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Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions)

Volume 128: debated on Thursday 25 February 1988

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you inform us about the incoming debate? I understand that at 7 o'clock, opposed private Members' business is coming before the House. What time will be given to this very important debate on Northern Ireland?

I can tell the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that this debate will be interrupted at 7 o'clock for opposed private business, and if it has not concluded at that time it may continue after 10 pm until 11.30 pm.

5.18 pm

I beg to move,

That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 16 February, be approved.
The continuance order is the first to be made under the new 1987 Act. Previously, the House was asked to approve the orders every six months, and this is the first time that it comes forward for annual renewal. The advantage of this longer period is that it is possible to review developments rather more carefully in the period between renewal debates. It has provided for the first time for Lord Colville to report to the House on the operation of the Act, as I asked him to do.

I propose to discuss briefly the background to the Act, to describe the changes made to the emergency provisions under the 1987 Act, and something of their progress. I will deal with Lord Colville's comments in his first report and say a little about the wider issues and the present scene in Northern Ireland.

I am conscious that there are a number of hon. Members who wish to speak and I will try to condense my remarks to the essential areas of concern that I believe are proper to enable me to present the order to the House. I hope that that will not be thought a discourtesy.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 provides the security forces in Northern Ireland with extra powers to deal with the special problems of terrorism in Northern Ireland. They include powers to stop and question, arrest, enter, search and seize. It also provides powers to proscribe organisations and creates offences concerning the collection of information that might be useful to terrorists, training people in the manufacture or use of firearms or explosives for improper purposes and displaying public support for proscribed organisations. All of the provisions relating to those powers will lapse on 21 March unless continued in force by this order.

The 1978 Act also provides the legal authority for the operation of the so-called "Diplock courts" by which serious terrorist offences are tried by a single judge sitting without a jury. The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987 incorporated into the emergency provisions certain recommendations of Sir George Baker. They included the provision that all emergency arrest powers now require "reasonable grounds for suspicion" and that searches of dwellings and searches of persons other than in a public place also require "reasonable grounds for suspicion" and that the maximum period for which the RUC can hold a suspected terrorist, on its own authority, is now 48 hours instead of 72 hours. The onus in bail applications in scheduled cases is now on the prosecution rather than the defence. Other recommendations were that the statutory guidance on the admissibility on confession evidence in scheduled cases should be rephrased to reflect the court's view that admissions obtained by the use or threat of violence should not be admissible, and that concerning the judge's discretion to exclude any admission in the interests of justice or out of fairness to the accused. Both Acts will lapse in 1992 and if similar provisions continue to be necessary they will have to be re-enacted by means of a Bill.

The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987 also introduced a statutory right for persons arrested under section 12 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 to have someone notified of their arrest and whereabouts and to have access to legal advice. Section 12 is the main arrest power used in connection with terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Act also gave the authority to impose statutory time limits on pre-trial stages of proceedings and introduced a statutory scheme for regulating security guard companies in Northern Ireland.

The 1987 Act was a major piece of legislation. Its purpose was, of course, further to refine the emergency powers and to try to improve, yet again, on that delicate balance between protecting the rights of individuals caught up in such situations and avoiding handicapping the security forces' fight against terrorism.

This is the first opportunity to review the progress of the 1987 Act and its new powers. One of those powers is for regulating security guard companies. It is now an offence to provide such security services without a certificate from my Department. If it is believed that proscribed organisations are likely to benefit from such security services a company is unable to receive a certificate. Such regulating is part of our continued campaign to tackle the problems of paramilitary racketeering as a means of fund-raising — vital to the continuance of terrorism—arid which we intend to do everything we can to choke off.

It is interesting to note that in the first period of operation of the certification scheme a number of security guard operations have already chosen not to apply for certificates. Therefore, I believe that there is some evidence to suggest that that scheme is starting to have some effect.

I asked Lord Colville to report on the working of the Acts and this is the first year in which he has submitted his report. I thank Lord Colville for his careful and diligent study when carrying out that review. I believe that his report has been of benefit to hon. Members when considering the progress that has been made.

The first requirement that I made of Lord Colville was that he should consider and advise whether any temporary provisions might lapse and to report on the way in which the Acts have been applied. It is interesting to note Lord Colville's first and main conclusion:
"the overwhelming view is an insistence on, or acceptance of, the emergency powers remaining in force."
The Government agreed with his conclusion and that is why we are here today. We regret the need for the emergency powers, but faced with the current situation in Northern Ireland we believe that they are essential. Lord Colville also said:
"I gained the impression that the Act is being used with due reflection, moderation and commonsense; that refinements of earlier activities have reduced the reaction, at least, to what are seen as oppressive powers; and that the courts are strict in their interpretation of police and military activities both in criminal and civil suits."

Is it not the case that, somewhere, Lord Colville referred to the use of tape recordings in the interrogation of suspected persons? Should not a code of practice embrace the use of tape recordings in such matters?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am aware that Lord Colville made no reference to that matter in his report on the Emergency Provisions Acts, but I am advised that it is mentioned in his report on the Prevention of Terrorism Act. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his efficient prompting. There was no mention of that matter in connection with the order that we are discussing.

An important commendation from Lord Colville is that "the Northern Ireland courts are astute to interpret the Emergency Provisions Acts most strictly in favour of the liberty of the subject."

Lord Colville has made a number of recommendations. He asked for clearer statistics relating to the breakdown between offences certified out and we are considering whether something can be done about that. Anyone who studies the Colville report will note that a significant number of offences were certified out in the various years. Lord Colville asked whether we might change from the procedure of certifying out to certifying in. On balance, Lord Colville came down against that change. The House will be aware of the reasons he gave and we believe that that judgment was right.

Lord Colville suggested removing robbery and aggravated burglary from the scheduled list. We certainly want to see as many jury trials as we can and we shall consider those proposals.

Under the 1987 Act I have powers—I have not used those powers yet and we are observing the scheme that is currently operating in England and Wales—regarding the introduction of time limits. The House will see that, in the annex to Lord Colville's report, he notes the considerable improvement in the waiting time before trial. We certainly hope that that reduction is improved.

Lord Colville also referred to the need for the early introduction of a code of practice relating to the emergency powers. He asked whether that code would cover the section 12 arrest powers and I confirm that that is so.

Those are the main considerations to which I would wish to draw attention. If hon. Members wish to raise other matters my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office will seek to address them.

What has happened to the Home Office inquiry that was set up a year and a half ago into kidnap insurance? That relates to one part of the Act. What has been resolved? Is the work still going on?

I shall have to take notice of that point. If we have the information, my right hon. Friend will try to respond to it.

The purpose of the order is to enable the powers that I have described to remain in force for a further 12 months. I have described the detailed outline of the 1978 Act and the 1987 Act, and Lord Colville's comments on them. Now I want to discuss the background against which this debate takes place.

