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As soon as this appalling Bill came into existence, it became inevitable that such discussions would take place without a solution being found. The Government will accept no amendments tonight. Hon. Members feel the frustration that we feel, although not as desperately. No matter how long the debate lasts, the Government will have their Bill ; they will have their way. [Interruption.] Conservative Members have been drafted in, but they know little or nothing about Northern Ireland. They are all saying, "Hear, hear". That is the difficulty we face with a load of ignoramuses who do not understand the problem. In spite of all the cheering and counter-cheering, I prophesy that there will be no changes in the Bill. We will put it on record that it is a bad, squalid little Bill which will deepen the problems of Northern Ireland by forcing people to swear an oath in which they do not believe. The new clause is almost as silly as the Bill, and would get us nowhere. It is born of an honest desperation, but I oppose it for the reasons I have given. The debate has roved over the whole gamut of Northern Ireland. That is a pity. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) was going to speak, but he felt that the debate had been so broad and so removed from the new clause that it would be difficult for him to say what he wanted. I have tried to speak to the new clause. I am against it, as I am against the Bill.
Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : I have been provoked into intervening in the debate by what I have heard. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is a regular attender at Northern Ireland debates and always takes part in them. As he has pointed out, suddenly from nowhere quite a few hon. Members have been brought in by the Government Whips to show that the Government have some support for the measure.
The Bill has been spawned by the Government's desire to be seen to be doing something in Northern Ireland--not too much but just enough to impress the people. The Bill will not frighten the IRA. It is meant to impress the honest, decent, law-abiding people of Northern Ireland and to make them believe that the Conservative Government are determined to defeat the IRA and its political spokesmen. I do not wish to be a party to that deception of the decent people of Northern Ireland who have suffered for 20 years at the hands of evil terrorists.
The families of those who have been murdered deserve the sympathy of the whole community, whether the victim
Column 1227was a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. The murderers are contemptible and deserve to be punished with the full force of law and order. I regret that after 20 years we still suffer from terrorism to an extent which would not be tolerated in this part of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] It shows the utter disregard of the Conservative party for the people of Northern Ireland that Conservative Members talk among themselves when we are attempting to debate a serious matter affecting Northern Ireland. I hope it is brought to the attention of everyone in the Province that during the debate there have been at most only about half a dozen Conservative and Labour Members present. Only recently has the pack been brought in to show some support for the Government and, I suppose, to disconcert an hon. Member from Northern Ireland. I resent it. I think that I speak for the people of Northern Ireland when I say that they would resent it and that they will take note of it.
What is the new clause about? All that my hon. Friends seek to do is to take the initiation of legal proceedings out of the hands of individuals and place it in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The trend over the last 10 or 20 years in Northern Ireland has been to remove political influence from prosecutions. My hon. Friends wish to remove the burden from the individual elector or councillor and place it in the impartial hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The Bill will not achieve anything. It is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the Ulster people. Let my hon. Friends and I, as Unionists, put it on the record that we wish the onus of prosecution to be placed in the hands of an impartial person--the Director of Public Prosecutions. What would happen under the proposal put forward by the Government? An elector would have to decide whether to take legal proceedings. The opinion of another lawyer might contradict the opinion of his lawyer. The elector will have to take the risk of going to court. That will cost money. Will the Government provide financial aid to an elector who wishes to initiate proceedings under the Bill?
The elector may fail in court and may have to bear the cost of the proceedings. Even if he succeeds, the person who is disbarred may decide to appeal. Who will pay the heavy costs of all the legal proceedings which may arise from the Government's proposal?
Mr. William Ross : Does the hon. Gentleman also appreciate that many Sinn Fein councillors are people of very little means and that the chance of ever recovering costs, should costs be awarded against them, is minimal?
This is a miserable Bill. It is an insult to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] Again, a Government Member is trying to disconcert me and cause offence to the decent people of Northern Ireland by his remarks. Despite the interruption from the claque, I will go back to the point that I was about to make. The student of law is taught that the law must not be brought into disrepute or made the subject of ridicule and contempt. This measure would do that. I cannot support anything which will bring the law of the realm into ridicule and contempt. Therefore, I shall certainly not support the Bill. I should like the Government and every hon. Member--sadly, most of them are elsewhere--to know that the
Column 1228people of Northern Ireland are not deceived by this legislation which will make no contribution to ridding Northern Ireland of the evil of terrorism.
