of Irish history. It was not written with a fight between Irishmen and the British Army. It was a fight between the irregulars of De Valera and the treaty party of Cosgrave. Michael Collins, who trained some of De Valera's men, was murdered by the very men he trained.

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but that precisely was my point. Could we please not discuss what went on south of the border, but the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order.

Of course I have to bow to your will, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but these matters were dealt with in previous speeches. They have great relevance to the emergency. If such events had not taken place, there would not be an emergency. They are part of the whole saga, and we need to talk about them.

The hon. Member for West Lothian referred to a young girl who said "If Paisley did it, it would be all right". That is not so. She was not speaking the truth. When De Valera was out on a limb, he ordered his men to kill his own previous colleagues. They killed Michael Collins, a man who did more to get the British out of the Republic than anyone else. But he was killed by De Valera's own men.

The Royal Irish Constabulary was largely a Roman Catholic constabulary but it bore the brunt of all the attacks. Why? It represented the Establishment. Why were those Roman Catholics shot in Belfast by the IRA? It was not because they were Roman Catholics, but because they wore the Queen's uniform and identified themselves with the Establishment. The hon. Member for Belfast, West knows that that is true. If a person is identified with the Establishment, he will be the target of the IRA gunmen. Anyone who lines up in any way with the Establishment will be treated in that way. The hon. Member for Belfast, West said that in certain parts of Ireland the Roman Catholic population wants the presence of the RUC. There are parts in which the presence of the RUC is not wanted. I shall illustrate that.

A lady from West Belfast told me that she had been visited on Friday nights for many years by members of the IRA. They told her that she would have to pay a certain amount. After one of the terrible killings she told the IRA members that she would not give any more money. That night every pane of glass in her business premises was smashed. The IRA came back the next morning and asked her whether she was going to pay up. She said that she would not pay, and that she was going to the police. The IRA said that that was all right. When she went to the police, they told her that they were sorry, but they could not put a guard outside her building. They said that they could not protect her and that if she wished to remain in business she knew what she would have to do. That person will not be rescued from IRA terrorism until the Forces of the Crown can give her proper protection. There are entire areas where the IRA hold the community—not the Protestant community, but the Roman Catholic community—to ransom, and the people have to pay.

A friend recently visited a lady in West Belfast. Whilst he was there, there was a knock on the door. She said that it was the boys who had come to collect the 50p. He asked what she meant. She said that she had to pay 50p to the Provos every week. That is the sort of thing that is happening in Northern Ireland. That is why there are knee-cap-pings and why the terrorists are determined to keep their stranglehold on those districts. Until the Forces of the Crown exercise full authority in those districts, we cannot expect the population to back the police.

I know that the hon. Gentleman would not deliberately misrepresent the facts. He will be aware that in so-called Loyalist areas, particularly Belfast, that type of protection money has been demanded by the UDA, the UVF and Loyalist paramilitary forces. They also intimidate many people in West Belfast.

I accept that that is happening all over Northern Ireland. Many so-called Loyalist groups and many other groups are in the Mafia business. It is a racket to terrorise people, but the hon. Gentleman must know that in the Protestant areas the police operate freely. Therefore, people in those areas have recourse to the RUC who can then deal with the matter.

Since we met to discuss Northern Ireland at the end of November something has happened on the island. Jack Lynch has fallen, and a new Prime Minister of the Republic has been appointed. The hon. Member for Belfast, West said on our local radio that he would be very sad if Charles Haughey became Prime Minister of the Republic. He said that it would be an ill omen not only for the people of Ulster, but for the whole of Ireland.

I did not believe that the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State got a good deal from Mr. Lynch. I made strictures and asked questions in the House about the deal, but it is evident that they must have got something. The knives were out for Jack Lynch when he was out of the country. When he returned, he knew that if he did not resign there would be a sad end to a good political career. He had to go. Who would have thought that Michael Kennedy, the Foreign Secretary who was supposed to be a protege of Lynch, would suddenly lead the lobby for the new Prime Minister? It is significant that when the new Prime Minister met the press and was asked why he had never opened his mouth for the last two years to denounce the IRA, he said that he was never asked to do so.

Mr. Haughey also said that Mr. Lynch had spoken for the whole party in the past two years.

I know that the hon. Gentleman would not let any Front Bench spokesman speak for him. He would speak his own mind on matters that concerned him. There is another matter of which the House should be reminded. After the conspiracy trial in Dublin, Mr. Lynch went on record as saying that Mr. Haughey may have been cleared of conspiracy, but there was no doubt that he was implicated in the affair. That was said, not by a rousing Unionist in front of a Loyalist audience, but by the Prime Minister of the Republic.

I have grave fears and I do not share the Secretary of State's confidence that his policy will be continued. The right hon. Gentleman's security policy is in shreds. We shall get no help from the Republic. The questions that the hon. Member for Belfast, West posed to the Southern Ireland Premier are important. What will Mr. Haughey do? The people of Northern Ireland would like to know the answer to that question.

We have had a sad few months in Northern Ireland in which a number of prison officers have been murdered. Assistant governor Jones was also murdered, as was chief officer Billy Wright. When one visits the homes of those men and talks to the womenfolk and children who are left, one wonders why better security cannot be provided for prison officers who have become the targets of the IRA.

The IRA has swung into battle against the prison officers in order to highlight the "dirty" protest and what is going on in the Maze. Protection was given at the gates of the prison and at the club that the prison officers frequent, but the IRA switched its tactics and started killing the men at their own homes. Billy Wright got out of his car to go into his own home and was shot through the back. That could happen time and again.

Ministers need to take the problem on board. It needs to be seen that protection and a proper defence can be given to prison staff. If the IRA continues with the killings it will be a very serious matter.

The hon. Member for West Lothian accepted that when a British soldier from this side of the water is slaughtered in Northern Ireland, there is just as much sorrow as there is when a local inhabitant is killed. The local people make that known to the Army in that area. I have seen letters written by mothers in Northern Ireland to the mother of a Scots boy who was killed in the Province. I have read that exchange of letters. There is deep sympathy in Northern Ireland. We do not want young men from this side of the water to be slaughtered on our streets. We feel it as if it were our own —and so they are in the United Kingdom family.

The Ulster people are prepared to carry the burden of security, as they carried it for 50 years. They are prepared to go on the streets and stand up to the IRA, but the House destroyed the best security force that we ever had. Even the historian of the IRA said that the B Specials were able effectively to keep down the IRA.

Some time ago I heard a Republican say that the B Specials were angels compared with the British Army. The Government should give closer consideration to involving more Northern Ireland people in the security battle.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West suggested that the propaganda that would be made of an incident involving RUC men could do great damage to the force. I do not doubt that, but it should be emphasised that the RUC investigated what had happened and brought charges against its own men. It cannot be said to be a partial force. It has acted impartially and ruthlessly against all sections of the community. Indeed, some would say that it is more ruthless against the Protestants than against the Roman Catholic section.

The RUC has shown that it is prepared to deal fairly with all sections. The RUC arrested the gang known as the "Shankill Butchers"—one of whose victims was a Protestant; they were not all Roman Catholics. The RUC have acted honourably and as a force in which all sections of the community can put their faith.

In South Armagh even IRA men said "Let the police bring us out". They did not want the Army to bring them out; they were glad to send for the RUC. Even the IRA was prepared to trust the police. We have also heard another illustration in what happened at Roden Street. The way forward is to get the police into every area as soon as we can.

No one should think that a political initiative will solve the problem of the IRA. Gerry Adams said the other day "We are as much against the Republic's Government as we are against the British Government. We will fight them and destroy them as well." No one should think that if we achieve a political settlement the IRA will go away. If the people agreed a political solution in a referen- dum tomorrow, with a new Parliament and Government in Northern Ireland, the IRA would increase its activities in an effort to destroy that. There is no easy way to defeat the IRA. It will have to be militarily defeated. That is the only way that it can be defeated.

Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of the continuance of the emergency provisions Act, or does he feel that its continued unamended existence is simply a provocation and may be a breeding ground for some of the unrest that he has described?

If the House started to amend the Act tonight, the people of Northern Ireland would say "This is the beginning. Now we can see the way they are going. They will weaken and eventually sell us out." I do not agree with the nonsensical idea that juries can be got at. No one knows who is to sit on a jury until they are picked. The then Attorney-General said when the emergency provisions Bill was in Committee that Protestant jury men were not doing their duty and that the jury system therefore had to be abolished. I believe that juries, both Protestant and Roman Catholics, were not bringing in perverse verdicts. The House was told that jury men would be got at. In fact, it is the witnesses who could be got at.

I believe in jury trials and I do not like the Diplock courts. I was always opposed to them. However, this is not the time to start dismantling the legislation. The time for that is when we see that the terrorists are being defeated. Then is the time to make a change.

I have one last point. There was an RUC reservist who, according to press reports, was in touch with the IRA. He was a protestant and an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. He was well placed in the SPG and was found with thousands of pounds in his possession. It is alleged that this man was in touch with the IRA, receiving this money and giving vital information which could have led to the deaths of his colleagues. The Minister had better say something about that.

We are now told that the papers went to the DPP but that there will be no prosecution. That decision has sent a shock right through the whole membership of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Members of the RUC have asked me why that decision was taken. The Minister should clear that point up tonight. We need to know what the position is. If this man did not do what was alleged, why did he resign? If he was not what he was alleged to be, why was he put into protective custody? The answers to those questions need to come out in this debate.

