HC Deb 23 October 1986 vol 102 cc1284-6
10. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will next be meeting the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to discuss security matters.

Mr. Tom King

I have regular meetings with the Chief Constable and the General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland to discuss policy issues of common concern in the security field. It is not my practice to give details of the timing of those meetings.

Mr. McNamara

Can the Secretary of State inform the House whether at those meetings he discussed with the Chief Constable the orders given to special branches of the RUC about a shoot-to-kill policy in border areas, orders given to members of the RUC to lie at public trials, orders given to members of the RUC to make incursions into the territory of the Republic of Ireland, or the decision of the Chief Constable to refuse to give Mr. Stalker either the tape or transcript of the tape of what took place in the shootings in that barn? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that even though criminal actions may be brought against individuals on that matter, it does not exonerate the Government from coming to the House and giving a full, frank statement of all that occurred when those matters are outwith particular circumstances in Northern Ireland but concern the rule of law in the whole kingdom?

Mr. King

The hon. Member asks me about meetings with the Chief Constable. There is a specific question on the Order Paper relating to the Sampson-Stalker report, which will be dealt with shortly.

Mr. McQuarrie

When my right hon. Friend meets the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, will he take the opportunity to look at the files on security in past years with a view to gaining information for the future with particular reference to the comments that have been attributed to the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) in respect of the assassination of Airey Neave and the right hon. Gentleman's comment that outside forces were perhaps responsible for that assassination?

Mr. King

The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) will have to answer for his own statements. All I would say is that I know that this is not the first time that he has sought to advance this particular conspiracy theory.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

When the Secretary of State next meets the Chief Constable, will he update him on the work that is being done both in his Department and in the Home Department relating to the availability of kidnap insurance? Inquiries are taking place, but what has happened during the parliamentary recess? We were told that some initiative would he taken this year. Where are we in the debate?

Mr. King

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I should be grateful if he would address his question to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Archer

Will the right hon. Gentleman, with his usual fairness, agree that the Opposition have been at pains throughout the Stalker episode not to overdramatise it? But has there not been an accumulation in responsible newspapers of allegations which, if they are true, cannot be condoned by the authorities of a civilised country and which, if they are false, ought to be laid to rest? In view of the call from the National Council for Civil Liberties and Amnesty International for a full inquiry, is it not clear that to ignore the situation will not make it go away? Until the poison is removed, must it not continue to fester?

Mr. King

In view of the seriousness of the point that has been raised, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the House will forgive me if I give perhaps a rather fuller reply to the question of the right hon. and learned Gentleman.

I am informed that the first part of the report of the inquiry that was begun by Mr. Stalker and completed by Mr. Sampson was submitted by the latter to the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary yesterday. The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland has also received a copy. I understand that this part of the report covers the incident on 24 November 1982 in which Mr. Michael Tighe was shot dead. Also, I understand that Mr. Sampson hopes to submit as soon as possible a second part, which will address the associated issues connected with all the cases that are under investigation. As is the usual practice with police reports covering criminal investigations, it will not be published. On the basis of Mr. Sampson's report, along with any comments from the Chief Constable, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland will decide what directions to give as to criminal proceedings.

The Attorney-General has requested the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland to inform him fully with regard to the facts reported to the Director of Public Prosecutions and to consult the Attorney-General before any directions are given. An additional section of Mr. Sampson's report will deal with matters concerning the management of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

I propose to make a statement to the House on these aspects at the earliest opportunity. It will, however, be understood that I have no role in the conduct of criminal proceedings, nor would it be appropriate for any comments to be made upon the individual investigations involved until all such proceedings are completed.

Mr. Mallon

Will the Secretary of State confirm that when the three incidents took place, which are now known as the shoot-to-kill incidents that were investigated by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland was absent from Northern Ireland during two of those incidents, although the situation was very tense, and that during all three incidents the head of the CID in Northern Ireland was absent from Northern Ireland? Will the Secretary of State inform the House of where the ultimate responsibility lies when something goes terribly wrong in a police service that is under a cloud of conspiracy such as this?

Mr. King

The House will know, as I sought to make clear in my earlier reply, that I cannot comment on the criminal or disciplinary aspects of this inquiry. I have made it clear to the House that the first section of Mr. Sampson's report was delivered yesterday to the Chief Constable, with a copy to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland. That is the first step. I have also made clear the action that I will seek to take to keep the House informed on these matters of public interest.