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) : The Bill has been opposed by different parties for a variety of reasons. The multiplicity of antagonism lies in the origin of the Bill. It was promulgated back in October 1987 with the White Paper, not as a security measure or as anything to do with violence, but as a token to the Unionist parties to return to the council chambers which they had abandoned after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985. That was the thrust and argument for the Bill. It was a panacea to allow a face-saving exercise to be undertaken to allow the Unionist parties to return to the fold. Then, in the summer of 1988, it was buried and lost for ever, never to be resurrected.
But after certain terrible and horrible atrocities in Northern Ireland, the Government decided that they should introduce some "new measures" against terrorism. They dusted off the cover of this proposal and brought it forward, not as something to entice Unionists into the council chamber again but as an anti-terrorist measure. It was a cynical exercise because the Bill will have no effect in diminishing terrorism in Northern Ireland, nor will it keep terrorism down or reduce the publicity that terrorism attracts and feeds upon. It will do the very opposite.
Let us consider what will happen in the council chamber, or before the signing of the declaration. If I may digress for a moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I say that other hon. Members have spoken exclusively about the violence of Sinn Fein. They have led the House to believe that only the Sinn Fein councillors have participated in or used violence. Nothing could be further from the truth. From most parties in Northern Ireland, although I can proudly boast that my own party is the particular exception, members sitting in the council chamber give active or tacit support to the men of violence. Even in my own council, a member of the Official Unionist party has been charged with manufacturing machine guns. Let us not assume that violence will come from only one source ; it is coming from several sources simultaneously, and those sources have representation in the council chambers.
What will happen when the various parties--Sinn Fein or any other party-- decide whether or not to sign the declaration? It will be done on the basis of political expedience, not because members are for or against violence. They can sign or not sign. If they decide to sign the declaration, it means that they are prepared to, and have instructions to, sign the declaration against all violence and to go into the council chamber. Their modus operandi will then be that at a time convenient to the terrorist organisation, say, a time of low publicity, or to attract attention from some atrocity that they have committed, they will commit an offence under the proposed legislation in order to create disharmony within the council chamber and the community that that council represents.
Ultimately, there will be the continuing propaganda of litigation going through the courts for as long as that may take. Money will be no object, as many hon. Members have said, for many of these paramilitary organisations. They will have continuing and total publicity. So much for
Column 1229strangling the so-called oxygen of publicity. The Bill will build a new pipeline, with an open-ended cylinder of oxygen, which will keep them going for ever and a day.
Let us suppose that councillors do not sign the declaration or participate in local government elections in May 1989. Then there will be a propaganda cry that they have been debarred and excluded from the democratic process and that 11 per cent. of the electorate do not have public representation. Therefore, in their warped thinking, they will justify the case that they have no alternative but to use violence. Just think of the propaganda weapon that that will provide for terrorist organisations in Northern Ireland, here, and in Europe, and especially in north America. Whatever way we look at the legislation, it will cause untold problems.
The amendment suggests that the acts should be of a criminal nature. There was much argument in Committee about whether the Attorney-General or the Director of Public Prosecutions should take action. As has been pointed out time and again, in any court cases witnesses have to provide the evidence of a particular offence. It does not matter who takes the action, because those same witnesses, be they councillors, or a corporate body of the council, or an elector within the district, must do what they must anyway. In terms of the political reality of the councils of Northern Ireland, it will be essential that the decision to take action be visited upon those who are taking it. I say that for this reason. It has been said that the Official Unionists or the Democratic Unionist party will be taking action against Sinn Fein. I have no doubt that Sinn Fein will be taking action against other parties on the same basis, because other political parties occasionally express support for violence. Sinn Fein will be delighted to use the legislation to take other parties to court.