8.1 pm

This is not the first debate of its kind and I believe that it will not be the last. I remember a debate when the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I warned him about the effects of the structural reorganisation of the IRA. It was reorganising into a cell structure. I pointed out in that debate the need to assess the IRA capability as a result of that reorganisation. I urged the Government to take measures to deal with the new IRA which would emerge.

Nothing was done at that time and little appears to have been done since. As a result, the Provisional IRA has reorganised into cells. It has set up active service units both in the Irish Republic and in Northern Ireland. It has its own system of communications which is now operational. Much could have been done to nip that reorganisation—which has proved so devastatingly dangerous—in the bud. Nothing was done. We missed the boat.

The previous Parliament—I say "Parliament" after some thought rather than the previous "Government"—continued with policies evolved before that time. Since the May general election when one might have hoped that a new Administration would have produced measures to deal with a new situation, nothing has been done. No new measures or instructions have been issued. I have done some investigating in the last month or two and I have discovered that there has been no change of instruction at any level in the security forces about how to deal with the newly structured IRA and the change of tactics which has resulted from that reorganisation.

We have recently seen the emergence of a new set of political leaders in Ireland. The newspapers informed us today that Mr. Hume is going to the fountain head, in the person of the Prime Minister, apparently with a clear cut outline of SDLP policy. If that is true, it can mean only that the SDLP's policy has changed from the time when it was led by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). That policy tends perhaps not to a harder line republicanism since that expression seems unpopular but certainly to a greener republicanism than that demonstrated hitherto by the SDLP.

Mr. Haughey has been elected as Prime Minister of the Irish Republic and leader of the Government there. His roots are in my constituency and that of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop). His father was a native of Swatragh. He is know and remembered by the old men in that area, some of whom I have recently spoken to. Mr. Haughey's father is remembered as a member of the Irish Republican Army of the 1920s. He is also remembered as a man who departed rather hurriedly from Swatragh following the murder of Sergeant Burke in 1920.

Mr. Charles Haughey is a man whose rabid republicanism is well known. He often visited his relatives in my constituency when he was a school boy and a young man. He is well known there as is his republicanism and his attitude to the population of Northern Ireland. I made a careful note of Mr. Haughey's recent TV appearance. As many hon. Members have said, he condemned the Provisional IRA. I also noted that his condemnation did not extend to the IRA as it was in 1970. I found that significant in the new leader of the Irish Republic.

For anyone who has studied this man and the change in the leadership and policy now apparent in the SDLP there is not much comfort or hope that there will be reasonableness either from Dublin or from Londonderry city. I represent Londonderry. The new leader of the SDLP, Mr. Hume, has his home and his power base there. I believe that recent events confirm the accuracy of my belief that we will not receive help in the amelioration of the security situation in Northern Ireland from either source.

A citizen of Dublin appeared on television just before Mr. Haughey was elected. That citizen said that it was not the business of anyone except the people of the Irish Republic who was the new Irish Prime Minister and leader of Fianna Fail. In normal circumstance that is a sentiment with which I would heartily agree. In any other country, even in the Republic in normal circumstances, I would agree with it.

Order. In fairness to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who has just spoken, and in fairness to the House we must not allow this debate to range too widely. We must keep it to the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 2) Order. That is what we are discussing.

I agree with what you say, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have no doubt that if the House will bear with me for another sentence or two it will see that the remarks that I was making were justified because they have a bearing on the order before us. I was going to point out that the attitude of the Irish Republic and its Government—and the fact that it allows terrorist bases to exist inside its territory from which the IRA can attack citizens of the United Kingdom—has a bearing on this order.

It is well known to the security forces, to all Northern Ireland hon. Members and to those hon. Members who take an interest in Northern Ireland, that such bases exist and that large numbers of people from Northern Ireland are on the run in the Republic. Time and again extradition warrants have been sought in respect of those murderers, but they have been refused. That makes it reasonable to talk about the attitude of the Irish Republic and to say that no help is forthcoming from there.

Many hon. Members today and many spokesmen of Church and State, including the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), seem to believe that if there is a form of political settlement in Northern Ireland the IRA will fade away.

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) cannot have been listening to me with his usual care. I specifically said that we should not fall into the trap of thinking that there is a purely political solution. There must be a combination of a political solution and an even-handed security policy which is fair and humane.

I withdraw my remarks as they related to the hon. Member for Pontypridd. However, many people outside the House do not take that view. I agree with the hon. Member. I do not believe that a political settlement will make a blind bit of difference to the IRA. Anybody who believes that the Secretary of State's conference will decide whether there is a settlement is barking up the wrong tree. Those who believe that must believe that someone attending that conference controls the Provisional IRA and can switch IRA members on and off at will.

If an SDLP spokesman were in the House tonight he would be the first person to deny that that party has any influence on the IRA. I am sure that no hon. Member believes that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has influence over the IRA any more than any of my hon. Friends. What on earth are people who believe that thinking about? What sort of woolly minds have they that they do not understand the mentality of those with whom they are dealing?

Many hon. Members have referred to conferences and talks. I cannot understand for the life of me what such conferences are intended to accomplish. I am exceedingly suspicious of the whole affair. I cannot understand what the Secretary of State hopes to achieve. He already knows in detail precisely what each political party thinks and wants. If he cannot come up with something which is acceptable to them all, I can assure him that an eyeball to eyeball conference will not be successful. For that reason, my party will not be represented at such a conference.

I cannot see any salvation from a conference of Northern Ireland parties and I do not believe that help will come from Dublin. It behoves us to ask the House to look to the defence of the citizens of the United Kingdom. That is our plain duty. The Secretary of State has that responsibility.

The security structure in Northern Ireland involves the police in a full-time and part-time capacity, the Ulster Defence Regiment in a full-time and part-time capacity, the Army, the GOC, the Chief Constable, Sir Maurice Oldfield and the Secretary of State. I cannot understand what Sir Maurice is supposed to be doing. If heads are to be knocked together, it is a political job. It is a job for the Secretary of State and nobody else.

In the past when we have asked about security in Northern Ireland we have been told by the Secretary of State that these are matters for the police, the Army or the security forces. This argument has been used as a buffer between inquiries by hon. Members and the activity on the ground. I hope that it is not suggested that Mr. Oldfield and his office can be used to put another little buffer between this House and the operations on the ground, because that is just not accept-acceptable. [Interruption.]

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) says, we did not think that Sir Maurice Oldfield, ex-head of M16, had been stripped of his knighthood. In my speech—as in those made by many other hon. Members—I raised the question of Sir Maurice Oldfield's position. Can we get it straight from the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross): is he against the presence of Sir Maurice Oldfield in Northern Ireland in this context?

I find myself in great difficulty, because I do not know what on earth the man is doing there. No one knows exactly what his role is or what his duties are, so how on earth can I form a reasonable view about whether we welcome him or whether he should be there at all. There is no way in which we can form such a view.

Returning to what I was saying—

Does not the hon. Member for Londonderry agree with the proposition that was put forward by myself and one or two other hon. Members, which is that the appointment of Sir Maurice Oldfield was bizarre to the point of being counter-productive?

I would not go as far as that, because I like to know what the case is before I make a pronouncement on it, and that case has not been made in any meaningful way to the House or to any individual in it, so far as I know.

Regardless of what the circumstances are, there are political decisions to be taken. The buck does not stop on the desk of the GOC, the Chief Constable or Sir Maurice Oldfield; it stops on the desk of the Secretary of State. The House cannot accept anything that would try to remove from its scrutiny the decision-making of the Secretary of State regarding the activities of the security forces and the policy they are carrying out in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State has been in post for seven months, and it seems to many in Northern Ireland, certainly many of my constituents, that he is preoccupied with jaw-jaw and not war-war. That is a favourite remark that is passed—"Jaw-jaw is always better than war-war." Or so we are told. But is it? I thought that jaw-jaw might reasonably be expected to take place before a war started or after it was over, but not when we are on the battlefield actually fighting. We are on the battlefield. We have been on the battlefield for 10 years and this is no time for talking, but a time for action.

We now have a new Chief Constable, a new GOC and a security co-ordinator, and a Secretary of State with seven months' experience. The Secretary of State has been given our views about what should be done about security. He has had the views of every party in Northern Ireland, and also the views of many individuals. He knows that this war has to be fought and won. This war must be won by better border protection, interdiction between the border and the target, and by domination of IRA haunts inside Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State knows the difficulties of getting proof against the organisers of IRA crime. He is aware of the support that he would have for measures that are normally unacceptable—indeed, there are many such measures in operation through this Act. He also knows that any further measures that he may desire to take would receive wholehearted co-operation, not only from Members of the House but from the people of Northern Ireland. I do not believe that we need to refresh the Secretary of State's memory today by going once more over all that we have put to him in the past.

There were one or two points in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that made me a trifle curious. One was the point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim North, when he asked about the United States weapons for the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If my memory serves me correctly, the Secretary of State indicated that the need for these weapons had not yet arisen.

What on earth lay behind that remark? Was the Secretary of State caught unawares and unable to give a reasonable reply? It appears to me that if that need has not yet arisen it can mean only that the Secretary of State expects the situation to deteriorate, and I do not think that he would find that acceptable. If the RUC does not need those weapons at present, why does it ever need them, if things will get better? I am as concerned about this as I was surprised at the reaction of the Secretary of State to the increased deaths this year. That increase in the number of deaths as a result of terrorist action should not be treated lightly because it really represents a very serious defeat.

The hon. Member has asked me about the RUC's weapons. These weapons have been ordered in three slices. We already have the first slice. We shall have the second slice shortly and the third slice a little later.

May I press the right hon. Member? Have any of these weapons been issued yet?

