Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [25 February],
That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved: —(Mr. Tom King.]
Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will remember that in the adjourned debate, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) used a phrase in relation to me, when he said:He has set up many UDR men." —[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 490.]Subsequently, some hon. Members sought a ruling from the Chair on that statement, and I wonder whether Mr. Speaker has had time to consider the matter further. I do not expect Mr. Speaker to master the Northern Ireland vernacular totally, but he may be able to get the flavour of what the statement meant. I ask whether you would make a ruling that the statement is, to say the least, unparliamentary language, and to set down such a ruling as a precedent?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
I cannot add to what Mr. Speaker said last Thursday towards the end of the debate. It is not possible to go back on points of order —they must be raised at the time—but I think I can help the hon. Gentleman. We are now resuming the debate, and I am sure that, with a little ingenuity, he will be able to raise whatever points he wishes to in the debate.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During the resumed debate, when you were not in the chair, points of order were made and Mr. Speaker promised that he would consider the questions raised by Opposition Members on the description used of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
There is nothing I can add. I have refreshed my mind—I have the point in front of me. Of course, I have discussed the matter with Mr. Speaker, and nothing can be added. I suggest to the House that it would be better if we get on with the debate, when no doubt hon. Members will be able to pick up the threads of the debate last Thursday.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point of order will be brief, but it is of some importance. Could you advise the House on how we should proceed? As I understand it, Mr. Speaker can notify the Procedure Committee when a statement is made, as it was this afternoon on the potential takeover of British Leyland by British Aerospace, whether Ministers should notify the House of any financial interests of hon. Members, because the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is listed in the Register of Members' Interests as the honorary adviser to the chairman of British Aerospace plc.
Hon. Members do not and cannot look through the Register of Members' Interests at the time, but if hon. 884 Members have an interest in the subject of the statement, it would be to the advantage of the House if that were made clear in the statement. There is no Standing Order on that at the moment, but it would facilitate matters if you could draw it to the attention of the Procedure Committee that additional information is required, so that hon. Members can make a better judgment of the relationship of the Government with hon. Members such as the right hon. Member for Chingford.
§ Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. When you are referring the matter to Mr. Speaker, would you ask him during his investigations to check on what Cabinet positions were held by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), at the time both of the appointment of Mr. Graham Day as the chairman of the Rover Group and of the privatisation of British Aerospace, because something smells fishy?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have noted the points raised by both hon. Gentlemen, and they have almost answered their own points. If they feel that changes are required, it is for them, not the Chair, to draw the matter to the attention of the appropriate Committee, be it the Procedure Committee when it is set up or the Select Committee on Members' Interests.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
With reference to your statement, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that we should pick up the threads of the debate from last week, I sincerely hope that we do not, because the Official Report shows that it turned into a semi-pantomime. When we are dealing with a very serious issue, the last thing we want to do is pick up those threads.
I do not wish to labour the point on the accusation made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. I. Paisley), but I have made and will continue to make public any revelations of which I am aware as to the involvement of the security forces in illegal actions. I believe it would be a dereliction of my duty if I did not do so.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to two incidents which took place in my constituency. The first was the involvement of members of the UDR in the Miami Showband murders; the other was when two men were shot dead and it was subsequently verified by the police that an unmarked, unlogged UDR patrol with its numbers blacked out was in the area at the time. That was verified by the police very soon after the incident. In my constituency, four members of the UDR have been convicted of murder. It would be highly irresponsible of any public representative not to draw attention to such events when they happen.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to an incident in the first Assembly, when a Unionist refused to sit with me. I am in very good company. Of late, Unionists have refused to sit with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and with other hon. Members. They have refused to sit on district councils and with Ministers, so the accusation should be put into context. I assure the hon. Member that I can do without the type of company of which he suggests I was seriously deprived.
This is a serious debate which takes place against a background of the events—or non-events, some may say — of the past two weeks. There is an air of unreality 885 about the debate, because the circumstances of the past four weeks have been incredible. It takes a tremendous leap of imagination to take seriously an order which has been a contributing factor to the events of the past week. The House should be aware of that unreality. I suggest that Kafka could not have written the script for the one debacle after another and the effect that that has had on morale, as well as creating resentment, frustration, anger and disillusionment in the communities of Northern Ireland.
It is not exaggerating to say that people are punch-drunk, and staggering from one body blow to another. In the past three weeks, people have seen their hopes for good law, proper justice and freedom from injustice being dashed in a way that has not been experienced before.
I have some sympathy for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who has to cope not just with his own mistakes but with the mistakes of others. I have great sympathy for him, because he is dealing with something he inherited and over which he had no control.
We are considering the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act and the Report of Viscount Colville. He stated in the foreword that it was not his briefto query the philosophy behind the legislation.That is a terrible mistake, because the philosophy behind the legislation should be examined carefully. From that philosophy have come two Bills, neither of which has contributed to peace or created stability or justice in Northern Ireland.
Many hon. Members regard the legislation as something new, something introduced in 1974 as a result of the horrific bombings in Birmingham—but it is not. The legislation is a refinement of the Special Powers Act which has existed in Northern Ireland since the day the stayte was formed until 1970, which was a refinement of the Coercion Act 1887. I could go back into history, but I will not do that. Over that period, this type of legislation has been based on false premises, on the spurious notion that if one bends the law one can enforce it—if one introduces repressive legislation, one will somehow bring about peace. That is not so. Such action will nurture, spawn and feed violence, as has so often happened in the north of Ireland.
It is also spurious to suggest that punitive action by the police, the Army or the courts, will create stability. It merely destroys and undermines it. Empiric evidence from the past 20 years, and from many years before that, going back into Irish history, shows that there is no solution down that road. There is no solution of a military type. Anyone who saw General Glover on "Panorama" last night will have been interested to hear someone who was the GOC in the North of Ireland saying what I am saying. That is why the philosophy behind the legislation is so important.
Once one begins to derogate and lower standards, corrosion starts at all levels, so we must examine all levels and say harsh things if they must be said, looking reality in the face if it is there. The highest standards in Government have been corroded. The Attorney-General's decision not to prosecute the policemen against whom there was evidence of perverting the course of justice was a profoundly damaging mistake, whose repercussions are there to be seen, in political terms, both on the ground in the North of Ireland and nationally and internationally.
886 What was a regional issue became a national issue when the Attorney-General rang the bell with the buzz words "public interest" and "national security".
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
Would my hon. Friend accept that, if the RUC had been completely open about what happened and admitted that mistakes had been made, and had identified the persons that were involved at every level — including, perhaps, even Sir John Hermon—it might have been satisfactory then to have held merely a disciplinary inquiry as opposed to a prosecution? We are trying to find out the truth, to ensure that this never happens again. The calls for prosecutions only arise because of the cover-up.
§ Mr. Mallon
I thank the hon. Gentleman. There are two factors in this. First, six people who could have been apprehended with the use of minimum force, but who were not, and who were innocent before the law—I am old-fashioned enough to believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty—could have been brought before the law and charged, but were killed in an unlawful manner.
Secondly, the disastrous decision of the Attorney-General not to prosecute has created a cover-up in the North of Ireland and has kept the lid on a can of worms. Those worms are squirming out around the edges and will continue to squirm until someone, somewhere down the line, has the courage to tell the truth about what happened.
I have suggested that the highest standards in Government have been corroded. What has happened to Ministers of the Government in the North of Ireland who have inherited the problem? Perhaps it is time that the Minister who was in charge of security at the time and who is now a Member of another place had the courage to go to the House of Lords to tell us what we have not been able to hear so far—the definitive position from the person who was responsible at that time for security in the North of Ireland.
The highest standards of policing and the direction and leadership of the RUC have also been corroded. People in the police service have broken the law. There is evidence that they tried to pervert the course of justice. They have been protected on the Floor of the House by the Government, and by the entire political establishment, in a way that I believe is counter-productive for the Government and the police service. Does it not seem incredible that Mr. Stalker, who was asked to investigate events in the North of Ireland, was suspended from duty for the most spurious of reasons, while the Chief Constable of the RUC, who RS under investigation by the Northern Ireland police authority, not only remains on duty but takes every opportunity of becoming a star of screen and stage. Is that not embarrassing for the people who have tried to protect him? Is it not bad for morale in his force and disastrous for people in the police service who wish to do their jobs as good coppers without this cloud hanging over their heads?
It is difficult to imagine the outcome of the inquiry by the police authority, when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Prime Minister have stated that they have the utmost confidence in the Chief Constable of the RUC. I know that they have to say such things at such times, but surely a little dollop of honesty would be more effective. They should realise that, by saying such things, they will pre-empt the decision made by the Northern Ireland police authority.
887 The highest standards of those in charge of the Army have been corroded too. I refer to the circumstances of the release of Private Thain after serving less than three years for a murder. I have beaten a path to the door of the Minister of State in the past, asking for compassion for young people caught up in the tragic events with which we have lived for so long. I take no satisfaction from what I am about to say, but we must realise how that release was perceived in the North of Ireland.
Twenty-five Republican young offenders and nine Loyalist young offenders, all of whose offences were committed before they were of age, are still in prison, and some of them are entering their 14th and 15th years of imprisonment. That is to be measured against the decision on Private Thain, and it causes us to ask certain questions. For example, is any Irishman's life worth only two and a half years in gaol? I regret to put it that way, but that is what has been said and how the release was interpreted.
On what criteria was the decision based? The first criterion should be: has the person served a length of time commensurate with the crime he committed? Those two and a half years, as opposed to the 14 or 15 I have mentioned, should make the Minister of State reach not only for his brief but for his list of young offenders and resolve to do what we have asked him to do time and again —to show the sort of compassion which alone can start to introduce some humanity to the situation in the North of Ireland.
The second important criterion is that the words of the convicting judge be taken into consideration. His words in the Thain case were not encouraging. He said clearly that Private Thain was not telling the truth and that he was unco-operative and evasive. The judge said that he did not believe the man. Yet the Home Secretary's Department, and whoever is responsible in the Ministry of Defence, have allowed the highest standards to be corroded by this type of insensitive release, and by taking that young man back into the armed forces. I regret to say—I have a lot of compassion for those who are caught up in these matters — that it was contemptuous for the court, for someone in a position of authority in the Home Office and in the Ministry of Defence to make this decision in the way that it was made.
Once the high standards are corroded, and once there are low standards in the highest of places, one is prepared to do certain things. One creates the circumstances within which the type of incident that we saw at Aughnacloy happens and it is inevitable that such incidents will happen.
