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Joint Communique by the British and Northern Ireland governments, 9 and 10 October 1969

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Text: British and Northern Ireland governments ... Page Compiled: Martin Melaugh

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Northern Ireland:
Text of a Communiqué issued
following discussions between the
Secretary of State for the Home Department
and the Northern Ireland Government
in Belfast
on 9th and 10th October 1969

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department
by Command of Her Majesty
October 1969

Cmnd. 4178


1. During his second visit to Belfast the Home Secretary, Mr. James Callaghan, accompanied by the Minister of State, Home Office, Lord Stonham, attended a series of meetings with the Northern Ireland Cabinet on 9th and 10th October.

2. The Ministers of both Governments expressed their appreciation of the work of the Army in the very arduous tasks it has had to undertake in support of the civil power.

3. The Ministers discussed the report on the recruitment, organisation, structure and composition of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) submitted to the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs by the Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Hunt. Northern Ireland Ministers informed the Home Secretary that:

(a) They accepted the principle of a civilianised and normally unarmed Royal Ulster Constabulary.
(b) They agreed that, subject to further consideration of its composition, a Police Authority should be constituted, representative of the community as a whole, to which the Inspector-General of the RUC should be accountable.
(c) They agreed to a closer association of the RUC with British police forces. Further discussions will take place with the United Kingdom Government as to how this may be achieved. In this context the Home Secretary is anxious to devise arrangements for mutual assistance between the RUC and British police forces in such matters as training facilities, the secondment of personnel and the temporary reinforcement of the RUC in emergencies.
(d) They accepted in principle that the police should be relieved of all responsibility for prosecutions, and that a system of independent public prosecutors should be adopted.
(e) They agreed that the USC should be replaced by two new forces:
(i) a volunteer reserve for routine police duties such as traffic control; and
(ii) a locally recruited military force to protect key installations and to undertake such other tasks as might be necessary to guard against the threat of armed guerilla-type attacks. This force will be commanded by the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, who will work in the closest consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland, through a Security Committee presided over by the Minister of Home Affairs.

4. In conveying these decisions, Northern Ireland Ministers stated that they considered it essential that:

(a) The adoption of the principle of an unarmed police force should in practice depend upon assessment of the security situation as it exists throughout Northern Ireland and in particular areas.
(b) The arrangements for the raising of a new security force should be set on foot without delay and once constituted there should be no change in that force without the fullest consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland.
(c) The USC, as at present organised, should remain in being until a fully effective security force was available to replace it.
(d) The vital interests of the Northern Ireland Government in the defence of the province should be recognised by continuing arrangements for the fullest consultation as to the policy for use of the new force.
(e) A fully adequate military garrison should be maintained in Northern Ireland and there should be effective machinery for the swift deployment of army units in Northern Ireland including units of the new locally recruited force, in the event of any threat to security.

5. The Home Secretary, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, gave assurances that these requirements would be fully met within those fields for which the United Kingdom Government were responsible.

6. Northern Ireland Ministers informed the Home Secretary that Mr. J. A. Peacocke had submitted his resignation as Inspector-General of the RUC and that to succeed him the Minister of Home Affairs had recommended to the Governor the appointment of Sir Arthur Young, Commissioner of the City of London Police. The Home Secretary expressed his complete confidence in this appointment and shared the Northern Ireland Government’s appreciation of the generous action of the Corporation of London in agreeing to release Sir Arthur Young.

7. The Ministers reviewed the present economic and industrial prospects of Northern Ireland in the light of an appraisal by a mission of representatives of Whitehall departments undertaken at the invitation of the Northern Ireland Government.

8. They noted that the direct effects of recent disturbances on trade and industry had proved to be limited in extent and of short duration. They reaffirmed that the achievement of an acceptable rate of industrial expansion remained an essential element in the future economic development of the province.

9. The Northern Ireland Government welcomed the full and generous support of the United Kingdom Government in making possible the decisions that they had taken, following the report of the United Kingdom mission, to maintain the momentum of industrial investment. The Ministers noted that, while the rate of promotion of new jobs in 1969 had been in line with present targets, a source of concern to potential investors was the availability of a satisfactory assurance against loss in the event of further disturbance. To provide an immediate assurance to new manufacturing projects, it has been decided to introduce for a limited period a scheme of free compensation against damage arising from riot or civil commotion, including consequential loss, which would form a supplement to new agreements for assistance under the Industries Development Acts.