They have been received and the RUC is being trained in their use. They will be issued soon.

I am grateful for that reply because it gives a great deal of confidence to those who believe that such weapons are needed. I must confess that, although I believe that the revolver is needed, I am not quite so sure about the rifle.

I believe that the time is long past when the defeat of the IRA should have been accomplished. The only message that I would give the Secretary of State from my constituents is that he should get on with the job.

8.22 pm

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) has said that to speak at length in this debate would give the impression that the problem was one to be talked about and not to be solved. With that in mind, I shall keep my remarks to the absolute minimum.

Many cynics in Northern Ireland see an occasion such as this as an opportunity that the Government give Ulster politicians to gripe and groan in the hope that they will let off steam and that this will take their minds off what is really happening on the security front. In fact, this is more of a psychological exercise in the Government's mind than an exercise in getting legislation through the House. Therefore, I shall take the advice of my hon. Friend and deal specifically with security matters.

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) rightly said that, whatever took place at the conference, it would have no helpful effect on the security situation in Northern Ireland. That must be underlined. If anyone in Northern Ireland or further a field looks to this conference as a way of securing peace for the Province at the expense of the defeat of the IRA, he will be left disappointed. We do not go to the conference with that hope. But certainly it is our intention and our hope that the British Government, when they have structures in Northern Ireland with which they are happy and which the people have approved through a referendum, will want to secure those structures with the full rigour of the forces of law and order.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State has left the Chamber. Perhaps the Minister could take up this point when he replies. The Secretary of State told the hon. Member for Londonderry that these guns have not yet been issued to the RUC. That is contrary to information that I have had that the arms have been given to the special patrol group. Could he clarify that matter?

We have had a great deal of discussion about statistics, and no doubt these are important. They indicate the number of people who have been killed, mained and mutilated. They indicate the number of buildings that have been bombed and the number of terrorists who have been caught. While they are important in that respect and while they speak volumes about this Government's failure and successive Governments' failures—and indeed the failure of the Official Unionist Government at Stormont—they do not always indicate, and are not always the best means of indicating, whether a Government's policy is succeeding or failing.

A far better way of judging whether security in Northern Ireland is getting better is to assess whether the IRA potential to cause death and destruction has increased, decreased, or is just the same. How does one gauge the potential of the IRA, or any other terrorist group, to cause death and destruction?

First, there is weaponry. The IRA has the most sophisticated weaponry available. Its weaponry is more sophisticated than that of the security forces. Due to the nature of terrorism, the IRA does not need to possess weaponry in the same quantity as the security forces. One gun can be handed round among a lot of people. The IRA has sophisticated weaponry in large quantities. That weaponry, I suggest, is better than it has ever been during the whole period of this so-called emergency.

What about manpower? Again, I suggest, the manpower of the IRA is greater than it has ever been. The IRA has young recruits coming out of school and the person who was always on the sidelines keeping his hands clean. He is called the godfather of terrorism. I do not know why he is given that name. It is not an apt title. For the purposes of the debate, I will call him the godfather of terrorism. He has never been caught. He is still directing operations.

Added to that work pool are people now coming out of prison. These are people who were put away, perhaps 10 years ago, for the most foul and dastardly crimes. They are coming out of prison with all the experience of the lectures and the training they have received in prison. It should not be forgotten that Long Kesh is a training ground for the Provisional IRA and others. A more capable person who can teach young recruits all the evils of terrorism is coming out of prison. This puts the IRA in a better position to cope.

The finances of the IRA, I suggest, are no worse than they have ever been in the past. Money seems to be freely available. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has spoken of the propaganda that the IRA uses in America. I do not believe that those funds have dried up. The Minister can perhaps indicate what information he possesses.

I should like to pose questions. Dozens of questions have emerged from the debate. I hope that the Minister will try to answer as many as possible. I should like to know whether the Minister can give any confidence to, and help the spirit of, the Ulster people by indicating that I am wrong in any of my assumptions about the potential of the IRA to cause death and destruction. While the Government may have the best intentions in wanting to defeat the IRA and may, indeed, be determined to beat the IRA, a gap can still exist between their determination and the tactics that they employ to defeat the terrorists.

I ask the Minister to indicate what measures the Government are taking to make a dent in the IRA so that its potential to cause death and destruction is lessened. A former Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason), was arrogant in the extreme. The right hon. Gentleman informed a delegation from the Alliance Party in February 1978 that things were not as bad because the number of people killed that year was less than in the year previously. That same night, in the constituency I now represent, 12 people were killed. The right hon. Gentleman's statistics were thrown out of the window. The figures had become worse. That is why I leave statistics to one side. Although they demonstrate a lot, they do not demonstrate whether the IRA is being defeated.

This is precisely why some of us feel that we, on this side of the water, are not very good at handling these affairs. I should like to put a slightly different proposition to the hon. Gentleman. His speech emphasises once again that people in Belfast all know each other. They know who is who. If the safety net of the troops were withdrawn, would not the situation become better rather than worse precisely because everyone in Belfast seems to know everyone else and what is happening, as the Irish do, and all sides would become frightened? Is not that a possible scenario?

I thank the hon. Member. He is one person for whom I have great respect, for a particular reason. On every occasion that we come here to debate Northern Ireland issues, I seem to be looking across the Chamber at his face. He seems to have an interest that I wish were shared by more hon. Members. The question that the hon. Member raises is difficult to answer, because all that one is doing is guessing. What he said could be true. But it could equally well be true that it would put people into such fear that they might do that which they would not otherwise do.

I am not altogether opposed to our troops being withdrawn, provided that we make sure that the RUC and the security forces based in Northern Ireland have sufficient weaponry to do the job, sufficient armoury to keep themselves covered and sufficient manpower to cover the problems. No Northern Ireland man is asking anyone else to defend him. He is quite able and content to do it for himself. All that Northern Ireland men ask is to be put in a position in which they can do it.

Many politicians in Northern Ireland, some from across this Chamber, and some politicians from the South, have called for what they call the Ulsterisation of Northern Ireland security. We do not oppose it. We do not ask anyone to die on our streets for us. But we would have thought that, as our forefathers made the supreme sacrifice for people on this side of the water, the family of the United Kingdom should on this occasion not look for ways to withdraw its troops and not look upon it, as the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) did, as being a generous offer. It is not a generous offer. It is what we are entitled to as part of the United Kingdom.

If London were under siege by terrorists, would it be considered by the House to be a generous offer for the House to make money available for the security of this city? I think not. We expect to have security in the Province. We are happy to supply it ourselves, provided that we have the manpower and the weaponry to do that.

In conclusion while we seem to come here every six months and rehearse our speeches on the security situation and we seem to look across the Chamber at the same faces on every occasion—and sometimes some of us may just blow off the dust from the last occasion and use the same speech again—I wonder how many more times I shall be coming to the House, and how many more times we shall have to consider the renewal of such an order. The answer lies in the Government's hands, because the order must remain on the statute book as long as the emergency in Northern Ireland remains. Dealing with the emergency is in the Government's hands. I ask them to take that step, a step that they know in their hearts is right. They must take active measures against the terrorists.

We have talked about the appointment of the so-called security co-ordinator, about changes in structures, and so on. Those things might all be helpful. But more than that is needed. We need action on the ground, and greater action than we have had before, because the action to date has not done the job. I wonder how many more people will die in Northern Ireland streets before we debate this order again. I wonder how many soldiers will die, and how many policemen will make the supreme sacrifice, before we next discuss this issue. I say "I wonder", but again I know the answer. Many, many more will die.

8.34 p.m.

I rise to speak in support of this continuance order. In doing so, I should like to suggest that there are two dimensions in which our reaction to terrorism should proceed. There is, first, the physical warfare—that which is actually done and undertaken, and is seen to be done. There is, secondly, the psychological war ware, which is an important operation which must go side by side with the physical warfare.

The Secretary of State should realise that the security effort now being undertaken is greatly undermined by the lack of extradition powers in relation to the Irish Republic. The problem is not only one of obtaining extradition. There is also the problem of providing the courts in the South with sufficient information to enable them to extradite terrorists to Northern Ireland or this part of the United Kingdom.

Let us consider the so-called problem of extradition. The Irish Republic has stated that extradition would be in contravention of its constitution, especially article 29(3). It is remarkable that, when in opposition, Mr. O'Kennedy stated that, whatever the objections to exercising extradition, they were not constitutional. He argued that the evolving position in Northern Ireland would render it important to consider the possibility of extradition in future. Those words were uttered while he was in opposition but, alas, we do not hear the same gentleman refer to that fundamental facet of the security policy for the whole island of Ireland.

If we hope to see extradition used successfully, there is the issue of the provision of information by the RUC, which must interrogate suspects in the Irish Republic. The Garda would not have access to the intelligence information that would be germane to the interrogation. It would not know the history of either the person or the event. There are many reasons that render it compulsory for the RUC to be involved if the interrogation is to result in the extradition of the criminal. The Secretary of State might pursue the possibility of using the RUC in the Irish Republic for interrogtion purposes.

A former Attorney-General of the Irish Republic stated that its opposition to extradition was not really based on a legal argument. He conceded that. It is not even a crass political argument. He realised that if, for crass political reasons, there is not extradition, those concerned might live a little longer—but sooner or later both North and South die together under a Marxist terrorist organisation. His last resort was that, if we allowed the RUC to interrogate, it would interrogate in a brutal way and would be blamed for crimes which the terrorists had committed. What nonsense! I suggest that interrogation takes place under Garda supervision in the Republic. It is vital to obtain the information to put before the courts. It is vital to put alongside that the will of Southern politicians to extradite known criminals from the Republic.