We should look these matters in the face; we should not try to avoid them. In the North of Ireland, 166 people — they were not members of paramilitary groups and they had not been involved in acts of violence — have been killed by members of the security forces. That is a startling statistic, but it is ignored. Given that those 166 cases produced two convictions, one of which was of Private Thain, people such as myself can be forgiven for believing that there is a blinkered approach not only to this legislation and its implementation but to the administration of justice in the North of Ireland.
What happened at Aughnacloy will happen again. It is inevitable that young men on the streets who are put in uniform and given guns, will see the Government's disregard for the highest standards of justice; they will see 888 the Attorney-General's disregard for the process of justice; they will see senior police officers being able to avoid the rigours of the law; they will see that the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office, irrespective of what will happen, will protect their position. They will say to themselves, "If those people can do it, why should I try to abide by the highest standards?"
The lowest standards are permeating on the ground. They are reinforced by the legislation that we propose to renew tonight. We are making it inevitable that soldiers and policemen will take their lead from their superior officers and from the decisions made on the Floor of the House, and do so in the belief that another Irishman is dispensable. They will say, "If Thain can get off, so can I; if senior police officers can do what they did and not be made to answer before the law, I surely will too."
That is the type of attitude, climate and ethos that makes those incidents possible. They make the death of someone such as Aidan McAnespie inevitable. They stem from the example that has been given from the top. We are also guilty, because tonight we shall renew the circumstances within which that climate and ethos thrive.
I referred earlier to Lord Colville's position. I regret that he did not think it worth while to look at the philosophy of this legislation. If he had, and if he had carried it through to its logical conclusion, he would have been able to say that the empirical evidence of almost 20 years is that this legislation does not create peace, prevent terrorism or create stability. All it does is create the circumstances in which we go from battle to battle on the Floor of the House and in which the confidence in and integrity of the process of justice is eroded to the extent that Northern Ireland was discussed when the Foreign Secretary visited Mr. Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. That is the extent of the corrosion that has taken place.
We shall extend that corrosion tonight. We shall renew the power of seven-day detention, despite the fact that in the Brogan case, which was heard by the European Commission of Human Rights, it was found that seven-day detention breached the convention. The Commission's recommendation was for five days' detention at the maximum. We will disregard that advice. We shall again impose the corroding standards that are permeating down.
We shall ignore the fact that, since 1975, 41,367 people have been arrested under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 without any charges being brought. We shall ignore that fact when we go through the Lobbies tonight.
Those of us who work in the North of Ireland know that the powers given by the Prevention of Terrorism Act are being used as a trawl for information. It is an easy way to take someone out of their house for questioning. In my constituency recently, a lady who was six months pregnant was put into a helicopter, taken to Gough barracks in Armagh and kept there for a day and a half. That is the easy way to discover information about somebody else. If that is not sufficient, I can give the example of another lady from my constituency who in the past two weeks was subjected to the same treatment. That is what we shall be voting for when we renew this piece of legislation.
We shall be voting for this measure despite the complete absence of any uniform legal or statutory regulations on the use of lethal force. I should have thought that, with 166 people having being killed as a result of lethal force by the 889 security forces—people who had not been involved in any acts of violence—it was time that regulations were written into legislation and into law.
Yes, we have the judges' rules; yes, we have the code of conduct for the RUC; and, yes, we have the Army code book, but they are all secret: they are not statutory and they are not known to the public. That matter should be looked into very quickly, because I cannot see how any Government could turn their face against making that a statutory requirement. Nothing is laid down by the House in relation to it. There is a code of practice in England, Scotland and Wales, but it does not exist for a country in which 166 people have been killed.
We shall be voting for powers to stop, search, question and humiliate young people on the streets. I shall repeat the effect that that has on the community — I see it daily. Unfortunately, there seems to be no redress if one goes to the RUC or to the military. The reality of the matter is that we are giving young soldiers and young policemen the power to do just those things without reasonable suspicion. It is happening on a continuing basis. I have seen young people on the streets having to take off their coats, shoes and socks, knowing that they had been questioned half an hour previously.
I have a calling card that was left on selected cars in my constituency last night. It says:Boys are back in town. 40 Commando Royal Marines.That is not a squaddie prank. Squaddies do not waste their money getting cards printed. It was officially sanctioned, and that is the type of veiled threat that has been used by people to whom we are giving these excessive powers. That is happening daily. Therefore, can one be surprised when an incident happens such as that at Aughnacloy?
§ Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the printing and distribution of those cards was approved by the military authorities in Northern Ireland? Will he clarify?
§ Mr. Mallon
I am not aware of what may come under the military authorities in the North of Ireland. However, it is logical to deduce that the cards were not printed by a young squaddie going out on duty. I am sure that a young squaddie would not waste his money on that, and in any case would not have the facilities to get such cards printed. That type of thing happens consistently. This is not the first time. I hope that the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is correct and that he will take this opportunity to demand of those in authority that the matter is fully investigated and that if guilt is established —as I know it will be—proper action is taken.
Tonight, we will renew the powers of the Diplock courts about which there has been much controversy. I shall confine myself to two points about those courts. First, I shall repeat the words of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights set up by the Government to advise them:The wider interests of the administration of justice would be better served if there was a system of trial which inspired greater public confidence than the present method … The introduction of three-judge courts is one of the amendments to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act which could be made without reducing the effectiveness of the legislation but which nonetheless might lead to a wider acceptability".The views of that public body, set up by the Government, have been ignored during the controversy.
890 The retention of the Diplock courts system tells us something about ourselves. 1t tells us that we are prepared to settle for something that represents a serious derogation from the norm and from the highest standards. The law is much too serious a matter to leave to the lawyers. The responsibility for this law rests with hon. Members. We may or may not answer the challenge and face up to our responsibilities in deciding whether to renew the legislation.
I again ask the House to have the courage and vision to start to look for a solution that is not a military or quasi-legal solution, because there is no such solution. Let us have the vision to create a proper system of law and justice with which everybody can identify and that everybody can support. Let us have the compassion to seek a solution rather than seeking retribution. It is only through justice that we can create peace, and peace is the only foundation on which a lasting solution can be based. We shall never go down that road—the only road by which we can succeed—until we start to re-examine the philosophy behind this legislation.
§ 8.2 pm
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
Early in his speech, the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said that he believed that someone is innocent until proved guilty. He then proceeded to pronounce 40 Royal Marine commandos guilty. Having had some rather undistinguished service in the Corps of Royal Marines, I resent that, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister that there will be a proper inquiry. It seems equally possible that someone could have printed those cards with the purpose of discrediting this fine unit of the armed forces of the Crown.
The hon. Gentleman does not wish the emergency powers to be renewed. It is a defect of our Northern Ireland legislation that we cannot amend the Acts. The hon. Gentleman criticised some of the provisions and the way in which they are operated. It is a pity that he cannot table amendments for us to discuss. However, when the Republic of Ireland cannot dispense with the Offences Against the State Act, which is emergency legislation, it seems self-evident that there has to be emergency legislation in Northern Ireland. After all, the Irish Republic has not yet—I say "not yet"—felt the full fury of terrorist attack, while Northern Ireland has.
As the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said, the debate has been overshadowed by the Stalker affair and by recent difficulties with Dublin. The Sun newspaper is better known for its insight into the female form than for its insight into international politics, but I agree with the leader writer in The Sun who said that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is part of the problem. I also commend the letter of Senator Mary Robinson in today's edition of The Independent.
I had the pleasure to correspond with Senator Mary Robinson shortly after she had resigned from her party, with considable courage, because she considered that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was unfair to the Unionist majority. It is, indeed, a grievous and unequal treaty.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and I are at one in desiring to improve relations between the Governments and the peoples through a reciprocal treaty that admits not the interference of another Government in a province of the United Kingdom, but the discussion of the totality of 891 relationships between the two sovereign states. It is sometimes argued for the Anglo-Irish Agreement that it enables Ministers and other politicians to dispense with megaphone diplomacy. I believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has simply provided an amplifier for the megaphone.
We have a common travel area with the Irish Republic and indeed with all the British Isles and we ought to have a common security area, too. It is time that there was an end to petty objections from either side when a squiggly border is crossed or air space traversed in pursuit of the common enemy.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh mentioned Private Thain. Concern has been expressed about his release and return to his regiment. I agree with Father Denis Faul that the decision in this case is to be praised. Father Faul has been a stern and courageous opponent of all terrorism. On 27 March 1987, he said that it was a mortal sin to be an active member of the Provisional IRA. He also makes no secret of widespread Roman Catholic support for the Union, although not for Unionist parties. However, he has regularly attacked the security forces for alleged excesses and, like the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, has no love for the powers that the House is being asked to renew.
Father Faul, in applauding the decision on Private Thain, returned to the case that he has frequently made — and that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and others have made — for the release on licence of young people imprisoned for terrorist offences who, having learnt a bitter lesson, wish only to start a new life free of the terrorist oppressor. I commend that view to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at whose pleasure many such young people are now detained.
§ Mr. Mallon
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. However, the Thain case is not the only case. It is a matter of record that someone known as Colonel Callan, among other things, who was subsequently executed in Angola, was sentenced in 1972, while a member of the British Army in Northern Ireland, to 10 years for armed robbery and released after 18 months. Would the hon. Gentleman address his mind to that?
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I should be glad to address my mind to it, but I am afraid that I cannot provide any useful information now. I shall certainly have a look at the case.
As for "Stalker-Sampson", as they call it, my opinion, for what it is worth, is that there was never any question of criminal prosecution. The hon. Gentleman describes Sir John Hermon as a star of stage and screen. I did not wish to make any criticism of Mr. Stalker until I heard the hon. Gentleman say that, but I should have thought that the description might be better applied to Mr. Stalker. I did not think that it was very edifying to see him signing copies of his book in Dublin.
No less valuable than Mr. Stalker's book is Peter Taylor's book "Stalker: The Search for the Truth", published last year, well before the Attorney-General's decision. Basing himself on what the Labour Attorney-General Sir Hartley Shawcross—now Lord Shawcross— 892 said in 1951, Mr. Taylor envisaged that the Attorney-General might decide that the effects of trial in court on "public morale and order" would render prosecutions unwise in the public interest.
Bad policemen must be rooted out, but the morale of the police is of supreme importance. It is also vital to protect the lives of informants, and with them the lives of many others.
