HC Deb 25 January 1988 vol 126 cc21-35 3.31 pm
The Attorney-General (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on directions given by the Director of Public Prosecutions (Northern Ireland) following the investigations carried out by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson.

In November and December 1982, in three separate incidents in County Armagh, six persons were killed and one person was seriously wounded by shooting by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The circumstances of each shooting were investigated by the CID of the RUC and three files reporting the results of these investigations were submitted by the Chief Constable of the RUC to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland for his consideration and decisions.

In relation to the incident which occurred on 11 November 1982 at Tullygally East road, Craigavon, in which three persons, Eugene Toman, James Gervaise McKerr and John Frederick Burns, were killed, the Director directed that three members of the RUC be prosecuted for the murder of Eugene Toman. These members were subsequently tried for murder and acquitted.

In relation to the incident which occurred on 12 December 1982 at Mullacreevie park, Armagh, in which two persons, Peter James Martin Grew and Roderick Carroll, were killed, the Director directed that one member of the RUC be prosecuted for the murder of Peter James Martin Grew. This member was subsequently tried for murder and acquitted.

In respect of the other incident which occurred on 24 November 1982 at Ballynerry road north, Lurgan, in which Michael Tighe was killed and Martin McCauley was seriously wounded, the Director concluded that the evidence did not warrant criminal proceedings and directed no prosecution.

Upon consideration of the evidence and information in the files initially submitted to him, the Director required further investigations to be undertaken and the results of these reported to him. When the results of such further investigations were reported to the Director, it appeared to him that, in certain of the statements of evidence furnished for his consideration, material and important facts had been omitted, and that matters which were untrue and misleading in material and important respects had been included.

In consequence of this, on 11 April 1984, the Director formally exercised his statutory power to request the Chief Constable to ascertain and furnish to him full information with regard to the circumstances in which false or misleading evidence was provided by any member or members of the RUC. He also requested him to investigate whether there was evidence to suggest that any person was guilty of an offence of perverting, or attempting or conspiring to pervert, the course of justice, or of any other offence in connection with the investigation of the three shooting incidents.

On 24 May 1984, the Chief Constable of the RUC appointed Mr. John Stalker, deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester police, to conduct an investigation. Mr. Stalker was furnished with a full copy of the Director's request, dated 11 April 1984.

On 18 September 1985, Mr. Stalker delivered to the Chief Constable of the RUC an interim report on the investigations that he had conducted up until that date. On 13 February 1986, the Chief Constable of the RUC furnished to the Director Mr. Stalker's interim report, together with the Chief Constable's observations upon it. On 4 March 1986, the Director directed that futher investigations be undertaken.

On 29 May 1986, Mr. Stalker ceased to have responsibility for the investigation that he had undertaken. Mr. Colin Sampson, chief constable of West Yorkshire police, then undertook responsibility for the continuing investigation, assisted by the same team of detectives and by an assistant chief constable from West Yorkshire police. On 22 October 1986, 23 March 1987 and 10 April 1987, reports were delivered by Mr. Sampson to the Chief Constable of the RUC and on the same dates to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland.

The interim report by Mr. Stalker and the reports that were subsequently delivered by Mr. Sampson together provided the Chief Constable and the Director with the full results of detailed and thorough investigations undertaken by the investigation team of Greater Manchester police, initially under the leadership of Mr. Stalker and subsequently under the leadership of Mr. Sampson.

In regard to the shooting incidents to which I have referred, the Director has considered all the facts and information ascertained and reported by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson, and he has re-examined the original RUC investigation files. He has concluded that the evidence does not warrant any further prosecution in respect of the shootings which occurred on 11 November 1982 and 12 December 1982 and which have already been the subject of prosecutions. He has further concluded that the evidence does not warrant any prosecution in respect of either the fatal shooting or the wounding that occurred on 24 November 1982. I have considered the Director's conclusions and I agree with them. He has given directions accordingly.