Spot checks are an important part of the security operation in Northern Ireland. Before I elaborate on that procedure, may I say that it is fascinating to note that when an important suggestion is made, and when a certain tactic proves to be worth while in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland, there is always a group that springs to the defence of the IRA. At the end of 1974, when the IRA was at a low ebb, when intelligence was at an optimum in Northern Ireland and when there was a will within the security forces to finish the job, or at least to try to do so, suddenly not from the blue but from the pit came the Feakle clerics. That was a group of not so well intentioned men who rendered the job of the security forces impossible. That group entered into various deals with the then Labour Government, which resulted in the release from prison of some of the most dangerous men. Within months of the intervention by the Feakle clerics, the IRA was renewed in morale, in weaponry and in directive.

A number of clergymen, the most notable of whom was Rev. William Arlow, who is now a canon of the Belfast cathedral. They, on behalf of the previous Labour Administration, talked with the murderers and the gunmen. They did deals in the name of the former Labour Government. One of the deals was the release of a man who later cost the British Government millions of pounds by way of a Housing Executive fiddle. The proceeds of that fiddle went into the coffers of the IRA and provided bombs and bullets to destroy the very soldiers that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) rightly applauds, whose deaths we lament. That group came from the pit to the rescue of the IRA when it needed it most.

In the Northern Ireland newsletter there is an article written by three eminent lawyers. They contend that spot-searching is degrading. They argue that it is contrary to British law and that it should cease forthwith. I believe that we need fewer of the static patrols, groups and searchers in the cities of Northern Ireland and far more spot-searching. It is spot-searching that is the successful form of operation. Therein lies the essence of the lawyers' objection, in the same way as the Feakle clerics before them. They are attacking something that is manifestly successful and that is hindering the IRA. That being so, the opposition magically emerges. I could speak at length on that subject but time is short.

It is my recollection that Rev. William Arlow at that time had the blessing, if that is the right word, of the Church of Scotland and of many other do-good organisations. Does not that suggest once again that those of us who try to meddle, with the best possible intentions, from this side of the water can be counter-productive in what we do?

Yes, he had the blessing of the organisation and institution that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. However, the Patriotic Front has the blessing of the same church. It has the blessing of the churches in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but it has been guilty of the most dreadful atrocities as the IRA has been guilty of atrocities in Northern Ireland. As the hon. Member for West Lothian must suspect, it is not just the do-gooders or the meddling that is the problem but rather the objective of that involvement. That objective involves the coming together of gunmen and terrorists with moderate politicians. That is the curse of Northern Ireland and has been for many years.

Perhaps unfortunately, the hon. Member for Belfast, South(Mr. Bradford) used the example of the Patriotic Front. However, we have talked successfully with it and seem to be ending a civil war. Therefore, the implication is that we should talk.

No, the implication is simply that the church has no business giving support, succour and encouragement to terrorist groups. That is the simple lesson to be drawn from that example. I agree with Ian Smith when today he described those talks as a dreadful and total sell-out.

I shall make the same point as I have previously made concerning the use of the SAS in Northern Ireland. There is no point in using uniformed troops in a way that exposes them as targets to the IRA. It may be harsh to say it, but we are in a war situation, despite the Secretary of State's remarks on television four or five months ago. The Secretary of State said then that Northern Ireland was not in a war situation. The situation in Northern Ireland is not one solely of criminality, because that has become sophisticated, quiet and unobtrusive. However, almost every week in Northern Ireland there is bloody butchery, bombing and destruction that are naked to the eye. If the Secretary of State will not use the term "war situation", what will he use to describe the events in Northern Ireland?

We must use the same tactics as are used by the gutless and spineless terrorists. When those men crawl into a ditch to wait for a prison officer, or a member of the security forces, who is going home to his family, we must ensure that they do not crawl out alive. Action must be ruthless and covert. If anything that has been said by loyalist politicians has made that difficult, then there is shame on us. I wish the covert operation every blessing and ask for its intensification. There is no other way in Northern Ireland.

As for physical warfare, I would turn to the use of executive detention. I accept that some of my hon. Friends may not agree that executive detention is part of the answer. The other attempt at detention was, of course, disastrous, for several reasons. First, the IRA knew that detention would take place because there was a leak. Secondly, it was based on totally inadequate and insufficient intelligence information. Thirdly, that detention was so indiscriminate that it caused more problems than it solved.

However, we would be a poor assembly if we did not learn from those mistakes. If it is impossible to ensure that gunmen die in the course of their dirty work through the use of covert operations, and if, because of lack of wisdom in the House they are not subject to legal capital punishment, we should make sure that they cannot bomb, maim and destroy by introducing the use of executive detention. I believe that this House will reach the stage where it will once again use it. No great legal problem is involved. No Act of Parliament is needed to introduce it. The power resides at the present time in the hands of the Secretary of State.

I turn to what I call the psychological dimension. It is perfectly true that the terrorists thrive on psychological help. I referred to that just a moment ago. They thrived on the psychological help afforded by the Secretary of State in the former Conservative Administration, who talked with the terrorists, gave them hospitality, and who in the minds of many people was guilty of treachery veiled in the cloak and coat of diplomacy. The same thing happened under a former Labour Secretary of State. The terrorists thrived on that psychological boost. It was psychological food. But if psychological help assists the IRA, psychological warfare will hurt it.

Therefore, I suggest three things. First, we should as far as possible take the uncertainty out of the political situation in Northern Ireland. There is one way in which the Government can do that almost immediately—at least, there is one contribution to be made in that respect which can be made almost immediately. That is to repeal the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, because that Act is like a great magnet to a nail. It has the same reaction upon the IRA. It draws it on. It tells the IRA "Keep chipping away at this spineless House of Commons. Keep chipping away at this capricious group of people. Keep chipping away at this vulnerable mass of politicians who have one eye on the Irish vote in England and the other eye on their own safety. Keep making it as difficult as you can." That Act draws the IRA forward because it is the very essence of uncertainty.

There is one attendant piece of legislation that is particularly offensive to those of us who can see no end to Ulster's membership of the United Kingdom, that is the 10-year referendum. We must remove that. We must remove the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. In an exchange during Question Time, the Minister felt that there was not a great deal of relevance in removing that Act in relation to future positive steps. However, nothing more positive could be done by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, because that Act has the same effect on Ulster as shifting sand. It is the essence of instability. If Northern Ireland is fully part of the United Kingdom, it can be demonstrated by removing that Act from the statute book, because it totally undermines the position and invites people to continue to do so. By removing that Act from the statute book, we would deal a psychological blow to the IRA of no mean consequence.

The second psychological blow that could be struck would be to encourage our towns and villages even more to return to a more normal pattern of life. I realise that there is a great danger in my stating that in the House of Commons, because as we approach Christmas there will be a certain laxity in terms of shoppers, parking, and so on. But, if the IRA gets the message that Northern Ireland will not be bludgeoned out of the United Kingdom, that is by no means an unimportant message for it to receive and assimilate. Anything that the House can do to help Northern Ireland show the face of normality is worth the risks which are inherent in such a pursuit.

I am glad that the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) has returned to the Chamber. In all sincerity, and without any degree of animosity, I should tell him that he is wrong to assume that the party to which I belong demands uniformity and conformity. I believe that a psychological blow could be struck to the IRA if three steps were taken which would replace or go a long way towards replacing the political position which obtained at the beginning of the IRA campaign.

Often the people of Northern Ireland are treated to a statement about the 15-year Wilson plan for the reunification of the island. My hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) and I believe that such was the commitment to expediency of that Prime Minister that if he could keep a plan together for 15 minutes that would be as much as he could achieve. However, we let pass without too much protest a successful three-year plan which was implemented by the previous Conservative Administration. The three stages of that plan undermined political institutions and stability in the Province and psychologically assisted the IRA.

First, there was the failure of the then Conservative Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), to object to Eire's territorial claim over Northern Ireland when both countries signed the Treaty of Accession to the Common Market. The right hon. Gentleman could have objected to the membership of Eire and he could have established once and for all the right of the Province in law to exist as part of the United Kingdom. He did not do so. The way in which that undermined political stability in Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. That was year one—1971. Year two, 1972, was the year in which the Stormont Parliament was abolished by that Tory Prime Minister at a stroke. Year three saw the emergence of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 with all the inherent defects to which I have already referred and which I shall not repeat.

Politics is about the only orbit in life in which something can be treated as if it never existed. That cannot be done with words, because words cannot be withdrawn, nor with personal actions or deeds because they for ever remain on the screen of history. However, an Act of Parliament can be repealed to ensure that the situation which was disadvantaged is no longer disadvantaged. Something can be rendered to look as if it never happened. The Government have the duty to take immediate action. In so doing, they would strike an important psychological blow at the IRA.

First, even at this late stage, the Government must challenge Eire's right in an EEC context to claim territorial jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. Secondly, they should return a devolved Parliament to the Province, and, in the course of so doing should, thirdly, repeal the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. Those three steps would deal a psychological blow at the IRA that it would be difficult to equal in any other way.

At this point I differ from the views taken by my colleagues. I believe that there is merit in participating in the Secretary of State's talks. There is nothing in the document to preclude a Unionist attending the conference or to render it impossible for me to discuss some of the proposals which, for the first time, offer majority rule to the Province. If we do not participate, I do not see how we can complain about what eventually emerges from the pens and minds of civil servants who have not in the past been friends of Northern Ireland. We should state our case plainly and clearly under the leadership and wisdom of a man in whom the whole party and, indeed, the Province has total confidence, the leader of the Official Unionist Party, my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Be that difference as it may, it helps us to establish that ours is not a party of complete uniformity and conformity.