Mr. Taylor is the man who, when he produced a film for BBC's "Panorama", seemed confident that there was a conspiracy to shut Stalker up. Then he did more research, and concluded that there was no such plot. He confirmed that view in a letter to The Guardian on 2 February 1987, in which he wrote:Had the authorities wished to kill off the Stalker enquiry, they would not have breathed fresh life into it by handing it over to Colin Sampson who carried on where Stalker had left off and reached almost identical conclusions. Nor would the Attorney-General have admitted in his statement to the House of Commons that there was evidence to warrant the prosecution of police officers.To those in the House and outside who have been impressed by Mr. Stalker's literary activities, I commend the contribution of Peter Taylor, written not with hindsight but with prescience. What matters now, however, is to close as quickly as possible, with proper and searching investigation, a distressing chapter in the history of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Some of its present critics, Nationalist as well as Unionist, were glad to praise that gallant and indispensable force when its members showed themselves—despite attacks on themselves and their families—bravely impartial between orange and green. Much has changed, and changed for the better, since 1982.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I strongly concur with what the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) has just said about the need for the Minister of State to take a careful look at some of the people who are languishing in the Maze, McGilligan and the other prisons in Northern Ireland, and who may have been placed in those prisons when they were very young. I have been making representations directly to the Minister about the case of one Protestant paramilitary, Noel Hillen, and I am grateful to the Minister for the replies that he has sent. So far, however, those replies, while they have been carefully worded, have not given any hope to the prisoner. Although he has renounced violence, and is prepared to work and to put his efforts into reconciliation in the community, sadly he cannot be released to achieve that.
There is plenty of evidence that people who have been released from goal in Northern Ireland are prepared to work for peace. I saw one just two weeks ago in Derry, Liam McCloskey, who is working for reconciliation in that community. He was a member of the INLA and spent 55 days on hunger strike after Bobby Sands. He renounced violence, became a Christian, and is now committed to bringing about reconciliation and trying to work for peace through non-violence in that divided community. I think that there is a strong case for early prison sentence reviews and the Minister should listen to the views on it recorded by both sides of the House.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that, if those men had been of age 893 when they were tried, they would have done their time and would now be out of prison? It seems hardly fair that someone who happened to be under age, no matter what his religion or conviction, is not even given a date for his release. That causes grave hardship both to him and to his parents.
Does the hon. Gentlman not think that the Northern Ireland Office, having been asked by those on both sides of the religious divide to look at the matter from a purely humanitarian point of view, should take cognisance of that fact?
§ Mr. Alton
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his helpful comments. He has made a good point about those who are under age. Some of the prisoners, of course, will have been over age when the were committed to goal, but even so, some will be relatively young. People can change. Surely, for the future, we must wean people away from violence, and people on both sides of the community must put every effort into that.
We come to this debate the day after an illuminating "Panorama" programme on television in which General Sir James Glover, the former head of intelligence and commander of the British Army in Ulster, said:In no way can or will the Provisional IRA ever be defeated militarily. The Army's role has been now for some time … to help create the conditions whereby a full democratic, peaceful, political solution can be achieved.I am sure that he is right. The future must be bound up with justice, with politics and with reconciliation being created by decisions made in this place, and also by those in the Dail in Dublin.
I am also certain that the future must lie in closer cooperation. Although I agreed with what the hon. Member for Epping Forest said about the need for closer security co-operation, our objectives must go deeper than that: a recognition that both North and South of the border, and across the Irish sea, there will be much more that binds us together than common, collective security.
It is inevitable that the security issue will, however, be much in our minds at present. I hope that the Minister will say something about Sir John Hermon's announcement yesterday that SAM 7s— surface to air missiles—have reached the island of Ireland from sources in Libya. Clearly, it is a matter of major concern that missiles are available that could destroy British helicopters and change the whole security position in Northern Ireland. I think that the House is entitled to know what action is being taken collectively by the British and Irish Governments and the security services to ensure that everything possible is being done to prevent their use.
It is a staggering thought, but since its creation in 1921 there has not been a time when Northern Ireland has been without some form of internal legislation which would not be acceptable in the rest of the United Kingdom. The emergency laws under discussion tonight were first introduced in 1973. I do not believe that there will come a time when Northern Ireland will be without emergency powers until there is a clear appreciation of the link between justice and security, and an acceptance that the only gainers from petty arguments and ridiculous territorial disputes are the paramilitaries.
The columnist Hugo Young put it very well when he wrote recently:Are these large, ongoing incursions into British liberties justified as indispensable to British security? I think I'm 894 entitled to the opinion that they are not, without being blackened as a procurer of murder or a friend of the vilest enemy.I agree with that. Anyone who dares to state the mildest criticism about the use of emergency powers, or about the prevention of terrorism legislation, seems invariably to be labelled as being on the side of the paramilitaries. It is not a question of that. It is simply that many see that the only way in which people will be weaned away from violence is for the link between justice and security to be strongly asserted.
This debate is taking place against the backdrop of five serious events that have devastated British-Irish relations and jeopardised the future development of joint initiatives and closer relations: the Stalker-Sampson inquiry, the Birmingham Six decision, the making permanent of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974, the killing of Aidan McAnespie, which led to the Irish Government establishing a separate inquiry, and the release of Private Ian Thain, already referred to in this debate, after serving just three years following his conviction for murder.
Those five events add up to a devastating litany of failure, insensitivity and ham-fistedness. Many of those criticisms are not directed at the existing Government Front Bench. However, there has been a great deal of insensitivity in the way in which events have been handled, although many of them are undoubtedly, as the hon. Member for Newry and Arrnagh (Mr. Mallon) has said, time-expired. No one should underestimate just how seriously those events have set back the cause of reconciliation and co-existence.
There are one or two matters that I wish to raise with the Minister arising out of those incidents. First let us consider the Stalker-Sampson inquiry. Last week, during the first part of this adjourned debate, the Secretary of State took exception to the expression, "shoot-to-kill policy". Outside this House, that phrase is used again and again.
Two weeks ago, I met Sir John Hermon and asked about the allegations concerning the shoot-to-kill policy. I specifically asked him about the hay shed outside Lurgan on Ballyneery Road where, in November 1982, some of the shootings took place. I asked Sir John—I would like to ask the Minister again tonight—who placed the listening devices in that shed? What was recorded during the incident? Who removed them, and who gave the orders for the tape to be subsequently destroyed? Therein lies the key to the truth and about whether or not there was a shoot-to-kill policy.
I am prepared to believe Sir John Hermon, but how can anyone know where the truth lies until we know who gave the orders to destroy the tape? If the fault lies with the security services, that should be out in the open. That is the only way in which Sir John Hermon's name can be cleared and the reputation of the RUC restored.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I understand—perhaps the Minister can confirm this— that such tapes are always destroyed, under standing orders to that effect.
§ Mr. Alton
I hope that the Minister will confirm that tonight. However, in such circumstances, given the sensitivities involved and the knowledge that there could be prosecutions, I am amazed that those tapes were destroyed. If that is the case, surely such Government policy should be reviewed.
895 Sir John Hermon has taken a lot of criticism throughout, but I believe that he brings skill and determination to the most difficult policing situation in Europe. He has endeavoured to strip the RUC of every last vestige of sectarianism. Sir John simply will not do — any more than John Stalker — as a convenient scapegoat. The blame, I believe, clearly lies with the security forces and the relationships that existed between those forces and the RUC five years ago. Indeed, one of the validations of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is that I do not believe that what happened then could happen now, and I fully accept that what the Secretary of State told us last week was true.
Yet it will not do for Government Ministers to hide behind weasel words such as "the national interest." National interest amounts to many things — the relationship between ourselves and the Irish Government, our security interests on the border and the confidence that the minority community in Northern Ireland has in the RUC. If the minority do not feel any sense of confidence, how can they be expected to join the RUC?
I have pressed the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh about this on many occasions. I want to see more people from the minority community joining and supporting the RUC. However, until the RUC is seen to be totally impartial in its policing policies and its name cleared in the aftermath of the Stalker-Sampson inquiry, it is unrealistic to expect the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh to say to the minority part of the community that they should join the RUC now.
Arising out of the Stalker-Sampson affair, I believe that we need a Select Committee with investigative powers or a judicial inquiry, consisting perhaps of Privy Councillors. We smugly gloat when we hear about incidents such as Irangate in the United States, as though it could not happen here. Mistakes happen in any democracy, but our mechanisms for dealing with such mistakes are woefully inadequate. We need to improve our accountability and the mechanisms that deal with complaints to ensure that the truth comes out.
I met Sir John Hermon for the first time about five years ago. I asked him why it was not possible to attract more Roman Catholics into the RUC. He said that it was his objective to do so, but that he should make it clear that in Northern Ireland there are Catholics, Protestants and the RUC. He said that he would continue to do all that he could to strip away any sense of sectarianism from the RUC. The way in which the RUC dealt with the events in Portadown last year is evidence that the RUC is impartial. However, a shadow hangs over its reputation.
Following my discussions with Sir John, he admitted to me that the behaviour of his men was "unconscionable" in the aftermath of the events at Lurgan. There must be recognition that faults lie across a broad spectrum, and it would be wrong if all the blame were laid at Sir John's door. A Select Committee inquiry could establish where the blame should lie.
For the future, when RUC officers are killed in Northern Ireland, I believe that it would be appropriate —I have said this to the Irish Government and I hope that other hon. Members will press for this — that Gardai, in uniform, should attend such funerals. When Catholic members of the RUC have been killed I should like to see senior members of the Catholic clergy present.
896 That would make it clear that the RUC has the full support of those who have high clerical positions in Northern Ireland.
I believe it was wrong, for instance, in the case of the Liverpool bar murder, that there was no senior Catholic churchman present, and I have raised that matter with Cardinal Fiaich. I shall also keep on pressing that solidarity should be shown between the RUC and the Garda.
I believe that there should be a stronger Nationalist presence on the police authority. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) mentioned Father Faul, and I can think of no better person. He would be someone who would safeguard the nationalist interest and yet would be likely to be beyond the guns of the IRA.
During Prime Minister's Question Time today, I was disappointed that the Prime Minister was not prepared to accept the need to consider the idea of a joint security commission. I believe that we could consolidate the Anglo-Irish Agreement by considering how we could work closer together on a whole range of issues. A joint security commission would be a start.
The Diplock courts should be replaced, perhaps with courts initially sitting just outside the Northern Ireland jurisdiction. Eventually we could have mixed courts North and South of the border trying terrorist cases together and that would demonstrate our joint resolve and determina-tion to deal with terrorism. Another way of underpinning the Anglo-Irish Agreement would be the establishment of the parliamentary tier, which has been spoken of for so long, but has still not happened. That would be a good way of bringing politicians together from all parts of these islands, so that some of the old animosity, fear and hatred could be broken down.