I have no doubt from my experience of local government in Northern Ireland, which goes back over 27 years, that the majority parties will on occasion-- I do not say always--use their majority to pursue minority causes. The Bill provides for money from the ratepayers to pursue such a course of action. That is what will happen.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : Does my hon. Friend agree that the hypocrisy of this legislation is that there is existing public order legislation which can deal with incitement to hatred. Every offence committed under this legislation could be dealt with by the public order legislation. Therefore, this is superfluous as well as hypocritical legislation.
Mr. McGrady : I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. Several other measures, including legislation on incitement to hatred, were put on the statute book but have never been used, to my knowledge, in Northern Ireland. They were enacted to enable prosecutions of people who incite hatred. They are the breeders of violence.
I feel rather sorry for the Minister tonight, because this is very bad legislation. He has an impractical Bill which will cause great disharmony, first in the council chamber and then in the community. The irony of the situation is that this child is loved by nobody. When the Bill started its passage, it was supported totally by, as I understand it, the Unionist fraternity. [ Hon. Members :-- "No."] I am grateful for the intervention of the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) because that was the only remaining doubt in my mind.
Column 1230Now every representative of Northern Ireland in this Chamber is opposed to the Bill. In other words, all the elected representatives of Northern Ireland across the political divide are opposed to the Bill. Who is legislating for whom? That is the question I leave to the House.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : As one who has for 16 years been a member of a local authority in Northern Ireland, and still am, and as a member of an authority where the Social Democratic and Labour party and Sinn Fein joined together to share the chairmanship and vice-chairmansip of the council, I cannot let the remarks of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) pass. I do not say that he has deliberately misled the House but he is misleading when he tries to give the impression that the Bill before the House is a sop to the Unionist population to get them back into the councils. That is not true. I remember a time when many elected representatives were making representations to the Department to have meaningful action taken against Sinn Fein representatives, the spokesmen for the murderers on the streets of Ulster.
When I hear SDLP Members say that they are against this legislation, I find it rather strange. I was on a deputation from our council when one of the SDLP members of that council asked the then Minister to take action against Sinn Fein and to bring legislation before the House that would debar Sinn Fein from the council. It is rather hypocritical for the SDLP Members to suggest
Many SDLP council members wanted action taken to remove Sinn Fein because of a personal threat to the SDLP caused by the presence of Sinn Fein in the councils. I know from a former Minister who sat on the Front Bench on similar occasions to this that members of the SDLP, whom he knew, made strong representations to him in private to have action taken against the Sinn Fein in the councils and to put a halt to the charade that is taking place in councils in Ulster. It is, therefore, rather hypocritical when the SDLP pretend to the people of Ulster, lest the Sinn Fein might hear, when in private they were making representations to have the Sinn Feiners removed from the councils.
Mr. McGrady rose --
I must make it absolutely clear that those who care for democracy in Northern Ireland demand that action is taken to remove the representatives of gunmen from elected chambers in the Province.
Column 1231The House had better realise how dangerous it is for elected representatives from the Unionist community and the SDLP. They know that if they step out of line there are members of Sinn Fein sitting in the council chambers and measuring them up for a coffin if they speak openly against Sinn Fein in the council. It must not be forgotten that many of the Sinn Fein councillors come to the councils through having been activists in the IRA. So let us not pretend that these are little, genteel people who are interested only in democracy. The last thing that they are interested in is the democratic process except where they can use it to destroy it. We in Ulster have been denied democracy for many years. It is about time that local government democracy was allowed to live and that those people who make representations on behalf of the good and decent people of Ulster are allowed to do so.
It is hypocritical for the SDLP to tell the House that all parties except the SDLP have aided terrorist organisations. I find that interesting in view of the fact that in Fermanagh council the SDLP voted with Sinn Fein to put them into the chairmanship of that council. It is also strange that for the past four years, since the SDLP representatives came into our council in Magherafelt, the SDLP have voted on every occasion to put Sinn Fein into the
vice-chairmanship and into every other committee post. It is also strange, considering the question of aiding and abetting terrorism, that when they were embarrassed enough to remove the mandate from the chairman in Fermanagh they went to my own constituency and put into the chairmanship of Strabane district council the Sinn Fein representative. That was done just this year : the SDLP voted Sinn Fein into the chairmanship of the Strabane district council.