Psychological and physical warfare must be undertaken against the IRA and in such a way as to strengthen and not weaken Ulster's place in the United Kingdom.

9.1 pm

I share the concern of hon. Members over an emergency that has lasted 10 years. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) helpfully mentioned that certain actions of the British troops irritated the situation. The word "irritant" may bethought by some to be an over-statement and by others to be an under-statement, but it is worth reminding ourselves that when the troops arrived in Northern Ireland, they were made welcome. What went wrong? It is not appropriate to pursue that question in this debate, but we should consider why the irritant is still there.

The other day I looked at the figures for the so-called "Diplock defendants," and was struck by the fact that the majority of offenders appearing before the Diplock courts are in the 17-to-25 age group, which is significant. One does not need to be a mathematical genius to work out that 10 years ago the oldest would have been 15 and the youngest 7. That suggests that the terrorist organisations are still capable of recruiting new members. Some of the evidence gathered suggests that these are relatively new offenders and not experienced members of terrorist organisations. Why are these organisations able to recruit so effectively? On one side there is a strong commitment to Republicanism and feelings of social and economic deprivation. Those feelings also apply to the other side, although there is an ideological commitment to union with the United Kingdom.

We must therefore consider the origins of the irritant. When I look at the emergency provisions Act, I am struck by a number of ways in which people may be irritated by the presence and action of troops, and I wonder whether sections 14 and 18 of the Act should be redrafted if the order goes through. Under section 18 members of the security forces have powers to stop and question any person and under section 14 they have powers to arrest and detain any person suspected of terrorist offences for up to four hours. I am sure that those two provisions must bring to the security forces a degree of information which is very useful. At the time time, I suggest that that has to be put in the balance against how much public support the security forces lose when that is done inappropriately.

Another example is the searching of occupied houses at night, which is a highly emotive thing to do. I am sure that, again, it yields certain rewards at times to the security forces but, equally, I am sure that it provides a recruiting ground for the terrorist organisations. To take this a step further, there is the abilty to question and detain suspected terrorists for between three and seven days. As I understand it—and this is only one estimate, there may be others—a large majority of the people so detained confessed within the first 24 hours. If the others who are held do not confess, presumably they are either eventually charged or released. If they are released and are innocent I am sure that the damage done is immense.

I turn now to the question of prison officers, also very relevant. Clearly, they have been a target for terrorists recently. I suggest there are two possible reasons for this. One is the obvious one, that they provide a relatively soft target compared to, say, the Army or other parts of the security forces. Another reason is that they are associated with the detention of terrorists in the minds of families and friends of terrorists. The whole "dirty protest", as it is called, in the Maze must produce an immense emotional backlash—

—among the families and friends of the minority population outside. I say, as an aside, though I think it is an important point, that to my mind the time is long overdue, in the United Kingdom as a whole, not just in Northern Ireland, for us to allow prisoners to wear their own clothes. We already do so with female prisoners. I am not in any way suggesting that we go back to political status, nor am I suggesting that by allowing prisoners to wear their own clothes we shall necessarily end the "dirty protest". But there is nothing to be lost by doing so, and, possibly, there is a considerable amount to be gained.

I conclude with what I would call a request, that the provisions on the yellow card issued to soldiers, telling them when they can and cannot fire, should be pub- lished. I do not think that this can any longer be a great security matter because, as I understand it, these provisions have already been published both in this country and overseas. At the same time, I understand—and I am sorry to repeat my caution, but I always try to speak cautiously on Northern Ireland—that in 1978 of the 10 suspected terrorists who were shot on sight, three were afterwards found not to be terrorists and to be innocent. We should consider the backlash that that must have. It is immense, and it is a fair question to ask that the general public should know what the provisions are on the yellow card that is issued to soldiers, so that the public too can know what action they should take when challenged by a soldier. This is a point of particular importance and one we should not overlook.

Such regrettable accidents are inevitably part of the story of an army which is placed in this situation.

This is the basic failing of trying to solve a political problem by the use of force. I do not agree with those who say that this problem can in any way be solved by force. That is fatal. The history of Ireland has demonstrated that very clearly. The only way forward is to look for political solutions. I suggest that the present time is a time for us to de-escalate, because although one hon. Member who spoke indicated his distrust of statistics, I believe it is reasonable to suggest that there has been a de-escalation and that we ought to respond to that in part.

9.10 pm

I, too, shall be brief. I rise to announce that I shall not vote in favour of the continuance of the Act unless I hear an assurance that it will be drastically amended or that a new measure will be brought forward in the near future to take its place, together with the amendments outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John), who opened for the Opposition. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), I have never supported that Act. We have both spoken against it whenever we were able to do so.

I listened very attentively to most of what was said tonight. Very little was said about the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. Much has been said about other Acts, circumstances and situations with which we are only too familiar. However, little was said to justify the continued existence of this Act—on the contrary. I listened to a long catalogue of tragedies and events that have occurred during the life of this Act. Those tragedies sounded worse, if anything, than those that preceded its introduction.

Hon. Members from the Six Counties emphasised that the Act had done little, if anything, to improve the situation of violence in the Six Counties. Therefore, the Government have not justified the continuance of the Act. They have justified, in many ways, the reasons why the Act should be amended. It seems to me from listening to the debate, that the Act resulted in a lowering of ordinary standards, expectations, legal standards, and the standards of the police. Those standards would certainly not be tolerated in any other part of the United Kingdom. There has been a lowering of judicial standards. We heard arguments from both sides of the Chamber against the abolition of the jury system. The Government would receive support if they came forward with an appropriate amendment. The lowering of standards must worry all of us who are constantly trying to raise standards. There is a danger that once lower standards are accepted, and there is a tolerance of them, we will be in trouble. That is happening, not only in the Six Counties. There is an acceptance of lower standards as the norm. That means a great deal of trouble for us all.

The Act must be completely reviewed. I should have been only too happy if a Secretary of State from either party had been able to say that this was the last occasion on which a request would be made for the continuation of the Act in its present form. I should be glad to hear that in the next six months the Government would undertake to review the Act, in the light of all the evidence that has come to light, and bring forward new provisions. That would have put a different aspect on the matter. It would have been welcomed. It would not be seen as a defeat—which seems to be the position of some hon. Members repre- senting the Six Counties. It would be seen as a sensible approach in seeking to achieve a reasonable situation out of a dangerous one. It would be understood by all of us who are trying to maintain and improve standards rather than lower them.

This could have been the time for a complete review of the Act, its workings and its constitution.

I am reminded of a television programme that was broadcast early this year. I watched it, as did many other hon. Members. It reviewed the operation of the emergency legislation, including this Act and the temporary provisions.

Lord Scarman said that the danger with all emergency powers is that they become permanent. Even when the emergency disappears, the powers remain in force. That point was repeated by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd. Even worse, they result in infringements of liberty. They become accepted and adopted as norms. That results in a general lowering of standards.

There was a nasty incursion into the debate. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is not now in the Chamber. I intervened during his speech when he made an attack on the new Prime Minister of the Republic. It is unfortunate that that sort of argument is used before we have heard much about the new Prime Minister's approach from the 26 counties. Some people are reading all sorts of things into press reports. I am inclined to wait until we have heard what the new Taoiseach has to say. I intervened when the hon. Gentleman stated that the Taoiseach, when questioned about why he had not denounced the IRA, said that he had not been asked to do so. The hon. Gentleman ended his remarks on the subject there. I said that not only was Mr. Haughey not asked the question, but that he told the press that Mr. Lynch had spoken on behalf of his whole party during the previous two years.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the Dail this afternoon the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, accused the new Prime Minister of not denouncing the IRA for seven years? He accepted no excuse from him.

I was not in the Dail this afternoon. I was here, listening to this debate. What I heard here today was scandalous. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Antrim, North has now returned. I was quoting his remarks about the new Taoiseach and correcting what he said. I repeat that the new Prime Minister had said, not only that he had not been asked, but that the previous leader had spoken on behalf of his party. The hon. Gentleman said that he could not envisage my accepting a Front Bench spokesman speaking on my behalf. He missed the point. I was never a member of the Cabinet. If I had been a member of the Cabinet, I would have had to stay silent while the Minister concerned spoke.

I understand the convictions of the hon. Gentleman. He was a Government Whip. He had a difference with his party and because of his deep convictions he gave up his office and spoke out. If the new Prime Minister of the Republic had strong feelings on the issue, why did he not speak out? Other members of his party were prepared to speak out. Not only Jack Lynch but Mr. Gibbons spoke out. He gave evidence against Haughey in the arms trial. It is a little late for Charles Haughey to excuse himself now. But the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and we shall see what happens in the coming days.

I do not wish to continue a debate on what the new Prime Minister did or did not say. The remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North seem to point to the fact that the new Prime Ministed accepted what the then leader was saying, and that he was speaking on behalf of the Fianna Fail Party. To try to read anything into that is mischievous, to say the least. I imagine that is designed to be deliberately mischievous, and therefore is most unhelpful. I hope that the sneers and giggles will disappear when we have a closer relationship with that sovereign State.

We need a review of the Act, because it has been a further unsuccessful attempt to solve the political problems of the Six Counties by even more repression. We know that this is not the first time that violence has erupted.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North eulogised about the efficiency of Stor- mont, the emergency powers Act and the B Specials, implying that they had been more successful in their repression than the Act has been. The hon. Gentleman was almost making a plea for a return to the days of the B Specials. However, violence erupted even then and had to be repressed. The actions of those days were not successful and the Act has not been successful. Repression will never be successful. The only thing that will be successful is the political solution for which we should all be driving.