It is difficult to realise that it is less than four months since Enniskillen when there was a genuine spirit—the spirit of Gordon Wilson —of forgiveness and reconcilia-tion. That spirit has been squandered by this series of mind-boggling blunders. The prize must surely be to push the paramilitaries on to the margins and to ensure that Ireland's future does not consist merely of worn-out slogans, abusive rhetoric and more talk of victors and vanquished.
Confidence and security are the sisters of democracy and justice—they are never the relations of revenge or political one-upmanship. Confidence and security must be our clear objectives and in turn they depend on how we are seen to administer justice.
My colleague, Dr. John Alderdice, the leader of the Alliance party in Northern Ireland, said to me earlier today:The series of mishaps, misadventures and misfortunes in the administration of Northern Ireland and, the conduct of Anglo-Irish relations over the past few weeks has been causing concern about the Government's handling of the situation. It is now giving way to a sense of alarm.British policy must consist of not the endless renewal of emergency provisions, but of a long-term political strategy clearly agreed and supported by Irish and British, Nationalists and Unionists alike.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)
May I first thank the Leader of the House publicly for arranging, in response to the vigorous demands made last Thursday, for the debate to continue today.
897 The order highlights the fact that the Province is in a less than equal position with the rest of the United Kingdom. The order cannot be amended or changed in any way by Parliament. It has to be accepted or rejected in its entirety. It reminds hon. Members, if they need reminding—sad to say, some of them do—that the cruel campaign of terrorism continues to crucify the people of Ulster regardless of their religion, because terrorism strikes at Protestants and at Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, deliberately or by accident.
The most recent terrorist atrocity that received national and international attention was the massacre at Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday. Of course, other terrorist killings, mutilations and destruction have occurred since then; they are all part of the pattern of the past 20 years.
Some months ago the Secretary of State issued a grave warning that the IRA intended to mount a fresh horrendous campaign of terrorism against the people of Northern Ireland. Despite the obscene killings, and the grave warning issued by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Ulster people, this is, as far as I am aware, the first debate on security in the Province since then.
However, the debate is limited to the terms of the order and is taking place only because the order has to be renewed and the Government have to table it. I am sure that people in Northern Ireland wonder about the extent of the Government's commitment to defeating terrorism in Northern Ireland. I am sure that they have come to the conclusion that the Northern Ireland Office does not wish to put its record of the battle against terrorism in Northern Ireland under parliamentary scrutiny.
Certainly the security situation is no better than it was last year, the year before or indeed, since the Stormont Parliament was destroyed by the then Government at Westminster in an attempt to placate the opponents of a British Ulster. Of course I am surprised that this debate, which is important for every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland, has been attended by so few hon. Members. The largest number of hon. Members present at any one time has amounted to about a dozen and a half. If proceedings in the Chamber were televised, the people of Northern Ireland would be shocked at the lack of interest in Northern Ireland and in the lives of the people of Ulster and the security forces in Northern Ireland.
Undoubtedly, the situation is grave because the campaign of terrorism has gone on for 20 years, and the Government should answer for that. In addition, the situation has changed because the Provisional IRA has acquired sophisticated weapons. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to the possibility of SAM missiles being in possession of the IRA. The IRA has the new impact grenade referred to on Thursday during the first part of the debate. That grenade is able to penetrate 6 in. of steel. Therefore, the security forces are now vulnerable when travelling around in their vehicles, which, until the introduction of the impact grenade, gave them a reasonable degree of safety. The SAM missiles are a frightening change in the situation.
I wonder whether the Government can provide some information about the amount of arms that the IRA has brought from Libya. The GOC in Northern Ireland apparently announced on television last night that the 898 British Army cannot defeat the Provisional IRA. What does that do to the morale of the people of Ulster and the security forces in Northern Ireland?
Insufficient credit is given to ordinary people in Northern Ireland, who have shown remarkable restraint despite the vicious campaign that has taken the lives of so many people. They have faced the betrayal of the Anglo-Irish Agreement that was entered into behind their backs and without prior consultation.
The normality that exists in the Province is surprising. I only wish that more people would come to Northern Ireland and see for themselves the indomitable spirit of the people, share their humour and enjoy their hospitality. I wish that more hon. Members from all parts of the House would visit Northern Ireland—I know that some hon. Members have been there—and speak to the police, the soldiers, the people and the representatives of the different constitutional parties. They would then be in a better position to assess the situation.
Sadly, Northern Ireland is facing not only a battle with terrorists, whoever they may be, although the principal terrorist organisation is the Provisional IRA. Northern Ireland also has to face the hostility of the media. With a few honourable exceptions, the media are not fair in their presentation of the situation in Northern Ireland or of the Ulster majority which believes in honesty, justice and fair play, no matter what has been said by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).
The media adopt that hostile attitude to Northern Ireland partly because of the skill of the Provisional IRA, which has a superb, sophisticated propaganda machine, working all the time in Great Britain and abroad, particularly in the United States. That propaganda campaign is threefold. It aims to raise money to buy more arms for the IRA, to make other people and Governments bring influence to bear on the British Government, and to demoralise the British people and weaken the resolve of Parliament and Government.
Of course, as part of that campaign, whenever a terrorist is arrested it is alleged that he was beaten up; whenever a confession is made, it is alleged that it was made under pressure; and whenever a conviction is obtained, there are allegations that witnesses have lied or that the court was biased because it was British.
It is further argued that if all the measures introduced to restrain and defeat the Provisional IRA and other terrorists were abandoned, the IRA would not be provoked into committing murders and bombing. I do not believe that the IRA or any other terrorists are lily white. If the police, the Army and the UDR were to disappear overnight, the IRA and other terrorists would not become as the driven snow. Such arguments are naive in the extreme and demonstrate the success of the IRA progaganda battle.
The IRA wants to limit the activities of the security forces, to put shackles on them and make them easier to defeat, to kill and to mutilate. I cannot accept that possibility, because, as a democratic society, we must do everything possible to ensure that every power is given to the security forces so that they defeat the forces of evil.
In the debate on Thursday, the Prime Minister was attacked by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for showing "truculence" in her statement of support for the security forces. I see nothing wrong in the strength of her observations about the security forces. In the last war, it would have been 899 regarded as a heroic statement. If she had made the same remarks at the Dispatch Box in the last war she would have been greeted in the same way that Winston Churchill was greeted for giving a lead, for inspiring the people and for helping the people along in a difficult situation. Yes, she has every right to back the security forces to the hilt.
I deeply regret that not every hon. Member gives the same unqualified support to the RUC, the men and women of the Ulster Defence Regiment and the young soldiers serving in the Regular Army. I may have been disappointed that the Prime Minister allowed herself to be talked into the Anglo-Eire Agreement, but I resent the attack on her patriotism and support for the security forces.
This is a sombre time for everyone in Northern Ireland. I hope that when hon. Members speak they will think carefully, because their words will be taken up and repeated in Northern Ireland and may provide the IRA with an excuse, if it needs one, for taking further action against members of the security forces.
The speech of the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh depressed me. I was not surprised, but, none the less, I was depressed. At no time does he or his party call on the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland to give full and unequivocal support to the RUC, the UDR and the Regular Army. That attitude, let me emphasise, is not prompted by anything that has happened in the past for days, weeks or months. It is an attitude which has been maintained for decades. It is no use referring to what may have happened in Aughnacloy or anywhere else, because, unfortunately, the divide is there. Again, I shall welcome the day when constitutional politicians will be able to work together to provide and to help security in Northern Ireland and to protect everybody in the Province.
I understand that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh wishes, as indeed every member of the SDLP does, to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom against the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, and to put it fully and squarely in the Irish Republic. That is his position, but let him make it clear that that is his position.
§ Mr. Mallon
It would be churlish indeed if I did not respond to the hon. Gentleman's points. We give our support to the police in impartially enforcing the law. That is a reasonable position for anyone to take. I should inform the hon. Gentleman that I do not give unequivocal support to anything or anybody. My support for anything, and my allegiance to anything, must be constrained by the fact that that to which I give support acts in the proper way.
On the hon. Gentleman's second point, I can assure him without any doubt that my political ambition — my political aspiration — is to see the reunification in Northern Ireland by peaceful means and by agreement, not, as he wrongly suggests, contrary to the wishes of any section of the people in Ireland. That is an honourable political position to take. That is my position and I would expect the hon. Gentleman to respect its legitimacy and to do so now.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Before the hon. Gentleman interrupted, I had already shown that I accepted his attitude on the existence of Northern Ireland. He wants to take it out of the United Kingdom. That is it, fairly and squarely.
900 As to the hon. Gentleman's point about the security forces, one cannot pick and choose. One either supports the security forces or does not support them. One does not back the police when they are striking the heads of Loyalists who are engaging in some demonstration but oppose them when they are doing that to the Nationalist community.
Everyone in the community should respect the security forces and the police who have a difficult job to do. We should all tell the people in the community that they should back the police, join them and the UDR and defeat the terrorists who are a threat to everybody in Northern Ireland. They are certainly a threat to the existence of the next generation.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said that the events in Northern Ireland — I hope that I quote him correctly—made the death of Mr. McAnespie inevitable. I do not believe that Mr. McAnespie's death was inevitable. What happened in Aughnacloy is to be deeply regretted. I hate to see the death of any man, woman or child anywhere in the world, and certainly in Northern Ireland. But the young soldier has said—
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I shall give way in a moment.
The young soldier has said that it was an accident, and public comment by anyone, certainly by politicians, should await the verdict of a properly constituted court of law, sitting in the United Kingdom where we take pride in the standards of the judiciary.
The consequences of a cruel campaign of obscene terrorism are inevitable in Northern Ireland. Without the vicious killings of the IRA, there would have been no death at Aughnacloy. It is ridiculous in the extreme for the hon. Gentleman to produce a card in the House this evening which, allegedly, was from 40 Commando Royal Marines, although I do not have a note of the words that he alleges are in the card. The hon. Gentleman believes that it comes from 40 Commando Royal Marines. He alleges not only that it comes from them, but that it had been sent with official approval. That is an appalling allegation to make against anyone. I know many hon. Members who have served in the Royal Marines. It is an honourable regiment. Anyone could have printed that card. The IRA could have printed it and sent it to the hon. Gentleman.
I receive many nasty and obscene letters. Some are signed by people declaring themselves to be strong Loyalist clergymen. The wording would not make one believe that such letters came from a clergyman. Therefore, I do not automatically believe that they have come from any clergyman — Protestant, Loyalist or anybody else. What the hon. Gentleman said is naive and dangerous because the IRA can now pick out a member of 40 Commando Royal Marines and kill him for his "sectarian" attitude, or political attitude to a representative of the Nationalist community in Northern Ireland. That is the sad situation that we see in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I have been asked to bring my remarks to a close, so I shall not give way.
