5 JANUARY 1974, Page 1

Oil to break a stranglehold

It must be a long time since the nation entered upon a New Year in such a concentrated attitude of gloom. The news that Taylor Woodrow and Costain International have seized a £90 million contract in Dhubai in the teeth of intense foreign competition — and that this may be followed by a similar Saudi Arabian contract — provides only the tiniest splash of colour and hope. The political object of these contracts is to ensure the provision of certain oil supplies solely to Britain, whatever the hitherto destructive wishes of the great multinational oil companies which have acted, during the present crisis, consistently against this country's interests and wishes. If, however, the contracts are used steadfastly by Britain to secure the oil supplies she needs, even at the expense and in the face of the anger of the companies and the other EEC countries, a real stride will have been made both towards breaking the stranglehold Europe has begun to tighten hound our throats in one short year, and towards creating a national effort for the resolution of our domestic problems.

The plain fact is that every economic prediction of the gloomiest anti-Marketeers has been shown to be true. That statement cannot be gainsaid; and no pro-Marketeer can cite countervailing advantages. What price now the 'Fanfare for Europe'? If the Government proceeds on its hitherto headlong course towards European unity it can do so only as a bunch of self-confessed fanatics, prepared to put the insane vision of some glittering Grail, ever lying on the ever distant horizon, ahead of the things its own people need and care about. And the question of the nature of our European involvement is not just one of our national problems, it is the key to the others, the linchpin of the whole situation. Already, the shyster politicians are trying to slide away from responsibility and the truth with their pretences that everything would be worse outside the Market, or if we ceased to cooperate with its institutions. But why should we believe their second set of delusions? Anyway, with Sir Alec Douglas-Home's stand on regional policy we have already begun to cease to co-operate: and that decision was made not out of the Government's free will, but because events forced it. The message is clear: the writing is on the wall for our effective membership of the EEC. It is not the end; it is not the beginning of the end. But it is, almost certainly, the end of the beginning.

The antipathy of the British public to the European Economic Community is deep and abiding. It has been shaken neither by the fait accompli of entry nor by a government campaign of unprecedented duration, intensity, expense and untruth. Nor can it escape the attention that some of the main bodies within the country, now in conflict with Mr Heath and his Cabinet, and especially the trade union movement, are themselves virulently hostile to the European entanglement. If a national apPeal is to be made in 1974, for a national effort in pull us by our bootstraps out of the slough of despond, then clear evidence that the Government will subject everything else to the national interest must be laid before the nation. The shoddy words, the lying metaphors, the misleading statistics — all these must go; and if they do not, the Government had better.

The IRA—increase the penalties

The kidnapping of the chief Grundig executive in Ulster, not to mention the new spate of bombing outrages in London over the Christmas period, suggests that the qualified success of the Sunningdale talks has done little to diminish the manic energy of the Provisional IRA, advancing towards the adoption of some of the techniques — notably kidnapping for the purposes of ransom or blackmail — hitherto used mainly by guerrillas in Latin America.

In many respects there is little an open society like ours can do about all this. We have a generally excellent police force, and a more than ordinarily skilled bomb squad: but, desInte their success in apprehending the Old Bailey bombers, they are grievously handicapped in the pursuit of terrorists, especially • because of the character of our free political society. There is little to be done, therefore, except to continue the unrelenting, vigorous, and patient pursuit of the perpetrators of outrage. Little, that is, save to make it absolutely Clear that captured terrorists will be punished, and punished severely, and that no contracts Will be made with their fellows who remain free, whatever the costs of a refusal to treat.

It has been suggested that the kidnapping of a distinguished foreign businessman in Northern Ireland is but a prelude to a demand for the release, or at least removal to Ireland, of some or all of those serving jail sentences for their Part in IRA attacks in this country. No such deal as would involve the kidnapped man's release in return for leniency towards the Prisoners can for a moment be contemplated. Indeed, the most useful response to such a proposal would be the introduction of legislation to increase the penalties for terrorism, to remove all privileges from terrorist prisoners, and to ensure that they are denied any possibility of parole or remission of sentence.

It is important, too, as far as possible to ensure that penalties in Southern Ireland match in stringency those in the United Kingdom. It is encouraging that an Anglo-Irish body is to sit to consider, following Sunningdale, the best Methods of ensuring the visitation of condign Punishment on terrorists wherever their offences are committed, and wherever they have tied to.