Nothing has been said to justify the continuance of the Act. The debate has justified an urgent review of the measure and new legislation to take account of lowered standards, the situation outlined by my hon. Friends the Members for Pontypridd and Belfast, West, jury service, bail, confessions and interrogation procedures.

Those matters must be reviewed and the Act must be brought into line with the results of that review. Because that has not been done, and there is no sign of that being done, and in the absence of an assurance that it will be done before the next continuation order is brought forward, I shall not support the order.

9.22 pm

With the leave of the House, I should like to make a brief winding-up speech. I said what I wanted to say in my opening speech and I intervene only to comment on parts of the debate.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard), I lament the fact that the House has seemed to deal with everything except the emergency provisions Act. I understand why that should be so. A great deal of emotion is involved in the horrific events that beset us daily in Northern Ireland.

I always enjoy the interventions of the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), but I must take up the unlikely stance of defending the Secretary of State—whether he wants to be defended or not. Granted that we have understandable concern and sympathy for the victims of violence and for the situation in Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Down, North must realise that language, whether expressed in the hard words used by the hon. Gentleman or the softer words that he imputed to the Secretary of State, is totally inadequate. The one use of words is as inadequate as the other.

The House needs to do the two things that only it can do. The first is to scrutinise the security policy of the Secretary of State—that is, the scrutiny of his executive function. The Minister of State will obviously have to deal with a concern shared by many of us, but articulated particularly by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), namely, the security of prison officers. The fact that they have become targets is a new development which does not arise, at least directly, from the "dirty blanket" protest at the Maze prison, but is visited upon prison warders in Belfast who have nothing to do with the situation at the Maze. Hence my concern for their safety and, I should tell my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), my failure to see a direct connection between the killing of prison warders and the situation at the Maze.

My first point was that prison officers are a relatively soft option. Secondly, they are identified as part of the organisation of the prison and therefore become a target. If a person has friends or relatives in prison and feels that they are there unjustly or are being ill treated, that helps to encourage a dislike of prison officers and the wish to take revenge on them. It does not, of course, justify the attacks.

I understand that. The softness of the option is one of the points that I was dealing with and when one reduces it to that level any part of the institution of the "English State" also becomes a so-called legitimate target of the Provisional IRA. That is also a problem.

The second function which the House of Commons alone can carry out is to see whether the legislation is adequate for the purpose and whether it meets current needs. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and I have directed questions to the Ministers. I hope that the Minister of State will not simply say that the Government have judged that it is not the time for change, but will say why they have made that decision.

In the absence of anything which justifies their decision debate is stifled. If someone says that he believes something should be done and another person believes that it should not, no rational debate is possible. In view of the fact that the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights has advised the Secretary of State in favour of three amendments, it would be helpful to the House if it knew why the Government rejected that advice. That knowledge would further debate and allay the concern of hon. Members.

The point that has not always been appreciated during this debate is that we are trying to combine an attack upon that modern phenomenon, the urban terrorist, while at the same time preserving a democratic society. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop)—whom I am glad to see back in his place—uttered words which to me indicated anything but a democratic process. Perhaps he feels that the conquest of terrorism is so important that he would adopt wholly unacceptable and undemocratic ways of combating it. He should realise that to behave undemocratically in an attempt to combat an undemocratic organisation is giving the victory to the forces we seek to overcome. It is up to this House, by its approach to these difficult problems, to show that it can maintain a democratic society even when it is under threat from forces which are repugnant and evil.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North in his view of the criticism that has been expressed of the Taoiseach. Just as I thought that the British Prime Minister was unwise to boast how great her victory would be in Dublin before the summit took place, so I feel that we should not complain about what the Taoiseach will do before we see what happens. We and the Secretary of State will need to engage in sensitive and prolonged discussions with the new Irish Prime Minister about cross-border security, which is a matter of genuine interest to both Governments.

Whatever we may feel, we should not condemn the Taoiseach in advance or discount what he is capable of doing, or saying, so early in his premiership. To do that would be to do a disservice not only to the Government of the Irish Republic but, and more importantly, to our own long term interests. I hope that the Minister of State will not acknowledge the pessimism that has been expressed but will respond to what lies at the heart of the debate—a widespread and genuine anxiety that what we do tonight is justified, and no more than justified by events in Northern Ireland.

9.30 pm

Terrorism is defined in section 31 of the Act as

"the use of violence for political ends".
The six-monthly debates on the renewal of the Act represent the response of our parliamentary democracy, deeply committed as it is to the principles of the rule of law and of freedom under the law to the situation in Northern Ireland. We feel that it is necessary, by way of abrogation of normal criminal law in the United Kingdom, to confront a unique scale and degree of violence for political ends in one part of the United Kingdom. In a vivid phrase Mr. Lynch, speaking in the United States the other day, described the Provisional IRA as a form of "brutal and horrific gangsterism."

When examining the extent to which we should make this departure from the norm, one is bound to record that it does and should go against the instinctual grain of hon. Members to seek to provide by law a reduction in the standards of freedom under the law, and everything that we understand and value by that, in any part of the United Kingdom. That is what the Act and the order to renew it does. The purpose of these lawless and brutal gangsters is to overthrow the processes of free choice which is at the core of our system of freedom under the law.

It is right for the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. John) to question sharply whether it is really necessary to continue with these abrogations. He was particularly right to question whether we should continue the bail provisions in section 2, the dormant but drastic provisions for detention in section 12, and section 8, which deals with the admissibility of evidence. He was right to ask whether they should be retained or so changed that the principle of freedom under the law parallels more closely the generality. The hon. Member asked me for a specific attempt at a justification for not making such changes which have been neither pro- posed nor endorsed by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. I shall, with reasonable brevity and conciseness, attempt a justification for those sections of the Act about which the hon. Member for Pontypridd and the Standing Advisory Commission are in chorus.

The reluctance of our free parliamentary democracy to move towards departures from normal criminal law in any part of the United Kingdom is solid evidence that, once a move has been judged, broadly unanimously, to be necessary and once a change is considered vital and inescapable—as it was when we launched the Act and renewed it—it is likely that there is substantial prima facie justification for such steps.

The Secretary of State showed the underlying and crucial justification, as we see it, in his stark presentation of the latest figures on the extent of murder and bloodshed in the Province by these brutal gangsters. Over 100 were killed in 1979. Admittedly that is a lower figure than for 1976 and 1977, but it is 104–to give the precise figure—too many. The majority of those killed by those gangsters were civilians.

The burden of proof rests upon those who want to press for a change and not renew certain parts of the Act. They must show, in the circumstances that I have described—the extent of the murders and the bloodshed at the hands of these gangsters—that these abnormalities or abrogations which we are asking the House to continue, would do more to undermine confidence in institutions and the principles of our democracy than would a return to a purer form of the rule of law, as we know it in the rest of the United Kingdom. They must prove that a possible enhancement of terrorist effectiveness would undermine confidence.

The parties and individuals who want us to return to the purer form of law and to end these abnormalities or abrogations, have not shown us convincingly that confidence would be enhanced in the future and hope for Northern Ireland improved if we did not allow the existing, and admittedly tough and sharp, provisions to go forward in their present form.

I shall now attempt to give slightly more specific justification to some of the measures—section 3(3) in particular. I shall begin with the bail provisions in section 2(2). We are convinced that without the section 2(2) provision there would be nothing to oblige the courts to consider the likelihood of an accused intimidating witnesses or committing an offence if he were left at large.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd must appreciate that very often scale and numbers count in these issues. I believe that it was E. H. Carr, the historian, who said that the only valid generalisation in history was that numbers count. Numbers do count in this context. The scale of murders and the number of people involved in terrorism is unique in this part of the United Kingdom. It is right that the courts should be obliged to consider the possibility of a man breaking or abusing bail in conditions such as those that exist in the Province.

To impose such an obligation is not to fail to treat a man as innocent until proved guilty, but simply to ensure that the interests of justice and the safety of the community are best served—indeed, that the very issue of substantive guilt or innocence can be properly established.

In the current conditions the Government would not be willing to withdraw the obligation contained in section 2(2). Such a relaxation would certainly be interpreted by many sections of the population as a relaxation of security against terrorism, at a time when we are seeking to convince those people of the opposite. The figures, alas, are still too horrific.

I specifically excluded allowing section 2(2) to lapse, but I suggested a redrafting to make that section conform to the Bail Act 1976. Surely the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the Bail Act does not allow or oblige judges to look at the question of re-offence or intimidation of witnesses.

Our difficulty is that we cannot amend this Act by this order. There are many ways, with the passage of time, in which it might be argued that large sections of the instrument could be redrafted or refashioned. But I am afraid that in the narrow scope of our debate this evening we could not accept the idea that we should drop these provisions.

I turn to section 8 which has been criticised because of the use, without qualification, of the phrase
"torture or… inhuman or degrading treatment"
as the criterion of unacceptable means of obtaining confessions for terrorist type crimes. It is claimed that the lack of qualification allows the courts to admit confessions obtained by bringing unreasonable pressure to bear on a suspect through threats of the possibility of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment, though that might not actually occur.