More than 250 members of the RUC have been murdered by terrorists. They would not have died but for the terrorist campaign. UDR members have been 901 murdered. Members of the Regular Army have been murdered. I remember two young brothers, about 17 years old, who were taken out of Belfast 15 or 18 years ago, made to kneel down and shot in the head by the IRA. I do not think that those two brothers, who came from England, should be forgotten. I do not think that we should forget anybody who has died in Northern Ireland. Their sacrifices must not be in vain. We must defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland, but I accept also that we must make political progress. We must never give up hope that we can make progress.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The winding-up speeches are expected to begin at about 9.20 pm. Many hon. Members still wish to speak, so I appeal for very brief contributions.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I shall certainly conform to your wishes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. High-handedness on the part of the British has always been a standing threat to Anglo-Irish relations, and it is that high-handedness that I wish to address now, in what has become a wide-ranging debate.
At the time when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, one of the most important changes from the Government's point of view was that it seemed to promise a more equal relationship. As a result, British Ministers would become aware, through a process of consultation, of the repercussions that their words and actions might have on Irish public opinion. Much of this was due to the quality of the officials involved on both sides. That is why the recent serious breakdown in diplomacy is so disturbing and so puzzling.
There is no doubt who is responsible. There is a quite striking sympathy for Ireland's case, and in particular for Mr. Haughey, across a wide spectrum of British political and media opinion. I am excepting, of course, the gutter press.
London and Dublin have just passed through probably the worst passage in their relationship since the early 1970s. Yet, according to The Daily Telegraph yesterday week,Mr. Haughey … did nothing to make matters worse". The Times, on a day in the previous week, took the same view, saying:To his great credit, Mr. Haughey has gone to some lengths to avoid making the tensions worse.The Taoiseach set out a position in the debate in Dail Eireann a fortnight ago which clearly reflected the belief that he and his Government hold the high moral ground. The London Government's performance has been a sorry accumulation of ineptitude, insensitivity and incomprehension in assessment of Irish reaction—matched, I regret to say, by that of a small number, happily fast diminishing, of Conservative Members.
There are two main questions. Why have the British behaved so badly? And how do we restore a relationship with Dublin that had become informed with common purpose and mutual trust? Let us look at the main issues—extradition arrangements and Mr. Stalker.
On the question of implementing the extradition arrangements, the London Government are wrong and have behaved badly. As The Daily Telegraph pointed out on 22 February: 902It could make a start by meeting Dublin halfway on the provision of evidence to back up extradition warrants for terrorist suspects. Britain requires such evidence from other countries, so it is hardly surprising if the Republic expects it from us.If there are practical difficulties, they should have been addressed within the Anglo-Irish Conference or on a bilateral basis between the two Attorneys-General.
On the question of the Stalker affair, in 1982, as The Times of yesterday week put it:something went wrong—and it took 5½ years for any minister of the British Government to admit it publicly.To suggest that RUC personnel engaged in an official or unofficial shoot-to-kill policy should merely be disciplined was to make a nonsense of the rule of law. If RUC men were not prosecuted, it would be difficult for a long time to believe that the law was being justly applied in Northern Ireland. The decision of Mr. McAnespie's family to request the exhumation of his body for further investigation can only reflect a growing disenchantment with the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
How deafening the silence of Sir John Hermon on the substance of Mr. Stalker's allegations has now become. Soon after the book was published, the RUC issued a terse statement denying that a shoot-to-kill policy had ever existed or that it had ever obstructed Mr. Stalker's inquiry into its affairs. At the time, journalists in Belfast were given to understand that there would be a detailed rebuttal of what the RUC believed were "gross" distortions and inaccuracies in Mr. Stalker's account of what had happened. To date, this has not been forthcoming. Instead, there have been vague leaks to the effect that nobody in the RUC trusted Mr. Stalker and that was why they did not talk to him.
Former Taoiseach Dr. Garret FitzGerald, one of the architects of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, speaking in that Dail Eireann debate, said that it was difficult to avoid the conclusion that they were faced with the consequences of muddle and confusion within the British Government. He reminded us in the House of Commons of the assurances that his Government in Dublin received as late as the end of 1986 that there were would be prosecutions as a result of the Stalker report. Dr. FitzGerald said that the London Government now had a duty to do all in its power to minimise the damage done and to restore confidence.
It will not be easy to restore that confidence while tragedies like the shooting of the young Aughnacloy Catholic continue to occur, not to mention the reports of his harassment over a long period.
At least 160 civilians, as the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has reminded the House, have been killed with either lead or plastic bullets by the British Army, the RUC and the UDR in Northern Ireland in the past 19 years. In that time, only one serving soldier, Private Ian Thain, who has now been released after serving three and a half years of a life sentence — this needs to be impressed upon the House — and unbelievably is now back in the Army, was convicted of murder in the course of duty. I have to say to the Minister on the Front Bench, and it gives me no personal satisfaction to do so, that I cannot conceive of this even being considered by the Ministry of Defence in Her Majesty's Government a decade ago.
It also needs to be borne in mind that it has tended to be the poorest sections of the Catholic population whose members, young and old, including children, have borne the brunt of the British Army's attacks on civilians— 903 [Interruption.] Well, they are all there on record. There can be no doubt in the mind of any hon. Member who is familiar with the Northern Ireland scene—
§ Mr. Duffy
Of course, and they are to be equally deplored, if not more so.
But, in the face of such extreme provocation, let the House also not forget the gains. The Government have taken two years or more of the most intense Loyalist reaction. The RUC has stood firm on the streets. The Secretary of State has stood firm against the leaders of Unionism, who tried to break the agreement, which instead, finally and successfully, broke their veto. The Maryfield secretariat is in place and is working, with its system of monitoring and checking the work of the security forces on the ground.
The agreement holds. Security co-operation is not in question. What is at risk, unhappily, is the sense of trust and common purpose between the two Governments—the spirit in which the agreement was born and from which everything, especially our hopes, have flowed. Much influential opinion in Britain is on Ireland's side. What is important now is that Irish and British Ministers jointly effect a rescue of what remains by way of good faith and co-operation, and in that the onus is clearly on the House.
Although there was, as the Irish Deputy Prime Minister put it, every evidence of healing at the meeting that was held in Dublin last Wednesday with the Secretary of State, both will need to employ all their experience and skill before the trust and confidence essential to a sound relationship are restored. If the case for repairing the damage to Anglo-Irish relations had still to be made, it was done by the discovery of two substantial arms dumps in Ireland during the last week. The discoveries underline Britain's folly in risking a breakdown in co-operation.
Most of all, the Government must break out of their practice of seeing the agreement almost exclusively in security terms and ignoring both the spirit of the pact and the generosity underlying it on both sides, as well as the many imaginative possibilities it offers to both Governments to help create better understanding between these islands and on the island of Ireland.
§ 9 pm
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
The first part of the debate on the order last Thursday was marked by an unmerited attack on my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by the shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is correct to say that my right hon. Friend takes a keen interest and a keen pride in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in the Ulster Defence Regiment and in the British Army in Northern Ireland, and rightly so. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is a former Minister for the Armed Forces. He knows, as I know, that that interest and that pride of the Prime Minister are a source of encouragement to those whose task it is to protect the innocent and pursue the guilty in Ulster.
In moving the approval of the order, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he wanted to deal withthe wider issues and the present scene in Northern Ireland." —[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 473.]904 Like my right hon. Friend, I regret the need to ask the House to approve the order. Like him, I agree that in the present circumstances the renewal of the order is necessary. Like him, I wish that the circumstances were different.
There is in Northern Ireland today an atmosphere of great uncertainty and instability. Certainty and stability are the enemies of the terrorist. Uncertainty and instability are his friends. These evils have two manifestations at present—first, in our relations with the Government of the Irish Republic and, secondly, in the Province itself. It is to those two manifestations that I want to address my speech.
As to our relations with the Irish Republic, the preamble to the Anglo-Irish Agreement refers to the unique relationship between our two peoples and the close co-operation between our two countries, acting as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Community. I endorse those statements. They are an echo of the words of the communiquè issued after the Anglo-Irish summit four years previously. That communiquè, issued on 6 November 1981, referred tothe unique character of the relationship between the two countries.The Anglo-Irish Agreement marked a dramatic change of policy. Ever since it was signed two and a quarter years ago, it has been interpreted differently in London and in Dublin. That is a grievous flaw in any agreement, and it is fatal when dealing with Ireland. On the day the agreement was signed, the Irish Minister for Justice claimed that the agreement meant that the Republic had been given a continuing and substantial role in the day-to-day running of Northern Ireland. It was a claim that was instantly rejected by the Secretary of State. From that basic difference of interpretation, with the Irish Government mindful of their parliamentary and domestic audience and the Secretary of State mindful of his, highly publicised differences between London and Dublin have flowed.
§ Mr. Soames
Does my hon. Friend share my astonishment that the Republic of Ireland should feel that the British Government are able to dictate to the judiciary or to the Director of Public Prosecutions what progress or action they would like to see in any particular case? Does he agree that that is a horrifying feature of the events of the past few weeks?
§ Mr. Gow
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, and I shall deal with that point a little later.
Inevitably, disagreements have flowed from the day when the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, and nothing, save the ending of the agreement in its present form, can put an end to continuing highly publicised differences.
Let me illustrate what I mean. London believes—in my opinion, rightly—that the extradition arrangements with the Republic, in respect of those suspected of terrorist offences, are less satisfactory than with any of the other 10 states of the Community, despite the Anglo-Irish Agreement and an especially close common interest in cleansing the islands of Ireland and of Great Britain of the evil of terrorism.
The Republic made representations to Her Majesty's Government, asking that there should be three judges and not one in the Diplock courts, despite the fact that we had already examined that proposal exhaustively and the fact that any person convicted by a Diplock court has the 905 automatic right to go to three judges in the Court of Appeal. Moreover, the Republic appeared to link the number of judges with the arrangements for extradition.
More recently, the Republic has given the impression that it should have been consulted before the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland decided that there should be no prosecutions following his study of the Stalker-Sampson report. As the director did not consult the British Government, it is strange to suggest that he should consult the Government of a foreign power, yet that was precisely what was suggested.
Then we were told that there was considerable disquiet among senior Ministers in Dublin, including the Minister of Justice, at the decision of our Court of Appeal, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice, which upheld unanimously the unanimous decision of the jury some years earlier.