The tragic outrage last night in the centre of Belfast is the latest confirmation, if any were needed, of the difficult and different problems that we face in Northern Ireland. The levels of violence in 1987 may have been below the worst levels of the 1970s, but there was a most unwelcome increase in violence, at least to the levels of the early 1980s. Last year there were 93 deaths in the Province and there have been 10 already this year. Amongst those were 11 members of the Army and the UDR, 16 members of the RUC and the RUC reserve, a large number of civilians, including Lord Justice Gibson and his wife, and 11 bystanders at the Remembrance Day parade at Enniskillen. I remember also the eight terrorists killed at Loughall, the four terrorists blown up by their own bombs and the seven members who were killed in the INLA feud. I mention them all because many of them were young men, and, whatever our attitude to their motivations, they were all people who lost their lives in the sadness and futility and pointlessness of the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland, which achieves nothing.

No one in the House takes pleasure in any deaths, but that is the tragic record of the past year. All that the terrorist campaign produces is sorrow, grief, unemployment, the obstruction of normal life and extra problems for the community. Sometimes people ascribe blame for the road blocks, vehicle check-points and watchtowers, but, as I said at Question Time, those things are there because of the IRA and the other terrorist organisations that have introduced this obscene problem to Northern Ireland. The community must use every means at its disposal to protect itself against this evil violence.

The threat that we now face is maintained and, sadly, enhanced by the outside intervention of substantial arms resources on a scale hitherto unparalleled in the terrorist campaign in Northern Ireland. I refer to the involvement of the Libyan supplies. That intervention poses a dangerous and difficult problem and brings into even sharper focus the outstanding courage and dedication of everyone in the security forces. This is a dangerous time and everyone in Northern Ireland knows that, and I commend the courage of the RUC, the reserve, the UDR, the British Army, the judges, the judiciary, people working in the law courts and the prisons, and the whole community, who are trying to stand against the dangers, often at much personal risk.

A moment ago my right hon. Friend referred to the Libyan connection. Are diplomatic relations between Dublin and Tripoli still maintained?

Does the Secretary of State agree that if the RUC is to have the full confidence and support of the minority community it is important that the ghost of the Stalker inquiry is finally laid to rest? In conjunction with that, does he accept that the shoot-to-kill policy that has been exposed, the events that took place in 1982 in the hayshed in Ballyneery road, Lurgan, and the subsequent destruction of the tape recordings that were made, are still something that the House must face? On whose orders were those tape recordings destroyed in 1982?

Many misunderstandings and misrepresentations have bedevilled this affair. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman used the phrase "shoot to kill". Shoot to kill is the wrong phrase. Does it mean shoot on sight, or without proper warning, or without observing the correct procedures for the use of force? Whatever it means, no evidence was identified and the Attorney-General made that clear to the House. That is important. I notice that one of my predecessors, the noble Lord Prior, has confirmed that, as far as his Office was concerned, no such policy was pursued.

I thank the Secretary of State for trying to clarify the definition of shoot to kill. Is that not somewhat at variance with the view expressed by the deputy chief constable of the RUC, who said that the unit was trained to act with the maximum speed, firepower and aggression?

The suggestion that the unit was to do that outside the rules of engagement and correct practice is not true. That, too, is important. It is well known that that was a clear finding that was endorsed by Mr. Sampson, and it needs to he put clearly on the record.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) made a statement that it would be well into the 21st century before the nationalist people supported the RUC? Will he make it clear that that is what the people of Northern Ireland are up against?

I have often expressed my concern from the Dispatch Box for the fullest support for the security forces. I think that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) may have misunderstood my remarks, on an earlier occasion, which were in no sense a personal affront to him; they had to do only with the sort of issues that arise. I recall occasions when there were plans for marches in Ballynahinch and Limavady, when the RUC and the Army turned out, with young 18-year-old soldiers, perhaps experiencing such an event for the first time, to defend and protect the nationalist community. Given the sort of risks that the RUC undertakes on behalf of all the community, it is entitled to expect the open and avowed support of every elected politician and responsible representative.

I understand some of the difficulties and the background but if we are to rise above the problems of past years we must recognise that the RUC has made a determined effort to work for all the community in Northern Ireland and it is entitled to find a response from the nationalist community.

I regret having to interrupt again, but I cannot allow that point to pass without clarifying it. Some definition of acceptance is needed. Is the Secretary of State making a distinction, as he should, between the acceptance of and support for the police carrying out their duties impartially, and saying—accurately—that we shall not arrive for a considerable period of time at a day when the police will be indigenous to the communities in which they — even now — do not live, and people in those communities will he able to join the police service and support it in that way? There is a world of difference between acceptance and the creation of a police service that is indigenous to every part of the community in the north of Ireland.

When we analyse the problems we want to be clear where the blame lies. We know that the blame lies with the people who are determined, as terrorists, to intimidate everybody out of supporting the police force.

We are aware of the problems experienced by Catholics joining the police force. I remember visiting the old Enniskillen training centre and being told about a lad who turned up from the Bogside to join the RUC. A message was given to him, quite quickly, that that was not a terribly good idea if his family wanted to continue living in the Bogside.

While everyone would like members of the police force to be drawn from the local indigenous community, at the present time other methods must be used. The police are doing their best for both communities and I hope that they will receive support in so doing.

A great debt is owed to the RUC, but the present position in Northern Ireland is under the spotlight. One is conscious of the fact that events of earlier years are influencing attitudes. I have expressed my regret that those factors should cut across the public's perception of a force that, in recent years, has given outstanding service. I hope that people throughout Northern Ireland will recognise the RUC as it is today and not dwell on the problems with which it has been faced in the past, which we have been seeking to tackle.

The RUC deserves public support because it has achieved major successes against the threat with which it has been faced. In the past five months alone there have been five major arms finds. Significantly, as the House knows, there have been two major finds in the Republic. There have been Republican and nationalist arms finds. The apprehension of the Eksund, which many initially thought had solved the problem, was perhaps merely a warning of the scale of the problem that we would face, and recent evidence has proved that to be the case.

In paying tribute to the security forces in Northern Ireland, I should like to express my appreciation of the achievements of the Garda in recent months. They have helped to prevent the possibility of appalling carnage and suffering in Northern Ireland. There has been co-operation with the Irish Government and the supply line of weaponry has been revealed. The search by 7,000 personnel — which was the biggest ever—that led to those weapons finds is evidence enough of the increasing commitment of the Republic. Their efforts, together with the security forces and the attraction of the greatest possible support of the community in Northern Ireland, are vital components of the effective response against terrorism.

I sense a growing anger and resentment in Northern Ireland at the pointlessness of the terrorist campaign. I understand very well the problems that traditionally the security forces may have faced in some parts of the nationalist community.

The 1978 and 1987 Acts, which the order seeks to renew, ensure that the security forces can effectively discharge their responsibilities to the community and provide the maximum protection against terrorism. They further seek to strike a delicate balance between that maximum protection and the rights of the individual. Against that balance, I commend the order to the House.

5.43 pm

I join the Secretary of State in expressing support for the security forces in Northern Ireland and the Republic and appreciation of the work that they do on our behalf and of the dangers that they run on behalf of all members of the community.