I remind the hon. Member for Pontypridd, and other hon. Members who are interested in this section that Bennett, among others, has pointed out that this is a false interpretation. I have looked up the relevant section. If the hon. Member will refresh his memory I shall not detain the House now. He should look at paragraphs 78 and 80 of the Bennett Report where he will find that the present Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Robert Lowry, made it quite clear that fears that the words
"torture or…inhuman and degrading treatment"
are inadequate are simply not sustained. Also Bennett found himself quite sanguine about this aspect.

Changing this would require amending legislation. I must recommend strongly to the House that in present circumstances there is no need to drop or change section 8. It does not in any way undermine the principle that we all accept that inhuman or degrading treatment or torture should not be used.

Section 12 deals with detention and this was the third broad topic which the hon. Member raised and to which the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights drew attention. Detention has not been used in Northern Ireland since 1975 and, if the Government had absolute confidence that we could continue to do without this power in the foreseeable future, the case for dropping this section would be overwhelming. However, our profound dislike in principle for executive detention and our determination not to use it except in the last resort are no guarantee that the Government may not be compelled by some drastic shift in the security situation to do so in the future. As a dormant option it is a potential deterrent to terrorism and it is very little threat to our good faith in trying to end the troubles in Northern Ireland by lawful means.

Perhaps I should mention as an aside that the kind of detention to which resort was had in the early period of the troubles could, in modern circumstances and with the information and intelligence that the security forces have today, be used with immeasurably greater precision, limitedness and effectiveness. I am not saying that we shall use it in this way but if we had to resort to it, there is no reason in principle why it should remotely approach the exercise of this power in the earlier period of the troubles.

Is it not the case that if that section were not renewed in this order it could be revived at any time by a specific order for the purpose? In any case, would it not be necessary for the Government, if they wished to resort again to detention, to obtain the will of the House on this matter so that in practice no time would be lost?

Yes, I think that we could reintroduce this power very swiftly if we dropped it through the present order and under the ongoing provisions of this Act. But I do not see any great psychological balance of advantage in doing this, given that the power is dormant and the rapidity with which one could introduce it by new legislation, though it be ever so quick, can never be quite as quick as the power to introduce it under the power as it now stands.

Of course there would be this difference which might be to the advantage of the Government. If it had to be reintroduced by order it would require a debate in this House and the Government would be acting with the known current will of this House behind them.

I would not imagine that we would ever dream of activating this dormant power in an emergency without rapidly giving the House time to debate the matter and consider the issues.

Since the hon. Gentleman concedes that we ought to derogate from the normal criminal law as little as possible, does he not see that there is an irritant quality about a section that, although dormant, provides for executive detention without trial? Does he not see that this might not win us friends who would be won if it was removed?

I must ask the hon. Gentleman also to recognise the irritant effect that is reflected or brought to bear upon me when I receive deputations, as often happens in the Province, from communities throughout the Province, including communities in which there is a majority of Catholics on the local elected assembly. They complain to me that we do not use executive detention specifically and in a limited way to lock up the people known to everyone locally as bad hats. They are irritated by the fact that we do not use executive detention. In defending the Government's refusal, there is no reason why I should go further and introduce the doubt in their minds that would come from the gratuitous removal of this weapon from our armoury for no very productive reason.

The hon. Gentleman could use that argument only if he was acceding to the request made in this Chamber during the debate to use executive detention. If, as he says, the Government have no intention of using executive detention, and if he agrees with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that there would be no loss of time in re-enacting the provision for it there is no respectable argument against removal of this section from the Act. That is what we are saying, and that is what the hon. Gentleman is not meeting.

I must say that I did not acknowledge that the lapse of time would be identical in the two cases. I said that there could be nothing quicker than leaving the power on the statute book as it now is, though it might be possible pretty quickly to reintroduce the power if we removed it. I did not say that we would never use the power. Occasions to use it might arise. I cannot foretell the future. I must give the benefit of the doubt to the security of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. That is why we are leaving the power on the statute book, hoping not to use it but being prepared to do so, if necessary, in the last resort.

A few seconds ago the hon. Gentleman gave the distinct impression that he had received deputations from Catholics or members of the minority, where they were living among the majority, who asked the Minister why he did not implement executive detention. Can the Minister say whether it is true that he has had representations from Catholics or the minority asking him to implement detention? That is most important.

I am bound to say that the Catholics and the Protestants in the deputation who came to see me were not given to our parliamentary and administrative jargon. They did not use the expression "executive detention". They simply said "Why do you not lock up the godfathers?" That is a good question. I will not detain the hon. Gentleman now with the details of the reply that I gave.

I am not sure it is very different.

I must answer questions raised by the hon. Member for Pontypridd because I was discourteous to him on the last occasion in failing to cover all the questions he asked. I must try to do better this time.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether I could state what progress had been made on the Bennett report and the implementation of its recommendations. I should like to say a word about the police. This is a topic on which there is universal agreement in the House. There is a need to develop a strong, fair and professional police force. Several hon. Members have stressed how far the Royal Ulster Constabulary has come along that road in the last few years. It must be remembered that this progress has been achieved against a background of appallingly difficult conditions for the police to operate in, let alone to develop as a force. But normal policing is a key to a return to more tolerable conditions of life throughout the Province. The RUC at all levels is aware of this fact. That is why attention to community relations is a top priority for it.

Underlining what my right hon. Friend said, may I say that recruitment is continuing at a satisfactory rate and much has been done to develop the specialist techniques and supporting services, such as the criminal investigation department, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) made reference. My hon. Friend advised me kindly that he would not be present towards the end of the debate.

That principle, of course, underlay the Government's approach to the report of the Bennett committee in the summer. A primary objective of the committee's recommendations was not merely to ensure so far as possible that ill treatment of prisoners could not take place but also to make difficult, if not impossible, the task of those who seek to discredit the police by inventing false allegations of ill-treatment. The implementation of the Bennett recommendations is proceeding very satisfactorily. Those recommendations relating to RUC administrative procedures and regulations were implemented directly by means of a force order. Those recommendations requiring physical measures, such as closed circuit television in interrogation rooms, have been virtually completely implemented. The few other remaining measures are well in hand.

The hon. Member for Pontypridd also asked whether the SACHR will or does publish its views on the Act. The commission normally publishes its view through the medium of its annual reports, which, as required by Parliament, are laid before Parliament. Its last published report gave an interim account of the work that it was doing on its study of the EPA. Its most recent report, to be published shortly, will further set out the results of its deliberations, which are still not complete.

The advisory commission has done, I believe, one or two ad hoc reports, but it is an independent body which decides what subjects to treat in this way, and it has not decided to make any ad hoc report on the EPA. But there will be something, therefore, in the forthcoming report, which will be laid before Parliament.

My hon. Friends the Members for Newbury and for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) both raised questions about the powers, techniques, facilities and resources available to the Army for dealing with rioting youngsters and hooligans. The powers of soldiers to deal with rioters are the same as those which they possess for dealing with anyone else whom they suspect of having committed or being about to commit an offence. Their powers rest essentially on section 14 of the Act, under which the power of arrest relates to any offence. In a riot, this could, for example, be a threat of a breach of the peace or an actual breach of the peace. In either of those circumstances, soldiers have powers to act. In fact, their action is very effective. They have the right sort of equipment to deal with rioting hooligans.

Very often, rioting hooligans are a cover for gunmen and snipers, so the soldiers have to tread warily. Sometimes the treading warily may give the impression of them not being able to proceed very directly against the hooligans. In fact, they succeeded very effectively in containing hooliganism in local areas. I believe that the whole subject is, in a way, getting almost academic now, because large scale riots are now effectively a thing of the past. Such rioting as occasionally occurs nowadays is fully within the capacity of the RUC quite effectively to deal with.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) charged my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State with having refused to visit Omagh. The hon. Member suggested that it was alleged that the Under-Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), had been sent instead. But that is not so at all. The difficulties that the voters and constituents in Omagh raised happen, in the first place, to be primarily within the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Under Secretary, but I think that the district council rejected a visit by my hon. Friend and said that it would prefer to see the Secretary of State. I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be paying a visit to Omagh. I assure the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster that I myself will be going to Omagh very shortly as a pathfinder for my right hon. Friend.

I was quoting from a letler from Omagh district council, which stated that the Minister who is responsible for the Department of the Environment had been offered in place of the Secretary of State. I think that that is what needled the people in Omagh, so they wrote to me. I was passing on their message. I was asked to raise the matter on the Floor of this House, which I did this afternoon.

The hon. Gentleman raised the matter earlier, and now he has raised it again and underlined it. He has discharged his duty to his constituents. My right hon. Friend has whispered to me that he will go to Omagh shortly.

The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) raised the important question of the equipment available to the troops in Northern Ireland. I wish to study carefully what he has said, and check whether there is any truth in the allegations that the Army is short of equipment. Our information is that the Army in Northern Ireland has the best equipment available for its needs. Any new requirements are met with urgency, and I can assure the House that there is no need for soldiers to spend their own money on equipment. Obviously I shall study carefully what the hon. Gentleman has said as it is an important matter.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) raised some important matters. The Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Pontypridd, especially asked me to comment on the prison service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State paid a special tribute to the prison staff. As I bear special responsibility for prison policy, I add my name to what my right hon. Friend said, and what other right hon. and hon. Members have said, about the quality and courage of prison service staff. They face exceptional pressures, from not only the current threat to their lives but, in many cases, the nature of the work that they have to do.

I outline briefly some of the steps that we are trying to take. The hon. Member for Antrim, North will know that we have already made provision at the home end of prison officers' movements to and from the prison for the introduction of the two-way radio system. That means that they do not have to open the door when somebody with whom they are not familiar knocks or rings the bell. We have also made available, for those who wish to take them up, bullet-proof jackets to cover the chest and the lower part of the abdomen, though that is not a protection against head wounds. The jackets are beginning to be issued, and as soon as delivery is completed from the United States every prison officer will be able to have one.