Following the tragic shooting at Aughnacloy on 22 February, the Irish Government ordered their own inquiry, even though he who fired the shot and he who was so tragically killed were both in the United Kingdom and even though the Army and the police in the United Kingdom were both carrying out urgent and thorough inquiries. Even last Wednesday's communiquè, following the most recent meeting of the Inter-governmental Conference, resulted in embarrassing disagreement about interpretation.
Each of those episodes was predictable and predicted. They are a foretaste of what is to come. That is in no way surprising, because the agreement gave the Irish Government the right to put forward views and proposals about political, security and legal matters, including the administration of justice. Article 8 provides:The Conference shall deal with issues of concern to both countries relating to the enforcement of the criminal law.Those who fashioned the agreement did so in good faith. They genuinely believed that the agreement would lead to improved relations between Dublin and London. The reverse has been the case. Troubled relations between Dublin and London are bad for Ulster. However, another belief was also held in good faith by the aúthors of the agreement — that it would lead to peace, stability and reconciliation in the Province and hasten the day when there would be no need for such orders to come before the House.
I now turn to Northern Ireland itself. One advantage claimed for the agreement is that it has resulted and will result in closer cross-border co-operation between the security forces in both countries. That close co-operation is greatly to be desired. However, there is an unpleasant corollary to that argument. If the Republic had not been given the right to put forward views and proposals about the way in which Northern Ireland should be governed, its Government, army and Garda would not have given the same co-operation in what many people, including myself, believe to be an overriding duty of all civilised Governments, namely to do their utmost to protect all our people against terrorism.
Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State seemed to agree with that when he said in the House last Thursday, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), who had asked about the agreement:Perhaps he"—that is, my hon. Friend—could explain to me how we are likely to do better in border security if we do not co-operate closely with the Government 906 of the Irish Republic. … the closest co-operation with the Government of the Irish Republic is absolutely essential."—[Official Report, 25 February 1988; Vol. 128, c. 427.]I agree with my right hon. Friend, but was he really telling the House that the agreement was necessary to gain the co-operation?
I remind my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, who is to reply, that there is the closest cross-border co-operation in the fight to defeat Basque terrorism between France and Spain. No Franco-Spanish agreement exists whereby France has the right to put forward views and proposals about how the Basque territory should be governed.
The agreement gave the Republic responsibility for representing Nationalists in their dealings with the British Government, over the heads of the three SDLP Members of this House. The agreement has alienated the majority, without reconciling the minority.
Article 4(b) states:It is the declared policy of the United Kingdom Government that responsibility in respect of certain matters within the powers of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should be devolved within Northern Ireland on a basis that would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community. The Irish Government support that policy.Twenty-seven months, and more, have elapsed since the agreement was signed. My right hon. Friend knows that he is not one step — not even half a step — closer to achieving what he then said was his purpose. If a policy objective is unattainable, and since we are on earth and not in heaven, it is the duty of those engaged in politics to strive for that which is attainable.
I have heard no protest from the Irish Government about the way in which Irish citizens living in London, Liverpool or Glasgow are treated by Her Majesty's Government. The complaint relates to the way in which Irish citizens living in the Province or British citizens described in the agreement as members of "the minority community" are treated.
Very well, the remedy is at hand. I agree with the Irish Government that Nationalists in Northern Ireland are treated unfairly and differently from Nationalists in Wales, Scotland, London, Liverpool or Glasgow. It is possible to treat Nationalists in Northern Ireland and Unionists in Northern Ireland in the same way as we treat citizens of this kingdom living in Scotland, Wales or England.
There is no reason why we should deny to Northern Ireland alone a county council or a regional council. Why should only the 1.5 million of the Queen's subjects living in Northern Ireland be denied that right to elect a county or regional council—a right which is taken for granted in Great Britain? Why is it that those duties which fall upon district councils in England, in Scotland and in Wales are not conferred upon the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland? Why is it that the representatives of those who live in Northern Ireland are denied the right to amend proposed legislation which affects the Province?
We should legislate for Northern Ireland in the same way as we legislate for the rest of the kingdom. Constitutional Nationalists in Northern Ireland deserve, and have the right, to be protected under a just law. Their right should be respected and acknowledged, just as the right of the Unionists is respected and acknowledged.
I said that certainty and stability were the enemies of terrorism. We would the better be able to restore certainty and stability in the Province if we were to say 907 unequivocally that, while honouring, acknowledging and respecting constitutional nationalism, we shall henceforth govern Northern Ireland in a way that more closely conforms to the way in which we govern the rest of the kingdom. If such a policy were to be followed, it would offer the best opportunity, the best hope, of discontinuing debates of this kind on emergency legislation.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Will the debate go on only to 9.20 pm, Mr. Speaker? How long have I got?
§ Mr. Speaker
A number of other hon. Gentlemen wish to speak. If the hon. Gentleman could bear that in mind, it would be very helpful. I understand that the Front Bench spokesman will seek to rise at half past 9.
§ Mr. Flannery
I will not take quite as long as the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). I shall reorganise slightly what I was going to say, because I want to refer to the hon. Gentleman's curious belief that the troubles in Ireland began with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He spent his entire speech labouring that one point.
It is, of course, absolute nonsense. The fact is that the enemy of terrorism is democracy — and there was no democracy for the minority community in Northern Ireland. The terrorists battened on the lack of democracy, especially on the part of the Democratic Unionist Members who did not understand, and still do not understand, and who want to go back to the old Stormont. [Interruption.] Despite the interruptions of Democratic Unionist Members, I want to make a contribution. I never intruded on anyone else's speech.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) said something at the beginning which commended itself to me. He is a Catholic, and he was trying to help a paramilitary of the Protestants. There is a lesson here for all of us; the hon. Gentleman believes in justice and not in sectariansism. So do I. I have a very Catholic Irish name, but I am not a Catholic. I did not go to Ireland until I was nearly 50 and I have taken no lively part in the struggle. But some of us at some time must do what we can to make it clear that we are struggling on behalf of a particular grouping, not just for the interests of that grouping, but to obtain peace in Northern Ireland. I believe in a united Ireland — I always have — and I believe that the lack of democracy which drew a line round an in-built Protestant majority community caused all this trouble.
I should like to put a hypothesis. If a powerful imperialist Ireland had attacked England, occupied it and, when the time came to withdraw after hundreds of years of struggle, suddenly decided that there was a powerful Irish community in Lancashire and had drawn a line round it and, not content with that, wanted to make it even harder and had drawn another line to make sure that that community remained there, and had then added Lancashire onto that imperialist Ireland and said that it was part of Ireland, what do we think the English would be doing?
The emergency provisions, not the Anglo-Irish Agreement, have caused all the trouble. I abstained from supporting that agreement until I was sure that I felt good about what was happening, which I now do. I am sorry 908 that the Government have done so many things in the past few weeks which have provoked the struggle over that agreement.
The Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts of 1978 and 1987 were unnecessary. I feel sad that a Labour Government brought them in, because there was enough law to handle the existing position. It did not need those draconian measures, which have helped the terrorists. There is confusion about what is in the emergency provisions Act and what is in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, after what has happened to the six people from Birmingham.
Viscount Colville said in the first paragraph of his review:New ideas, new information and a scrutiny of each provision would facilitate a more effective discussion.Viscount Colville recommended no changes whatsoever. He said, in effect, "I believe that the solution to the problem is political." His terms of reference wereto report on the way the legislation has been applied over the previous year and to draw attention to any of the temporary provisions which safely might be allowed to lapse.But he did not point to anything that should be allowed to lapse. In his report, which he said was hurried, he said:the invitation for written submissions coincides with Christmas and the New Year. The predictable result on this occasion has been a meagre response to the invitation.The events in Northern Ireland of recent days show that the position is as serious as it has ever been. It was getting better, but the Stalker-Sampson affair has soured relations with the Irish Republic and the refusal to prosecute certain leading members of the RUC has strengthened the terrorists, who ask whether that is British justice.
The aftermath of Enniskillen lingers on, and the recent killing of Mr. McAnespie has deepened the position. Private Thain's release was insensitive, piled on what had happened to the Birmingham six and the killing of Mr. McAnespie. It is natural that people in Ireland wonder whether there is any justice, when the British Government have been so insensitive. They should be ashamed of themselves for deepening the position, which was already bad. It is difficult to separate the two Acts.
The Baker report of 1986 set out all the details in a much larger report than that of Viscount Colville. The report said that it was restating section 8 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 to exclude confessions. There is a difference of opinion about whether the Birmingham six were guilty. The judges—it was not a Diplock court, but three judges without a jury, on appeal —made it clear that they took not the slightest notice of the men having been beaten up in prison. There were pictures on record of the faces of the men who had been beaten up in gaol. How can we say that confessions of people who have been beaten can be allowed as evidence? The Baker report made that recommendation, but it has still not been accepted; nor are many other recommendations.
Many of us believe that the emergency provisions Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act are stopping justice and are causing terrorism. It is sad that not one of the hon. Members who was elected last year is present in the Chamber.
Every time this melancholy renewal comes up—it is to be indefinite, even though it is only for a year now— some of the Unionists never admit that they ever did anything wrong. They never say that what they did caused all this. Until they say something like that and admit to the 909 lack of democracy in Northern Ireland for the minority community— there is an in-built majority where there should not have been one — there is no hope for the united Ireland that I want or for the peace of Ireland and the British people, who are also suffering.
It is in everyone's interests that the whole of Britain and Northern and Southern Ireland should come together and cross the sectarian divide. I began by saying that the hon. Member for Mossley Hill had tried to do that. I want to do that and I want to hear the Unionists saying that they want to as well, and do not want to go back to the old, undemocratic Stormont. Is there any hope of that?
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Tonight we have heard a verbal onslaught from the hon. Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) and for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon). It proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what concession the Government give Republicans and their representatives, the latter will take it, kick the Government in the mouth—and then start to demand more. We listened to the hon. Member for Hillsborough blaming my colleagues and me for the lack of democracy in Northern Ireland. If he were intelligent enough, he would know that his facts are wrong. None of my colleagues were ever in government in Northern Ireland and to blame us for something for which we had no responsibility shows the hon. Gentleman's ignorance. We were the official Opposition—
§ Rev. William McCrea
The hon. Gentleman lacks knowledge of the situation, but usually blows his mouth off about it nevertheless.
I have listened with interest to everything said tonight. I have yet to hear the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, or the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) or some other hon. Members condemn the brutal murder of two UDR men the other day. They mentioned McAnespie, but said not one word about the two members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who were blown to pieces. Of course, some hon. Members might find that funny and exciting, but we in Northern Ireland take their statements about wanting to cross the sectarian divide with a pinch of salt. We shall carefully study their remarks in the House tonight; nothing in them will give anyone who believes in democracy any hope.