The Director has, however, concluded that there is evidence of the commission of offences of perverting or attempting or conspiring to pervert the course of justice, or of obstructing a constable in the execution of his duty, and that this evidence is sufficient to require consideration of whether prosecutions are required in the public interest, and he has consulted me accordingly.

I have therefore taken steps to acquaint myself with all relevant circumstances, including matters concerning the public interest and, in particular, considerations of national security that might properly affect the decision whether or not to institute proceedings.

I have informed the Director fully with regard TO my consultations as to the public interest, and in the light of all the facts and information brought to his notice, the Director has concluded, with my full agreement, that it would not be proper to institute any criminal proceedings. He has given directions accordingly.

The Director has arranged to discuss with the Chief Constable and deputy chief constable of the RUC safeguards to ensure that, in the future, facts and information reported to the Director are in all respects full and accurate, whether or not any security interest is involved.

In respect of other matters arising from the investigations, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has already informed the House that he would wish, at the earliest opportunity, to make a statement on those issues that affect his responsibilities. Now that the decisions on prosecution have been taken, I understand that he hopes to report shortly to the House.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

We on this side are pleased at last to have had a statement from the Attorney-General, but that is the extent of our pleasure. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that the matters concerning the allegal shoot-to-kill policy have been raised repeatedly by my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself. You will recall the widespread concern that led to the appointment of Mr. John Stalker. You will remember that, in May 1986, he was abruptly removed from the RUC inquiry and was replaced by Mr. Colin Sampson, chief constable of West Yorkshire, who was also asked to inquire into the allegations directed at Mr. Stalker which had led to his suspension. You will recall that that greatly increased some hon. Members' concern about the inquiry into the RUC and the consequent further delays in what had already become a protracted affair.

I have gone briefly through the events to remind the House of what we had to wait two years for, despite repeated Opposition urgings for a statement. In the meantime, there has been growing concern in Northern Ireland, Britain and international circles about the affair. Six men died in 1982. A coroner resigned. A deputy chief constable began an inquiry and then found himself the subject of an inquiry. We have had allegations of RUC cover-ups, of perjury by police officers, of illegal incursions by members of the security forces in the Republic of Ireland. Some questions have been raised about the RUC special branch, about the role of the headquarters mobile support units, about the involvement of MI5 and about the withholding of information from police inquiries by members of the security forces.

In the context of all this, and the long wait for the Government, we have listened with interest to the statement by the Attorney-General. I find it incredible beyond belief that the Government have come to this conclusion. Article 8 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement talks about achieving confidence in the administration of justice in Northern Ireland. That article has suffered a grave blow from today's statement, which has also undermined all the efforts of the RUC since Portadown to gain acceptance by the minority community.

We must therefore ask what the grounds of national security are. What are the grounds of public interest which could shield members of the police force, against whom there was evidence of perjury, of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, of impeding a police constable in the execution of his duty? All this, yet we are to be denied knowledge of the reasons why the Government have come to this conclusion. It is insufferable, it is a Government of gag that we have had, when we have made effort after effort, to use this particular method.

What we need to know now is if there was a shoot-to-kill policy. We will never know. What is the Government's attitude to the use of lethal force, necessary force or reasonable force? It has been alleged that before his inquiry, Mr. Stalker faced delays, evasions, lies and refusals to act from members of the RUC, bent on obstructing his work. That is the sort of statement that was made. That was the attitude of people at that time. Now the Government seem to support that same degree of hindrance to the work of justice.

We, of course, are in no position to comment on these matters, because we have not seen the reports. Will the Attorney-General therefore publish both the Sampson reports, so that we can form a judgment? Quite honestly, on this matter we do not trust the decision of Mr. Attorney. The question of justice in Northern Ireland is too important a matter. All this undermines confidence in the forces of law and justice. It is a grave blow to peace in that area.

The Attorney-General

The hon. Gentleman has described this as the decision of the Government.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

It is down to you.

The Attorney-General

The decision is that of the Director of Public Prosecutions—a decision with which I entirely agree.