We are taking effective and active steps to improve the security and control of movement outside the Crumlin Road gaol by demolition of a number of buildings, re-deployment of Army staff and a general enhancement of local security. In a visit which I paid to the Crumlin Road gaol last week, I heard no criticism from prison officers about the new security measures that we are taking outside the Crumlin Road.

There is the almost insoluble problem of individual security at the home end of a prison officer's movement to and from the prison. We are studying the possibilities of special measures, and I believe that we shall have something effective to contribute. We are determined to do everything that we can to back-up, logistically, the spirit of determined service and courage which the prison officers, without exception, are showing.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North also raised a question of the prosecution or non-prosecution of the RUC reserve officer who is alleged to have passed information to the IRA. I am afraid that I have to dodge the question—although I do not do it in any underhand way—by saying that this is properly and exclusively a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General. It is not a question about which I can give the hon. Gentleman any authoritative answer.

I am afraid that the debate has continued slightly longer than some had expected. I apologise to the House for taking as much as half an hour in replying, but I believe that there were a number of matters with which I had to deal. I hope that I have covered most of them—if I have not I plead in my defence the pressure of time. I ask the House now, without equivocation, to allow the order to pass into law.

I understand that the Minister is not time-limited. A number of us put questions—

It is not limited to 10 o'clock, and the Minister is wrong in saying that he has to stop at 10 o'clock. The Minister was asked a number of specific questions. He was asked especially about the role of Sir Maurice Oldfield and what Sir Maurice does.

Order. Is the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asking a question of the Minister of State?

Before the Minister concludes his reply, I ask him to remember that he was asked a number of questions by various hon. Members.

That is too cheap by half. Important questions have been asked. A number of them relate to the appointment of Sir Maurice Old field, what he does, what his job is supposed to be, and whether it is not highly counter-productive.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the Minister has mistakenly regarded himself as tied to a 10 o'clock time limit, will you make it clear that it is possible for him to answer some of the precise questions that have been put in the debate by writing to the hon. Members concerned.

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Surely the Minister's reason for resuming his seat was not correct. There is no time limit. The hon. Gentleman said that he could not answer any more questions because of the time limit. I thought that he had to resume his place at 10 o'clock, and that is why I let him off the hook. It is an important debate, and I plead with the Minister to resume, by leave of the House, and to complete his reply. There will be no time taken from the next order if he does so.

I obviously want to help the House. I have been accused by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) of being too cheap by half. I do not know what my price was when I started, but it sems that there has been a change in the currency.

When a debate takes place in which many right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate, it is usually an imposition for a Minister to take half an hour to reply to it. To be invited to continue beyond half an hour is not necessarily in the best interests of the House. However, I shall trespass on the time of the House for another two or three minutes to deal with the question of the hon. Member for West Lothian about Sir Maurice Oldfield.

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the appointment of Sir Maurice was overtly presented as having a direct and beneficial contribution to make towards the further enhancement of security in Northern Ireland. The nature of the appointment, and the nature of the work that he does, means that I cannot spell out in great detail the exact contribution that he makes. However, it is one that is important and valid. The fruits of his efforts are already becoming evident in the effectiveness of the security effort that we are able to develop in the Province and to deliver. I cannot say more than that without trespassing on sensitive areas of security. It would not help a great deal if I did so. Sir Maurice is experienced in an area in which intelligence and covert operations are crucial factors in the performance of the Provisional IRA and of the forces that we deploy against it. Against the background of his wide experience, his contribution is useful, positive and constructive. I make no apology for the presence of Sir Maurice. I ask the hon. Gentleman to excuse me from being too specific about the nature of the work that he does.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) asked a specific question about the Ruger pistol and the extent to which it is in deployment.

As my right hon. Friend informed the House earlier, a continuous process must be undergone when a new weapon is brought in. A gradual process of training and subsequent issue is then set in hand. That process of training and equipping the police service began only recently. Several men have already been trained and the weapons are now beginning to be issued. I cannot say whether a shot has yet been fired in anger. Cer- tainly shots have been fired in training, and I am happy to say that I have had the advantage of shooting the Ruger on the range, alongside the Walther, in order to establish precisely its relative effectiveness. I am convinced of the usefulness of that weapon. It will be widely deployed in the Province in due course.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) suggested that we might publish the yellow card. The yellow card is in some ways misunderstood, and that is why it is necessary to make reference to it and to give good reasons for not publishing it. The yellow card is designed to give guidance to the individual soldier about the circumstances in which it is reasonable to open fire. Provided that he adheres to that guidance, he should be within the law. However, it must be emphasised that the document does not have the force of law and confers no immunity. Soldiers remain answerable to the courts at all times, and I see no purpose in disclosing an essentially administrative document.

Earlier today I referred to section 8 concerning the admissibility of evidence and confessions by accused persons. I understand that there have been a number of cases in Northern Ireland in which the accused has allegedly made a voluntary confession. However, when the case came to court the judge refused to accept the confession as evidence on the ground that it had not been made voluntarily. That implies that the confession was obtained by some other means and leads to a direct criticism of the police and their methods of interrogation. If a judge is forced to the conclusion that a confession has not been given voluntarily, and that the police have used tactics that should not have been used, should those policemen be allowed to remain as interrogators? Should an inquiry take place, or should the police be shifted from that work?

Strict and factual precision is unattainable in these cases. The burden is placed on the prosecution to prove that the confession was voluntary, and that is almost impossible to achieve because of the privacy of engagements between the interviewers and the prisoner. It can be evaluated only by a gut feeling, in which judges are expert. It is that which leads to the success or failure of the prosecution's attempt to prove that prima facie evidence of coercion was not present. If the prosecution fails to convince the judge, it does not necessarily mean that coercion has been used. It means only that on the balance of possibility the judge cannot accept it. To say that all those involved in questioning must automatically be self-evidently guilty of something that they have not been tried for would be to carry the case too far. We cannot accede to the

Division No. 124]AYES[10.10 pm
Alexander, RichardFox, MarcusPaisley, Rev Ian
Alison, MichaelFraser, Peter (South Angus)Parris, Matthew
Ancram, MichaelFry, PeterPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Arnold, TomGardiner, George (Reigate)Pawsey, James
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Golding, JohnPendry, Tom
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Goodhart, PhilipPenhaligon, David
Beith, A. J.Gow, IanPorter, George
Bendell, VivianGower, Sir RaymondPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)
Best, KeithGraham, TedProctor, K. Harvey
Bevan, David GilroyGreenway, HarryRhodes James, Robert
Blackburn, JohnGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Blaker, PeterHardy, PeterRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHarrison, Rt Hon WalterRobinson, Peter (Belfast East)
Boyson, Dr RhodesHaselhurst, AlanRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
Bradford, Rev. R.Hawksley, WarrenRossi, Hugh
Braine, Sir BernardHeddle, JohnShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Bright, GrahamHenderson, BarryShaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Brinton, TimHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Brooke, Hon PeterHolland, Philip (Carlton)Shersby, Michael
Brotherton, MichaelHooson, TomSilvester, Fred
Browne, John (Winchester)Howells, GeraintSkeet, T. H. H.
Buck, AntonyJohn, BrynmorSpeller, Tony
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSproat, Iain
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Kilfedder, James A.Stainton, Keith
Chapman, SydneyLawrence, IvanStanbrook, Ivor
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Lee, JohnStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Clark, Dr William (Croydon South)Le Marchant, SpencerStradling Thomas, J.
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Tebbit, Norman
Colvin, MichaelMcCusker, H.Temple-Morris, Peter
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Macfarlane, NeilThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Costain, A. P.MacGregor, JohnThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Crouch, DavidMacKay, John (Argyll)Thornton, Malcolm
Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)McQuade, JohnTrippier, David
Dean, Paul (North Somerset)Major, JohnViggers, Peter
Dixon, DonaldMarland, PaulWakeham, John
Dorrell, StephenMather, CarolWaldegrave, Hon William
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMawby, RayWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Dover, DenshoreMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinWaller, Gary
Dunlop, JohnMills, Peter (West Devon)Ward, John
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Miscampbell, NormanWatson, John
Durant, TonyMolyneaux, JamesWheeler, John
Eggar, TimothyMontgomery, FergusWhitlock, William
English, MichaelMorris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Wickenden, Keith
Fairbairn, NicholasMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Fairgrieve, RussellMudd, DavidWinterton, Nicholas
Faith, Mrs SheilaNeedham, Richard
Fenner, Mrs PeggyNeubert, MichaelTELLERS FOR THE AYES
Fookes, Miss JanetNewton, TonyMr. John Cope and
Forrester, JohnPage, John (Harrow, West)Mr. David Waddington.


Alton, DavidKerr, RussellThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Lamond, JamesWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Campbell-Savours, DaleMcKay, Allen (Penistone)Winnick, David
Canavan, DennisMarshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)
Cryer, BobRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Dalyell, TamRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)Mr. Gerard Fitt and
Dobson, FrankSoley, CliveMr. A. W. Stallard.
Flannery, Martin

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No.2)

reasonable suggestion made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt).

I have tried to help the House as best I can, but hon. Members may wish answers to many other questions. I shall be better able to answer them in dealing with a series of oral or written questions, and I shall do my best to satisfy the House on that basis.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 143, Noes 18.

Order 1979, which was laid before this House on 28 November, be approved.