I trust that we can now return to the proper use of the Intergovernmental Conference for discussing many of these matters, so that we do not have what the Secretary of State called "megaphone diplomacy across the Irish sea." Had the Attorney-General had the benefit of the Intergovernmental Conference, some of the recent difficulties would not have arisen.

This is the first opportunity that the House has had to consider the emergency provisions Acts since the modest alterations that were made to the 1978 Act last year. We supported the 1987 legislation because, although it failed to include the major reforms that we should have liked, there were some minor improvements. Nevertheless, the Government did not accept any of the major amendments that were proposed by the Opposition. The legislation continues to provide for internment by Executive fiat without access to the due process of the law; it continues to provide for a too high proportion of jury-less trials in Northern Ireland; it contains no significant changes to the Diplock system; it continues to certify out cases to be tried with a jury rather than certifying them in; and it continues to allow extraordinary powers of search and detention by the Army.

When we look at the proposed reforms, which we relied on the Government to carry out, we find that the codes of practice have yet to materialise, that the RUC code of conduct has yet to be published and, more important, that the promised Government statement to limit the time that people spend on remand before trial has yet to be implemented.

Some of those criticisms have not arisen simply because of tardiness by the Government. In his letter to the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights about the publication of its latest report, the Secretary of State said that he had no intention of making the changes that had been urged on the Government by the Labour party and by right hon. and hon. Members in other parts of the House. That is because the Government are happy with the present extraordinary legislation. They are complacent about its effects on people in Northern Ireland and, apparently, they are unperturbed by the recent deterioration in Anglo-Irish relations. That was so when I was writing this speech, but since then we have seen certain signs of contrivance from the Secretary of State.

In that context, reluctantly, but because of the lack of progress by the Government in all the matters that we regard as important, we are concerned about the renewal of what remains a counter-productive and anti-civil libertarian piece of legislation.

In particular, the Government have refused to face the challenge of the definition of "lethal force"—a question that was very much to the forefront over the shooting of Mr. Aidan McAnespie last Sunday and the release of Private Thain. It may be shown that Mr. McAnespie was killed as the result of a tragic accident, but, whatever the cause, it has served to highlight the fact that between 1969 and 1987 the security forces have been responsible for the deaths of 304 people in Northern Ireland, of whom the majority—167—had no paramilitary connections; they were civilians.

Five years ago, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights called on the Government to consider embodying strengthened rules on the use of lethal force in the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987 — a recommendation to which the Labour party attempted to give effect. The Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights described the use of lethal force,
"as one of the most controversial aspects of the security situation in recent years."
The law has been criticised as being "too vague" and "out of date." The test of "reasonableness" in the use of such force was "too lax" and might contravene the European Convention on Human Rights. The commission stated that the circumstances pertaining in Northern Ireland required
"amendment to the law to embody more clearly the view of Parliament as to the general nature of the circumstances in which potentially lethal force might be used."
Again, this year, it noted that the 1987 Act had not amended the law, which remained "vague and unsatisfactory." Viscount Colville, in his first review of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1987, noted that the failure to legislate on the issue in the 1987 Act meant that the options available to the court when deaths occurred as a result of action by the security forces was either complete acquittal, which, he said, the victim's family and the community tended to think outrageous, or conviction for murder "with mandatory life sentence", which many thought too harsh.

Ironically, Viscount Colville cited the case of Private Thain. I wonder whether, at the time of writing, he knew that he was out of prison and that he was back in the Army, having served less than three years of his life sentence.

Lord Colville pointed out that an amendment to allow for a verdict of manslaughter,
"would go some way to satisfying the community"
and,
"would also be just to members of the security forces."
I trust that we might see that coming into operation.

The question of the use of lethal force lies at the heart of the Stalker affair. Had clear legal guidelines on the use of lethal force existed in 1982 we might have been spared the past five years or so of controversy.

Earlier this month, I said that Labour wanted justice in Northern Ireland—not a quick execution in a field, not undercover death squads and no "dirty war." I used those words because it is in precisely those terms that some in the Province see British justice and others—often evil men—seek to represent it.

If the Government had set out to do their best to undermine and destroy all the good work of the past two and a half years in rebuilding confidence among Nationalists in the administration of justice and the rule of law—and confidence in the RUC—they could have done no better than they did over the Stalker affair and subsequent events. Mr. John Stalker, the then deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester, was asked to investigate the deaths of six people, five of whom, we now know, had paramilitary connections. One was an apolitical youth of 17.

Basically, the scenario was that a hayshed was under surveillance, the IRA put explosives in the hayshed, the RUC was aware of that fact and bugged the hayshed, but the bug failed. The IRA took out its explosives, which were used in a culvert bomb, which tragically exploded, killing three policemen at Kinnego.

Sir John Hermon knew of the bugging of the hayshed, according to RTE's "Today, Tonight" programme of 30 October 1986, and he asked an investigating officer at the scene of the Kinnego blast, "Were these the explosives the force was supposed to be watching?"

If that account is accurate, a number of questions arise with regard to the Chief Constable. They were broadcast on RTE's programme, but we still have no answers to them. Perhaps the Minister will answer them. Did Sir John know of the renewed surveillance even before Michael Tighe was shot? Did he know of the tape's existence, while the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Barry Shaw, was ignorant of this crucial evidence? Did he know of the tape and its existence in secret, while Stalker was initially kept in the dark?

There is also the question whether the then Secretary of State, Mr. James Prior, or the other Minister then responsible for security, Lord Gowrie, was aware of the electronic surveillance in the hayshed. But there is more, because we now know that there was not only an original tape but a copy. As Lady Bracknell might have said, to lose one tape may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose both looks like carelessness—or a deliberate attempt to suppress evidence of criminal negligence.

If the RUC destroyed its tape before Mr. Stalker discovered its existence, and merely had a transcript of it, how was it that the MI5 copy was "weeded" after a senior MI5 representative said that he had no objection to Stalker's hearing the tape? Was he aware that MI5 had its own tape which he could have let Mr. Stalker hear? Is it not strange that a tape was weeded that certainly had on it the sound of gunshots and either the shouting of warnings before the opening of fire or the reaction of people after shots had been fired? One way or another, the tape would have cleared up the conflict of evidence between MacCauley and the RUC. To say that this was routine weeding out of a tape with gunshots heard on it beggars the imagination. It appears that it may have been weeded after it was learnt that Mr. Stalker was seeking to get the tape—a fact certainly already known to MI5, if it had not already reached the news media.

It was the deaths and the apparent cover-up that led to the accusation that the British were operating a shoot-to-kill policy in Northern Ireland. Stalker said he found no evidence
"of a formal, officially endorsed policy".
Mr. Sampson found the same. The Government and the RUC, on the basis of that fact, claim that no such shoot-to-kill policy existed. Who are we, in the face of such assurances, to argue otherwise? Except that that is not quite what Mr. Stalker said. He said:
"the circumstances of those shootings pointed to a Police inclination, if not a policy, to shoot suspects dead without warning, rather than to arrest them"
and he believed that
"heavily armed, psyched-up officers were being sent out to meet terrorists head-on, and they felt justified in shooting on sight".