10. To encourage a still higher rate of expansion, it has been decided, for a period of three years, to increase by 5 per cent the rates both of investment grants and of grants payable under the Industries Development Acts. This means that the standard rate of investment grants payable without employment test will become 45 per cent, with a rate of grant of up to 50 per cent for projects offering worthwhile additional employment. These measures are estimated to cost some £3 million in a full year. The Ministers agreed that the Northern Ireland Government should indicate their intention, at a further cost of some £1.5 million, to retain for a further year until April 1971 the additional selective employment payment of 7s. 6d. a man per week, which is to be discontinued in Development Areas in Great Britain from April 1970.

11. These measures have particular relevance to the longer term economic prospect. The Ministers agreed that meanwhile the prospects for employment in the coming winter, particularly in certain localities, remained a matter of great concern. It has accordingly been decided to initiate a programme of works costing up to £2 million for the relief of unemployment this winter. The works will be mainly concerned with roads, forestry and land reclamation, as well as amenity schemes and tourist development work in outlying areas. This will provide some 2,500 new jobs.

12. The Home Secretary reiterated the close and continuing interest of the United Kingdom Government in the economic well-being of Northern Ireland which could be promoted only by the fullest co-operation between the two Governments. The present decisions fell within the existing framework of financial arrangements between the two Governments. He affirmed the intention of the United Kingdom Government to cover the agreed capital requirements of Northern Ireland on a continuing basis.

13. The Ministers discussed the reports received by the Northern Ireland Government from the joint working parties which had reviewed the adequacy of present practice or pledged commitment to ensure:

(a) The promotion of good community relations by methods including the prohibition of incitement to religious hatred.
(b) The avoidance of any discrimination in any form of public employment.
(c) The fair allocation of houses by public authorities.

14. A Minister of Community Relations has been appointed and a bill to set up a Community Relations Commission has already received a second reading in the House of Commons. The duties of the Commission will include encouraging the establishment of harmonious community relations and advising Northern Ireland Ministers on questions relating to community relations. The Commission will be authorised to assist local bodies concerned with community relations, to provide training courses, to promote conferences and to undertake research.

15. A bill has been introduced to establish a Commissioner for Complaints to deal with complaints of maladministration (which will include religious discrimination) by local authorities or public bodies. It will be the duty of the Commissioner to investigate complaints, to attempt to conciliate the two parties and, if that proves impracticable, to indicate what remedy is required to provide a fair settlement to cure the effects of the maladministration. He will have power to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of papers. Not only may an aggrieved person seek remedies in the courts as an ultimate sanction but an injunction may be sought in the High Court to restrain a local authority or public body from any continuing course of maladministration.

16. The Government of Northern Ireland have decided to introduce an anti-discrimination clause in all Government contracts.

17. Northern Ireland Ministers indicated their intention of keeping under review the adequacy of the existing law against incitement.

18. The Minister of Community Relations will be considering what further action to prevent discrimination in other fields might be desirable. Northern Ireland Ministers have approved a series of detailed recommendations designed to reinforce the safeguards against discrimination in public employment and agreed that consultations should be set on foot at once with the various employing authorities and staff associations. The main points decided were:

(a) The joint working party found that the Civil Service of Northern Ireland deservedly enjoys a high reputation for fairness and impartiality in its employment practices and is open to criticism in only a few minor aspects. Action will be taken in respect of these. The powers of the Northern Ireland Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration will be extended to personnel matters in the Civil Service.
(b) In those parts of public employment where the Government are not the direct employer, each employing body will be required to make a declaration that its aim is to have equality of employment opportunity without regard to religious or political considerations.
(c) Every public body should have an approved code of employment procedure. Discussions will take place immediately with the local authority associations and with statutory bodies.
(d) A permanent statutory Local Government Staff Commission will be established with strong advisory powers to assist local authorities in the selection of candidates for senior and designated appointments, and a continuing duty of reviewing appointment procedures. While the structure of local government is being reviewed these functions will be assumed by an interim commission acting on a non-statutory basis.
(e) The idea of a Public Service Commission, concerned with certain aspects of staffing throughout the public sector, including both local government service and the Civil Service, raises far-reaching questions but will be further studied with a view to a report being put before the Northern Ireland Government as soon as possible.

