HC Deb 23 January 1995 vol 253 c36 4.31 pm
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for your indulgence and that of the House in this matter.

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the case of Private Clegg. The case has been much reported in the newspapers and in the electronic media. As it does not involve my constituency, I have spoken to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), who is in his place, and he has made it clear that he wishes to be associated with many of my remarks.

In urging you to grant such a debate, Madam Speaker, I think that we need to consider three main factors. The first concerns Private Clegg himself, who has now been incarcerated for three and a half years awaiting the outcome of judicial manoeuvres. I am reminded by reading the Law Lords' summary judgment on the case that even they think that Private Clegg is in a somewhat different category from other murderers. They said: There is one obvious and striking difference between Private Clegg and other persons found guilty of murder. The great majority of persons found guilty of murder, whether they are terrorists or domestic murderers, kill from a wicked and evil motive. But when Private Clegg set out on patrol on the night of 30 September 1990 he did so to assist in the maintenance of law and order and we have no doubt that as he commenced the patrol he had no intention of unlawfully killing or wounding anyone". The Law Lords make it clear that the case is different, but Private Clegg has been sentenced to life imprisonment, although he acted in good faith. The Law Lords also raised the matter of the yellow card. When Private Clegg set out, the yellow card instructions included the words: You may only open fire against a person…deliberately driving a vehicle at a person and there is no other way of stopping him". That point was made clear in the judgment. Private Clegg had to take one other factor into consideration: a member of his own regiment had been knocked down and killed by a speeding car at a previous checkpoint.

The second and possibly the most important factor is the Law Lords' statement about the yellow card. They said: It is not suggested that the Yellow Card has any legal force". We now have a situation in Northern Ireland where members of the armed forces go on patrol in some doubt as to their position and about how they will operate. This is a matter of great urgency, which must be dealt with because they may make decisions that will affect their lives and those of other people.

Thirdly, some people may say, "So what? This is one man, but big events are taking place and we must not upset one or other members of the community". Surely the House exists for one purpose, if for no other—to ensure that the rights of the individual will never be drowned by the greater issues that may be at stake.

Madam Speaker

I listened most carefully to the hon. Gentleman, and I must give my decision without stating any reasons. I do not consider that the matter that he has raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 20, so I cannot submit the hon. Gentleman's application to the House.