It is being said in Northern Ireland that the Secretary of State has been told that it was Sir John Hermon who instructed other officers to destroy the tape. Can the Secretary of State now deny that he has been told that Sir John Hermon gave the instruction? Will he come to the Dispatch Box and say that now?

If the Secretary of State wishes to intervene, I shall give way. Otherwise, I give way to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton).

When I met Sir John Hermon a week ago and put that very question to him, I was given the clear understanding that the tape had been destroyed some time after the events had occurred. I was left in no doubt that that had nothing whatever to do with the RUC. That is why it is crucial that this matter should be cleared up. The RUC is being undermined, and the confidence of the minority part of the community is being undermined, because people are uncertain who was responsible for the events. That is why we cannot tell whether there was a clear policy or whether there was simply an implication, as the hon. Gentleman puts it.

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will join the Labour party in demanding a judicial inquiry.

Of course, all this happened during a period of rampant terrorism, as Sir John Hermon says, and the figures bear it out. Are we so other-worldly that we cannot understand the attitude of mind that prevailed at that time—an attitude of mind that might lead responsible people to say to those given the job of combating rampant terrorism on the ground, "I don't want to know what you are doing, but I hope you enjoy doing it" — the Pontius Pilate syndrome?

We can understand such attitudes amongst senior officers and even politicians and it is my view that there was no formal shoot-to-kill policy. However, I believe that there was the wink, the nod, the turning of the blind eye. Emotion rather than reason prevailed, and that was a pity for the rule of law in Northern Ireland.

There is enough in what I have said so far to justify a judicial inquiry such as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has been calling for since the Attorney-General's statement on 25 January. There are other reasons, and we must look at them. There is the question of the role of the Prime Minister in this affair.

The hon. Gentleman has made a number of pretty serious allegations, some of which he has attributed to Stalker and some of which he has adopted himself. Where is his evidence to support the charge specifically that senior officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary sent others out with a nod and a wink to break the criminal law? How does he know that?

In the trial for murder, Mr. Robinson stated that he was told to lie about the situation by his superior officers and that he was told to say that events happened in other places. We know from the Stalker report—this is yet to be corrected by the Government—that alterations were made to records of the movement of cars, the places where people were and the places where events happened.

Therefore, one is entitled to use another quotation, which I shall come to later and which will deal with the point made by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds, (Sir E. Griffiths.) However, I would say again that the hon. Gentleman should condemn the Government for not allowing us a public inquiry, which would enable us to know the facts. Those whom the hon. Gentleman represents in the House could only benefit from that.

Of course, much could have been avoided if the McDermot report of 1970 to the Northern Ireland Government, which recommended that the DPP in Northern Ireland should be independent and not responsible to the Attorney-General, had been accepted. We should not then have been in this mess. It might help if we re-examined the McDermot report and if the Government introduced legislation on those lines to prevent a recurrence of these events.

We start with the problem that the Prime Minister regards the police in the same way as she regards the security services—as her personal preserve and subject to the Government rather than to an independent body. She equates the national interest with that of the Tory Government of the day. Thus, in statements from Downing street, a member of the police force was referred to as "the Government's employee" —presumably that came from the Prime Minister's "familiar", the head of the press office. When we have the Prime Minister and her office starting off with that kind of attitude to the police, striking at the constitutional doctrine of their independence, is it any wonder that there is lack of confidence?

Then we have the Prime Minister's response to the whole of the tragedy in Northern Ireland. Her emotion rules her head, and we understand the personal reasons for some of her emotions and we have every sympathy with her. However, if she were not in such a hurry to score emotional points and to demonstrate on the media last Thursday night the depth of her emotional upset, the situation might be better. She accused of murder those of my constituents, and constituents of hon. and right hon. Members throughout the House, who took it upon themselves to combat terrorism while serving in Northern Ireland as members of Her Majesty's forces. She spoke of 2,600 people in Northern Ireland, since the start of the recent troubles, as having been murdered. Yet, if we look at the figures we find that of those 2,627 deaths—that is far too many and none of them can be justified in any way —by the end of 1987, 304 were killed by the security forces and 55 per cent. of them were civilians.

Everybody deplores any death, and condemns strongly the murders by paramilitaries on both sides, but I would hesitate to call 304 deaths at the hands of the security forces — 169 of them civilians with no known paramilitary connections — "murders". The Prime Minister must be careful in the way that she uses words because she can destroy a good case.

It could be, of course, that the Prime Minister, as head of the Secret Service, knows things that we do not in this regard, and to which we are not privy. I hope that that is not the case. Or perhaps, once again, it was an occasion when the Prime Minister allowed her emotion to overcome her reason, and used figures like confetti at a Moonie wedding. She was quick to say in her recent discussions with the Taoiseach, "This is an emotional problem and you don't defeat emotion with reason", but we will win only if we are rational in our approach.

Therefore, we have called for a judicial inquiry because we believe that the Attorney-General could not conceivably have reached his conclusion that the public interest and national security dictated that members of the RUC should not be prosecuted for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, despite compelling evidence that they had so conspired, without consulting the Prime Minister. She gave her advice as head of the security forces, emotionally involved, blinkered in her reaction to what the result of that decision might be for the safety of our troops on the streets in Northern Ireland and the success of the campaign against the men of violence. She must have been consulted. She must have been aware of, or had the ultimate responsibility as head of the secret services for, their role in the Stalker affair—the role of MI5, the planting of the bugs.

Therefore, we understand the truculence that the Prime Minister displayed in her answer last Thursday to my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and to the demands made by the leaders of the Ulster Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist party that the buck should not stop with junior, or even senior, officers of the RUC. There is political and security force involvement.

We know also that there are senior politicians who adopted the attitude, "I don't want to know what you are doing, but are you enjoying it?" and knew of the existence of those special RUC units. In fact, in 1979, when first in her new job as Prime Minister, when the crescendo was building up, at the height of the IRA campaign, the Prime Minister herself visited the highly secret Bessbrook support unit. The account in The Irish Times refers to Mrs. Thatcher approaching to meet the men of that unit from a helicopter:
"When it landed, Mrs. Thatcher strolled towards the BSU men with her characteristic purposefulness, pausing only to glare over her shoulder at Denis who had fallen down the helicopter steps.
An ex-BSU man takes up the story: 'She came up to us and said "so you're the special unit we've heard about?" and then she started shaking hands and talking to each man. I remember her saying: "I don't know what you're doing, but are you enjoying it?" … She kept on congratulating our Inspector, calling him by his Christian name, saying what a good job the men were doing and "long may you continue."'"
The question to which we need to know the answer is "Did the attitude reflected in the phrase, 'I don't know what you're doing' permeate the whole of her Administration at that time and until the fatal shootings?" Was it, as Mr. Stalker later said:
"What I did get was a feeling that an atmosphere was raised to such an extent and the adrenalin was flowing to such a level that the feeling was 'OK, dead or alive we'll be protected to some extent. We're soldiers really, in Police uniform, and we can probably justify deaths afterwards because we are in a war.', but I never found that there was any suggestion that there was a 'shoot-to-kill' policy. It was a feeling of 'Let's do it to them before they do it to us.'"
As those men were trained in speed and aggression of response, as members of the headquarters' mobile support units, that seems to be close to an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy that was at that time in operation in those very difficult situations in that part of Northern Ireland, where terrorism was rampant. That is why we believe that we should have a judicial inquiry — because there is evidence, innuendo and rumour, which will be referred to continually during the debate. When the Secretary of State calls on us for evidence, the answer is that that evidence, if it exists, is in the reports which none of us has yet been allowed to see and which the country has a right to know about. Because of the cover-up over the tapes and the concoctions of stories, we still do not know—perhaps the Minister will tell us when he replies to the debate— whether the cover-up story that was sanctioned in the Robinson case was first telephoned through to headquarters at Knock in Belfast, as has been alleged.