Rev. William McCrea : This is background information, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to what is a very important matter affecting the very lives of the elected representatives that the new clause refers to. It is easy for members of the SDLP, who joined hands with Sinn Fein in the council chambers, to laugh, but it is the Unionist members that Sinn Fein usually measure up for a coffin and shoot through the head, as they have done in councils in our province up to the present time. In the new clause--and this has already been touched on by the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder)--the onus is put on the individual person or on the individual councillor to take action against the representative and supporter of terrorism. I live in a district which has such a council.
Towards the end of his speech a few moments ago, the hon. Member for South Down said that the majority of councillors would take action just to get at Republican representatives. The proposed new clause permits a council to take action, but I ask the House to consider carefully the fact that the places where there are Sinn Fein representatives, as in the west of the Province, have a majority of Republican councillors. Dog does not eat dog. There is no chance of the SDLP, which is in the majority with the Sinn Fein in the west of the Province, taking
Column 1232action against the Sinn Fein representatives of murderers. So the onus, with its implications of cost and everything else, is put upon some individual in the community.
Certain people on this side of the water may count the lives of Ulster people cheap and may not think that we are very valuable at all. There are even those who would prefer us not to be able to speak on behalf of our constituents in this Chamber--but I am delighted that they do not have the final say on that.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Perhaps it has come to my hon. Friend's attention that even serving soldiers from this side of the water are treated in a shameful way. Their dependants are offered the paltry sum of £1,300 when they are blown to pieces in Lisburn.
Rev. William McCrea : Thank you for drawing my attention to that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am sure that the House will note carefully what my hon. Friend said. It is a sound fact. The legislation was not introduced as a sop to anyone in the Unionist community. It was resurrected because of the dastardly murder of eight soldiers in my constituency. After that we were promised that action would be taken in the councils to stop representatives of terrorism becoming spokesmen who were heard on the media. Other action was promised, including the removal of such people from councils.
The people that I represent would be delighted if meaningful legislation were introduced that went to the heart of the problem and dealt with spokespersons for terrorism, from whichever source. Such legislation would be meaningful and it would be backed by Members of the Unionist family in the House.
The Bill is watery and places elected representatives and individuals who wish to stand against the spokesmen of terrorism in more danger than ever.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : My hon. Friend will have heard during the speech made by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) an intervention from the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) who said that existing legislation on incitement to hatred could be used. Will my hon. Friend confirm that such legislation would not disqualify anyone from local government but the purpose of such legislation should be--we suspect that ultimately it will not be--to remove from local government people who support violence?
Rev. William McCrea : I concur with my hon. Friend's remarks. The startling fact is that the legislation would not act against spokespersons for terrorism in council chambers because it would not remove them from those chambers. Elected representatives who simply wanted to be good, decent councillors would still have to suffer verbal and other abuse.
It is interesting that the legislation mentioned by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has already been used. It was used against Official Unionist members of Belfast council. It is strange that while we hope to deal with the spokespersons for terrorism--they say, without apology, that they carry the bullet in one hand and the ballot box in the other--there seems to be no desire to use that legislation against them.
Mr. Mallon : It seems strange that when the public order legislation came before the House, I was the only Northern Ireland Member who voted for it. While I was voting for it the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) and many of his friends were on the streets protesting against it. That legislation contained the incitement to hatred clause. The hon. Gentleman owes the House an explanation as to why he did not vote for the public order legislation.
Rev. William McCrea : It shows the weak and pathetic nature of the hon. Gentleman's intervention when he has to scrape the bottom of the barrel. He knows that the Official Unionist representatives, backed by the Unionist population, refrained from making their voice heard in the House because the procedures of the House were a fiasco and they were not permitted to speak for the people of Northern Ireland. The House will find it strange to hear that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh voted for something because he usually votes against legislation dealing with terrorism. Let it be put on record that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has no right to talk about action against terrorists or about those who support action proposed by the Government to deal effectively with terrorism, such as the emergency provisions legislation, and so on. Perhaps he will tell the House why he continues to vote against legislation which could be taken right into the terrorists' dens and deal effectively with them.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Is it not true that the legislation dealing with incitement to hatred was on the Northern Ireland statute book long before the legislation mentioned by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)? Is it not true that it was used against two Protestants and was never used against Sinn Fein or any person guilty of murder or incitement to murder?