As was laid down in a classic statement — —[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a very serious matter. Mr. Attorney has an absolute right to give his reply.

The Attorney-General

As was laid down in a classic statement by a Labour Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, the Attorney-General of the day has the constitutional duty to consider where the public interest lies in relation to any question of prosecution. He is entitled, said Sir Hartley Shawcross, to consult in some circumstances. In some circumstances, he said, "he would be a fool" not to do so. I have consulted. It is the right of those whom I consult to indicate to me matters that in their view bear upon the public interest. The decision is the decision of the prosecuting authority. This is not a decision which requires my statutory consent; it is taken by the Director, and I wholly agree with it.

Secondly—he is entitled to say this—I am told that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) does not trust me. If he will allow me to say so, I can bear that philosophically. But in the case of a distinguished public servant, Sir Barry Shaw, who has held the office of Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland for 16 years and has established standards of unexampled integrity, as anybody in Northern Ireland will confirm, I resent that aspersion.

I was asked whether there is a shoot-to-kill policy, and I was told, "We will never be told." It is plain from my statement that no offence has been disclosed, apart from possible cases relating to perversion of the course of justice. That means that no evidence has been disclosed of any offence—such as incitement to murder—such as would be comprised in what has been loosely called a shoot-to-kill policy.

I have been asked, "What is the Government's attitude to the use of force?" Every police officer in Northern Ireland is subject to the law and will continue to be subject to the law; accordingly, his actions are liable to the most detailed investigation, such as has been carried out by Mr. Stalker and Mr. Sampson. The law relating to the use of force applies to a police officer just as much as it does to any other citizen.

I have been asked, "What are the grounds of national security that are involved?" In conformity with the policy of long standing of successive Governments, I am not prepared to comment on national security. But I will say that national security in Northern Ireland and elsewhere gives rise to considerations that affect the safety of people's lives. In judging the public interest, I, and any prosecuting authority, must balance one harm to the public interest against another. That is one of the tasks that our constitution places on me, among others.

On the other question of whether the report will be published, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has, on several occasions, informed the House that, in conformity with the usual practice relating to reports on police investigations into criminal matters, the report will not be published.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, apart from the fact that if he had taken any other conclusion it would have meant overruling the decision of an impeccable public servant in a wholly independent context, to have taken any other course would have meant putting at risk the lives of Crown servants completely innocent of any wrongdoing? To have taken such a course would have been completely unacceptable to the House or the country at large.

The Attorney-General

While I do have power to direct a prosecution and I do have power to direct no prosecution, I gave no direction to the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland; the Director reached this decision, and he did so with my full agreement. I agree entirely with my hon. and learned Friend about the danger to lives that must be considered in the context of matters of national security.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I welcome the statement in so far as I believe that its conclusion is in the best interests of everyone. However, one cannot be other than dissatisfied with some of the information that is made available to us.

The Stalker-Sampson saga has been most unfortunate. It has been laced with rumours, counter-rumours and allegations that have caused disquiet throughout the community. One is unable to sort out matters concerning Manchester as distinct from those concerning Northern Ireland.

One must recognise that, of the people who were killed, five were accepted and recognised as being members of the IRA. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will admit that members of the security forces face tremendous difficulties in dealing with known terrorists. Part of the difficulty is not, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) suggested, whether or not the police have a shoot-to-kill policy, but rather a recognition of the fact that the IRA has a shoot-to-kill policy and a bomb-to-kill policy. Until there is proper law to deal with these people then, I believe, our security forces will continue to run into the same sort of problem that they faced in Armagh and Lurgan.

I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree with me that, until we recognise that the civil law is inadequate to deal with terrorism in Northern Ireland, and until special arrangements are made to take the terrorists off our streets, we may, again and again, see this type of unfortunate situation, which does not help the people whom I represent.