Northern Ireland is a very dangerous and very unhappy place. The Prime Minister's decision, as head of the security forces, and the Attorney-General's decision, with regard to no prosecutions following the Stalker-Sampson inquiry, have undermined the rule of law, and confidence in the RUC. Secret disciplinary procedures behind closed doors are no substitute. It is a nasty story, a grubby tale, with the fingerprints of the Prime Minister all over it. The hayshed tape lies at the heart of this story — [Interruption.] Well, she is head of the security forces and was consulted by the Attorney-General.

The Government still have the opportunity to come clean, by having a judicial inquiry under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act 1971 to look at the Stalker affair, the shoot-to-kill policy—if there was one—the cover-up and the roles of the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and the security forces.

We are not seeking to find scapegoats — the Government are doing that. We seek to find the truth—the first casualty in this tragic affair. If, out of all this sorry mess, we could at least have the truth, in the end it might have been worth it. At least we could face the future with some degree of confidence.

6.6 pm

I do not really believe that this House or the country on this side of the Irish sea really understands what is going on in Northern Ireland. As Members of Parliament, we discover that if there is an incident such as has been discussed at length by the spokesman for the Opposition, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), there will be a great hue and cry and a great parliamentary hubbub. However, when one looks at what is happening in Northern Ireland and sees how innocent people and those who are trying to do their duty in defending all sections of the community are being mown down and murdered, there seems a great silence. It is a thundering silence so far as the people of Northern Ireland are concerned.

The hon. Members for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross), for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe), for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) are in gaol tonight. I utterly and totally deplore the fact that we are having this debate tonight; all Members representing Northern Ireland should have had an opportunity to be present in the House on this occasion because this is the first opportunity that Northern Ireland Members, who represent the people of Northern Ireland through the ballot box, have had to discuss these events in a debate in this House.

Today is supposed to be devoted to Northern Ireland business, but we have had a long statement about the privatisation of electricity and we are told that at 7 o'clock this debate is to cease. That is a real outrage to the people of Northern Ireland. It is a crying shame that it is tonight that such issues are before us that should be debated in this House—it is better that they are debated in the House. I do not agree with what the spokesman for the Opposition said, but then he would not agree with many things that I say. It is better to discuss such matters in the House and it is better that the people of Northern Ireland should know that their representatives have an opportunity to say what has to be said in the House.

The Unionists of Northern Ireland can discuss their affairs in an Anglo-Irish Conference, of which we know nothing because it is all done in secret. It has been revealed that the understanding of both parties in the Anglo-Irish Conference is really a misunderstanding. Last night, we were informed by the Secretary of State that the next meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference would be attended by the two chiefs of the police forces in the North and the South. The Secretary of State had hardly left Dublin than a strong statement was made that that was not the case. In fact, Mr. Lenihan told us that they might discuss the fair employment position — or the unfair employment position, whichever way one looks at it—at the next meeting. The people of Northern Ireland are involved in that. We have to pay the price, but we are never told anything.

At 7 o'clock tonight, the axe will come down. If we want to wait until 10 o'clock, we can, by the grace arid favour of the powers that be, have an hour and a half and, at 11.30, go home.

For many years the hon. Gentleman and I have differed profoundly on Northern Ireland, but on this issue I completely agree with him. For us to have a debate split up in this way shows that somebody does not see the issue of Northern Ireland in its proper perspective. It is disgraceful that this situation has been thrust upon us.

All right-thinking people in Northern Ireland, and the right-thinking Members of the House who are interested in Northern Ireland debates—although not many are and I have been in the House long enough to know that not many people stay throughout any debate —know that the Secretary of State is only answerable to the House. He goes down to Dublin and answers the Ministers there, but he is not responsible to them. He does not need to answer to them; he is responsible to the House and to the people of Northern Ireland. However, we have been robbed of our rights.

When we did not come to the House, we were told that we should be at the House. Then, when we come to the House, we are not given enough time to debate. In fact, one fellow asked me what I was doing here and said that I should be away home. The situation has deteriorated into a farce for the people of Northern Ireland. The House should conduct its business in such a way that all the people of Northern Ireland will know that these matters are being treated with great seriousness, no matter what side of the fence one is on.

In fact, we may not even resume the debate at 10 o'clock. There could be two Divisions, following the private business, which means that the debate might not resume until 10.30, which would mean that this crucial debate will have been reduced to about two and three quarter hours.

I think that we shall also have another one and a half hours, but what time of the night will that be? Moreover, the people of Northern Ireland are anxious to know what the House is doing, and at that late hour there will be no press coverage. The Secretary of State has it in his power to say that the debate will be adjourned at 7 o'clock and resumed on another day. That would help everyone. It would also mean that those Members who are in gaol could attend.

Let me just say that the men in gaol tonight would not be there if they were Members of Parliament on this side of the water. The law on parades in Northern Ireland is different from the law on this side of the water. Here one must give six days' notice; there one must give seven days' notice. Those men would not be in prison at all if they had made their protests on this side of the water.

Why were the powers that be anxious that Unionists should not be in the House tonight? Were they afraid of what the Unionists would say? Were they afraid of the Ulster representatives taking part in the debate?

I find myself in the unique situation of agreeing with the hon. Gentleman on this. Would it not be as well to have clarification now, because those of us who wish to speak want to leave time for everyone to make a contribution? If we had such clarification now we would be better able to facilitate other hon. Members.

Let me try to help hon. Members. If the private business comes on at 7 o'clock before this debate is concluded, this debate will be resumed at the concluson of private business at 10 o'clock or before, as the case may be. If Divisions take us beyond 10 o'clock, the debate on Northern Ireland business can go on until 11.30.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that the order that follows will have another hour and a half, and that will have some relevance to what we are debating now?

Yes, that is the case. At the conclusion of the debate on this order, even though that may be after 10 o'clock, the subsequent order will then have up to one and a half hours.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you allow me to give notice that I shall not rise again to intervene in the debate, but I wish to protest, as I have often protested, at the handling of Northern Ireland business.