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. In responding to that intervention, I remind the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) that we are talking not about other legislation but about the legislation before the House and new clause 2. I must ask him to restrict his remarks to what is in order.
Rev. William McCrea : You will understand, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I find that difficult to understand because other hon. Members have mentioned such matters and their speeches have not been stopped in mid- flow.
The intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) was telling. He told us how the legislation was used and it perhaps explains why the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh was so keen to vote for it. The legislation would be used in only one way and it would not touch Sinn Fein representatives.
I and the people I represent want meaningful and purposeful legislation that will deal with the threat to the shreds of democracy left in the Province. There is little democracy left because elected council representatives have little with which to deal. They concern themselves only with a few meagre jobs such as burying the dead, emptying bins and some recreational facilities. Hon. Members who take an interest in local government in Northern Ireland are shocked to find that the elected representatives on the councils in Northern Ireland have so little power. Power was taken from local authorities in Northern Ireland as a sop to the SDLP and the other
Column 1234Nationalists. I and my colleagues will vote against this legislation because it will not deal with the problems. If it were effective, I would be delighted to go into the Lobby with the Government. The Minister knows that I want to have such legislation on the statute book to deal with Sinn Fein and the threat that it poses to our community.
Mr. Mallon : I have been a councillor for the past 16 years and I have lived through some harrowing experiences in district councils involving some people who would represent violent Republicanism and others who would represent violent Unionism. Nothing that I could imagine would be strange to anybody who has served as a councillor in Northern Ireland. That is why I want to make one point.
Like other hon. Members, I believe that this legislation cannot and will not be successful but will simply be a means by which those who want to make propaganda and use legislation for their own benefit will do so, to the detriment of councillors. The unsung heroes of politics in Northern Ireland are people who serve on district councils. Many of them have served for many years. They get no credit, none of the plaudits and none of the great advantages. They are the people who will have to live with the consequences of this legislation, which is unworkable from their point of view, will be very much to their detriment and will make them--the true councillors ; the people who are there to serve the community--pawns in a much wider political game.
For that reason, I believe that the Bill is grossly unfair and completely unworkable. I do not believe that we shall be able to say within the lifetime of the next councils that this legislation has fulfilled the purpose the Government believe that it will fulfil. I think that it will be utterly counterproductive.
If people read the existing public order legislation very carefully they will see that the amended incitement-to-hatred provision is sufficient to deal with the type of problem that we are considering. Under this Bill, unless it can be shown that a person has in some way supported violence or an act of violence, he cannot be taken to court. The public order legislation has a sufficiently wide section on incitement to hatred to allow action to be taken that would not have detrimental effects on councillors, council business or the entire community.
I found it very difficult to understand--and I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) for giving way on this--the position adopted by some hon. Members from Northern Ireland when that previous piece of legislation, which I believe was most valuable in allowing people to live their lives without the threats and pressures that we all experience, was going through the House. They were on the streets protesting against that legislation. Indeed, I may be wrong but I believe that some of them went to gaol in opposition to it. It is very difficult to accept the rationale of people who will go out on the streets, causing problems for police and security forces, and go to gaol in opposition to an Act that was passed when they were seeking this legislation, which they now find is not strong enough. That is the terrible anomaly that we face and I wish that hon. Members would read the public order legislation, particularly the section on incitment to hatred, because it could be very valuable indeed.
Column 1235This is not the first time that elected members from the Unionist community have boycotted councils. I learned a very hard lesson--
Mr. Mallon : I will indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because part of the new clause relates to summary conviction, a fine or imprisonment. I was one of the people who sought to have that implemented so that the business of district councils could continue. When I took legal action, not just through the lower courts but in the High Court, I had absolutely no support from the Northern Ireland Office ; it did not want to know. It was a very costly episode for me ; it cost an awful lot of money. So much so that I believe the precedent is there and people are not going to take that course even if they have good grounds, and I do not believe the grounds are there.