The Attorney-General

I must say to the hon. Gentleman that matters of policy for the criminal law, as distinct from the civil law, in Northern Ireland are not for me, and therefore he will excuse me from answering that part of his question. We will all acknowledge the difficulty to which he refers, which confronts the security forces. I must emphasise that the security forces are subject to the law, as is every other citizen of this country, whether in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, in due course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be coming to the House to report on any disciplinary implications arising from his statement and any implications for the discipline and control of the RUC?

The Attorney-General

I am very happy to confirm what I have said in my statement, and what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said on many occasions in this House—that he will wish to come at an early opportunity to the House and make a statement on those issues affecting his responsibilities that arise out of these reports.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

Does the Attorney-General agree that this is, in effect, a very sad day for the North of Ireland? It is sad on three counts. It is sad because six people who were my constituents and who were unarmed were killed in 1982. No inquests have been held, and as a result of this statement—

Mr. Maginnis

They were not your constituents.

Mr. Mallon

I said "as of then"—there have been redrawings of the boundaries since. We will never know the answer to that question. It is sad from the point of view of the communities and the families of those people.

Secondly, does the Attorney-General agree that it is a very sad day for those who believe in the process of justice in the north of Ireland? Make no mistake about it, justice has been dispensed with in this statement to cover up the murky and illegal methods of MI5 and MI6, and the darker elements within the RUC. Will he further agree that that section of the community that has been trying to wean people away from violence and trying to establish confidence in the process of justice and in the process of policing has been dealt a tremendous body blow?

In conclusion, does the Attorney-General agree with the premise that, once one dispenses with justice in a Northern Irish or any other context, one has dispensed with the prospects for peace? Does he not agree that that body blow to the hope for the maintenance of freedom of speech and justice in Northern Ireland, which are indispensable and cannot be separated, have been dealt a serious, if not terminal, body blow by his statement?

The Attorney-General

Northern Ireland is a sad Province; with that, every sensible person in these islands must agree. The hon. Gentleman, whose constituency has more than its fair share of sadness, asked about inquests. Inquests will, of course, be held in due course, and they are no part of my ministerial responsibility.

As to the standards of justice, I remind the hon. Gentleman that in respect of the killings, of which he properly reminds the House, four members of the RUC have been prosecuted by the Director of Public Prosecutions upon the application to their cases of the standard rules and criteria that apply to prosecution decisions. Those standard criteria themselves include reference to the question whether the public interest requires a prosecution.

I therefore reject any aspersion—if such an aspersion is intended—upon the independence and integrity of the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that the standard criteria require the question of the public interest to be considered. He will know, perhaps with better cause than most, that the public interest in Northern Ireland must embrace questions of national security and that national security in Northern Ireland has connotations that bear upon the safety of a very large number of individuals.

Mr. Michael Mates (Hampshire, East)

In deciding whether this action is acceptable to the House, is it not important to bear in mind that, for 16 years, Sir Barry Shaw has been the most respected Director of Public Prosecutions? He has been widely praised by hon. Members from all parties, including the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and his integrity has never been questioned. Is it not therefore reasonable for us to accept that this decision, difficult as it may be, will have been taken with all the honour that he has applied to his job over the past 16 years?

The Attorney-General

My knowledge of Northern Ireland extends over some five years in my position as a Law Officer, and some hon. Members' knowledge is far greater than mine. Anyone who has that knowledge will concur with what my hon. Friend has said. The office of Director of Public Prosecutions of course calls for immaculate impartiality and integrity, whether that office is held in this country—I should say, in Great Britain—or in Northern Ireland. I entirely agree with what my hon. Friend has said. I can only record my own impression. Over the past five years I have never met a single person from any sector of Northern Ireland society or any interest group who has cast a single aspersion upon Sir Barry Shaw's discharge of his responsibilities.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Will the Attorney-General accept that it is not the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland whom we seek to hold to account? It is the Attorney-General whom we seek to hold to account. Notwithstanding his dulcet tones, will he not accept that he has acted in a most high-handed manner? If there is evidence of the perversion of the course of justice, why is that evidence not put before a court of law to be tested? Why should we have cover-up rather than accountability? If there are two concepts—that justice must be done and that it must be seen to be done—why is it that in this case we shall have neither?