Let me make a plea to the Secretary of State. It is in his power at 7 o'clock to move that the debate be adjourned. If there is agreement with the other side, the debate could be resumed next week. This is my only opportunity to speak, and it is difficult for me not to say what I have to say. My constituents will ask why I did not say certain things and they will not understand if I say that I had only a few minutes and had to allow time for others to speak. People in Northern Ireland believe that we can talk for as long as we like, but that is not the way of the House. If English Members of Parliament were treated as we have been treated tonight, there would be one unholy row in the House. They would not tolerate it. I am making a plea to the Secretary of State to adjourn the debate at 7 o'clock.

Did the Secretary of State know that there would be a long statement today, or did he think that we would be able to start this debate earlier? That would have allowed at least some semblance of time to carry on this debate. The Secretary of State has it within his power to give this debate an airing in the way that I have suggested. I invite him to tell us whether he is prepared to do so.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the business of the House is not a matter for me but I am sympathetic to the problem that hon. Members face. I shall look into the matter and see whether there is any possibility of his request being met, but there is still some uncertainty about the time that we have today. Unfortunately, many hon. Members wanted to question the Secretary of State for Energy on his statement today and there was bound to be a business statement, which obviously contributed to the problem. I shall look into the matter, but I do not know whether anything can be done.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you are now in the Chair, perhaps you will clarify the position. We are led to believe that, at 7 o'clock, there will be an interruption for opposed private business. If that lasts until 10 o'clock, an hour and a half will remain for this business. If there are two Divisions on the private business, it will probably finish at half past 10 and we shall have an hour and half after that for this business.

In your absence, Mr. Speaker, I have been making a protest, for which there has been support from both sides of the House, about the fact that we have no time to discuss a vital matter in respect of Northern Ireland. It is now 20 minutes past 6. The two official spokemen have had an opportunity to state their position, and it is now the turn of Back Benchers to do so.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman, as I did earlier, that this debate will be interrupted at 7 o'clock and that we shall return to it after the conclusion of the opposed private business. If that is concluded before 10 o'clock, we shall return to this debate before 10 o'clock, but this debate can continue until 11.30 pm and the following debate can continue for a further hour and a half.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I understand it, if at 10 o'clock there were one, two or even three Divisions, a quarter of an hour, half an hour or three quarters of an hour would be denied to this debate. Is that right?

The Question on this motion will be put at 11.30 pm, so this debate can go until 11.30 pm. The time taken up by the Division will not affect subsequent debates. I was not in the Chair when the matter was first raised, so I am not totally seized of the problem.

You, Mr. Speaker, have confirmed the worst fears of all hon. Members. If there are one, two or three Divisions on the opposed private business at 10 o'clock the time taken on those Divisions will be lost to this debate.

Yes, that would be correct. Some time for this debate would be lost. The debate may continue only until 11.30 pm, so, if there were a number of Divisions at 10 o'clock, I fear that some time would be lost.

I believe that I am in somewhat of an impasse. I do not believe that I am being permitted to put my case. We want to put our case and we want to hear the answer from the Front Bench.

Certain charges have been made from the Opposition Front Bench tonight and other hon. Members will be asking questions. If the debate continues until 10 to 7, we shall have a hotch-potch of an answer. No one will have the opportunity to obtain a proper answer. We are now told that, if Divisions continue until 10.45 pm, we shall have only three quarters of an hour to finish the debate. I support the comment of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), that it is not fair to ask people to debate the matter in this way. I hope that Ministers will tell us quickly whether they are prepared to do as I have suggested, and adjourn the debate.

I wish to bring a number of matters to the attention of the House. I speak under a considerable strain tonight because, as I said in an earlier question to the Prime Minister, a member of my own church was murdered last night in the city of Belfast. He was a young man to whom I recently spoke about his marriage. He was planning to marry a young lady from my church. His death hangs very heavily on me. I have not been able to be at home because I have been performing my duties in Brussels and I feel very sore about the matter.

Some buildings have been removed from Royal avenue in the centre of Belfast. Laing, the contractors, are busy on a development which takes in the old Smithfield market area. To protect that building site, they erected a large hoarding on the Royal avenue site. A patrol had to take up duty near that hoarding and, because of that hoarding, there was a blind side that the patrol could not keep properly under surveillance.

The members of the Ulster Defence Regiment on that patrol said to their commanding officer, "Look, we need to have something done so that we are not a sitting target for an assassination attempt." Evidently, the matter was examined and the officer concerned—no doubt his rank will be disclosed in the examination promised by the Prime Minister today—is reported to have said, "No, we can't do anything. If you don't like what you are asked to do, you can leave the regiment." Those young men were not objecting to their duty, but they have been told over and over again to watch themselves. They were on the ground and they knew the type of attack that could be launched upon them. Such an attack was launched upon them and today two families are plunged into the depths of sorrow as a result of what has taken place.

I do not wish to comment further on that, but I look forward to a proper examination of the facts and an investigation of what has occurred. The men were trying to do their duty efficiently and effectively and to keep up the high standards in respect of safety measures in which they were trained. If an officer said to them, "If you don't like what you are asked to do, resign from the regiment," that officer will have to be dealt with and disciplined.

Those men give, after hours, their services to the Ulster Defence Regiment to defend every section of the community and they should be given due respect by their commanding officers. The matter of the hoarding also needs to be investigated.

I started this speech by saying that I did not think that people in this House and on this side of the water know what is happening in Northern Ireland. On 17 January, a constituent of mine, young Stephen Tweed, who lives between Ballymena and Ballymoney on the outskirts of a village known as Dunloy — he is a Government employee and a part-time soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment—was driving, with his girl friend, down the lane to his father's farmhouse. Forty one bullets were pumped into his car by two Armalite rifles in the hands of two members of the Irish Republican Army. I have visited the scene and looked at the car. It is a miracle that anybody came out of that car alive. Both the boy and his girl friend escaped without a scratch.

Just after that event, there appeared on the sign of an old school wall, in large writing, the words:
"Tweed goes on, hut not for long",
followed by the registration number of his car and signed by the IRA. That has been on the wall of the old school for days in an area which is strongly infiltrated by the IRA, inciting and inviting a further attack on the man and his home. If that had happened in England, the police would immediately have obliterated the sign because it is an incitement to murder. I have gone to the police in Ballymoney. I have told them that the sign should be erased. They agreed, but said that the owner of the property is not in sympathy with taking the sign off; he objects to anyone removing it.

These are some of the things which are happening in Northern Ireland. I am trying to show the House what we are up against. Before I came into the debate, I rang the police and was informed that the sign is still there, but that they were working on it. I said, "Superintendent, that is not good enough. The sign is inciting people to carry out a murder which has been attempted and has failed. If it was in any other part of the community, it would have been dealt with immediately."

Some hon. Members have applied strictures to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is all right when Royal Ulster Constabulary members are beating the heads of Protestants in Portadown: then there are cheers from he Opposition. In fact, a leading member of the same party as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), Councillor Briege Rodgers, had something to say about Portadown. She said that Portadown was the capital of Protestantism and that if the Protestants were beaten there, they would be beaten everywhere. That was her attitude. I have heard hon. Members speak of the great work which the RUC did in beating up Protestants who wanted to walk through a certain area. It is important that the House gets to grips with the position and knows exactly what is happening.