19. The joint working party on housing allocations, as well as dealing with methods of allocation, also brought to notice the much wider problem of the housing programme: the waiting lists, the age of much of the existing stock, and thus the great need for urgent schemes of redevelopment.

20. In their work on the Development Programme for the next five years the Government of Northern Ireland have concluded that an expanded housing programme is essential on social and economic grounds for the future welfare of Northern Ireland.

21. The working party has found that despite excellent recent progress by the housing authorities which compared very favourably with that in Great Britain there are still substantial shortages in many areas. Moreover, on present evidence the proportion of outworn houses needing replacement, which is believed to number some 100,000, is substantially higher than that in England and Wales. No more than 3,500 were dealt with last year in Northern Ireland. The Government have concluded that this is an emergency situation requiring emergency measures. They have therefore decided reluctantly that local authorities are not geared — and cannot be geared — to handle such a task and that the best hope of success lies in the creation of a single-purpose, efficient and streamlined central, housing authority (helped by the Development Commissions in their own areas) to tackle this most urgent problem.

22. This difficult decision was taken by the Government only after much anxious thought and advice from various bodies. The Government are convinced that the disadvantages are clearly outweighed by the advantages to the whole community to be derived from a much larger housing programme. It was recognised by the Home Secretary that this decision to set up a central housing authority would have financial consequences which will be urgently discussed between the two Governments.

23. Both Governments recognise that private enterprise has a major role to play and the Northern Ireland Government will consider what further measures might be taken to stimulate private house-building. The financial cost of such measures will be examined by the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury in the normal way.

24. The Northern Ireland Government declared their intention that there should be a phased transfer of housing to the central authority and they would immediately enter into discussions with the local authority associations, the staff associations and the Housing Trust on the many complex problems which will arise, so as to ensure that there is a smooth transfer and no disruption of current housing programmes. Among the many advantages not previously referred to which will be gained from this new initiative the Government foresee a common public authority rent structure throughout Northern Ireland; improved mobility, which is the key to regional development; an end to allegations about sectarian discrimination in housing allocations; the attraction of more high-quality professional and administrative staff to housing work and the opportunity to use modern, efficient management techniques; economies of scale; organisation of contracts to ensure a steady demand on housing contractors and thus more efficient building; elimination of unnecessary variety coupled with greater opportunities for research and experiment; the introduction of advanced estate management throughout the province which will be in the hands of qualified housing managers; but above all a new opportunity to solve Northern Ireland’s housing problems in the foreseeable future.

25. The Home Secretary endorsed the finding of the joint working party that the Ministry of Development’s model points scheme was soundly based and supported the measures being taken by the Northern Ireland Government to have it adopted by all authorities during the interim period.

26. The Northern Ireland Government propose to mount a survey of the condition of the housing stock in Northern Ireland in order to establish objectively the extent to which housing conditions vary in different parts of Northern Ireland and to enable objective comparisons to be made with those in England and Wales.

27. It was recognised that the decision to set up a central housing authority had important consequences. Firstly, a concerted housing drive will require the assured provision of water and sewerage and their organisation on a scale and in step with house-building; road programmes to suit; and above all the prompt release of land for housing estates, redevelopment and attendant social and recreational services. Secondly, the consequent shape and size, and especially the staffing, of local councils without housing functions will have to be re-assessed, together with the implications for the social services at present discharged by local government — health, welfare, child care, education and libraries — whose future administrative structure is also under review.

28. To those ends, the Government of Northern Ireland propose to set up a review body which will be broadly based and include representatives of the two main religious denominations as well as of business, professional and trade union interests to review in conjunction with the Ministries in Northern Ireland and local authorities current proposals for reshaping local administration and to advise on the most efficient distribution of the relevant functions under the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland.

29. The United Kingdom Government recognise the validity of those consequences of the major decision on the housing drive and fully support the proposal to set up a review body on local administration.

30. The Ministers of both Governments agreed that the decisions made following the report of the Police Advisory Committee, together with the measures designed to stimulate the economy of the province, and the steps taken by the Northern Ireland Government to ensure a common standard of citizenship, constituted a comprehensive programme of reform which gave to all citizens of Northern Ireland the opportunity to live in harmony and prosperity and deserved the full support of everyone.

10th October 1969.


[See also:
Communique and Declaration by British and Northern Ireland governments on 19 August 1969; and
Communique issued by by British and Northern Ireland governments on 29 August 1969]

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