The Attorney-General

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can escape the consequences of blaming the Director of Public Prosecutions for making a decision that is a dishonest one, by saying that it is not his decision but mine.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

You said that it was your decision.

The Attorney-General

I did not say that it was my decision; nor was it my decision. I will say again, for the benefit of the right hon. Gentleman, that this is a decision for the Director of Public Prosecutions and it was made by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Sir Barry Shaw would never accept a decision or trim his own opinion to take a decision that was contrary to what he believed to be right—I do not believe that he would ever do so, but he would certainly not do so without a direction from me, and there has been none.

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) asked why we could not have this tested in a court of law. That is a consideration for which I have the deepest sympathy. I have said to the House that, in weighing the public interest, as I am constitutionally obliged to do, and as the Director is obliged to do, one has to balance one harm to the public interest against another. That is not an easy consideration. It is one that causes me the deepest anxiety. Having done that to the best of my ability, it is my duty to announce my decision. —[Interruption.] No, it is my responsibility to announce my resolution of the balancing requirement and to communicate it to the Director. It is for the Director to say whether he agrees with it. The Director has made this decision — that is his responsibility—and it is one with which I wholly agree.

I agree that it is an anxious matter. I should like in all circumstances, wherever it is consistent with the national interest, to have evidence tested in a court of law. In this case, it would not be in conformity with the public interest by reason of the matters to which I have referred in connection with the national security.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

Is the Attorney-General aware that his decision will give great satisfaction to the long-suffering and hard-pressed people of Northern Ireland, of all religions, who desire peace and who are facing a war in Northern Ireland that has now been going on for between 18 and 20 years and that the security forces are now facing ruthless terrorists, while working within the rule of law, which I hope everyone in the House respects? Is it not extraordinary that certain apologists for the IRA always challenge the fairness of a guilty verdict in a British court against an IRA terrorist, yet are prepared to make wild and prejudicial—

Mr. Seamus Mallon: (Newry and Armagh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I regret that anyone should be described—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a point of order in the middle of a question.

Mr. Kilfedder

The Attorney-General ought to be aware that the police in Northern Ireland can now go back to giving 100 per cent. of their attention to finding those ruthlesss terrorists who murder without mercy.

The Attorney-General

While I note the hon. Gentleman's satisfaction with the outcome of the Director's deliberation, with which I wholly agree, any Attorney-General or Law Officer who discharges his constitutional duty conscientiously must be as little moved by plaudits as by condemnation. I note what the hon. Gentleman says about the duty of the security forces—and of course he is right to say that they have dangerous tasks to discharge, but they have to discharge them, and will continue to discharge them, only in accordance with the law.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Is not the content of the Attorney-General's statement that there is evidence that RUC and CID officers perverted the course of justice; that, were it not for the national security considerations, they would have been prosecuted for those offences; and that, simply because of national security considerations, they have not been prosecuted, but if they had been prosecuted and convicted for those offences they would have received severe sentences of imprisonment? Therefore, the least that the community of the North of Ireland can now expect is that disciplinary proceedings be immediately undertaken and pursued to their proper conclusion. The paramount objective must be to restore confidence in the security forces in Northern Ireland, which this silent decision will have abysmally failed to do.

The Attorney-General

I do not wish to add to what I said in my statement to the House. Disciplinary proceedings are plainly not matters within my ministerial responsibility. They fall within the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman will have heard that it is my right hon. Friend's intention to make a statement to the House at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

While I welcome my right hon. Friend's honest and frank statement to the House — I am sure that among Conservative Members and, indeed, other hon. Members, there is widespread respect for his integrity in his judicial capacity for making decisions—nonetheless, is it not a fact that decisions to question people before the courts in this country rest on the provision of facts that could be presented and would lead to a conviction and that we must have regard to those facts as well as to the national interest?