What about Mr. Stephen Tweed? He was visited by a member of the security forces who handed him a·22 pistol and told him that he could protect himself. Any hon. Member who thinks that a pea-shooter of that strength is any protection for a man—

—who is under such tremendous threat should have his head examined. It is all right for the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) to comment. He has set up many UDR men.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman was complaining about the time available for hon. Members from Northern Ireland in the debate. He has spoken now for nearly half an hour and he will leave hardly enough time for other hon. Members. He is being totally unfair to the House.

On a further point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) may wish to reflect on the comment he has just made about an hon. Member setting up a member of the UDR. I hope he will withdraw that remark.

I am not responsible for what is said. However, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has been speaking for rather a long time.

There are four Members from Northern Ireland in the House. We are getting until 7 o'clock. The Government Front Bench spokesman — [Interruption.] We were told by the managers of the business that an arrangement had been made by the two Front Benches to get the business over by 7 o'clock. We were no party to that arrangement.

Nor was I. I have already told the hon. Member that the debate may go on after 10 o'clock, or even before that if the opposed private business is over.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can we find out from the Secretary of State, through yourself, whether the Government have agreed to adjourn the debate at 7 o'clock to another occasion when we will have sufficient time to discuss this serious matter?

It would be better for the House if we knew before that. It is unfair to the House and to other hon. Members — [Interruption.] Hon. Members may heckle me as much as they like. [AN HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman will still be speaking at 7 o'clock."] That is all right. It would not be the first time that I had talked out a debate. Opposition Members too have talked out debates. [Interruption.] I am glad that that came from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, because we know that when a stone is thrown among a lot of dogs the one that is hit the hardest yelps the loudest. I am happy about his remark.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) does not seem to know much about Northern Ireland. He should read the records of the first Assembly, when he will find out that Unionists refused to sit with the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh because of the things which he had said about the UDR. If he would like more information about the UDR, perhaps he should remember that his friend Dick Spring and his friend Dr. FitzGerald said after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed that it would be the end of the UDR. So there has been an attempt to discredit the UDR and to attack its members.

I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that there is a world of difference between saying that an hon. Member has discredited the UDR or disagrees with things which it has done and saying that an hon. Member tried to set up members of the UDR which gave the clear impression that the hon. Member had been involved in organising events which led to UDR men losing their lives.

It is very easy to set up people in Northern Ireland. Two police officers were named in the House by the Opposition Front Bench; the names were not even right, but those men were set up as soon as they were mentioned. Someone has only to say that the UDR is a pack of murderers and its members are set up in the same way as RUC officers have been.

Is it not the case that in 1975 and in 1987 the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) made statements attacking the integrity of UDR members and the partisanship of the organisation, and within days the IRA replied to his comments by killing members of the regiment?

I want to return to the young man who has been set up by the IRA for a further attack on his life. He has been offered a ·22 pistol to defend himself. There is not a police officer in London, a comparatively peaceful city, who is asked to carry out the protection of Government officers with only a ·22 pistol. Yet that is all the protection offered to a man who has had 41 bullets pumped into his car, who is in danger of being wiped out, and who has a sign 100 yards from the farmhouse inciting people to kill him. I would be failing in my duty as Member of Parliament for the area, no matter what hon. Members think of me and no matter what agitation goes on about parliamentary time, if I did not raise that matter in the House this evening. That is my duty, and I shall do my duty, whether it is popular or unpopular with this House.

It is scandalous for any two parties in this House to make an arrangement for 7 o'clock involving Northern Ireland business, and thinking that they can do it because they have five Unionist Members comfortably behind bars. That is something that the people of Northern Ireland will not tolerate, and something that I, as a Member of this House, will vigorously protest against.

Serious events are taking place in Northern Ireland at present. Everyone there knows that a large consignment of sophisticated and powerful weaponry has been brought into Northern Ireland, and into the Irish Republic. The Garda in the South are alarmed; Mr. Haughey himself is alarmed; the authorities here are alarmed.

I have heard it said that the search in the South came about because of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Let me disillusion the House. No search was made in the South as a result of any representations through the Anglo-Irish Conference. A message conveyed to the Gardai from the French police giving the facts about the shipment was what started the search. That is why Mr. Haughey asked for sophisticated search machinery, which he borrowed from the Northern Ireland authorities, to help his search.

Those of us who live in Northern Ireland keep our ears open, and we know what is happening. The search took place because Mr. Haughey saw that his Government could go down.

Is the House aware that in the hands of the IRA is a bomb which, if it alights on a Land Rover, can penetrate 6 in of steel and destroy it? [Interruption.] I am told that it is a grenade. On Monday night, I was at the bedside of a sergeant. The lower part of his body had been almost blown off in Coalisland. He needed 14 pints of blood, and was fighting for his life. I stood there with his wife and family.

What do hon. Members think is the morale of the policemen who now go out in Land Rovers knowing that in the hands of the terrorists is a bomb that can penetrate 6 in of steel and destroy them? These are facts that the House needs to know.

One of the Members of this House who are in prison tonight — the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker), whose outspokenness is well known—said this in the House:
"Is the House aware that, in the previous 11 years, five of the six men who were shot"—
this is what all the investigation is about—
"and their associates—this is not intended to excuse any wrongdoing—had murdered 222 people in my constituency, 42 of whom were policemen, 35 of whom were UDR men, over 20 of whom were innocent Catholics and the rest were regular soldiers — constituents of hon. Members — and Protestants." — [Official Report, 17 February 1988; Vol. 127, c. 990.]
That is the background of what we are discussing tonight. We cannot discuss such a horrific background without keeping in mind the background of Northern Ireland.

I know that, if the campaign with these modern weapons is launched on the security forces, we shall be in the utmost difficulty. We only have to see helicopters shot out of the skies and aeroplanes brought down to see what will happen in Northern Ireland.

I see that the Secretary of State has returned to the Chamber. Perhaps he can tell us whether the debate will stop at 7 o'clock.

I now see that the Leader of the House has come in as well. I shall give way to him, if he wishes to make a statement. It seems that the Leader of the House is not going to make a statement. If he is intending to make one, however, it would be helpful to me if he made it now, so that I can judge the position.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way for a moment. I appreciate that the debate started rather late — that is just one of the things that happen here—and I understand that many hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to speak. Perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if we adjourned the debate at 7 o'clock. I propose that it should be resumed at a convenient date, which I would discuss through the usual channels.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Now that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is here, let me say that many hon. Members on both sides of the House would doubtless like to take the opportunity of telling him that many people consider the arrangements for today's debate most unsatisfactory.