I take your direction, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I make the point that I do not believe that the Government are at all serious on this. Had they been, they would have taken action many years ago to ensure that councils operated properly. They are doing what they are doing with every other piece of Northern Ireland legislation that has been rushed through. It is an exercise in machoism and window dressing. It is for the optics and will do absolutely no good in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Peter Robinson : Like so many other hon. Members, I start by stating the vested interest of being a local government councillor. I have served on a local authority since 1977 and can honestly say that the purpose and intention of the overwhelming majority of people who give of their time and energy, for very little thanks, by involving themselves in local government are to better the lot of the people who live in the local community. The vast majority of them are not there to further some greater and wider political cause ; they are there to deal with the small issues of bins, recreation, community centres and so on. That is the full extent of the authority and power they have in local government.
Therefore, we are not talking about issues that affect the overwhelming majority of local government councillors, because they are not directly affected by the legislation. But they are directly affected by those whom this legislation was initially stated to be aimed at--those who might come into local government to make it more difficult for people to work for the advantage and benefit of their local communities.
The specific matter to which we are asked to address ourselves--and I can see, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you are surprised that somebody is actually going to refer to the new clause--is whether the matter should be one with a criminal content or something dealt with by individuals through a civil process. The purpose of the legislation, as stated by the Government, was to remove from district councils people who gave public support to terrorism. One would have thought that if that was the real intent of the
Column 1236Government they would have been prepared to put their full muscle, authority and finance behind it to ensure the result that the legislation was intended to give.
I do not believe that the stated intent of the Government was ever their real intent. It is more than likely that the Government were attempting to put up a smokescreen, to give the impression of activity when there was no indication from within the Northern Ireland Office that the action provided for in the Bill could work. It cannot work in its present form, and the Minister knows that it will not work. Therefore, it will lie on the statute book to be the source of some considerable discontent, to be used and abused in local government for one group to get at another, knowing that there will be no conclusive outcome. And no doubt there will be considerable expenditure within local government and from personal finances in the quest for what effectively will be a public show. It will be for the publicity of Sinn Fein in taking Unionist councillors to court if they should call for the annihilation of the IRA. All that is likely to happen over the next few years.
The real intention of the Government was to give the impression rather than the reality of activity. They were not prepared to give the Director of Public Prosecutions the power to take the necessary action when utterances contravening the legislation were made. That would have been the natural consequence that would have flowed from a genuine attempt by the Government to deal with this problem. The Government decided to avoid it and had to pass the buck to somebody else. They tell us that Joe Citizen will be entitled to take to court someone who has publicly advocated violence and have him disqualified. I do not think that the Minister could be unaware of the consequences to a person who took that kind of action. There is a high likelihood that someone who publicly advocates violence and terrorism would be displeased at such action by a citizen, and would show that displeasure by the method that he has publicly advocated. The Minister must be aware that there are unlikely to be any takers for pursuing action against those in local government who advocate violence. Knowing that fact, the Minister put in a catch-all that the council can take the action against an individual, but he knows that the vast majority of councils will not do so. We will probably find that an angry Loyalist will be in a predominantly Unionist council while an angry Sinn Fein member will be in a predominantly Nationalist council. We will probably find that no action will be taken by any council against any of its members who make public comments. It may happen in perhaps only two or three councils. I can think of a Sinn Fein member in Belfast council making a comment and, as that is a Unionist council, action could flow from that. Lisburn council is another such council, although Sinn Fein members never seem to speak in it. There are few councils that would take such action and we are left either with Joe Citizen or a councillor taking action.
The Minister is dodging his responsibility in the most cavalier and dangerous manner by suggesting that people other than the Director of Public Prosecutions should take such action. They do not have the security that surrounds the director in his bullet-proof car with its security driver and police backing. They do not have at their homes the security devices that the director has to safeguard him and his family from those who would undoubtedly attempt to attack him for such action. To ask ordinary people to put
Column 1237their lives on the line is quite outrageous and in attempting to pass it off in the way that he has the Minister has shirked his responsibility.