The Attorney-General

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said at the outset. On the second part of his question, of course he is right. He will recall that in my statement I said that the Director had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to warrant any further prosecution in respect of the three incidents at which killings occurred. I remind the House that four members of the RUC have already been prosecuted at the instigation of the DPP in respect of two of those three killings. It is only in relation to the only other offences disclosed or to the evidence suggesting those offences disclosed in the report, that bear upon perversion of the course of justice, that the Director has concluded that the public interest does not require prosecution.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Does not the Attorney-General realise that wheeling out expressions such as "economy" and "integrity" have no bearing on his own remoteness from the scene in Northern Ireland? Does he not realise that what he said today was so economical in the use of justice that it will itensify the violence in Northern Ireland; that the removal of Mr. Stalker and what that has caused to all kinds of people in our country, many of whom are not connected with Northern Ireland, has made everybody cynical about the Government's lack of real justice on the question of Northern Ireland? At this late stage, may I ask him to make another statement to give more hope, especially to the minority community, that there is some British justice in Northern Ireland?

The Attorney-General

I believe that the record of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland should inspire confidence in the proper standards that obtain there and are applied. The hon. Gentleman chooses to overlook the fact--I remind the House again—that four members of the RUC have been prosecuted for murder in respect of two of the three killings. However, I must reject the assertion that I am wholly remote from Northern Ireland. I do not live in Northern Ireland but I make it my business to go to the Province as often as I can in the discharge of my responsibilities, being Attorney-General for the Province as well as for England and Wales.

Of course I acknowledge the need for confidence, but that does not mean that it would be right for me to waive the ordinary criteria for prosecution decisions and to take no regard of the public interest. That would not be in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, nor, in the long run, would it sustain confidence in the system of criminal justice.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the British constitution places him personally and ultimately in the seat of judgment on matters of this kind? Is he also aware that the House has complete confidence in his independence, integrity and judgment of the public interest?

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the constitutional position. I am the ultimate prosecuting authority in England and Wales, and in Northern Ireland. In this case I gave no direction. Sir Barry Shaw took the decision, with which I wholly agree.

I am grateful for the latter part of my hon. Friend's comments. It is a confidence that any Attorney-General does his best to earn and he regards himself as constitutionally completely independent in matters affecting his judicial or quasi-judicial jurisdiction in criminal law.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Is the Attorney-General aware that, in my view, we should read his statement carefully—listening is not enough--and we should return to it? Although it may be a trite thing to say, whatever the Provisional IRA does, or the Ulster Freedom Fighters, the Ulster Defence Association or anybody else, the men who serve the Crown and this country by working there, must always act in a superior way to those who seek to act not politically but by murder and killing? Therefore, if we question, it is not, as the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) said, that one sympathises in any way with those who kill and murder.

I should like to make my view abundantly clear. I trust Barry Shaw implicitly. He is a fine man who has served Northern Ireland well and with complete independence from politicians of all parties. In any event, we must listen to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he reports on matters that concern us—the mixed role of the intelligence services and the Army, and of the RUC and the Army proper down on the border, where something may well have gone wrong. It is the Secretary of State's job to report on that.

Much has been said about things going wrong on the border; it has been said that there were disagreements between arms of the security service and that there were disagreements between it and the growing special branch of the RUC. It is surely not in the national interest to cover up when something goes wrong. It is in the national interest not to reveal matters that put people's lives at risk. The concern—it is a genuine concern—is that something went badly wrong and people acted in a way that was outwith the law. I want an assurance that there has not been a cover-up of that latter point.

The Attorney-General

First, I am extremely grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said about the reputation of Sir Barry Shaw, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and his complete trust in him. That I acknowledge with much gratitude.

As to the Secretary of State, he will of course be coming to the House at an early opportunity to discuss and make a statement about those matters that fall within his responsibilities. He has for long said that he wishes to do so when it is open to him to do so, as it now is, with the prosecution decision question now resolved.