What is expected: that the Unionists will surrender every right, as the majority, to remain part of the United Kingdom? That may please certain hon. Members, but the majority in Northern Ireland, no matter what the carrot held out before them—gold or otherwise—are members of the United Kingdom and desire to remain full members of it. I heard the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh talking about a lady being taken away to one of the barracks and obtaining information on terrorists.
I remind the House that I could take hon. Members to a home in the Crumlin road in Belfast from which a young UDR man was taken out by the Provisional IRA. Barbed wire was put on his arms, which were behind his back; his tongue was cut out of his mouth and a gun put into it, and the back of his throat was shot out by the IRA. Is that justice? Instead of condemning the Provisional IRA, we hear a few wee words whenever a challenge is made by 910 Unionist Members to SDLP Members. It may be thought that Sinn Fein is absent from the Chamber, but, having listened to the debate tonight, in scriptural terms, the voice may be the voice of the SDLP, but the hands that moved tonight were clearly those of Sinn Fein.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said — I took down his words—that he wasold-fashioned enough to believe that everyone is innocent before proven guilty.Those were his words. He went on to enlighten the House and he produced a little card. He said that it had been produced by the 40 Commando Royal Marines. There is no evidence whatsoever of that. He believes that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. He told the House— it will be in Hansard—that the boys of the marines had come back to his constituency and he told us of the threat to hi s constituency. It could be that the 40 Commando of the Royal Marines printed those cards, but the SDLP, Sinn Fein or the IRA could have printed them. The marines are innocent until proven guilty. However, that is not what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh wants. He wants them to be found guilty whether they are guilty or not.
The House should condemn the disgraceful and despicable act of the cardinal in Northern Ireland who tried, condemned and sentenced a young British soldier in front of his congregation, to whip up the fervour of Republican nationalism. He stood before that congregation and said that that young soldier had committed murder. That was the statement of a Sinn Fein cardinal. We may be able to take that cardinal out of Crossmaglen, but we cannot take Crossmaglen out of that cardinal.
The House is being asked to accept that a young soldier who is doing his duty does not have a right to a fair trial. Opposition Members are not interested in a fair trial. They would put him on a rope if they could. That is the type of justice that they want for young British soldiers, young UDR men and young RUC members.
Hon. Members should learn that nothing will satisfy the IRA except the removal of everyone who is British from Northern Ireland. I should like to read on to the record a short letter from a pensioner in Northern Ireland. It says:I was disgusted listening to Mr. Hume and Mr. Mallon, also their comrades in the South of Ireland about this 'shoot to kill'.Shooting a young Christian girl, coming out of church. Was this not 'shoot to kill'? Going into a church and shooting the preacher, and members of the congregation gathered to 'praise the Lord'.Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:Shooting three young policemen sitting in their car.Was that not shoot to kill?
Perhaps the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has forgotten that one evening nine members of the RUC were blown to bits by an IRA bomb in Newry. In that case, there were no calls for an inquiry. It was not said that the incident was worthy of an inquiry. Innocent men, because of the plan of an IRA man, were ushered into eternity The letter continues:Shooting a judge and his daughter coming out of Mass.Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:Luring three young soldiers to a fake party on the Antrim Road and shooting them in cold bloodthrough the back of the mouth. Was that not shoot to kill? It continues:What about the innocent people of La Mon; the Abercorn; Oxford Street; Donegall Street and many others?Was that not shoot to kill? 911 Hon. Members must face the suffering of innocent people in Northern Ireland. I condemn the killing of any innocent victim in the Province, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh had better tell the whole United Kingdom, the House and everyone listening that the IRA does not care whether a person is Protestant or Roman Catholic, religious or irreligious. If he stands in the way of the IRA, if he believes in being British or if he wants Ulster to remain part of the United Kingdom and in a democracy, that is enough for the IRA to sign his death warrant. No judge or jury sits in those trials; a bunch of murderous scum sit in a back room and decide that a man's life must end.
We should speak of reality. When I listen to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh trying to portray policemen on the rampage shooting everyone in sight—160-odd innocent civilians killed — I am driven to ask him: "What about my own loved ones?" Were they responsible? A 16-year-old lad went out in the car with his 21-year-old sister who was engaged to be married. She wanted to show him the engagement ring on her finger. Was that enough for them to be blown up and put in a coffin—the two of them in one night?
Am I supposed to stand back and listen to all the tripe pumped out against the security forces? I have walked behind the coffins of those in the security forces. I challenge the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh to tell the House how many policemen's coffins he has walked behind, to how many policemen's widows he has given succour, to how many UDR men's young lads or lasses he has offered his genuine sympathy or walked with to the grave.
The SDLP has not done that. Instead, in the past few days, the leader of the SDLP has sat down with the leader of the murderers, Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. He sat down in collusion with him. That was their second meeting and they are now deciding on a third. Has that stopped the killing? Not at all.
That is not the purpose of the meetings. Their purpose is to extract every possible concession from the Government. I say to Ministers that it is about time that they felt for the young lads and for the young UDR men and policemen. I trust that they will show their sympathy and go along to talk to the families to find out how they feel about being robbed of their loved ones.
In my constituency, not one Minister from the Northern Ireland Office has ever walked through the door of the family of a member of the security forces brutally done to death or offered his sympathy in person to those who have suffered so tragically all these years. The Minister shakes his head. I invite him to tell the House how many homes he has visited to speak to widows and orphans of members of the security forces and when. When did he last go along to follow a coffin to the grave? Those are the realities in Northern Ireland.
Whether a person is Protestant or Roman Catholic, life is precious, and we should defend the people's right to live. However, there is a murderous group in Northern Ireland that does not care who one is and is intent on destroying democracy. It is intent on destroying this House. If the IRA could get here, it would do that. Indeed, the IRA tried 912 to destroy part of this building. When the IRA tries to destroy Her Majesty's Ministers, my life does not count for much.
I beg the House to renew the powers but also to do something else—to allow the security forces to destroy the terrorists. The Prime Minister told me that her policy was to eradicate terrorism. That is her statement and I agree with her. I feel passionately about it. I am asking the House when we shall get the murders stopped in Northern Ireland and when the people of Ulster will get around a table to talk about a future that will bring peace and stability to all our citizens.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
The House recognises that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) feels very passionately about these issues. However, the House should also know that he entered into an agreement, after my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) had shortened his remarks, that he would do the same. If my arithmetic is correct, he spoke for 12 minutes. I accept that it was passion that carried him away, just as it was passion and the power of tongues that carried away his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) on Thursday of last week.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I made it clear to the House last Thursday why I spoke. I spoke to obtain justice for those who represent the Northern Ireland people in the House, and to obtain time for them to speak. Let me put it on the record—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is speaking on a point of order, and I do not think that he can put anything on the record during a point of order unless it is something that I can answer.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it right for a representative of the Leader of the House to come to an hon. Member, as he did to me, promise that the debate would finish at 11.30 pm and then move that it finish at 10 pm? That promise was made to all Unionist Members, and that is why some of them do not rise in their places. They were promised that the debate would go on until 11.30 pm.
§ Mr. Speaker
I know nothing of that. All I know is that the House passed a motion that the debate should end at 10 pm.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The House is grateful to the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) for obtaining an extension of the debate. A concession was made allowing the debate to be extended this week.
There has been a degree of unanimity among Opposition Members, particularly on two issues. The first is the usefulness of, and the need to continue, the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We urge the Minister, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister to ignore the words of despair of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and to seek to ensure that when renewal of the agreement comes about, agreement is reached betwen Her Majesty's Government and the Government in Dublin.
The second main area of concern, and I think unanimity, results from the early release of Private Thain, 913 the soldier found guilty of murder some years ago. It is felt that the compassion shown in that case should be extended to many of the other young people in Northern Ireland who have been caught up in the troubles over the past 20 years, have been convicted, and are now serving long sentences. If there is to be an even-handed approach, it is only fair and equitable — and, in my view, morally correct—that the Government should show them the same compassion.
All of us wish to see peace in the North of Ireland. We are all democrats in the House, despite the comments thrown backwards and forwards across the Chamber tonight. It is in none of our interests to see terrorists succeed in bringing about political change through the use of violence, which we all condemn as a political weapon. It is also right to recognise, however, that terrorism cannot be defeated by reciprocal violence alone; the conditions that breed and secure terrorism must also be removed.
We are driven to the conclusion that security policy alone will not defeat terrorism. If we are to defeat it, both communities in the North must feel secure in the knowledge that the practice of rule of law will be objective and even-handed.
In addition, political institutions must be developed which both communities perceive as fair, and not as recreating the old prejudices.
Economic activity must be encouraged, as the present high levels of unemployment do much to institutionalise economic discrimination against the minority community. We believe that political and economic policies, are as important as, if not more important than, security policy in the search for lasting peace in Northern Ireland.
I should like to quote the words of the Secretary of State, because the Official Opposition's views on security coincide with what he said in 1986:Our strategy is to fight terrorism within the law. We want the most effective and vigorous action, but we believe that it must always be within the law. That is morally right. Any alternative will be bound ultimately to be counter-productive. It is the responsibility of the police, who lead in the fight against terrorism, to bring people to justice before the courts. Our aim and ambition is that the laws under which the courts will operate are fair and must comply with international standards of human and civil rights. Against the background of terrorism and the difficulties that that causes, the courts must diverge as little as possible from the ordinary law. It is vital to maintain the confidence of both communities in the institution of justice and we must do all that we can to ensure equal rights and remove grievances if they are fairly demonstrated, thus further to isolate the men of violence". —[Official Report, 16 December 1986; Vol. 107, c. 1082.]That succinctly states the Opposition's views on the strategy towards violence.
We believe that the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 have failed to meet those laudable objectives in certain important particulars. Those failings were enunciated by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), the shadow Secretary of State, last Thursday, and for that reason we shall vote against the renewal order.
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Stanley)
I am extremely sorry to learn from the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) that the Opposition will vote against this extremely important order tonight at a time of a serious security threat in the province.
914 What should be uppermost in the mind of every right hon. and hon. Member of this House is that, right now in Northern Ireland, we face a threat to security and to life which is as serious as any that has arisen in the past 20 years. Anyone who had any doubt about that from the information that is available in the public domain will have had those doubts dispelled by the BBC "Panorama" programme last night.
