HC Deb 21 June 1990 vol 174 cc1100-3
4. Mr. Ron Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation in Northern Ireland.

6. Rev. Ian Paisley

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

12. Mr. Cryer

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the current security situation.

Mr. Brooke

Since I answered a similar question on 10 May 1990, there have been three deaths arising from the security situation in Northern Ireland. Mr. Patrick Boyle, a civilian, was murdered at his home by so-called loyalists, while Mr. James Sefton, a retired member of the RUC reserve, and his wife Ellen were killed in an under-car booby-trap attack carried out by republican terrorists. The whole House will join me in condemning those cowardly and brutal crimes.

However, large amounts of arms and explosives have been recovered, and in the first four months of this year the numbers of people charged by the police and convicted by the courts have increased over the same period in 1989.

Mr. Brown

We all abhor that carnage, but the Minister must know that there can be no solution in Ireland, particularly to the security issue, unless there is a political solution. There must be some movement towards that end, so will he consider withdrawing—perhaps on a phased basis—troops from Northern Ireland, especially Scots troops? [Interruption.] That would be helpful.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to maintain peace he should encourage worker defence squads—[Interruption.] —composed of Catholics and workers. If he cannot accept that—for reasons which I understand—what about a United Nations peace-keeping force coming into the Province to control the situation? [Interruption.] That would give some credibility to the hope that one day the north will return to its normal place in political life and that both communities can act together against orange and green bosses.

Mr. Brooke

The work of the security forces must be complemented and reinforced by effective political, economic and social policies. In that sense I concur with the hon. Gentleman's remarks that political development is desirable.

As for the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's long question, although I do not question for a moment the sincerity with which he made his points, the reception that they got from the House suggested that not many hon. Members were in sympathy with him.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Has the Secretary of state given any attention to the threat issued in Bodenstown by Gerry Adams, the IRA Sinn Fein leader, and others, who said on Sunday that if there was any political progress in Northern Ireland towards devolution they would fiercely oppose it with all the power at their disposal? Does not that give the lie to the suggestion by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) that political discussions would bring IRA activities to an end?

What does the right hon. Gentleman think about "hot pursuit", which has been repudiated by the Taoiseach at a conference held with European Ministers?

Mr. Brooke

I believe that the words of Mr. Adams which the hon. Gentleman quoted show the contempt of the IRA and of Sinn Fein for political development without the use of violence. They also show the significance in Mr. Adams' mind of violence in the conduct of political affairs.

"Hot pursuit", which has arisen in the context of other European conversations because of other treaties that have been passed, is a subject which the Government will continue to keep on the agenda, but it requires discussion with the Government of the Republic.

Mr. Cryer

Does the Secretary of State accept that there has been a sad toll of carnage over 22 years, often resulting in the tragic loss of life of wholly innocent bystanders? Will he explain to the House any new initiative that is likely to end this carnage? Does he accept that outside the House there is widespread support for the phased removal of troops? Does he agree that all parties must be involved in negotiations to achieve that, even though I share the Government's reluctance to deal with some organisations? He should remember that in the case of Zimbabwe the Government overcame their reluctance to negotiate with Robert Mugabe and that led to a peaceful settlement at Lancaster house.

Mr. Brooke

The overriding task of the Government in Northern Ireland is to defeat terrorism from whichever side of the community it comes. I said in answer to the question by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown) that the work of the security forces must be completed and reinforced by effective political, economic and social policies. The hon. Gentleman spoke about widespread support outside for the phased withdrawal of British troops. I do not think that he would find support for that proposition among those who look at these issues strategically. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's final proposition, I can tell him that the Government have made it clear that they have nothing to say to Sinn Fein while it continues to espouse violence.

Mr. Gow

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the chorus of calls from the Opposition for the withdrawal of soldiers from that part of the United Kingdom called Northern Ireland will only give encouragement to the IRA? Will my right hon. Friend explain to the House why, four and a half years after the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed, he has still not been able to reach an understanding with the Government of the Irish Republic which would give to the police and army in the Republic the right to pursue terrorists into the north and a similar right to our security forces to pursue suspected terrorists into the south?

Mr. Brooke

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his initial observations with which I concur. In negotiations conducted under the agreement and within the conference on cross-border security arrangements, there are issues on which we can and have reached agreement with the Government of the Republic about cross-border activity. As I said in answer to an earlier question, we continue to pursue those subjects.

Mr. Hume

Given the knee-jerk and ill-informed reactions which we have again seen in the House today in relation to extradition from the Republic of Ireland, will the Secretary of State make clear the precise difference between the law on extradition in this country and that in the Republic of Ireland?

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken about the killings and the statements of regret by those who support the IRA about some of those killings. Does he recall my statement on 1 January that over the past 20 years 55 per cent. of all the people killed were innocent civilians going about their business and were the victims of so-called mistakes or tit-for-tat killings? The people who carry out that campaign know that one out of every two people that they kill will be an innocent civilian. They should be told that by everybody in the clearest possible terms. There is not a single injustice in the north of Ireland that justifies the taking of single life.

Mr. Brooke

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he is right to suggest that the legislation in both countries derives from the convention. There are some differences in terms of the precise interpretation placed upon the legislation and that is one reason for the employment of the working group. The hon. Gentleman mentioned tit-for-tat killings. I think that every hon. Member will endorse what he said about that.

Mr. Bellingham

Further to the remarks of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), does my right hon. Friend agree that we must try to aim for a position in which there is no need for extradition between EEC member states?

Mr. Brooke

My hon. Friend opens an attractive vista. It may be too large to take in at first glance, but I shall return to it.

Mr. Ashdown

Will the Minister confirm, as he told me by letter, that a more extensive use of the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act 1976 may well be applicable? What are the Government doing to put that into effect? Does he agree, as I think that he has also said, that the useful proposals put forward by the Progressive Democrats, the Government coalition partner, on how extradition legislation might be differently applied in the Republic, are helpful and constructive, and that the Government would be better advised to support those proposals than to indulge in another exercise of megaphone diplomacy?

Mr. Brooke

On the right hon. Gentleman's first question, I confirm what I said in correspondence. With regard to the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act, we consider carefully, on a case-by-case basis, the particular provisions that we might use in every case that we handle in conjunction with the Irish authorities.

Sir Antony Buck

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the security situation would be infinitely worse if it were not for the supreme professionalism of our armed forces in Northern Ireland, and the professionalism and, in many cases, heroism of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Brooke

I warmly welcome my hon. and learned Friend's words. Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom owe a great debt to the security forces for the manner in which the Northern Ireland community has been protected and has been allowed, in so far as has been possible, to live a normal life over the past 20 years.

Mr. McNamara

The Secretary of State will be aware that Her Majesty's Opposition support the use of the Army in Northern Ireland for as long as it is necessary to support the civil power in upholding the rule of law and to see that that is done impartially. Therefore, we should welcome the withdrawal of troops as a signal of an improvement in the situation in Northern Ireland, but until that time arises the Army must be present to support the work of the RUC.

Mr. Brooke

Again, the House will be grateful to the Opposition spokesman for making clear the official Opposition's position on that matter.