As to the question of a cover-up, may I make it absolutely clear that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the public interest is never to be equated with the interest of the Government or of the majority party, and is never to be prayed in aid to protect the Government from, for example, embarrassment, and it has not been in this case. I cannot conceive that I should ever be pressed by any member of any Government of any party; I do not believe that any Attorney-General has ever been pressed in that way. I certainly have not been pressed, and I would never so interpret the public interest. I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

Is it not almost unprecedented for there to be a statement that there will not be a prosecution? Should not my right hon. and learned Friend therefore be most warmly congratulated on his courage in making his statement, when of necessity he has to operate with one hand tied behind his back? Will not he confirm that it is a long-established convention that the national interest should be taken into account? Would it not be a matter of grave concern to the House if that were not so?

The Attorney-General

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. I know of one occasion on which a Law Officer has announced a decision not to initiate criminal proceedings. If we made a habit of it, it would take up rather a lot of time, but I thought it right in these circumstances to do so, by reason of the great interest that centres, quite properly, upon these matters.

As to the second part of my statement, I have already mentioned that the standard criteria which govern prosecution decisions require consideration of whether the public interest requires a prosecution. If I were to depart from those standard criteria in a case of this kind, or if the Director were to do so, we should not be serving the public interest.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

Does the Attorney-General agree that one cannot defeat terrorism by using the methods of terrorists, that his statement today will merely confirm the fears of millions of people in this country and abroad that Mr. Stalker was removed from his post because he was not prepared to go along with precisely this sort of cover-up, and that coming to the House with this sort of statement the Attorney-General has reduced himself and the office he holds to the level of an accomplice to murder—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not cast aspersions of that kind. He will rephrase that last comment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Livingstone

Mr. Speaker, innocent men have been shot dead—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to rephrase that last comment. He must not cast aspersions of that kind against another hon. Member.

Mr. Livingstone

Mr. Speaker, I have the greatest respect for your position and your impartiality. But if the rules of the House prevent me from denouncing this cover-up and those who are complicit in it, the rules are wrong and I will not be bound by them.

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Will the hon. Gentleman please withdraw that last comment? He well knows the rules here—that we do not cast aspersions of dishonour across the Floor of the Chamber. Will he please now unequivocally withdraw that comment? I give him one last opportunity to rephrase his last comment.

Mr. Livingstone

I would not want anybody to come away from this discussion with the impression that hon. Members are not prepared to name those who have sat at the centre of government and covered up the murder of innocent Catholics year by year—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I give the hon. Gentleman one final chance— [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] — and if he refuses to take it I shall be forced to name him.

Hon. Members

Name him.

Mr. Speaker

I name the hon. Member; Mr. Ken Livingstone.

Motion made, and Question put,

That Mr. Ken Livingstone be suspended from the service of the House.—[Mr. Wakehaml]

The House divided: Ayes 166, Noes 19.