Having made that point, I hope that we will all join in saying to my right hon. Friend that we greatly appreciate the sensitive way in which he has handled the matter.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I join the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) in thanking the Leader of the House for coming to the Dispatch Box to make his statement. Let me also join him in saying that the procedures that we use for dealing with Northern Ireland business are clearly wholly unsatisfactory. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will examine the way in which Standing Orders operate and Orders in Council are brought, and also the way in which very short periods are allocated to deal with matters of great sensitivity and political importance.

I thank the Leader of the House for his announcement. I also thank him on behalf of the Official Unionists who are not present in the House tonight. I think that everyone knows why they are not present. They adopted the same attitude as the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and said that they would not seek to be called in the debate.

What the right hon. Gentleman has said is gratifying, and will be welcomed in Northern Ireland. It will show the people there that the House is prepared to take time to discuss these vital matters.

The hon. Gentleman may at the same time be able to bring great relief to some of his hon. Friends who are at present languishing elsewhere. He explained that they are there because they are being treated differently from hon. Members in other parts of the House in having to give seven days' notice, whereas in England and Wales six days' notice is required. I am amazed to hear that explanation, which is based entirely on a failure to understand parliamentary draftsmanship. The time requirement for Northern Ireland is identical to that in the rest of the United Kingdom. He may wish, therefore, to advise those hon. Members that they are languishing in vain.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State has not read his own Order in Council. I am sorry that he does not know the difference between pieces of legislation that he sponsors in the House, and that he does not know the charges brought against those hon. Members. I was in court with them on the very same charges. How could they be brought to court for not giving seven days' notice if, as the Secretary of State has said, the law is the same as in the rest of the United Kingdom?

At another time I will speak in the House about the order on public order and I will show the Secretary of State in Hansard the provisions in that order that were not voted down by the House and are riot applicable in England and Wales. When will the Secretary of State have sense and tell the truth to the House? To come to the House and tell us that the public order order is the same as that for the rest of the United Kingdom is absolute tommy rot. I would use a stronger expression, Mr. Speaker, only you would call me to order.

I trust that the Secretary of State will now read his own legislation. The public order order in Northern Ireland is entirely different from the legislation in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Secretary of State was wearing a great smile. He seems to enjoy the fact that those hon. Members are languishing in prison. I have news for him. He could put the Unionist leaders into prison for years, but it would not destroy their credibility with the people. When they take part in an election, they will be returned with overwhelming votes.

Does the hon. Gentleman not see any contradiction in the situation prevailing at the present time, in which other hon. Members are languishing, as he puts it, in prison because of their opposition to the public order order, while if they were here they would be voting for the renewal of this piece of legislation?

I never said that they were languishing in prison. It was the Secretary of State who said that—the man who rejoices when Members of the House are in that situation. He says that he understands, but he does not understand. If he understood, he would realise that it would be better to keep elected leaders out of prison arid have them here in the House. For the day will come, if he keeps on doing what he is doing, when he will he faced wit h people of a different type, who will not bother with the constitutional way of doing things.

In this dangerous situation, when there are arms in the country from Libya and the position is constantly deteriorating, it ill becomes the Secretary of State to treat us with the contempt with which he has treated us tonight. I am sure that when the hon. Members come out of their short imprisonment, they will not have the same privilege as was given to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who was locked in with a Republican rebel, especially chosen, no doubt, on the orders of the Secretary of State, thinking perhaps that he would be able to proselytise and convert the hon. Member. It was very interesting that the next day they removed the Republican quickly from the Protestant influence of that prison cell because they thought that he would be converted to proper convictions. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, and I can laugh, although I have been in prison many times and according to the public order order I shall be going again. But I shall stand up in court and read what the Secretary of State said—that I should not be there, that I have committed no crime—and we shall see what the DPP says in court about the Secretary of State.

We hear all this talk about Sinn Fein being isolated by the SDLP, that the SDLP is pushing Sinn Fein away. I want to tell the House what happened in the Magherafelt council the other night. The Sinn Fein members got up, after a vicious attack led by the godfather of terrorism, a man called Davey, who has set up many good men to be killed. He moved that Queen Elizabeth II—

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but earlier he accused the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) of setting up UDR men. He has now accused somebody outside of setting up men to be killed. The implication of the use of that phrase is that he was saying the same about the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. I think that the hon. Gentleman should be made to withdraw that, as happened with my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).

I hope that the hon. Member will withdraw, if that was what he was saying.

You can read Hansard, Mr. Speaker, and you will see exactly what I said. I am afraid that I cannot withdraw until you have done that, because this is not a correct statement.

The man I am talking about, Davey, is well known as an IRA godfather. If I am not allowed in the House—

Order. I am not talking about the gentleman outside the House whom the hon. Member mentioned; I am talking about an hon. Member inside the House.

All I am saying, Sir, is that you can read Hansard. I will bow to your ruling. If you read Hansard, no doubt you will get in touch with me and if you want me to do something no doubt you will tell me what it is. I am not promising that I will do it, but I will listen to what you have to say. That is all I can do.

Is it not strange that the spokesman for Her Majesty's Opposition, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), should call on the hon. Member to withdraw in connection with the names that he has mentioned, when the hon. Gentleman himself named the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? It is all right naming an RUC member, but one cannot name an IRA man. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is more concerned to defend IRA men than to defend members of the RUC and the security forces.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your direction in relation to this. I want it to be clearly understood that whether the hon. Gentleman withdraws or does not withdraw the remarks he made about me is of no interest and little relevance to me. But would it be your instruction that, if the hon. Gentleman were to accuse someone else of having set someone up for murder, that would be very unparliamentary indeed and you would require it to be clarified?

As I understand it, the term "setting up" has a special relevance in Northern Ireland. It has not, I think, been considered an unparliamentary phrase previously in the Chamber. I am sure that the whole House will agree that all of us recognise the danger in which, sadly, hon. Members in Ulster live. I hope that nothing that is said here will inflame the situation or put their lives in danger.

No doubt, Mr. Speaker, you will read carefully what has been said and will be in touch with me about it. I have already made my position clear.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman knows that, if he keeps speaking until 7 o'clock and I am still on my feet, I shall be called first the next time.

I wanted to raise a difference point when I asked the hon. Gentleman to give way to me. Since it was the hon. Gentleman who, with the assent of the whole House, wanted the debate to take place on another day, does he realise that he must sit down just before 7 o'clock? If he would like to sit down now, that might be of help to him, and indeed to the House.

Order. It might be helpful to the hon. Gentleman if I underline what the hon. Member for Eastbourne has just said. If the hon. Gentleman is on his feet at 7 o'clock, he will put in jeopardy the adjournment of the debate.

It is 6.57, Sir, and I think that I can finish what I have to say before the dread hour. I must tell the House that there was a move by Sinn Fein IRA gunmen, in that council, to remove Queen Elizabeth's name from the parks, and that they were backed unanimously by the SDLP. Every one of them voted in favour, including a justice of the peace. That is what is happening in Northern Ireland and that is what I wanted to say before 7 o'clock. I understand that if I sit down at 7 o'clock I shall be called first next time. [SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then I will sit down, Mr. Speaker.

Debate adjourned. — [Mr. Wakeham.]

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.