There is no question about the seriousness of the threat. It has been made absolutely clear by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, by myself, by the Irish Minister for Justice and by the Chief Constable of the RUC. We face an extremely serious threat in the Province at the present time. That threat and its seriousness have been vividly and visibly demonstrated in recent weeks by the massive finds of weapons, ammunitions and explosives on both sides of the border. Against that background, I believe that it is deeply regrettable and reprehensible that the Official Opposition should be voting against the order tonight.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the tragic events that took place last week with the murder of two UDR soldiers. He asked for an investigation into the circumstances in which the bomb was placed behind a hoarding. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will be writing to him about that matter.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) questioned the philosophy behind the emergency powers legislation. He referred to what was said in the "Panorama" programme last night by General Sir James Glover— that there was no military solution to the problems that we face in the Province. This Government and preceding Governments have said that many times. Indeed, it has been reflected in the policies followed by successive Governments, to try to improve the political climate in the Province. The whole process of breaking down discrimination in housing and in employment, trying to increase confidence in community relations, the security forces and the administration of justice, has been part and parcel of what we have been seeking to do.
Just as it is wrong to say that the problems of the Province can be resolved by purely military solutions, I must say absolutely clearly that anybody who thinks that political actions alone will solve the problems of the Province does not recognise the nature and the threat represented by the Provisional IRA. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) acutely pointed out, even in the South, in the Republic, there is unique legislation that is not generally paralleled in other Western democracies, in recognition of the particular threat represented by the provisional IRA.
§ Mr. Stanley
In view of the time, I would be grateful if the hon. Member would let me continue. He referred to the cards which apparently have been found on cars in his constituency.
§ Mr. Stanley
As the hon. Gentleman says, cards have been found on selected cars and they state:Boys are back in town: 40 Commando Royal MarinesI share the concern expressed by other hon. Members that the hon. Gentleman, in response to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), should have said that, in his view, those cards had been 915 officially produced by military authority. I believe that there is absolutely no basis for saying that at present. However, I can tell him that the matter is under full investigation by the commanding officer of the unit concerned, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman might at least reserve judgment until that investigation is concluded.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) expressed sympathy with those who had committed very serious offences very young. I must say to the House that the age at which an offence is committed is very much taken into account by the life sentence review board and by Ministers in considering release dates. Certainly I can assure the House of that.
I would also like to draw the attention of the House, and those hon. Members who were not present, to what my right hon. Friend said in answer to questions last week. I can assure hon. Members that that is a matter which we take very seriously.
The hon. Member for Mossley Hill made a comment that I would very much like to support. He made a plea that senior members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy — both Protestants and Catholics — should be willing to appear and be seen to be supportive at funerals involving members of the security forces of denominations other than their own. I very much share that sentiment. I also endorse what the hon. Member for Mossley Hill said about the importance of making certain that the Northern Ireland police authority included representatives from the minority community. I can assure him that there are some representatives already on that authority, and I fully endorse what he said about the importance of that.
The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) referred to the extradition issue, which has certainly not been problem-free. But I can tell him that meetings will take place shortly and I hope that the initial difficulties that have been encountered in giving practical effect to the legislation passed by the Irish Government will be sorted out.
I said that we face a serious position on the security front, and I want to underline that. The find of weapons and explosives by the Garda in January in Donegal was the largest ever find in the Republic. The RUC's arms find in February in a lorry just outside Belfast was one of the largest that it has ever made. The RUC's finds of explosives last year were two and a half times larger than the year before, and the Malahide find last week was one of the largest finds of commercial explosives ever made either in Northern Ireland or the Republic.
Those finds, which the House will recognise are greatly to the credit of the security forces on both sides of the border, included huge quantities of ammunition, potent explosives, automatic rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns. The hon. Member for Mossley Hill and my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) asked about SAM 7 missiles. I can tell the House that we assume that SAM 7 missiles are in the island of Ireland, although, as the House knows, they have not yet been located.
There is no doubt that, if such weapons and explosives are brought into use by the terrorists, there will be a serious position and a potentially serious loss of life. It is imperative that searches continue with great intensity on 916 both sides of the border. I want to stress to the House that the legislation before us tonight includes vitally needed stop-and-search powers for the security forces. At a time when there is such an imperative need to locate the remainder of the supplies that have been brought in to the island of Ireland, it would be madness, and totally irresponsible, to contemplate a reduction of the powers of search at the present time.
I very much regret that doubts have been cast on the integrity of individual members of the RUC; indeed, in one or two cases, on the integrity of the force as a whole. The position is clear. As has been well acknowledged, and the DPP has concluded, there is evidence of the commission of offences relating to perverting the course of justice. My right hon. Friend has announced how the disciplinary aspects of that matter will be handled. Those disciplinary aspects should now be allowed to take their course. The integrity of the RUC as a whole should not be slurred, nor should the position of individual officers be called into question before any disciplinary proceedings have been concluded, and, indeed, before there has been any official announcement about the individuals concerned. In those circumstances, it is wrong to cast doubt on the integrity of the force as a whole.
In the last remaining moments, let me refer to the importance of the continuation order. I hope that, before we vote, the House fully understands that what is at stake in this continuation order is whether the security forces in Northern Ireland will retain or be deprived of powers that are critical to their ability to combat terrorism. The Opposition have said that they are committed to the fight against terrorism, and one takes what they say at face value. I can only say that to reduce the powers of the security forces at the same time would be an extraordinary way to fight terrorism.
If this continuation order is not passed, the security forces are going to lose their special powers of arrest, their powers of search and their power to stop and question. The Opposition are also going to make a very serious dent in our ability to deal with racketeering and other offences. I believe that it is essential, therefore, that the continuation order is passed, and I ask the House to endorse it.
§ Question put: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 233, Noes 134.919
|Division No. 202]||[10 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Bowis, John|
|Allason, Rupert||Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard|
|Amess, David||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Amos, Alan||Brazier, Julian|
|Arbuthnot, James||Bright, Graham|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Brooke, Rt Hon Peter|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)|
|Ashby, David||Browne, John (Winchester)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)|
|Atkins, Robert||Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)||Buck, Sir Antony|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Budgen, Nicholas|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Burns, Simon|
|Batiste, Spencer||Butcher, John|
|Bellingham, Henry||Butler, Chris|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Butterfill, John|
|Benyon, W.||Carlisle, John, (Luton N)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Carttiss, Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda|
|Boswell, Tim||Channon, Rt Hon Paul|
|Bottomley, Peter||Chapman, Sydney|
|Chope, Christopher||Jackson, Robert|
|Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Colvin, Michael||Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine|
|Conway, Derek||Key, Robert|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Kilfedder, James|
|Coombs, Simon (Swindon)||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Cope, John||Knapman, Roger|
|Couchman, James||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Cran, James||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Knowles, Michael|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Knox, David|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Day, Stephen||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Devlin, Tim||Lee, John (Pendle)|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Dover, Den||Lilley, Peter|
|Dunn, Bob||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
|Durant, Tony||Lord, Michael|
|Dykes, Hugh||Luce, Rt Hon Richard|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Evennett, David||McCrea, Rev William|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Macfarlane, Sir Neil|
|Fallon, Michael||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Farr, Sir John||Maclean, David|
|Favell, Tony||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Madel, David|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Malins, Humfrey|
|Forman, Nigel||Mans, Keith|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Forth, Eric||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Franks, Cecil||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Freeman, Roger||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|French, Douglas||Miller, Hal|
|Gale, Roger||Mills, Iain|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Gill, Christopher||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Mitchell, David (Hants NW)|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Moate, Roger|
|Gow, Ian||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Gregory, Conal||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Needham, Richard|
|Grist, Ian||Nelson, Anthony|
|Ground, Patrick||Neubert, Michael|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Hannam, John||Page, Richard|
|Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')||Paice, James|
|Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Harris, David||Patnick, Irvine|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Patten, Chris (Bath)|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Hayes, Jerry||Pawsey, James|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hayward, Robert||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Price, Sir David|
|Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)||Raffan, Keith|
|Hind, Kenneth||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Redwood, John|
|Holt, Richard||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hordern, Sir Peter||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Howard, Michael||Riddick, Graham|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral W)||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Rossi, Sir Hugh|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|Irvine, Michael||Ryder, Richard|
|Jack, Michael||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Tracey, Richard|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Tredinnick, David|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Shersby, Michael||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Sims, Roger||Wheeler, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)||Wilshire, David|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wood, Timothy|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|Stokes, John||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman||Mr. David Lightbown and|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)||Mr. Stephen Dorrell.|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Holland, Stuart|
|Allen, Graham||Home Robertson, John|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Battle, John||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Beckett, Margaret||Hughes, John (Coventry NE)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Illsley, Eric|
|Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)||Ingram, Adam|
|Blunkett, David||Janner, Greville|
|Boateng, Paul||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)|
|Boyes, Roland||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Bradley, Keith||Lamond, James|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||Leighton, Ron|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Buckley, George J.||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Caborn, Richard||Loyden, Eddie|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||McAllion, John|
|Canavan, Dennis||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||McCartney, Ian|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||McFall, John|
|Clay, Bob||McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)|
|Clelland, David||McLeish, Henry|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||McNamara, Kevin|
|Cohen, Harry||McWilliam, John|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Madden, Max|
|Cook, Robin (Livingston)||Marion, Mrs Alice|
|Corbett, Robin||Mallon, Seamus|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Cousins, Jim||Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)|
|Cryer, Bob||Martlew, Eric|
|Cummings, John||Maxton, John|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Meale, Alan|
|Dalyell, Tam||Michael, Alun|
|Darling, Alistair||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Dewar, Donald||Morley, Elliott|
|Dixon, Don||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Doran, Frank||Mullin, Chris|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Murphy, Paul|
|Dunnachie, Jimmy||Nellist, Dave|
|Eastham, Ken||O'Brien, William|
|Evans, John (St Helens N)||Patchett, Terry|
|Fatchett, Derek||Pike, Peter L.|
|Fisher, Mark||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Flannery, Martin||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Foster, Derek||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Foulkes, George||Redmond, Martin|
|Fraser, John||Richardson, Jo|
|Fyfe, Maria||Rooker, Jeff|
|Galbraith, Sam||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A.||Rowlands, Ted|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Salmond, Alex|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Short, Clare|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Grocott, Bruce||Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)|
|Hardy, Peter||Soley, Clive|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Spearing, Nigel|
|Haynes, Frank||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Strang, Gavin|
|Hinchliffe, David||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)||Vaz, Keith|
|Wall, Pat||Worthington, Tony|
|Walley, Joan||Wray, Jimmy|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)|
|Wilson, Brian||Tellers for the Noes;|
|Winnick, David||Mr. Robert N. Wareing and|
|Wise, Mrs Audrey||Mrs. Llin Golding.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 16th February, be approved.