Division No. 151] [4.15 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Burns, Simon
Adley, Robert Butler, Chris
Arbuthnot, James Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Ashby, David Carrington, Matthew
Baldry, Tony Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Chope, Christopher
Barron, Kevin Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Conway, Derek
Bell, Stuart Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Corbett, Robin
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cormack, Patrick
Blair, Tony Davis, David (Boothferry)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Devlin, Tim
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dewar, Donald
Boscawen, Hon Robert Dickens, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Dicks, Terry
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Dixon, Don
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Dorrell, Stephen
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brazier, Julian Durant, Tony
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Fallon, Michael
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fearn, Ronald
Browne, John (Winchester) Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Forth, Eric
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Fox, Sir Marcus
Buck, Sir Antony Garel-Jones, Tristan
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Neubert, Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Ground, Patrick Oppenheim, Phillip
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Page, Richard
Hannam, John Portillo, Michael
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Powell, William (Corby)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Price, Sir David
Harris, David Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hayes, Jerry Redwood, John
Hayward, Robert Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Robertson, George
Holt, Richard Rogers, Allan
Hordern, Sir Peter Ryder, Richard
Howard, Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Scott, Nicholas
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Shaw, David (Dover)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Sims, Roger
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Speller, Tony
Ingram, Adam Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Irvine, Michael Stanbrook, Ivor
Jack, Michael Stanley, Rt Hon John
Janman, Timothy Stern, Michael
Jones, Robert B (Herts W) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stott, Roger
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Sumberg, David
Key, Robert Summerson, Hugo
Kilfedder, James Tapsell, Sir Peter
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Knowles, Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Knox, David Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Lang, Ian Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Lawrence, Ivan Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Lightbown, David Thorne, Neil
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Thurnham, Peter
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
McNamara, Kevin Twinn, Dr Ian
Mans, Keith Waddington, Rt Hon David
Maples, John Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Marlow, Tony Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Waller, Gary
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Ward, John
Mates, Michael Watts, John
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Wheeler, John
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Michael, Alun Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Yeo, Tim
Miller, Hal Young, Sir George (Acton)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Morrison, Hon P (Chester) Tellers for the Ayes:
Moss, Malcolm Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd and
Neale, Gerrard Mr. David Maclean.
Boateng, Paul Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Bradley, Keith Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Dalyell, Tam Salmond, Alex
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Sedgemore, Brian
Flannery, Martin Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Heffer Eric S. Vaz, Keith
Livingstone, Ken Wai ley, Ms Joan
McAllion, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice Tellers for the Noes:
Meale Alan Mr. Dennis Skinner and
Mullin, Chris Ms. Diane Abbott.
Patchett, Terry

Question accordingly agreed to.

Mr. Speaker

I direct the hon. Member for Brent, East to withdraw from the House in accordance with the order which the House has just made.

The hon. Member withdrew accordingly.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to detain the House, but it was within my hearing and that of my hon. Friends the Members of Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse) that, immediately following your calling my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir. A Grant) said, "Here comes the IRA " Would it be in order for you to ask him to withdraw that remark?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear anything of that. In matters of this kind, it is far better to leave the situation as it is. Such incidents do not do much for the reputation of this place.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Nort hampton, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it your intention to cont nue with the statement before taking further points of order?

Mr. Speaker

I sense that it is the wish of the House to move on.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be better in these circumstances for you courteously to ask the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) whether he said any such thing?

His comment was within the clearest hearing of many of us. Indeed, it was a very goading remark. Did the hon. Gentleman say it, or did he not?

Mr. Speaker

Did the hon. Member say it?

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

I certainly intended to say, "Here comes the apologist for the IRA." If you ask me to withdraw, Mr. Speaker, of course I shall do so completely.

Mr. Speaker

The Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders—

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Increasingly, the House has been confronted with a procession of Opposition Members who seek to enhance their publicity value by being thrown out of the Chamber. This has gone on far too long. I ask whether we may take action through some of the procedures of the House so that something is done to restrain this form of misbehaviour misbehaviour which takes place without any known penalty for the offender.

Mr. Speaker

The penalties are laid down in the Standing Orders. Whether they should be increased is a matter for the Procedure Committee.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I put it to you that to terminate a statement in the way that you have done has implications for future statements where an hon. Member may wsh to intervene, for whatever reason, and interrupt our proceedings.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The reason that I made that comment is simply that no fewer than 24 hon. Mernbers wish to take part in the next debate, and I feel that I must have consideration for those who have a legitimate right to the time of the House. Unfortunately, the action that I have just had to take takes time.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you explain why an incident of this kind truncates questions on a statement?

Mr. Speaker

I have just explained that very matter. There is a further statement to follow and, as always, I shall have regard to those who are not called for this statement on the next occasion.

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I say that I regretfully support your decision on this matter? Had I had the opportunity, I would have liked to make a statement about the full support of the Opposition for the Director of Public Prosecutions. The matter that is in question is the Attorney-General and the pressures that he brought to bear upon him. In the circumstances, however, and because we note the pressures on you and on other hon. Members, the Opposition will not press for debate on the matter to continue.