The legislation will not work. The House must change the Bill so that it can do the job that the Government say they want to do. If they want to make the legislation work they will have to include the new clause ; without it the Bill will not work.
Rev. William McCrea : Perhaps I could give my hon. Friend an illustration of the danger to elected representatives. A former Northern Ireland Member, the late Robert Bradford, was elected in Belfast, South and paid for his stand in politics with his life. Mr. Edgar Graham, a noted and learned young man, paid for active service in politics with his life. A former deputy mayor of Craigavon, Mr. Calvert, took a stand and was fortunate to escape alive. There is a plaque in the House that reminds hon. Members when they walk through the door of another gallant and hon. Member who sacrificed his life, the late Mr. Airey Neave.
Mr. Robinson : My hon. Friend draws attention to the price that elected representatives in Northern Ireland have to pay. Many of them have paid that price, and not just those that my hon. Friend has mentioned. I can think of Councillor Armstrong from Armagh and of SDLP councillors in Belfast and in other parts of the Province who have been killed. It is not easy to be an elected representative in Northern Ireland. It is a dangerous job and no matter which party one represents, one's life is on the line. The Minister wants to make elected representatives even more of a target and that is the real danger of the legislation.
Mr. Needham : I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was in his place when I made my speech on the new clause. If he was not, I suggest that he reads Hansard to see what I said. If he refers to paragraph 16 of the discussion paper "Elected Representatives and the Democratic Process in Northern Ireland" he will see at no stage did the Government say that they would take powers. We invited views about the best way to deal with this problem, and we have brought forward proposals that are likely to be more effective than the proposals that the hon. Gentleman is putting forward. If he had been here to listen to my speech, he would have learned why our proposals are likely to be more effective.
Mr. Robinson : Since being elected to the House 10 years ago I have missed very few of the great parliamentary occasions, but I must confess to having missed the Minister's contribution. I should have been interested to hear him and watch him wriggle. The Government went through a consultative process and asked the community as a whole to give its views on how this matter should be dealt with. The overwhelming majority of the people asked for it to be dealt with in the way that I have described, but the Minister chose another way.
Mr. William Ross : The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) will have noticed that in his intervention the Minister mentioned paragraph 16 of the discussion paper. If the Minister had cared to do so he could also have referred to paragraph 15 which says : "Enforcement of a declaration could either be through the criminal or the civil courts."
Column 1238If it is to be a criminal procedure, the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Attorney-General would have to be used.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) attempted to give the impression that Unionist Members were asking for a tightening up of security through action taken against Sinn Fein. He said that we had had an excellent opportunity under the public order legislation, but that we had voted the wrong way. The hon. Gentleman well knows that Unionists voted against that and went to gaol because the public order legislation was on the parades issue. I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you will not allow me to go too far down that road, but it was because Northern Ireland was being treated differently in the public order legislation from the rest of the United Kingdom that we voted against the order. Again I tell the House that if it wants legislation that will work it must give its full support to the new clause.
Mr. Clifford Forsythe : I feel rather like the young boy who overturned a beehive. We have had a good debate. I cannot say that many hon. Members stuck to the new clause and the amendments but I shall certainly not deviate from them.
I was surprised at the Minister deviating down the road of repudiating and disavowing. We had quite a debate on that in Committee and that had nothing to do with the amendments either. I am sorry that the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) has just left the Chamber. If he were here I would remind him that long before 1985 I led a deputation of councillors to protest to the Minister about this matter. I am sure that the Minister remembers.
The Minister also surprised me when he said that trying to go down the road of criminal investigation into declarations would make things harder. It should not be difficult to prove that a law has been broken and everyone should have the right to prove whether he has broken it. The right to fight against those who feel that the law has been broken should be properly tested. Those hon. Members who favour the amendments feel that the supporters of terrorism should be treated in the same way as those who actually carry out terrorist acts. If terrorists are to be brought to account under the criminal law, their supporters should be also. We shall be pressing the clause to a Division.
Question put, That the clause be read a Secondtime :--
The House divided : Ayes 10, Noes 176.
Div No.53] [7.50 pm
Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. William Ross and
Rev. William McCrea.
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy